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Next pet peeve - belay technique!!!

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Postby graham » Sat May 16, 2009 4:48 pm

Mountaineering Freedom of the Hills 7th ed page 160-161 shows a “palms-up” belay hand position similar to this diagram. I suspect a lot of folks have been trained to belay like this.
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Postby mconnell » Sat May 16, 2009 5:17 pm

Alpinisto wrote:Does anybody rap palms-up?


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Postby The Chief » Sat May 16, 2009 5:39 pm

graham wrote:Mountaineering Freedom of the Hills 7th ed page 160-161 shows a “palms-up” belay hand position similar to this diagram. I suspect a lot of folks have been trained to belay like this.

What really sucks about this method is that you can not get the downward force/leverage required to not only stop a sudden fall, but then lock it off aftewards.

I challenge folks to go out and try both palm down and then the palm up methods under a heavy fall scenario. Watch what happens and feel the difference on the wrist as well. And then lock off the load with both methods.

Feel the difference and which takes less energy and is less detrimental to the wrist.
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Postby kiwiw » Sat May 16, 2009 7:38 pm

I belay palm up, but I don't get the chance to catch many lead falls, still, having to switch hand positions to take in and give out slack seems way more dangerous, if my hand was getting sucked into the belay I would automaticly let some rope slip (I wear gloves)
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Postby brenta » Sat May 16, 2009 8:16 pm

kiwiw wrote:having to switch hand positions to take in and give out slack seems way more dangerous

You don't have to. See this movie clip.
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Postby ShortTimer » Sat May 16, 2009 10:39 pm

Ah, now I understand, it is book learning that screwed everything up. I always did suspect that book was bogus. Everyone I know that climbs hard belays exactly as depicted in the Petzl video and yet the yahoos in the gym will get on your case for 'sliding' up the rope that way. Just goes to show that what works indoors often sucks in the real world.
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Postby T Sharp » Sat May 16, 2009 10:43 pm

hellroaring wrote: I like so many others now-a-days was pretty much gym trained, and reading this post makes me realize that all this time I thought I was being safe but perhaps not! I've always belayed with both hands above the device like I was first taught (ironically at an outdoor climbing class). So are you all saying that you should belay with your brake hand below the device and near your hip? Do you just quickly feed out slack then with your non-brake hand? I'm thinking that I need to retrain myself when climbing outside in non TR situations..

Okay I`ll weigh in on this also...palm down, thumb toward the device is the safest manner to give a bomb belay. Playing in slack [top roping]you simply hold the rope below your brake hand with your other hand and slide your brake hand up. This is facilitated by allowing the device and rope to run between your legs in front of you, much as in a rappel. Playing out slack to a leader, pull slack from the stack with your non-breaking hand above the device while throwing slack into the device with the brake hand, this is usually done with the line playing out to the brake hand side.

The major advantage to this technique is that the rope and hand are always in a braking position, ready for the unexpected fall. Secondarily, the brake hand/arm is in a much stronger position to hold the force of a fall in a palm down position. Thirdly the rope is managed in a more efficient manner, as it never has to be brought parallel with the tension line to get a new grip. The free hand does all the pulling and rotating instead of the brake rope hand.

In short, gym belay technique sucks! The only time I can see it being acceptable, is if the leaders weight is considerably less than the belayers. Even then it is poor form.

I got certified at the local university gym with my palm down technique, with out even an argument! :D
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Postby ksolem » Sun May 17, 2009 1:11 am

Quote from the Petzl video:

To arrest the fall the belayer pulls firmly downward on the braking side of the rope

If the Freedom of the Hills picture #6 is supposed to represent the belayer preparing to catch a fall, well... It had better be a fall on a 40 degree snow climb because if there is a leader accelerating downward through the air for 30 feet or more forget it.

Petzl: 1
FotH: 0

Gotta say though, the guy's white leather belay glove is a bit much :roll: .
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Postby Alpinisto » Sun May 17, 2009 2:57 am

brenta wrote:
Alpinisto wrote:Does anybody rap palms-up?

No, unless it's a Dulfersitz.

Kickin' it old skool, yo...! :wink:
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Postby hellroaring » Sun May 17, 2009 4:34 am

Thanks all for the advice on technique! If you would have asked me 24 hours ago I would have told you my belaying was bomber (cuz as I said before, I always give 100% attention). I wonder why most gyms are so militant about a technique that's not so safe when transferred outside?? Chief, I gotta be down in the 4 corners area of NM for a couple of months and then a short stint in Wyoming, but if you really don't mind new partners and I can break away to the East Side I'd love to "practice" catching you as you log air time.
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Postby The Chief » Sun May 17, 2009 5:44 am


Anytime and it'd be a pleasure. You know where to find me. :wink:
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Postby Fred Spicker » Sun May 17, 2009 1:38 pm

I think that the palm up technique illustrated above is a hold over of the correct hand position for a hip belay in which the rope goes around your hips rather than through a device.

If you are doing a hip belay, the stopping position is in the opposite direction from the stopping position when using a belay device and palms up provides the strongest grip because the hand gets turned over when braking.

In my opinion, with a belay device, the hand position needs to be reversed – eg. palm down.

http://www.traditionalmountaineering.or ... arness.htm

The movie clip recommended by Brenta is excellent and the same technique works just as well with an ATC or any other similar device.

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x4x7q7 ... ppel_sport
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Postby mtngrl » Sun May 17, 2009 7:14 pm

I learned to belay in a gym and learned palm down (My hand is always in the break position) and I know that is how it is taught in the gym.
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Postby Dave Dinnell » Sun May 17, 2009 7:47 pm

Just tuning into the discussion here...agree with Fred as to probably how FOTH perpetuated the method. I learned palm up using a hip belay 3 decades ago. I then carried that style over when I first began using the sticht plate and figure 8.
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Postby MountaingirlBC » Sun May 17, 2009 8:47 pm

Does anyone have any thoughts, tips, suggestions regarding belaying someone with 100lbs on you? Obviously anchoring yourself seems like the best solution and is a no brainer in a top rope or sport route situation but however this was a bit of an issue for me last year on an alpine trad route. My partner was working really hard to get over this roof and kept popping off. I was on a small ledge below doing my best to brace myself for the falls while still being able to play out the rope. I was at least as pumped as he was and even with the rope wrapped twice around my thigh and all my weight, he'd still loose ground when he fell and with him hanging on the rope struggling to get back on the rock, he'd usually a little more. I wanted to anchor myself but he didn't want to put the additional strain on the pro. I suggested an anchor that would help me hold the strain of his weight on the rope but would break under a serious fall. I wondered if maybe a screamer might work as an anchor in this sort of scenario? He couldn't see how much I was struggling so at the time he thought I was just being lame but when the bruises showed up the next day he realized that I wasn't kidding. The obvious solution is to not climb with someone that much bigger than you and I usually don't... but I'd really be interested to hear what others have come up with to deal with this.

edit: I guess I should mention that we were using 8mm half ropes and a BD ATC Guide.
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