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Belay device and fat rope?


Original Post
Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 793

My partner has an older, fat rope that is in good shape (not fuzzy at all), but is pretty stiff.

Belaying with my ATC XP, lead has been fine, lowering is fine, but once there is a top rope climber, it is balky when trying to pull the slack as they climb, especially when keeping a tight belay.

I have a big rocklock pear carabineer. Would changing carabineers help, or flipping the ATC to low friction? Ideas?

Would a plain tube device handle a fat rope better? They are pretty easy to pick up, if that's the simple answer. I also have an Alpine Up, which seems to do okay in ATC mode with a fat rope, but feels like less friction than an ATC.

I also have access to a grigri, and I am willing to try it on top rope, but I'm skeptical it will be any better, and harder to fix if it jams up.

The ATC works okay, but the rope is not feeding well and makes an awkward belay.

Thanks! OLH

will smith · · boulder · Joined Jan 2008 · Points: 35

How old is older?

Ryan Bowen · · Bend, Or · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 85

Do pushups till you look like Aleks.  Problem solved

Khoi · · Vancouver, BC · Joined Oct 2009 · Points: 45

Check out the Omega Pacific SBG II. AFAIK it's the only tube style belay device that doesn't jam up against the belay biner. The design keeps it a fixed distance from the belay biner. The tradeoff is that you sacrifice some locking power, so maybe not the best choice for belaying a hangdogger.

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 502

Depending on how much friction you want, you could try using regular style ATC or flipping over the ATC-XP. You will get more friction from a regular style ATC than ATC-XP loaded without the fins. Or just use the alpine up's dynamic mode. I've heard from others that it has less friction, but my experience using it has been that it isn't a big difference and doesn't cause any problems for me.

As for the carabiner, a roundstock biner would, in theory, provide less friction than an I-beam one but most of the rocklocks other than the new SLC ones have a pretty round cross-section so I doubt switching biners is going to solve your problem.

Also, if you're experiencing issues belaying on TR but not lead, especially pulling in slack on TR, that leads me to believe that the problem is not the belay device or belay biner but edge friction from the rope running over an edge and/or sections of rough rock. Or you're in a gym with those ridiculous bars that the rope wraps around twice, in which case there's not a whole lot you can do. With those TR bars, you could probably stop a fall with your hands alone or the rope wrapped around your waist 

David Kerkeslager · · New Paltz, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 138
eli poss wrote:

Or you're in a gym with those ridiculous bars that the rope wraps around twice, in which case there's not a whole lot you can do. With those TR bars, you could probably stop a fall with your hands alone or the rope wrapped around your waist 

Yeah, with stiff ropes, the wrapped TR Bar, a Verso, and the lightest of my climbing partners, I've had to feed the rope into my device to lower. That is to say, I could have gone hands-free just because of the friction in the system (I did not; I maintained a proper belay).

Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 793

Hi guys, thanks!

-Old, meaning not new, but it is in quite good shape, not fuzzed up, just stiff and fat. Yeah, me too. Old and stiff. Not so fat! :-)

-I'm no Aleks, but good enough,  so all your bold belay belong to me.

-khoi, you're probably right. Sacrifice one way or the other. It's fine as is, I just want to give my climber the best belay I can.

-eli and David, yeah we've got a gym like that here. I hate the wraps for friction, plus, they also have permanently attached cinches to belay with, and an already tied knot you clip in to. Aargh!

This is outside, however, and is pretty much the fact that the rope is stiff, plus fat, so it just barely crams in the ATC.

I'll try the lower friction side, and my Up in the non assist mode. I've got half of a fat rope I was given that I take to the gym, and it will work in the Up, in dynamic, but is too fat and is balky on the assist.

Thanks again, guys! Much appreciated 

Best, Helen

Ryan Bowen · · Bend, Or · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 85
David Kerkeslager wrote:

Yeah, with stiff ropes, the wrapped TR Bar, a Verso, and the lightest of my climbing partners, I've had to feed the rope into my device to lower. That is to say, I could have gone hands-free just because of the friction in the system (I did not; I maintained a proper belay).

Planet Granite- they do the double wrap, and then make you use a grigio with a fat, fuzzy rope.  I couldn't lower my fiancé without lifting the rope up.  She had it wide open and I didn't drop fast at all.  Doesn't really reinforce good belay techniques.

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

What diameter is the rope?

Woodchuck ATC · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 3,110

LOL...!  My 'older' belay devices naturally handle 11mm 'fat' ropes with ease.  Sticht belay plate, with spring would probably fit your thicker ropes and can still be found new today.  Or the very first edition of the 'Reverso' was very fat-friendly. Watch on ebay for one that looks like it hasnt' been beaten against rocks, or full of dinks.   I can't believe how 10 years ago a 10.5 was a 'fat' rope, and now anything near 10mm is a 'fat' rope to some people.    Plus older ropes of 11mm, with the older soft mantle sheath would 'fuzz' out fast and get even fatter in just a few seasons back in 70's.  

John Byrnes · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 577
Old lady H wrote:

Hi guys, thanks!

-Old, meaning not new, but it is in quite good shape, not fuzzed up, just stiff and fat. Yeah, me too. Old and stiff. Not so fat! :-)

This is outside, however, and is pretty much the fact that the rope is stiff, plus fat, so it just barely crams in the ATC.

"Old and stiff" are warning bells.  Nylon stiffens naturally with age, so a rope that hasn't been used much won't be fuzzed up but will have lost a LOT of it's suppleness.  

Loss of suppleness usually (ymmv) means loss of its resistance to cutting over an edge and loss of dynamic properties (stretch/energy absorption), which means hard, possibly injurious, catches.   I doubt it would actually break, but you may get slammed pretty hard.

So I suspect, since they mostly don't make "fat" ropes anymore, that this rope is pretty old and just hasn't been used.   Ask your partner.    How fat is it?   Consider retiring it.

Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 793
John Byrnes wrote:

"Old and stiff" are warning bells.  Nylon stiffens naturally with age, so a rope that hasn't been used much won't be fuzzed up but will have lost a LOT of it's suppleness.  

Loss of suppleness usually (ymmv) means loss of its resistance to cutting over an edge and loss of dynamic properties (stretch/energy absorption), which means hard, possibly injurious, catches.   I doubt it would actually break, but you may get slammed pretty hard.

So I suspect, since they mostly don't make "fat" ropes anymore, that this rope is pretty old and just hasn't been used.   Ask your partner.    How fat is it?   Consider retiring it.

Thanks, sir! Good info. 

FWIW, I was giving a tight belay (climbers request), so there was tension on it pretty often. I was also pulling out the stretch, so they wouldn't lose ground. It was top rope at that point. As said earlier, lead belay has not been a problem, with the rope not tensioned for climbing.

It does still have stretch to it, and the part that went through my hands flaking it felt and looked good, although it wasn't a full rope inspection. 

By contrast, one of the gyms here has ropes that are feeling square, which I find kinda freaky.

But, yes, he is headed for a new rope.

I am hoping to get my first rope soon also. I have a half length rope that was gifted to me, that is a 10 something, although brand new and dry coated. So, with the gym ropes also, I have a lot of "fat" to compare it too, lol!

Our outdoor season will shut down soon. Next year, hopefully, I can be sharing my rope with the kind folks who have been helping me out!

Best, OLH

wivanoff · · Northeast, USA · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 553

Not too long ago I TR belayed a guy who had an older fat, fuzzy rope. It wouldn't fit in my ATC-XP. He was using a steel chain link for a belay plate. I tried that with a Rocklock carabiner and an additional carabiner that was clipped to the bight but not to my belay loop. It worked surprisingly well. Fed easily and lowered without binding.

Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 793
wivanoff wrote:

Not too long ago I TR belayed a guy who had an older fat, fuzzy rope. It wouldn't fit in my ATC-XP. He was using a steel chain link for a belay plate. I tried that with a Rocklock carabiner and an additional carabiner that was clipped to the bight but not to my belay loop. It worked surprisingly well. Fed easily and lowered without binding.

Could you draw a diagram, or post a pic? I'm not going to get around to this one soon, but all those nifty things you can do with just carabiners, hitches, etc are on my to do to learn!

Hip belay too, believe it or not. ;-)

Best, Helen

wivanoff · · Northeast, USA · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 553
Old lady H wrote:

Could you draw a diagram, or post a pic? I'm not going to get around to this one soon, but all those nifty things you can do with just carabiners, hitches, etc are on my to do to learn!

Hip belay too, believe it or not. ;-)

Best, Helen

I don't have a pic handy but perhaps I can describe it better:

Think of how you normally set up your ATC to belay. You push a bight of rope through the ATC, clip the bight of the rope with a locking carabiner and clip the locking carabiner to your belay loop.

Adding a second carabiner clipped though the bight of the rope AND your belay loop INCREASES friction.

Adding a second carabiner clipped though the bight of the rope but NOT through your belay loop DECREASES friction and "grabbiness".

Now think of your ATC replaced with a little larger single chain link.


Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 793

Thanks, sir! 

H.

John Byrnes · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 577
Old lady H wrote:

FWIW, I was giving a tight belay (climbers request), so there was tension on it pretty often. I was also pulling out the stretch, so they wouldn't lose ground. It was top rope at that point. As said earlier, lead belay has not been a problem, with the rope not tensioned for climbing.

It does still have stretch to it, and the part that went through my hands flaking it felt and looked good, although it wasn't a full rope inspection. 


I was talking about stretch/energy absorption for lead falls.  Top roping won't be a problem with impact force, but you've got to get the rope up there somehow, right?   So I assume you're leading on it?

I am hoping to get my first rope soon also. I have a half length rope that was gifted to me, that is a 10 something, although brand new and dry coated. So, with the gym ropes also, I have a lot of "fat" to compare it too, lol!

Don't think of ropes that way.  Ropes are consumables like the tires on your car.  You buy 'em, wear 'em out, buy new ones.  No big deal except when you have worn tires in a heavy rain and they hydroplane...    And just FWIW, the "standard" rope these days is 9.8mm x 70m.     

Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 793
John Byrnes wrote:

I was talking about stretch/energy absorption for lead falls.  Top roping won't be a problem with impact force, but you've got to get the rope up there somehow, right?   So I assume you're leading on it?

Don't think of ropes that way.  Ropes are consumables like the tires on your car.  You buy 'em, wear 'em out, buy new ones.  No big deal except when you have worn tires in a heavy rain and they hydroplane...    And just FWIW, the "standard" rope these days is 9.8mm x 70m.     

Thanks, John.

To clarify, the owner of the rope is a very competent trad guy. He is leading on it. A third climber and myself were top roping the other day. I was doing all of the belays except the one bit when I was on the rope.

This partner and I have climbed about half a dozen times now, and he has yet to fall. Yes, I know that doesn't mean much and should not be counted on.

From pulling the rope tight for the other climber, I do know it still has some stretch.

And, I will bring one of the ropes from our household pile (beg a loaner from our son) if I intend to lead. I most certainly fall!

Thanks for being such a sweetie, sir! I do know they are a consumable, and I do actually think in those terms and pay attention to ropes.

And, because I know you people would kill me if I hurt myself, I promise I am fairly cautious!

As an aside, at one of the gyms, the ropes are feeling square to me. Not soft, but not round anymore in places. Is this a concern? 

Best, Helen

John Byrnes · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 577
Old lady H wrote:

And, because I know you people would kill me if I hurt myself, I promise I am fairly cautious!

That's right.  You better watch your ass around here!

As an aside, at one of the gyms, the ropes are feeling square to me. Not soft, but not round anymore in places. Is this a concern? 

Some brands of ropes do that, usually the cheaper ones.  I currently have a rope that is "square" and I'm trying to "use it up" this season.  I don't worry about its strength, but it does has a very annoying tendency to kink.   I wouldn't worry about the gym ropes.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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