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“Guide Mode” usage


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

Having heard three or so times in the last four days “I can’t give you slack in this configuration” or some version of that, I’m wondering why people use “guide mode” without knowing how to give slack.

I had a partner tell me that once and I got on their case then never climbed with them again.

Are people just too lazy to give slack or not bothering to learn how their devices work? Is this more common than I realized?

Former Climber · · PA · Joined Jun 2019 · Points: 2
climbing coastie wrote: Having heard three or so times in the last four days “I can’t give you slack in this configuration” or some version of that, I’m wondering why people use “guide mode” without knowing how to give slack.

I had a partner tell me that once and I got on their case then never climbed with them again.

Are people just too lazy to give slack or not bothering to learn how their devices work? Is this more common than I realized?

I once blew pulling a roof and was left hanging in space for 90 minutes because new partner didn’t know how to unlock an ATC Guide.  I was eventually able to swing and catch a hold, but ended up core shotting my rope over the edge of the roof.

I’m not a fan of Guide Mode
GDavis Davis · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2008 · Points: 10
climbing coastie wrote: Having heard three or so times in the last four days “I can’t give you slack in this configuration” or some version of that, I’m wondering why people use “guide mode” without knowing how to give slack.

I had a partner tell me that once and I got on their case then never climbed with them again.

Are people just too lazy to give slack or not bothering to learn how their devices work? Is this more common than I realized?

People do all kinds of stuff. Some even cheat and steal! I think a lot of people don't fully know how to use a lot of what they have on their harness, but a quick conversation before you start your route about how you intend to climb it can help smooth that stuff over. 


Belaying with a plaquette device is the way to go. Belaying off the harness is not nearly as efficient and can be awkward in a lot of situations. Also, have some adventures and make some mistakes, things happen and as long as nobody gets hurt and we can learn from it all good.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EyxeUg7_4Kk
climbing coastie · · Wasilla, AK · Joined Feb 2011 · Points: 90
GDavis Davis wrote:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EyxeUg7_4Kk

Exactly!!! It ain’t that hard!


The two that I watched required nothing more than the first method. The third one was out of sight, so not sure what the situation was. 
Danny Herrera · · Oakland, Ca · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 400

pump the carabiner usually works good

Pete Spri · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2009 · Points: 302

Its a lot easier with a GiGi, but a Munter works well too, with tons of holding power to boot!  A GriGri from above is nice too.

I usually use a munter.  Lots of people like GriGris.

Jason4Too · · Bellingham, Washington · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 0

It's probably better that they never figured out how to give you slack rather than finding a way to release the auto-braking aspect and dropping you.  Guide mode (or any plaquette) is really a nice way to belay a follower but as with any climbing tool or technique the user should learn all aspects of using the tool or technique and needs to know all of the basics.

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

I once blew pulling a roof and was left hanging in space for 90 minutes because new partner didn’t know how to unlock an ATC Guide.  I was eventually able to swing and catch a hold, but ended up core shotting my rope over the edge of the roof.

I’m not a fan of Guide Mode

If you were hanging for 90 minutes it’s on you as much as your partner... they should learn to be fully competent with their belay technique of choice and you should learn to ascend the rope. You could easily find yourself in the same situation where lowering is not a solution. 

rgold · · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 526
climbing coastie wrote: Having heard three or so times in the last four days “I can’t give you slack in this configuration” or some version of that, I’m wondering why people use “guide mode” without knowing how to give slack.

I had a partner tell me that once and I got on their case then never climbed with them again.

Are people just too lazy to give slack or not bothering to learn how their devices work? Is this more common than I realized?

I think it is worse than you think in the sense that many people who know how to give slack simply and regularly fail to do it, instead racheting up the belay and pulling on the second.

A very typical situation that I see all the time is the plaquette on an anchor but the belayer extended away from the anchor so that they can watch the second (get pulled off).  Because the plaquette is out of reach of the belayer, they can't manipulate it to provide slack unless they move back from the edge back to the anchor---which I've never seen happen.
Zacks · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 65

I like guide mode

I usually just rock the carabiner for a few inches of slack or pull up on it if it's not too tight but it's a pain to fully release and lower since you have to back it up.   If my partner is like oh I wanna try that section again I'm like nope not dealing with that.  I would do that if I had to for an emergency or whatever 

And I agree with the above that your beleyar should know how to lower but you should also know how to ascend a line and self rescue ect

Jon Loke · · Bellinghan, WA · Joined May 2017 · Points: 18

When multi pitch climbing I pretty much exclusively belay with a GriGri(except in alpine situations in which the rope could be wet/icy). It makes lowering, getting to baseline, and hauling your partner so much easier and more efficient.

Daniel Joder · · Barcelona, ES · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 0

I’d sure like to hear from others who use the DMM Pivot in guide mode. I have found lowering to be quite easy and I have not experienced that scarily abrupt “on/off” tendency that happens with other plaquette-style devices. (This is with my 9.8mm rope.) As far as I recall, even the instruction manual for the Pivot does not mention a back up (but easy enough to throw on my hollow block or Munter just in case). Also, as others have mentioned, ratcheting the carabiner is a proven way of giving small amounts of slack...and you could do an awful lot of ratcheting if your follower is potentially hanging in space for 90 minutes (no Prusiks?) As to the OPs original point, yes, it is most definitely a great idea to talk with your partner about how to lower in guide mode with whatever device you’ll be using if that is how you will be belaying the second—and review the route you’ll be climbing to see if there are any potential crux sections where this might be a possibility. 

Joe Prescott · · Berlin Germany · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 6

I have no idea why more people don't prefer the Pivot. Marketing and DMM is less popular than BD and Petzl? My suspicion is that if BD/Petzl came out with a similar design, you would see them everywhere. I don't have a ton of experience lowering in guide mode, for any device, but the few times I did it with the Pivot, it was very easy and I only tied a backup knot in case I lost control, no other leverage other than a biner in the hole. This was to lower my partner 10-15 meters to work a section of a pitch that was vertical and all of his weight was on the rope. MUCH easier than the BD (and I assume the Petzl). The Pivot is a little sticky in guide mode with 9.8mm and thicker ropes, but not bad at all. It is great with 9.5 and thinner ropes and feels very secure belaying/rapping on doubles or tag lines. I'll buy another when needed, unless they come out with a slightly smaller version (like the Alpine Guide ATC), then I would buy that.
 
 Never understood bringing a GriGri on multipitch, or 2 belay devices. Maybe if you plan on lowering a lot, or working routes at your limit and expecting multiple falls?
 
 Stay Solid
 Joe

SethG · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 253

These threads appear every now and then and at some point I switched to the Pivot even though I have lowered just fine in guide mode using the Reverso and the ATC Guide and I have not found it to be dangerous or hard to control. Anyway the Pivot is better-- smoother and easier to release without feeling like you might lose control of the brake. 

Jay Dee · · Summerville, SC · Joined May 2017 · Points: 0

Pivot user here. Simple genius idea. I usually use a grigri unless belaying 2 ropes but have had to give slack using the pivot and it worked flawlessly. 

Former Climber · · PA · Joined Jun 2019 · Points: 2
Em Cos wrote:

If you were hanging for 90 minutes it’s on you as much as your partner... they should learn to be fully competent with their belay technique of choice and you should learn to ascend the rope. You could easily find yourself in the same situation where lowering is not a solution. 

Indeed.  I should have had some slings and prusiks.  Didn’t seem necessary on a single pitch climb, where lowering should have been easy.

Serge Smirnov · · Seattle, WA · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 380

A friend switched to guide mode after partially dropping somebody and burning their own hands due to tiredness / inattention.  Not immediately learning how to give slack seems like the lesser evil.

Ryan Williams · · London (sort of) · Joined May 2009 · Points: 1,265

The Pivot is the best but I don’t tend to throw thing a out until they are completely busted so I’ll use my Reverso for a few more trips. Works just fine. 

Bill Lawry · · Albuquerque, NM · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,678

Yes - some people do cheat and steal. :)

I think part of the problem people have with guide mode is because there are enough people that keep saying it is easy to do. So, for people new to lowering in guide mode, the reflex is “I do not need to practice. It is so easy.” And when it comes time, it suddenly seems easier to let the second struggle. 

In my experience with guide mode, small changes in circumstances  can thwart what worked before.

Yesterday, I smoothly lowered my 190 pound partner on a plain ATC off my harness 140 mostly vertical feet to retrieve a cam some other party dropped. This was from a sitting stance and snug to the anchor off to the side.  He then seamlessly TR’d back up on the same configuration.

Instead of a locker with the ATC, I use two opposite and opposed solid gate non-lockers ... better friction. And I wear belay gloves like the guide in the video. :)   And, like guide mode, slowly building up proficiency is wise.

For guide mode, I have a preferred way to do the same thing. But I only use that when there are two followers.

GDavis Davis · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2008 · Points: 10

Might have to try the pivot that looks sweet 

NegativeK · · Nevada · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 40

I once saw a guide quickly give a client slack by pinching the sides of the Reverso and rotating the body so it wouldn't lock when they shot out an arms-length of rope. Obviously this only works if the climber isn't tensioning the rope.

Does anyone have any ideas why this would be unsafe? I can't think of how it could be; if the climber falls, it seems like the guide plate is going to instantly be yanked from the hand that's pinching the sides.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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