Send us a suggestion!

Preferred self belay

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

  1. 2065toyota

    2065toyota

    Messages:
    700
    Likes:
    771
    I think the death grip on the VT above the device will allow it to continue to slide, although it does still add a little friction, maybe enough to prevent an injury?

    I would think not. As this sport continues to evolve, especially after the amount of inuries in the last year or so. I know of 4 broken legs including my own. I am constantly thinking of ways to make sure that we all make it home safely and able to go again. All 4 breaks were not falls and could not have been prevented by any safety measures, but it still has made me try to consciously be safer.

    I also would like to become more proficient with a figure 8 contingency anchor for cases when I'm not sure if the rope is long enough or any other circumstance that may require its use.
  2. Kuenn

    Kuenn

    Messages:
    1,346
    Likes:
    1,400
    I'm in....know just the place too. If it's ok, can I wait a a couple of months for the water temps to be more inviting! :eek:

    df2.JPG df1.JPG
  3. Sonny Lawrence

    Sonny Lawrence

    Messages:
    119
    Likes:
    188
    The question is how to design the test. It would be nice to have the rappeler with eyes closed operating the VT Prusik. A bottom belayer would actually be controlling the descent and suddenly lets go. The belayer needs to be out of harms way. Or another idea is to do the exercise off of a high bridge. A second dynamic belay rope could be attached to the rappeler measured such that it is not possible for him/her to hit the ground. Kuenn, Calius and will look at our schedule. We can fly out and help with the test.
  4. CRNPRES

    CRNPRES

    Messages:
    210
    Likes:
    87

    I think we really need to emphasized the last sentence here. Not everyone has 43 years of experience.

    Self belay devises have their place and there are pros and cons to most. Even if you have "acquired adequate expertise" mistakes can happen. At least the way I see it, most people stop using self belays do to complacency and comfort (or they were never taught). There are pros and cons to using one or not.

    I typically run a VT above on a petzl dual connect (doubles as my tether and the other fixed side is prefect length for my VT and arm length). I really like this setup. There is not a ton of validated testing on VTs grabbing rope (definitely when you add in the large arrangement of ropes we have today).

    I also carry a prusik loop for an autoblock below if I go that route. I hate hitches below, I feel that I almost always end up with too much friction.

    Typically if I am the first one down or we are leap frogging without a fireman's that typically anything over 40 to 50ft, I will toss a VT on the rope.

    Both of these are double duty for my ascending setup.
    Rapterman and Tirrus like this.
  5. Kuenn

    Kuenn

    Messages:
    1,346
    Likes:
    1,400
    Sounds great, Sonny! Would welcome y'all jumping in on this. That is DeSoto Falls on top of Lookout Mtn, btw. About 45 minutes east of where you stayed that first night in Scottsboro.

    Anytime between May and Sep would be good times, could probably even sneak in a McBride's trip...and more.
    Sonny Lawrence likes this.
  6. Rapterman

    Rapterman

    Messages:
    961
    Likes:
    1,274
    In my experience a 'death grip' on the VT is exactly that!
    Pulling on top of the VT releases it (even under load),
    let go and it locks (if properly tied and sized for the rope diameter).
    I never use the VT to add friction to a rappel (that is what CRITR is for),
    only if I think I might get clocked in the head, or am in fear of getting compromised in some other way.
    The VT is like the lowering handle on a GRIGRI...
    you have to train yourself NOT to pull on it to slow down.
    Kuenn, Sonny Lawrence and Tom Collins like this.
  7. ratagonia

    ratagonia

    Messages:
    4,031
    Likes:
    4,752
    Location:
    Mount Carmel, Utah
    We did not discuss the PROBLEMS with using a self-belay.

    1. They probably don't work. Using a VT above - in a loss of control situation you are unlikely to let go before you hit the ground.

    2. They probably don't work. It is difficult to get even the BEST system to work all the time. Much of the time, perhaps. At ZAC we used them, and controlled all the variables, and they worked almost all the time (and we added a bottom belay after the first person is down).

    3. They probably don't work. My experience in the field is that when Jane Random sets up a self-belay system, it is not set up in a way that it will work. Yes, we believe that WE can set it up so it will work. Maybe, maybe not. Certainly not well enough to rely upon it very often.

    4. The take time and energy. Time and energy that would perhaps be best expended on making the primary rappel technology work as well as possible.

    5. Develops bad habits. People who are used to having a self-belay are used to having it be OK to let go with their brake hand. This is not OK. When they go without, they still have the habit of letting go and reaching out. Not good.

    I think the time and energy spent on the self-belay system is better spent on the primary system. Safer. (YMMV. Most of the time, exceptions may apply).

    Tom
  8. CRNPRES

    CRNPRES

    Messages:
    210
    Likes:
    87
    1-3. would rather have “probably” work, but I guess I am just optimistic.

    4. Is a valid con but is typically more laziness (yes there are occasions where speed is everything but based on original question, I am sure 5 to 10 sec to do an autoblock will not matter)

    5. Is people using an autoblock incorrect, you should still never take your hand off the rope when rappelling that’s just bad training/teaching unless it is fully tied off.


    No one should make an agruement to convince someone to not use a second hand when it may save someone’s life. You should depend on yourself first; it’s a backup, not a crutch. Only place that I would rethink an autoblock is water related which is the only fatality I know of influenced by an improperly lengthed autoblock. It was a short rap in flowing water. The fall would most likely been a mild to serious injury but not death.
  9. CRNPRES

    CRNPRES

    Messages:
    210
    Likes:
    87
    That’s my take on it Tom. Do I run one 100% of the time, no. Do I sometimes not use one when I probably should, yes.

    If one person reading this uses a block and it works that’s enough for me. I have seen it catch beginner mistakes that would have been caught by a fireman belay at the time.
  10. ratagonia

    ratagonia

    Messages:
    4,031
    Likes:
    4,752
    Location:
    Mount Carmel, Utah
    Excuse me? No one should make an argument that disagrees with your opinion?
  11. CRNPRES

    CRNPRES

    Messages:
    210
    Likes:
    87
    My opinion in this case is you do not discourage someone from using/acquiring something that may stop them from falling while on rappel. You infer that it may work when you say: "They probably don't work".

    I am sorry if you took it as an insult on your opinion. If Cowboyfan wants to know what preferred self belay options he has, lets give him something he can obtain and learn to use properly (ie: not be overly dependent on it and create bad habits) until he has the "expertise". Once he has the "expertise" he can decide if it is worth it to him.
  12. townsend

    townsend

    Messages:
    373
    Likes:
    356
    Location:
    Plano, TX
    General comment. Self-belay is taught as a standard technique for rock climbers when they rappel in the Texas Mountaineers climbing club.

    This involves the use of an autobloc below the rappel device, with the device extended. I agree with the criticism that teaching this to newbies makes something simple and straightforwrad (rappel setup) complicated. But newbies may be the ones who need it -- not because of the simple mechanics of rappelling (don't let go of the rope -- EVAR), but because of fear, hesitation, uncertainty, all stemming from lack of experience.

    The autobloc technique we are taught involves a loop of accessory cord, joined by a double fisherman's. In my experience (limited as it may be), loops -- whether tied meticulously or sewn -- always get "funky" when you start wrapping them around the rappel line. What I mean is that twists are introduced and the parallel strands of the accessory cord don't wrap neatly around the rappel line and lie flat. Less contact between two ropes = less friction.

    Surely, this will still work, but it sure is ugly. And then when you get on rappel, another "pull" is exerted on the autobloc from its two attachment points (attachment point on harness to wraps around rappel line). Again, it can grab the rope and still work, but it seems less optimal.

    Question: can a single cord terminating in eyelets be wrapped in the same fashion as a loop, so that at least the wrapper (as opposed to rapper!) can eliminate some of the twists? Instead of 3-4 double wraps, one would have 7-8 single wraps? Have you experimented with this? I tried w/ VT below device, but it seemed too long and bulkly.
  13. Sonny Lawrence

    Sonny Lawrence

    Messages:
    119
    Likes:
    188
    I few of us on the Cave Rescue team have used short cord with two eyelets as an autoblock and for traversing a horizontal line together with other rope grabs. It works well. The VT Prusik also works but uses more space. Depends on rope/cord diameters. Needs more extension of rap device. Best is the Sterling Hollowblock. But then it is an extra specialized piece of gear.
    townsend likes this.
  14. GravityWins

    GravityWins

    Messages:
    19
    Likes:
    50
    In this thread there are several reports of the Hollowblock failing. What is the general consensus on this piece of gear?

    Disclaimer: I personally have never owned or used a hollowblock and don't envision ever purchasing one. Like many here I have a Bluewater VT and have found it useful for multiple tasks.
  15. ratagonia

    ratagonia

    Messages:
    4,031
    Likes:
    4,752
    Location:
    Mount Carmel, Utah
    I feel like this discussion ran into left field, pitched a tent, built a campfire and began drinking heavily. Re-reading the original request, the answer is clear and simple: A VT type sling used below the rappel as a spiral wrap, though that will generally require extending the rappel device to create enough space between the leg loop VT attachment point and the rappel device. But, this is a difficult technique to consistently get just right, and it is far from 100% reliable - thus should not be relied upon.

    Other techniques to cover the issues that can come up that you should know include:

    A. Using an easily locked off rappel device. "Modern Canyoneering Rappel Devices" like the Pirana, ATS, Critr and Sqwurel (and a few others) provide ways to quickly and easily lock off the device to get both hands free. (Pirana less so). Some of these devices also offer the opportunity to add friction in process, which can be very useful.

    B. Setting up a quick-clip: in this case, a quick clip being a way to quickly and one-handedly secure off to the rope. What I am thinking of is putting a cocked handled ascender or Petzl Basic on a safety leash, and having that available (ie, either hanging, or clipped with a biner in an easily unclipped location). If you need to stop, you can unclip this with your left hand, put it on the rope and release the cam very quickly, getting both hands free.

    C. It is, of course, a good idea to know how to stop and tie off no matter what rappel device you are using. And to know how to add friction to your system, in process, no matter what rappel device you are using.

    D. Gloves. I use my gloves essentially as a backup device. If I get the friction a little too light, I use the glove to make up for it.

    E. Get Better Friends. And this I think is the key point to get to. Cynically, conservatively, I read between the lines of your request and fabricate that you and your crew are not very experienced and are trying stuff above your skill level, and thankfully want to be "safe". Recognizing that most of that comes from me (rather than from your request), if true, the BEST thing for you to do is go do canyons with people that are more competent than the people in your group, and from which you can learn new things. Depending on your income level, taking a course might be a good idea.

    The past couple of years, several parties have gone to the 300' first rap in Engelstead to demonstrate that there was insufficient competence in their group. One death, several major injuries. This is the future I hope you are not heading towards. Your best way to avoid this future is to go to Engelstead with people who are competent to do it. Which likely means two experienced people, one for going first, one for going last. The first person down can descend as they see fit, with or without a self-belay, and then provide a bottom belay for everyone else. The last person being at the top, and carefully monitoring people's set up. Preferably with TWO 300' ropes and a contingency setup.

    Tom
    John Diener, Kuenn, Rapterman and 2 others like this.
  16. ratagonia

    ratagonia

    Messages:
    4,031
    Likes:
    4,752
    Location:
    Mount Carmel, Utah
    I've examined why I am so deeply offended by your post(s), CRNPRES, hopefully beyond the insult to my auctoritas.

    If the VT spiral wrap below the device was a PERFECT rappel backup, then you might have a case. But it is not. I think it is important to the OP's safety to understand that this is an unreliable method. I have about 200 days of using an autobloc rappel backup as part of our guiding regimen, so I am VERY familiar with the technique, how to get it right, and what it can and cannot do. I consider it a difficult technique to get right and even when gotten right, still unreliable.

    In addition to the VT being unreliable, it is FAR from the best solution to the OP's question, when one steps back and looks for what the bigger question is. The better solution for Cowboyfan is to expand his/her circle of canyoneering partners to include people that can teach CBF more skills. Before he or she ends up at the bottom of the first rap in Engelstead with a broken femur.

    In addition to the VT being unreliable, it is a distraction from doing what Cowboyfan should be concentrating on - executing the rappel well. Running the unreliable VT requires mental effort and focus that is better spent on the main task at hand. (Once one is competent at the main task at hand, and understands the limitations of the VT backup, THEN one can add the VT when appropriate.)

    While developing the competence to execute the main task, one should have a bottom belay. If the group does not have a competent person to go down first without a bottom belay, then one should add competent persons to one's posse. This is the BEST solution.

    "My opinion in this case is you do not discourage someone from using/acquiring something that may stop them from falling while on rappel." Well bully for you! My opinion is that you should not promote a technique that is only somewhat reliable as if it is perfect. There is a good reason that very few canyoneers use a rappel backup on a regular basis, and that is because it does not make people safer.

    Your opinion is apparently quite different. In fact, so different that you think my opinion should not be voiced. Even *I* am not so arrogant to think that my opinion is so correct that other opinions should not be voiced. I think we can trust CBF to consider all the information presented, and come to a reasonable solution as to what CBF should do. Or not. But we do, as a group, what we can.

    Tom
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2018
    gajslk likes this.
  17. ratagonia

    ratagonia

    Messages:
    4,031
    Likes:
    4,752
    Location:
    Mount Carmel, Utah
    Just as the rappel backup is unreliable, the Hollowblock is also unreliable. Yes, new ones work fine. The one I saw break* was pretty beat up. I just don't know where the line is between new and pretty beat up at which the Hollowbloc is no longer suitably strong for all functions. I like gear that is reliable, and does not require this kind of guesswork.

    Tom

    *I did not actually see it break. I talked to people who saw it break.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2018
  18. Sonny Lawrence

    Sonny Lawrence

    Messages:
    119
    Likes:
    188
    I think a sewn double eye cord has many uses beyond this discussion: extending anchor temporarily, tether for pack or harness, safety to clip to extra people hanging at an anchor, guided rappel, passing knot, etc. That gives it more versatility, hence worth owning. Very specialized gear may not be worth the money nor room on your hip. Admittedly I tend to carry a piece of equipment until it is worn out and then may or may not replace it. I used to carry Mountaintools Web-o-let religiously. Many uses including retrievable anchor. Fiddlesticks came along that perform that task better. I wore out the Web-o-let, never replaced it. Used to carry a Shunt. Ha. Ha. Rarely carry canyon quick draws now except in Europe. Life changes!
    Kuenn likes this.
  19. ratagonia

    ratagonia

    Messages:
    4,031
    Likes:
    4,752
    Location:
    Mount Carmel, Utah
    What do you use the Canyon QD for in Europe?

    Tom
  20. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

    Messages:
    821
    Likes:
    879
    Location:
    Salt Lake City
    Sonny is on point! Cormor in Italy...

    Sonny Cormor 2012.
    Sonny Lawrence likes this.
Similar Threads: Preferred self
Forum Title Date
Archives - Yahoo Canyons Group CO Gov. Ritter says BLM''s preferred scenario for oil shale ''misguided, unacceptable'' Mar 21, 2008
Archives - Yahoo Canyons Group Preferred Methods for Ascending Mar 28, 2002
Archives - Yahoo Canyons Group Figure 8''s - preferred design? Oct 25, 2001
Archives - Yahoo Canyons Group preferred device/method for descending Aug 27, 2001
Archives - Yahoo Canyons Group Preferred Rope Jul 17, 2001
General Discussion Another Newbie Introducing Himself (I know "SIGH") Jul 20, 2017