Mountain Project Logo

Guide mode off belay loop


Original Post
Zachary Aldrich · · Folsom, California · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 0

This may be a dumb question but pease somebody enlighten me. I'm wondering if it is possible to use an atc guide in guide mode off of your belay loop rather than the anchor while top belaying. I'm not saying all the time but in specific situations like if you are anchored to a tree 20' back from the edge and you need to be close to the edge to reduce rope drag but you don't have enough rope to anchor yourself in and belay off the anchor. Can you set up in guide mode off yourself while sitting to get the autoblocking feature of the atc guide or is there a reason this would be dangerous. The only thing I could think of is that this set up may complicate things in the event of an emergency lower. Any thoughts? 

Jeremy B. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2013 · Points: 0

You didn't see the other thread on this sort of thing, did you?

Zachary Aldrich · · Folsom, California · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 0

That had nothing to do with my question  I'm asking about using that technique but with my atc set up in guide mode 

Royal · · Santa Rosa, CA · Joined Jun 2010 · Points: 385

Respectfully, it's a terrible idea. Try it and you'll quickly find out why. How are you gonna pull in the slack? You're setting yourself up for disaster. And yes, if your follower falls, and can't unweight the rope you're in for a world of hurt. Never put yourself in that sort of situation. Don't try and reinvent the wheel. I'd suggest staying away from even using an autoblock until you understand it better. Particularly what to do when your following needs lowering and can't unweight the rope. There are a ton of great educational videos out there.  

Zachary Aldrich · · Folsom, California · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 0

I'd pull in slack just like I was belaying normally from above with an atc which I've seen done and done myself countless times. And I already realize that lowering would be difficlult but by no means impossible. If the situations came up I could set up a Prusik or something similar on the rope attaching me to the anchor and transfer the weight of the climber onto a munter using a modified version of the technique usually used to do an emergency lower. This isn't an issue of me not understanding how to use an autoblocking belay device. I'm just wondering if in a situation such as the one I described when it would be helpful to have the autoblocking feature if there is any reason I shouldn't set it up off my belay loop when I'm not close enough to the anchor to set up normally. Have there been any accidents caused by people doing this? I'm 95% sure this is a safe technique but I couldn't find any info on it so I wanted to get a second opinion. 

Zachary Aldrich · · Folsom, California · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 0

Well if I've learned one thing from this post its that I shouldn't start a career in art lol. Hopefully this will help you better understand my question.

Ryan M Moore · · Philadelphia, PA · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 35

Safety aside... Have you used an ATC in guide mode before? I don't think you will find it very fun pulling in a whole pitch of rope in the manner you depict. You're going to be fighting the action of the device the whole way, and since the only reason I can see for doing this is laziness it seems counterproductive.

Ryan M Moore · · Philadelphia, PA · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 35

As for the safety of this. From your depiction your sitting on a ledge, presumably your anchored into your belay loop or hardpoints and the rope is running either over one leg or under you. When the climber falls you are either going to be pinned under the rope(if rope is over leg) or your balls are going to be crushed as your pitched forward by the weight. I'd rather be in neither situation while trying to set up a lower. What if your follower is in space and you can't lower him out but need to fully take him off of you while he spends 15 minutes jugging the rope? You can't escape that belay if you are using the rope you are anchored into unless you're willing to untie and come off the anchors while leaving your climber on a single prusik. 

Jim Titt · · Germany · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 490
Zachary Aldrich wrote:

This may be a dumb question but pease somebody enlighten me. I'm wondering if it is possible to use an atc guide in guide mode off of your belay loop rather than the anchor while top belaying. I'm not saying all the time but in specific situations like if you are anchored to a tree 20' back from the edge and you need to be close to the edge to reduce rope drag but you don't have enough rope to anchor yourself in and belay off the anchor. Can you set up in guide mode off yourself while sitting to get the autoblocking feature of the atc guide or is there a reason this would be dangerous. The only thing I could think of is that this set up may complicate things in the event of an emergency lower. Any thoughts? 

Apart from it being a terrible idea for the above mentioned reasons why on earth isn´t there enough rope? Somewhere there must be something between you and the tree. 

Ryan M Moore · · Philadelphia, PA · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 35

Estimating by the timing of the post I believe sleep deprivation may have had an adverse influence on this idea. It happens to the best of us. I think in any situation one could conceive of where a direct belay is impossible, just belaying normally off your harness wins by a landslide.

Larry S · · Easton, Pennsylvania · Joined May 2010 · Points: 840

If you can walk to the tree and back to the edge with enough rope to anchor yourself (as your description and drawing indicate), just extend your masterpoint; put an 8 on a bite on the climber side of the rope about 4 feet from the edge, and use that as your belay point. 

Gunkiemike · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 2,745
Larry S wrote:

If you can walk to the tree and back to the edge with enough rope to anchor yourself (as your description and drawing indicate), just extend your masterpoint; put an 8 on a bite on the climber side of the rope about 4 feet from the edge, and use that as your belay point. 

This is the way to go even if there isn't enough rope to get back to the edge.  Just fix the end of the rope to the tree (yes, the leader will need to untie).  Prusik/rap/walk back to the edge.  Tie F8 or alpine b'fly loop 3-4 ft above the edge and use that as the masterpoint for both the device and the leader (now belayer)'s anchor.  If the follower falls, be prepared for the whole rig to get pulled down towards your feet HARD.

More generally, if one needs to belay at the edge and it's several feet from the tree, using a Munter (on the tree) can be a good alternative to the ATC-G type of belay.  Unlike a locking-assist device, the Munter can be operated, including lowering, from a distance. Pulling rope through is generally easier than using a device unless the rope is icy or otherwise sticky.

Bottom line - guide mode belay off the belay loop is a really, really poor application of the technique. Don't do it.

stolo · · Shelby, NC · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 110

Just put the atc guide on the tree, set your clove enough for you to walk to edge, then use atc guide as normal...except you are actually 15 feet away from actual device, works just the same. If need to release it, just get up and walk over to it. 

edit: use a Gigi or Ovo if too much friction...been a while since done this with atc-guide

Patrik · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2010 · Points: 30

One important requirement for setting up the ATC guide (and all other "self-locking" devices) in guide mode is that the device should ABSOLUTELY BE FREE-HANGING. It should under NO CIRCUMSTANCES be pinched against rock, legs, trees, whatever. If it is pinched, it may not lock up when loaded. 


Michael Schneider · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 765

-you don't have to listen if you don't want to. Still, The way to use the tools: (belay device, rope, 'P.A.S.' Cordellet ) correctly  is crucial . . . 

Wow!? 

Turn around face your anchor and belay off a redirect that is goes thru its own locking 'biner.( rope will rub over the edge, getting dirty & fuzzy)

Andy Nelson · · Fort Collins, Colorado · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 343

I would also agree that a direct belay off the harness using a device in guide mode would be less than ideal and there are probably more elegant ways of accomplishing the task.  

Although not the same application however, a plaquette can be setup in the manner the OP is talking about to ascend a rope FWIW.  

Adam Fleming · · Dillon, CO · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 303

If you're set on using guide-mode, I have a solution for you.

Build and anchor on the tree. Put yourself on a munter with a locker on the masterpoint.  Belay yourself to the edge, pull up some extra slack, tie a big overhand using both strands of the rope.  You now have a masterpoint to belay your second.  You've also escaped the belay.

Adam Reke · · Boulder, Colorado · Joined May 2013 · Points: 10

Hey Zachary, 

In general, belaying off your harness limits your ability to lower, rescue, or setup pullies for followers and may not be a good application. There are times when belaying off your harness is a good idea though such as when you have a marginal anchor on class 4 terrian and want your body to be the primary object catching your follower with the anchor as a buackup. In your diagram, belaying with a plaquete or ATC device may be hard, because it's hard to get the break-hand of the rope in the break position. Naturally, your hand will come in front of the device near the climbers end of the rope, which is incorrect. You may try using a munter hitch, where that would be the correct position of the break hand. You could also use the ATC guide in guide mode as well directly off your harness. However, I typically find that applications where I would want the ATC in guide mode, I would also want to connect it directly to the anchor or an extension of the anchor. 

For the scenario in your diagram, belaying someone up vertical terrain, the best application is to connect the guide atc in guide mode to the anchro with an extension so that you're not part of the system. If your follower needs a take, you then won't be part of the system and get smushed. 

Jake Jones · · Richmond, VA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 1,480

Possible?  Yes.  Advisable? No.

Zachary Aldrich · · Folsom, California · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 0
Gunkiemike wrote:

This is the way to go even if there isn't enough rope to get back to the edge.  Just fix the end of the rope to the tree (yes, the leader will need to untie).  Prusik/rap/walk back to the edge.  Tie F8 or alpine b'fly loop 3-4 ft above the edge and use that as the masterpoint for both the device and the leader (now belayer)'s anchor.  If the follower falls, be prepared for the whole rig to get pulled down towards your feet HARD.

More generally, if one needs to belay at the edge and it's several feet from the tree, using a Munter (on the tree) can be a good alternative to the ATC-G type of belay.  Unlike a locking-assist device, the Munter can be operated, including lowering, from a distance. Pulling rope through is generally easier than using a device unless the rope is icy or otherwise sticky.

Bottom line - guide mode belay off the belay loop is a really, really poor application of the technique. Don't do it.

Thank you! This was actually super helpful. Thank you for taking the time to educate and suggest an alternative. 

climbing coastie · · Wasilla, AK · Joined Feb 2011 · Points: 90

I didn't read all the responses so please forgive me if this was already said, but why not tie a loop in the rope coming from the anchor, clip into this, and also clip the ATC to it in guide mode. It removes you from the system, places you as close to the edge as you want, and makes the possibility of a lower (or raise) easier. 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Post a Reply

Log In to Reply