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Preferred self belay

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

  1. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    And the bottom belay is unreliable because getting the video is SOOOOO much more important.

    I am reminded of the fellow who broke his back on the last rap in Heaps (285 foot, free hanging for 280 feet of that). He lost control about 100 feet above the ground. His bottom belayer was doing something else (ie, not being a bottom belayer) but was able to get to the rope in time to at least slow him down. Came in hot, broke a few processes, lots of pain, no permanent injuries. Turns out, this was his first EVER rappel on a single rope.

    Tom
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  2. Sonny Lawrence

    Sonny Lawrence

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    The "standard" is to place a figure eight device as a contingency anchor and then clip it to the anchor with a canyon quick draw. The last person removes the quick draw. Generally, I try to just use the techniques the hosting country uses so I just blend in.
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  3. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    Not sure I'd take a lot of instruction from the Texas Mountaineering Club as gospel. Now the Kansas Mountaineering Club perhaps....

    I've been to Texas. And I've been mountaineering. I've even been rock climbing in Texas. But I've never been mountaineering in Texas.
  4. Sonny Lawrence

    Sonny Lawrence

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    One of the important discussion points from this thread is how critical it is to operate the "device" properly. Even something simple as a fireman's belay can be done wrong. The bottom line is that in any of the technical rope systems: rock climbing, mountaineering, caving, canyoning, arborism, the critical element is the belay, regardless of how it is performed. My broad, general opinion is that a bad belay is worst than no belay. One key aspect of which is giving the rappeller a false sense of security. Of course there will always be exceptions to that sort of rule.
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  5. Rapterman

    Rapterman

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    "I feel like this discussion ran into left field, pitched a tent, built a campfire and began drinking heavily."
    I am giving Ratagonia's hilarious line THREE GREEN GRINS:
    :D :D :D

    A lot of good stuff to reflect on here...
    While developing rappel devices I nearly killed/injured myself :hungover:on two separate occasions
    while using two different types of self back ups (and the back ups failed:eek:).
    I was using experimental devices, and I was ALSO inexperienced rigging the back ups :facepalm:(VT above, auto block below).
    VT's do not grab if the rope is slick and they are not tied tightly with enough wraps.
    Auto blocks fail if the device is not extended far enough above the block.
    After near death fail #2, I have always obtained an EXPERIENCED fireman's belay when playing on rope with new devices.
    It is, as Ratagonia has stated a MISTAKE to assume that a back up is a cure for inexperience-
    Certainly not in my case...
  6. 2065toyota

    2065toyota

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    Did the backups completely fail, or did they work slightly enough that you didn't die?

    Just curious. Thanks
  7. CRNPRES

    CRNPRES

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    I understand your arguement and it is valid.

    I just hope he learns and experience the 3 options that he has been given in a safe environment. I do not want discourage him from doing this. The options being a VT, some type of block below, and with no block. It’s a skill and even if he never wants to use it, canyoneerers should at least know it.
  8. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Thank you.

    Tom
  9. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    Tom's heavy drinker metaphor is HILARIOUS and spot on! So, I suppose this post could be construed as me bringing a camp chair to left field to become the designated driver.

    Forgive me for belaboring this discussion. I guess it was about time to recycle the topic... of which we have before several times on the CC... and probably not the last.

    Repeating myself ad nauseam, I'm neither an advocate or opponent for self-belay. I am a huge proponent of partner belay... although as mentioned that isn't the OPs question. I really do care about this subject, even though you might say "thou doth protest too much, methinks".

    The oft heard phrase "perception is reality" has no intrinsic value in matters of safe practice, at least for what we do. Therein Reality is Reality. When self-belay is executed with skill (of which I would also throw in, beginners are not capable of), the technique may prevent a serious injury just as it may not - due to improper use, skill of participant, or some other variable. Hence, ones efforts would be and should be concentrated on mastering the primary rappel device and methods.

    Again, restating what has already been said, the "AUTO" in auto-bloc is a dangerous, dangerous, dangerous assumption. A parachute is an effective auto-bloc when used with skill, 99% of the time (no, I don't have sources to back that).

    I reference this testimonial from another thread as important evidence in the self-belay discussion. You may argue that it's not about it, I would say, not so fast. The facts are the partner belay prevented a serious accident, in THIS Reality. Whether or not a self-belay would have - no one can say for certainty.

    For comprehensive topic sake, here's another article to chew on. Recommended reading material for the OP, adding props to the "below the rappel device" consideration. This guy "TinY" (second article in the link) is as skilled at self-belay as anyone I know. I would go so far as to say he's the most skilled at the technique... certainly that I've ever witnessed. He tried on many occasions to convince me to start using it, but was not successful. He did accomplish this much, should I ever choose the self belay technique this would be my preferred method of choice for most scenarios; mainly because I've seen him use it with skill in a plethora of environments and conditions.

    In Reality, I'm too old (and set in my ways) to start using a technique that I've proved at least for self to be excessive and superfluous... dare I say that I'm above... regardless of the condition.... which includes rappelling in the dark and can't see bottom.... ahem, which is what I do more than not.... and neither does that environment beg for it... IMHO.

    And that's a lot of run-on sentences.... done.
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2018
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  10. gajslk

    gajslk

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    Agreed. With one competent person, you can use the extra rope to give a top belay. I did that once. Never again. YMMV
  11. Rapterman

    Rapterman

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    The auto block fail was on a 60' overhang.
    WAY to little friction when stepping off edge, the block ran into the device and did not grab AT ALL,
    I grabbed brake line with two gloved hands and burnt my fingers all the way down: wrecked gloves, a few blisters, confidence shaken.
    The VT pussick fail was on a 100' rappel, new 8mm poly sheath rope. Again, not enough friction stepping off edge, loosely tied VT slid like it
    wasn't there, big panic trying to add friction on device, ended up with redirecting brake line through a leg loop biner: toasty fingers, confidence really shaken.
    Since then, I have become much better at
    A. practice new stuff with a firemans
    B. adjusting friction or locking off mid rappel (CRITR)
    C. properly rigging VT back up when it is helpful (like when passing a knot)
    :)
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  12. gajslk

    gajslk

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    When I was planning to pass a knot at the end of Heaps, I rigged a rope to the elm tree out back, got out a ladder, and passed knots close to the ground. Seems like a good place to try out a brand new device with unknown friction, too. You can still get hurt falling three feet onto flat grass, but it's hard to kill yourself ...
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  13. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    In the interests of clear communication:

    A block is a knot or clove hitched biner on the rope. They tend to catch every time. Reliable!

    An autobloc has two meanings:

    A. any sliding friction knot used as a rappel backup (Synonym: Prusik, though autobloc tends to be specific to a rappel backup, rather than having a wider meaning).

    B. a spiral wrap friction knot. often the best knot to use as a rappel backup.

    Notice that autobloc does not shorten to "block". And block already has a meaning that is different than autobloc.

    humptydumptymaster.
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  14. Rapterman

    Rapterman

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    ...puttin more wood on that fire
    and havin another shot of tequila
    :D
  15. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    Why? It works fine if you can see the whole drop from the top. I do it all the time with kids/youth. Kind of sucks to pull the rope back up to do it again of course.
  16. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Let's ignore Canyonero's slander of Texas. They do have mountains in Texas. Canyonero may be surprised to learn that people travel freely within and without the United States, and thus some pretty good mountaineers come from some surprising places. Mugs Stump was born in Mifflintown, Pennsylvania, where he grew up fishing, hunting, and camping with his father Warren and three brothers.

    My skepticism to the Appeal to Authority (a well-established fallacy) of the Texas Mountaineering Club is more to my experience with clubs. Curricula of club programs tend to be decided by a committee, based on the political status of the members of the committee. Or their obstinate nature. In general, this is a poor way to vet technical methods.

    Tom
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  17. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    You're showing your age. I know who Mugs Stump was, but only because he died on Denali the year before I climbed it, many moons ago.

    I think I have a rather snobbish view of mountaineering. I think mountaineering ought to involve snow or altitude at some point during the day. Maybe something in the Guadalupes (which are practically New Mexico) would qualify in the dead of Winter as mountaineering. Maybe. I seriously can't think of anywhere else in Texas. But what do you expect? I grew up in Alaska. We slander Texas every chance we get.

    https://www.amazon.com/Alaska-Tshirt-Isnt-Texas-Parody/dp/B01DBCR3BW
  18. townsend

    townsend

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    But there was no use of appeal to authority. I simply was relating my experience -- this is where I learned the method. Back up rappel techniques may be more in use by rock climbers than canyoneers. I'll leave that for others to debate.

    Tom knows his mountains. Canyonero, here you go, Guadalupte Mountains National Park, located in Tejas: https://www.nps.gov/gumo/index.htm

    I guess there is more than one?

    Some members of the club actually mountaineer, not in Nepal, but at least in Oregon (e.g., Mt Hood). The founder of the club clicks off a number of fourteeners in Colorado every summer.
  19. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Texas (more particularly Texans) are a popular target of slander in many non-Texan states.

    T
  20. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    Quite familiar with it. Where's the mountaineering again? I'm not even sure rock climbing is allowed there:

    "Is there any technical climbing in the park?Technical climbing is rarely done in the park. It is not considered safe due to the limestone composition of rock. The best place for rock climbing or bouldering is at Hueco Tanks State Park, just east of El Paso, Texas."

    Also just pulled an NPS pamphlet for the park while at Hueco Tanks, which states that technical climbing requires a permit.

    https://www.mountainproject.com/forum/topic/106857490/guadalupe-national-park
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