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Lost control of belay of the second on Rewritten, 3-31-12
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By Stich
From Colorado Springs, Colorado
Apr 1, 2012
Coffee after freezing our asses off near James Peak.

Some people who topped out on Long John Wall and some friends of mine both witnessed this on Saturday. From one account, the fall happened on Rewritten just before the area where the old refrigerator-size block once sat. This witness said the second fell 30 feet and that pulled the belayer off his stance. My friend was closer and said the fall was more like 70 feet and that he kept screaming "falling! falling! falling!" The belayer reported having badly rope burned hands.

I hope the second and his belayer are OK.


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By Greg D
From Here
Apr 1, 2012
Out of the blue.  Photo by Mike W. <br />

My guess: autoblock did nodda lock.

edit: merely a guess with no info. But, with some eye witness accounts this was not likely the case.


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By jmeizis
From Colorado Springs, CO
Apr 1, 2012
The Beginning of Mr. Clean (5.8) at the Barkeater Cliffs in Adirondack Park NY.

I don't think they were belaying off the anchor in auto block mode, otherwise the description of the belayer getting pulled off their stance wouldn't matter. It sounds likely they were belaying off their harness, got pulled off balance and were not able to maintain control. Very few reasons to belay off the harness when you're above. Either way, hopefully they're ok.


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By Chris Snobeck
From Broomfield, CO
Apr 1, 2012
King Cobra

My girlfriend and I were on the red ledge above P2 waiting for them the clear P4 when this happened. It was a group of four people with one person leading; so everyone seemed to think (another pair of climbers were on red ledge with us, all waiting to finish the route behind them). We all heard a very scary scream from the second, whom my girlfriend watched fall over the roof below the refrigerator block ledge, and left of the climbing line. It sounded as if he sprained or broke his ankle before coming to a stop (30-40ft fall), and the belayer sustained rope burns on his hands. The two climbers on red ledge with us (Jake and John) climbed P3 to help the injured climber and other members of the team off the route; very very cool of them. Upon rapping off the route, some other climbers who had been on Yellow Spur (or something else over there) mentioned that they thought (or had even seen) the leader belaying off his harness, rather than off the anchor with the auto block in use. This is mostly secondhand info from various vantage points of different climbers, but it's the best I can gather from being there. It seems they were able to get off the route ok in the end. Certainly a lesson to be learned, particularly about the pitfalls of belaying off your harness from above in certain situations. Busy day on Redgarden; scary stuff...

Chris


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By NC Rock Climber
From The Oven, AKA Phoenix
Apr 1, 2012
tanuki

I see two comments above that imply that belaying a second directly off the harness is less desirable / more risky than using an auto-block. I would be interested in hearing why you think that is the case.

Best wishes to the party that had the accident. I hope that they are OK.


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By DexterRutecki
From Cincinnati, Ohio
Apr 1, 2012

jmeizis wrote:
Very few reasons to belay off the harness when you're above.


Really?? I can think of plenty of reasons to belay off the harness, you must not have climbed for to long.... No reason it is any less safe than the autoblock if done correctly.


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By Copperhead
Apr 1, 2012

DexterRutecki wrote:
No reason it is any less safe than the autoblock if done correctly.


That is pretty much the rub, no matter how you choose to belay.


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By Chris Snobeck
From Broomfield, CO
Apr 1, 2012
King Cobra

@NC Rock Climber... I'm not saying one way is necessarily better, but it depends on the situation. If a really good anchor isn't possible, I'd probably belay off my harness; however, if you have good anchoring opportunities, using the auto block feature off the the anchor just adds an extra bit of safety for belaying up a second (when used properly).

I really feel for the injured climber, I hope he is ok. Did an amazing job of staying calm given the circumstances!

Chris


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By Buff Johnson
Apr 1, 2012
smiley face

If you can't trust an anchor to hold a seconding climber, why even consider it an anchor?


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By climbamt
Apr 1, 2012

Buff Johnson wrote:
If you can't trust an anchor to hold a seconding climber, why even consider it an anchor?

+1

Best wishes to the injured climbers


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By NC Rock Climber
From The Oven, AKA Phoenix
Apr 1, 2012
tanuki

@ Chris Snobeck... Thanks for the clarification. I totally agree that it depends on the situation. I use the autoblock a lot. It is absolutely more convenient, and if used correctly it is totally safe. I have just never seen it as the preferred method or any safer than the other options.

Again, best wishes to all involved in the accident.


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By Robert Buswold
From Longmont, CO
Apr 1, 2012
Clear Creek Canyon, Capitalist Crag

Wow, don't get all butt-hurt about this, but it sounds like it would be much harder to lose control of a belay if it would have been in guide-mode.


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By rgold
From Poughkeepsie, NY
Apr 1, 2012
The traverse out to the Yellow Ridge on the Dogstick Ridge link-up.  Photo by Myriam Bouchard

It is hard to know what happened. Don't forget a released autoblock can easily send the second for a big ride (we had a groundfall in the Gunks from that scenario). Autoblocks on the anchor are no cure for belayer screw-ups.

There is nothing intrinsically problematic about belaying from the harness. Given that harness belays are standard for the leader, it is absurd to make any case for the same technique applied to s second being unsafe. A belayer who drops a second has f#cked up big-time, no matter what technique they were using.

I think JLP makes a critical point. Most general-purpose belay devices are not adequate, in my opinion, for ropes at the lower end of the devices "recommended" ranges. I keep suggesting the "rappel test:" do a free rappel with your ropes and device. If you have even a little trouble controlling the descent, your device should not be counted on for belaying with those ropes.


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By $t0& 960
From Colorado
Apr 1, 2012
s

This is an example of what happens when people go and do multipitch without educating themselves about all the nuances. In my experience 90 % of climbers I've met at the gym or even at the crags did not know that belaying a second from the top is "any different " one climber (experienced ) belayed from the top off his harness while he wedged his body between two blocks and used it as an anchor ( hair city p2). Lessons learned. I always make it a point to ask my climbing partners if they know what the difference is belaying off ground vs off top even if we are not going to so multipitch...I do that because of my past experience . If you don't belay off tipt make sure you run over the technique before heading up it does help.


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By DexterRutecki
From Cincinnati, Ohio
Apr 1, 2012

Mitch Zimmerman wrote:
This is an example of what happens when people go and do multipitch without educating themselves about all the nuances. In my experience 90 % of climbers I've met at the gym or even at the crags did not know that belaying a second from the top is "any different " one climber (experienced ) belayed from the top off his harness while he wedged his body between two blocks and used it as an anchor ( hair city p2). Lessons learned. I always make it a point to ask my climbing partners if they know what the difference is belaying off ground vs off top even if we are not going to so multipitch...I do that because of my past experience . If you don't belay off tipt make sure you run over the technique before heading up it does help.


Wasn't your first post a month or two ago talking about how you were getting into climbing and where you should go in Moab for a guide??? Now it sounds like you have been climbing for years.... Not a very good troll you are blowing your cover!


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By NickinCO
From colorado
Apr 1, 2012
after the hard stuff, into cruiser hands.

JLP wrote:
This + belaying off harness + no redirect, perhaps? I could definitely see an accident there. You really need a tiny belay device to control twin/double ropes. It's easy to build up slack in one rope, as well as not have a good grip on either as you try to control both. Ahhh - it's spring again in Eldo! I hope nobody dies this year.


Yep, I think it's a good idea to just stay clear of the rewritten area if you aren't there first...


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By shawn bradley
Apr 1, 2012

The title of the post pretty much sums it up regardless of belay technique. The only way I can see a second generating that kind of momentum is if the belayer didn't have control of the break strand/strands.
Hope the climber is ok.


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By jmeizis
From Colorado Springs, CO
Apr 1, 2012
The Beginning of Mr. Clean (5.8) at the Barkeater Cliffs in Adirondack Park NY.

Wow Dexter, you seem a bit snarky for someone who registered a week ago.

If you have some really good reasons to belay off your harness then please enlighten me.

I can think of many reasons not to:

-Difficult to keep your balance and belay on the uneven terrain inherent in multipitch climbing.
-It's easy to be out of the direct line of force with the climber if they fall, thereby being pulled off balance.
-It's difficult to pull in slack as quickly as with autoblocking mode.
-If the second(s) fall then all the force is transmitted directly to the belayer. Especially if you haven't gotten all the slack out. Your catching a shitload of force on your hips, kidneys, ribs, etc.
-It's not autolocking, if you take your hands off and somebody falls they're screwed. Some people are concerned about the autolocking feature failing on belay devices in guide mode but the incidents I've heard are very limited circumstances (small lockers, misdirected belay devices, catching on ledges, etc).

I can only think of a few limited instances to belay off my harness. To protect the anchor or lack thereof and because I don't have an autolocking device. I can't of any other reasons but I'm not trying very hard. This summer I'll probably have a few hundred instances of someone seconding my lead. I only belayed off my harness once this year and that was because I forgot my belay device at the previous anchor.

I see a lot of people belaying off their harness, (not redirected) and it always makes me cringe. It sounds like these folks didn't get super messed up which is good. Belaying directly off the anchor with an autolocking belay device is super convenient and easy. I also think it's safer. I don't know why you'd do it otherwise if you had a choice.


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By Robert Cort
Apr 1, 2012

jmeizis wrote:


+1

I'll add that it's easier to manage two followers if using plaquette type device in auto-block mode (unless one of them need slack on a weighted rope, then it gets a little more interesting, but manageable).


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By rgold
From Poughkeepsie, NY
Apr 1, 2012
The traverse out to the Yellow Ridge on the Dogstick Ridge link-up.  Photo by Myriam Bouchard

Thread drift is setting in. I'm going with the flow here.

I fully agree with JLP's comment that the "rappel test" of the belay device ought to be a free-hanging single strand rappel.

Personally, I almost never belay with any kind of locking device on the anchor and I almost never redirect through the anchor. The vast majority of my belays for seconds are what might be called a modified harness belay.

I clip the belay device to the "rope loop," which is to say the loop of rope which is the part of your tie-in knot that threads through the harness. My tie-in to the anchor is always adjusted so there is no slack in it. The idea is to transmit the load directly to the anchor via the tie-in, rather than subject the harness to various opposing pulls and the belayer to unanticipted twists.

I learned the idea many years ago from BD engineer Chris Harmston, whose posts to rec.climbing contained some of the most informed opinions I've read anywhere.

The idea seems strange to people in this country, but it is fairly common in the UK---see for example, the article on the subject at www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=1129, which also has pictures to clear up any possible confusion here about what is meant.

Belaying this way gives you the superior handling abilities of the harness belay, immediate transmittal of any load to the anchor, mediated by length of dynamic tie-in rope that at least to some extent protects the anchor from big shocks if the party screws up.

As for their being no reason not to use a harness belay, I hate being on the receiving end of off-the-anchor guide-plate belays, which typically provide a combination of continual tension interspersed with large loops of slack that develop either while the belayer is enjoying the hands-free capabilities of their device, or else because they cannot keep up with rapid motion on easier ground. Moreover, having struggled on several occasions, when I wanted to step down, not to be pulled off by locked ropes running sideways or over an overhang, I have little or no confidence in purportedly experienced users of these devices to pay enough attention to provide a good belay. And after they pull you off into space through their inattention, you then have to pray that they'll be able to unlock their devices and won't kill you when they do.

Of course, I have many years of climbing under my (swami) belt in which hip belays were the only kind, so those who want to accuse me of being an aging Luddite are hereby supplied with the appropriate ammunition. Fire when ready.


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By DexterRutecki
From Cincinnati, Ohio
Apr 1, 2012

jmeizis wrote:
If you have some really good reasons to belay off your harness then please enlighten me.


I would but RGold just did a nice job and he knows a lot more than me or you. The autoblock is not the almighty only way to belay someone from above. Jmezisis try to have some flexibility in your climbing styles/techniques, as you become a better and more competent climber you will appreciate it.


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By Keenan Waeschle
From Bozeman, MT
Apr 1, 2012
on top of the RNWF <br />June 2012

when bringing up a second I always belay off the anchor. on moderate terrain (~5.5ish) I'll sometimes just wedge myself in somewhere and belay the second up with a hip belay.

If you take the time to build an anchor just belay off it. a device in guide mode is so easy to rig and much safer then off the belay loop, gives more options too if the second has trouble.


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By Martin le Roux
From Superior, CO
Apr 1, 2012
Stairway to Heaven

Sorry to interrupt the discussion, but just to bring this thread back to its original topic... this morning (Sun April 1) we found a rope hanging down the 1st pitch of Green Spur. It looked like someone had been rappelling down from Rewritten and got their rope stuck. We're guessing this had something to do with the accident and rescue yesterday. Anyway, we retrieved the rope and handed it to the park rangers. That's it, you may now return to your debate about belay devices.


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By Ben Burnett
From Colorado
Apr 1, 2012

top belay w/o a redirect
cons: see jmiezis' last comment
pros:
1. Anchor stability. Many people make a redirect by clipping to the highest piece of their anchor - if that piece pops then you will be pulled off your stance, shock load your anchor and change the lock-off direction on your belay device (which could easily account for the long uncontrolled fall that started this thread)
--Note-- this does not apply to autoblock devices attached to a masterpoint.
A redirect that is on a masterpoint or multiple pieces is often hard to do or sets up a very cramped belay situation.

2. Rope handing is simpler. The rope runs a straight line from second to belay device without a redirect. I find this as easy as top-rope belaying. Belaying off a redirect adds a sharp bend in the rope which makes pulling up slack harder/slower and makes for a less precise belay - especially if there's ropedrag.
3. Easy viewing of the second. Belay off your harness facing out and you can watch the climber and the rope. You can also spew beta, give advise about how to clean a tricky placement, warn about loose flakes, give encouragement, talk smack...
4. If you are light, a heavy partner could pull you up off your stance and into the anchor - giving them a slightly longer fall. Although if you're heavy, you can use your own weight against the redirect to "help" your partner through a tough spot - like in top-roping.
5. Comfort and fun. Safety first! - but really, we're up there to enjoy the experience. Sometimes a redirect keeps you stuck facing the same 2 square feet of rock with your anchor in it - like facing the corner with a dunce cap. As long as I know the anchor is good and my belay is good, belaying off my harness gives me a much better field of view and sense of freedom. You can even extend yourself down to the ledge, sit and let your feet dangle.

Disclaimers

Always make sure that you are tight to your anchor and lined up in the direction of force.

The direction of force determines the best breaking direction. Make sure your belay device is set up for efficient breaking.

Make sure you choose a belay style that fits that situation - i.e. I can't imagine not using a redirect at a hanging belay!


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By NickinCO
From colorado
Apr 1, 2012
after the hard stuff, into cruiser hands.

Why do so many people try to set hardfast rules in rock climbing? There is more than one way to skin a cat...


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By Buff Johnson
Apr 1, 2012
smiley face

True, but I think the lesson here is realizing that smaller rope strands don't offer the same friction & rope control with belay devices when used in a typical setup. I believe was the same concern offered in the Werk Supp fatal accident a few years ago.


Certainly another plug for using gloves, but I guess that's just for pussy fucks like myself.


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