The Origin and History of Belay Devices

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Messages 21 - 40 of total 117 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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