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Which belay device should I get?
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By tylerevelyn
Feb 12, 2013
I'm somewhat of a new climber, and am needing advice on which belay device I should get. We already have a Black Diamond ATC belay device, but I just don't feel comfortable using it. I'm a pretty light-weight lady, and just need some more security. I've never used the Black Diamond, but have used a friends GRIGRI and felt very secure using it. Are there any other devices (aside from the GRIGRI) that are auto-locking and easy to use? I give a pretty rough belay right now.. can some direct me to a good source for learning to be a better belay-er? :)

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By frankstoneline
Feb 12, 2013
tylerevelyn wrote:
Are there any other devices (aside from the GRIGRI) that are auto-locking and easy to use? I give a pretty rough belay right now.. can some direct me to a good source for learning to be a better belay-er? :)


there might as well not be. gri gri is the standard.

how to belay, here is a start:
rockandice.com/lates-news/how-...
and
rockandice.com/lates-news/how-...

also look up the thread here on giving a soft catch, there is some good info and some complete shite, but worth a read.

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By William Domhart
From Ventucky, CA
Feb 12, 2013
Traverse by HWY 41 Cave
Belaying is not to be taken lightly. Go find some one more experienced and bribe them with beer or whiskey (or ask politely) to learn you in the ways of TR belaying and lowering.

There is no replacement for actually going out and doing it with someone knowledgeable in safe technique. I've made my friends feed my rope, flaked on the ground,through their ATC over and over, from one end to the other to get the muscle memory dialed in while I've corrected their technique.

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By tylerevelyn
Feb 12, 2013
My husband and I are just learning to climb and belay, but were not planning to go out on our own for a while. We go with a group that are all fairly advanced, experienced climbers. So, I've been talked through a few easy belays.

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By Baumer
From Boulder, CO
Feb 12, 2013
Easy Lieback
It sounds to me like you could use some quality instruction. If you can't belay well with an ATC, moving to a Gri-Gri won't really help. It just complicates matters, and can potentially teach you bad habits, like letting go of the brake strand.

Are you top-roping or lead-belaying? If you haven't gotten EXTREMELY comfortable with the former, you should NOT be doing the latter.

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By FrankPS
From Atascadero, CA
Feb 12, 2013
The BD ATC is a fine belay device, and there's no reason you shouldn't start with that. Actually, you should start belaying with that, before you get too comfortable on a Gri-Gri or a Cinch. You'll better learn how to feed rope, lower, and take in slack on a tube-style (ATC), then you can move onto one of the "assisted belay devices."

Even if there is a significant weight difference between you and the climber, you can catch falls with an ATC just fine. You might get lifted into the air on a harder lead fall, but that's OK, as long as you don't lose control of the rope.

Just my two cents. Or one. Depending.

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By randy88fj62
Feb 12, 2013
Thunderbolt Peak in the Palisades
If you are having trouble lowering someone with a grigri you can run the rope through a carabiner attached to your right leg loop. This adds friction and gives you more leverage.

Petzl put in the extra effort and design the Frieno carabiner which has an extra horn on it allowing you to add more friction when lowering a person. The caveat is that it costs a lot.

The Trango cinch is a competitor to the Petzl Grigri and would fit your bill as a different device.


If you are having trouble lowering people that are a lot heavier than you then consider tying into an anchor when belaying. This could be a root, rock, other object that you can clip into with a sling.

back to the grigri; it is considered the most popular auto locking belay device. Focusing on technique and practice should help.

Getting training from a certified AMGA guide is the best.

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By Ian Stewart
Feb 12, 2013
If you don't feel comfortable using an ATC, you need to practice more. You either have the wrong belay technique, or you're simply just afraid of the upwards pull that you get when you catch somebody, and neither of these will change with a different device.

My wife is about 115lbs and there was a time when I was nearing 200lbs, and she's caught me fine on every fall I've ever taken. She prefers to use an ATC to a GriGri because she prefers the way they feed rope.

What do you mean by your belay being "a little rough"? If you're not comfortable using an ATC, you shouldn't be belaying any lead climbers (so you don't have to worry about feeding rope, which is usually where you need to be a good belayer). If you're belaying on a TR exclusively, I'm not even sure how you'd be considered a "rough" belay unless you just never take in rope when they're climbing. If you're lighter than your climber, which is sounds like you are, you shouldn't even have to worry about a "soft catch" as they'll already have one just because of the weight difference.

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By Ian Stewart
Feb 12, 2013
randy88fj62 wrote:
If you are having trouble lowering someone with a grigri you can run the rope through a carabiner attached to your right leg loop. This adds friction and gives you more leverage.


Or you can just modulate the lowering speed with the handle, like you're supposed to.

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By tylerevelyn
Feb 12, 2013
I have only belayed twice- Once top rope (5.7), and again lead climb (5.8). Each time the climb was only roughly 35 feet, and I had an experienced belay-er by my side for instruction. I wasn't necessarily comfortable belaying a lead climber, but he assured me it was fine- because it was such an easy climb for him. I never used the ATC device because (for some reason) I was intimidated by it; I've only ever used the grigri. The first time I belayed was on the 5.7 top rope, and found it very difficult to keep my feet planted.There was an approximate 30 pound difference between myself and the climber I was belaying. I will definitely use the advice about being anchored! Can you get rope burn with an ATC if the climber falls? What I meant by a "rough belay" was that when I was belaying a LC, I couldn't manage to give him slack or tension when he needed it.

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By frankstoneline
Feb 12, 2013
tylerevelyn wrote:
I have only belayed twice- Once top rope (5.7), and again lead climb (5.8). Each time the climb was only roughly 35 feet, and I had an experienced belay-er by my side for instruction. I wasn't necessarily comfortable belaying a lead climber, but he assured me it was fine- because it was such an easy climb for him. I never used the ATC device because (for some reason) I was intimidated by it; I've only ever used the grigri. The first time I belayed was on the 5.7 top rope, and found it very difficult to keep my feet planted.There was an approximate 30 pound difference between myself and the climber I was belaying. I will definitely use the advice about being anchored! Can you get rope burn with an ATC if the climber falls? What I meant by a "rough belay" was that when I was belaying a LC, I couldn't manage to give him slack or tension when he needed it.


lead belaying will come more naturally with an atc, and all of it will be more comfortable with practice.

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By John D
Feb 12, 2013
Ian Stewart wrote:
Or you can just modulate the lowering speed with the handle, like you're supposed to.

I've always been taught that you should hold the handle open all the way and then modulate the speed with the angle of the rope from the gri-gri and how tightly you hold the line. You do get a much smoother lower using this method.

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By Guy H.
From Fort Collins CO
Feb 12, 2013
Once you have Black, you will fear to go back...
As other people have mentioned, you should become very familiar with an ATC device before switching to an auto-locking device for lead belaying. A Cinch or Gri-Gri will add an extra level of security if used correctly for big falls where you might get pulled into the wall due to your weight.

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By Daniel Winder
Feb 12, 2013
Hip belay, when it gets steep switch to a munter. What is an LC? Why couldn't you keep your feet planted while TR belaying? Anchoring the belayer is often not the best solution on single pitch. Be safe.

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By Ian Stewart
Feb 12, 2013
tylerevelyn wrote:
I have only belayed twice- Once top rope (5.7), and again lead climb (5.8). Each time the climb was only roughly 35 feet, and I had an experienced belay-er by my side for instruction. I wasn't necessarily comfortable belaying a lead climber, but he assured me it was fine- because it was such an easy climb for him. I never used the ATC device because (for some reason) I was intimidated by it; I've only ever used the grigri. The first time I belayed was on the 5.7 top rope, and found it very difficult to keep my feet planted.There was an approximate 30 pound difference between myself and the climber I was belaying. I will definitely use the advice about being anchored! Can you get rope burn with an ATC if the climber falls? What I meant by a "rough belay" was that when I was belaying a LC, I couldn't manage to give him slack or tension when he needed it.


Few things:

1) 35 feet is still more than enough to seriously injure or kill somebody.

2) You should NOT be belaying a lead climber at this point. At all. Regardless of how easy the climb is for him, anything can happen. If you aren't ready for what might happen, which is sounds like you aren't, bad things can happen.

3) If you are EVER not comfortable belaying, don't do it. Change the situation so that you are comfortable, or walk away.

4) I usually see far more people belaying incorrectly with a GriGri than with an ATC. It's pretty easy for a GriGri to lock up when feeding rope and so the belayer takes their brake hand off the rope to free it. This is very bad (and why my wife prefers an ATC).

5) Don't be afraid of the ATC. They work beautifully. =)

6) Get used to your feet leaving the ground. You might be able to keep your feet planted when TRing, but nearly 100% of lead falls will take you off your feet (especially if you're lighter). This feeling is alien and scary to some new climbers, and practice is the best way to get used to it. It's not uncommon for my wife to be hanging 5-10 ft in the air after catching one of my falls.

7) Can you get rope burn using an ATC? Yes, but if you're belaying properly the risk of this isn't very high. Most rope burn is caused by poor belaying technique (taking brake hand off the rope, grasping onto the climber side of the rope instead of the brake side as a reaction, etc). I've had rope burn from belaying ONCE, and that was using a GriGri (he fell when I was trying to pull rope out with my non-brake hand, and when he fell my instinct was to close that hand tightly around the rope above the GriGri instead of let go and catch with my brake hand instead. Well, I did both so he was caught fine, but not before a few feet of rope already past my GriGri slid through my hand).

8) Practice in the gym. Not just because it's a gym, but because most of the time the TR anchors are set up so that they add friction to the system, meaning there is MUCH less upwards pull on the belayer than outside when you're just running the rope through a biner or two. Even with the 60lb difference, my wife almost never leaves the ground when TR belaying me at the gym.


My best suggestion at this point, however, would be to find different climbing partners/mentors. Anybody that puts a first-time belayer in charge of belaying a lead climber with a GriGri is just asking for disaster.

Good luck!

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By Crag Dweller
From New York, NY
Feb 12, 2013
My navigator keeps me from getting lost
If you don't feel comfortable belaying with an ATC, you shouldn't belay. It's that simple.

No offense intended but you should not be reliant on a specific device to belay.

You're putting someone's life in your hands. Take your time and learn to do it the right way.

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By tylerevelyn
Feb 12, 2013
I had difficulties keeping my feet planted both times. But the second time, lead climb (that is what I meant by LC), I had my foot hooked under a root. I had difficulties while lowering the climber while TR belaying. I had to have the person instructing me hold my harness. If anchoring myself was a bad idea, I should probably just not even try to learn belaying? Everyone in my group is over 150 pds- atleast. Im barely 120, and had a difficult time belaying the lightest person in our group. Whats not safe about anchoring myself? I will ask to be instructed with the ATC device this weekend. Is it difficult to brake if the climber falls when using the ATC? or is lowering any more difficult?

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By FrankPS
From Atascadero, CA
Feb 12, 2013
tylerevelyn wrote:
I had difficulties keeping my feet planted both times. But the second time, lead climb (that is what I meant by LC), I had my foot hooked under a root. I had difficulties while lowering the climber while TR belaying. I had to have the person instructing me hold my harness. If anchoring myself was a bad idea, I should probably just not even try to learn belaying? Everyone in my group is over 150 pds- atleast. Im barely 120, and had a difficult time belaying the lightest person in our group. Whats not safe about anchoring myself? I will ask to be instructed with the ATC device this weekend. Is it difficult to brake if the climber falls when using the ATC? or is lowering any more difficult?


I will second what was said above - you shouldn't be belaying a lead climber, until you have belaying a toproped climber dialed in. Just say no.

It's disappointing that your "experienced" climber friends allowed you to belay a lead climber, and that they haven't given you proper instruction.

Catching a toprope fall with an ATC is easy, provided you always keep the slack out of the rope. Lowering with an ATC is also very easy and smooth, but you may want to brace yourself so the heavier climber being lowered doesn't pull you off balance. It's very unlikely you need to be anchored down for all this.

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By Ian Stewart
Feb 12, 2013
tylerevelyn wrote:
I had difficulties keeping my feet planted both times.


Don't try to keep your feet on the ground...it won't work. Instead you need to know how to react when your feet DO leave the ground...which they will.

tylerevelyn wrote:
I had my foot hooked under a root.


That sounds like a pretty easy way to break your foot. Don't do that.

tylerevelyn wrote:
Everyone in my group is over 150 pds- atleast. Im barely 120


Again, right now my wife is 115lbs and I'm 175lbs, so there's a 60lb difference there. That difference has been as much as 90lbs in the past. I've taken 25 foot lead falls where she ends up 10-15 feet up in the air, sometimes even higher than I am by the time I come to a stop.

tylerevelyn wrote:
Is it difficult to brake if the climber falls when using the ATC? or is lowering any more difficult?


Not at all. I'd actually lean the other way and say that it's easier to lower with an ATC than with a GriGri most of the time (you can have two hands on the brake strand to modulate the lowering speed vs the GriGri that requires one hand on the brake hand and one hand on the lowering handle).

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By tylerevelyn
Feb 12, 2013
I am taking my time, and trying to learn how to do things properly? I don't feel that I was putting anyone's life in danger by TR belaying (with an experienced climber/belayer watching my every move). No, I don't feel comfortable.. but just because the movements and such are so foreign- I've never done anything like that, so of course I'm not comfortable with it. The people I go climbing with have been climbing for years, and are always safe. It was the climber I belayed on lead climb who asked me. I knew that I wouldn't drop him, because I understand belaying well enough.. and he felt comfortable in his climbing abilities? Again, I had a VERY experienced belayer near me- showing me, and telling me what to do. Even though I've only belayed a few times, my fellow climbers have asked me to watch them and discussed belaying with me many times. So, it isn't completely foreign, I just wanted to some advice on becoming a BETTER belayer. And, which belay device I should start out with. Which, obviously sounds like the ATC device I already have. So, if I don't feel comfortbale belaying- I shouldnt belay??? Then how do people learn to belay? Does anyone feel super comfortable their first few times? I do take this very seriously. I am a pretty new climber, and am very picky about who I let belay me- Even though I know most of my fellow climbers are more than capable.

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By Baumer
From Boulder, CO
Feb 12, 2013
Easy Lieback
tylerevelyn wrote:
I have only belayed twice- Once top rope (5.7), and again lead climb (5.8). Each time the climb was only roughly 35 feet, and I had an experienced belay-er by my side for instruction. I wasn't necessarily comfortable belaying a lead climber, but he assured me it was fine- because it was such an easy climb for him.


This isn't a good way to learn. You really need to be solid on TR's before you even think about lead belaying. That way, taking up slack, braking and lowering are second-nature before you start trying to figure out how to pay out just the right amount of rope, which is a bit of an art form. Trying to lead belay right off the bat is just too much to manage all at once. Get comfortable TRing with the ATC first.

I actually have my students do several lead climbs before they start lead belaying, so they have a better understanding of a lead climber's needs. This is typically after several months of TR climbing and belaying. Granted, this is a very conservative approach, but I don't see any need to rush it; there's nothing worse than dropping someone...other than being dropped.

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By AnthonyM
Feb 12, 2013
Maroon Bells-Bell Cord Couloir
Elanor?????

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By todd w
Feb 12, 2013
You're lightweight--so don't add extra "slack" to the rope when lead belaying. Your weight discrepancy will cushion the fall plenty.

I recommend a gri gri, and I recommend you practice catching planned, announced falls every time you are at the gym. The brake hand never leaves the brake end of the rope--learn how to make that happen smoothly. Expect to be caught off guard.

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By mark felber
From Wheat Ridge, CO
Feb 12, 2013
I weigh 165-170 lbs., my gym climbing partner weighs 100-105. She comes off the ground every time she lowers me off a climb. It's not a big deal, although anchoring in might not hurt if you don't want to go too far off the ground. I've also caught lead falls where the leader weighed 20-30 lbs more than me. No big deal, as long as the fall factor is less than 1 (total distance fallen is less than the length of rope paid out).

I would definitely stick to belaying toprope climbers until you are a bit more comfortable with the whole process, if only because lead falls involve more force than toprope falls. I would also spend more time getting comfortable with an ATC, as this will give you a clearer idea of how any belay device works.

When I taught top-rope classes at the local climbing wall, I used two exercises to get the class comfortable with a belay device. The first exercise was to have the whole class try to pull the rope through the ATC while I held the rope in my thumb and forefinger. the second exercise was to have the smallest person in the class (usually an 11 or 12 year old) hold the rope in the belay position while I hung from the other end. Both exercises made it really clear that it was the braking action of the rope bending through the belay device that was catching the fall, not brute force. Just lowering a climber off a climb with an ATC a few times (maybe with a competent climber watching you the first few times) should help get you more comfortable with belaying. If you want to be anchored in or held down, that's OK.

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By Maurice Chaunders
Feb 12, 2013
Colombian Crack
It won't matter how good he is if you don't give him slack while lead belaying and pull him off the wall. You mentioned that specifically as an area you struggle with so that guy sounds cray to me. Totes cray. And give yourself more than 2 belays before you go asking all those cray MPers how to belay. You've already received a lot of good advice but you need more experience with the rope. If you've belayed just two 35 ft climbs, thst means a max of 140 feet of rope through your hands, but that's not even a full rope length! If you were friends with what's-his-name above, he would have made you practice so much more. But that guy sounds weird anyway.

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By John Wilder
From Las Vegas, NV
Feb 13, 2013
There's alot going on in this thread, and some fundamentals havent been expressly stated for the OP.

First and foremost, you can safely belay someone 1.5x your bodyweight without having to get into weird things like anchoring yourself and redirecting the belay, etc, etc. At 120, you're lightweight, but you're not a featherweight when it comes to climbers, so I wouldnt worry overmuch. You want to know how much your partners weigh- I wouldnt worry until they cross the 170lb threshhold (getting close to your 1.5x mark). One note- being anchored can be a huge liability, especially outside. Being able to move around as a belayer is a key skill (one that not many belayers these days seem to employ).

Second. ATC vs GriGri2 (not the original GriGri). While I will echo that ATCs are perfectly safe and are, in many ways, a better device to learn how to belay on, the GriGri2 can be a safer device DEPENDING on the application. If you're going to be constantly belaying people alot heavier than you, I would recommend a GriGri2. Sure, you can safely belay on an ATC, but with modern ropes being sub-10mm, its going to be alot of work. If you choose to go the ATC route, get belay gloves. You'll be glad you did.

Second (part2)- If you learn to belay properly with a GriGri2, your brake hand will never come off the rope- just like when you use an ATC. I belay almost the same way with both and my hand never comes off the rope. I teach this method at the gym. This goes for lead belay and TR belay. Dont just listen to what people tell you- read the literature that comes with the device and is also on Petzls website. Its very good and its the method I use.

Third. Ropes. As mentioned above- modern ropes are skinny. The best research I've seen is that while ATCs with friction teeth (ATC-XP, Reverso, etc, etc) do have higher friction, its not all that much more. If you are going to be belaying on skinny lines because thats what your friends have (and by skinny, I mean sub-9.6mm), GriGri2 is the only thing I'd recommend.

Fourth. The guy who said pull the handle all the way back on a GriGri to lower is wrong. Dont ever do that. Especially on a skinny rope. You will deck your partner doing that. The only time you do that is when you're a big dude trying to lower your sub-110lb partner on a 10.5mm rope. Otherwise, dont ever do that. Seriously.

Finally. Look, climbing is all about risk management and being comfortable in the risks you choose to take. It sounds like you are really nervous taking charge of belaying based on your thoughts. You need to learn to relax. That could mean going to a climbing gym (controlled environements can help) or having your partners set up a very controlled scenario. You should not be getting lifted off your feet while lowering- learn to use your center of gravity to control the belay (yours is in your hips, for your reference). Also, use the belay device you feel most comfortable using. They are all safe and if you use them correctly, they are fine.

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