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Lost control of belay of the second on Rewritten, 3-31-12
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By percious
From Bear Creek, CO
Apr 3, 2012
Hanging out with some scooter trash.

How old was the cinch that was used in the accident? The older cinches had a handle that could be forced into an off position, holding the device open. They have since been redesigned.

I use a cinch most of the time when belaying. I prefer to belay off the anchor when bringing a second up, especially on a sub-par anchor. I also think that because of the static design of the cinch, less shock-loading than a gri-gri (which has a spring mechanism) happens in a fall for a second belayed tightly using a cinch.

I can see how a cinch over the leg could cause some problems, and probably would opt not to use this configuration. I also always carry some kind of atc for rappelling when on multi-pitch routes.

I'm curious what "very experienced leader" means by the gentleman who took the fall.


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By Mark Roth
From Boulder
Apr 3, 2012
not climbing

percious wrote:
I prefer to belay off the anchor when bringing a second up, especially on a sub-par anchor


remind me not to follow you up anything...


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By Shawn G
From Phoenix, AZ
Apr 3, 2012
Taking a Walk on the Wild Side, Joshua Tree

ABMFB wrote:
I miraculously escaped with only a sprained ankle and a couple of bruises. I'd like to thank all of the well-wishers here and especially thanks to Jake and John for assisting us. I owe you a debt I can't possibly repay.


Glad you and the others are ok. This story will give me pause in making sure I have the best setup given the situation. Again, glad to hear you're all well.


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By ABMFB
Apr 3, 2012

Another climbing partner and I have been playing around with the Cinch since the accident and one thing that strikes us both as inherently dangerous about this device is that if something obstructs it and it doesn't lock off, which according to the instructions that came with it is a definite possibility, there's almost no bend in the rope to provide friction. It's not like a tube-style belay device where the rope makes several sharp bends and then goes out to the brake hand. Instead the rope makes almost a straight shot through the device. I attached a picture to try to explain what I mean.

What's really disturbing to me about this is that Trango says you must keep your hand on the brake strand in case the device doesn't lock, but it seems like if the device doesn't lock you have no hope of stopping a fall because you're essentially just holding onto the rope with no other method of applying friction. You might as well just have the rope going through a biner and call that your belay device!

Path of rope through obstructed Cinch
Path of rope through obstructed Cinch


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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Apr 3, 2012
El Chorro

Charles Vernon wrote:
I do a lot of obscure adventure climbs and that's certainly one of the times when such belays are encountered. But there are others: * you're climbing in the mountains on well-established, fairly moderate routes and using a light rack (e.g., the Wind Rivers). You will often build a minimal anchor and give a harness/body belay--good anchors can be found but your may not have the necessary gear and your goal is to move fast. * you're on a well-established route but the belay is, in reality, not all that great. It's fine, adequate enough, but you belay off your harness for that extra little measure of security--your body is the first line of defense. I feel that a lot of Eldo routes (rotten ledge system belays) fall into this sneaky category. * you're on a difficult route that has a few very easy pitches up top (say 5.4 on a 5.11 route or something). The sun is going down and you need to move fast, so you use a body belay rather than setting up a bomber 3-piece anchor at the top of these pitches. Other situations where I commonly find myself belaying off the harness: * the anchors are bomber as can be but annoyingly far from a good stance or good place to sit. In these situations a harness belay is often a sensible option, if you can sit and brace yourself. * the anchor is bomber but for whatever reason has no convenient master-point, you prefer not to redirect through a single piece, and there's a good stance. * the anchor is bomber but you prefer to sit and watch/coach your partner, whom you expect to struggle. I will also add that I am heavier than almost everyone I climb with, which makes the harness belay a bit easier for me. I've caught many, many falls in this configuration with, at the worst, a slight amount of discomfort. As to the previous post, the know-it-alls I have seen on this thread are the ones who say things like "I would never belay off my harness" and "I shudder to think that anyone would do that" and then take offense when someone else takes that as a sign of inexperience. I don't think pointing out that there are most definitely situations where a harness belay is a valid option or the preferable option makes one a know-it-all.


+ a billion. WIsh I could have kept it together long enough to pen a worth while post such as this.


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By ABMFB
Apr 3, 2012

JoeP wrote:
With the caveat that I don't own a Cinch, if you lowered the brake strand in your pictured setup so that it is parallel to the climber strand, the rope would make a 180* bend (by your thumb) and would provide sufficient friction to arrest a TR fall.


JoeP, with all due respect, running a rope through a biner provides a 180 degree bend. Would you consider that an adequate belay device?


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By Copperhead
Apr 3, 2012

bearbreeder wrote:
im a gumbay ... but rgold certainly aint and neither is this guy whos belaying with a gri gri off his harness .... id love to see some MPer try to tell Mr. Croft how he should belay ;)

Funny example, since that gri-gri might have prevented this accident as well. You are right that the arguing about belay method is pointless, since there are several alternatives, which should all be safe, especially for belaying a second.

I tend to choose to belay from the anchor or my harness based on where the anchor is in relation to where I want my body and what orientation I want my body in. For instance, I find belaying from the harness when I am sitting on a downsloping ledge facing the climber to be difficult(Edit: Pain in the neck, literally), so in that case, I might belay directly from the anchor closer to my body so I can sit in a comfortable position. If the anchor is high and I plan to face in, I'll almost always use an autoblock. There are infinite considerations and preferences people will have here, so I think the argument is pointless.

I'm glad everyone involved is relatively ok. That climb seems to see quite a few accidents.


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By "H"
From Manitou Springs
Apr 3, 2012
Axes glistening in the sun

I've belayed off my harness for years. Of course I learned a hard lesson about that. My first lead was on Whitney-Gilman back in the early 90's. Led up the first pitch. Set what I thought was one kick ass anchor that would make my mentor proud! Dumb noob mistake... I belayed through my harness while standing on the edge. For some reason he popped off..He fell.. I fell... causing him to land on his back. Thankfully he was wearing a pack and wasn't hurt. Thankfully my kick ass bomber anchor held me. Learned a very valuable lesson that day. Haven't forgotten it since and haven't had any issues belaying off a harness when it's not convenient to go through the anchor.


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By MegaGaper2000
From Indianola, Wa
Apr 3, 2012
the dragon's tail, or dragon's tooth, or whatever. And me.

ABMFB wrote:
JoeP, with all due respect, running a rope through a biner provides a 180 degree bend. Would you consider that an adequate belay device?


JoeP wrote:
With a munter, yes. (...) Edited to add that the wedge (for lack of a better term) in the Cinch, which the brake strand in your picture, if lowered, would wrap around is not a simple round stock like a biner, thus your comparison to a biner is inapposite.



Oh my god.

Braking friction takes TWO 180 bends. An ATC provides two in the 'brake' position. The Munter providesat least two, no matter the orientation of the brake strand, and THREE when the bake strand is aligned parallel to the leader/live strand (in 'brake position').



Because I'm a total gaper I usually try to avoid acting like I know what I'm talking about, let alone like I'm smrter than anybody else on here, but jesus christ. The more I read on here, the more terrified I am of climbing with anyone I didn't grow up with.


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By Mic Fairchild
From Boulder
Apr 3, 2012
personal photo

jmeizis wrote:
being experienced, aged, or famous

I may be only one of the above, but in my opinion to think that there's only one way to define belay safety is foolish. It'd be nice to have a big ledge and bomber anchors all the time, but the medium demands versatility. Some of you obviously don't remember the days of sticht plates or figure 8s, where your harness was safer than trying to go off an anchor based on your ability to lock off the device. A good belayer can keep me safe with a hip belay, while I wouldn't trust a bad one with a gri-gri. Anybody that wants to go no-hands with any belay method is probably risking trouble. All the best points seem to have been made above, the gist of which is KEEP A HAND ON THE BRAKE SIDE OF THE ROPE.

I've been on Rewritten many times in the last 40 years and while I prefer to get to the ledge with the dead tree on the crux pitch, I've set up a sketchy belay on the junk ledge several times. It's when I want to be able to keep track of a partner on the steep section after the hand traverse. Not ideal, but sometimes preferable.

Regardless, I wish rapid healing for those involved in the accident.


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By Crag Dweller
From New York, NY
Apr 3, 2012
My navigator keeps me from getting lost

we're all gonna die!

The way they used to do it
The way they used to do it


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By ABMFB
Apr 3, 2012

JoeP, I wasn't trying to start an argument. I'm sorry if it seemed that way. I'm just a little agitated about this whole situation.

All I was trying to do was point out what I think is a design flaw in the Cinch and see if anyone else agrees or disagrees with what I see.

For the record, the instructions for the Cinch say to pull the brake strand away from the climber in order to stop a fall, like I've got it in the picture. This would also be the natural instinct of someone belaying off their harness. However, if the device fails to lock, and even if you have your hand on the brake strand in the braking position it seems like you would have very little chance of stopping a fall because the device provides almost no friction. All the braking force would now have to come from how hard you can squeeze the rope which of course wouldn't be enough.

Trango calls it a brake assisting device, emphasis on "assisting". But it looks to me like it doesn't assist the belayer at all. It either works and locks off the rope, or it doesn't work and the climber falls and there's nothing the belayer can do to stop it.


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By ABMFB
Apr 3, 2012

T. Maino wrote:
I'm pretty impressed that the leader stopped a 30 to 70' fall, burnt up his hands and did this all on a crap anchor. Then he sat there with his leg pinned while the second found his way to a ledge. His brain may have farted, but his heart is gold and he has brass balls.

Thank you for saying this. Very well put! He may have made a mistake, but he pulled off a nearly superhuman feat to save me. I'm proud to still call him my friend and would climb with him any time.


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By David N
Apr 3, 2012

What is not to agree with JoeP? Your 180 degree argument is a straw-man. If the rope runs straight through in order to lock off, you've got to re-orient the rope just to *start* to get some friction going (with all that free time available while a climber plummets at something approaching 9.8m/s/s). That's worse than the figure 8 belay you saw which miraculously saved someone from decking; itself bad enough that none of us would ever willingly subject ourselves to such a situation without backup...


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By Shawn G
From Phoenix, AZ
Apr 3, 2012
Taking a Walk on the Wild Side, Joshua Tree

Ryan Williams wrote:
PS, Climbing is taught very differently in the UK and Europe than it is in the US. Part of the reason is the type of terrain and the situations you find yourself in when making a belay. Another reason is that they learn to climb outside in traditional areas. I've been living and climbing in the UK now for over a year and have to say that most people here have a much better undestanding of the systems we use than people in the US. Take a step out of your comfort zone and read some books and articles written by British instructors. A lot of the methods that may seem foreign to you make a ton of sense.


Ryan, I read the BMC climbing Outside booklet you referenced cover to cover. Check out the threading the lower off on sport climbs. Seems overly complicated and messy, no? Page 18, is just odd- anchored in with only one clove hitch. Not sure that is a good idea due to potential user error. Am I wrong that this is not sound?

I belay off my harness sometimes and see your (and others) point that it is necessary part of trad climbing, but I'm not sure the BMC has the best info out there. I learned to belay off my harness just as they show on page 21. Maybe I didn't learn the other things the right way, but if I came upon some of the BMC anchor examples I would be curious as to why my partner neglected obvious gear placements to not set a bomb proof anchor using a least three pieces. Pg 25 is interesting too, as it lists on the Trad Leading Checklist: DON'T FALL! That's no fun. Those crazy Brits.

Seems like a gov't pamphlet on how to climb and super old school. I think John Long's book on anchors is a better educational tool, personally.


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By bearbreeder
Apr 4, 2012

Shawn G wrote:
Ryan, I read the BMC climbing Outside booklet you referenced cover to cover. Check out the threading the lower off on sport climbs. Seems overly complicated and messy, no? Page 18, is just odd- anchored in with only one clove hitch. Not sure that is a good idea due to potential user error. Am I wrong that this is not sound? I belay off my harness sometimes and see your (and others) point that it is necessary part of trad climbing, but I'm not sure the BMC has the best info out there. I learned to belay off my harness just as they show on page 21. Maybe I didn't learn the other things the right way, but if I came upon some of the BMC anchor examples I would be curious as to why my partner neglected obvious gear placements to not set a bomb proof anchor using a least three pieces. Pg 25 is interesting too, as it lists on the Trad Leading Checklist: DON'T FALL! That's no fun. Those crazy Brits. Seems like a gov't pamphlet on how to climb and super old school. I think John Long's book on anchors is a better educational tool, personally.


threading the anchors the way they show is pretty common ... there are advantages and disadvantages with that method, but everyone has their own way to do it

what page has the not bombproof anchor? ...

a single clove for the tie in is pretty standard

theres nothing with old or new school ... as long as it still works and makes sense


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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Apr 4, 2012
El Chorro

Shawn G wrote:
Ryan, I read the BMC climbing Outside booklet you referenced cover to cover. Check out the threading the lower off on sport climbs. Seems overly complicated and messy, no? Page 18, is just odd- anchored in with only one clove hitch. Not sure that is a good idea due to potential user error. Am I wrong that this is not sound? I belay off my harness sometimes and see your (and others) point that it is necessary part of trad climbing, but I'm not sure the BMC has the best info out there. I learned to belay off my harness just as they show on page 21. Maybe I didn't learn the other things the right way, but if I came upon some of the BMC anchor examples I would be curious as to why my partner neglected obvious gear placements to not set a bomb proof anchor using a least three pieces. Pg 25 is interesting too, as it lists on the Trad Leading Checklist: DON'T FALL! That's no fun. Those crazy Brits. Seems like a gov't pamphlet on how to climb and super old school. I think John Long's book on anchors is a better educational tool, personally.


It should be noted that this is just a small sample of about a 250 page book. Whether the book is better than JL's book or not doesn't really matter - they are both excellent.

As for the threading the anchor section: That is how I do it, and that is how pretty much everyone I've ever climbed with does it. It keeps you on belay the entire time. If I can't pass a bite through the rings then I'll just tie the fig 8 to a locker and clip to my belay loop and then pass the end through, but most of the time you can pass a bite through the rings.

How would you thread the anchors of a single pitch climb?

And I'll echo bearbreeder's comments. A clove hitch is a pretty standard knot to use as an anchor. It's pretty hard to fuck up.

And I don't see anything wrong with any of the placements or anchors. Three piece anchors set some people's minds at ease... but two pieces and your ass is usually more sound. You have to ask yourself, if you need three pieces to feel confident in your anchor, then how do you feel about falling on the pieces that you place on lead?


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By Tony B
From Around Boulder, CO
Apr 4, 2012
Got Milk? How about forearm pump? Tony leads "Alan Nelson's Bulging Belly" (5.10, X) on the Lost and Found Flatiron. Belayer is Mark Ruocco. Photo by Bill Wright, 10/06.

coppolillo wrote:
Forgive me if I missed it, but keep in mind redirecting through the anchor doubles the forces on the anchor itself.

It might double the forces of a hang, but that should be of no concern with anything resembling a good anchor.
It would reduce/limit the forces of any sort of shock-load, and that's when it could be a good thing. The belayer's body will move to absorb extreme shocks.
As for myself, (just a gumby - snicker) I don't use an autoblock off the anchor, I belay off my harness and redirect through the anchor - all the same for the last 25 years. I can handle the rope the best when it is at my belly button. Plus, I like staring down at my... but I digress.
People tend to forget that the autoblock devices are a recent invention. What do you think people did before that? We were not dying like lemmings.


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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Apr 4, 2012
El Chorro

Tony B wrote:
People tend to forget that the autoblock devices are a recent invention. What do you think people did before that? We were not dying like lemmings.


Same thing they did before cinches, gri gris, friends, guidebooks, dynamic ropes, etc. They climbed! GASP!


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By Tony B
From Around Boulder, CO
Apr 4, 2012
Got Milk? How about forearm pump? Tony leads "Alan Nelson's Bulging Belly" (5.10, X) on the Lost and Found Flatiron. Belayer is Mark Ruocco. Photo by Bill Wright, 10/06.

Yeah I'm still belaying off of a normal tube device on a screw-gate locker attached to my belay loop.
Sketchy man... sketchy!


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By Copperhead
Apr 4, 2012

Ryan Williams wrote:
Three piece anchors set some people's minds at ease... but two pieces and your ass is usually more sound. You have to ask yourself, if you need three pieces to feel confident in your anchor, then how do you feel about falling on the pieces that you place on lead?


Ryan, I knowyou already know this, but I don't think three anchors is generally recommended because you are worried about the two being solid enough. It is more a good rule to guard against human error (and maybe equipment/rock failure), which happens even to the climbing gods.

Let's say you are making an anchor and each individual piece is expected to be bomber (which it should normally be). Let's also say you are kind of a spacey guy and FU the placement 1% of the time.

With two pieces you'll have the following chance of having a good anchor: 0.01^2=0.0001 (sketch anchor every 10000 pitches)

With three pieces you'll have: 0.01^3=.000001 (sketch anchor every 1 million pitches)

Now, regardless of the numbers chosen, three is exponentially more FU resistant than 2. Do you need it? Maybe not every time, but if you carry the numbers through to ultimate failure over a lifetime of climbing, you just might decide that the extra 10 sec to put in the third piece is worth the safety margin. After all, there is a reason why it has been a standard recommendation for so long.

And 1/1mil sounds like a small number, but three people won the lotto last week at a 1/176 mil chance too.


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By T. Maino
Apr 4, 2012

ABMFB wrote:
Thank you for saying this. Very well put! He may have made a mistake, but he pulled off a nearly superhuman feat to save me. I'm proud to still call him my friend and would climb with him any time.


My pleasure. I'm glad more than one person noted it. I would guess he's the safest belayer out there now!


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By T. Maino
Apr 4, 2012

JLP wrote:
The consequences and steps in preventing holding open a self camming belay device aren't obscure. Calling this 100% some kind of equipment failure is a reach.


Say what? I just meant to imply that he's not likely to make the same mistake twice.


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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Apr 4, 2012
El Chorro

Copperhead wrote:
Ryan, I knowyou already know this, but I don't think three anchors is generally recommended because you are worried about the two being solid enough. It is more a good rule to guard against human error (and maybe equipment/rock failure), which happens even to the climbing gods. Let's say you are making an anchor and each individual piece is expected to be bomber (which it should normally be). Let's also say you are kind of a spacey guy and FU the placement 1% of the time. With two pieces you'll have the following chance of having a good anchor: 0.01^2=0.0001 (sketch anchor every 10000 pitches) With three pieces you'll have: 0.01^3=.000001 (sketch anchor every 1 million pitches) Now, regardless of the numbers chosen, three is exponentially more FU resistant than 2. Do you need it? Maybe not every time, but if you carry the numbers through to ultimate failure over a lifetime of climbing, you just might decide that the extra 10 sec to put in the third piece is worth the safety margin. After all, there is a reason why it has been a standard recommendation for so long. And 1/1mil sounds like a small number, but three people won the lotto last week at a 1/176 mil chance too.


Interesting way to look at it. Thanks for well thought out post. Believe me, you'll find me w/ three pieces just as often as with two. It all depends on about a billion things, one of them being how bomber my ass is on a particular ledge. It's often not that bomber and I'll put in that third piece, but other time I'm completely happy with two and myself.

That is one of the points that I have been trying to make: Me (155#) sitting on a ledge is plenty enough to catch my heaviest partner (185#) with no help from any additional pieces. If that is the case, I'm happy calling my ass a third bomber piece.

I think that is just going to be my answer to every question from now on: It depends on about a billion things.


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By redlude97
Apr 4, 2012

JLP wrote:
I generally agree with your point - his photo is indeed contrived - but it is interesting to note how straight it *can* allow the rope to run through it - when not being used in a laboratory... In contrast, a GriGri doesn't allow such a straight path for the rope. The cam on a GriGri also has a much more aggressive V slot, so it will provide more friction to engage the cam. Lots of very serious injuries out there from GriGris as well, though...mostly from users unintentionally holding the cam open...kind of like with this accident...

The cinch allows that straight path and many like it for that very reason. It makes feeding slack fast effortless, and as long as it isn't being jammed it still locks. The path a gri gri takes is better but as you stated, it usually doesn't stop a climber from getting dropped when the cam is held down.


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