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Direct belay off of series anchor variations

Original Post
Eli 0 · · northeast · Joined May 2016 · Points: 5

I have seen a few different series anchor variations for belaying a leader directly off an anchor on two bolts in a horizontal configuration, but there are a few aspects of these variations that I have been wondering about:

1. Connecting the munter to one of the bolt biners directly (as in anchor A in the image below) vs connecting it via a loop of soft material (as in B). Is there a significant difference? If so, why/when should these variations be used?

2. The belayer attaching themselves closer to the master point (as in C - belayer attached on right) vs attaching themselves closer to the backup (as in D - belayer attached on left). It seems that most examples in the resources below use the former. What is the reasoning here, if any?



Some resources:

ACMG video

ORTOVOX video 

ENSA video

PDF by Chris Semmel (DAV) w/ drawings by Georg Sojer
Niccolo Gallio · · mainly Italy · Joined May 2019 · Points: 0

Not an expert here,
I was wondering: would a quad with a munter setup attached to two strands (and the belayer to the other two) be wrong/stupid/dangerous?

Idaho Bob · · McCall, ID · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 547

Better to belay leader off your harness.  Use an ATC.  Munter for lead belaying,  not a good choice IMHO unless you have no belay device.

Desert Rock Sports · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Aug 2019 · Points: 0

"A" could crossload the masterpoint carabiner easily, or have it torqued strangely against the bolt hanger. The others are better.

When the masterpoint loop is more strands of material, it makes since to have the belayer attachment to it, for rockfall redundancy sake rather than bolt failure.

Jeremy Cote · · White Mountains NH · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 0
Idaho Bob wrote: Better to belay leader off your harness.  Use an ATC.  Munter for lead belaying,  not a good choice IMHO unless you have no belay device.

Not if there is a chance you'll get smashed into the wall. 

Christian Mason · · Westminster CO · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 156
Idaho Bob wrote: Better to belay leader off your harness.  Use an ATC.  Munter for lead belaying,  not a good choice IMHO unless you have no belay device.

That was the conventional accepted wisdom for a long time.  New data is starting to suggest that load tests actually show LOWER impact forces on both the climber and gear when belaying directly off of the anchor, and that the belayer is much less likely to lose control of the belay.

This is not a "one size fits all" approach, but there are definitely situations where this approach may actually be better.

In terms of a munter vs a tube style belay device, that really comes down to user preference.  A munter is simple, since belaying off of a tube style device requires a redirect until the leader has unquestionably placed reliable protection, to prevent the device from rotating out of the break position in the event of a factor 2ish fall.  This is not an issue with a munter hitch. 

Christian Mason · · Westminster CO · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 156

To answer OP's question.  I'd slightly prefer B vs A for belaying the leader, although I would also prefer that the loop of material be smaller to allow less travel of the master belay carabiner.
I think where the belayer is clipped in is not terribly relevant.  Either is adequate for the forces like to be exerted on the system and provides redundancy - I'd just go with whatever option I thought made it easier to keep the belay station organized.

Christian Mason · · Westminster CO · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 156
Niccolo Gallio wrote: Not an expert here,
I was wondering: would a quad with a munter setup attached to two strands (and the belayer to the other two) be wrong/stupid/dangerous?

Not as ideal when belaying the leader directly off of the anchor - since that provides more travel in the system and extension in the belay, which is undesirable when belaying the leader directly.  Distribution/Equalization is not the goal in this case, you want minimal extension with most of the force going to one bomber multidirectional piece.  With redundancy in the event that that piece fails. 

Niccolo Gallio · · mainly Italy · Joined May 2019 · Points: 0
Christian Mason wrote:

Not as ideal when belaying the leader directly off of the anchor - since that provides more travel in the system and extension in the belay, which is undesirable when belaying the leader directly.  Distribution/Equalization is not the goal in this case, you want minimal extension with most of the force going to one bomber multidirectional piece.  With redundancy in the even that that piece fails. 

Got it, thanks.

shredward · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 0
Idaho Bob wrote: Better to belay leader off your harness.  Use an ATC.  Munter for lead belaying,  not a good choice IMHO unless you have no belay device.

I agree with this for most situations, and usually belay off of my harness.  If there is any chance of a leader falling before they place their first reliable piece, then the direct anchor belay is far preferable.  

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

It's thought to be better to make the central point with a soft loop of rope or schling, so you don't have a carabiner on a carabiner. Twisting two carabiners onto each other could lead to problems.

BTW, the soft loop is then you central point and you can clip your selfbelay biner into it too. No need for two loops.

eli poss · · Salt Lake City, UT · Joined May 2014 · Points: 523

I used the belay directly off the anchor with a munter this past summer when I needed kid to belay me with a non-zero chance of me falling soon after starting up the pitch (the crux was the first 20' of the pitch). This type of set up was introduced to deal with the problem in guiding when you don't trust your belayer to catch a potentially violent fall and this method results in one of the least violent catches for your belayer in a high fall factor scenario (in theory).

However, I found that the inexperienced belayers who are likely to be the ones you don't trust to catch you also struggle not to short rope you in this configuration. This ended up being a bit of a struggle, which was exacerbated by additional drag due to high friction terrain features on this pitch. Just keep that in mind when considering this option with less experienced belayers. 

Fran M · · Germany · Joined Feb 2019 · Points: 0
Eli 0 wrote:1. Connecting the munter to one of the bolt biners directly (as in anchor A in the image below) vs connecting it via a loop of soft material (as in B). Is there a significant difference? If so, why/when should these variations be used?
There is not. Just options. Maybe using the rope when swapping leads and the sling when leading in blocks. Or if there are two followers, the loop allows for more carabiners.

2. The belayer attaching themselves closer to the master point (as in C - belayer attached on right) vs attaching themselves closer to the backup (as in D - belayer attached on left). It seems that most examples in the resources below use the former. What is the reasoning here, if any?


It doesn't make a big difference. If the belayer is on the backup and the main bolt failed on a fall directly onto the belay, the belayer wouldn't fall (extension) and maybe the load on the remaining anchor would be lower than with the belayer falling.

Unsolicited advice:
- make sure the Munter is on the spine of the bolt carabiner, where it is stronger, and can travel upwards unobstructed. In your example (A) the right bolt carabiner should have it's gate facing left.

- carabiner on carabiner will not make any problems. Carabiners are used as masterpoints all the time.

- For the sling, a bowline on a bight is recommended as it is easy to untie and is stronger than most others when ring-loaded dinamically.

- In case D, If you shortened the sling with an overhand for the backup and then clipped your self to that loop, you messed up. The sling shouldn't be loaded but on the loop at the master point.

- it's not a new thing. It's the traditional belay system in many eastern European countries, Russia.
Bill Lawry · · Albuquerque, NM · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,696
Eli 0 wrote: 2. The belayer attaching themselves closer to the master point (as in C - belayer attached on right) vs attaching themselves closer to the backup (as in D - belayer attached on left). It seems that most examples in the resources below use the former. What is the reasoning here, if any?

Eli,  Just a point of clarification: When you say "as in C - belayer attached on right", you mean attached on the right side of the anchor but on the left of the two non-bolt biners.  Yes?

Fran M wrote:
There is not [a significant difference connecting biner to directly biner versus via a loop of soft material (as in B)].  Just options. Maybe using the rope when swapping leads and the sling when leading in blocks. Or if there are two followers, the loop allows for more carabiners. 
Fran, For a hard fall (e.g., FF2 onto the anchor), wouldn't the added soft material stretch and knot tightening - albeit ring loaded - serve to decrease the load on the single bolt?
Fran M · · Germany · Joined Feb 2019 · Points: 0
Bill Lawry wrote:Fran, For a hard fall (e.g., FF2 onto the anchor), wouldn't the added soft material stretch and knot tightening - albeit ring loaded - serve to decrease the load on the single bolt?
Any stretch or tightening of the sling would be insignificant compared to the slippage through the dynamic belay (Munter or ATC). More so in a FF2 fall: As a thumb rule, slippage will be around 1/3 of the fall length.
Derek DeBruin · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2010 · Points: 630
Fran M wrote: Any stretch or tightening of the sling would be insignificant compared to the slippage through the dynamic belay (Munter or ATC). More so in a FF2 fall: As a thumb rule, slippage will be around 1/3 of the fall length.

+1 to this. Rope effects dominate in this system.

Malcolm Daly · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 380

I rig mine, as shown in the photo, with a 6mm x 120cm Edelrid Aramid Sling. I leave a bowline on a bight tied in to one end of the sling so when I’m climbing I can just bandolier it over my shoulder. To emphasize what the poster above said, the bowline on a bight is better than an overhand because of its ability to handle a rig load, exactly the load you need to control when belaying direct.
Bowline on a bight

I love the Aramid sling because: 1) It’s super bomber  2) It’s extremely cut resistant  3) It’s won’t melt
Climb safe,Mal
Fran M · · Germany · Joined Feb 2019 · Points: 0
Malcolm Daly wrote: I love the Aramid sling because: 1) It’s super bomber  2) It’s extremely cut resistant  3) It’s won’t melt

I can't imagine a situation where that wouldn't be the case for any sling. Why not just use the rope if you want ultimate bomberness? Save the weight of that burly sling and at least 1 locking carabiner (2 if you trust a non-locker on the back up). I am the complete opposite and tend to build the anchor as minimalistic as possible.


(Munter goes on blue carabiner. My clove goes on silver carabiner. Route goes on right side, so the spine of the silver carabiner is facing right.)
Bill Lawry · · Albuquerque, NM · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,696

Much of where I climb lacks bolted belays.  And I prefer belaying off my harness.

Still, this seems like it would have been a great config in some circumstances - one being hard runout climbing off the belay, first to the side a few moves and then up, where leader weighed scores more pounds than the belayer.

Bowline on a bite seems a great knot for it assuming nylon sling or rope.

Malcolm Daly · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 380

Sorry I wasn’t too clear. The direct belay is really only suitable for bolted belays or absolutely bomber multidirectional anchors. 

curt86iroc · · Lakewood, CO · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 125
Fran M wrote:

I can't imagine a situation where that wouldn't be the case for any sling. Why not just use the rope if you want ultimate bomberness? Save the weight of that burly sling and at least 1 locking carabiner (2 if you trust a non-locker on the back up). I am the complete opposite and tend to build the anchor as minimalistic as possible.


(Munter goes on blue carabiner. My clove goes on silver carabiner. Route goes on right side, so the spine of the silver carabiner is facing right.)

i don't understand this setup at all. what is the sling doing? as far as i can tell, the sling has 0 load on it when your climber falls...

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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