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ATC to improve learning belaying

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Kees van der Heiden · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 40

On the Bergundsteigen website i found this interesting study: ​https://www.bergundsteigen.at/file.php/archiv/2018/2/50-57%28sicherungsgeraete%20und%20bremshandprinzip%29.pdf​​​
I hope you all understand German? Anyway, the takeaway from this study is that learning beginning climbers how to belay is better done with a simple ATC instead of one of the new fangled autobelay devices. The students who learned with a Grigri or one of the autoblocking tubers where very sloppy with their brake hand discipline. The let go with their brakehand all the time. While those who learned with an ATC (tuber) were much more disciplined with their brakehand always nicely tunneling the brakerope, even when they switched to a grigri later in the course.

BTW, this is not a recommendation to throw away all the Autoblockers, but a recommendation to do the early learning stages with an ATC to hammer down the importance of the brakehand.

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,540
Kees van der Heiden wrote: On the Bergundsteigen website i found this interesting study: https://www.bergundsteigen.at/file.php/archiv/2018/2/50-57%28sicherungsgeraete%20und%20bremshandprinzip%29.pdf

I hope you all understand German? Anyway, the takeaway from this study is that learning beginning climbers how to belay is better done with a simple ATC instead of one of the new fangled autobelay devices. The students who learned with a Grigri or one of the autoblocking tubers where very sloppy with their brake hand discipline. The let go with their brakehand all the time. While those who learned with an ATC (tuber) were much more disciplined with their brakehand always nicely tunneling the brakerope, even when they switched to a grigri later in the course.

BTW, this is not a recommendation to throw away all the Autoblockers, but a recommendation to do the early learning stages with an ATC to hammer down the importance of the brakehand.

Probably just cultural.

Bill Lawry · · Albuquerque, NM · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,696

I just made my reservations for Germany. ;)

Zum wohl!

Belay devices and brake hand principles (better link?)

Kees van der Heiden · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 40

Thanks for correcting the link Bill!

Albert B · · On the road · Joined Apr 2018 · Points: 10

Let’s have drivers education cars without power breaking or steering!
 

Layne Zuelke · · Baton Rouge, LA · Joined Mar 2019 · Points: 30

When you learned to belay on a figure 8 it tends to freak you out when you see the sloppy belay techniques being used often  in the gym and less so st the crag. 

BigFeet · · Texas · Joined May 2014 · Points: 385
Albert B wrote: Let’s have drivers education cars without power breaking or steering!
 

This would actually be a good idea - makes you pay attention. 

1973 Opel GT is what I drove as my first car. No power steering or brakes. I did just fine, as most others did.

I believe the same principle applies with the topic of belays. 
Andrew G · · San Diego, CA · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 384

Cool, now I have evidence to back up my assertion that everyone should learn to belay with an ATC... and then switch to something with assisted braking once they're competent. At least for single pitch climbing.

Albert B · · On the road · Joined Apr 2018 · Points: 10
BigFeet wrote:

This would actually be a good idea - makes you pay attention. 

1973 Opel GT is what I drove as my first car. No power steering or brakes. I did just fine, as most others did.

I believe the same principle applies with the topic of belays. 

No, it’s not.  Sloppy technique is the result of sloppy training and practice, not the device.  If we got on each other about how 90% are shit belayers we might get good at it. Not say that experiencing other gear is a bad thing, it just shouldn’t effect technique. 

BigFeet · · Texas · Joined May 2014 · Points: 385
Albert B wrote:

No, it’s not.  Sloppy technique is the result of sloppy training and practice, not the device.  If we got on each other about how 90% are shit belayers we might get good at it. Not say that experiencing other gear is a bad thing, it just shouldn’t effect technique. 

If you use and learn off of a device that you have to constantly pay attention to complacency is lowered. Having an "auto", "assisted", or otherwise complacency is heightened. 

How many of those (90%) shitty belayers with a Gri Gri are smoking a cig, eating a sandwich, and/or chatting with their crag neighbor while the partner is overhead? "No worries... I'm using an auto-thingy. It should catch you." Said no sane ATC user ever.

Sloppy technique is due to laziness. Laziness in learning, and laziness in performing said task.

 

Kees van der Heiden · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 40

I should add that this was a pretty thourough investigation. They had camera's on the ceiling so the students weren't aware they were observed. The people who scored those video's weren't the same as the investigator's either to avoid bias. And there were two groups, a control and an experimental group. So, a pretty serious study overall.

And the results were very significant! 2.7 brake hand errors in the group who learned with a grigri versus 0.7 in the group who learned with the ATC.

Reason? Who knows. Maybe the teachers were less attentive, because the grigri is super safe anyway. Maybe the students got the bad idea that the brakehand is unimportant when using a grigri.

Anyway, learning good brakehand discipline early on is paying dividents in your whole climbing career. Even a Grigri is not 100% automatic, the autotubers certainly not, and Grigri users might switch to ATC's later  when they move to Alpine stuff for example. And it is always easier to learn something correct from the get go, then having to unlearn a bad habit.

Kees van der Heiden · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 40

In several threads this subject cropped up the last days. So let me use my own thread to keep it a bit more central.

There are several indications that keeping your hand on the brake side of the rope is important, also with automatic belay devices (ABD). Because they are not really automatic, and are now sold as assisted belay devices. The Grigri is almost 100% automatic, but Petzl says it can become sketchy with slow, low impact falls. The Jul's and the Smart have troubles with higher impact falls. The Smart has trouble blocking at all when there is no hand on the brake line, etc.

This German study, mentioned above, indicates that learning with an ABD leads to very sloppy brake hand discipline. Learning with a ATC would improve that behavior.

When looking around at any crag around here in Europe, I see all kinds of hopelessly bad belay behavior. Just as an example from the Rotpunt video about Alex Megos:


I would kind of hate it when Alex's coach would drop him from 30 meters!

But, discussion point: Does it even matter? Where are all the dead body's? Are we not better off with the ABD's despite the poor use of them?
Analogy: Cars are much safer now then in the sixties, but much of that extra safety is wasted on the horrible driving habits of most people. Nonetheless, there are far less deaths in car accidents then in the sixties.
ubu · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2009 · Points: 0
Kees van der Heiden wrote
But, discussion point: Does it even matter? Where are all the dead body's? Are we not better off with the ABD's despite the poor use of them?
Analogy: Cars are much safer now then in the sixties, but much of that extra safety is wasted on the horrible driving habits of most people. Nonetheless, there are far less deaths in car accidents then in the sixties.

Sure, but wouldn't it be nice to have extra safety from both technology and competent technique together (for both driving and belaying!)?

Kees van der Heiden · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 40

Yes, but how? Playing a bit of devils advocate. This German recommendation to learn new climbers with the ATC before switching over to ABD's is nice, but how long will it last? Is there anything we can do to cure people from their natural tendency to prefer comfort, laziness and the old ways they are used to?

Bill Lawry · · Albuquerque, NM · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,696
Kees van der Heiden wrote: Yes, but how? Playing a bit of devils advocate. This German recommendation to learn new climbers with the ATC before switching over to ABD's is nice, but how long will it last? Is there anything we can do to cure people from their natural tendency to prefer comfort, laziness and the old ways they are used to?

That resonates.

There is a broad spectrum in humans with OCD on one end and ADD on the other. Perhaps those closer to OCD have an advantage here. 
Dylan Pike · · Sandy, UT · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 197

My university climbing gym had an ATC only rule. We also had at least three staff at all times in a relatively small roped area watching people, checking people's technique. I think alot of people who climbed there had good brake strand discipline ingrained in them there. Obviously this only worked because we had the ability to watch climbers very closely at all times.

Out in the wild, climbers often learn on ABDs, and that's fine. My opinion is that the teacher should minimize the device's assisted locking feature, and emphasize good brake strand discipline. If you tell a new belayer that the device "autolocks", I dont care how many times you tell them, they will not keep control of the brake strand 100% of the time. 

JWatt · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 10

I saw a guy in the gym last night climbing auto belays with an ATC, a figure 8, and a GriGri attached to his harness. Oh, and a sling. (One piece per gear loop).

I'm sure he could provide valuable insight.

SeƱor Arroz · · LA, CA · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10

I refuse to believe that Germans are sloppy or careless at anything.

Bill Lawry · · Albuquerque, NM · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,696
JWatt wrote: I saw a guy in the gym last night climbing auto belays with an ATC, a figure 8, and a GriGri attached to his harness. Oh, and a sling. (One piece per gear loop).

I'm sure he could provide valuable insight.

If that were someone in my gym, the purposes would be

  1. ATC for TR belay
  2. GriGri for lead belay as gym requires
  3. sling to return to a cragging partner last weekend
  4. Figure 8 - yeah, I’d be wondering as well. :)
Brandon R · · Sacramento, CA · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 63

A gri-gri definitely has its uses, but I hate how their widespread adoption has made so many people so complacent, and in general, less safe.

rgold · · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 526
Kees van der Heiden wrote: On the Bergundsteigen website i found this interesting study: https://www.bergundsteigen.at/file.php/archiv/2018/2/50-57%28sicherungsgeraete%20und%20bremshandprinzip%29.pdf
I hope you all understand German? Anyway, the takeaway from this study is that learning beginning climbers how to belay is better done with a simple ATC instead of one of the new fangled autobelay devices. The students who learned with a Grigri or one of the autoblocking tubers where very sloppy with their brake hand discipline. The let go with their brakehand all the time. While those who learned with an ATC (tuber) were much more disciplined with their brakehand always nicely tunneling the brakerope, even when they switched to a grigri later in the course.

BTW, this is not a recommendation to throw away all the Autoblockers, but a recommendation to do the early learning stages with an ATC to hammer down the importance of the brakehand.

Whoa...pretty serious indictment of learning to belay with an ABD.  Some pics of things you may not be noticing going on down there at your belay:



Modern climbing technology and practice have made analogous things problematic.  Human nature being what it is, there is a gulf between something that is theoretically a bad idea and something with the very immediate prospect of getting someone or yourself killed.

One of the take-aways from this is if you learned with an ABD, you probably shouldn't transition to an ATC afterwards, as you are likely to have habits that are forgiven by the ABD but won't be by the ATC.  It is ironic that people put ABD's in the hands of learners precisely to guard against the kinds of mistakes possible with ATC's, with the net result a less competent ABD belayer.

I suspect ATC's will have gone the way of the hip belay over the next ten years, as they are arguably becoming more dangerous in the hands of a large set of users.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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