Half rope alternate clip technique with brake assisted belay device?


Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 478
anotherclimber wrote:

My thought being that as soon as the belayer unintentionally shorts the climber, the device will lock up and then you will have to put your thumb in/under the loop/nose to unlock it. Depending on how tight you keep the belay, this could be a constant and very annoying issue.

Or in the case of tenuous friction slab (where I typically use half ropes) your leader gets peeled off when you short them. 

In real life practice I found the megajul locks paying out slack w/o the thumb in the loop keeping the device up. It just doesn't work.

Boissal · · Small Lake, UT · Joined Aug 2006 · Points: 1,290
anotherclimber wrote:

I want to clarify a few points about the possibility of half rope belaying with the Alpine Smart Belay and Megajul/Microjul. While it does seem that it can be done (although not easily and most people including myself wouldn't choose to do so), just from me practicing on the ground by myself I have a strong suspicion it would be much more difficult in real usage climbing beyond just tiring and wearing out the elbows of the belayer. My thought being that as soon as the belayer unintentionally shorts the climber, the device will lock up and then you will have to put your thumb in/under the loop/nose to unlock it. Depending on how tight you keep the belay, this could be a constant and very annoying issue. I don't believe these are the ideal belay devices for this application, unless you are using your half ropes as twins and clipping them in together in every piece of protection, or one rope protects the first part of a pitch, and the other protects the final part of the of it. So basically any climbing where the belayer doesn't have to simultaneously take in and feed slack at the same time on opposite ropes. Otherwise, in my opinion the better choices are a non-brake assisted belay device, or the Alpine Up. 

+1 on this. I've used the Clik up (single rope) a bit and it's pretty easy to lock the device. I tried the Alpine up and it seems like the "lock rate" goes up exponentially, I imagine it could be a nightmare on half/twins if you're belaying a fast climber and have to manage taking in and feeding slack essentially at once. The device isn't as easy to use as they make it seem...

I watched a gal in the gym yesterday using an Alpine up and running her gigantic mouth about how much better it was than a Grigri. She spent half of her time trying to unlock the device and the other half shortroping her partner. He had to unweight the rope before she could lower him. Painful to watch... She'd have probably killed him had she been using double ropes.

anotherclimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 70
Nick Drake wrote:

Or in the case of tenuous friction slab (where I typically use half ropes) your leader gets peeled off when you short them. 

In real life practice I found the megajul locks paying out slack w/o the thumb in the loop keeping the device up. It just doesn't work.

A very good point Nick. Thank you for bringing it up. I find on half rope belay ground practice and in feeding slack for the first clip of sport lead with a single rope while spotting at the same time, that if you have the brake strand(s) parallel to the climbers strand as you feed and take in slack the Megajul doesn't lock completely. It works a lot easier and with less friction with a single rope than two halves. But I don't think I'd want to rely on that with real climbing with half ropes for a lot of movement of the rope through the device . As you mention the consequences could be high, on top of being a major hassle for and wearing on the body of the belayer. The Megajul and Alpine Smart Belay was really designed to be operated with the thumb in the loop/under the nose to feed slack. I also wonder if the smaller Microjul would make this problem worse.

Boissal wrote: 

+1 on this. I've used the Clik up (single rope) a bit and it's pretty easy to lock the device. I tried the Alpine up and it seems like the "lock rate" goes up exponentially, I imagine it could be a nightmare on half/twins if you're belaying a fast climber and have to manage taking in and feeding slack essentially at once. The device isn't as easy to use as they make it seem...

I watched a gal in the gym yesterday using an Alpine up and running her gigantic mouth about how much better it was than a Grigri. She spent half of her time trying to unlock the device and the other half shortroping her partner. He had to unweight the rope before she could lower him. Painful to watch... She'd have probably killed him had she been using double ropes.

I think you might have mis-read what I wrote. The Climbing Technology Alpine Up is a wonderful device for half rope belaying as there is no inbetween with unlocked and locked. In my so far brief experience of ground practice half rope belay it does not lock up unintentionally when used properly. It's the Mammut Alpine Smart Belay and Edelrid Megajul that doesn't work well for half rope belaying. 

Sounds like the woman in the gym you saw using it didn't read the user manual before using it on top of using it with thick diameter and stiff gym ropes which it is terrible for and probably was the cause of a lot of her belaying problems. Admittedly the unlock procedure is tricky. The way the user manual says to do it doesn't work for me. I have my own way of doing it that I had to figure out on my own. Ultimately people need to read how to use each belay device properly and that is on them. Any device will fail or work improperly from user error. The Alpine Up's biggest draw back that Rgold has mentioned several times is that it's advertised rope diameter range is too large on the top end. It probably should be no higher than 9.8mm. 

Paul Morrison · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 0

I'd like to add a caution here not to assume that it's okay to mix half and twin techniques in the same lead just because the ropes are rated for both techniques and because someone on a forum says to go have fun. You should communicate with each rope manufacturer first to verify that they condone this practice. The maker of my dual-rated ropes, whom I called personally to discuss this point, recommended against it, for the reasons that anotherclimber raised earlier on this thread. The UIAA drop tests test half ropes singly and twin ropes as a pair. There is no required test under simulated mixed technique conditions, which is why at least this one company will not offer any assurance that it will not damage your ropes.

Boissal · · Small Lake, UT · Joined Aug 2006 · Points: 1,290
anotherclimber wrote:

I think you might have mis-read what I wrote. The Climbing Technology Alpine Up is a wonderful device for half rope belaying as there is no inbetween with unlocked and locked. In my so far brief experience of ground practice half rope belay it does not lock up unintentionally when used properly. It's the Mammut Alpine Smart Belay and Edelrid Megajul that doesn't work well for half rope belaying. 

Sounds like the woman in the gym you saw using it didn't read the user manual before using it on top of using it with thick diameter and stiff gym ropes which it is terrible for and probably was the cause of a lot of her belaying problems. Admittedly the unlock procedure is tricky. The way the user manual says to do it doesn't work for me. I have my own way of doing it that I had to figure out on my own. Ultimately people need to read how to use each belay device properly and that is on them. Any device will fail or work improperly from user error. The Alpine Up's biggest draw back that Rgold has mentioned several times is that it's advertised rope diameter range is too large on the top end. It probably should be no higher than 9.8mm. 

You're right, I got mixed up between the Mammut Smart Alpine and the ClimbTech Alpine up, my bad... That being said the gym lady was using a ClimbTech Alpine up and I'd have been happier soloing than having her belay me. She was using her own rope which didn't seem any fatter than a 9.8 at first glance. Whether or not she read the user manual I have no idea. She clearly lacked practice or even an understanding of how her device works which, as you pointed out, can be very dangerous. If you say a 9.8 is about as fat as you should go with the device I could see how a couple of 8mm half ropes would be more manageable...

anotherclimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 70
Paul Morrison wrote:

I'd like to add a caution here not to assume that it's okay to mix half and twin techniques in the same lead just because the ropes are rated for both techniques and because someone on a forum says to go have fun. You should communicate with each rope manufacturer first to verify that they condone this practice. The maker of my dual-rated ropes, whom I called personally to discuss this point, recommended against it, for the reasons that anotherclimber raised earlier on this thread. The UIAA drop tests test half ropes singly and twin ropes as a pair. There is no required test under simulated mixed technique conditions, which is why at least this one company will not offer any assurance that it will not damage your ropes.

Thank you for your words of caution. I'll check in with Mammut and see what they say. 

Boissal wrote:  You're right, I got mixed up between the Mammut Smart Alpine and the ClimbTech Alpine up, my bad... That being said the gym lady was using a ClimbTech Alpine up and I'd have been happier soloing than having her belay me. She was using her own rope which didn't seem any fatter than a 9.8 at first glance. Whether or not she read the user manual I have no idea. She clearly lacked practice or even an understanding of how her device works which, as you pointed out, can be very dangerous. If you say a 9.8 is about as fat as you should go with the device I could see how a couple of 8mm half ropes would be more manageable...

No worries, it's all good. Thanks for verifying what I suspected from your prior post. 

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 456
anotherclimber wrote:

Sounds like the woman in the gym you saw using it didn't read the user manual before using it on top of using it with thick diameter and stiff gym ropes which it is terrible for and probably was the cause of a lot of her belaying problems. Admittedly the unlock procedure is tricky. The way the user manual says to do it doesn't work for me. I have my own way of doing it that I had to figure out on my own. Ultimately people need to read how to use each belay device properly and that is on them. Any device will fail or work improperly from user error. The Alpine Up's biggest draw back that Rgold has mentioned several times is that it's advertised rope diameter range is too large on the top end. It probably should be no higher than 9.8mm. 

FWIW, I've never had an issue with feeding rope with fat ropes. The extra friction certainly makes it more physical work and demands less sloppy technique but I've never had it lock up while I was feeding slack, even with a stiff old fat 10.5mm rope. The issue I've experienced with fat ropes is that lowering the climber with super fat ropes requires you to actually pull the rope through the device. When the ropes are fat enough, just pulling the lever down all the way isn't enough so you pull the climber's strand up, which is very tiring.

On the other hand, I don't think it is fair to fault the alpine up specifically for its issues with super fat ropes because every single assisted braking device on the market is also going to suck with those ropes. At that point your only option for smooth feeding is an ATC style device or stitch plate

And I guess I didn't read the manual thoroughly enough because I don't remember it saying anything about how to unlock the device. In reality, it's pretty damn easy to do, you just push the device away from your belay loop. To me it seems simple enough that it doesn't need to be explained.

Also, are you using the belay biner that comes with it? I suspect that is what caused this gym woman to have problems with it and perhaps you as well. The width of the cross section has an enormous impact on the device's braking performance. This is because, in order for it to lock up, the carabiner must travel over a small lip into a slot to pinch the rope. If the carabiner is too narrow, the lip won't keep the biner out of the slot while you're feeding slack and it will lock up. If the carabiner is too wide, it won't be able to fit into the slot and this could potentially cause it not to brake at all.

For anybody interested in the Alpine Up, USE THE CARABINER THAT COMES WITH IT. FAILING TO DO SO WILL MAKE YOUR LIFE SHITTY AT BEST, AND KILL YOUR PARTNER AT WORST.  

anotherclimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 70
eli poss wrote:

FWIW, I've never had an issue with feeding rope with fat ropes. The extra friction certainly makes it more physical work and demands less sloppy technique but I've never had it lock up while I was feeding slack, even with a stiff old fat 10.5mm rope. The issue I've experienced with fat ropes is that lowering the climber with super fat ropes requires you to actually pull the rope through the device. When the ropes are fat enough, just pulling the lever down all the way isn't enough so you pull the climber's strand up, which is very tiring.

As I think about this, I believe sloppy technique through being used to using Alpine Smart Belay and Megajul devices where you cannot feed the brake strand into the device when giving slack has lead to this issue. Anyone who has only used an ATC probably won't run into this problem. This is a good wake up call for me to correct my feed technique with these devices.

eli poss wrote: And I guess I didn't read the manual thoroughly enough because I don't remember it saying anything about how to unlock the device. In reality, it's pretty damn easy to do, you just push the device away from your belay loop. To me it seems simple enough that it doesn't need to be explained.

Indeed the manual does show how it's done. See illustration 4.6 here. I only mentioned it because in concept it is simple, in practice not so much when the rope is tensioned. In my own experience the manual's way of doing it only works well when the rope is not tensioned. 

eli poss wrote: Also, are you using the belay biner that comes with it? I suspect that is what caused this gym woman to have problems with it and perhaps you as well. The width of the cross section has an enormous impact on the device's braking performance. This is because, in order for it to lock up, the carabiner must travel over a small lip into a slot to pinch the rope. If the carabiner is too narrow, the lip won't keep the biner out of the slot while you're feeding slack and it will lock up. If the carabiner is too wide, it won't be able to fit into the slot and this could potentially cause it not to brake at all.

You're asking the wrong person. You should be asking Boissal. I use the carabiner included with the Alpine Up. 

Boissal · · Small Lake, UT · Joined Aug 2006 · Points: 1,290

No idea which carabiner she was using, she had a least 5 BD GridLocks on her harness which have the same function but probably not the right shape for the device... 

My partner uses a clik-up with the proper crab and regularly short-ropes the shit out of me, she claims it's because my arms are too long and I clip too fast...

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

+1 on this. I've used the Clik up (single rope) a bit and it's pretty easy to lock the device. I tried the Alpine up and it seems like the "lock rate" goes up exponentially, I imagine it could be a nightmare on half/twins if you're belaying a fast climber and have to manage taking in and feeding slack essentially at once. The device isn't as easy to use as they make it seem...

I watched a gal in the gym yesterday using an Alpine up and running her gigantic mouth about how much better it was than a Grigri. She spent half of her time trying to unlock the device and the other half shortroping her partner. He had to unweight the rope before she could lower him. Painful to watch... She'd have probably killed him had she been using double ropes.

I've been using a CT Alpine Up for half rope lead belaying for years now and have no nightmarish problems with locking while pumping out slack for fast clips.  Of course, every device out there will lock up occasionally if the brake stand isn't positioned right and/or a moment of inattention occurs,  but the UP is the fastest to unlock when this happens.   I should add that one of the reasons I went to an assisted-locking device was the desire to use a palm-up brake hand position, which is more effective when it comes to managing ropes and pumping slack.

The Alpine Up is a total disaster on thick gym ropes.  I tried it once and stopped after one route.  The Click-up was designed for fatter ropes and might be better, I have no experience with it.  These devices are good for a specialized range of applications but can really suck once out of that range.  In the gym a grigri is the way to go.

If your partner continually short-ropes you, it is almost certainly a technique problem and not a device issue.

aikibujin · · Castle Rock, CO · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 290
anotherclimber wrote:

The way the user manual says to do it doesn't work for me. I have my own way of doing it that I had to figure out on my own. Ultimately people need to read how to use each belay device properly and that is on them.

Aren't those statements kind of contradictory?

Boissal · · Small Lake, UT · Joined Aug 2006 · Points: 1,290
rgold wrote:

If your partner continually short-ropes you, it is almost certainly a technique problem and not a device issue.

It is definitely a technique problem, however she has no issues with short-roping me on a grigri. She just doesn't like the gri for some reason... To me it seems to suggest the Clik-up is much easier to lock which can be a problem in some cases (short person pulling lots of slack fast for a reachy clip by a tall person). Practice makes perfect I guess but I can't wait for the day she drops the damn thing and retires it.

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

Aren't those statements kind of contradictory?

Good catch! I didn't notice that. Probably what I should have said was that people need to read the manual and then adjust their technique slightly as needed, as long as it doesn't put anyone in danger of being dropped. How you pop the Alpine Up and Click Up out of lock mode doesn't really matter as long as the brake strand is being firmly gripped and below the device in the process. 

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 265
Boissal wrote:

No idea which carabiner she was using, she had a least 5 BD GridLocks on her harness which have the same function but probably not the right shape for the device... 

My partner uses a clik-up with the proper crab and regularly short-ropes the shit out of me, she claims it's because my arms are too long and I clip too fast...

My 4' 11" regularly belays my 6' son, and other tall guys. Honestly, you really do have to crank fast to keep up with someone who has 30" more length than you!

What really makes it worse, though, is if you tend to clip high, tend to want two huge armloads of slack to clip, or both.

Reducing those two habits will help her out, is safer, and give you shorter falls too!

Best, H.

Healyje · · PDX · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 285
Old lady H wrote:

My 4' 11" regularly belays my 6' son, and other tall guys. Honestly, you really do have to crank fast to keep up with someone who has 30" more length than you!

What really makes it worse, though, is if you tend to clip high, tend to want two huge armloads of slack to clip, or both.

Reducing those two habits will help her out, is safer, and give you shorter falls too!

Best, H.

Hmmm. A leader shouldn't be placing pro for a belayer; they should be protecting the line for themselves. If the belayer needs to learn to yard out rope faster then so be it...

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

It is definitely a technique problem, however she has no issues with short-roping me on a grigri. She just doesn't like the gri for some reason... To me it seems to suggest the Clik-up is much easier to lock which can be a problem in some cases (short person pulling lots of slack fast for a reachy clip by a tall person). Practice makes perfect I guess but I can't wait for the day she drops the damn thing and retires it.

It is very easy not to short-rope with a grigri, because you can hold the cam open.  The issue then is not short-roping, but whether you'll be caught if you fall.  One of the main advantages of the Up's over grigris, smarts, and juls is that you  pump slack without disabling the catching mechanism.  Pick yer poison.

anotherclimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 70
Paul Morrison wrote:

I'd like to add a caution here not to assume that it's okay to mix half and twin techniques in the same lead just because the ropes are rated for both techniques and because someone on a forum says to go have fun. You should communicate with each rope manufacturer first to verify that they condone this practice. The maker of my dual-rated ropes, whom I called personally to discuss this point, recommended against it, for the reasons that anotherclimber raised earlier on this thread. The UIAA drop tests test half ropes singly and twin ropes as a pair. There is no required test under simulated mixed technique conditions, which is why at least this one company will not offer any assurance that it will not damage your ropes.

I just heard back from Mammut. Here is their response regarding my 8.5mm Genesis ropes and mixing twin and alternate individual rope clipping within a single pitch:

"The ropes that we produce today are a lot better than the ropes that were available for 20 years ago, the safety margin is nowdays a lot higher. Yes many old climbers state that you should not mix and this was true 20 years ago but not today with the new ropes that we have in the assortment."

Looks like I'm good to go with mixing clipping techniques.

mbk · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 0
anotherclimber wrote:

Looks like I'm good to go with mixing clipping techniques.

Keep in mind: going from half to twin can create a very strong upward pull on the first twinned placement.

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

Keep in mind: going from half to twin can create a very strong upward pull on the first twinned placement.

Can you go into more detail of what the issues are and how to work with it?  

Why would this not be an issue if clipping all twin, or any twin clips after the first?

Healyje · · PDX · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 285

I personally have never run into a significantly reasonable use case for mixing half and twin rope techniques on a pitch.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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