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Tech Tip: Answered Why do we bottom belay?

Discussion in 'Tech Tips and Gear' started by ratagonia, Apr 3, 2014.

  1. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    perhaps, why SHOULD we bottom belay.

    Did some of that today, and had a discussion about why, arrived at some clarity.

    I bottom belay so that, if the person rappelling slips and lets go, I can live the rest of my life with some dignity. Bottom belaying takes only a moment or two, and a small amount of effort. I cannot imagine the anguish and regret that my life would be centered around should one of my friends plummet to their death next to me, because I was too prideful to provide that small amount of effort.

    Get it?

    Tom

    bottombelay.
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  2. Mountaineer

    Mountaineer Is that an X slot?

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    Saved my daughter from a serious accident or worse last weekend. Trip report coming soon...
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  3. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    Well said, Tom.

    For the same reason we make sure our family and friends wear a seat belt. It doesn't ensure complete protection in the event of a mishap, but it does provide the best protection we can offer, under the circumstances.

    Likewise, there is dignity in accepting the act when offered, even when it was not requested.
  4. Rapterman

    Rapterman

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    Thanks Tom (and everyone) for posting on this.
    Setting egos aside- bottom/ fireman's belays should be given (and received) where ever it is practical to do so.
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  5. Deagol

    Deagol too many hobbies

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    great pic, Tom, where is it ?
  6. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Somewhere in Zion...
  7. MikeDallin

    MikeDallin

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    While the "I want to live with dignity after an accident" is a great argument appealing to emotion, it is not a great argument for the effectiveness of the fireman's belay. This technique is a great tool but you have to understand its limitations and when it is appropriate to use it. It is not, no pun intended, a "catch-all". Using it for psychological reasons ("this rappel is SCARY!") is one thing, but successfully catching a rappeller in an uncontrolled fall is another matter entirely and not as straight forward as many believe. This article is required reading for anyone who uses fireman's (bottom) belays:

    http://www.caves.org/section/vertical/nh/49/bottblay.html

    Also consider that most people, including the person in the photo at the top of this thread, aren't using the best technique. It's better than nothing, I suppose, but in my view the person in the photo's bottom belay is similar to a belayer of a lead climber who is spending their time chatting up the hotty next to them rather than watching the climber, even after the climber yells "watch me!" Sure, they'll (hopefully) catch a fall, but... A much better technique is to hold the rope with your hands above your head as that provides a more efficient motion for removing the slack from the rope. And, in a uncontrolled descent where the falling person is accelerating at around 9.8 m/s^2, being in the most efficient position to stop the fall as quickly as possible is critically important.
  8. Deagol

    Deagol too many hobbies

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    I FIGURED THAT...
    looks like the last downclimb in Subway :rolleyes:
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  9. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Off the new right-side anchor - you nailed it!

    T
  10. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    You'll be happy to hear, Mike, that this rappel was shorter than 800 feet.

    Tom
  11. Tom Collins

    Tom Collins

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    An interesting article, I started skimming about half way through, but it doesn't sound like they did a control drop, i.e. they simply dropped the test mass and didn't even try to belay, so they could compare the impact velocity and see if it made any difference at all. I agree that a fireman's belay doesn't eliminate all risk from rappelling, but even if you can't stop an out of control person, I'm pretty sure that it's better than nothing.
  12. MikeDallin

    MikeDallin

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  13. Deagol

    Deagol too many hobbies

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    I read the test... interesting. I wonder if rope stretch (even with "static line") had something to do with decreasing effectiveness of belay with longer distances between belayer and rappeler
  14. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    And they probably would not hear, "On belay?" at that depth/height.

    ...856' but who's counting. :)
  15. tom wetherell

    tom wetherell tom(w)

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    Mike, neat article, thanks for posting.

    I wonder how using a rack would be different that the typical devices canyoneers use. I don't have a rack and have never used one, but my understanding is that friction is preset by the number and position of bars, and that on some racks you can "snap" in and out bars to add or remove friction. However this must be done by the rappeller. With an 8 or tube device friction can be varied by tension on the exit side, and by the bend angle (related).

    I'd like to see these tests repeated with the devices we use.

    Also, the test simulates a completely incapacitated rappeller. In some cases I would hope that the rappeller would be able to "help" the belayer with additional friction, (maybe after the belayer slows the descent some the rappeller could regain control). Maybe wishful thinking.

    Mebbe Hank or other cave people could chime in...

    -tom(w)
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  16. Mountaineer

    Mountaineer Is that an X slot?

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    I've read this report and something we need to be cognitive of for sure. Thanks for putting it up again. Note the speeds and lengths of the rappels, and how things were tested.

    I did a real world test, an accident just a few days ago. My daughter was moving very slowly, my wife had both hands securely to the belay. When my daughter's foot slipped on the rock at about 50', she let go and tried to grab the rock above her with both hands and missed. Instinct. My wife pulled quickly within a half a second and arrested her fall.

    Studies are important, but I'm now a real world believer in the value. There will never be any study done that will counteract the fact that bottom belay can work: my daughter was saved.
    wsbpress and (deleted member) like this.
  17. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    Interesting...I've never been a fan of the fireman's especially if a person actually needs a belay. I've always thought it should be active, from the top or a sling shot from the bottom, not reactive, from the bottom.

    I've practised a fireman's a fair bit, and, know that it works. But, you gotta be right there and, yeah, hands up, ready to pull the slack tight to the rappellers device.

    The person holding the slack in the rope in that picture isn't going to hold anyone should the rappeller loose control.
    Mountaineer and MikeDallin like this.
  18. MikeDallin

    MikeDallin

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  19. MikeDallin

    MikeDallin

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  20. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    Interesting conclusions...in summary:


    1. The length of the drop matters. The further the rappeller is from the bottom belayer, the less likely the bottom belayer is to notice an out of control rappeller.

    2. The greater the rope length between the bottom belayer and the rappeller, the less effective the belay effort may be.

    3. The slower the reaction time of the bottom belayer, the less likely he or she is to be successful in his or her belay effort.

    4. The gripping ability of the belayer may be more important than the overall strength of the belayer.

    5. The size of the belayer may be misleading.
    Kuenn and (deleted member) like this.
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