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Preferred self belay

Discussion in 'Tech Tips and Gear' started by Cowboyfan, Feb 6, 2018.

  1. Cowboyfan

    Cowboyfan

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    Just curious what others are using for self belay? I’ve been using a petzl shunt for the first person down rope before fireman belay is possible, looking at a senario of first person running into problem half way down and needing to ascend back up. My safety tether could be modified while on rope to use as foot support just wondering about progress capture and if the self belay tool would work for this or not. Looking to add to skills and wanting to see what setup would be preferred for this and if others have tricks for this. Thanks
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  2. 2065toyota

    2065toyota

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    Most all in our groups use VT prusiks
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  3. Bootboy

    Bootboy Atwood Gear

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  4. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Like, how often?

    Here's what I use for a self-belay most of the time: expertise. As in, I don't. I set up my rappel device correctly, make adjustments as I go, have backup plans and ways of adding friction or tying off, but I do not use a "self-belay", and I know very few canyoneers that do.

    I have used self-belays, VT Prusiks as an Autobloc below the device, when guiding at ZAC, almost every day. I have carried one occasionally on a personal canyon trip, and used it... well, maybe once.

    But, we do bottom belays regularly on long rappels, less so on short rappels. I have called on my bottom belay on NUMEROUS occasions. Mostly on long rappels, when going last; a situation in which I seem to be thinking of things other than the correct rigging for my rappel device. When going first, I tend to be very focused on making sure I have my act together and Plans A B and C lined up before going over the edge.

    Only 43 years so far. Knock on wood.

    There is a LOT of personal preference involved here. Do what is best for you, but for most canyoneers, once they acquire adequate expertise, I think they go without a "self-belay".

    Tom
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2018
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  5. 2065toyota

    2065toyota

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    Made it common practice on any raps greater than 100' when going first. Obviously it's a personal choice, but one that we have decided to use. I had done well over 150 canyons before starting to use the VT and feel comfortable going first with or without one of them. But it really just came down to why not use one. There are a few instances where it has been a little bit of a pain because you lose the use of your off hand for some balancing and maneuvering, but the trade off is that if you do need it then it would be there.

    Part of the practice started when my kids became old enough and experienced enough that they were doing canyons on their own and were even leading groups through canyons. As a parent, I wanted them to be as safe as possible. Nothing wrong with that is there?

    It's also the most useful tool used to pass knots and can be used with varying wraps to add or reduce friction needed. So being comfortable with it makes our whole group safer.

    We had a core shot in Not Imlay last year that on the last rap and had 2 group members who weren't comfortable with the situation of passing knots and trusting the VT. Had they been using it, would have saved us a ton of time and we wouldn't have had to leave a 70' section of rope that I donated to Tom Collins as he went and cleaned it up.

    To each their own.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2018
  6. hank moon

    hank moon lovely ligatures

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    @Cowboyfan I am wondering whether you are asking:

    1. What is a good self-belay method for canyoneering? - or -
    2. What is a good self-belay method for canyoneering that transitions easily to an ascending system, mid-rappel?

    Also, what make/model/diameter rope are you using with that Shunt? And are you using it on double or single rope?
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2018
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  7. Cowboyfan

    Cowboyfan

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    Thank you all for the input, last year I saw others on trips use the Prusiks and agree it’s better option then a shunt. I’m still not comfortable yet not having a self belay for first rappeller. Hank yes I’m wondering if you carry anything for mid line reversal or if the prusiks would work good for that as long as my extra tether worked good for a foot support to ascend? I know always plan and make sure everything is perfect no reason for even having a belay but shit happens and I want to be prepared.
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  8. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    What do you carry for your ascending kit?

    I vastly prefer that one's tether be used only as a tether. If you use it as a foot loop for ascending, you then no longer have a tether. Sometimes you will need both.

    If you have an ascending kit, then you have the tools on hand to change to ascent while on rappel, and vice-versa. This is a good skill to practice, and is the start of developing a self-rescue skill set.

    Tom
  9. Cowboyfan

    Cowboyfan

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    Thanks Tom, that’s what I will do. Didn’t know how people went about it but a separate kit sounds perfect. I’m still learning all the time and trying to improve and know I have plenty of skills to polish, what do you carry in your ascent kit and do you keep it accessible to you to get and setup while hanging?
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  10. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    I carry a Micro Traxion and a Petzl Basic, and 3 or 4 over-the-shoulder slings. I tend to keep it in my pack (on the rack, easily accessible) until we get to long rappels (100 ft +), at which point I carry them on my harness. Slings around one shoulder and neck at all times.

    When doing a long-long rappel (200 ft +), it is a good idea to make a quick-clip: my Basic ascender cocked for quick attachment, on a tether. Can be quickly attached to the rope with one hand.

    T
  11. 2065toyota

    2065toyota

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    I carry a petzl basic, tibloc and slings. Tibloc not the most efficient, but its small and light and has other uses.
  12. Yellow Dart

    Yellow Dart It's only hubris if I fail.

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    Second that. And best to put in the practice before you have to put it into practice. ^_^
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  13. Andrew J Farrow

    Andrew J Farrow

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    i have never employed a " self belay - back up " - on any abseil

    but then again - my experence is quite different to most US canyoning
  14. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    I did one time, just so I could say I have. I've got no complaints with anyone in my group who uses them... SO LONG AS:
    1. They know when and when not to use it.
    2. They know how to use it (which means more than just knowing how to tie it.)
    3. They know how to self-rescue when it jams - because it eventually will.
    4. They don't berate the non-believers with safety guilt-trips.
    5. They don't take too freakin long to rig it in. (Ding, Ding, Ding - the Daily Double!)
    My top 5.

    Care to explain?
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  15. Rapterman

    Rapterman

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    A while back Desi and I did a LOT of experimenting with rappel back ups using all types of devices and cords, both above and below the rappel device.
    Conclusion?
    EVERY system we tried had serious flaws
    EXCEPT for the VT PRUSSICK (commercial version with technora sheath, nylon core, sewn ends)
    The VT is brilliant, used above the device.
    Like Tom, I do not normally rappel with a back up, (and never in water!)
    but under duress (rapping in the dark, off route, when exhausted, in a storm, etc) for the first person down: a real game changer in security.
    I carry one on my harness for all canyons and all climbs now.
    Just in case...
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  16. 2065toyota

    2065toyota

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    We just did a canyon yesterday that I couldn't see the bottom and didn't hear the rope bag hit. I clipped my ascended gear to my harness and used a VT just in case it was needed. It is used sparingly, but nice to have
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  17. Cowboyfan

    Cowboyfan

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    Thanks for all the info and advise, definitely ordering a vt prusik and a ascending kit
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  18. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    I use a CRITR. If I'm at all worried I could lose control, I add a wrap around one of the legs.
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  19. Sonny Lawrence

    Sonny Lawrence

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    All self-belays have serious flaws. The greatest of which is the human element. Some physical devices are inherently better than others. The VT Prusik is the best on the market at the moment. This week I have been training beginner technical SAR people on personal rope access. They manage to get themselves stuck on rope using a VT Prusik as a self-belay. It is simple. Just use a tether from harness to prusik that is too long. Prusik catches. They hang. They can not reach the top to release it. For me, I use my short cow's tail to clip into the VT Prusik. That is the perfect length. This discussion is about having the prusik above the rappel device. That implies two hands are being used to rappel. One on the prusik and the other controlling the rope. Some like to extend their rap device. That puts the VT Prusik really high. For passing a knot, it is superb.

    Generally, I believe the most failsafe method for self-belay is a French prusik (autoblock) below the rappel device. That way only one hand is being used. The other is free to do other tasks. Human error comes into play with this style as well if the system is not set up with proper lengths, distances, etc., between harness, prusik and rap device.

    It is quite rare that I use self-belay. I think they cause more problems than they solve. VT Prusik: I don't leave home without it!
  20. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    One of the events that a self-belay is desired for is a loss of control / going too fast event. For this kind of event, one of the most common accidents in rappelling, a rappel backup ABOVE the device is unlikely to work reliably. see http://storrick.cnc.net/VerticalDevicesPage/Misc/RappelSafetyPost.html Tests demonstrate that in that event, for the backup to work, the speeding rappeller must LET GO with the upper hand, which is an unnatural thing to do. In the events that Mr. Storrick reports from the caving community, the rappeller tends to go quite some way before letting go with the upper hand, perhaps induced by hitting a wall or breaking one's femur.

    Now it might be true that using a VT knot above the device, that the VT activates despite being clung to with a death grip. I have my doubts. Any volunteers to test (perhaps over water)?

    Tom
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