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General Climbing Discussion

Big wall - Switch from self belay to being belayed

5:21:44 PM
I'm tentatively familiar with the technique of self belay (lead) though have a question about the technique used when switching from lead self belay to being belayed while climbing a big wall. If I'm not making sense hopefully my example will help;

E.g. My mate and I are aid climbing a 'big wall'.. Climber 1 leads the first pitch, gets to the top and rigs a second rope for climber 2 to jug and clean on.

While climber 2 jugs/cleans, climber 1 leads out on self belay. Climber 2 reaches the belay and places climber 1 on belay.... How?

The process I've used when self belaying is to tie one end of the rope into the anchor, run it into the 'climber' side and then out the 'hand' side of the grigri. The leader then clips the rope coming up from the anchor, leading into the 'climber', side of the grigri into their gear. The excess rope exits the 'hand' side of the grigri and is stacked neatly into a pile, or even carried in a backpack while leading.

How can the leader safely be put on belay while using this system? The only thing I could think of is have the leader find a solid place to stop and have the second pull the rope, from the anchor, until all the slack rope is pulled through the leaders grigri. The leader can then remove their grigri from the lead rope and continue leading. (Obviously the leader will need to be tied into the slack end of the rope before it's pulled through).

What am I missing? Apart from a fully functional frontal lobe;)

5:40:24 PM
3 ropes.
5:53:41 PM
Leader has one end tied into anchor and other end tied into harness, climbs lead solo with soloist, silent partner or modified gri gri. when the second puts them on belay the second takes in as the leader progressively takes out back up knots untill they are being belayed as per usual.


simul climbing with some kind or progress capture device at belay, e.g. tiblock or rescuescender to prevent the leader being pulled off the wall if the second falls.


something risking a massive fall untill the second arrives, i.e. clipping the mid line to the anchor.

5:58:46 PM
On 16/01/2013 shortman wrote:
>3 ropes.

You're the one with 3 ropes;)
6:47:09 PM
I would have thought you've actually got it mostly right. The leader leads a pitch and makes the belay. He pulls up all the rope and ties it off - the seconder starts judging. With the left over rope the leader solos out with a standard self belay. When the seconder arrives the leader is put on belay by the seconder pulling through all excess rope.

Keep in mind this is usually an aid technique so that the leader won't get very far and they can hang around whilst the rope gets sorted.

6:54:15 PM
When the second puts the leader on belay you have two choices:

(1) either feed rope through the self belay device until there is no slack left between the device and the lead's tie in, whilst the belayer takes slack in.

(2) disconnect the self belay device (and any backup knots) dumping the slack wholesale, allowing the belayer to take in rope much more expiedently.

Obviously there are times when a lack of security would make option two a very poor choice.

I've not heard of an option 3, and if it involves carrying extra ropes, gear, etc, it probably not in keeping with the ethos that might motivate one to self-belay, short-fix, etc.

7:52:21 PM
Thanks dudes, sounds like I was in the right track;)

Now, who want to come out and practice self belay;)
9:54:38 PM
Miguel, you're sort of on the right track but it sounds like you're really talking about short-fixing where the leader reaches the next belay with spare rope. The leader sets the anchor, pulls up the slack and clips the rope into the belay so it is tight to the second. The leader then soloes on the excess rope until the second rreaches the anchor and puts them on belay. It's used extensively for fast ascents -so I have no real-life experience of it.
One Day Hero
11:04:14 PM
Only pull up enough rope to climb as far as you can climb in the time it takes your second to clean the previous pitch. e.g. it should take you 20mins to lead 10 or 15m on slightly tricky aid, which is about how long it takes to jug and clean a pitch of cams.

So, at exactly the time you run out of rope your second hits the belay and puts you on, meaning that all you have to do is flick the rope out of the gri-gri and keep on trucking...........of course it'll never happen like that and either you'll have to feed the excess rope back through your gri-gri, or you'll run out of rope early and be stuck there yelling at your second to get their arse into gear

.....or you could just go free (proper) climbing like a normal person :)

6:55:59 AM
Pull ALL the slack up when short fixing. If the second has an issue you can keep moving. Simply clip into a bomber piece and drop the rope. Your still connected to the system. Shortfixing implies some extra risks for speed. It is possible to lead a whole pitch while someone cleans a pitch, practice your system!

The real fast guys dont put themselves on belay, just climb. The loop of rope piled on the ledge is lovingly known as the pakistani death loop. Higher you climb, safer you become!

9:44:48 AM
On 16/01/2013 Olbert wrote:
>Keep in mind this is usually an aid technique so that the leader won't
>get very far and they can hang around whilst the rope gets sorted.

I beg to differ! If the leader is fast and efficient - especially if its a splitter crack pitch, then its very foreseeable that the leader may in fact have led most of the next pitch by the time the second jugs up the rope! I certainly found this was the case when I did Ozy in this style about a decade ago. If its a splitter crack the leader can just whack in two or three bomber cams, clip in hard (you would be clipped in hard with daisychains anyway) and take themselves off the gri-gri self-belay, drop the excess rope and belayer puts you on belay immediately. You obviously wouldn't be doing this in the middle of an A4 pitch though! Then the slow techqnieue described by other of both leader and belayer using gri-gris makes a lot more sense.

(i just realized Simon pretty much said what I just said before i said it)

10:53:08 AM
On 16/01/2013 Olbert wrote:
>the seconder starts judging.

I hate it when my seconder starts judging. Happens all the time!

11:21:05 AM
On 17/01/2013 pmonks wrote:
>On 16/01/2013 Olbert wrote:
>>the seconder starts judging.
>I hate it when my seconder starts judging. Happens all the time!
Yeah that's CRAP when it happens, yet you also continue to post on Chockstone? ;-)
Heh, heh, heh.

Back on topic.
You now have the answer(s) M75, and I suspect it is pretty much what you expected.
As others have alluded to, short fixing (amongst other specialised techniques), is not without risk, no matter whether applied to free or aid, and makes for some climbers adventures...
~> Getoutthere&doit!

12:01:59 PM
Thanks again all, I can visualize what needs to be done now and will report back on any successful efforts. Unsuccessful efforts may end up on the news;) Stay tuned...
One Day Hero
12:12:21 PM
I reckon if you've just done a 50m pitch on a 60m rope, pull up all the rope. After a 30m pitch, I would suggest that pulling 30m up is pretty silly. If your second can't clean an aid pitch at twice the rate you lead the next one, get yourself a better second!

There are 15 messages in this topic.


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