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Belaying the leader with a Munter off of the anchors
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By David Appelhans
From Lafayette
Jun 13, 2011
Imaginate

I've been taking a friend from Austria out climbing lately. He recently told me that the recommended method of belay in the teaching classes and books where he learned in the alps is the munter. Now, I've climbed with swiss climbers in the alps and I'm familiar with the leader using a munter to bring up the followers and think it actually works quite well.

What surprised me was that he said the recommended method for belaying the leader on multipitch was to use a munter directly off the anchor and not your harness. I asked him if he was sure if this was not some outdated relic technique from the days of hemp ropes, but he checked with a modern book he has from something like the CMC equivalent and said they recommend belaying the leader with a munter direct from the anchor. Has anyone ever seen this?


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By Brian in SLC
Jun 13, 2011
Climbing in Smuggler's Notch

David Appelhans wrote:
...and said they recommend belaying the leader with a munter direct from the anchor. Has anyone ever seen this?


Not seen it, but, I could understand doing that if you might need to escape a belay easily.

A munter is a good technique to know, but, using a belay device is easier to manage for most folks, methinks. Plus, I'm not a fan of belaying off an anchor for a lead climber. Anchor would need to be more bomber than I could ever imagine.

Caught one of the longest lead falls I've ever held on a munter. Skinny (8.1mm) rope too. No sweat.


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By Steve0
From DC
Jun 13, 2011
Forest fires seen from the top of the Grand. I think they were in the Bridger Teton NF, end of August, 2011.

I've climbed with a bunch of dutch people in Belgium, standard M.O. there was to belay off of the anchors with a munter. Got used to it after a bit.

Edit: There were also people in the group that used different methods.


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By David Appelhans
From Lafayette
Jun 13, 2011
Imaginate

Steve0 wrote:
I've climbed with a bunch of dutch people in Belgium, standard M.O. there was to belay off of the anchors with a munter. Got used to it after a bit. Edit: There were also people in the group that used different methods.


I have found that bringing up a follower with the munter doesn't twist the rope, but rappelling does. How about when they belayed the leader off the anchor, did it twist the rope alot? Did they try to bring the rope strands parallel for braking and catching a fall, or was the friction in the knot enough that just holding on to the brake end would catch a fall?


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By Joe C
From Boston, MA
Jun 13, 2011

I almost always use a Munter to bring up my second. Havn't heard of using to belay the leader. As Brian said, I think the issue is that the force of a lead fall would be placed more or less directly on the anchor with this setup.


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By rgold
From Poughkeepsie, NY
Jun 13, 2011
The traverse out to the Yellow Ridge on the Dogstick Ridge link-up.  Photo by Myriam Bouchard

It has been common practice in some parts of Europe for quite a while. But remember that trad climbing as it is understood in this country, with anchors actually built by the climbing party, is uncommon in Europe (it is getting rarer here too). Most trad routes (and of course multipitch sport and "Plaisir" routes) have beefy fixed anchors that should be up to the worst-case scenario impacts.


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By Gunkiemike
Jun 13, 2011

Steve0 wrote:
I've climbed with a bunch of dutch people in Belgium, standard M.O. there was to belay off of the anchors with a munter. Got used to it after a bit. Edit: There were also people in the group that used different methods.


Cool, Where did you climb? (Freyr?) I would bet most folks don't think of rock climbing when they think of Belgium, one of the "low countries". I also climbed with/was adopted for the day by some Dutch. (Yowsa, how time flies...it was over 10 yr ago) They were so much more fun than the staid Belgians (can you say "a country that needs a sense of humor"?)

Freyr was super cool BTW. But it's a sport climbing scene. I placed a stopper to cut down a run out there and their jaws were dropping. "Wha...?"


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By Erik W
From Bay Area, CA
Jun 13, 2011
North face of Ama Dablam - taken on approach to Kongma La.

Brian in SLC wrote:
Anchor would need to be more bomber than I could ever imagine.


Not just the anchor. Without the dynamic quality of a human body in the belay chain, a significantly higher impact force will hit that topmost piece, thereby increasing the probability that it or the rock around it will fail.


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By "H"
From Manitou Springs
Jun 13, 2011
Axes glistening in the sun

I've done it in a pinch with solid anchors after I dropped my belay device. My biggest issue with the munter is that it kinks the hell out of my rope. Still good to know how to do it.


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By Owen Darrow
From Garmisch,
Jun 13, 2011
Nice view

I have used this method quite a few times when I want to belay someone fast and with minimal weight. I do prefer using my ATC Guide but it works just as good minus the auto lock.


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By David Appelhans
From Lafayette
Jun 13, 2011
Imaginate

HBL wrote:
I've done it in a pinch with solid anchors after I dropped my belay device. My biggest issue with the munter is that it kinks the hell out of my rope. Still good to know how to do it.


Did you put the munter on the master point, or on your most multi-directional piece? Why not just put the munter on your harness and clip the rope through the anchor instead, why tie a munter directly on the anchor?

Owen Darrow wrote:
I have used this method quite a few times when I want to belay someone fast and with minimal weight. I do prefer using my ATC Guide but it works just as good minus the auto lock.


Are you sure you read the OP right? You've belayed the leader by tying a munter directly on the anchor, not on your harness? Why?


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By Jim Titt
From Germany
Jun 13, 2011

Yep, pretty common around the German/Italian speaking areas especially on easier stuff, I even do it myself sometimes.

Jim


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By "H"
From Manitou Springs
Jun 13, 2011
Axes glistening in the sun

David Appelhans wrote:
Did you put the munter on the master point, or on your most multi-directional piece? Why not just put the munter on your harness and clip the rope through the anchor instead, why tie a munter directly on the anchor? Are you sure you read the OP right? You've belayed the leader by tying a munter directly on the anchor, not on your harness? Why?


The 2nd quote wasn't mine. It was on multi directional point (SRENE) and it was just easier at the time to attach directly to anchor. I also had a directional to prevent upward pulling. As I am sure you know one cannot always set up a textbook anchor.


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By Steve0
From DC
Jun 13, 2011
Forest fires seen from the top of the Grand. I think they were in the Bridger Teton NF, end of August, 2011.

Yeah, the climbing was in Freyr, nice place! When I initially belayed the leader, the next pitch started with a traverse. I caught a fall and could do so without attempting to bring the strands parallel, but the central anchor point did sway in that direction. The rope didn't kink like you expect when rapping/lowering off of a munter, it handled much like it does when belaying a second. It's also annoying when you're managing rope with the leader and you're watching the hitch flip back and forth, making sure it's on the proper side. We also tried to belay off of the munter with double ropes and that made way more friction than was needed, it was tough to feed rope at times. It was cool to try I guess, but I prefer just using an ATC for belaying the leader.

Has anyone else tried the munter for belaying a leader off of the anchors?


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By Steve0
From DC
Jun 13, 2011
Forest fires seen from the top of the Grand. I think they were in the Bridger Teton NF, end of August, 2011.

David makes a good point above, that in any case it'd be easier to belay off of your harness if you needed to use a munter. I hadn't thought of that at the time, but I'll attribute that to following the guide/locals' orders.


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By Steve0
From DC
Jun 13, 2011
Forest fires seen from the top of the Grand. I think they were in the Bridger Teton NF, end of August, 2011.

Gunkiemike wrote:
Freyr was super cool BTW. But it's a sport climbing scene. I placed a stopper to cut down a run out there and their jaws were dropping. "Wha...?"


That may be true, but if you're living in the Netherlands, you make due with what you have. The rock isn't super quality for holding falls, but on some routes you can cruise past bolts to find some decent cracks for pro.


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By rgold
From Poughkeepsie, NY
Jun 13, 2011
The traverse out to the Yellow Ridge on the Dogstick Ridge link-up.  Photo by Myriam Bouchard

The Italian and German alpine clubs have test facilities and testing programs we can't even imagine in this country. Have a look at




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By John Richardson
From Greenfield, Ma
Jun 14, 2011
brewfest!

Just doesn't seem ideal to belay your leader direcly off the anchor. You'd have a SIGNIFICANT upward force on the anchor in a leader fall situation so your anchor would want to have more than a single piece set for upward pull. I just can't imagine any reason why this would be better than using a guide/reverso off the anchor for seconds and the switched to your harness for the lead.

Climb Safe
John


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By OReid
From Denver, CO
Jun 14, 2011
preparing to rap over a crevasse; Mt. Waddington, Bravo Glacier Route

Here's my 3rd hand take: I ran into a mountain guide up in the Waddington Range (BC) last summer who was advocating belaying the leader off the anchors. He told me that there is significant research showing that most people just can't hold a big multipitch lead fall (greater than factor 1) onto their harness. Your body is yanked around too violently, and the shock can easily cause you to loose control completely.

I've never done it myself, but this rationale makes sense to me. Especially in a guide/client partnership where the guide may trust the anchors he has built more than the belay his client can provide.


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By Kevin Craig
Jun 14, 2011
KC on Fields (medium).  Photo (c) Doug Shepherd

Agree, the biggest issue is the upward force on the anchor in the case of a fall after the first piece is placed. I'd want to have at least two upward pieces plus the usual 2-3 downward pieces which is getting to be two pretty big anchors (one at each end of the rope) and a lot of gear to carry. Not as big a deal if one has bolted anchors as in much of Europe.

Another potential issue is the direction of the brake hand - to get the most braking force if Muentering the leader off the anchor, you'd lift your hand up (assuming you're hanging below the anchor). Though the Muenter also works in the "down" direction, up (parallel and next to the load strand) is better braking. This is a bit awkward and counter-intuitive to us poor colonials. :)


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By Kevin Craig
Jun 14, 2011
KC on Fields (medium).  Photo (c) Doug Shepherd

OReid wrote:
He told me that there is significant research showing that most people just can't hold a big multipitch lead fall (greater than factor 1) onto their harness.


And yet, real world experience tells us people successfully do this all the time. Of course, this could also be an indication of how infrequent >factor 1 falls are in the real world too.


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By Brian in SLC
Jun 14, 2011
Climbing in Smuggler's Notch

Steve0 wrote:
Yeah, the climbing was in Freyr, nice place!


This guy's been climbing at Freyr for awhile...

Jean Bourgeois on L'hypotÚnuse at Freyr Belgium
Jean Bourgeois on L'hypotÚnuse at Freyr Belgium


I'll be darned if I can remember how he belayed, though...we passed two parties and were moving fairly quickly over steep terrain...so...I didn't notice (!). I'll have to pull up some photo's to see if I can tell.

Fun!


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By Crag Dweller
From New York, NY
Jun 14, 2011
My navigator keeps me from getting lost

as others have pointed out, doing this would make it easier to escape the belay than belaying off your harness. but, it also risks putting force directly onto the anchor and a higher amount of force at that.

and, in a multi-pitch setting, i'd put more importance on minimizing the force an anchor might experience to the greatest degree possible. there are other ways to escape the belay when belaying off your harness. it'd be better to learn them because there isn't any great method to escape any belay when your anchor's blown and you're both falling through the air.


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By robb macgregor
From Point of Rocks, MD
Jun 14, 2011
Start of 3rd pitch of Ecstasy at Seneca Rocks, WV

The primary reason for doing this it to minimize the chance of the belayer being lifted from their stance and slammed into the wall, thus dropping the leader. I found this to be common practice in the Dolomite Region of Italy. There a very few opportunities for gear to prevent the upward pull on the belayer. So, guides started using this method as an added safety feature with clients. The public has adopted this as well. Belaying with a Munter Hitch is very common in this region.


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By Peter Pitocchi
Jun 14, 2011
Pete belays 2nd pitch Little corner

In case the entire anchor blows from an upward pull, it seems the belayer, who is somehow tied in to the anchor system, would provide a backup. Assuming the leader's first piece of gear continues to hold, Wouldn't the belayer's weight prevent the team from falling?


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By Brian in SLC
Jun 14, 2011
Climbing in Smuggler's Notch

Peter Pitocchi wrote:
In case the entire anchor blows from an upward pull, it seems the belayer, who is somehow tied in to the anchor system, would provide a backup. Assuming the leader's first piece of gear continues to hold, Wouldn't the belayer's weight prevent the team from falling?


Sure, could.

The fall factor is much, much lower too, since there's a piece of gear clipped by the leader apart from the belay anchor.

My fear would be a hard fall right onto the anchor. I usually have my partner on a draw/sling clipped to at least one point in the anchor. On some of the multi pitch stuff I've done in Europe (France, Italy, Belgium), I'd be very worried about some of the anchors I've belayed from...


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