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He's a big guy...

Original Post
Kireina CO · · Boulder, CO · Joined May 2018 · Points: 0

I'm sure this question has been asked before but I'm going to risk redundancy...a co-worker wants me to take him out climbing.  He weighs about 250lbs...a lot of it muscle.  I weigh 125lbs.  I've never belayed anyone that size before and I'm a little concerned.  I will anchor myself to something so that if he falls I won't get launched into outer space.  But here's the question for you girls...if you have belayed (successfully) someone who was twice your size, how difficult was it to lower him or catch a fall? I use a Sum or a Gri-Gri.  On the other side of things, could the big guy give you a soft catch?  And how did he do that?  One guy that I've climbed with (who was heavier than me by about 75 lbs) would stand back from the wall and when I'd fall, he would take a few steps in.  Not as effective as jumping but at least I didn't end up with jellied kidneys. So please, what does your heavier partner do to give you a soft catch?  I want to climb with this guy, he's blast and he'll buy the beer, just don't want to kill anyone.

Maureen Maguire · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 0

Almost all my partners are heavier than me by the same ratio.  I catch them easily with a standard atc. I also sometimes use a grigri or cinch. There's some tricks to it.  First of all, pay attention. Never get caught off guard.  I don't usually anchor myself. I make sure the first two placed pieces will handle an upward pull, sometimes placing a piece just for an upward pull and attaching it to the next one up. I use the terrain available, such as for back stepping a bit. I stabilize myself with one foot on the wall for lowering, which works very well. If I have time to anticipate a fall I will be sure to have a good lock off with the brake hand well below sometimes ready to sit into it.  I am very comfortable leaving the ground in a catch if the terrain under the leader is vertical with no ledges. This is the preferred catch for ice as it's less of a jolt on the gear. If I'm off the ground sometimes I have to lower the leader first and then myself. Hanging belays require good attention to the anchor to manage a pull into it without a cluster. Sometimes I belay from the anchor when belaying from the top with a locking device. It is much harder to lower from the top a heavier partner. Better to use a 3:1.   The belay weight difference when you are being belayed by a heavier climber has no effect. The rope stretch is adequate.  I've taken a full on 50 ft swinging whipper on gear that pulled my big guy off the deck which can be explained in fall factor. I have practiced falls with a new heavier than me partner so they know what to expect. What is a problem is simul rapping which is always difficult even when you clip to each other. Another thing besides weight is height. My 6'3 guy has the longest reach in the world it seems and with a grigri I have to be fast to belay his lead so he doesn't get short roped. He tends to pull my whole body length of rope up to clip.

T Bloodstone · · Minneapolis, MN · Joined Nov 2013 · Points: 75

You could do something like this:

Basically set up a ground anchor as the belayer.

Alicia Sokolowski · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 1,100

My experience echoes Maureen's except I have experienced some harder catches that I think were a result of the weight difference. 

Em Cos · · Boulder, CO · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 5

I weigh a bit less than you and frequently belay partners up to 150% my body weight without trouble, more than that and I need to start taking steps to mitigate the weight difference. This comes into play at three points in the system: 1. Build a ground anchor and use it appropriately. 2. Add extra friction to the belay device. For an ATC, this is as simple as adding an additional locker. 3. Wear gloves.
Also, if you're not already in the "helmet always" camp, it's a good idea to wear one considering you're anchored and can't dodge easily and someone extra heavy may be plummeting toward you.

If there are other people in the group closer to his weight, it's not a bad idea to ask them to belay him. Also to belay you. It is generally possible for a heavier belayer to give a lighter climber a soft catch. However, I'm assuming this co-worker is new to climbing based on the phrase "asked me to take him climbing", and you probably shouldn't expect a super nuanced belay and a soft catch from a complete beginner. Again, maybe someone else in your group could belay you, or you could choose your routes with this in mind. 

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,460

Find a different person to belay him, sure it can work but it isn't going to be easy. I can almost hear the rope burn you are going to get while trying to lower him.

Live Perched · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 5

The Edelrid Ohm has been well covered on MP forums.  For sport and gym situations it’s very beneficial for big climber/small belayer scenarios. 

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

For someone's first time belaying, I wouldn't let them lead belay me - only a toprope belay.

Jake Jones · · Richmond, VA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 1,734

When you say you have a co-worker that wants you to take him out climbing it sounds like he's inexperienced.  This is a bit off the main subject, but if he's brand new to it and inexperienced, I wouldn't jump right in there lead climbing.  If you do, make sure he's well aware of the risk he's undertaking.  As far as him giving you a soft catch, I wouldn't bet on it- especially if he's inexperienced.  When there's a big weight disparity between heavier belayer/lighter climber, a soft catch relies much more on timing then on anything else, and that's something that comes with time and mileage.  As far as the aforementioned rope burn when lowering, just add another carabiner through your leg loop to lower him.

If he is new to climbing, it's probably a better idea to start him out top roping rather than leading, especially considering the weight difference.  I'm sorry if I'm being presumptuous, I'm just assuming that because of the way your original post is written.

Kireina CO · · Boulder, CO · Joined May 2018 · Points: 0

Thanks for the replies.  Good information.  He is new to climbing and since he is a big, strong guy figures he can "crush".  He isn't arrogant really, he's just never climbed before so he doesn't quite understand the idea of strength to weight.  It'll be interesting to say the least.  Thanks for the replies. I will make sure to use what was recommended and I promise you won't read about us in Injuries and Accidents.

Bill Kirby · · Baltimore Maryland · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 480

Guess I’ll risk it and put my two cents in..

 I’m 265, my wife’s 140 and my regular partner 180. He says catching me on toprope is like reeling in a big fish when you’re deep sea fishing. Kinda like giving a soft catch but in reverse. Lead falls are exciting if there’s no ledges but guess we’re not talking bout that. My partner is sure to remain close to the wall so if and when he gets pulled off the ground he doesn’t swing into or get dragged into the wall. I saw a nasty ankle injury happen like that. My wife same deal but she usually is tethered to something with enough slack to move around. When she needs the ground anchor she positions herself close or pulls tight.

Hank Caylor · · Glenwood Springs, CO · Joined Dec 2003 · Points: 615

All you have to do is go to any real sized gym on any packed night and watch a dude fall waaaaay to far while his spinner girlfriend is yarded 15' straight into the 1st draw with a locked Gri-Gri.. doesn't really take a GED to figure that one out.

Ryan Swanson · · Pepedidnothingwrong, freejg · Joined Jan 2018 · Points: 50
Maureen Maguire wrote: I bet not one of you guys has ever belayed a partner 150% or more of your weight on a multi pitch climb .... other irrelevant stuff

For multipitch, belaying off the anchor solves 100% of the weight difference issues.  It's really only belaying from the ground that requires a bit more thought. 

A few weeks ago, A guy in the group I was climbing with took a fall with a bolt at his knees, and it pulled his belayer all the way up to first piece.  He was 190, and I would have put her weight in the 115-120 range if I was a guy at the fair trying to guess other's weights.  It was a slightly overhanging route, with  no wandering of the bolts, so rope drag on rock and through the draws was minimal.  He slowed down from the catch, but then it was like a pulley, pulling the belayer up at a constant speed.  Happened twice too.  OP, this is probably your worst case scenario of a pulley effect happening to you, but unrealistic to expect a new climber to lead climb overhanging routes.
Greg D · · Here · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 877

Some really bizarre deleting of posts here by the admins.  You guys are so lame.  Not the "this post violated guideline 1".  Just wiped away.  Not even offensive stuff either. 

Tim Stich · · Colorado Springs, Colorado · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 1,476
Greg D wrote: Some really bizarre deleting of posts here by the admins.  You guys are so lame.  Not the "this post violated guideline 1".  Just wiped away.  Not even offensive stuff either. 

"One time he blacked out all but salutation "Dear Mary" from a letter, and at the bottom he wrote, "I yearn for you tragically, A.T. Tappman, Chaplain, U.S. Army." A.T. Tappman was the group chaplain's name."

Trad Princess · · Not That Into Climbing · Joined Jan 2012 · Points: 1,175
Hank Caylor wrote: All you have to do is go to any real sized gym on any packed night and watch a dude fall waaaaay to far while his spinner girlfriend is yarded 15' straight into the 1st draw with a locked Gri-Gri.. doesn't really take a GED to figure that one out.


Mark E Dixon · · Sprezzatura, Someday · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 579
Locals Only wrote:


Now Hank is going to feel attacked and delete his post :-(

Mike Slavens · · Houston, TX · Joined Jan 2009 · Points: 35

I'm a big guy (215) and to give much smaller leaders a soft catch you do have to do a bit of a jump for a lead fall.  It takes experience to get the jump just right for a given fall scenario so keep that in mind before jumping on something with run-outs or where a longer fall could spell disaster.

I'm not the biggest fan of anchoring someone down.  I think the down sides of the belayer being anchored in place can be more risky than the belayer catching some air if a longer fall is still safe.  But there are definitely scenarios where the only safe option is to anchor down a light belayer or just pick a different route.

Ease into climbing with him to a get a feel for the challenges.  Pick climbs with clean falls, have him skip the first clip, don't work your proj., avoid low cruxes or climbs with lots of ledges, etc. With smart choices you'll definitely be able to have a great day climbing but you do have to respect that weight difference. 

doligo · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2008 · Points: 269
Greg D wrote: Some really bizarre deleting of posts here by the admins.  You guys are so lame.  Not the "this post violated guideline 1".  Just wiped away.  Not even offensive stuff either. 

Yep. Ironic that the thread is in the Women's Forum, which according to the site landlord "is a place for women to share experiences and discuss female-related issues in a comfortable environment."  Women were posting their observations and laughing at them, because yes it was hilarious and yes we deal with mainsplaining or other cute "looking out for us" manly things on a daily basis. It doesn't mean we took offense or felt threatened, it was just a mere observation and it was fun to giggle at it.  If we can't just have girls talk here, what's the point of this forum?   MODERATORS, I strongly urge you to restore the thread to pre-moderation, otherwise you end up with bunch of dudes even in this forum.

Greg D · · Here · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 877

Honestly, I did not even know this was the woman’s formum. That is not something I usually look at.

Lena chita · · OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 1,030

Hey Kireina,

I'm lighter than you, and I belay someone who is 245lb regularly. I use an Ohm, can't say enough good things about it, absolutely would not want to lead belay someone that heavy without an Ohm.

Yes, anchoring also works, but is a hassle, and not always an option for sport climbing. I much prefer the flexibility of being able to move around on the ground, which you get with the Ohm. 

In the gym, there is often the rope wrapped around the pipe at the top, and that creates a lot of extra friction. As much as I hate that setup, I don't need to anchor myself when belaying the same guy in the gym on toprope, if the rope is wrapped around the pipe. Climbing outside, you can use the OHM even if you are belaying on toprope, and that avoids the need for anchoring. (you put the OHM on belayer's side of the rope, and still clip it to the first bolt, or the first bolt of a nearby route, if the crag is not busy, and there is another route close by). You would have to get really proficient at stick clipping and removing the draw with a stick-clip, because you would have to switch up the first draw with and without ohm, every time you climb with this guy, if you climb the same routes.

I'd say do not rush taking this guy climbing outside. Go to the gym first, and see how well he crushes, before you take him outside. 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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