Should the leader clip the belay anchor?

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Dr. Rock

Ice climber
http://tinyurl.com/4oa5br
Nov 30, 2008 - 02:00pm PT
So the guy who happens not to be sittin at the campfire at Camp 4 misses out on all this and ends up in ER, see the power of the internet and how you guys are saving lives as we read.
Thank you and the best thread yet for me at least.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Nov 30, 2008 - 02:59pm PT
It seems that most bad anchor/ long runout above scenarios involve slab climbing where it is usually possible to reel in a substantial of rope before the leader actually lands directly on the station or the belayer's waist carabiner. For that reason alone, I would usually favor belaying from my waist carabiner rather than from the anchors directly.

If the anchor is truly crap and you have no viable options but to commit to it then I would much rather use all of the shock absorbing power of my lower body on the stance holds before loading the suspect anchor points with or without load limiters in between.

Doing your homework about the route in question and bringing along that cumbersome old bolt kit when venturing out on the obscure would seem to be a better approach to surviving poor belay stations.

Always take a thorough look around and make sure you are actually on route and that climbing past the poor station isn't a viable option.

My usual approach to a shitty wall stance is to climb past it and tie off a few pieces above. Freeclimbing with no Jesus Nut in sight clearly doesn't allow for that option

If the station is really that bad then down climbing and quitting the route from more reliable protection below on the pitch may become a better option. While down climbing (using the crap station as a top rope anchor effectively) a prussik or other locking knot can be employed to potentially shorten the lead fall that would result if the crap station above actually failed under load.

Sometimes it is better to not commit the entire party to a poor station and try to work your way out of the situation while still on the sharp end. Simo climbing or belaying the second up a bit may also be a viable option to allow the leader to reach a better set of anchors so try to make the best call that you can once the situation is clear to you.

Carry a couple of aid screamers (with the accessory loops removed) around the back of your harness when slabbing about above the rusty bits!
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
Nov 30, 2008 - 03:29pm PT
agree about the screamers.

Steve wrote
"It seems that most bad anchor/ long runout above scenarios involve slab climbing where it is usually possible to reel in a substantial of rope before the leader actually lands directly on the station or the belayer's waist carabiner. For that reason alone, I would usually favor belaying from my waist carabiner rather than from the anchors directly. "

Just to keep the discussion on track, I want to note that virtually no one here as advocated belaying the leader directly off the anchors. The main choices under review for belaying the leader concern dealing with the potential for factor 2 fall by clipping a through the anchor while belaying off the harness, versus belaying off the harness with no directional through the anchor.

It is true that many of these scenarios are slabby where there is no pro off the anchor but sport climbing has also brought us the possibility of factor two falls on the belay as well. (usually no problem with the anchor holding but you still have to catch the fall)

A geek note: Reeling in slack when the leader is in a factor two fall situation actually increases the theoretical force beyond factor 2 because less rope becomes available to absorb the shock. In practice, slab falls are often low force and I've caught myself by grabbing a draw after falling 10 feet on the Hall of Mirrors in Yosemite.

And of course, if you keep you leader from hitting something ledgey by reeling in rope, that's worth increasing the fall factor.

It all depends

peace

Karl
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Nov 30, 2008 - 03:37pm PT
The topic of belaying directly off of the anchors is in play due to Sibylle's observations about European belaying practices a while back in the thread. The only time that I ever do is when managing two ropes and two climbers below from a solid anchor, which is a rare situation.

One other nuance that concerns me is the potential for cross loading the gate of the waist locking carabiner if the decision is made to catch the fall without clipping into the station.

Assuming multiple poor anchors, I would opt to clip the station with an aid screamer on the weakest anchor point to help dissipate the force of the lead fall. I would rely on a close tie in to the screamer protected attachment to the other anchors to save my ass should the clip in point fail under load with minimal swing or drop on to my waist carabiner.

I would rather belay the second up a bit and continue leading through than drop way down below the anchors to get more lead rope in play while belaying the runout leader on the next section.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Nov 30, 2008 - 03:42pm PT
I haven't done a bunch of slab climbing outside of a day or two of getting schooled at Whitehorse, but I've used and set no shortage of sketch anchors. Seems like this might be a good place for Piton Ron to pipe in on the topic as I suspect he's seen his fair share as well.
johnboy

Trad climber
Can't get here from there
Nov 30, 2008 - 04:38pm PT
A geek note: Reeling in slack when the leader is in a factor two fall situation actually increases the theoretical force beyond factor 2 because less rope becomes available to absorb the shock.

I'd of thought that for every foot of rope your pulling in, your also shortening the fall by that many feet. Kind of keeping the FF the same. No? Anyone?
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 30, 2008 - 04:42pm PT
Karl Baba wrote: "A geek note: Reeling in slack when the leader is in a factor two fall situation actually increases the theoretical force beyond factor 2 because less rope becomes available to absorb the shock."

Here's the full story for anyone interested in geekly pronouncements: The effect on the fall factor of reeling in rope depends on what the fall factor is to begin with. If the fall factor is 1, then reeling in rope makes no difference---the fall factor stays at 1 (but the fall is still shorter than it would have been, so a leader would be kept off the ledge or ground with no anchor load penalty).

If the fall factor is not equal to one, then reeling in rope causes the fall factor to increase its distance from 1. So if the fall factor is bigger than one, reeling in rope produces an even bigger fall factor, as Karl notes, but if the fall factor is smaller than one, then reeling in rope produces a smaller fall factor (although never smaller than half the original fall factor).

One of the things we fog-enshrouded ones are fond of doing is splitting hairs, and the current situation is no exception. Reeling in rope is different from the "running belays" used for years on Southern friction slabs (I'd love to call this the Viginia Reel) and more recently popularized on ghastly UK headpoints. No rope is reeled through the belay device, the belayer tries to take up slack by running away from the anchors. This practice always reduces the fall factor, although the velocity of the belayer away from the anchor might ultimately add to the anchor load. Neither of these considerations is primary, since the name of the game is to keep the leader from the ever so reality-based experience of decking.

Johnboy, things don't work the way you are thinking because you are dealing with a ratio, and H/L is not equal to (H-x)/(L-x) unless H=L. If H isn't equal to L, analyzing the sign of (H-x)/(L-x)-H/L gives you the results just stated. For example, 2/3 =(3-1)/(4-1) is smaller than 3/4.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Nov 30, 2008 - 05:09pm PT
Ahh yes! The fall factor 2+ scenario involving the overweight belayer leaping into the frozen bergschrund on a long tether of slings as his unprotected leader goes flying by the lone Gri Gri!
tito

climber
Nov 30, 2008 - 06:49pm PT
> Huh? Redirect = pulley effect, so then what's a
> "standard clip-through redirect"?

>> You're puling this out of context.

No. Your writing was poor. I see what you were trying to say now. This:

> There's no load multiplication/pulley effect from a
> standard clip-through redirect...

should be:

> There's no load multiplication/pulley effect [as you would get]
> from a standard clip-through redirect



> I'd of thought that for every foot of rope your pulling in,
> your also shortening the fall by that many feet. Kind of keeping
> the FF the same. No? Anyone?

Here's a concrete example. Climber is 10 feet above the the belay. Belayer is belaying off his waist. Climber falls before getting any gear in. If the belayer locks off and braces for the impact, then you have a factor two fall:

20 foot fall / 10 feet of rope = 2.0

Now suppose the belayer yards in 3 feet of rope while the climber is falling, e.g. the belayer whips one arm's length of rope through the belay device and then locks off. In the first part of the fall, the climber would still fall until he was even with the belayer(10 foot fall), but then instead of falling an additional 10 feet, the climber would only fall 7 more feet. Also instead of there being 10 feet of rope out to absorb the force of the fall, there would be only 7 feet of rope out when the climber impacts the end of the rope. Therefore the fall factor is:

17 foot fall / 7 feet of rope out = 2.4

As rgold pointed out 20/10 does not equal (20 -3)/(10-3) = 17/7, so the fall factor is higher if the belayer yards in 3 feet of rope in order to make the climber's fall 3 feet shorter.
Largo

Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Nov 30, 2008 - 07:32pm PT
What do you suppose are the viable conclusions we can take away from this conversation per actual procedures??

JL
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Nov 30, 2008 - 07:41pm PT
been following all of this, lost on the re-direct discussion.

I employ a redirect to bring up the second, usually this is a separate piece then the anchor, and though it is subject to the "pulley effect" the total force is not likely to be much larger than the sum of our two weights... A decent placement can handle this, usually it is a bomber placement.

I have one experience with holding a fall off a single piece. It was on Anguish, in the Traps. My partner was leading off on the third pitch from the large belay ledge. This last pitch is less than 50 feet long. I'm not sure how far out Mike was, he put in a good #3 Chouinard Stopper on a nylon runner, and then went up to the overhang. He didn't pull it off and was free falling coming to a standing, but hard, landing on the belay ledge, so all in all, probably less than a fall factor 1. I was pulled up by the rope from the force of stopping his fall.

I'm guessing this is around 5 kN impact force, most of the job of stopping the fall is the rope. The anchor system keeps the fall factor constant, and the belayer stationary, the belayer keeps the rope locked off...

The Chouinard #3 stopper is rated for 2600 lbs... it was welded pretty well into the crack.

My "anchor" was a 1" tubular tape draped over a rock flake (not my proudest effort).

I looked over to him and asked "are you ok?"

"My feet hurt" came the reply, I'm sure we both had the same metallic taste in our mouths.

We climbed off something easy to the right. I think he even went up to get the nut out, he may still have that nut.

I believe the forces were probably less than what we calculate, probably significantly less. Lessons learned: 1) build a bomber anchor for the belay, no matter what climb you're on, 2) get pro in before the crux, 3) don't count on over-engineering, but be happy when it saves your ass...

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Nov 30, 2008 - 07:48pm PT
John posted before I completed my post...


as for the answering the question "should the leader clip the belay anchor?"

I'd say "no" because of the "should"

In the case where the belay is bomber, there should be no need even though clipping the anchor doesn't matter. A leader fall will likely be held whether or not he has clipped in.

In the case where the belay is jingus, then obviously the answer is no, the leader should not. The increased risk of blowing one of the anchor points could significantly compromise the entire anchor. The whole point of a multiple anchor is to benefit from the collective action of the system. This is defeated by relying on a single element of the anchor.

That's how I see it...


Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Nov 30, 2008 - 07:48pm PT
It would be hard to generate a factor 2 fall while slab climbing, even with no anchors between belayer and leader. A great deal of the energy from the fall is likely to be absorbed by friction, sliding, tumbling, etc. Nominally the distance fallen is twice the distance from belayer to climber, but as the empirical comments above note, and my experience agrees, they're usually not very high-impact falls.

In terms of take-away, my suggestion is that this discussion underscores:
 The importance of knowing how to place good anchors in and of themselves, before trying to make belays. (Aid climbing helps, a lot. An apprenticeship, too.)
 A high level of environmental awareness and planning in creating anchors.
 KISS - the priority is solid anchors, to which the belayer is securely attached, and for the leader to place several sound places of protection immediately above the belay.
 Good belay anchors always having priority, e.g. over running out the rope, and even stances.
 Using solid natural stances where available. A well-braced sitting or standing belay has considerable merit - see Belaying the Leader.
 The more complicated stuff, such as serene, force multipliers, force calculations, sliding Xs, equalettes, cordalettes, etc.

Given that many modern guidebooks are quite detailed, perhaps they could say a bit more about what the various belays on routes offer in terms of stances, anchor opportunities, etc. In context of the nature of the route, but informing about likely opportunities and problems. And emphasizing that just because it's a climb, doesn't mean there will be bolt belays - I'm really very concerned that a discussion like this will cause energetic learners to in effect throw up their hands and say "What the F is wrong with just putting in a bolt belay, if it's such a big production to do otherwise?"

Edit: Slightly changed, I hope for clarity.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Nov 30, 2008 - 08:04pm PT
Mighty Hiker raise a question which leads to another way to get at this question. MH essentially asks, "if building an anchor is so complex that the risk of doing it wrong is high, why don't we just bolt every belay?" (presuming, of course, the bolts are bomber (but that is another set of discussions).

My question to all the experienced people out there is this: what is the list of worst falls you held (or took) and the details, so far as you can recall, of the anchor, the distance of the fall, the amount of rope out, etc.

Since testing various anchor systems must require risk of the testers, no real surrogates are possible, we don't test how well we do...

...but many of us have been tested. It would be very useful to compile this list of tests and understand them as well as we could to help derive some information regarding the effectiveness of anchors.

Few of us have died this way over the years, the anchor "systems" that were employed varied greatly, John's book being the best systematic description of what an anchor should be... but we lived with a lot less in the past.

Were we just lucky?

I think not.
johnboy

Trad climber
Can't get here from there
Nov 30, 2008 - 08:54pm PT
Thank you rgold for explaining that in such a thorough and clear way.
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Nov 30, 2008 - 09:23pm PT
Not that I'm suggesting that we SHOULD have bolts at all belays - far from it. But others might be getting that idea. They might look at this discussion and in effect say "All these very knowledgeable and experienced people don't really seem to agree on what's necessary. How can we be expected to figure it out?"

Another perspective is gear. Most of my marginal belays may have had as much or more to do with simply not having enough of the right gear, as opposed to not knowing what to do with it. BITGOD, if you had a set of hexes, a set of stoppers, and some slings, and your partner did, you sometimes came up short and had to improvise, sometimes not convincingly. Even when some early Friends got added to the mix.
TradIsGood

Chalkless climber
the Gunks end of the country
Nov 30, 2008 - 09:55pm PT
Gaaaak!

I think Mighty Hiker really is on to something. Why the heck not bolt the belays - at least of any oft-repeated route?

Solves a speed problem. Even noobs should then be able to set up a safe anchor efficiently. Highly experienced trad leaders should be able to set up an anchor at least as efficiently as a noob!

What is the goal here? Climbing, or setting up silly arse multi-piece trad gear anchors (SAMPTG) and thumping your chest about how old-school and smart you are? (We have already seen that most old-schoolers really aren't that smart, after all. Even Largo can't do the physics. And Who TF wants to be doing physics - even if you can - while you are out having fun.

(I have honestly never heard of a golfer discussing physics - except for one guy who writes books on it - and I doubt he wants to worry about it while playing.)

It reduces wasted time, increases climbing time of you and any following party.

Then the only people who need to set up a SAMPTG anchors are FAs, or people still climbing routes still awaiting a proper bolting party.

Not exactly the target audience of the author semi-responsible for the existence of this thread.


Of course, if we bolt all the belays, there will be a few less disasters every year, over which we can pontificate and second-guess with less than full data on forums such as this.

Could be the death of rc.com and gunks.com, but we have politics here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Nov 30, 2008 - 10:02pm PT
TiG: "Here fishy fishy".
TradIsGood

Chalkless climber
the Gunks end of the country
Nov 30, 2008 - 10:09pm PT
Oops. FAs and parties who got so far off-route they couldn't find the anchor.
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
Nov 30, 2008 - 10:12pm PT
Rich, you and most everyone here are too advanced for me, in this discussion. I barely got through general math II, but got A's in English. Strange. And so I have probably missed most of the point of this thread, in part because (as I muse) I have no left-brain activity. It's all artistic, poetry, music, you know, that stuff.... Anyway, though, I think I can say I have learned a few practical things from direct experience, and they wouldn't probably apply in the strictest sense to the main line of this thread. But let me just throw out that one can learn lots by really visualizing and getting a sense of each situation. In addition, silly as it will seem to some, there is some kind of factor of miracles and luck, and such mysterious kinds of things, and I'm sure I will lose some here but let me share a wild story just for fun...

Breashears and Erickson and I, in 1975, one day went up to do Catchey and Catchey Corner (down on the right side of the Cookie). We pretty much breezed up the first pitch, and Breashears was walking up Catchey Corner (pretty stiff, strenuous 5.10, or some might think easier 5.11, not sure, but not so easy to protect with nuts, if I recall). Breashears was in the best shape of his life. As Erickson belayed, I ambled over to the west, about thirty feet, to the other end of the ledge to examine the rappel anchor for when we did the retreat. Suddenly I had something that felt like a psychic prompting. I turned and hurried back across the ledge. Without thinking, I put both my hands on the rope that was going up the wall to Breashears. Erickson looked at me as to wonder what the heck I was doing. Mind you, Breashears had led up about 50 or more feet, I'm guessing, and was standing where the corner leans up even more steeply to the right. He had only a number one stopper, with one mil cord on it, between him and us. He was trying to place another nut, and fiddled with it. Like the young kid he was, exuberant, impatient, he decided to work on the nut with both hands, to get it in, and forgot the other hand was holding him in. He let go and was instantly airborne. I pulled in a bunch of rope and, by virtue of this action, slowing and controlling how the rope tightened against Erickson, gave Breashears a perfect dynamic belay. The tiny nut held. Had the belay been just what Erickson could do, or if the nut had pulled, Breashears and possibly also Erickson would have gone on past the ledge -- a scary thing even to think about. I don't know to this day what directed me, that moment, to hurry back across the ledge and over to the rope and grab it. But the second my hands touched the rope was when Breashears fell. So life, maybe we can say, is more than numbers and more than precise equations, but also a lot of beauty and mystery and things and things a little beyond us, as well. That's where my spirit lies, most of the time, that realm of the mysterious, as that's what it has always been for me to be with friends and to climb and to be out in such ridiculously beautiful terrain. Though I greatly respect you guys, such as you Rich and John Stannard and others here who have such brilliant and more more realistic, down to earth, mathematical minds. I often feel I am still a beginner, because there is so much always to learn.

Pat
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