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By NYClimber
From New York
Jul 19, 2012
Awesome slab climb right out of the water! Rogers Rock, Lake George, NY. Summer 2013.
I see to be seeing a lot of belayers these days belaying on the ground not anchored to anything for the 1st picth of a climb or top roping and watching the leader fall and the belayer being yanked up off their feet 10 or more feet up in the air. Isn't this a bad practice should the belayer need to excape the belay and get help in the event of a emergency or injury?

While doing this does help absorb energy during a fall - is this really a safe way to belay? What the hell is the belayer going to do should he/she be 20 ft off the ground and need to ever get help?

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By kilonot
Jul 19, 2012
If you get yanked up in the air you can rap 10ft back to the ground.

If a TR fall pulls you airborne you should've been anchored.

There is no 'leader' on a top rope.

If your talking lead belay than, 'it depends'.

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By Cwaters
From Avondale AZ
Jul 19, 2012
Working Death Row. 12.D queen creek AZ
The only time you really need to anchor while on belay is if its not a real safe belay plat form. as previously stated just repel back down if your yanked into the air. Not a big deal. When the belayer is yanked into the air it does cause a "soft landing". Its nice to do that to your climber if they are a few bolts up so they dont smack into the wall real hard but like I said only if they are far enough up.

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By Woodchuck ATC
Jul 19, 2012
Rock Wars, RRG, 2008
Anchoring was the norm for all climbers in all situations. Sport climbing belay and the 'jump belay' seemed to have changed all that former good knowledge. I"m clueless why it suddenly became fashionable to only belay off the harness and not to an anchor.

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By Jeremy Hand
Jul 19, 2012
slopey
skip the belay and climb ropeless. As a climber it gives you more motivation to not fall and as a belayer you are able to nap in a hammock rather than an awkward standing, seated position.

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By Jeremy Hand
Jul 19, 2012
slopey
In all seriousness, wouldn't anchoring while elad belaying apply more stress to the rope and the belayers body during a whipper? I'm sure the catch would be terrible for the climber as well.

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By Woodchuck ATC
Jul 19, 2012
Rock Wars, RRG, 2008
Jeremy Hand wrote:
In all seriousness, wouldn't anchoring while elad belaying apply more stress to the rope and the belayers body during a whipper? I'm sure the catch would be terrible for the climber as well.

This seems to be logical if you are whipping on an old hemp rope. Isn't it the purpose of a dynamic rope to cushion the fall for safety, without any jumping belay, intentional rope slippage or any other non secured belay method? I don't know when it all changed over to not being a STOPPER catch. Guess it is another change of philosophy in climbing technique that I just ignored with experience.

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By Eric G.
Jul 19, 2012
I once saw a small woman belaying a large man at Rumney. When he fell, he pulled her up to a low first bolt--her grigri was touching the bolt or draw.

Imagine if the bolt or rock or whatever had depressed the cam on the grigri!

That said, I only routinely anchor in the belayer when ice climbing. If the unthinkable happens and the leader falls, no need to drag the belayer into danger.

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By NYClimber
From New York
Jul 19, 2012
Awesome slab climb right out of the water! Rogers Rock, Lake George, NY. Summer 2013.
I agree with Chuck ATC...

Sport climbing changed climbing forever - and I'm not sure I see that as a good thing. Perhaps I am just old school - stuck in the Robbins and Chouinard era of things - but I don't get some belayer getting yanked 20 ft off their feet in the air or up against a rock wall as a good thing. That's why we use dynamic ropes vs. static ropes - to absorb the energy of falls - didn't think we really NEEDED our belayer to get yanks off their damn feet to absorb the energy from a fall. The previous poster is right - what happens if this belayer is a 100# female climing with a 175# male and gets yanked up 20 ft and smacked into a bolt or the first piece of pro? Not a great thing in my mind. Better to have her anchored to something on the ground and let the dynamic rope do it's job it was designed for instead.

Yeah maybe top roping generates less fall factors and energy than leader falls do - but I see people belaying like this for LEAD climbers as well - in some really difficult technical sport climbs - where I really don't see some 3/8" or 1/2" bolts getting ripped out from a leader fall with a anchored belayer from below...

Guess I'll just keep climbing my old fashioned trad techniques. To each is own I guess - I just don't want anyone belaying me like that!

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By paintrain
Jul 19, 2012
Chuck Norris can Divide by Zero
Anchoring a belayer on the ground is a bit old school unless the leader far outweighs his belayer. The principles for catching someone falling on a sport climb are no different than any other type of catch - the fact sport climbers generally fall a lot more should suggest you could learn something from their technique. Being more dynamic means you shockload the gear and your falling climber less (even more so with a dynamic rope). You are able to move around and be a more effective belayer as well as side step anything that might come down (better than taking it on the head even with a helmet). You can feed and take in slack more effectively by just stepping forward or back.

There are situations where anchoring is appropriate, but for cragging especially, it is not necessary or desired in most instances. Techniques change. I learned 20+ years ago to anchor in as well, but have adapted to newer techniques that make sense. Having suffered through those years of anchored belays taking leader falls, I prefer a dynamic unanchored belay as an anchored more static one can hurt and cause some wicked pendulum force.

PT

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By Old and Busted
From Centennial, CO
Jul 19, 2012
Stabby
Anyone remember an unanchored Kevin Gonzales belaying Stewart Green at Shelf Road? That always an amazing sight. Yet Stewart is still with us.

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By Jeremy Hand
Jul 19, 2012
slopey
Woodchuck ATC wrote:
This seems to be logical if you are whipping on an old hemp rope. Isn't it the purpose of a dynamic rope to cushion the fall for safety, without any jumping belay, intentional rope slippage or any other non secured belay method? I don't know when it all changed over to not being a STOPPER catch. Guess it is another change of philosophy in climbing technique that I just ignored with experience.



It makes my rope last longer. I'm a poor hack that likes climbing. I jump belay. Lemon. Wet. Good.

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By Jake Jones
From Richmond, VA
Jul 19, 2012
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.
****THERE IS A GRAPHIC IMAGE WITHIN THIS COMMENT. PLEASE, IF YOU ARE OFFENDED, NAUSEATED, OR OTHERWISE PUT OFF BY SOMEWHAT GORY AND/OR GRAPHIC ANATOMICAL IMAGES OF INJURIES, EITHER DO NOT SCROLL DOWN, OR SKIP OVER. IF YOU WOULD LIKE ME TO REMOVE THIS PICTURE FROM THIS THREAD, PLEASE ASK, AND I WILL DO SO WITHOUT ISSUE.****

Michael Urban wrote:
I see to be seeing a lot of belayers these days belaying on the ground not anchored to anything for the 1st picth of a climb or top roping and watching the leader fall and the belayer being yanked up off their feet 10 or more feet up in the air. Isn't this a bad practice should the belayer need to excape the belay and get help in the event of a emergency or injury?


This has been discussed a lot recently in the core group of people I climb with. There are about 15 of us or so that routinely go on trips together. Some of us are younger, early twenties or so, and the oldest of our group is in his mid-sixties. Here's what we've come up with. First, the oldest of the group will never concede that anything less than anchoring in firmly no matter if you're belaying a leader, or someone that is top roping. It has been my experience that hard and fast absolute rules in climbing are a bad idea. Every scenario has different circumstances, and you need to be flexible and fluid in order to adapt, and sometimes very quickly. Here is one such scenario:

A guy (friend of mine with about three decades or so of climbing experience from western multipitch to eastern single pitch sport, in other words, well rounded) climbing a route, easy for him, near the end of the day. Single pitch, gear-protected, traversing crack, about a 60-70 ft route. We estimated that racked up, he probably weighed around 180 or so. His son, 13 or 14 belaying him, weighed about 110 or so. The belayer was firmly anchored in. This is the route, and the fall.

diagram
diagram


What you can't see in the picture, is that the route, at the top is overhung. The fall was an off balance weird sideways fall, because the climber's momentum was heading left and up to grab the last hold. There was about three feet of rope out past the last piece, and we estimated that total vertical distance fallen was about nine feet. In other words, not a long fall, and with all the rope that was out, and the relatively short fall, the FF was WELL under 1, so there wasn't the potential for a lot of impact force via the rope.

You can see where he impacted, there's a little arete sticking out of the rock. This is the impact point. We conceded, after looking at pics and talking about the fall, that even with a dynamic belay, this piece of rock might still have been hit. But one thing that isn't really debated by any of us is that because of the static belay that was given, in conjunction with the sideways and traversing/pendulum fall, the centrifugal force that was created caused quite a bit of impact force. Now, you may be asking yourself, so what? Well, my buddy didn't have much time to react because it was such a short fall. As a result, the top of his foot came into contact with the rock first, instead of the bottom. This was his injury:

mangled foot/ankle
mangled foot/ankle


He almost lost that foot. Luckily for him, all the necessary nerves, arteries and tendons and muscles run through the back of your leg, and not the front. He was able to save his foot. As a matter of fact, he just got some bone grafts last week. His doctor says he'll be able to put weight on it in about six weeks. He's expected to make almost a full recovery within a year.

There probably would have been some kind of injury no matter what the belay was like. There also would have been less impact force had there been some give to the belay, and the injury wouldn't have been as severe.

We talked in length about static vs. dynamic belays. We concluded that although a much lighter climber should be anchored in, you could do so with a little play in the system and using the dynamic rope- which would essentially be a combination of the two.

My point is not to preach about dynamic belays and how great they are. My point is to have options, to know how to do both, and to recognize when one would be more appropriate than the other.

You may want to use a static (or semi-static) belay when:
There is a ledge that a leader may hit during a fall if he falls too far
If the climber far outweighs the belayer

Dynamic belays put less force on the climber, the rope, and all the gear, especially the piece fallen on, which is a major positive- especially with thin gear.








Michael Urban wrote:
What the hell is the belayer going to do should he/she be 20 ft off the ground and need to ever get help?


There are options that climbers should learn and be able to employ before this happens. If you have two ropes, or enough left on the rope you're using, you could anchor the climber in first, then anchor yourself above the pro that you're stuck on with a prusik, escape the belay, then set up a rap on the remaining rope or a second rope.

This is just one option, there are others that could be used, especially if the climber was injured and needed immediate attention to stop bleeding or something like that.

The time to learn how to deal with a "holy shit" situation is not when the situation occurs. You can't plan for every single thing that could possibly go wrong. What you can do is have as many tools and tricks in your bag as possible so that you can be prepared when something does go wrong. Knowing when to belay statically or dynamically, or use a combination is just one of those things.

  • edit: Sorry for the long-winded post, it's just something I've discussed alot with other people lately, and thought it was pertinent.

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By NYClimber
From New York
Jul 19, 2012
Awesome slab climb right out of the water! Rogers Rock, Lake George, NY. Summer 2013.
Thanks jake for the info and sharing that story and pic.

That's a nasty compound fracture for sure and he's very lucky to 'walk' away from that kind of fracture with prob not having an permanent limp or loss of function, etc.

Wow! Sure makes sense all right!

Thanks for the info!

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By Morgan Patterson
Administrator
Jul 19, 2012
Stoked...
When I lead I almost always require my belayer to use a grigri and perform dynamic belays. I can't think of anytime in the last 2-3 years I didn't ask for a dynamic belay except TR and leading slab and in these instances if there's a big weight discp like 100# belaying 200# ya def, anchor them in!

I've had my ankles or body smashed back into the wall way way way too many times from folks not jumping with the fall for the "soft catch".

Old Skool is fun but sometimes it's wacked and you gotta know when to look to the new skool for refined techniques.

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By TomCaldwell
From Clemson, S.C.
Jul 19, 2012
Me on One Pitch Wonder at Whitesides.  Photo credits to Kyle Jones and his lucky anti-rain jacket.
Not being anchored in reduces the impact force on gear and the leader. I don't like hard catches on gear, potential for gear or rock failure. There are occasions when being anchored in is necessary as been mentioned, bad belay platform, potential decking, or keeping the belayer out of the path of falling objects. The decking part can be remedied by placing a piece of gear at ground level, like what you see on grit. Bruised heels on overhanging falls are no fun also.

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By JaredG
From Tucson, AZ
Jul 19, 2012
Jake, I only caught a glimpse of that photo before I scrolled away, but it looked pretty R-rated. Maybe you should have some kind of warning at the top of the post.

The incident you describe reminds me of a (much less bad) fall I took fairly low on a sport climb a few years ago. Due to a hard catch I bashed my knee into a slightly protruding hold, and couldn't walk normally for about 5 weeks. Soft catches are where it's at. That said, my belayer wasn't anchored, he was just holding tight. And as mentioned, it should generally be possible to anchor the belayer with slack in the system so you can get a mini-"jump belay" but still be attached to the bottom of the climb.

At many sport crags it's not really possible to anchor the belayer, because there's just no protection at the base.

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By Princess Mia
From Vail
Jul 19, 2012
Chillin' at City of Rocks
Clearly every situation is very different and a set rule fruitless.

I am 120# and consistently belay guys that are 200#. I am never anchored to the ground unless (1) there is a roof above me, or (2) I am at an unsafe stance. Both I and those I climb with prefer it that way.
There are so many stories of rockfall etc and being able to move around a bit at the belay can save your life. Personally I think having a good stance and being tentative is more important.

My2c

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By Jake Jones
From Richmond, VA
Jul 19, 2012
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.
JaredG wrote:
Jake, I only caught a glimpse of that photo before I scrolled away, but it looked pretty R-rated.


Ok, I will gladly oblige.

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By mission
Jul 19, 2012
I find most of the above responses mind-boggling. You would seriously do far better asking this question at rockclimbing.com.

The reason for a soft catch is to help the climber fall down, into air, rather than be whipped into the wall by a sudden increase in the rope's tautness. (You can see the horrifying picture of the guy's ankle above for the consequences of a hard catch.) The stretch of your rope is often not enough to achieve this. Anchoring for lead climbers is typically dangerous; don't do it.

Regarding large differences in partner weight, you should honestly just climb with someone closer to your weight so that you are not endangering them. During light person leads, the heavy person will have more difficulty pulling off a soft catch, which will make dangerous hard catches more likely. The light person will have no trouble softly catching the heavy person, but may not weigh enough to keep the heavy guy off the ground.

For top-roping it really makes no difference, but please don't anchor for lead climbs unless there is some reason that the belay station is unsafe (ie you could easily fall off, injuring yourself and potentially ripping the climbing off the wall).

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By Jake Jones
From Richmond, VA
Jul 19, 2012
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.
mission wrote:
I find most of the above responses mind-boggling. You would seriously do far better asking this question at rockclimbing.com.


Why is that? The only one that I can see that disagrees with what you've said is Woodchuck and that's because he's from the same era as the OP- and Jeremy's first response, but it was a joke. Do you think it's a stupid question and you feel as though more people at RC.com ask stupid questions than here and that's why your recommending him there? Or do you feel as though more people there are knowledgeable than here, and he'll get a better response?

The OP in this thread recently got back into climbing after having been gone a long while. When he left, it's very likely that the norm was anchoring in to belay- whether the climber was on lead or not. That's the general reason the answer to the question isn't obvious to him.

I think MP is a great resource with knowledgeable people (most of the time)- not to mention being more user friendly and a much more usable resource than RC.com. If a climber of any experience level asks a question that seem basic to some, it should still receive an informed answer from those that do know and have experience. I like to think climbers that are experienced are willing to help out those with less experience to make it safer and more enjoyable for everyone when we're out there. If you've been out when a gnarly accident occurred next to you, it ruins shit for everyone. People get bummed or psyched out, you aid in the rescue or first aid, you help clean the gear on the route, etc. Most of the time it can be prevented, and it starts with someone that's not knowledgeable asking a question.

With that being said, I agree with everything you said after your first two sentences.

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By mission
Jul 19, 2012
Jake Jones wrote:
Why is that? The only one that I can see that disagrees with what you've said is Woodchuck and that's because he's from the same era as the OP- and Jeremy's first response, but it was a joke. Do you think it's a stupid question and you feel as though more people at RC.com ask stupid questions than here and that's why your recommending him there? Or do you feel as though more people there are knowledgeable than here, and he'll get a better response? The OP in this thread recently got back into climbing after having been gone a long while. When he left, it's very likely that the norm was anchoring in to belay- whether the climber was on lead or not. That's the general reason the answer to the question isn't obvious to him. I think MP is a great resource with knowledgeable people (most of the time)- not to mention being more user friendly and a much more usable resource than RC.com. If a climber of any experience level asks a question that seem basic to some, it should still receive an informed answer from those that do know and have experience. I like to think climbers that are experienced are willing to help out those with less experience to make it safer and more enjoyable for everyone when we're out there. If you've been out when a gnarly accident occurred next to you, it ruins shit for everyone. People get bummed or psyched out, you aid in the rescue or first aid, you help clean the gear on the route, etc. Most of the time it can be prevented, and it starts with someone that's not knowledgeable asking a question. With that being said, I agree with everything you said after your first two sentences.


My general impression of the thread was a slight lean towards anchoring. I thought that the question-asker would have been steered much more strongly, if also more rudely, away from anchoring at rc.com.

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By kellensfatfingers
Jul 19, 2012
This post violated Rule #1. It has been removed by Mountain Project.

By KDog
Jul 19, 2012
I would agree with the others that said it's a circumstantial issue. If it's a bad belay area, or there are ledges or whatever, I would probably anchor myself in. I've primarily done this trad climbing, not sport cragging. But otherwise I prefer NOT to be anchored down while lead or toprope belaying.

I've recently been climbing with someone double my size (I'm 110, he's probably 220ish---obviously not the best partner scenario, I know!) and we've discussed this at length. I'd rather go up 10 feet if he fell instead of being broken in half anchored down. It works the other way too---if I'm taking a lead fall I'd rather him jump up a little to soften the fall so that I'm once again not broken in half. But of course this is all circumstantial----it depends on the climb, the area, the partner, etc.....I just think it'd hurt a lot more being anchored down than being a little more dynamic with it.

 
By CJC
Jul 19, 2012
Michael Urban wrote:
Isn't this a bad practice should the belayer need to excape the belay and get help in the event of a emergency or injury?


yes.

if i'm leading with a much smaller belayer i'll tie her off to something, like a baby or a dog.

FLAG
By Jake Jones
From Richmond, VA
Jul 19, 2012
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.
My general impression of the thread was a slight lean towards anchoring. I thought that the question-asker would have been steered much more strongly, if also more rudely, away from anchoring at rc.com.


"If your talking lead belay than, 'it depends'." This is correct, and neutral.

"The only time you really need to anchor while on belay is if its not a real safe belay plat form." For dynamic belay.

"In all seriousness, wouldn't anchoring while elad belaying apply more stress to the rope and the belayers body during a whipper? I'm sure the catch would be terrible for the climber as well." For dynamic belay.

"Guess it is another change of philosophy in climbing technique that I just ignored with experience." For static belay.

"I only routinely anchor in the belayer when ice climbing" For dynamic belay.

"I prefer a dynamic unanchored belay" Obvious.

"Anyone remember an unanchored Kevin Gonzales belaying Stewart Green at Shelf Road? That always an amazing sight. Yet Stewart is still with us." For dynamic belay... I think.

Me: I say it also depends. On the route, the objects, climber's weight, leading vs. toprope, etc. I usually give a dynamic belay. I'm 185 lbs.

"Wow! Sure makes sense all right!" OP converted to at least consider dynamic belay.

"When I lead I almost always require my belayer to use a grigri and perform dynamic belays." For dynamic belay.

"Not being anchored in reduces the impact force on gear and the leader" For dynamic belay.

"Soft catches are where it's at." For dynamic belay.

"I am never anchored to the ground unless (1) there is a roof above me, or (2) I am at an unsafe stance." For dynamic belay

"You are a fucking idiot!!!" Undecided?

Seems as though there's only one diehard, staunch supporter of the static belay in this entire thread- and he's been climbing since well, a long ass time and he's still here. Although not specifically steered away from static belaying, the OP was given more than enough solid reasons to either belay dynamically, or to evaluate the situation and decide for himself. There definitely isn't a slight lean toward static belaying in this thread, as you suggest.






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