The Munter hitch

The Munter hitch is a very effective method of using only the rope and a carabiner to provide the friction necessary to stop a fall. This method requires a large pear-shaped locking carabiner in order to allow the knot to pass through the interior. It amplifies the effect of your braking hand with the friction both of rope on rope and of rope on carabiner. When attached to the front of your harness it works much like a belay device. Although no belay method is foolproof, the Miinter hitch requires the least skill and attention.

The Miinter hitch is the only traditional belay method that provides sufficient friction regardless of the angle between the ropes entering and leaving it (fig. 7-12). This offers a number of advantages:

• No special braking position is required. Consider the situation of a belayer who cannot see the climber and is distracted at the moment of a fall. The belayer, caught by surprise, might merely squeeze the rope at the start, rather than immediately yanking it into the angle required by all other methods. This situation is unusual, but could occur at any time. The Miinter hitch would hold. The other methods may not.

• If all of the slack rope is hanging down a wall, you may be unable to raise your braking hand high enough, as required by a standard belay device, to arrest a follower fall. The problem is caused by the weight of the rope, the extra force exerted by the falling climber, and the difficult arm position. But with a Miinter hitch, it doesn't matter (fig. 7-13).

The friction of the Miinter hitch is also unique in being less with the ropes 180 degrees apart than when 0 degrees apart. This usually means its friction is relatively less for leader falls than follower falls. But in absolute terms it often provides more friction than any other belay method, regardless of the angle between the ropes. This high friction means a quicker stop to a fall.

75% Friction

100% Friction

Fig. 7-12. The friction provided by the Miinter hitch does not depend greatly upon the angle between the ropes.

Fig. 7—13. The Miinter hitch works when the ropes must be hanging down a wall.

The Miinter hitch has some drawbacks. Its friction, often higher than other methods, means more impact on a leader's protection and more danger that poor placements will pull out. It kinks the rope more than any other method, producing snarls in the last few feet of rope after several pitches, especially if the same person always leads. To unsnarl the rope, shake it out while it is hanging free. After a big fall, the outermost layer of the sheath is

Fig. 7-12. The friction provided by the Miinter hitch does not depend greatly upon the angle between the ropes.

glazed (which, like the effect of hard-anodized devices, is probably only cosmetic). The Miinter hitch isn't good for rappelling because it twists the rope once for every 5 feet of descent, and makes ropes very fuzzy if used regularly.

Every time the direction of pull on the hitch reverses, the entire knot first flip-flops through the carabiner oval. This can get a bit awkward when the leader clips into protection above, moves up toward it, and then passes it, because it requires the belayer to pay out, take in, and pay out rope in rapid succession, reversing the direction of pull on the Miinter hitch each time. For a fall of a follower, or of a leader below a piece of protection, the Miinter hitch produces an additional drop of 6 inches, as the knot pulls through the carabiner, before braking begins.

You may run across the Miinter hitch under a variety of names, such as the friction hitch, Italian hitch, half ring bend, carabiner hitch, running R, half-mast belay, and UIAA method. It was introduced in Europe in 1973 as the halbmastwurf sicherung (half clove-hitch belay), now abbreviated as HMS. (Chapter 6 gives details on tying the Miinter hitch.)

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