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Belaying with a cinch


Original Post
Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 290

After watching the cinch video in the Grigri PSA thread, I was prompted to go ahead and throw this on here. Been thinking about it for awhile. I have comments, but also questions, on top rope belaying with this device.

For starters, I have not found any top rope instructions, oddly. Where I am using these is at a local gym, where that is the only choice.

The vid shows taking in slack by pinching both ropes with non brake hand above the device, then sliding the brake hand down. Which, for an ATC user, is not great.

Question one: if a brake hand does anything at all with this device? And, since they advise to always have the brake hand with two fingers on the device and three fingers on the rope, what good is just three fingers closing, right at the device?

Really?

Question two: is it reasonable to not hold the device at all while top rope belaying, and keep that brake hand the same as a PBUS ATC belay?

Question three: On a top rope belay, if a hand is above the device to pull in slack, will that defeat it if there is a fall right then?

Then, the big ticket issue. Failure.

Question four: How abrupt is that failure point? Would you see the wear when loading? Is a yank test sufficient on a preloaded device?

Question five: When/if it fails, I assume you then have no braking, just hanging on? Is that about the same as if the handle was wide open? Or do you get anything from having your brake hand down?

Thanks! Helen

Nick Cesare · · Boise, ID · Joined Sep 2012 · Points: 30

I'm guessing that you're talking about Urban Ascent. They teach PBUS there and it's definitely an acceptable method of belaying with a cinch.

John Ryan · · Poncha Springs, CO · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 165

"Question one: if a brake hand does anything at all with this device? And, since they advise to always have the brake hand with two fingers on the device and three fingers on the rope, what good is just three fingers closing, right at the device?"
Disclaimer-I have investigated a ground fall where the claim was made that the Cinch being used failed. I will publish my findings on here but the failure mode is unrelated to your concerns.

Yes the brake hand can stop a climber with a Cinch, although it does require more force than a GriGri or ATC (assuming the assisted belay function is overridden). I haven't tested or experimented with number of fingers on the device but in my experience 98% of the time I am very aware if my climber is about to fall, and this awareness can help with reaction times on getting your full hand on the rope.

"Question two: is it reasonable to not hold the device at all while top rope belaying, and keep that brake hand the same as a PBUS ATC belay?"

Yes.

Question three: On a top rope belay, if a hand is above the device to pull in slack, will that defeat it if there is a fall right then?

Unknown but less likely IMO than a lead fall. The key is letting go of the climber side immediately, with the intensity and commitment you apply to your brake hand. With a good grip on the brake strand you are good even if you apply the correct pressure, angle etc where the device fails to auto lock.

"Question four: How abrupt is that failure point? Would you see the wear when loading? Is a yank test sufficient on a preloaded device?"

It seems you are concerned with wear on the device which I don't have data on. Wear will result in a surface with a slightly lower coefficient of friction. In my opinion the angle of the rope provides much more friction and holding power than the surface of the cam.

"Question five: When/if it fails, I assume you then have no braking, just hanging on? Is that about the same as if the handle was wide open? Or do you get anything from having your brake hand down?"

I did tests where I over rode the auto feature (handle wide open) and compared the ability to hold a load between devices although I did not do this with an extremely worn Cinch. While the Cinch offered much less advantage than a Reverso or a GriGri held open, it still provided significant mechanical advantage. I know this doesn't answer your question on failure due to worn surfaces but thought it may be helpful.

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 290

Thanks, guys!

This is mostly me being curious, yet again.

In the Grigri rant thread, someone claims a hand above the cinch will defeat it, even more so than a Grigri. Also, on other threads, I seem to remember the cinch being said to "work fine, right up until it doesnt" referring to the wear issue, maybe pin failure? Dunno.

And, with a few exceptions, that most of the assisted braking devices can not be thought of like an ATC, in that they will not do much for you if the cam is defeated, or, in the cinch's case, fails.

Most of what you say above implies none of this is an issue, so....

More input, maybe?

Your investigation sounds interesting! In case you haven't figured it out, my brain gets a lot more climbing "outings" than I do. Not weather dependant!

Thanks! Helen

amarius · · Nowhere, OK · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 20
Old lady H wrote:For starters, I have not found any top rope instructions, oddly.
In software business, support is only provided for the latest versions, so I'll tell you about Trango-Vergo ;)

Works fine for top-roping duty. Gets loaded exactly the same way as for lead belaying.
When pulling in slack you have the usual choice - PBUS, alternating hands, or just the brake hand sliding up the rope. If a fall happens, device gets rotated up, locks up.
Lowering is comparable to GG2, perhaps a little better.
Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 290

Thanks, again!

Anyone have more information about the "known failure" of cinch? And, what are you working with if that should happen?

I will assume the whole hand above the device defeating it, is dependant on the brake hand being AWOL!

Best, Helen

Jim Titt · · Germany · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 490
Old lady H wrote:Thanks, again! Anyone have more information about the "known failure" of cinch? And, what are you working with if that should happen? I will assume the whole hand above the device defeating it, is dependant on the brake hand being AWOL! Best, Helen
The "known failure" of the Cinch (apart from holding the body or holding it too high if I remember rightly) is holding the brake strand down and the the live strand as well making a straight line so the rope runs through the device. The "unknown failure" is when experienced users do everything right with an unworn deviece and still drop the climber.
The change in the manufacturers instructions to use the device upside down has removed most of the failure modes.
Buy a GriGri.
anotherclimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 70

Hello Old lady H,

I'll do my best to answer.

Top roping with the Trango Cinch/Vergo is going to be very similar as to a Petzl Grigri if you are familiar with it, except in the rare occasion when you need to give the climber slack when the brake is not engaged. Taking in slack is the PBUS method or hand over hand. I never recommend brake hand sliding up the brake strand. This is no different than with an ATC. What you are seeing in the video is the belayer using the old slip slap slide belay method which my understanding is it should not be used anymore unless you are hip belaying or belaying with a munter hitch. So ignore that detail of the video.

Lowering is one hand firmly on the brake strand and the other pulling the brake release lever only enough to lower the climber in a slow and controlled manner. Giving slack with the brake not engaged will be just like shown in the video I posted that you watched.

Old lady H wrote:Question one: if a brake hand does anything at all with this device? And, since they advise to always have the brake hand with two fingers on the device and three fingers on the rope, what good is just three fingers closing, right at the device? Really?
This setup is for lead belaying only. Top roping you'd have one hand firmly on the brake strand and one lightly on the climbers strand making sure that both hands firmly grasp the brake strand during a fall. Switching the climbers strand hand to join the one on the brake strand is a good practice for any belay device. Keeping three fingers wrapped around the brake strand is to make sure the device locks when the leader falls. It is brake assisted so it doesn't require much force on the brake hand to make the device lock.

That being said, with all the Cinch posts I sifted through in the links below, there seems to be enough evidence to show that much like lead belaying with a Grigri with your thumb on the brake cam the whole time is a bad idea... Lead belaying with the Cinch in feed method the whole time is probably also a bad idea. Better to feed, and then right back to letting go of the Cinch and your whole brake hand firmly on the brake strand.

Old lady H wrote:Question two: is it reasonable to not hold the device at all while top rope belaying, and keep that brake hand the same as a PBUS ATC belay?


Yes. This is the only way you should be using it for top rope. Remember, pinching the Cinch with the thumb and first finger in the hole is for feeding slack only and usually only used for lead belaying, unless in rare moments on top rope the climber needs slack for something like a slight downward traverse. Most belay devices in terms of top roping are quite similar taking in slack. It's the feeding of slack in brake assisted belay devices that are all different.

Old lady H wrote:Question three: On a top rope belay, if a hand is above the device to pull in slack, will that defeat it if there is a fall right then? Then, the big ticket issue. Failure.
Again, this is the old slip slap slide belay method shown in the video that you should not be using. Use the PBUS method that you are familiar with, or hand over hand. Whether it locks or not with the brake strand above the belay device I do not know. I've never owned a Cinch to test this scenario. A lot of brake assisted belay devices won't lock with the brake strand above it. Assume the Cinch won't either. People who used the slip slap slide method of belaying learned to quickly pull the brake hand down below the belay device during a fall. As you so smartly have surmised, this old method of belaying is not as safe as PBUS or hand over hand if you are not paying attention and not well trained.

Old lady H wrote:Question four: How abrupt is that failure point? Would you see the wear when loading? Is a yank test sufficient on a preloaded device?
From what I've read people either start to experience some rope slippage when holding a climber or it does not lock up reliably. Eventually it will not lock up at all. Perhaps other Cinch or former Cinch users will speak up about this. The moment you suspect it is not safe you either replace the pin, or destroy it with a hammer and throw away, or preferably recycle the whole device. Yes you can see the wear. Reference the link below:

cascadeclimbers.com/forum/u…

You can see the pin wear when you open it up to load the rope. If your gym has the Cinch's already installed on the rope, unless you purposely pull it apart to check it, you will never see the wear. You should also check the metal plate on the opposite side of where the rope gets pinched by the pin. Once that metal plate is worn, replacing the pin will not fix it. Also much like a Grigri, the sides will wear. You can see this in the last photo in the above link. Any severe enough wear to the sides that keep the device locking up as it should or potentially damaging the sheath if worn completely through is your sign to retire the device.

A yank test probably does not have sufficient force to tell you if a worn Cinch
is safe to use. Test it in a gym with a crash pad and the leader or climber falling at low enough heights that the crash pad will protect them if it does not hold. Otherwise if you suspect it's not safe, don't use it and retire it.

Old lady H wrote:Question five: When/if it fails, I assume you then have no braking, just hanging on? Is that about the same as if the handle was wide open? Or do you get anything from having your brake hand down?
My understanding is that you will little to no braking effect besides whatever friction your brake hand(s) can provide. So yes, much like having the brake release lever wide open. A good idea to use belay gloves on both hands with this device. From what I've read Grigri's are not much better when the brake does not engage.

Here's the links of everything I could find of Cinch accidents that are mostly user error, with some that are worn.

mountainproject.com/v/belay…

mountainproject.com/v/lost-…

mountainproject.com/v/trang…

mountainproject.com/v/belay…

mountainproject.com/v/trang…

mountainproject.com/v/trang…

mountainproject.com/v/yet-a…

mountainproject.com/v/warni…

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Also of interest is these two videos of rope slipping through a Cinch:

youtube.com/watch?v=Cyt24hJ…
This first one says nothing about the condition of the Cinch, so it could be a brand new rope with dry treatment which is very slippery and reduces braking force on most belay devices.

youtube.com/watch?v=eGMPKpC…
From what I've been able to make sense of the google translate of the description, this was either a new Cinch, or new enough one that the pin was not worn. They returned it to the dealer for credit and replaced it with a Grigri that did not do this. Again, this could be a new dry treated rope causing this slippage. Another notch up for the Grigri and it's holding power.
Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 290

Anotherclimber, thanks so much!

So, this will be parked in the back of my mind when I encounter it.

I have also bought some cheap leather(ish?) gloves, and cut off the fingertips for quick and dirty gym belay gloves. I'll be after some new belay gloves for outside, soon. Mine are okay, but time for new, for my lead climbers, especially.

One great side effect of a mom primarily belaying her son? I truly am prepared to get seriously, totally, hurt/dead to protect my climbers, no question! I don't worry a bit, no helicoptering at all, but just keep tucking little "what ifs" in there all the time. For all of you, too.

Including that one in a jillion when the gym cinch cuts loose.

Best, Helen

anotherclimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 70

No problem. Glad to be of help. Sounds like you've got things figured out.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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