Break Hand Up or Down?

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Nicole Hoepner

Sport climber
Fresno
Topic Author's Original Post - Apr 24, 2013 - 11:59pm PT
I learned to belay with my brake hand angled DOWN ,doing the "French sliding technique" (to break a fall, to keep the rope from slipping through my belay device), but recently in the gym and out on the crags I see TONS of people doing the "Slip-Pinch-Slide" method, with both their hands up high above the ATC...then pausing with both their hands still up (so the angle of the brake side of the rope causes hardly any friction on teh ATC and thus a sudden leader fall, even on toprope, results in burned hands...the climber dropping quite a ways, sometimes both...I see newbies especially doing this, and paying no attention to keeping the rope angled DOWN, even while waiting or being distracted !Why does my local climbing gym teach this unsafe method, with the brake end of the rope at a parallel line to the climber end of the rope and the brake hand NOT READY to catch a fall? In my experience , if I were to do that I WOULD BURN BOTH MY HANDS in case of a leader fall (and could definitely NOT brake the fall)
Credit: Nicole Hoepner
so I keep my brake hand and the rope angled down, but my local gym teaches and enforces the other technique. Thoughts on what's actually safer? And why gyms teach to have both hands up above the belay device parallel to each other? ( I understand the belayer doing that to take in slack for a moment, but during those long times of waiting, looking up at the climber, isn't it safer to do like the photo shows?)
Captain...or Skully

climber
Apr 25, 2013 - 12:00am PT
"Brake". Whatever is safe & comfortable. If you can't brake a fall, you can't belay.
mongrel

Trad climber
Truckee, CA
Apr 25, 2013 - 12:12am PT
I agree with the Cap'n, it's brake hand. But I agree with you about the correct way to belay with an ATC or functionally similar device. The photo you posted is exactly right: bring your hand back to loosely lock off the rope immediately after paying out slack. By holding the rope with your hand oriented as in the photo (thumb end of the hand toward the belay device), it's more natural and comfortable to lock the rope off, so that's a good idea too. As you describe it, your gym's policy is precisely the opposite of safe belaying.
Jebus H Bomz

climber
Peavine Basecamp
Apr 25, 2013 - 12:16am PT
I do both ways interchangeably and have never had a problem stopping a fall or with burning any part of my person.
10b4me

Ice climber
Happy Boulders
Apr 25, 2013 - 12:17am PT
^^^+1
T H

Boulder climber
bouldering
Apr 25, 2013 - 12:18am PT
Break Hand ...
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Apr 25, 2013 - 12:25am PT
That is T H in his best Schadenfreude, dontcha think?

And he says, Nicole gets -7 for "break" rather than "brake".
Jebus H Bomz

climber
Peavine Basecamp
Apr 25, 2013 - 12:27am PT
So, Nicole, I'm wondering now.... Is your gym simply littered with corpses and people with bandaged brake hands?
Captain...or Skully

climber
Apr 25, 2013 - 12:29am PT
We DO go on so.
Jebus H Bomz

climber
Peavine Basecamp
Apr 25, 2013 - 12:32am PT
Boor dumb, I reckon. This one is anywaysss.
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Apr 25, 2013 - 12:43am PT
You are stronger at gripping with the palm down, but less effective when pumping slack to the leader. As ropes get thinner, I suspect the less strong palm-up position may lead to more control losses. To counter those who say they've never had a problem catching falls palm up, I can say that I know some very experienced and very strong people who have, and (after recovering from the nasty burns) switched over to palm-down belaying.

If you use half ropes, palm up is far better for the increased handling demands, but the need to catch leader falls on a single thin strand makes palm down even more important. I think the best solution to these competing demands is to switch to an assisted locking device (Mammut Smart Alpine, Edelrid Micro or Mega Jul, Alpine Up---the best in my opinion.)

When belaying the leader on multipitch climbs, the belayer should begin belaying with the palm up and only switch to palm down after the leader has placed solid pro. If a factor-2 fall happens, the braking position is hand at chest level, and in this position full gripping strength, which will certainly be needed, is obtained from the palm-up position.
Jon Beck

Trad climber
Oceanside
Apr 25, 2013 - 12:47am PT
I belay with a tuber, I keep my brake hand up so I can yard in more rope if the leader takes a run out fall. It seems that it is going to be hard to yard in with the hand down.

Not arguing either way is right or wrong, just a preference.

With a tuber you have to have the tail end parallel with the sharp end in order to feed rope. Going to the brake position is a reflex after 25+ years of belaying with the same type of device.
briham89

Big Wall climber
san jose, ca
Apr 25, 2013 - 01:26am PT
This is definitely one of my pet peeves. I almost always have my brake hand down. I'm not saying up is wrong. HOWEVER, what kills me is to see people who have learned in the gym, with a grigri, with the rope doubled over up top (lots of friction) who don't even know that the brake position is down.

When I'm out guiding intro climbing classes I get people all the time that learned in the gym and have no respect for how important belaying actually is, and are very surprised that they have to control how fast their partner is lowered. Again they are learning so I understand, but it's still just wild to see the disconnect between danger and climbing that seems to occur from learning in a "safe" gym.
Big Mike

Trad climber
BC
Apr 25, 2013 - 01:29am PT
I have seen this retarded style of top rope belaying. Bring your hand up, to pinch the climber side of the rope with your brake hand while sliding your other hand down to the device.

This style works great with a munter belay. It works horrible with a tube style or atc device. I also have seen gyms that teach this style of belaying. Most recently in ontario, where they did not allow tube/atc devices in the gym, because "they dont work".

Instead they had grigri's permanently attached to each rope, and required you to take slack in with the brake hand up. This completly relies on the cam in the grigri to function properly.

Atc's require friction to work properly. If you do not have your brake hand down, below or at least level with the device, you have little to no friction. I was almost dropped by a beginner that way.

Do not let your partners belay you this way..

The correct way is, brake hand down, take slack, grab brake with other hand, slide brake hand up, ad nausem.
briham89

Big Wall climber
san jose, ca
Apr 25, 2013 - 01:31am PT
Mike laying down the law! I like it!

where they did not allow tube/atc devices in the gym, because "they dont work".

hahahaha
the Fet

climber
Tu-Tok-A-Nu-La
Apr 25, 2013 - 01:39am PT
I belay with a tuber

Cooked or raw?

I've hear of pipes and batteries made out of 'em but first I've heard you could belay with them, cool!
Big Mike

Trad climber
BC
Apr 25, 2013 - 01:49am PT
Mike laying down the law! I like it!

You got it right when you said belaying is the most important thing buddy!!

I simply cannot believe anyone would teach this method! If you are using a figure 8 or a munter on a locker, sure! That is the correct way. You have less friction with your hand down.
But how many beginners these days are going to use a figure 8?

Every climber should know a munter and proper belay technique with it, but only after they've mastered the fundamentals of belaying with a modern device.
apogee

climber
Technically expert, safe belayer, can lead if easy
Apr 25, 2013 - 01:53am PT
As soon as someone shows me clear, empirical statistical evidence demonstrating the comparative belay failure & injury rate of the two techniques, I'll give it close consideration.

And then I'll probably continue to do it the same way that I've always done it, without failure or injury of any kind. Isn't that the point?
Big Mike

Trad climber
BC
Apr 25, 2013 - 02:12am PT
Are there seriously experienced climbers who belay like this???
Don't do it!!!!!!!!
Don't do it!!!!!!!!
Credit: Big Mike



This video is horrible but at least she has proper technique
apogee

climber
Technically expert, safe belayer, can lead if easy
Apr 25, 2013 - 02:28am PT
"...at least she has proper technique"

Please...please...

Show me the clear, empirical evidence that this technique has resulted in xxx fewer injuries, or that the horrible palm-up method has resulted in xxx more injuries.

Anecdotes don't count, nor do copy/pastes from the AMGA or ACMG manual.
Big Mike

Trad climber
BC
Apr 25, 2013 - 02:34am PT
All i know is if i didn't have my hand on the brake side to lower myself after a beginner climber burned their hand on a lower with their brake hand up i might now be here right now.

Good enough for me.
apogee

climber
Technically expert, safe belayer, can lead if easy
Apr 25, 2013 - 02:42am PT
No disrespect, but that's an anecdote.

You can belay me either way.....just don't drop me.
Big Mike

Trad climber
BC
Apr 25, 2013 - 02:47am PT
You gonna trust a beginner with that pinch sh#t bud? I almost learned the hard way. That may be anecdote to you, but to me, it's hard truth.

Good luck in your future endeavours. I wouldn't trust a beginner not to drop me like that. Someone who is experienced with the technique? Sure.
RyanD

climber
Squamish
Apr 25, 2013 - 02:50am PT
I like my Grigri, then I can text, smoke, & drink Starbucks while belaying. If the rope is skinny enough u don't even need to use your hands, it feeds all by itself! Duh!!
apogee

climber
Technically expert, safe belayer, can lead if easy
Apr 25, 2013 - 03:00am PT
"That may be anecdote to you, but to me, it's hard truth. "

And like religion, it's what we believe that matters. Facts & science really don't have anything to do with it.

I'm not a strong advocate of either technique, necessarily, but I find it amusing that the palm-up technique was in use for decades until about about 10 years ago, when someone had the intuitive idea that palm-down would provide a belay less prone to failure. Nevermind the fact that there isn't any demonstrable evidence that the previous technique was directly related to x-y-z failures, or that the 'new' technique has substantially corrected this 'problem'.

I've seen shitty belay skills using both techniques. Hell, my own anecdotal observation has seen a more lackadaisical attitude towards the palm-down technique, maybe related to its relation to gri-gri laziness. But that's just a useless anecodote of my own.

If your belay skills are demonstrably solid, I'm good with climbing with you, regardless.

nutjob

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
Apr 25, 2013 - 03:03am PT
It's such an automated thing for me I can't be sure of how I normally do it. I think I do both depending on the belay circumstances, where the rope is stacked or hanging, etc.

When I'm belaying top-ropes, I have a weird sequence that evolved uniquely for me, involving both hands constantly switching, but always in a position of strength to lock off at any moment. I think I grew into that out of the awkwardness of palm up belaying, that moment of maximal extension when you need to slide your hand back in and what if someone falls at that moment? So I bring in an extra braking hand to lock off while I slide down my hand and do some little hand switch-up to reposition my normal braking hand.

Did anyone else understand that? I sure didn't. Past my bedtime.
Big Mike

Trad climber
BC
Apr 25, 2013 - 03:12am PT
If your belay skills are demonstrably solid, I'm good with climbing with you, regardless.

Given Apogee. Given. Which technique do you think is easier for new belayers to grasp?

Which offers less opportunity for failure?

So I bring in an extra braking hand to lock off while I slide down my hand and do some little hand switch-up to reposition my normal braking hand.

Kinda like the second video i posted nutjob?
apogee

climber
Technically expert, safe belayer, can lead if easy
Apr 25, 2013 - 03:20am PT
You'll be horrified to learn this, but climbing instruction has been a core of my career since the 80's. I've taught it both ways, watched lots of other skilled professionals teach it both ways, and I'm not convinced that it has resulted in better technique, or more importantly, fewer incidents.

It's the quality of the instruction, the amount of practice, and probably most importantly: the attitude of the belayer that seems to make the difference in developing solid belay skills.

If not for the AMGA belay nazis running around the gyms & the crags these days ranting about the palms-up technique (and where the load strand in a clove hitch should be placed on a 'biner), I'd be fine with either method, as long as they could do a good job.
Bill Mc Kirgan

Trad climber
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Apr 25, 2013 - 08:30am PT
I concur: BIG MIKE has it EXACTLY RIGHT.

The belay method described by the OP is correct ONLY for Munter hitch style belay.

When I saw people doing this shortly after starting climbing (only after a year or more of reading about climbing (Freedom of the Hills, etc) I thought it was wrong.

The more I studied the more I realized this is wrong, and dangerous and I always guessed it was some kind of cultural artifact from old-school belay (Munter) technique.

I don't think it is needed for paying out slack quickly. I have no trouble belaying a sport leader with a tube-style belay device (like an ATC or Reverso) and paying out the slack when it is needed.

I am very selective when it comes to who I let belay me. If I see someone using that style on a tube device I will not ask them for a belay even on top rope.


rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Apr 25, 2013 - 08:55am PT
As with so many things involving belaying, one of the problems with "real-world" experience is that a very high proportion of "real-world" falls involve a combination of low to moderate fall factors and enough systemic friction to render the differences between palm-up and palm-down grip strength totally irrelevant. The question then becomes whether the belayer will be ready for one of the very rare events in which the loads are far higher than the "typical" ones.

The rarity of very high loads means that the acquired "wisdom" of "experienced" climbers might be seriously biased. In the absence of the kind of "data" apogee calls for (which might exist in Europe, by the way), it makes sense to fall back on logic rather than taking the position that the differences, if any, are unknowable. I'm not going to go into the details here, which in any case have been hashed over repeatedly, but everything we can understand logically about hand positions leads to the conclusion that the palm-down position will be accompanied by higher grip strength.

Whether that additional gripping power will be called on by the circumstances of some particular rare incident is very hard to know, but that very lack of certainty could be part of an argument for using the strongest possible procedure for all cases.

I think the fact that the palm-up belay was common for many years is simply an artifact of the transition from the hip belay. People were very used to this position from the hip belay and so continued to use it when plates and tubes were introduced. It took a while for the different logic of the belay devices to penetrate the communal climbing psyche, and even then one has the essentially competing demands of ideal handling and ideal stopping power in conflict with each other.

One of the reasons I've switched to an assisted locking device for half-rope belaying is that I find the palm-up position far better for handling, but seriously mistrust the ability of myself or any other belayer to hold a major impact on a single 8.5mm or less strand. As single ropes get thinner and thinner, I think analogous considerations will carry more and more weight for them too.

Climbing technology has increased safety by removing certain aspects of human fallibility from the belay chain, and I think assisted locking devices will continue to develop until no one uses anything else, and today's belay plates will seem as quaint and unreliable as the hip belay appears to most of today's climbers.

nutjob

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
Apr 25, 2013 - 11:30am PT
Hey Big Mike, not at all like your second video! That looks like a problem to me. If someone falls at the moment of that transition, you either have the left hand pinching the rope with little hope of stopping it, or the right brake hand in motion down the rope that will try to grasp the rope hard at a moment it starts moving fast, risking a burn.

Edit: more weird stuff about that video: ATC taken off belay biner, risks dropping it. tells climber in non-standard terminology they can climb when there is gobs of slack.
Big Mike

Trad climber
BC
Apr 25, 2013 - 11:41am PT
Hunh? Second video is the one where she has the brake hand down and locked off when making the transition?
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Apr 25, 2013 - 12:16pm PT
Most important thing is to never let go of the brake hand......unless, of course, when taking pictures.
Willoughby

Social climber
Truckee, CA
Apr 25, 2013 - 12:37pm PT

Most important thing is to never let go of the brake hand......unless, of course, when taking pictures.

Bingo
mechrist

Gym climber
South of Heaven
Apr 25, 2013 - 12:40pm PT
break hand smreak hand... pffft, just use a gri-gri


Show me the clear, empirical evidence that using a break hand has resulted in xxx fewer injuries, or that the horrible "hands off the gri gri while drinking coffee and spraying beta" method has resulted in xxx more injuries.
Jebus H Bomz

climber
Peavine Basecamp
Apr 25, 2013 - 12:50pm PT
My understanding (palm up or down) is, yes, you brake with your hand down. Like Donini says, keeping a grip on the rope is what matters in the whole belay scenario, I don't see palm orientation trumping that.
Big Mike

Trad climber
BC
Apr 25, 2013 - 01:02pm PT



donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado

Apr 25, 2013 - 09:16am PT
Most important thing is to never let go of the brake hand......unless, of course, when taking pictures.

A true pro can take pictures, and brake! ;)



"Uhhh Mike, can you put the camera down for the crux please?" ;)

Still caught him ;)
briham89

Big Wall climber
san jose, ca
Apr 25, 2013 - 01:04pm PT
This thread has drifted. The OP point was about having the brake hand down below the belay device vs up above it. Not about palm up or palm down.
couchmaster

climber
pdx
Apr 25, 2013 - 01:07pm PT
I'm a Down belayer.

Palm down, brake hand down below. When using an ATC style device anyway.
ddriver

Trad climber
SLC, UT
Apr 25, 2013 - 01:31pm PT
I go both ways.
Big Mike

Trad climber
BC
Apr 25, 2013 - 02:12pm PT



briham89

Big Wall climber
san jose, ca

Apr 25, 2013 - 10:04am PT
This thread has drifted. The OP point was about having the brake hand down below the belay device vs up above it. Not about palm up or palm down.

Exactly.
Pie

Trad climber
So-Cal
Apr 25, 2013 - 02:14pm PT
I switch based on circumstance...
Tr in the gym, palm up to save the shoulder a bit.
Leading, inside and outside, palm down. I feel like I have a better grip.
labrat

Trad climber
Auburn, CA
Apr 25, 2013 - 02:41pm PT
Down and resting below belay device whenever possible....

Thumb up seems stronger to me....
Dave Kos

Social climber
Temecula
Apr 25, 2013 - 02:42pm PT
I probably didn't have either hand on the rope at all:

"Do you have to take a picture right now?"
"Do you have to take a picture right now?"
Credit: Dave Kos

Roots

Mountain climber
SoCal
Apr 25, 2013 - 02:51pm PT
Drifting like drivers in Tokyo...

I have an interesting picture taken from belayer's perspective:

He's hip belaying the 2nd. Both hands are on the rope and in the picture...I asked him how he did it and he couldn't remember because it was taken in the early 60's!

Did cameras have timers back then?

Back OT:

Thumb up or down for me, just depends and I always 'lock off' if I can while waiting for climber to move.
QITNL

climber
Apr 25, 2013 - 03:11pm PT
Another vote for "You are stronger at gripping with the palm down" and "Palm down, brake hand down below" as expressed above. I learned to belay on goldline, figure 8 and Whillans & was trained by a retired air force Colonel. So there wasn't much of an argument then.

When I see palms up, it still scares me, they're putting more faith in their devices than me. Plus I'm a lightweight, I'm not taking chances, my partner often outweighs me by 40-60+ pounds.
phylp

Trad climber
Millbrae, CA
Apr 25, 2013 - 06:16pm PT
I agree with the OP that the whole gym method of putting your hand above the belay device, esp. the way they teach it in most gyms, seems really sketchy. I'd like to watch what happens if someone were to take a lead fall while the belayer using an ATC has their hand up high like that and they're doing that bizarre matching technique with one hand while they slide the other hand down. But of course they don't see what might happen, since they are using gri-gris and toproping.

I had someone working in a gym once tell me that the way I belayed, using one brake hand always below the device, was called the "french sliding technique" and that it was dangerous since while my hand was sliding down the rope, I was not technically holding the rope. I found that kind of laughable.
Dave Kos

Social climber
Temecula
Apr 25, 2013 - 06:51pm PT
Different gyms have different requirements, which is proof to me that there really is no empirical data that supports one method being better then the other. They're just guessing.

The gym here in San Diego, Mesa Rim, requires the hand down technique (which I now know is called the "french sliding technique," like I need more useless knowledge cluttering my confused brain...) I recall that PG in the Bay Area requires the other technique ("pinch and something?")

How can both be so sure that the other is wrong?

Mesa Rim mitigates the dangers of the "french sliding technique" by requiring the belayer place the other hand on the break side of the rope when sliding the brake hand. I too think the theoretical risk is laughable and also think the hand-dancing they require to mitigate this risk could actually be more dangerous.

But I have to comply, or else the the 16 year-old belay expert with the "staff" T-shirt will revoke my card...
Elcapinyoazz

Social climber
Joshua Tree
Apr 25, 2013 - 06:58pm PT
This discussion is pretty meaningless without even mentioning what kind of device you will be using (even then, it's pretty meaningless because either way is perfectly fine with advantges in some situations and disadvantages in others).

Jebus is spot on when he says:

I do both ways interchangeably and have never had a problem stopping a fall or with burning any part of my person.
Big Mike

Trad climber
BC
Apr 25, 2013 - 07:10pm PT
We are talking about tubular devices or atc's like the one in the op pic.
moosedrool

climber
Stair climber, lost, far away from Poland
Apr 25, 2013 - 07:39pm PT
+1 for the palm down, hand down
RyanD

climber
Squamish
Apr 25, 2013 - 07:57pm PT
What are these tubular devices u guys are talkin aboot that u got ur palms all over? Does it feel like someone else is doing it for u when u go thumbs down on your tubular device??
Ever try switching hands??

Lol sorry I'm havin a good time over here. This thread is priceless, maybe a troll too.
guyman

Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
Apr 25, 2013 - 08:39pm PT
Ever try switching hands??

I like to sit on my hand till it falls asleep and goes numb... then it feels way different.




The first time I went climbing, I was taught to hip belay. A "Sierra Sow" is what they called the thing you had to catch. It was about 175 lbs, fell about 15 feet and you could not see it or hear the latch release.

Most folks dropped the sow to the deck the first time.

The force hit you in a pretty violent manner, very sobering.

Made me take belaying very seriously.

If I owned a gym,and wished to make my gym safe, I would make people catch the "Sow".

I do go palms up or down, depending on the situation but I always keep the hand below the "TUBE" so you are mostly locked off all the time.

I have watched some who sort of daydream whilst belaying.... you know both hands above the tube... and seen them drop people 20-30 feet on TR!!!!!

And get a hand burn on the uphill side of the rope..... serves them right.
justthemaid

climber
Jim Henson's Basement
Apr 26, 2013 - 09:23am PT
Well, I do agree it doesn't really matter as long as your belayer is competent with whatever method they use. I don't really care as long as someone isn't going to drop me.

That being said... I'm of the opinion that palm-up was carried over from hip belay days. It works OK but isn't the best. The pinch-and-slide above-the-device (actually a separate issue) has absolutely no place in modern instruction IMO. If I'm teaching someone, I always teach palm down. It's a more natural position for your arm and the strongest part of your hand controls the rope.

Although there really is no extensive studies that I'm aware of.. my own personal experience is all the "empirical proof" I need. My first regular partner outweighed me by 70 pounds. It didn't take too many lead falls before I rapidly ditched palm-up/pinch slide BS I had been taught for a much more secure grip and greater control of the rope.
Alpamayo

Trad climber
Chapel Hill, NC
Apr 26, 2013 - 09:40am PT
I like to sit on my hand till it falls asleep and goes numb... then it feels way different.

Ahhh...the "Stranger"...a classic.
Jebus H Bomz

climber
Peavine Basecamp
Apr 26, 2013 - 10:00am PT
Guess I thought we were talking palm up/palm down, which I would deem a fairly insignificant matter of personal preference on your standard atc device. I'm sure there's much more to it, I just don't care as long as the basics of keeping my ass off the ground are covered.
Tork

climber
Yosemite
Apr 26, 2013 - 10:39am PT
Yep, palm down is all you need to know.

http://www.mountainproject.com/v/30-ground-fall-on-youtube-/108109968
Fletcher

Trad climber
The great state of advaita
Apr 26, 2013 - 11:13am PT
I thought this thread sounded familiar. Guess it's the cyclical five year brake hand debate. :-)

http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/553990/Most-people-belay-incorrectly

Eric
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Apr 26, 2013 - 11:17am PT
I'd like to add something about grip strength related to women belayers. One of the remarkable things about climbing is that when it comes to climbing performance, there is essentially no gender gap. This makes it easy to forget that on average, women's grip strength is lower than men's. From a climbing perspective, this makes no difference because, on average, women are also lighter than men. But the distinction may not be insignificant when, say, a 100 lb woman belays a 200 lb man. A system designed, if you wish, to be "operated" by someone with the grip strength of a 200 lb man is in this case being "operated" by someone with the probably lower grip strength of a 100 lb woman.

It still won't matter most of the time, because systemic friction will reduce the loads enough not to test the belay. But I think the very fact that the belay is usually successful may be a source of complacency. If a much more serious fall happens---and thank god such occurrences are rare---the belayer will need every grip advantage available to her, and to weaken her grip, even a little bit, with a palm-up position seems to me like a flawed strategy.
crtch

climber
Apr 26, 2013 - 11:43am PT
I did some rudimentary pubmed searching for "grip, strength, supination, pronation" but wasn't able to find what I wanted. Does anybody have an idea what the percent difference is between palm up and palm down grip strength? Is the variance more than say left vs. right? Or climber vs. non-climber?
Big Mike

Trad climber
BC
Apr 26, 2013 - 11:48am PT
The pinch-and-slide above-the-device (actually a separate issue) has absolutely no place in modern instruction IMO.

Thank you JTM! This is the discussion! Not this palm down palm up rhetoric...
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Apr 26, 2013 - 08:50pm PT
Crotch, I don't know of any data. Moreover, I'm using "grip strength" in a systemic sense, not in the absolute sense that you might expect to get data on from a clinical study. By "systemic" I mean, among other things,

1. It is almost impossible to orient the palm-up braking hand vertically, so

a. the brake strand applies lateral force to the pinky, prying open the hand finger by finger from the weakest side.

b. you can't bend the braking strand as far around the device with palm up as you can with palm down.

Taken together, these two things mean the hand is in a weaker position and less friction can obtained from the device with the palm up. Does this matter? Mostly no. But always?
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Apr 26, 2013 - 09:03pm PT
Thank you JTM! This is the discussion! Not this palm down palm up rhetoric...

Mike,

1. The OP was concerned about possible loss of control of the belay as a consequence of the method employed, and that's the question I addressed with the palm orientation observations.

2. The "superior" technique in which the rope is (partially) locked off while the brake hand slides back to the device is very awkward with the palm up, so palm orientation is part of "the discussion" no matter what.
QITNL

climber
Apr 26, 2013 - 09:37pm PT
Hmm, think about how you would hold a baseball bat or an axe - would you get a better grip and generate more force swinging underhanded or overhanded?

For example, take a look at this fine fellow:



If you replaced his suspenders with a climbing harness & his axe with a rope, that's exactly how I hold my hands in a locked-off belay position.

(Of course I'm a lot more buff and way cuter.)
RyanD

climber
Squamish
Apr 26, 2013 - 09:48pm PT
Depends if ur chopping a tree down or splitting firewood QITNL. Are u swinging for the fence or trying to one hop it between second & first? Nice pic.
ec

climber
ca
Apr 26, 2013 - 09:49pm PT
I don't give a sh*t, as long as my belayer is comfortable and competent in what they're doing, their brake hand is where it should be at the right moment and that they are PAYING ATTENTION!

 ec
Big Mike

Trad climber
BC
Apr 26, 2013 - 09:49pm PT
2. The "superior" technique in which the rope is (partially) locked off while the brake hand slides back to the device is very awkward with the palm up, so palm orientation is part of "the discussion" no matter what.

True, but for me, the pinch, slap, slide method with the brake strand parallel, offers little to no friction on the belay device. At the point of transition, you might as well be belaying straight off the locking biner.

The hands down brake locked method is much more secure if you take your non brake hand off the upper stand and use it to lock the brake while you slide your hand up. That way the belay is *NEVER* compromised.

As a 200 pound man, being belayed by 100 pound females on occasion, this is VERY important to me.

Especially now, when i can't afford a fall.
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Apr 27, 2013 - 01:44pm PT
Kate Rutherford belaying Brittany Griffith on the Venturi Effect, Incredible Hulk. Snipped from
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=9lhnB2zFE6w

Palm up belay
Palm up belay
Credit: rgold
ontheedgeandscaredtodeath

Social climber
SLO, Ca
Apr 27, 2013 - 05:57pm PT
I'm no doubt an idiot but I've never thought about this once. I learned the whole palm up, pinch manner-- I think it used to be pretty much standard??--and have always belayed that way. I've caught plenty of falls, even those I didn't know were coming and have been alright. Still, sounds like it's time for an upgrade to breaking low and facing down!
Batrock

Trad climber
Burbank
Apr 27, 2013 - 06:46pm PT
There is no "one way". Whatever is safe, and there are many safe ways to belay. I hip belayed for years and it was the safe way to do it back then. A few months ago I was climbing with a relatively new climber and was using a quick hip belay on a easy section. He came up to the belay and just about $h!t. He was perfectly safe and there was zero chance he was going to yank me off the ledge or that I was going to drop him. It's all about level of comfort, I was very comfortable using a hip belay, he had never seen it before and he wasnt so comfy with it. D
Don't over think it, it's just climbing.
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