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General Climbing Discussion

Rope management on multi-pitch climbs

1:22:31 AM
Noticed this discussion on, though not too many replies. Therefore - am after your collective experiences and opinions:

On a multi-pitchm is it better to belay off your harness or off the anchors? I also assume that this might be slightly different on a trad vs sport routes.



The Blond Gecko
8:29:55 AM
Bit of an interesting question, that one... when belaying a second, I believe in almost all cases (at any rate, all cases I've come across) that it is best to belay directly off the anchor. Escapability (and comfort!) are the key words here. When belaying a leader, however, there is a very good case for belaying off your harness. Your weight is added to the belay, so that very little (if any) force is placed on the anchors in the case of a fall.

9:14:45 AM
I second that notion. Nothing worse than your second slumping onto the rope when you are sitting on a ledge and the rope crosses your leg! I also switch to harness belay for the leader so i don't have to rely on multiple upward pulling anchors - as the majority of the force is just put into my body.

10:00:53 AM
yeh i agree. its not recommended at all to belay off ur harness for 2nders. I find the only problem I've had in the past when belaying off the anchors is having the belay device move up and down inside the anchor tie-in point as u belay. this can be countered by having a small tie-in loop, tension on the anchors(should be tensioned anyway) and clipping right next to the belay (rather than being on a cling for eg). yeh I also belay off the harness for the leader.

i dunno if its really relevant but since we're on the topic of rope mgt it be useful to some.. when climbing in a group of three, i always try to switch the belaying to the 1st seconder after (s)he ascends so that when the third comes up the rope is right to be leading on (just swap tie-ins with the third). This is assuming both seconders can lead belay.. just an aside
10:21:25 AM
Always off the anchors. If you don't like the belay device moving around as Rich suggests, then turn your system into a toprope style belay like in the gym. This can often be a far more desirable setup if your second is likely to take a while; particularly if they are likely to do a bit of dogging. Here's how:

1. Set up your anchor as per normal, and put two screwgates on it.

2. You should still be tied into the end of the rope. Pull up some rope, and tie it directly into one of the screwgates on the anchor. You should have exactly the amount of rope between you and the anchor that allows you to lean back comfortably. The length should not be too short. Minimum of 75cm. Preferably 1m or more.

3. Place an upwards pulling piece of pro at foot level and use a sling to tie it directly into your harness. This will act like the ground anchors in the gym.

4. Now, pick up the rope that is trailing up the climb; clip it thru the other screwgate on the anchors, and then bring it down thru your belay device on your harness.

5. Organise yourself so that your chocolate supply is within easy reach (he he he)

6. Double check everything, and go thru the motions of belaying to ensure your system will work comfortably before giving your second the all clear to commence climbing.

11:00:27 AM
I prefer to belay my second using a GriGri, which is great if they dog the route, or need to be hoisted past the crux. Takes seconds only to set or dismantle an unassisted hoist.

It depends a bit on the ledge or stance, but if possible I like to be sitting down (for comfort) to belay the 2nd, and generally belay off the harness. The main reason being that I've noted, dependant on the setup, the GriGri can become jammed against protuding rock if I belay directly off the anchors, stopping it from locking. I also like the feel of belaying off the harness finding it easier to know when slack or tension is required. I can escape the belay very quickly if need be so I don't see that as a disadvantage. The only disadvantage is, as Neil pointed out, the weight of a dogging second. And if you do perform a hoist off the harness it can be a back killer. If the setup allows the GriGri to sit well free of the rock surface, and the 2nd is likely to dog, then I'll sometimes opt to belay directly off the anchors. At a hanging belay, I definately try to belay the 2nd off the anchors.

There are so many variations. It all depends on the belay stance. Belaying the 2nd I like to be sitting down, with the rope running free of any lip or edge, zero slack in the anchors and preferably the 2nd in visual range if the terrain allows. For belaying the leader, I like to be standing belaying off the harness.

..::- Chris -::..
11:23:01 AM
I'm going to disagree here, just for the plan fact of pure safety,
If you setup the belay system well and position yourself appropriately you should experience very little discomfort (if any), you are also closer to the anchors if you need
to adjust anything or tie someone off for rescue etc, and there is less to think about (or make a mistake) which I've seen before.

The top rope anchor idea is fine but if there is a problem and you need to get back to your belay to adjust something or tie someone off for rescue etc etc ... you are 1 + meters away and your in a awkward position. Also if the pro at your feet moves you only have one piece in, if the person falls, and the one piece pulls and your belaying someone like me (100kg) you will be ripped up to the ancors and maybe thrown around a bit ....... This is unlikely , however still very possible. Being comfortable is important to the fact that climbing is meant to be enjoyable and i suppose we all at some stage get relaxed or change things to suit comfort, but i believe you always need to take setting up and belaying seriously with safety first and comfort a distant second. I'm not saying the above solutions are un safe, but less safe... However I believe if you spend an extra minute ,setting up the belay (simple standard safe) it can make the world of different to how comfortable you are during the belay.............. Thats my 2 cents worth.....

3:23:25 PM
Are you saying you should belay off the harness Chris? I'm not sure what you are suggesting. What neil said with the rope running over his leg etc is not just a comfort factor,it is definitely a safety factor.. if u had a heavy 2nder fall with unknown slack in the system (perhaps pooled) then that could cause a lot of pain and perhpas cause an inexperienced belayer to drop his seconder..

also the top rope set-up jac suggested would of course require the belayer to know how to escape the belay in an emergency..

additionally, when i belay a seconder that i think may hang around a bit, a lil trick i do is chuck a prusik just in front of the atc and clip it into a screwgate on the anchors so if they fall u can relax abit. technically u are meant to tie off if you are going to let go but as long as you've still got your hand on it i reckon its fine. this is also the first part of a z drag done already in case they need that extra lil bit of help hehe

4:22:54 PM
I always use a cordellete to setup and centralize my anchors. Then i clip two screwgates to the equalized cordellete - one i tie my end of the rope into with quite a bit of slack so i can wander around a little (maybe a metre or so) and the other screwgate i clip my gri gri in direct. This means if i have to escape the system i just untie and walk away. The gri gri will hold the climber with out any wieght being on me at all. Of course i woudl tie a backtup knot in the rope after the gri gri if i was leaving someone hanging there. This is also a good system if someone is having problems down below. I can walk to the edge of the ledge and look down/around to see what the problem is and maybe help them without detaching myself formt he setup. If it is a hanging belay i use a dausy chain to connect myself in shorter to the anchor - but keep the 1m+ of rope still tied in as a backup.
11:58:57 PM
If your belayer doesn't know how to escape a belay in an emergency why are you letting them belay you?
A good reason for belaying a second off your body is if the anchors are doubtful. This doesn't happen in an ideal world but it does in the real. You have to tie yourself firmly to the anchors and brace yourself firmly on the belay. When you second arrives you have to face what comes next. Hopefully it is an easy pitch or there is good gear before it gets hard.
The thing is that you must be able to cope. You may encounter situations that have you quivering with fear. You must have some basic skills that help you through these.
Here's a non-hypothetical question : You are a party of three on a steep grass slope covered in snow and it is 9pm. A mild storm is happening, there are no anchors and no ledges to sit out the night. The only available option is a steep traverse of about 20m to a crest where you hope it eases off. How would you belay this?

8:56:33 AM
You tie your rope to the climbers about 10 m apart and one at a time make your way down to the crest !??

Am I correct Kieran ?

..::- Chris -::..
9:12:13 AM
Kieran- I agree with you on the belaying off the body, it's not always needed but if you do it always it keeps good practice and if you do it well, it's not painfull at all.

Answer to Question:

Firstly i would stop and ask myself why I am out on a steep grass slope covered in grass and snow at 9pm am I mad??
Next I would setup the strongest belay that was possible using whatever i could find. I would then wedge Climber C into the slope as best I could, from him have a rope going direct to climber B who is also wedged in as best as possible, Climber B would then Belay climber A across the traverse to safety. Then Climbers A and C would Belay climber B across the traverse reducing the impact on either climber if climber B was to take a fall, then climber C would come across being belayed by Climber B who was backed up by climber A and whatever beley they could setup..... (If you can follow that then your doing better than me.... but it sounds good. !!! hehehe) Idea behind this is always 2 climbers backing each other up reducing the force on the weak belay point.

9:18:38 AM
Snow covered grass?? Sounds like Australian alpine climbing! My suggestion - Untie and each person solos to the crest! That way you only kill yourself if you slip.

..::- Chris -::..
9:28:38 AM
Actually I want to change my conclusion, Neil's idea works for me !
It Depends on weather I was climbing with two 45kg females or two 100kg + blokes, I'd tie in if it were the females and give my soloution a go (as above), as we could make it to the ledge and then they could keep me warm for the night!!!! hehehehee
- and if it were the blokes I was climbing with, yeah I'm with Neil, it's every man for himself !!! hehehe
12:18:42 AM
Correct answer (and I only know this because I survived):

Everyone except the leader unties from the rope. The most experienced person in the group belays and the best climber remaining in the group leads (you might vary this if the climbing is technical and have the best technical climber lead).

Someone suggested to get the best anchor possible. In this situation there are no anchors, not even poor ones. It's not a hypothetical situation.

The belayer, who has untied from the rope, stands facing out from the slope, kicks the deepest steps possible, leans back into the slope and uses an open hand belay.

When the leader fell off a few metres out from the belay, the belayer let the rope run through his mitts and gradually slowed the fall. He had a shitty stance and no anchors and he held the fall. It remains one of the most amazing things that I have seen in my climbing career. I was there, exhausted and on the verge of exposure. I watched what happened. I wouldn't be here if Paul (the leader who took a fall) and John (who held the fall) hadn't done amazing things.
After his fall, Paul went back onto his traverse, finished it and saved our lives.
7:58:29 PM
"why I am out on a steep grass slope covered in grass and snow at 9pm am I mad??"

We weren't mad: just young, inexperienced, poorly informed and we had got ourselves in too deep to back out before we realised it.

We survived because one of our party was simply brilliant. We were just lucky to have a person of that calibre with us. John didn't continue with climbing after he left university and we are the poorer for it.

There are 16 messages in this topic.


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