Don't get complacent.


jason.cre · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 0
King Tut wrote:

No, this is a horrible idea. 

LOL!  

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ASK YOUR CLIMBER IF THEY WILL RAPPEL OR LOWER!!!!!

Now I've heard it all.


Ken Noyce · · Layton, UT · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 2,017
jason.cre wrote:

LOL!  

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ASK YOUR CLIMBER IF THEY WILL RAPPEL OR LOWER!!!!!

Now I've heard it all.

If you always operate under the assumption that your climber will lower, there is no need to ask them if they will rappel or lower, they will be safe regardless.


King Tut · · Citrus Heights · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 140
jason.cre wrote:

LOL!  

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ASK YOUR CLIMBER IF THEY WILL RAPPEL OR LOWER!!!!!

Now I've heard it all.

The context was that a pre-determined plan that could lead to negligence or bad assumptions. Just keep him on belay until you are **directed** otherwise. 

I hope you don't figure this out the hard way.


jason.cre · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 0
Ken Noyce wrote:

If you always operate under the assumption that your climber will lower, there is no need to ask them if they will rappel or lower, they will be safe regardless.

Unless the anchor fails or a rock knocks out the belayer, two things that are more likely to happen lowering vs. rapping.


jason.cre · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 0
King Tut wrote:

The context was that a pre-determined plan that could lead to negligence or bad assumptions. Just keep him on belay until you are **directed** otherwise. 

I hope you don't figure this out the hard way.

I agree with you, I just dont understand why you cant practice *both*.


King Tut · · Citrus Heights · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 140
jason.cre wrote:

I agree with you, I just dont understand why you cant practice *both*.

Look this is splitting hairs but we are trying to discuss the ideal situation. "I am going to rappel/lower" is problematic because it creates several assumptions on the ground before the situation at the anchor has been fully assessed. It may sound like it is preparing people, but I promise it creates an expectation that can lead to trouble. Best compromise would be "I don't know what's up there, keep me on till I check it out".

1. "i'm gonna rappel" leads to an expectation that he will be off belay and safe, this can and does cause enough problems as it is with people being taken off belay when they are not safe.

2. "I'm going to lower" leads to an assumption that the anchor is ideal for lowering and proper rappelling gear or anchoring gear (to safely pass the rope and set up the rappel) may not be taken up. This is fine if you know the anchor, if you don't its a set up for an epic.  In the OP the lack of communication while at the anchor and that set of "assumptions" lead to a dangerous fall that could have ended much worse. People lean back expecting to be lowered not communicating that is what they want, people start lowering while the leaders is actually doing something else etc.

If the belayer knows he must maintain a proper belay at all times until clearly "off belay" is shared between the partners that is the only safest way. Even if the leader has to fight the belayer to pull up slack (while safely anchored) to set up the rappel that is better than the belayer assuming he wants slack when he doesn't (ie the OP) or the belayer takes him off belay assuming he is safe but he is not.

You may think I am being a pedantic putz about this but I was nearly killed when my belayer assumed I was off and took me off belay without confirmation from me. I took a 100' fall and would have died if I wasn't on a steep multi-pitch route and was able to fall **20 feet past the belay** and not hit anything major. The only thing that stopped me was the anchor and my partner got badly burned hands trying to save me.

Any assumptions in the mind of the belayer should be utterly set aside as soon as you leave the ground. They keep you on belay until they confirm absolutely clearly that is what you want.

As well, please take my 40+ years of climbing experience for what it should be worth: I have found that assumptions, essentially a moment of not thinking about what is really going on about any number of things and confirming them with your partner, are probably the leading cause of climbing accidents. Assumptions/Complacency leads to experienced people having preventable accidents.


Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 0
jason.cre wrote:

Unless the anchor fails or a rock knocks out the belayer, two things that are more likely to happen lowering vs. rapping.

Recall.... the discussion is about one pitch sport routes with bolted anchors. How many anchor failures due to lowering have occurred on those kind of routes? 

For that matter, how many accidents have resulted because the belayer was knocked out by a falling rock due to lowering on a sport route?

What is the next outlier edge case with p<.0001 of occurrence that we need to mitigate against?


pfwein · · Boulder, CO · Joined May 2006 · Points: 30
jason.cre wrote:

Unless the anchor fails or a rock knocks out the belayer, two things that are more likely to happen lowering vs. rapping.

Rapping is safer regarding anchor failing, but it's more dangerous regarding loss of consciousness (from rockfall, or any other reason--sometimes people just pass out for any number of reasons).  If you're being lowered and your belayer loses consciousness, you'll just be hanging there for a bit, until either your belayer regains consciousness, someone else takes over the belay or, worst case, you can just fix the ropes and single rope rap to the ground.  (It goes without saying that you're being lowered on a GriGri or by some other method so that if your belayer loses consciousness, you'll auto-stop--would be very dangerous to be lowered otherwise.)

If you're rapping and you lose consciousness, it could be very dangerous.  Obviously, you won't fall to the ground as you're rapping with a friction knot backup or the like, but it isn't trivial for your belayer to rescue you, and hanging in a harness while unconscious can quickly lead to serious problems or death  Sure, you'll be rapping with a chest harness to put you in as good of a position as possible if you're hanging unconscious, and your belayer should have equipment and skills to quickly ascend the rope and get you to the ground when necessary.

But it's still somewhat more likely that loss of consciousness will cause problems rapping compared to lowering, so you need to balance the likelihood of anchor failure with problems from loss of consciousness.   One solution is to bring an extra rope and rap and be lowered simultaneously (with the lowering rope being slightly slack so as not to weight the anchor, unless the rap fails).  When doing that, remember not to rappel with a backup, because you want your belayer to be able to lower you if you pass out.

The optimal rap v. lower decision requires a careful balancing of the likelihood of anchor failure, you and your partner's medical histories, likelihood of rockfall, etc.


Tomily ma · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2011 · Points: 290

I like the fear I get when I weight the rope to be lowered and hope that my partner isn't a closet psychopath who is trying to kill me because that is also a possibility. Rapping doesn't have anything like that, except at those crags where tourists mill about the tops, where someone might see a rope stuck in some chain and assume it needs to be cut out. 


Em Cos · · Boulder, CO · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 0
Mark E Dixon wrote:

@ reboot- I focus on single pitch sport for two reasons-

I have some recent experience and 

the vast majority of sport climbs are set up to allow lowering. Single pitch trad is much more varied as far as anchors and I don't know that a unified approach is viable.

@Em Cos- 

Not really sure what to say here. 

My expectation is that my belayer will keep me on belay from the time I leave the ground until I return to the ground after clipping the anchor. 

This is my belayer's expectation because I "always lower."

I don't need to communicate anything to make this work. 

I think sport climbing would be safer if the default for all sport climbing was "always lower."

It would be safer yet if anchors didn't require untying. 

It will never be totally safe, but that's life.

In the rare case that I must rappel, I can manage, with slightly more difficulty, to pull up enough rope despite still being on belay, even if the belayer has no idea what is going on.

On the other hand, if you sometimes rap and sometimes lower, the belayer will only know for sure what is planned when communication is successful.  

You may be able to successfully communicate 100% of the time, but most people cannot, so inevitably there will be misunderstandings and someone will get dropped.

Since there is rarely a valid reason to rap rather than lower, why introduce the additional risk?

Well, your premise that "there is rarely a valid reason to rap rather than lower" is not my experience of climbing, so I can assume there is some non-zero number of climbers out there who can say the same. 

You may choose to focus on single-pitch sport for whatever reasons, but I hope you can at least recognize that there is more to the world of climbing than this. If you want to advocate "If you and your partner exclusively climb single-pitch sport climbs equipped for lowering directly off the anchors, then you should always lower" then I'm on board with that.

It seems we're in agreement that belayers should always assume lowering, and should always default to keeping their climber on belay. 

I guess where we disagree is that in recognition that not all climbing is the same, I don't believe a simple, dogmatic "always lower" approach is right for every climber in every situation. Where I am still baffled that we don't agree, is that if you are  at a set of anchors with (for whatever reason) no idea what your partner is doing, that it is absolutely safer to rap than to lower in that moment. 

No, I am not immune to communication failures. In the absence of communication, in the absence of certainty that my partner is conscious, present, and providing an effective belay, I will proceed as though I have no belayer and rappel. And I cannot conceive of the situation where that choice would cost me my life, though the alternative certainly could. 


Em Cos · · Boulder, CO · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 0
Ken Noyce wrote:

On the routes where lowering isn't an option, you are still safe rapping even if your belayer defaults to lowering.

YES!! PRECISELY!!!!


Parker Wrozek · · Denver, CO · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 63
King Tut wrote:

The context was that a pre-determined plan that could lead to negligence or bad assumptions. Just keep him on belay until you are **directed** otherwise. 

I hope you don't figure this out the hard way.

FWIW I didn't say don't communicate after you leave the ground. Just make a plan and if you have to change it you better be able to communicate. Problems arise when you don't make a plan and assume, don't do that.


Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 0
pfwein wrote:

Rapping is safer regarding anchor failing, but it's more dangerous regarding loss of consciousness (from rockfall, or any other reason--sometimes people just pass out for any number of reasons).  If you're being lowered and your belayer loses consciousness, you'll just be hanging there for a bit, until either your belayer regains consciousness, someone else takes over the belay or, worst case, you can just fix the ropes and single rope rap to the ground.  (It goes without saying that you're being lowered on a GriGri or by some other method so that if your belayer loses consciousness, you'll auto-stop--would be very dangerous to be lowered otherwise.)

If you're rapping and you lose consciousness, it could be very dangerous.  Obviously, you won't fall to the ground as you're rapping with a friction knot backup or the like, but it isn't trivial for your belayer to rescue you, and hanging in a harness while unconscious can quickly lead to serious problems or death  Sure, you'll be rapping with a chest harness to put you in as good of a position as possible if you're hanging unconscious, and your belayer should have equipment and skills to quickly ascend the rope and get you to the ground when necessary.

But it's still somewhat more likely that loss of consciousness will cause problems rapping compared to lowering, so you need to balance the likelihood of anchor failure with problems from loss of consciousness.   One solution is to bring an extra rope and rap and be lowered simultaneously (with the lowering rope being slightly slack so as not to weight the anchor, unless the rap fails).  When doing that, remember not to rappel with a backup, because you want your belayer to be able to lower you if you pass out.

The optimal rap v. lower decision requires a careful balancing of the likelihood of anchor failure, you and your partner's medical histories, likelihood of rockfall, etc.

You're joking, right?


eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 136

How about we assess the situation and decide then what the best course of action is, rather than blindly following whatever flavor of "always do this" situation.

Regardless of what the belayer assumes the climber is going to do, they should be staying on belay until the climbers tells them "off belay". As a climber, if you yell "off belay" when you want to lower then you are just doing the gene pool a favor. Social darwinism.

Also, lets not make assumptions that every single belayer is using a grigri on single pitch sport routes, and not make ridiculous claims that using an ATC for sport climbing is unsafe.

This thread should have been over on page 2 or 3 when somebody pointed out that there is no single solution that always be used regardless of the context, so such assumptions are invariably less than preferable in some situations. Remember what your parents told you about making assumptions when you were a kid?


Mark E Dixon · · Sprezzatura, Someday · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 234
Em Cos wrote:

Well, your premise that "there is rarely a valid reason to rap rather than lower" is not my experience of climbing, so I can assume there is some non-zero number of climbers out there who can say the same. 

You may choose to focus on single-pitch sport for whatever reasons, but I hope you can at least recognize that there is more to the world of climbing than this. If you want to advocate "If you and your partner exclusively climb single-pitch sport climbs equipped for lowering directly off the anchors, then you should always lower" then I'm on board with that.

It seems we're in agreement that belayers should always assume lowering, and should always default to keeping their climber on belay. 

I guess where we disagree is that in recognition that not all climbing is the same, I don't believe a simple, dogmatic "always lower" approach is right for every climber in every situation. Where I am still baffled that we don't agree, is that if you are  at a set of anchors with (for whatever reason) no idea what your partner is doing, that it is absolutely safer to rap than to lower in that moment. 

No, I am not immune to communication failures. In the absence of communication, in the absence of certainty that my partner is conscious, present, and providing an effective belay, I will proceed as though I have no belayer and rappel. And I cannot conceive of the situation where that choice would cost me my life, though the alternative certainly could. 

I focus on single pitch sport because that's what I really enjoy climbing these days. 

Every once in a while I'll mix it up, but I kind of like doing what I like doing.

I believe I've confined my 'always lower' advocacy to single pitch sport, even back in the First Rap vs Lower wars with Greg D.

AFAIK, lowering isn't often useful in multi pitch trad.

Single pitch trad seems so heterogeneous wrt anchors, that a simple 'always' strikes me as risky. 

If anything, an 'always rap' in single pitch trad might be safer.


eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 136

Actually I think lowering is seriously underrated in a multipitch context. Lowering the first one down is quite useful for situations where the next rap station requires some traversing to get to, as the first  one down can use their hands and then pull the second over to the station. It's also useful in any situation where one might be more likely to miss the next station, such as in the dark. If you miss it, you can have all 4 limbs to climb back up. 

Finally, lowering is useful if you are unsure whether your type is long enough to reach the next station. If it doesn't, the second one down can tap a single stand and then add any cordage or slings to make the other strand long enough to reach to pull. 

Granted, these are all less than ideal situation, but it's still a worthy tool to have when you need it


Alex Rogers · · Sydney, Australia · Joined Sep 2010 · Points: 15

Nice conglomerate. 


rgold · · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 40

When I rappel, I always check everything by weighting the rappel before unclipping the tether from the anchor---I think this is pretty standard practice now.  If I'm getting lowered off a climb, I stay tethered into the anchor until the belayer is obviously holding my weight, i.e. I back up a lower the same way I back up a rappel.  This doesn't prevent being dropped because the rope is too short and no knot was tied in the end, but it does prevent the kinds of off-belay accidents that are the result of miscommunication and/or faulty assumptions.


Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 40

I'm kind of amazed at how few people do that actually, given the number of accidents that, as you said, could have been prevented by it.


Bill Lawry · · New Mexico · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,399
Ted Pinson wrote:

I'm kind of amazed at how few people do that actually, given the number of accidents that, as you said, could have been prevented by it.

A side comment:  And avoid uncritical satisfaction with the "bump test".  I know of one rap fatality where the most likely explanation was a lack of 100% visual inspection while the "bump test" passed.


Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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