The Origin and History of Belay Devices

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Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Original Post - Nov 24, 2012 - 09:06pm PT
I just recently picked up this early Salewa Sticht plate and though that it would be fun to explore the early history of this innovative piece of hardware.



These were around in 1970 when I first got into climbing but hadn't been available for long at that point. I don't have good enough catalog coverage to pin down the first appearance in the US. Anyone know the first date and plate shape?











east side underground

climber
Hilton crk,ca
Nov 24, 2012 - 09:12pm PT
"On Belay, Murry"
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 24, 2012 - 09:17pm PT
I got ya Murry!

Wait a minute, you're all runout- Factor Two?

Lemme add an extra biner!
eKat

Trad climber
BackInTheDitch BackInTheDirt BackInTheDay
Nov 24, 2012 - 09:20pm PT

"On Belay, Murry"

AHHHHHHHHHH . . . . made me think of the StressPuppet!

ox
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Nov 24, 2012 - 09:22pm PT
Those spring belay plates are still the best device around to teach people to belay with as they don't lock back.
Ghost

climber
A long way from where I started
Nov 24, 2012 - 09:22pm PT
I was a hippy back then, so it was only right and proper to sneer at Sticht plates and use a hip belay.
McHale's Navy

Trad climber
Panorama City, California & living in Seattle
Nov 24, 2012 - 09:29pm PT
Yates below,
Credit: McHale's Navy
but I don't know when I got it. I was experimenting with links of chain also in the late 60s and very early 70s. I used carabiner breaking systems for quite awhile until figure 8s came out, rather than wrapping with plates. I recall liking the links and then plates for walls since you could fall asleep at the belay without causing a disaster.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 24, 2012 - 09:32pm PT
Except for getting to say "California" not much Hip about that belay.

I liked the idea of a chunk of metal to abuse just fine.
hooblie

climber
from out where the anecdotes roam
Nov 24, 2012 - 09:36pm PT
origin, history i dunno. seemed like sophistication using one after having melted the coattails
and freed the feathers of a fancy new down jacket holding a fall "the old way"
Jim Brennan

Trad climber
Vancouver Canada
Nov 24, 2012 - 09:48pm PT
It starts with wooden ships and salty buggers.

Belaying pins:

Credit: Captain Highliner
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 24, 2012 - 09:49pm PT
How old is that Yates unit? Was it sold in Seattle?

Ah yes, the Missing Link...who thought of the idea and made them to sell. THAT is the question.

MSR used to sell simple chainlinks for balaying but the Hot Link always seemed to get dropped.

I recall a small rectangular single slot Sticht and a large round single hole that showed up ahead of the two plates shown in the OP.

Somebody please check the German literature for any early writing or adds by Sticht as I bet he got his product out there early.
Cragman

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Nov 24, 2012 - 09:56pm PT
I began climbing in 75, and strictly used a hip belay. I remember seeing guys with Sticht plates, and it seemed like a good idea...I just couldn't afford one.

For quite a while, I used a carabiner brake belay, until I was fortunate to find a Sticht plate below Tahquitz one day in 77.

McHale's Navy

Trad climber
Panorama City, California & living in Seattle
Nov 24, 2012 - 09:58pm PT
You talking to me? I probably bought the Yates in Boise in the early to mid 70s. Yates would know when they made em!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 24, 2012 - 10:26pm PT
The one and only Yates.

Dan- Do you recall how the belay link concept came to you?
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Nov 24, 2012 - 10:43pm PT
Mine's old too--but knott that old. . .Steve, I have a 1973
vintage Sticht plate. Used it for many, many years. . .

But I think Tarbuster still uses his!
McHale's Navy

Trad climber
Panorama City, California & living in Seattle
Nov 24, 2012 - 10:46pm PT
Steve, I don't. I know I did not invent it. We just copied the idea - I'm sure it was going around like a virus at the time.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 24, 2012 - 11:11pm PT
I recently went through the 1960s Summit mags and don't recall seeing an add for belay plates. Trying to pin down the entry point for this technique and hardware is a compelling historical inquiry.

Pitoncraft and organized belaying arrived in the Sierra via the Canadian Rockies just ahead of Underhill arriving to teach it to the Sierra Club.

This belay technique could have filtered in from many directions.
klk

Trad climber
cali
Nov 24, 2012 - 11:35pm PT
i haven't seen any examples in the ol;d catalogues and mags i've looked at. two caveats-- first, i've never specifically looked for the first appearance of mechanical belay devices and i haven't researched past the early 60s stuff.

sliding friction knots go way, way back-- presumably folks used them in climbing in the early-middle 20th century if not before.

have you emailed salewa? interesting that salewa was an early adopter if not a pioneer. the simple fact that we refer to it as a "sticht" plate suggest a german origin. since the germans (the tirolians, actually) pioneered pitoncraft, that would make sense. but i always thought of the sticht plate as something best suited to a hip belay, an innovation that seems to have come out of berkeley. when did the austrians switch to hip belays? if no one here knows, i'll ask around. many of the french i climbed with as late as the early eighties were still using shoulder belays. a sticht plate would be awkward with a shoulder belay, but it would work well in rescue or guide situations with an overhead anchor.

on a tangent:

Underhill arriving to teach it to the Sierra Club.

if "it" means pitoncraft and modern belaying, he didn't, at least in california. i can't find any evidence that underhill was personally familiar with the state-of-the-art in pitoncraft. the sc photos of what he taught the californians show a standing shoulder belay of the sort common among french and swiss guides since at least the late 19th century. no pitons. i know that miriam had climbed in the dolomites with a guide who was genuinely competent in pitoncraft, but i don't know that he ever did. if you have found detailed accounts of him demonstrating competence in pitoncraft in the rockies, i'd love to see it-- as best i can tell, he (like most of his favorite guides in the western alps) viewed pitons as a german perversion.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Nov 24, 2012 - 11:59pm PT
Credit: mouse from merced
1978 ad. I trust Royal, if he's the pimp. :)
Credit: mouse from merced
1987 bandwagoneer's ad.

Help me Jesus and a hip belay are all I've ever used. Thank God I never had to catch screamers as a daily routine. It's why the BDs are so popular. Along with certain other (six letters) relay devices...
The Warbler

climber
the edge of America
Nov 25, 2012 - 12:10am PT
Seems to me a figure 8 was the first thing used as a "belay device". They were originally designed and used for descending, of course, but could be used a variety of ways to belay also. Then the concept got refined down to the minimum of weight and bulk, and specialized more for belaying than rappelling.

Edit: maybe I have my timeline wrong... do you have a date for the first 8's, Steve?
Randisi

Social climber
Dalian, Liaoning
Nov 25, 2012 - 01:02am PT
I recall reading that someone claimed Dulfer had somehow used two carabiners as a belay device. But I don't remember ever learning how he actually went about doing that.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Nov 25, 2012 - 04:33am PT
I began climbing in 75, and strictly used a hip belay. I remember seeing guys with Sticht plates, and it seemed like a good idea...I just couldn't afford one.
We only hip belayed and initially cast a very dubious eye towards stitch plates which persisted for some time as we were unwilling to forgo the feel and immediacy of hip belays. And I still hip belay quite a bit and teach it as well. It's a foundational skill from my perspective.
Rudder

Trad climber
Costa Mesa, CA
Nov 25, 2012 - 04:36am PT
We only hip belayed and initially cast a very dubious eye towards stitch plates which persisted for some time as we were unwilling to forgo the feel and immediacy of hip belays. And I still hip belay quite a bit and teach it as well. It's a foundational skill from my perspective.

Same here... and Harding didn't need to belay device to climb the nose! ;) Didnt' where no helmet either, damn it. lol
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Nov 25, 2012 - 10:59am PT
When leading we did augment our hip belays with a single non-locking biner on the leader side of the rope - completely bomb.

Steve: Except for getting to say "California" not much Hip about that belay.

Our experience on traveling was most people sucked at both hip belaying and stancing. They always had the rope up on their waist rather than down on their actual hips and that mistake alone makes for a painful and basically worthless belay. Most also didn't really 'get' the art of stancing as integral to belaying.
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Nov 25, 2012 - 11:47am PT
There was a belay gadget made by MSR, in the early 1970s. A red anodized plate, about 2 x 8 x 10 cm. It had several holes in it, plus a screw/bolt tensioning adjuster, or something along those lines. IIRC, the idea was that you could thread the rope in various ways through the thing, and thereby create more or less friction. Beyond that, I don't remember how it was to be used, etc. It wouldn't surprise me if Larry Penberthy had seen early models of simple belay devices from Europe, and gone from there. Maybe the thing I saw was a prototype - somehow a teacher at my high school who was a hiker had gotten one. I never saw another one, or learned anything more about it.

In the mid-1970s, the English (at least) were sometimes using figure 8s (reversed) as belay devices.
philo

Trad climber
Somewhere halfway over the rainbow
Nov 25, 2012 - 12:06pm PT
My own belay rapel device progression from the late 60s on was hip belay/dulfersitz, Stitch plate/carabiner brake bar, figure 8/figure 8, tuber/tuber.

I remember using a chain link but didn't like them compared to Stitch plates even if they were much lighter.
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
Nov 25, 2012 - 12:20pm PT
I recall reading that someone claimed Dulfer had somehow used two carabiners as a belay device. But I don't remember ever learning how he actually went about doing that.

This would be interesting to track down. Possibly this would be the "Garda hitch" also sometimes called the "heart knot" , which is the precursor to the autoblock devices used today.

It involves using 2 identical non locking biners, side by side with gate opening out then the rope looped through a couple of times so that when loaded the carabiner spines jam the rope. It is still a standard tool for all mountain guides .... if they know their stuff, that is.

It is good for belaying one or two seconds at a time, and improvised raising rescue loads - up to a point where the carabiners will crush the rope to failure. (I cant remember what the typical failure load is)

I'm a bit surprised to hear that Cragman used a "biner brake " to belay.....? Maybe he meant the garda knot.
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Nov 25, 2012 - 12:26pm PT
A carabiner brake would make a reasonable belay device, though it might be a bit clumsy. Some of us used to do a hip belay where the rope would come down, go through a carabiner (e.g. on a Whillans harness), around your body, then back through the carabiner. Thus considerably increasing likely friction and control.
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
Nov 25, 2012 - 12:34pm PT
A carabiner brake would most emphatically NOT be approriate to belay! it will fail at much lower loads than even a figure eight. the friction involved is squat even if you stack a bunch together.

here's a ok demonstration of the garda. I noticed a few google pictures that show the Garda with locking biners which is NOT recommended. Non lockers and equal spine lengths are mandatory.




Also, the "plate" MH describes from the 70's might be the Plaquette, another autoblock tool good for ratcheting rescue loads or belaying one or two seconds. Zero function for belaying a leader.

The ATC's used in auto block mode act similarly.
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Nov 25, 2012 - 12:43pm PT
Well, I don't recall ever seeing a carabiner brake used for belaying, but did see them used for lowers and rescue purposes, where control was essential. Usually multiple rigs, sometimes with multiple brake bars etc. I've used a carabiner brake for rappelling with three and even four cross carabiners (i.e. 2 x 2 x 3 or 2 x 2 x 4), and with four across you can barely get the rope through, even using big ovals. The physics of the situation is much the same as any other belay 'device' - the more angles the rope goes through, and the tighter those angles, the greater the friction. And you never get full control with any belay device, except perhaps things like grigris. Pull hard enough and the rope will move, unless jammed or tied off elsewhere.
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
Nov 25, 2012 - 12:52pm PT
I think the definition of an effective belay device involves a safety factor of 10 applied to whatever the load is. Even belaying seconds should anticipate load multiplication due to all the real world factors. Lowering (or belaying) with weak systems need to be backed up.

All this stuff must be dicumented somewhere. I remember scott flavelle telling me how he ant tim Auger tested everything they could think of with a truck, a load cell..... and a lot of beer. What came out on top was Tandem 8 mill prussiks, followed by the munter hitch, then all the other normal stuff with figure eights at the bottom of the pile ( I doubt that even with a lot of beer they tried the hip belay somehow).
DanaB

climber
CT
Nov 25, 2012 - 01:00pm PT
Gary Storrick's website has an exhaustive list of belay devices (also ascenders, descenders) along with photos and information. He may have something about the history of prototype/early belay devices. The site is fun to check out, regardless. Just type in Gary Storrick on a search engine. I do remember one of the first 'Gunkies I met in the early '70s was using a simple metal link as an improvised Sticht plate, so the idea was around.
mellpat

Big Wall climber
Sweden
Nov 25, 2012 - 01:11pm PT
The patent document for the Sticht belay plate is here http://tinyurl.com/cn36ynp
The patent, which covers only Germany, was applied for in 1969. The belay plate (invented by Fritz Sticht) caught on very rapidly and was in general use here in Sweden already in 1970.
TwistedCrank

climber
Dingleberry Gulch, Ideeho
Nov 25, 2012 - 01:20pm PT
What about the "psychological belay"?
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 25, 2012 - 01:28pm PT
Thanks mellpat!

What configuration of plate appeared in the patent drawings? My guess would be single hole round.

Any recollection of plates or links before 1969 in your memory?
mellpat

Big Wall climber
Sweden
Nov 25, 2012 - 01:41pm PT
Steve:
Click at "Mosaics" to the left in the link I gave and the patent drawings show up. The Sticht belay plate was the original belay plate and there was nothing of the kind before. I still have my plate as shown in fig.2 (single hole) but cannot find it right now.

edit: The variants with a spring to hold the plate away from the carabiner came later (also from Salewa) but weren't patented.
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Nov 25, 2012 - 01:46pm PT
It's impossible to imagine Dulfer or anyone else could have used the Garda hitch for belaying the leader---it only allows the belayer to take rope in, not feed it out. For the second maybe, although lowering would not be possible.

Although I haven't done any measurements, I have long experience rappelling with carabiner brakes and, much later, with modern tube-style devices and would say, on balance, that you could get as much and possibly more friction from the carabiner brake, especially remembering that the ropes at that time were 11mm. That said, no one I knew ever used them for belaying the leader because of the difficulty of paying out slack.

My first Sticht plate was just a rectangle with a slot and no spring. It now resides in Rock and Snow's little museum. I think the spring came later, and the patent document linked upthread seems to confirm that.
klk

Trad climber
cali
Nov 25, 2012 - 01:53pm PT


this guy links the sticht invention to use of chain link on snub ropes in sailing:

Developed from a chain link used by old sailors as a snubber to a simple plate with slots by Fritz Sticht

http://www.climbargolis.com/Glue-inBoltDesign.htm


again, aside from rescue situations, it's tough to imagine a belay plate having any appeal until after the development and popularization of the hip belay. you weren't going to use a sticht plate with a shoulder belay which was the dominant belay in the Alps in Dulfer's age and well after.
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
Nov 25, 2012 - 01:55pm PT
What about the "psychological belay"?

Bloody good question as it likely happens way more than we like to admit. Given enough force, an ATC will fail. I don't know the stats but with anything over a factor 1 force I'd not be so 100 % confident in my ability to stop a fall just belaying off your harness. I've been on the dummy end of a factor 1.3 or so and it didn't take much to drive my belayer up into the belay rigging and for the rope to burn through his hands and drive his fingers into the ATC. I'm just glad he had a half assed pain tolerance which stopped me from going all the way to the ground!

Most of us old farts have caught plenty of leaderc falls with a hip but i'd likely guess that most of those involved a lot of rope out and plenty of protection. these days I almost never belay someone with a hip belay unless they are seconding straight up. If we're really smart and we anticipate a long lead out off the anchor, we'll belay right off the anchor with a munter hitch, and throw on a pair of gloves.
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Nov 25, 2012 - 02:06pm PT
(Dr.) Gary Storrick's website, with information about ascenders, descenders, belay devices and other gadgets, is at http://storrick.cnc.net/VerticalDevicesPage/VerticalHome.shtml

The MSR auto-belayer is the gadget I remember - http://storrick.cnc.net/VerticalDevicesPage/Misc/AnchorBrakePages/AnchorBrake0877.html The web page says it's from the mid-1970s, and I definitely remember it from 1972/1973.

As Kerwin says, most of our gadgets and terminology are shamelessly 'borrowed' from the sailors, perhaps with some adaptation.
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
Nov 25, 2012 - 02:07pm PT
about the chain link ..... I believe one of the ideas behind the big alluminum plate had to do with heat dissipation. Same with the figure eight. I assume that at some point friction heat can get extreme enough to damage the rope or your various body parts.

That is a rappeling issue mostly i guess but if you're ever tempted to rap with a chain link its probably worth thinking about!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 25, 2012 - 02:14pm PT
Looks like the rectangular single hole probably hit the market first. I have one buried somewhere...LOL
McHale's Navy

Trad climber
Panorama City, California & living in Seattle
Nov 25, 2012 - 02:58pm PT
Warbler, I also had a figure 8 in 1977 - not sure of before then - seems like it was a fairly recent acquisition for me then - may have been made by Clog - I still have that one and will track it down. I used it for that season for solo rapelling it seems safe in terms of heat dissipation. I was atracted to it because it was large - it was twice as large and massive as current 8s. Actually, I think it was twice as big as the 80s versions and probably 3 times the mass, at least, of current versions.

Looks like there's a pic of my Clog descender type over on the 'The first Purposeful Nut' thread.
ec

climber
ca
Nov 25, 2012 - 04:44pm PT
Circa 1974, Forrest Mountaineering
Circa 1974, Forrest Mountaineering
Credit: ec
Cragman

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Nov 25, 2012 - 05:22pm PT
I never had a problem with using a carabiner brake for belay on occasion. It worked well on multi-pitch, when belaying the second from above. A double biner brake was ideal. Of course, I was only 15, saw someone else utilize it, and did the same.

The Sticht plate was quite nice, once I was fortunate enough to find one at Tahquitz.

By 79, I went to the figure 8, using that for many years....until BD came out with the ATC.

The old hip belay sure held LOTS of falls back in the day.
ec

climber
ca
Nov 25, 2012 - 05:39pm PT
The old hip belay sure held LOTS of falls back in the day.

Oh, yeah...

 ec
The Warbler

climber
the edge of America
Nov 25, 2012 - 08:18pm PT
Looks like there's a pic of my Clog descender type over on the 'The first Purposeful Nut' thread.

I noticed that too, McHale, and the date on the mag is 1971, so 8's have been around at least that long.


Just found this; pretty funny:

http://www.google.com/patents?id=dDRXAAAAEBAJ&pg=PA1&source=gbs_selected_pages&cad=2#v=onepage&q&f=false
McHale's Navy

Trad climber
Panorama City, California & living in Seattle
Nov 25, 2012 - 10:04pm PT
All Of This Has Happened Before And Will Happen Again!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 5, 2013 - 06:54pm PT
Storrick does a first rate job but it seems that he too is still trying to nail down dates of product origination.

I wonder if the figure eight was designed with clip ring belaying in mind. Using it as friction brake in normal rappel mode is certainly something they thought of in the design.

Since figure eights and Sticht plates show up at about the same time it would be fun to crawl around in these guys minds.

Anyone have the Clog catalog from 1970 or thereabouts? A catalog shot of the small ring in play would be definitive!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 18, 2013 - 01:17pm PT
Anders- Why did you pull your post upthread?
JimT

climber
Munich
Jan 18, 2013 - 03:11pm PT
Clog started in 1966 and there were already 8s in use by then, there was one in bronze available in Chamonix at that time as one of my climbing mentors had one, probably Cassin but maybe Italian. Certainly the first one Im aware of but it wasnt used for belaying, the big Clog one was probably the first was used that way (Ive still got mine lying around somewhere).
locker

Social climber
state of Kumbaya...
Jan 18, 2013 - 03:16pm PT


"By 79, I went to the figure 8, using that for many years"...

You hold your age well...

You don't look a day over 76...
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 18, 2013 - 09:12pm PT
Thank for the background Jim.

A date of 1966 would likely put the Clog or predecessor as the earliest belay device unless the Pierre Allain meathook descender had a configuration that could be used that way. I have never seen the instructions for the Pierre Allain and I don't own one to experiment with.

My catalog collection is poor but I have the Allain descender in a 1965 Eiger catalog.

The earliest belay device is likely to be a carabiner used with a Munter hitch but it is fun to try to line this all up in a verifiable way.

I wonder who invented the brake bar?
JimT

climber
Munich
Jan 19, 2013 - 03:38am PT
The Sticht plate was popularised before the HMS, heres a rough translation of an article about it all. It should be noted that it was written by a German-speaking Swiss from Constance who may not have been completely unbiased in who he thinks has the prior claim!
There are other articles with slightly different views.

"From the mid-60s it was realized from fall tests the need to replace the previously used static (fixed) belay methods by dynamic belaying (with controlled rope slip). At the end of 1967 Franz Ruso,(from Constance in Switzerland), proposed as the "braking carabiner loop" which is identical with modern Munter hitch belay method, but in the heat of the various other developments in rope brakes this was largely forgotten. The Sticht brake became the established method. Today we know that the brake loop (HMS) had been known as such for some time in mountain rescue where it is used for lowering of loads as wounded or material. The difference was Rusos idea to use this braking loop to belay partners in that the free end of the rope in hands of the belayer slides and is held back in the event of a fall by hand strength. It has been found that this belay quite ideally acts dynamically.
At the UIAA meetings in 1971 in Trento and a second time in 1973 Andermatt this belay method was demonstrated by the Italian delegation. It was only at the second congress it was accepted by the Commission and then as the "UIAA belay" recommended. It was the wish of the UIAA to publicise the new belay method without attatching the inventors name.
In some German-speaking countries, the term Munter hitch has prevailed. (Transl.Note: Not in the part of Germany I live in where HMS is the universal term.) At the UIAA meeting in Trento 1971, Werner Munter had shown a new backup method, which he called "karabiner-shoulder protection". He used the already known HMS, but to increase the braking force ran the free end of the rope around the shoulders. This made a dynamic belay impossible."

The article goes on with a discussion over the various claims and publicity particularly from Munters side about who invented what, in the competitive (and somewhat small-minded) world of Swiss and Italian Tirol mountaineering. From a modern point of view its all a bit childish!

Werner Munter is still around and recently retired from the Swiss avalanche laboratory.
nutstory

climber
Ajaccio, Corsica, France
Jan 19, 2013 - 03:54am PT
Pierre Allain "catalog"
Pierre Allain "catalog"
Credit: nutstory
Steve, is it what you have in mind...
The P.A. 77 descendeur hit the market in... 1977
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 19, 2013 - 12:53pm PT
This page from the 1964 Eiger Company catalog shows the descender in question.


Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 15, 2013 - 02:31pm PT
Does anyone have a Cassin or Clog figure eight bought around 1970 for show?
wivanoff

Trad climber
CT
Mar 15, 2013 - 03:02pm PT
The MSR auto-belayer is the gadget I remember - http://storrick.cnc.net/VerticalDevicesPage/Misc/AnchorBrakePages/AnchorBrake0877.html The web page says it's from the mid-1970s, and I definitely remember it from 1972/1973.

Yeah, I sent that to him in 2007 along with a photocopy of the instructions. I don't think I ever actually used the thing. Also, sent him a red anodized MSR "chainlink" belay plate.

I had used a figure 8 to belay TR on a Goldline. By the time I bought a kernmantel rope I had acquired a Stitch plate without the spring. Used several home made belay plates and a "Betta-Brake" for several years before the ATCs came along.
philo

Trad climber
Is that light the end of the tunnel or a train?
Mar 15, 2013 - 03:07pm PT
photo not found
Missing photo ID#294358

A Sticht on 9 saves mine.
ydpl8s

Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
Mar 15, 2013 - 03:17pm PT
^^^Looks just like mine Philo, how many times have you had that little "keeper" string get caught up and in the plate with the rope? That's why I got one with the spring.
McHale's Navy

Trad climber
Panorama City, California & living in Seattle
Mar 15, 2013 - 04:04pm PT
Steve, here's a pic of a Clog. I used this quite a bit in 77 and probably 75, but I can't nail down when I bought it or where.
Credit: McHale's Navy
jaaan

Trad climber
Chamonix, France
Mar 15, 2013 - 04:05pm PT
Jim T mentions the big Clog fig 8 and McHale's has a photo of it just above this. Here's what the best dressed Brit was wearing in the Dolomites in 1972.

Credit: jaaan

If you take a close look you'll see a bent wire fig 8 attached to his Whillans harness, rope running through it ready to rap or belay (I think...). No idea who made those... Jim?

Credit: jaaan

Edit: Actually I lie, it's not a Whillans, it's a waist belt of some sort:

Credit: jaaan



Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 15, 2013 - 04:27pm PT
Hey Dan,

Is the clip hole on your Clog 8 big enough to belay through it with a full diameter (11mm) rope?

I am trying to determine if belay duty was part of the design intent other than using it in reverse rappel mode as a brake.
McHale's Navy

Trad climber
Panorama City, California & living in Seattle
Mar 15, 2013 - 04:39pm PT
I don't think it was meant for that. It's difficult to put even a 10.8 loop through that hole. That's much easier to do with the CMI. The rope drags on itself even after it's through the Clog loop. It could be used for that in a pinch though.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 15, 2013 - 04:42pm PT
Thanks Dan!

Somebody out there must have one of the original run of rectangular machined Sticht plates to show.
philo

Trad climber
Is that light the end of the tunnel or a train?
Mar 15, 2013 - 05:57pm PT
Things have come a long ways.

photo not found
Missing photo ID#230257
The Simond Toucan.
carlos gallego

Ice climber
Spain
Mar 15, 2013 - 07:23pm PT
Credit: carlos gallego
jaaan

Trad climber
Chamonix, France
Mar 16, 2013 - 03:09pm PT
Hey Carlos, that's just like my mate's fig 8.

Credit: jaaan
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Mar 16, 2013 - 03:57pm PT
The Stitch Plate should still be on anyone's rack. You can literally do anything with that little sucker. Belay, rap, lower out, bail.

They have far better control than any of the tubular belay devices, which won't lock off if you need to.

Seriously. They are that useful and they weigh nothing.

Figure 8's always sucked. Anyone who uses them is a moron.

The caribiner brake should also still be taught, although it is hard to do with weird shapes or wire gates.
carlos gallego

Ice climber
Spain
Mar 16, 2013 - 04:03pm PT
Hello, jaaan... yes I saw your photo and remembered my steel figure of eigth.

...another ones...

Credit: carlos gallego





BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Mar 16, 2013 - 04:22pm PT
Figure 8 is too big and serves no good function. They tend to tangle ropes.

I'm telling you that I've done things with a stitch plate that now takes five devices to do.

Just a piece of metal with an oval cut into it. I've heard that you can use a chain link, but why?

Somebody bring them back and spread the word.

Notice that the figure 8 photos all look unused.
carlos gallego

Ice climber
Spain
Mar 16, 2013 - 04:46pm PT
Hello, BASE104... you are right.
These pieces are of past times... I do not use them since many... many years ago, I just insert photo to see the "collection".
Nowadays there are other devices and, as you say, a plate should be in any rack... even as emergency kit only.
Of course there are modern devices to choose... depending of the climb to take.
jaaan

Trad climber
Chamonix, France
Mar 16, 2013 - 06:18pm PT
You know Base, I've heard lots of folk say that 8s twist the rope, on this side of the pond too. I've never had that experience - or at least they haven't twisted my ropes more than other devices. For years in the 80s and 90s they were used as belay devices in 'rapid mode'. That is with the rope pulled through the big hole then simply clipped through the biner. Thinking back now from the safety of the Grigri I wonder how we ever survived!
wivanoff

Trad climber
CT
Mar 16, 2013 - 08:08pm PT
The Stitch Plate should still be on anyone's rack. You can literally do anything with that little sucker. Belay, rap, lower out, bail.

They have far better control than any of the tubular belay devices, which won't lock off if you need to.

And they (non-spring version) are MUCH smoother with two oval carabiners opposite & opposed instead of one screwgate.
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Mar 16, 2013 - 08:26pm PT
The 8 is bulky and limited. Using the small hole to belay sucks, too.

The stitch plate, correctly without the spring as mentioned above, is way better than anything other than things such as the gri-gri. It is a hell of a lot cheaper, but not for sport climbing belays, I admit.

On trad or walls or alpine, you can do anything with those things. Does anyone make them anymore? They really are just as useful as knowing how to tie a prussick knot.
drljefe

climber
El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
Mar 16, 2013 - 08:30pm PT
tie a what?
jaaan

Trad climber
Chamonix, France
Mar 17, 2013 - 08:48am PT
In about 1983 or 4 I can remember climbing a route in the Verdon called Rve de Fer. As we were rapping down it to the start, there was a French guide coming up it with two clients. I watched his belaying technique with horror. He's simply passed his two ropes through a biner clipped to the belay and was just pulling the rope through it, his clients both climbing at the same time. Right on cue one of his clients fell off. He clamped the ropes below the biner tight with both hands and stopped the fall without too much difficulty, but of course until the person who'd fallen had regained the rock he couldn't do much for the other client who was still climbing... not ideal!

I bought the first of the 'magic plate' belay devices, the NewAlp Magic Plate in I'd say about 1990-ish. It was fantastic as I could belay two seconds at the same time (if I wanted to) and have hands free if I needed it to do other essentials, such as eating, reading the guidebook etc. If one of the seconds fell off I could still belay the other. The only downside was that these things were crap for rapping and you couldn't really belay a leader with it, and you couldn't really give slack with it very easily. This meant that I carried a belay plate (a DMM Betterbrake) as well. So when the Reverso appeared not too long back that could do all these things, I bought one immediately. However after a time the sheer effort of pulling rope through it in 'guide' mode made me abandon it in favour once more of the Magic Plate and Betterbrake.

Credit: jaaan

For sport climbing I always use a Grigri (having abandoned the euro-death-rapid-eight). Having managed to forget to put it in my pack a few times recently I've taken to always carrying an old Sticht plate in the bottom of the pack as an emergency. It's a bit worn but works fine.

Credit: jaaan
climbski2

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
Mar 17, 2013 - 09:13am PT
I have used biner break belays. Also there used to be a brake bar that could be put on the old smooth Ovals.

And yes 8s are just plain turds for standard belay's or rapping. I have used stitch plates but not enough that I ever got a liking for them. Too catchy for me. My personal favorite device has been the later square Lowe tubers. So easy to adjust proper friction and feed on everything from ice floss ropes to static.

Question though. In a pinch if I dropped or forgot a device or deliberately did not take one for weight bulk reasons. I much prefer a munter hitch for belaying or rapping versus a biner break. There are even ways to get bit more friction if needed on rappel by an extra spine wrap below the munter.

Any particular reason to learn the biner break? Vs a Munter? Am I overlooking something?
mellpat

Big Wall climber
Sweden
Mar 22, 2013 - 05:54am PT
A picture of my original Sticht plate, the plate being obtained from Sporthaus Schuster in or about 1969.
The text on it reads "Sticht Seilbremse DBPa / SALEWA made in West Germany". DBPa is short for "patent pending in West Germany".
Credit: mellpat
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 22, 2013 - 11:12am PT
Melpat- Thanks for posting that early plate and background.

Could you show a shot of the back and side even though there is no markings present.

I suspect that yours was cast or die forged rather than machined but I would like to confirm that. There will be a casting mark at the midline if this plate was made that way

A machined version still likely predates the one shown and we might get lucky enough to see one if this thread persists long enough. Then again at 1969 with patent pending this may be the first production model.
WBraun

climber
Mar 22, 2013 - 11:18am PT
The 8 is bulky and limited.

It's the other way around.

The stitch plate is the limited one.

If you don't believe me we can go head to head you with the stitch plate and me with the Figure 8.

I will destroy your statement .....
can't say

Social climber
Pasadena CA
Mar 22, 2013 - 11:30am PT
This is the oldest one I have. I believe it predates any double slotted Sticht plates
Credit: can't say
mellpat

Big Wall climber
Sweden
Apr 3, 2013 - 02:25pm PT
Could you show a shot of the back and side even though there is no markings present.

I suspect that yours was cast or die forged rather than machined but I would like to confirm that. There will be a casting mark at the midline if this plate was made that way

A machined version still likely predates the one shown and we might get lucky enough to see one if this thread persists long enough. Then again at 1969 with patent pending this may be the first production model.

The back is identical with the front but lacks text. Before "Sticht Seilbremse" it says "11 mm" as in the other shown above. The "11 mm" had partly worn away in mine. No casting marks can be seen and if originally cast it appears to have been machined afterwards. It is definitely the first production model in Europe. I know because in those years I got the yearly catalogue from Sporthaus Schuster and I also subscribed to the German magazine "Alpinismus" that held a test of the Sticht plate. Some manufacturer soon afterwards sold a "copy" just consisting of two (for redundancy) circular "rapell rings" taped together and attached to a small holding sling. Perhaps an attempt to circumvent the patent.
Marlow

Sport climber
OSLO
Apr 3, 2013 - 02:53pm PT
Carabiners, belay devices and more (Au Vieux Campeur 1972)
Credit: Marlow
Credit: Marlow
Credit: Marlow
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 3, 2013 - 09:18pm PT
Thanks mellpat and Marlow.

Machined it is! No point in casting that shape really but I had to ask about any telltale lines. Once the demand was established, drop forging becomes a cheaper production method.

Can you tell me when Jumars first showed up in the Sporthaus Schuster catalogs if you have a good selection.
mellpat

Big Wall climber
Sweden
Apr 7, 2013 - 09:12am PT
Can you tell me when Jumars first showed up in the Sporthaus Schuster catalogs if you have a good selection.

Jumars were patented already in 1958 - see http://tinyurl.com/cpv945y
The production model for the first 20 years or so appears to be identical to that shown in the patent. Jumars seems to have been patented in just Austria and Switzerland.
I no longer have the old Schuster catalogs, but I recall that Jumars were used at Eiger Direct (Harlin route) in 1966, the year I started climbing.
dustyrat

Trad climber
Leeds, West Yorkshire
Apr 7, 2013 - 11:45am PT
Of interest, single sticht plate with spring, not sure of date though
Of interest, single sticht plate with spring, not sure of date though
Credit: dustyrat
dustyrat

Trad climber
Leeds, West Yorkshire
Apr 7, 2013 - 11:49am PT
I could be wrong but I think this device may have featured in 70's Cho...
I could be wrong but I think this device may have featured in 70's Chouinard brochures?
Credit: dustyrat
eKat

Trad climber
Less than a second shy of 49 minutes
Apr 7, 2013 - 11:50am PT
Don't forget this wondrous Masterpiece!

photo not found
Missing photo ID#297705
dustyrat

Trad climber
Leeds, West Yorkshire
Apr 7, 2013 - 11:56am PT
Pierre Allain Descender
Pierre Allain Descender
Credit: dustyrat
Was shown in brochure and referenced by Steve, way back on second page of this thread
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
Apr 7, 2013 - 12:19pm PT
In about 1983 or 4 I can remember climbing a route in the Verdon called Rve de Fer. As we were rapping down it to the start, there was a French guide coming up it with two clients. I watched his belaying technique with horror. He's simply passed his two ropes through a biner clipped to the belay and was just pulling the rope through it, his clients both climbing at the same time. Right on cue one of his clients fell off. He clamped the ropes below the biner tight with both hands and stopped the fall without too much difficulty, but of course until the person who'd fallen had regained the rock he couldn't do much for the other client who was still climbing... not ideal!

The famous "Guides Belay"! As you describe it being used it does sound slightly terrifying to witness and one can only assume that the load of the fallen climber was not even body weight.... good thing the other guy didn't plop off too!

The guides belay ( rope pinched as a bight through a biner, hand clamping both strands to arrest fall) is fine on low angle terrain where little slips can be held easily. But ..... woe is he who underestimates the load obviously. Hardly appropriate on anything truly fifth class.

The "auto block plate" you show was known around here as a Plaquette. It was a very useful tool for belaying 2 followers in a typical guiding situation. Prior to that Garda hitches served the same purpose but both tools suffered from difficulties in managing the devices for switching to lowering out or - as you noted - managing number 2 when number 1 was loading the device.

All these problems have been very neatly solved with the variety of "Reverso" type auto block / belay devices, which serve all roles beautifully with very little difficulty in switching functions.
It is interesting to note that these newer designs are essentially stich plates that have been tweaked in design in very simple yet profoundly important ways while maintaining simplicity. I don't mourn the loss of either Stich plates or figure eights at all, nor plaquettes.

It is also interesting to note that all belaying for the purpose of typical climbing situations can be managed perfectly safely ( if a bit awkwardly in some situations) with just one or two carabiners, preferably HMS and locking of course.

By the way Jaan - I was just over in your neighborhood. Nice little play ground you have there! It was really cool to finally visit the birth place of alpinism. A bit like visiting Mecca!




Chiloe

Trad climber
Lee, NH
Apr 7, 2013 - 12:24pm PT
The first belay link I saw was (I believe) an MSR/Larry Penberthy device. Joe Herbst used one when we climbed the Nose in '71. I was using a Stitch at the time, he extolled the virtues of his lighter/smaller system.
locker

Social climber
Some Rehab in Bolivia
Apr 7, 2013 - 12:30pm PT

What the living HELL is this contraption???...

Has ANYONE here ever held, seen, used one???...

WOULD anyone here even buy one???...(LOL!!!)...


...


EDITED:

I keep looking at that thing and wondering what the hell were they thinking???...

Did someone invent that thing and dream that no doubt they're going to become a millionaire with such a brilliant IMPROVEMENT????...

Marlow

Sport climber
OSLO
Apr 7, 2013 - 12:59pm PT
Steve.

The Jumar after some Google digging (no answer to the catalogue question):

The Scottish Mountain Heritage Collection: http://www.smhc.co.uk/objects_item.asp?item_id=32302
Credit: The Scottish Mountain Heritage Collection
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ascender_(climbing)

The Jumar got it's name from the "Ju" in Jusi and the "mar" in Marti - the inventors.
eKat

Trad climber
Less than a second shy of 49 minutes
Apr 7, 2013 - 01:03pm PT
What the living HELL is this contraption???...

Here's the eBay link to what I call TheMechanicalClusterFuk:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/SPIDER-type-trad-protection-rock-climbing-descender-belay-device-new-/321086431157?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item4ac23e1fb5

DOOD!
locker

Social climber
Some Rehab in Bolivia
Apr 7, 2013 - 01:04pm PT

"Here's the eBay link to what I call TheMechanicalClusterFuk:"...

ekat...

That THING is HILARIOUS looking...

I would LOVE to see someone pull it out at the crags...

LMAO!!!...





EDITED:

I've looked at it a bunch of times and still can't get beyond...

WHAT THE FUK???...

LOL!!!...
eKat

Trad climber
Less than a second shy of 49 minutes
Apr 7, 2013 - 01:18pm PT
locker. . . I sent that link to Blanchard and I could hear him cracking up in his reply email!

It really would be a fun thing to have at the crags someday when there were lots of people around.. . just whip that puppy out and very quietly clip into it and start rigging . . . just to see how long it would take for somebody to snap!

HA!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 7, 2013 - 03:04pm PT
I think it's called a ZABROK! LOL
Todd Eastman

climber
Bellingham, WA
Apr 7, 2013 - 04:48pm PT
I imagine that the cost and ethical concerns of keeping and feeding a trained belay slave had something to do with the development of belay devices...
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - May 26, 2013 - 09:15pm PT
Going tubular was the next big step and another great Lowe innovation.




An early unmarked Lowe Tuber.




Along with a later snazzy French model.
socalbolter

Sport climber
Silverado, CA
May 27, 2013 - 12:06am PT
When I first started climbing, my partner/mentor gave me a single slot, rectangular plate like the one shown in mellpat's photo upthread. I used it for years before upgrading to the spring version once they were available.

Always enjoy browsing these hardware threads...reminds me of how far we've come.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - May 26, 2014 - 04:14pm PT
A few more snazzy French-made Tubers complete with splatter-resist anodization and with the cable loop intact.



Ksolem

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
May 26, 2014 - 05:47pm PT
Around 1972, when I got into climbing at the Gunks, hip belays were the order of the day. I have this vague recollection of having to take a test which involved catching a heavy sack full of sand or something. Then you could go climb (or maybe I dreamed that up. Who knows.) Anyway, leather shorts helped a lot. The first device I began using, was a figure 8, late 70s in the Adirondacks.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 15, 2014 - 04:06pm PT
This is perhaps the last installment in the Lowe belay device story.









This device has a tiny sticker that says "R.O.K. PRODUCT".
Lorenzo

Trad climber
Oregon
Jun 15, 2014 - 07:40pm PT
I think figure 8's came in mid 70's. At least that's when I first started seeing them.
Hated them because they put permanent spiral kinks in the ropes.

My hockey puck/Spring Stitch has two holes. 1 nine mm, 1 11 mm

I used it for belaying double ropes and rappelling until the new dental floss ropes showed up.
Ghost

climber
A long way from where I started
Jun 15, 2014 - 07:55pm PT
My hockey puck/Spring Stitch has two holes. 1 nine mm, 1 11 mm
I used it for belaying double ropes until the new dental floss ropes showed up.

Best belay device for skinny ropes I know of was the Sirius from German company TRE. Too bad they stopped making it...
R.I.P
R.I.P
Credit: Ghost
ms55401

Trad climber
minneapolis, mn
Jun 15, 2014 - 08:07pm PT
this thread is great. I'm trying -- and failing -- to imagine what Walter Bonatti used back in the day.

I started climbing in 1994 (20 years ago!? wow.) Even back then the only device I saw at the crags was an ATC. Never saw a Figure 8, except in a catalog, and which was immediately dismissed as a museum piece.
Lorenzo

Trad climber
Oregon
Jun 15, 2014 - 08:30pm PT
Walter probably used what most of us of a certain age used. Hip belay. With a swami belt there was no good place to clip the belay device.
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
Jun 15, 2014 - 11:37pm PT
Walter probably used what most of us of a certain age used. Hip belay.
Like this,
Mid 70's Big Rock hip belay
Mid 70's Big Rock hip belay
Credit: T Hocking
maldaly

Trad climber
Boulder, CO
Jun 16, 2014 - 08:29am PT
Steve, those pictures ore of a prototype "square tuber" that I was working on with Greg Lowe in mid-1991. I left Lowe in December 1991 to start Trango and the people remaining at Lowe abandoned the project so I took it on at Trango where it was refined and became the Pyramid.
Malcolm
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 16, 2014 - 09:01am PT
Thanks for the background, Malcolm.

Any idea what R.O.K. stands for?
Ghoulwe

Trad climber
Spokane, WA
Jun 16, 2014 - 10:12am PT
R.O.K. = Republic of Korea. Country of Origin.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 16, 2014 - 10:41am PT
Thanks!
klaus

Big Wall climber
Pacif*#ka Muthaf*#ka
Aug 5, 2014 - 01:13pm PT
I just put a Salewa sticht plate for sale on Ebay

check it out here

http://www.ebay.com/itm/171412501349?ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1555.l2649
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Maestro, Ecosystem Ministry, Fatcrackistan
Aug 5, 2014 - 01:17pm PT
Walter (Bonatti) probably used what most of us of a certain age used. Hip belay.

Well not on his famous solos.

DMT
klaus

Big Wall climber
Pacif*#ka Muthaf*#ka
Aug 5, 2014 - 01:31pm PT
Salewa sticht plate
Salewa sticht plate
Credit: klaus
Marlow

Sport climber
OSLO
Aug 5, 2014 - 01:54pm PT

Bonatti, at his time, was known for using equipment from earlier times. He probably used a set-up of carabiners for self-belay. I have never been able to see any special belay devices among his equipment on photos.
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Aug 5, 2014 - 02:03pm PT
Stitch Plates ruled. I remember getting an ATC and wishing that I still had the Stitch Plate without the spring.

You could do all kinds of stuff with that simple piece of gear. The tube devices couldn't lock off as well.
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Aug 5, 2014 - 02:06pm PT
Klaus, what's with the bottle opener, or whatever that is? I must have
three Sticht plates, a double-niner, a nine/eleven, and a double-eleven
but I've never seen that sheet metal thingy. It looks after market.
klaus

Big Wall climber
Pacif*#ka Muthaf*#ka
Aug 5, 2014 - 02:07pm PT
funny I always called it a "Stitch" plate but the Germans called it "Sticht" plate

Reilly, the metal bottle opener thingy has a hook on the other end to hold down the spring if you don't want to use it. Pretty sure it's original and maybe rare.
klaus

Big Wall climber
Pacif*#ka Muthaf*#ka
Aug 5, 2014 - 02:10pm PT
or you can just use it as a bottle opener
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Aug 5, 2014 - 02:21pm PT
I didn't like the ones with the springs - just something to snag something
at an inopportune moment (KISS!), plus extra weight for an alpinist. ;-)
Jon Beck

Trad climber
Oceanside
Aug 5, 2014 - 03:15pm PT
The future of the belay

Credit: Jon Beck
epicclimb

Ice climber
Looking California, Feeling Minnesota
Aug 5, 2014 - 04:06pm PT
super keewl stuff,,,,gotta know ur HISTORY. that gear4rocks stuff looks sketchy,,,
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