Part B Belays

1. General.

Belaying provides the necessary safety factor or tension, allowing the party to climb with a minimum of danger. When party climbing, two or three climbers are tied into a climbing rope. The use of a rope in party climbing is a hazard without belaying skills. It may be necessary to use one of several belay positions either with the body or mechanical belay device. Belaying involves a stationary man managing and controlling the rope that is tied to a load. Belaying is used to control descent on rope installations.

2. Safety.

The belay system consists of an interfacing system of parts. It is only as strong as the weakest link. The components of the belay chain affect ascent and descent, adding friction through points of contact with the rope. These components are:

• Means of attaching the belayer to the anchor.

• Belayer's stance, body, hands, and any apparatus to control the rope.

• Any intermediate anchor points.

• Rope's point of attachment to the load.

• Load (or the climber's body). 3. Types of Belays.

There are always three aspects common to any belay. They are: a type of belay (direct or indirect); a method of controlling the rope (static or dynamic); and a means of managing the rope (body or mechanical). Each of these areas will be discussed separately.

FIGURE 3-16. Basic Belay Anchor

FIGURE 3-16. Basic Belay Anchor

Direct Belay

The two basic types of belays are direct and indirect:

• Direct Belay. The direct belay is only available when using a mechanical device. The belayer is connected to a point of protection and conducts the mechanical belay from another point of protection. In this variation, the load goes directly to the anchor.

When using the direct belay approach, there are advantages and disadvantages that you must consider:

Advantages. The belayer does not sustain any of the force generated by a fall because he is removed from the belay chain. He can quickly tie off the rope and assist the climber or rescue party.

Disadvantages. The selected anchor point from which to belay the load must be "bombproof." If the primary and secondary anchors fail, the load falls the full length of the rope. It also takes more time to set up and take down than an indirect belay (primary and secondary anchors for both the belayer and the direct belay point).

• Indirect Belay. This belay can be used for mechanical or body belays. The belayer is in direct contact with the climbing rope and is part of the belay chain; with this setup, the load is absorbed, in part, by the belayer.

When using the indirect belay approach, there are advantages and disadvantages that you must consider:

Advantages. Only two anchor points (primary and secondary) are necessary for the belayer and climbing rope. It is easier to set up and retrieve than a direct belay.

Disadvantages. The belayer is part of the belay chain and sustains part of the force generated by the fall. He is a part of the belay chain and cannot readily detach himself from the rope to assist the climber.

The two methods of controlling the rope when holding a fall are the static belay and the dynamic belay:

• Static belay. This belay does not allow the rope to run. It is used when the climber falls from a position below the belayer. When using this method, the belayer should bring his brake hand across his body immediately after the fall, firmly holding the rope so that no rope runs through his hands. The belayer must prevent any slack between himself and the climber if a static belay is to be used effectively. The energy produced by the fall is absorbed by the climbing rope, which results in high-impact forces, even in short falls.

• Dynamic belay. This belay allows the rope to run if a fall occurs. It is used to keep the force of a severe fall within acceptable limits on the climber, belayer, climbing rope, and belay chain. This belay is also used in hauling lines and suspension traverse. The rope is allowed to run only enough to accomplish the task.

A dynamic belay should be used whenever a climber falls from a position other than directly below the belayer such as during traversing, when located above the belayer, or belaying through pitons. When the climber is moving away from the belayer, there should always be a slight amount of slack in the rope between them. The belayer must avoid pulling the climber off balance because of holding the rope too tight. If a fall occurs, the belayer must relax his guide hand and, squeezing with his brake hand, bring the rope slowly across his body to gradually stop the fall. If the belayer cannot withstand the force of the fall, he allows the rope to run while reinforcing his position. Gloves are always worn when conducting a dynamic belay.

If the rope slips during impact, part of the fall energy is changed into heat by the friction of the rope running through snaplinks, over edges, and so on. All dynamic belays have a controlled slipping of the rope over a braking element. The friction on the breaking element dissipates part of the fall energy, thus, sparing the climber and belay system from the high-impact force. However, slipping of the rope increases the length of the fall.

The two ways of managing the rope when belaying are the body belay and the mechanical belay.

Body belays. These are used when the belayer must stop a fall without other means. The rope is wrapped around the body and uses the belayer's body to cinch down on the rope to arrest a fall. All body belays are well suited for normal rope handling. They are rarely suited for the interception of severe falls. The energy produced in the fall is absorbed, in part, by the belayer's body, which can cause injury to the belayer.

• Mechanical belays. Dynamic-mechanical belay methods have been developed to decrease or avoid the possible dangers of body belays.

A good mechanical belay should-

Be easy and simple to handle.

Allow quick paying out and taking in of the rope.

Stop and hold a dry rope as efficiently as a wet rope (wet ropes glide more easily).

Be suited for double ropes.

Be independent of the direction of the impact force.

Have a breaking force range of 250 to 600 kg.

Function without much additional equipment and be practical.

4. Belay Position.

When establishing a belay position, you, the belayer must determine the anticipated direction of pull in case of a fall. As the climber moves up the rock, the direction may change. You must "aim" your belay in the direction that will best enable you to hold a fall. You should take corrective measures if the ideal belay position is different from the expected direction of pull. This corrective action is accomplished by placing more protection (piton, chock, or runner) in a location that aligns the belay with the expected direction of pull.

5. Methods of Protection.

The belayer anchors himself to a reliable anchor using a part of the climbing rope or his sling (utility) rope. When the climbing rope is used and the belayer is within an arm's length of an anchor, a double figure eight can be used to secure the climbing rope to the anchor. This short section of rope between anchor and belayer is called a self-belay.

• If the anchor is further than an arm's reach from the belay position, either a sling rope is used for the self-belay or a bight large enough to reach the anchor is taken and tied off to create a fixed loop. The ability to reach the anchor (or double figure eight) knot from the belay without moving is important. If the belayer is holding the full weight of an incapacitated climber, he must be able to tie the belay rope without moving.

• The self-belay must always be tight, and the anchor(s), belayer, and expected direction of pull must be in as close to a straight line as possible. The belayer ensures that the rope does not run over any sharp projections or rock edges. If it does, it should be rerouted or padded. A rucksack, parka, or other padding is used.

• The belayer lays out the rope so that it runs freely through his hands without becoming tangled. He does not have the option, once belaying starts, to release his brake hand to untangle the rope. Stacking, backfeeding, or piling the rope in one spot is better than coiling, since fewer kinks develop.

6. Belay Test.

A belay test must be conducted in order to ensure the belay position's stability and security to support a fall by the climber.

• The belayer routes his safety line to an anchor point and positions himself for a mechanical or body belay. The belayer commands, ON BELAY TEST.

• The climber responds, "Testing" and tests the belay position with three distinct tests. The climber faces sideways to the vertical rock with the guide hand closest to the rock leading to the belayer. The climbing rope is routed under his buttocks, and the brake hand is placed in the hollow portion of his opposite (guide-hand side) hip.

The climber takes all slack out of the rope between the climber and belayer, and sits down with one-third of his body weight. The climber removes the additional slack created by his body weight and sits down with two-thirds of his body weight.

The climber then removes all remaining slack out of the rope and sits down with his full body weight.

The climber then springs up and out of his belay test stance, allowing the rope to go slack.

• The belayer feels the rope slacken and, if satisfied with his belay position, commands, CLIMB. The climber responds with, "Up Rope" or "Climbing," after he detaches his safety line and is prepared to climb.

7. Position Procedures.

Establish a main-belay anchor point that is strong enough to withstand the forces produced by the falling climber and transmitted through the belay chain. Since this is the last anchor in the chain, it must withstand all possible forces. These forces may come from unexpected directions because of the failure of an intermediate anchor point. The main belay (primary) anchor point's level of safety is increased with additional anchors (secondary). Boulders, pitons, and bolts are well suited for a main-belay anchor point. They may be natural or artificial placements-stability and security are key. The rope running from the belay anchor to the belayer must be short and tight to prevent the belayer from being pulled out of his position.

• Determine the guide and brake hands. The rope runs from the climber through the belayer's guide hand, around the belay mechanism (body or mechanical), and to the brake hand. Ensure that it slides smoothly. NEVER RELEASE THE BRAKE HAND FROM THE CLIMBING ROPE UNTIL THE CLIMBER IS ATTACHED TO AN ANCHOR.

• Ensure that the remainder of the rope is laid out so it runs freely through the brake hand. Gloves may be worn when belaying to reduce friction on the hands and possible rope burns.

• Ensure that the rope does not run over sharp rock edges (padding may be required).

• Anticipate the climber's needs by keeping alert to his movements. Avoid letting too much slack develop in the rope through constant use of the guide hand. Keep all slack out of the rope leading to the climber, thus sensing his movement. Avoid taking up slack too suddenly to prevent throwing the climber off balance. When taking up slack, bring the brake hand just behind the guide hand. This allows the brake hand to slide back and constantly remain on the rope.

• Brace properly for the expected direction of pull in a fall, so that the force of the pull puts the belayer more firmly into position. A climber neither trusts nor assumes a belay position he has not tested.

• Seek a belay position that offers cover and concealment.

• If the climber falls, automatically relax the guide hand; and apply immediate braking action.

8. Body Belay.

Body belay consists of two positions, and they are the "sitting hip belay" and "standing hip belay". They are secured by anchoring the belayer with a section of the climbing rope or a sling rope. When using a climbing rope, a figure eight or bowline knot is tied in the rope with a snaplink inserted and hooked into the anchor point. The belayer then places a bight, formed in the usable belay rope, around his body so that the rope leading to the climber is in the belayer's guide hand. There should be no slack rope between the anchor point and the belayer, who is in a direct line with the expected force of a fall. The anchor rope resists any tendency for the belayer to be rotated out of position if the climber falls.

A sling rope attached to the anchor point and then tied around the belayer gives the same results. If the expected force of a fall is downward, then the climbing rope should be placed above the anchored safety rope to prevent the belay rope from being pulled down and off of the belayer's hips. If the expected force of a fall is from a climber above the belayer, the climbing rope is placed under the anchored safety rope. The belay rope is routed around the body in either direction, depending on the direction in which the force of a fall would be applied. The guide hand will usually be closest to the rock. Therefore, if the belayer is pulled into the rock, he can brace his fall with the guide hand while keeping the brake hand in place. This force should firmly emplace the belayer in his position. The belayer may wear gloves.

Sitting Hip Belay. This is the preferred position and is normally the most secure for a downward pull (Figure 3-17). The belayer sits and tries to get good triangular bracing through his legs and buttocks. When possible, the legs should be spread shoulder-width apart, straight, and well braced. If the belay position is back from a cliff edge, the friction of the rope over the rock simplifies the holding of a fall, however, sharp edges are avoided. Since the expected direction of pull is usually downward, the rope to the climber passes between the belayer's feet. The belayer brakes with the hand that is away from the rock (or ice) so that he may brace himself with the guide hand if he is pulled into the rock (or ice). The guide hand is on the side of the better braced leg. The brake hand never lets go of the rope and is held close to the body. The guide hand is held out in front of the body. To brake, the rope is grasped firmly and the hand is placed in the hollow portion of the opposite (guide hand) shoulder. If slack is desired, the guide hand (out in front of the belayer's body) is relaxed and allows the rope to feed through; the brake hand is extended out to the side and allows the rope to feed through.

FIGURE 3-17. Sitting Hip Belay.

FIGURE 3-17. Sitting Hip Belay.

Hip Belay Shoulder Belay

• Standing Hip Belay. This is a weaker position and is used only where the sitting hip belay is not possible (Figure 3-18). The main-belay anchor for the belayer is essential. The back or guide hand shoulder is braced against the rock. The rope is placed around the back (above the heavy portion of the hips) and in front of the brake hand so that the belayer is pulled firmly into position when a fall is held. The climbing rope is placed either above or below the anchored safety rope according to the direction of pull on the belay-man. The belayer stands facing the expected direction of pull. The stance is with one leg forward and is securely braced with the knee slightly bent. The trailing leg is slightly bent and is the corresponding member of the brake hand (left hand brake means a left trailing leg). The legs are about a shoulder-width apart. If the direction of pull is downward, the rope is routed around the belayer's body above the safety line. The brake position is to the belay's opposite (guide hand) shoulder. The guide hand is extended out in front of the belayer.

Entanglement Belay

• Piton Belay. As soon as the leading climber has identified a location for a reliable anchor (piton, chock, bolt, tree, rock), the climber gives the signal "Point" to the belayer. The belayer keeps his brake hand applied while the climber prepares the placement. When the climber has secured the climbing rope to the protection, there is now a change in the direction of pull. The belayer will run the belay rope firmly beneath his buttocks and below his safety line.

The belayer faces the direction of pull and positions himself for a standing hip belay, left or right hand brake, for an upward pull (Figure 3-19). The stance is with one leg forward and securely braced with the knee slightly bent; the trailing leg is slightly bent and corresponds with the brake hand. The guide hand is extended to the front and kept about waist high. The brake hand is moved to the opposite hip in case of a fall (the hollow portion between the top of the thigh and away from the groin). If slack is desired, the brake hand is moved out to the side, and the grip is relaxed to allow the rope to travel freely through both hands.

Wall And Mount Climbing

A fall is easier to hold with a piton belay than with a sitting or standing belay because of the added friction between rope, rock, and snaplinks. When belaying a climber in a traverse, which is near or horizontal to the belayer, the belayer must anticipate a pull sideways and straight forward He should place the climbing rope underneath his buttocks and be anchored firmly.

• Snaplink Body Belay. To ensure the belay rope is easily controlled around the belayer's body, a snaplink should be placed into the climbing harness or bowline on a coil on the guide hand side, with the climbing rope running through it.

The snaplink (referred to as the guide snaplink) keeps the belay rope from being stripped away from the belayer when the direction of pull is up or down (Figure 3-20).

Use of the guide snaplink is the preferred method since it controls the belay rope for either direction of pull at any time. When placed on the belayer, the gate of the snaplink should open down and away from the belayer.

FIGURE 3-20. Guide Sri aplink for Sna plE ne Bo dy Bel ay.

FIGURE 3-20. Guide Sri aplink for Sna plE ne Bo dy Bel ay.

Belayer Movements

The rope leading from the climber is inserted into the snaplink and routed around the belayer's body and over (or under) the safety line to the belay anchor. The brake is always to the hollow part of the shoulder of the guide-hand side. There is no need to change the rope from a downward to an upward pull since the direction of pull remains constant at the guide snaplink.

9. Managing Rope with a Body Belay.

When managing a rope while belaying, you should follow the procedure listed below. The brake hand is NEVER removed from the rope.

Pulls the rope (with the brake hand) until the brake hand is fully extended to the side.

Lays the rope (with the brake hand), out to the front, in the guide hand without extending the brake hand in front of the guide hand.

Slides the brake hand back to the side of the body while maintaining positive control of the rope in case of a fall.

Repeats cycle.

• In holding a fall, the belayer uses the brake hand to wrap the rope across the chest (or hip) and tightens the grip. The guide hand can be relaxed and remains on the rope, or it may be removed and used to help brace himself.

• If slack is required, the belayer extends his guide hand out to his front and relaxes his grasp on the rope so that the rope can run freely through his hand. He extends his brake hand out to his side so that a 90-degree angle is formed between the guide and brake hands (this reduces the amount of friction) and releases tension on the rope so that it may run freely through his hand.

FliiLHL 1-2' Climbtr " iking Jp Ro|M

FliiLHL 1-2' Climbtr " iking Jp Ro|M

Rope Tension Device

10. Mechanical Belay.

These belays devices include, but are not limited to, sticht plate, snaplink, munter hitch, figure eight (Figure 3-22). The belayer is secured to an anchor point the same as in a body belay. The mechanical belay device can be secured directly to an anchor point within easy reach of the belayer, eliminating the belayer's body from the belay system (direct belay) or attached to the belayer's harness or bowline (indirect belay). These devices should be used only with kernmantle ropes.

Some of the mechanical belays are discussed as follows:

• Sticht Plate. This is not a recommended device for heavy loads. The sticht plate consists of a plate with one or two holes for the rope to be routed through. The spring ring keeps the belay plate away from the snaplink, preventing jamming. In the brake position, the spring is compressed against the snaplink by the braking force. A bight in the climbing rope is routed through one of the openings in the stitch plate and inserted into a snaplink. To brake, the belayer applies friction on the rope by locking the brake hand down, thereby cinching the rope.

• Munter Hitch. The Munter hitch method requires only one piece of equipment: a large radius-end carabiner. The climbing rope is fashioned into a Munter hitch by forming a loop in the rope, then taking the working end of the loop at the point where the two ropes cross, following it around the standing end, and running it

FIGURE 3-22 Mechanical Belays

I . STlCHi



FIGURE 3-22 Mechanical Belays

I . STlCHi



Stitch Plate Belay Operation

parallel along the initial loop. The Munter hitch should be clipped into the carabiner. To brake, the brake hand is pushed forward so that the two ropes are parallel and cinched together.

• Figure Eight. The figure eight descender provides a smooth and efficient belay. The rope is run through the device the same as for descending—a bight is taken up through the opening and routed over the collar, with the figure eight device being clipped into a snaplink. To brake, the brake hand is pulled to the rear to cinch the climbing rope under the collar of the figure eight. If the load is heavy, the wrap is doubled around the collar of the figure eight to reduce the speed of the rope running through the system. It is recommended that the rescue-eight version be used since the protruding "ears" on the figure eight do not allow the rope to slide all the way off the collar.

Use of a Mechanical Device Taking Up Rope. The following procedures are the same for belays with the figure eight descender, Munter hitch, sticht plate, and snaplink brake system.

• With the mechanical device properly secured and the climber's rope properly placed, assume a position from which you can grasp the standing end of the rope (to the climber) about 46 cm (18 inches) from the device. At the same time, maintain control of the working end (to the back-fed pile of rope) with the brake hand.

• Slide the brake hand as close to the device as possible without the hands or handwear becoming entangled.

• Grasp the standing end of the rope as far away (at least 46 cm [18 inches]) from the device as possible with the guide hand.

• While maintaining an even pressure with the guide hand, feed the rope through the system by pulling with the brake hand, away from the mechanical device.

• Lay the rope from the brake hand into the guide hand, ensuring not to extend the brake hand beyond the guide hand. Slide the brake hand back to the belay device.

Repeat the process of pull, lay, slide.

Continue reading here: Part C Rappelling

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  • jolanda
    How to set up an indirect belay?
    10 years ago