The Origin and History of Belay Devices

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Messages 21 - 40 of total 113 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
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.
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