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Dec 11, 2016
Rich,

That's is a good argument against the Jul et. al, but I was more thinking about the camming device category (Grigri).
Ted Pinson
From Chicago, IL
Joined Jul 11, 2014
40 points
Dec 11, 2016
Ted Pinson wrote:
Rich, That's is a good argument against the Jul et. al, but I was more thinking about the camming device category (Grigri).

A camming device is going to be your best bet in catching a factor 2 fall. I'm not sure if camming devices other than grigri have been tested, but from Jim Titts tests it seems a grigri will catch a factor 2 fall no matter what, unless the belayer is overriding the cam. The next best performer was an ATC-XP and then alpine up. On the other hand, if you're taking a factor 2 fall, shit has already hit the fan pretty bad, so you're probably fucked regardless.
eli poss
From Durango, Co
Joined May 9, 2014
136 points
Dec 11, 2016
I've caught a factor 2 fall with a hip belay and a factor 1.8 fall with a reverso, so it certainly can be done without modern technology. rgold
From Poughkeepsie, NY
Joined Feb 15, 2008
40 points
Dec 11, 2016
Holy crap. That might be the most impressive thing I've heard you do, lol. Ted Pinson
From Chicago, IL
Joined Jul 11, 2014
40 points
Dec 11, 2016
Another testimony: Caught an 80-foot Factor 2 fall on a Sticht plate back in 1975. Seared my hand pretty good as maybe 6-8-10(?) feet of rope went through the plate before it stopped the fall. The hip belay above, though, is quite impressive. I guess in the moment of crisis there is no pain--you just react and do what's necessary. Daniel Joder
From Boulder, CO
Joined Nov 9, 2015
0 points
Dec 11, 2016
rgold wrote:
I've caught a factor 2 fall with a hip belay and a factor 1.8 fall with a reverso, so it certainly can be done without modern technology.

Just because you can catch a factor 2 fall with a hip belay doesn't mean it's something of which mere mortals are capable. Also, modern ropes are skinnier these days and should therefore be harder to control than the old 11mm singles and 9mm half ropes. IIRC, the DAV did some testing and it seemed that few people could catch a factor 2 fall with a munter hitch, and that should have more friction than a tube style device. I think more people were able to catch the fall if they wore gloves, though.
eli poss
From Durango, Co
Joined May 9, 2014
136 points
Dec 11, 2016
Ted Pinson wrote:
Holy crap. That might be the most impressive thing I've heard you do, lol.


eli poss wrote:
Just because you can catch a factor 2 fall with a hip belay doesn't mean it's something of which mere mortals are capable.


Maybe it seems impressive and/or superhuman nowadays, but like a whole bunch of things that seem impossible, including hard climbing, the difference between human and superhuman is a matter of training. BITD, it was fairly standard to practice belaying using weights for the falling leader. We happened to have a set-up that put the belayer on a catwalk in a stadium and allowed the 180lb weight to fall past the belayer. The set-up gave falls in the Factor 1.8 range and I'd caught 20 or so of those before the real one happened outdoors when a hold broke before my leader got anything in. After catching that big weight, the real catch wasn't too bad...
rgold
From Poughkeepsie, NY
Joined Feb 15, 2008
40 points
Jan 5, 2017
JohnnyG wrote:
Can you describe how someone decked with GriGri? And how with the ATC?


I don't know what caused the GriGri to fail. It occur about 75 feet from me and it appear the device was roped correctly.

My guess on the ATC deck is combination of things. First it was with a new thinner dry rope. I've climbed with the belayer before and never seen him take his brake hand off or do anything that looked unsafe. I think the climber fell just as the belayer had finished feeding out slack and was sliding the brake hand down the rope getting ready to feed the next segment. The new skinnier rope zipped through the ATC faster than before and he wasn't prepared for it.

This experience has taught me to test out the system anytime I make changes to the rope, belay device, or carabiner.


JohnnyG wrote:
This anecdote make a strong argument for the GriGri.

It happened again last night at the gym. Guy was high clipping for the 5th bolt and fell. His lighter belayer was sand bagged but it didn't prevent the two from collide relatively hard. Luckily she didn't let go of the brake hand and yes she did have a GriGri.
dino74
Joined Sep 16, 2016
5 points
Jan 6, 2017
Imo an atc should be used only to clean your gear. If your belayer let's lose of that brake hand for a split second on a fall the result could be fatal. Tyler Metheney
From O
Joined Sep 15, 2016
0 points
Jan 6, 2017
Story time. Last year a friend of mine was lowering his partner from a sport climb. He was using an ATC and belaying with his right hand. The slack rope past his right hand had become gnarled and twisted. A bunch of the gnarled rope bumped into his right hand knocking it loose from the rope. Looking at the twisting rope he could not see where to grab it so he grabbed the climber’s side of the rope. He brought the climber to a halt just short of the ground. Both of the belayer’s hands had severe burns.

Belaying with both hands on the brake side would probably have prevented loss of the rope. Wearing belay gloves would have saved the palms of the belayer’s hands and made the catch more secure.

Since I have never used an assisted belay device, I leave it to others more knowledgeable about these devices to discuss what might have happened with their use if the brake hand was knocked loose

Rob.calm
rob.calm
From Loveland, Colorado
Joined May 2, 2002
515 points
Jan 6, 2017
patto wrote:
Fools will outsmart any 'foolproof' device. The best answer is to not climb with fools belaying you. A belayers primary instinct even in times of stress and surprise should be to hold the brake strand locked off. If it isn't they clearly are not treating belaying with the respect it deserves.



Best response I have read.
Roy Suggett
Joined Jul 20, 2009
6,210 points
Jan 6, 2017
I have a question for those knowledgeable folks here in this thread. I understand that assisted braking devices such as the megajul have an upper limit on the braking force available and that this is viewed as a limitation. However, I fail to envision a situation where more force is needed. Sure, during a factor 2 fall you might encounter the upper part of the braking force curve where the jul and others trail off, but the belay is still applying very high force (significantly more than bodyweight) and so eventually the fall will be stopped. Isn't this actually a benefit since the peak load on the anchor is reduced? The climber is not going to hit the ground since we're talking about factor 2 where you are at least 1 pitch off the ground. So what am I missing? Vaughn
Joined Mar 21, 2011
25 points
Jan 6, 2017
Vaughn wrote:
I have a question for those knowledgeable folks here in this thread. I understand that assisted braking devices such as the megajul have an upper limit on the braking force available and that this is viewed as a limitation. However, I fail to envision a situation where more force is needed. Sure, during a factor 2 fall you might encounter the upper part of the braking force curve where the jul and others trail off, but the belay is still applying very high force (significantly more than bodyweight) and so eventually the fall will be stopped. Isn't this actually a benefit since the peak load on the anchor is reduced? The climber is not going to hit the ground since we're talking about factor 2 where you are at least 1 pitch off the ground. So what am I missing?

The climber may not hit the ground but they can hit a ledge or other cheesegrating feature. Honestly, though, I need the better thing is to just prevent a factor 2 fall in the first place. If you've gotten into a situation where you're taking a factor 2 fall then shit has really hit the fan so which belay device you use is probably pretty far down on the list of priorities. Use whichever belay device you like best and don't worry get your panties in a bunch over hypothetical factor 2 falls.

If you really are that concerned about this hypothetical, your best bet is a grigri or other camming belay device
eli poss
From Durango, Co
Joined May 9, 2014
136 points
Jan 6, 2017
Vaughn wrote:
I have a question for those knowledgeable folks here in this thread. I understand that assisted braking devices such as the megajul have an upper limit on the braking force available and that this is viewed as a limitation. However, I fail to envision a situation where more force is needed. Sure, during a factor 2 fall you might encounter the upper part of the braking force curve where the jul and others trail off, but the belay is still applying very high force (significantly more than bodyweight) and so eventually the fall will be stopped. Isn't this actually a benefit since the peak load on the anchor is reduced? The climber is not going to hit the ground since we're talking about factor 2 where you are at least 1 pitch off the ground. So what am I missing?


The same things have been said about ordinary ATC's, and proclaimed as advantages by the manufacturers. But over time there has been a growing conviction that many belayers will lose control of an ATC in a truly severe fall. If this is true, then it appears that the problem will be worse with the semiautomatic devices, whose braking capacities do not scale much with grip intensity, whereas an ATC is much more of a force-multiplier through a wide range of grip strengths.

Other than Jim's tests, no one has even noted this issue. It appears that the magazine and online testers are using single pitch gym and sport climbing and low fall-factor trad climbing as their reference, and so are nowhere near addressing device behavior in extreme circumstances, something one doesn't really want to test on purpose on real multipitch climbs because of the dangers involved.

In some of the discussions, one hears claims about holding "big whippers" without any of the accompanying information about fall factor and system friction that might, in some cases, lend validity to the claims.

So we are left with a substantial questionmark about the behavior in the field of semiautomatic devices in low-friction high fall factor scenarios. The idea that the device is going to lock up for such falls appears to be mistaken, and how much assistance will be provided might be significantly less than with an ATC-XP if the belayer is blessed with high grip strength. If the rope is ultimately going to slide through the device with lower resistance than an ATC, then loss of control is more likely and the fall, if eventually arrested, is either going to be longer or, if not stopped eventually by the belay, the impact will be higher.

I'd say, at the very least, that multipitch users of semiautomatic devices, even more so than ATC users, should be gloved.
rgold
From Poughkeepsie, NY
Joined Feb 15, 2008
40 points
Jan 6, 2017
Rgold,

I understand you and many other "old school" climbers have actually caught high factor falls. You have also repeatedly stated that such falls are extremely rare. How much weight would you give to a belay device's performance in a high factor fall, given that these performances are not well understand and probably won't even come into play for the average modern climber?

In other words: How significant is this performance when one is weighing all the pros and cons of each belay device, trying to find the one that best suites them?
eli poss
From Durango, Co
Joined May 9, 2014
136 points
Jan 6, 2017
Eli, I think the answer has to be personal.

You can take the position you just articulated, that you're f#cked if you take a big fall no matter what, so why obsess over what a device can or can't do. And the rareness of big falls means this approach might well prove to be functional. But it must be obvious that I don't agree with this perspective, having held two high fall-factor falls (in 60 years of climbing) that were the kind of thing that could happen to anyone anywhere anytime. In this regard, I should mention that it can take as little as one piece blowing unexpectedly to change what the party judges to be a casual situation into a high-fall factor impact for the belayer.

I didn't grow up as a climber thinking the belayer should be able to hold almost all falls; the understanding used to be that no matter what, the belayer was gonna catch you. From that perspective, I'm concerned about a device that might not be up to the task, even if the probability of being tested is extremely low. In this regard, I've been saying for years that there are many rope/device combinations that won't pass muster, and this long before automatic and semiautomatic devices came on the scene. Anyone who has the the slightest struggle rappelling with a tube-style device is using something that won't catch a big fall, for example.

So how much weight to give to extreme performance? If you are going to be using the device exclusively for single-pitch climbing, then the issue is moot; choose whatever gadget handles the best and seems to have the fewest gotcha's. If you are going to belay the leader on multipitch routes, then you have to decide whether you're prepared to say "dude, if you're gonna take a high fall-factor plunge, then shit has really hit the fan and don't be counting on me to save your ass."

I'm not prepared to say that. I don't know how many people really are when it is put that way, but like it or not that's choice one has to confront.
rgold
From Poughkeepsie, NY
Joined Feb 15, 2008
40 points
Jan 6, 2017
Yeah. While FF2s are rare, they're not inconceivable; a first piece blowing or even a foot slipping on the way off the deck can lead to some pretty nasty falls. Making an argument for a belay device that can't catch FF2 falls is somewhat akin to driving a car without airbags. Sure, if nothing goes wrong, it doesn't matter what you're driving...but what if something DOES happen? Ted Pinson
From Chicago, IL
Joined Jul 11, 2014
40 points
Jan 6, 2017
rob.calm wrote:
Story time. Last year a friend of mine was lowering his partner from a sport climb. He was using an ATC and belaying with his right hand. The slack rope past his right hand had become gnarled and twisted. A bunch of the gnarled rope bumped into his right hand knocking it loose from the rope. Looking at the twisting rope he could not see where to grab it so he grabbed the climber’s side of the rope. He brought the climber to a halt just short of the ground. Both of the belayer’s hands had severe burns. Belaying with both hands on the brake side would probably have prevented loss of the rope. Wearing belay gloves would have saved the palms of the belayer’s hands and made the catch more secure. Since I have never used an assisted belay device, I leave it to others more knowledgeable about these devices to discuss what might have happened with their use. Rob.calm

No disrespect at all to you or your friend, but were they really, really inexperienced belaying with an ATC? Belaying palm up, or something like that? Using their hand, and not the ATC to control the speed? Yes, what you offer might have helped, but it seems even to my noob self to be an inexperienced belay, and all of it, except the "save", easy to deal with if you understand an ATC.

Best, Helen

I love the climbing shot you have for your pic, by the way!
Old lady H
From Boise, Idaho
Joined Aug 24, 2015
30 points
Jan 6, 2017
rgold wrote:
...there has been a growing conviction that many belayers will lose control of an ATC in a truly severe fall. If this is true, then it appears that the problem will be worse with the semiautomatic devices, whose braking capacities do not scale much with grip intensity, whereas an ATC is much more of a force-multiplier through a wide range of grip strengths. ...


Can you explain this some more please?
Dylan B.
Joined Mar 31, 2006
613 points
Jan 6, 2017
The main reason is that the device may not supply enough friction. This is especially true when the device is being used with ropes at the lower end of the recommended diameters. A test which is by no means conclusive is to do a free-hanging single strand rappel with the device/rope combination. If this isn't totally comfortable, then the chances of holding a big impact are very small. (One often hears a recommendation in this situation to use two carabiners for the device, but the obvious extension that two carabiners ought to be used for belaying as well doesn't seem to be emphasized.)

A second problem with ATC-style devices is that in a factor-two fall, if the brake hand is in the now-standard palm-down position, there will be little or no engagement of the device, and I'd guess in this case that a total loss of control is inevitable. All the semiautomatic devices have the same problem, by the way. One needs a palm-up position with the braking hand at chest level.

Belayers who understand this can start belaying palm-up and switch to palm-down when the leader gets in the first piece. Or one can make the first piece one of the anchor pieces, but this can be problematic if the anchor pieces are too close to the belayer. Moreover, the anchor load is generally going to be a lot higher with such a clip, which could be a problem for alpine and adventure trad anchors.

The worst scenario is that a piece pulls and an unanticipated factor-2 fall occurs after the belay hand position has been changed. All the belayer can do, and the reaction has to be instantaneous, is bring the braking hand up and try to hang on with a sub-optimal hand position.
rgold
From Poughkeepsie, NY
Joined Feb 15, 2008
40 points
Jan 6, 2017
I insist that any climbing partner belay me with an assisted braking device henceforth and I'll tell you why. I was climbing in El Potrero Chico my first day down there, which tells you I had a lot to learn! I had just flashed Onward Through the Fog and had clipped the anchor draws when I noticed a very attractive undercling hold that I wished I had seen sooner as it would have made for a nice anchor position. Wishes disappeared as the hold suddenly came off in my hand and I drew it into my lap. This rock was as long as my forearm and about as big around. Had I pulled over onto it before I clipped, I would have whipped onto the last bolt and likely dropped the rock on my belayer (who was using an ATC), closely replicating the cited story from Unbelayvable.

I should also mention there was an adorable lizard that was also on the rock, and he rode my sleeve as my partner lowered me completely unaware of what happened until I got to the ground. The lizard found a new home in the crag.

No animals were harmed in this episode of reptile and rock.
Josiah Cooper
Joined Dec 29, 2014
0 points
Jan 7, 2017
rgold wrote:
If you are going to belay the leader on multipitch routes, then you have to decide whether you're prepared to say "dude, if you're gonna take a high fall-factor plunge, then shit has really hit the fan and don't be counting on me to save your ass." I'm not prepared to say that. I don't know how many people really are when it is put that way, but like it or not that's choice one has to confront.

That's a really good point, and this kind of conversation doesn't always happen until after an incident. I know I'd like to say that I'll always be there for my partner, but I'm not quite sure where I would stand in the heat of battle. I know that sounds horrible, but I'm just trying to be realistic imagining the worst case scenario.

If you're truly doing something "state of the art", though, then at some point the belayer is just holding the rope. And at the end of the day, I understand this to be a possible outcome going in, and I've come to terms with that. I certainly hope my partner has too. The late Dean Potter once said, "No single climb is worth dying for, but climbing as a whole is worth dying for".
eli poss
From Durango, Co
Joined May 9, 2014
136 points
Jan 7, 2017
rgold wrote:
The same things have been said about ordinary ATC's, and proclaimed as advantages by the manufacturers. But over time there has been a growing conviction that many belayers will lose control of an ATC in a truly severe fall. If this is true, then it appears that the problem will be worse with the semiautomatic devices, whose braking capacities do not scale much with grip intensity, whereas an ATC is much more of a force-multiplier through a wide range of grip strengths. Other than Jim's tests, no one has even noted this issue. It appears that the magazine and online testers are using single pitch gym and sport climbing and low fall-factor trad climbing as their reference, and so are nowhere near addressing device behavior in extreme circumstances, something one doesn't really want to test on purpose on real multipitch climbs because of the dangers involved. In some of the discussions, one hears claims about holding "big whippers" without any of the accompanying information about fall factor and system friction that might, in some cases, lend validity to the claims. So we are left with a substantial questionmark about the behavior in the field of semiautomatic devices in low-friction high fall factor scenarios. The idea that the device is going to lock up for such falls appears to be mistaken, and how much assistance will be provided might be significantly less than with an ATC-XP if the belayer is blessed with high grip strength. If the rope is ultimately going to slide through the device with lower resistance than an ATC, then loss of control is more likely and the fall, if eventually arrested, is either going to be longer or, if not stopped eventually by the belay, the impact will be higher. I'd say, at the very least, that multipitch users of semiautomatic devices, even more so than ATC users, should be gloved.


The loss of braking power of semi-automatic devices has also been noted by Bill Stronge at Cambridge University. (The Pro Guide is an ATC Guide clone from Wild Country).

Rock Climbing Photo: Belay Amplification Factor
Belay Amplification Factor
Jim Titt
From Germany
Joined Nov 10, 2009
0 points
Jan 7, 2017

The late Dean Potter once said, "No single climb is worth dying for, but climbing as a whole is worth dying for".


Dean was wrong.

There is so much more, vastly more, to life than climbing. Countless millions cling to life and they can't imagine throwing it away just to get your name in the guide or claim some other nebulous "first" that advances the human condition very little.

Fundamentally climbing is a solo, selfish and narcissistic pursuit. It reminds us of the remarkable things humans are capable of, but working a soup kitchen does more for humanity.

(I paraphrase)

"All that there is and ever will be, in all the villages and huts and castles is to see the great day dawning over the Earth. There is nothing else."

If you have that (life) you are rich. After that, you have nothing.
King Tut
Joined Aug 19, 2012
125 points
Jan 7, 2017
@rgold and Jim Titt:


Gentlemen, could you corroborate that a Gri-Gri will hold a factor 2 fall regardless of the effect of a brake hand? Or does one slip?

Every accident report I have ever seen on one was the belayer somehow defeating the camming action, either during a panic when lowering or by the hand on the climber's side of the device gripping in panic and providing enough friction to prevent the cam from acting.

Has one failed to auto lock to your knowledge?



best
King Tut
Joined Aug 19, 2012
125 points


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