The hip wrap

The hip wrap (fig. 7-14) amplifies friction by passing the rope around your back—just below the top of your hips—and around your sides. Its main advantage is the speed with which you can belay a follower who is moving rapidly over easy ground. It can be set up quickly and requires no hardware.

The use of the hip wrap in climbing on upper fifth-class rock is rapidly declining. Because your back and sides provide most of the friction on the rope, you must wear a lot of clothes, preferably several thick layers—highly undesirable in hot climates. Even a short leader fall can cut through a polypropylene jacket. Although the belayer will feel the pain from the burn as it is produced, the fall will be completely arrested before he or she has time to react to the pain.

Because your hands provide a greater proportion of friction than in other methods, gloves are essential. Contrary to the usual expectation, burns are reduced with a tighter grip and less rope slippage (because slower rope velocity and less rope slippage generates less heat), another reason for wearing gloves. However, gloves can make your hands damp and soft, the opposite of what is necessary for difficult rock climbing.

There are additional problems with the hip wrap: if the climbing rope runs over the anchor attachment, it may be burned. In a big fall, the outermost layer of the rope sheath may be glazed and covered with melted fabric from your clothes. Because more time is required to attain the braking position and because it has the least braking friction of any method, the hip wrap more often results in rope slippage, and the climber usually falls

Fig. 7—14. The hip wrap is often used for the impromptu belaying of a fast-moving follower.

farther. If your stance fails, you will probably also lose control of the rope, which is less likely with other methods.

To catch a fall with the hip wrap, your elbow must be straight before you begin to grip hard (fig. 7-15), so that bone and not muscle resists the pull of the rope. (Your natural reaction will be to grip the rope first, but this may pull your arm into a helpless position, requiring you to let go and grasp the rope again.) Then bring your braking arm across in front of your body, to increase the amount of wrap for maximum friction. An optimal braking position can only be learned with practice, for which schools and climbing clubs have constructed belay towers.

Several precautions must be observed to prevent the hip wrap from unwrapping in a fall. With frequent practice, they should become automatic.

1. Run your anchor attachment from the side opposite the braking hand (fig. 7-16). If you put the line to the anchor on the same side as the braking hand, the rotation of your body under the impact of a climber's fall can unwrap the hip wrap, decreasing friction and stability.

2. If you are facing toward the rock, belaying the leader, have the braking hand on the same side as any fall that could happen before the leader puts in the first piece of protection. If the fall is on the opposite side and the leader drops below you, the rope could be unwrapped from your hip.

3. Clip a control carabiner on your harness anytime the climbing rope goes straight up or down from your hips (fig. 7-17). The carabiner goes well forward of the hip bone, on the same side as the rope coming from the climber. Clipping the rope into this carabiner keeps the rope where you want it, at your hip, and also counteracts body rotation.

Sam Simon ColoriageArm Position For Hip
Fig. 7-15. The correct braking arm position for the hip wrap must be achieved before braking begins, left; or the arm will be pulled into a helpless position, right.


Fig. 7-17. A control carabiner on the harness keeps the hip belay from unwrapping.







Fig. 7-16. The anchor attachment on the side opposite the braking hand, left, keeps the hip belay from unwrapping.

4. If you don't use a control carabiner, take advantage of your anchor attachment to keep the climbing rope from being pulled over your head or under your seat. If the pull will come from below, put the rope above the anchor attachment. If the pull will come from above, put the rope below the anchor line.

Of all braking methods, the hip wrap exerts the smallest force for a given grip of the braking hand. In a fall, this lower force might preserve questionable protection when any other method would pull it out. This would be extremely important if both your stance and anchor were weak. On the other hand, the climber will fall farther, increasing the danger of hitting something.

Fig. 7-17. A control carabiner on the harness keeps the hip belay from unwrapping.

Fig. 7-18. A variant of the hip wrap, in which the forward pull of a fall goes directly to the anchor


Fig. 7-18. A variant of the hip wrap, in which the forward pull of a fall goes directly to the anchor

As with belay devices, it is possible to arrange the hip wrap so that the forward pull of the fall goes directly to the anchor (fig. 7-18). This provides the same advantages as belaying directly from the anchor with a device. The friction of rope running against your back is replaced by the climb ing rope's wrap of at least 90 degrees around the carabiner, a few inches to 1 foot or more behind your back. (If you arc far from the anchor, a big fall could pull you toward it, especially on snow or wet rock.)

Fig. 7-19. Major belay options





Resisting the pull of the fall

Belay attached to harness

Ledge permitting a stance

Force is absorbed before reaching anchor

Relationship between stance and anchor must be carefully visualized

Belay attached directly to anchor

Bombproof anchor

Simple set-up (except hip wrap); easy to tie off

Anchor not always available, or conveniently placed for rope-handling

Applying friction to the rope

Belay device

Device, locking carabiner

Some devices useful for rappelling

Figure-8s kink rope to some extent

Miinter hitch

Large pear-shaped locking carabiner

Braking possible with ropes parallel

Slightly slower passing knot through carabiner; kinks rope; follower fall of at least 6 inches

Hip wrap

Protective clothes, gloves

Least braking friction; fast taking in rope

Burns possible unless much clothing worn; complex precautions required; greater chance of loss of control of rope if stance collapses

Fig. 7-20. Common beginner problems



Removes braking hand from braking rope (especially with hip belay)

Produces rope tension on leader

When belaying follower, unable to pull in rope fast enough

Great difficulty communicating when separated by a rope length

Use the rope-handling procedure shown in fig.10,forcing yourself to be conscious of your braking hand at all times, until the technique becomes automatic.

Watch leader or free-hanging sections of rope (if any) near your belay; keep hand on rope to feel movements; react quickly.

Bend over and extend your full reach for each cycle.

Stick to standard or agreed-upon commands; omit explanations; space out words more

Continue reading here: Other Techniques

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  • sigismond
    How do you wrap the ropefor a body brlay?
    2 years ago