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minx

sketchy belay--off the anchor or harness?

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this w/e my partner and i head up what in theory is a couple moderate pitches to start the day. turns out the route has few options for placements and what few there are suck relatively. i set up an anchor that is sketchier than i'd like. normally b/c of the position of the anchor, i would've set up my belay from the anchor. in this case i set up from harness figuring that if he did fall hopefully my body would absorb some of the impact rather than my sketchy anchor. is that realistic or does it matter?

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You could look at it a couple of ways.

 

If you are belaying a second and the anchor is less then ideal, belaying off the harness might be better. If you can hold their weight on your waist you may not even weight the anchor at all.

 

However, lets say the seconds fall and pulls you off also, now you are both hanging off the sketchy anchor, instead of just them.

 

In situations where the anchor totaly sucks or is non-existant, you may want to belay with the old school hip belay. That way you vcan let the rope slide a little, less static/more dynamic. Also, keep the knife handy! evils3d.gif

 

But...if you do decide to belay the second off the anchor, keep the rope tight. That way if they do fall there will be less impact, and it'll be just bodyweight.

 

Sketchy anchors suck... cry.gif

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Finding yourself in this situation can be bleak, especially on steep ROCK. I have been in this situation -- a less-than-ideal anchor -- on steep snow/ice and chosen to kick a good platform, get a good stance, clip into the "anchor" as backup, and belay right off of my harness. My theory was that I could essentially hold my partner with my legs in the case of a slip (it was on varying 50-80 degree snow/ice) and he could reestablish himself and get the weight off of me pretty quickly, all without ever loading the anchor.

 

As it turned out, he didn't fall and we climbed on.

 

I think it's situational, obviously, but a good thing to consider and to have in your bag of tricks.

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However, lets say the seconds fall and pulls you off also, now you are both hanging off the sketchy anchor, instead of just them.

 

I agree that your body is an excellent shock absorber, but if they fall and you are belaying them through the anchor, it still sees the weight of both people weather you are on the same side or on either side of a rope. Besides, if your partner yanks you off and you are both hanging on an anchor that has just bee shockloaded, is it still sketchy? cantfocus.gif

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If I were the 2nd I'd like to know the anchor was sketchy before I started climbing so that I climbed conservatively.

 

When I 2nd easy pitches I sometimes like to make them and bit more challenging and interesting....and this would be a case where I'd rather not add any excitement to the situation.

 

Case in point, when I followed the '2nd' pitch of Nutcracker in Yos (I break it up into 2 pitches to get to the first big ledge and the 2nd pitch is a rising 'gulley' rated in very low 5's, if that), I found my belayer happily sitting on the big ledge---unanchored, but feet braced on a good sized bolder! I'd been very close to getting out of the gully and playing on the face for fun, but chose not to as we were racing some Russians nearing the ledge on an alt start. I made a strong point to my partner and never faced that problem again.

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Minx, I think you did well.

 

On the first pitch of Lightning Crack, I arrived at the belay ledge to find a party of three tied into the bolts. I built a gear anchor with three small pieces that was "okay", but not as good as I would have liked, so when I brought up the second, I belayed from my harness and I used a sitting position with my feet braced solidly. Had my partner fallen, the anchor never would have to be tested, but I made sure I was up tight against it so there could be no shock loading if I couldn't hold the belay stance (little chance of that as my second was a lightweight).

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However, lets say the seconds fall and pulls you off also, now you are both hanging off the sketchy anchor, instead of just them.

 

I agree that your body is an excellent shock absorber, but if they fall and you are belaying them through the anchor, it still sees the weight of both people weather you are on the same side or on either side of a rope. Besides, if your partner yanks you off and you are both hanging on an anchor that has just bee shockloaded, is it still sketchy? cantfocus.gif

 

If belaying from your harness you shouldn't redirect the roupe through the anchor...for that reason.

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i ussally put in a peice to use for a directional clip rope though it and belay off harness, so the sec falls, its on that peice instead of anchors and or me, course that piece could fail but with a tr fall it would have to be a really bad placement.

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I second all those who say to belay off the harness. That's pretty common to do if you have a crappy anchor.

 

Mark Twight did say that if you can't fully trust your anchor...why build one in the first place? cantfocus.gif

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If I were the 2nd I'd like to know the anchor was sketchy before I started climbing so that I climbed conservatively.

 

When I 2nd easy pitches I sometimes like to make them and bit more challenging and interesting....and this would be a case where I'd rather not add any excitement to the situation.

 

 

i would've mentioned it but my partner wasn't particularly interested in talking to me at that moment. i'd spent about 10 min trying to come up w/a better anchor while he was standing in the cold belaying me. he was a might bit cranky. smirk.gif but you make a good point since he is prone to experimenting on easier pitches.

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I think I understand your thinking there, wirlwind, but in general I'd think that if that "directional" was any good it'd be a better idea to use it as part of your anchor (I'm assuming that since you call it a "directional, it must be level with or above your belay device). If it is questionnable, I'd rather set up so I am fully braced in the direction of the ultimate pull that I am worried about, and a nearby "directional" often seems to make it clumsy hauling in the belay rope anyway.

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Supposing your anchor is composed of three pieces all equalized with a cordellette and you want to belay off your harness using a directional. Do you use one of the three pieces comprising your anchor, or do you put a fourth piece in for that purpose (assuming you can)? Would that be totally anal? I suppose the latter would make a lot more sense if none of the three placements were super reliable.

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in this particular situation i was lucky to get 3 pieces in. they were all way too close together in the same crack for my liking. a directional definitely wasn't an option. i actually considered it but felt like it would've added to the cluster instead of helped. i weighted my anchor and got a solid stance figuring that my partner doesn't weigh much more than me and hopefully if he fell that would minimize any shock load on the anchor.

 

in short...it seemed cleaner not to do that.

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check out the big brain on minxi. figgering all the physics and shit. living to climb another day. aahhh yeah! thumbs_up.gif

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Supposing your anchor is composed of three pieces all equalized with a cordellette and you want to belay off your harness using a directional. Do you use one of the three pieces comprising your anchor, or do you put a fourth piece in for that purpose (assuming you can)? Would that be totally anal? I suppose the latter would make a lot more sense if none of the three placements were super reliable.

i ussally use a 3 piece anchor with another piece for directional or 2 bolts sometime with another piece for directional. and i always put the peice up as high as i can reach, this way its not in the way for belaying and is like belaying a tr'ed climber rather than haveing the wieght on my nutts if and when the person falls( straight off harness) or an akward brake position( if off ancohrs that are chest high or lower), but i also don't have a reverso, with one i'd be more inclined to belay off the anchor itself.

my 2 cents bigdrink.gif

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down fall ofcourse is if the piece pops. i had a nutt come out once which end up putting alot of slack in the line but the sec didn't fall, my nutts thanked him very much for not doing so

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Supposing your anchor is composed of three pieces all equalized with a cordellette and you want to belay off your harness using a directional. Do you use one of the three pieces comprising your anchor, or do you put a fourth piece in for that purpose (assuming you can)? Would that be totally anal? I suppose the latter would make a lot more sense if none of the three placements were super reliable.

I'm just a gumby, but I'm having a hard time seeing where on an alpine climb I would ever do this (have a fourth piece that is not a part of my anchor). If I take the time to put in an extra piece, I for damn sure want it as a part of my anchor system. Conversely, if I'm not 100% confident that my three-piece anchor system can hold double the tension for a top-rope fall, it seems that I need to be fixing my anchor, not adding some extra directional piece. By adding a fourth directional piece, I'm just shock-loading the anchor in the event that the directional piece fails. Personally, I'd rather include a load-limiter if there is a questionable piece on the anchor, rather than just adding more pieces. But maybe I'm failing to see some basic aspect of the issue...

Edited by Stephen_Ramsey

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That's pretty much what I was trying to say there, Mr. Ramsey.

Doh! I just saw your reply, Matt. I think my eyes are failing from too much work and too little time outdoors.

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its just more comfortable thats all not really for back up but i could be used that way thats why i brough it up

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All leader falls "shock load" the anchor. If the directional pulls out the shock load will depend on how much rope is out, the same way fall factor is calculated. I could be bad if the follower fell just short of the belay, I suppose.

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Right, Ramsey, but Catbird may not have understood what I wrote, either. And for Whirlwind, I would add that to me it makes no difference crag or alpine - I cannot think of a situation where I would find it advantageous to use that extra anchor as a directional rather than an additional piece of security for the sketchy belay I was worried about.

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thats not a directional thats a "jew" piece as e-rock and i so afectionatly call it, i only use dirt for when the sec is well secounding the pitch

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