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Multipitch W/ a GriGri. Safer to Not Clip the Belay Station?


Original Post
20 kN · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 1,348

One conundrum I've always had was whether it was safer to skip clipping the belay station when the belayer is using a GriGri. Of course the story goes like the leader clips the belay station with a draw to prevent a FF2 and keep the belayer properly orientated should a fall into the belay occur. However, often there is but a foot or two of rope between the belayer's GriGri and the quickdraw clipped to the belay station, which means if the climber were to fall he would easily pull the belayer's device straight into the quickdraw. The problem then becomes that pulling the GriGri straight into the draw can pin open the cam on the GriGri preventing it from locking and resulting in a really long ride for the climber. As such I wonder if it would be safer to risk falling directly onto the GriGri where at least you know nothing will pin the cam open or otherwise interfere with the device as opposed to clipping the belay and risk the draw pining the cam open.

As far as real-world experience goes, I was but a few feet away from a party who took a 30' FF2 straight onto the belayer (who was using a GriGri). The belayer and his GriGri caught the fall and the climber was fine. I personally caught a sizeable FF1.75 fall with a Cinch and the device held without slippage. However, in both cases the belay station was not clipped to the rope at the time of the fall, so there was nothing to interfere with the belay device.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190

Fairly relevant:
mountainproject.com/scripts…;id=112357901&page=8#end

I'm curious how likely the whole "Grigri pinned in the draw, pushing open the lever" scenario actually is. Has this been tested? Also curious if the "panick mode" feature on the new Grigri will fix this...

Em Cos · · Boulder, CO · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 5

If you're concerned about this risk, it seems to me the appropriate response would be to choose a belay device without this potential failure mode, rather than forego precautions preventing a potential factor 2 fall.

Paul Hutton · · Dirtbaggin · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 701

This hasn't happened to me, but I've always thought that catching a leader on a hanging belay, without there being a draw between the leader and the belayer, would violently kick the belayer horizontally. There'd be no mechanical advantage (the advantage one receives when there's a directional added to the system), and it'd be more difficult to escape the belay, as well.

I've caught a big ass whipper back when I was a bolt-clipping newb, fresh from a combat tour in Afghanistan and hadn't touched a carabiner in 7 months. I loaded the rope into my GriGri backwards, and caught my leader just fine. There was a bit of rope slippage and rope burn on my hand, but I caught him! I've never had a GriGri misbehave when loaded correctly. If you can get the dead weight to stop when you're not doing it right, I bet the device will work fine, even if the quickdraw that's keeping the rope above you on the belay station is a lot closer than your ordinary first placement of pro on any given pitch. Even if that's the case, the belayer should be extended downward a bit from the belay station to increase the dynamic in a lead fall--the belayer won't hit that quickdraw, the leader won't get a shocking stop, the rope will pull the cam forward and pinch the rope against the other side of the GriGri.

khalifornia · · Colorado · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 0

Paul Hutton wrote: "There'd be no mechanical advantage (the advantage one receives when there's a directional added to the system)"

I thought a directional on the anchor would not provide any mechanical advantage, just a change in direction of force plus some energy lost due to friction?

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275
khalifornia wrote:Paul Hutton wrote: "There'd be no mechanical advantage (the advantage one receives when there's a directional added to the system)" I thought a directional on the anchor would not provide any mechanical advantage, just a change in direction of force plus some energy lost due to friction?
You are correct - it's just a change of direction.
sherb · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2012 · Points: 60

I've heard of the "grigri becomes uncammed by jamming into the biner/quickdraw/bolt" but so far it hasn't done that the times I've flown into the bolt. The camming part of the grigri forced up from the rope is smaller than the rest of the grigri, and the body may be stopped by the carabiner, but the small camming tip is directed by the rope thru the 'biner.

Maybe someone can try this exercise 100x on a low bolt near the ground and see what the failure to cam rate is.

Maybe place a low first piece and don't clip the anchor?

Still prefer grigris... A couple days ago my climbing partner saw a girl using an ATC drop her partner who decked 40-45 feet when her hand was pinched by the atc.

walmongr · · Gilbert AZ · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 85

Use a screamer off the belay instead of a draw/runner. I have never been pulled into the belay on a short fall usually if it's sketchy before my partner can get gear in or clip a bolt I brace my self leaning against the master point with my foot propped up and try to move out if his fall line. Love my grigri!

rgold · · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 525

I've weighed in on this on other threads, and generated disagreement. I tend to prefer catching a factor-2 rather than have any device, not just a grigri, and also possibly my non-brake hand, sucked into a carabiner, but each situation has to be considered fresh.

A nice thing about the grigri is it will actually catch a factor two fall with minimal slippage (under a foot). Other devices, both manual and semi-automatic, are far more dependent on what the belayer does or doesn't do.

I think the correct way to set things up is first, to be tied to the anchor with no slack at all, and second, to have the grigri clipped to the rope tie-in loop, not the harness belay loop. The result is that the load from the factor 2 fall (and it is gonna be big!) is transferred directly to the anchor via the belayer's tie in, rather than compressing and twisting the harness and impacting the belayer's midsection.

Paul Hutton · · Dirtbaggin · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 701
rgold wrote:I've weighed in on this on other threads, and generated disagreement. I tend to prefer catching a factor-2 rather than have any device, not just a grigri, and also possibly my non-brake hand, sucked into a carabiner, but each situation has to be considered fresh. A nice thing about the grigri is it will actually catch a factor two fall with minimal slippage (under a foot). Other devices, both manual and semi-automatic, are far more dependent on what the belayer does or doesn't do. I think the correct way to set things up is first, to be tied to the anchor with no slack at all, and second, to have the grigri clipped to the rope tie-in loop, not the harness belay loop. The result is that the load from the factor 2 fall (and it is gonna be big!) is transferred directly to the anchor via the belayer's tie in, rather than compressing and twisting the harness and impacting the belayer's midsection.
A friend of mine clipped his GriGri to the master point of his belay station while I was leading us up. I kept getting short roped when I'd pull to clip, because the GriGri would get pulled up, away from him. And I fell, and he had to climb up the anchor to pull on the lever. I was getting pissed and told him to clip the damned thing to his belay loop. That's less risky anyway, since this decreases weight from the bolts when the leader weights the belayers rope.

To address our mechanical advantage topic up above--this is the same concept as using a hip belay, or putting rope into a pulley to lift weight off the ground. I certainly don't feel comfortable with a 160 lb leader yanking me downward with him. Give me a directional, which provides friction that factors in to slowing the fall--not much if you don't extend your ass downward from the belay station, otherwise, you'll be kissing that quickdraw!
ViperScale · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 235
Paul Hutton wrote: A friend of mine clipped his GriGri to the master point of his belay station while I was leading us up. I kept getting short roped when I'd pull to clip, because the GriGri would get pulled up, away from him. And I fell, and he had to climb up the anchor to pull on the lever. I was getting pissed and told him to clip the damned thing to his belay loop. That's less risky anyway, since this decreases weight from the bolts when the leader weights the belayers rope. To address our mechanical advantage topic up above--this is the same concept as using a hip belay, or putting rope into a pulley to lift weight off the ground. I certainly don't feel comfortable with a 160 lb leader yanking me downward with him. Give me a directional, which provides friction that factors in to slowing the fall--not much if you don't extend your ass downward from the belay station, otherwise, you'll be kissing that quickdraw!
I would never belay someone directly off an anchor when they are leading, I can think of a ton of ways this is bad and no reason why you would want to do it that way. Belaying someone up to an anchor directly from the anchor is fine and I do that all the time.
Xam · · Boulder, Co · Joined Dec 2011 · Points: 73
Paul Hutton wrote:That's less risky anyway, since this decreases weight from the bolts when the leader weights the belayers rope.
I am not sure I understand what this means. Could you explain?

Paul Hutton wrote:To address our mechanical advantage topic up above--this is the same concept as using a hip belay, or putting rope into a pulley to lift weight off the ground. I certainly don't feel comfortable with a 160 lb leader yanking me downward with him. Give me a directional, which provides friction that factors in to slowing the fall--not much if you don't extend your ass downward from the belay station, otherwise, you'll be kissing that quickdraw!
While a directional may be preferable, it is not the same as mechanical advantage. Mechanical advantage is when you use some mechanism to trade off one parameter for another, usually distance for force, like in a lever arm or a 3:1 pulley system.
Paul Hutton · · Dirtbaggin · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 701
Xam wrote: I am not sure I understand what this means. Could you explain? While a directional may be preferable, it is not the same as mechanical advantage. Mechanical advantage is when you use some mechanism to trade off one parameter for another, usually distance for force, like in a lever arm or a 3:1 pulley system.
Dude, the leader's protection takes their weight and lifts the belayer up.
Xam · · Boulder, Co · Joined Dec 2011 · Points: 73
Paul Hutton wrote: Dude, the leader's protection takes their weight and lifts the belayer up.
Yes, a belay off the harness is more load on the protection piece than the belay (in contrast to a lead belay directly off the anchor)...is that what you are trying to say? This is still not mechanical advantage.
ViperScale · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 235
Xam wrote: Yes, a belay off the harness is more load on the protection piece than the belay (in contrast to a lead belay directly off the anchor)...is that what you a trying to say? This is still not mechanical advantage.
When a belayer gets pulled up that reduces the amount of force on the gear, doesn't make it worst than a fixed point that doesn't move.

physicsbuzz.physicscentral.…

Absorption of Kinetic Energy

When a climber takes a big fall, their potential energy is quickly converted into kinetic energy. If the climber is suddenly brought to a halt at the end of the rope, a heavy shock load spreads through the climber's body, the rope, and the anchor. This sharp force, or impulse, can injure the climber and cause a piece of gear or anchor to fail.

In order to slow down and cushion the halt, an elastic rope is used. By stretching the rope the climber falls a bit further but the impact is much more gentle on the whole system. Kinetic energy is also absorbed by friction of the rope and by careful belay partners who jump up slightly to soften their climber's fall.

Cushioning can only do so much and for very large falls the anchors, ropes, and climbing gear can still fail. Climbing gear is rated by how much force it can withstand before it breaks, measured in kilonewtons. A basic piece of gear might withstand up to 10 kN before failing — a very large amount of force that would be reached only from the largest of falls.
Xam · · Boulder, Co · Joined Dec 2011 · Points: 73
ViperScale wrote: When a belayer gets pulled up that reduces the amount of force on the gear, doesn't make it worst than a fixed point that doesn't move. physicsbuzz.physicscentral.… Absorption of Kinetic Energy When a climber takes a big fall, their potential energy is quickly converted into kinetic energy. If the climber is suddenly brought to a halt at the end of the rope, a heavy shock load spreads through the climber's body, the rope, and the anchor. This sharp force, or impulse, can injure the climber and cause a piece of gear or anchor to fail. In order to slow down and cushion the halt, an elastic rope is used. By stretching the rope the climber falls a bit further but the impact is much more gentle on the whole system. Kinetic energy is also absorbed by friction of the rope and by careful belay partners who jump up slightly to soften their climber's fall. Cushioning can only do so much and for very large falls the anchors, ropes, and climbing gear can still fail. Climbing gear is rated by how much force it can withstand before it breaks, measured in kilonewtons. A basic piece of gear might withstand up to 10 kN before failing — a very large amount of force that would be reached only from the largest of falls.
I am confident we don't disagree on the elementary physics. But thank you for copying this info here for others to see.
Russ Keane · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 140
"A friend of mine clipped his GriGri to the master point of his belay station while I was leading us up."

This is kind of wild. I will allow others to dissect.
BoulderCharles · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2011 · Points: 80

I've belayed a few times with a "direct belay" using an ATC (see link below). This is a good option for situations where there is a high likelihood of a factor 2 fall and situations where the leader traverses immediately off the anchor (which can cause awkward movement for the belayer).

vimeo.com/44869774

I'm not sure if this would work with a GriGri (seems like it would but I would be a little worried about the cam action being disengaged given the proximity to bolts and the rock).

Paul Hutton · · Dirtbaggin · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 701
Xam wrote: Yes, a belay off the harness is more load on the protection piece than the belay (in contrast to a lead belay directly off the anchor)...is that what you a trying to say? This is still not mechanical advantage.
Yea dude, why is this still a question lol?

Ok, so, maybe "mechanical advantage" isn't the correct term, but, we're using tools (metal stuff) to get better control over the moving parts in a system (people). Tools feel no pain like we do. It just takes a little man power to make these tools function, to grant them their purpose, and give us SOME advantage (there, I eliminated mechanical) over the one hundred and a LOT of pounds of meat that we need to keep from hitting the deck that summons us to a splatter.

Even if the grigri doesn't cam shut, because of the hypothetical possibility of a carabiner jamming it open upon impact when your leader falls and pulls you into it, both the carabiner and all the friction that's applied from inside the grigri (it'll now function like an ATC. I know this, because I've caught a large whipper when I had the grigri loaded backwards) will take enough stress to allow your brake hand to stop the force.

This same principal is applied to crevasse rescue, carabiners are used for friction, to assist our frail climbing bodies in our efforts, and for directionals so we can haul a load up with our body weight, versus our hands and arms.

Same as hauling a haul bag up y'all!

If your leader falls below you and is hanging directly off your belay device, and they're free hanging away from the wall, without a way to ascend the rope, are you gonna bicep curl them back up?!
slim · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2004 · Points: 1,045

in the few times i have been concerned about this scenario (and i do think it is a scenario to keep in mind and evaluate), i have set up the anchor and then used the rope and a clove hitch to locate myself well below the anchor.

usually this scenario happens where you have a hanging belay anyway, so setting up a hanging belay well below the anchor isn't a deal breaker.

Xam · · Boulder, Co · Joined Dec 2011 · Points: 73
Paul Hutton wrote: Yea dude, why is this still a question lol?
It wasn't a question...I was just trying to understand what you were trying to say because

Paul Hutton wrote: That's less risky anyway, since this decreases weight from the bolts when the leader weights the belayers rope.
isn't very clear.

I agree that mechanical advantage is not the correct term. You can't just apply it because it sounds correct. It has a meaning. But thank you for the discussion.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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