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Blake

Belay Loop Issues

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First off, I don't have a belay loop on my harness, I just tie in and clip the belay 'biner through the waist and crotch loops.

 

I was recently climbing with a friend and we were having a lot of rope management/tangle issues. When you clip an HMS biner into a belay loop, the slots in the attached belay device end up running vertically, not an ideal position in my experience. I told her to clip her belay biner through the crotch and waist loops, ignoring the belay loop, and this seemed to help line her belay device up better, but this can be awkward, and seems to load the 'biner in several deirections.

For those that do have belay loops: Does the vertical orientation of tube style belay devices ever screw stuff up? Do you do anything about it? (short of belaying off the anchors)

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Almost all harnesses on the market now come with belay loops. Even the black diamond bod harness now comes with one.

 

Why?

 

Because belaying off of the waist and crotch loop weakens the biner. A biner is designed to have a load placed directly on its spine. A belay loop allows all potential force to be put directly on the biner's spine. When you place a biner through the waist and crotch loops you triaxally load the carabiner when there is a fall. In other words your biner is automatically crossloaded.

 

In a mountaineering situation where the worst fall you might take is in a crevasse this type of crossloading is not that big a deal. However, in rock and ice climbing where 8 and 10 KN falls are possible, placing your carabiner through the waist and crotch loop is a dangerous proposition. Teaching somebody to do this is even worse.

 

As for your problem, if you can't keep the biner oriented right, use a different biner.

 

Jason

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When you place a biner through the waist and crotch loops you triaxally load the carabiner when there is a fall. In other words your biner is automatically crossloaded.

 

Actually, it's a tri-directional load, but the result is the same. The misnomer is just too fixed in the climbing community for anyone to change it.

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The belay loop is flexible enough to allow the biner and belay device to rotate easily to match the position of the belayers hands. So, if the belayer's hands are to the left and right of the waist, the ATC will automatically orient itself in that way...there's nothing to keep it oriented with the slots in the vertical position you describe.

 

The problem I encountered when I bought my first harness with a belay loop was the extra 'slop' in the belay while taking in slack; those extra 3 or 4 inches irritated me. I solved the problem partially by switching to the smallest locking biner I could find. Compare biner load ratings to the big pear-shaped biner your probably using now....there's not much difference in strength, but it made quite a bit of difference for me.

 

Another problem inherent with belay loops and large lockers is the tendency of the locking mechanisms of some biners to 'catch' on belay loop as they rotate and turn around during the belay motions. I was using a large BD biner with a knurled barrel, and the barrel caught all the time. If I would have had to catch a fall with the biner in that position the gate would have been loaded...less than ideal.

 

To solve THAT problem I first tried the HMS Belay Master biner with the plastic insert to keep the biner oriented properly. That thing is functional, but a real PITA to screw with all of the time. Switching to the smallest locking biner with a smooth profile on the gate/lock also helped this situation. I just don't see a need for a big belay biner when using a belay loop.

 

This info is strictly for rock climbing. For glacier travel I still usually use the bigger biners, which seem easier to work with when I'm wearing gloves or mitts.

 

I agree with Jason about tri-axial loading on the biners when they're rigged thru the waist and leg loops. In addition, harnesses are now designed to be loaded at the point of the belay loop. If one changes the configuration, one can also change where and how the harness is loaded, with potentially significant effects. I've seen some study results published to that effect somewhere.

 

The lack of redundancy in the belay loop bugs me sometimes, though I know it shouldn't. One thing I often do is clip my belay biner thru both the belay loop AND the loop my rope makes when I'm tied in, which is generally thru the same parts the belay loop is rigged. This gives me just a little extra peace of mind.

 

PS, if your harness doesn't have a belay loop then it's probably old enough to consider replacing very soon.

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Most belay loops are redundant in the form of 2 pieces of webbing bartacked together. give it a look. Using the rope as a belay loop is a good idea for those harnesses without belay loops.

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If you are going to use your rope and you tie into your harness with a Fig8 follow through make sure you have a long tail and back up the know with a fishermans. A Fig 8 follow through if loaded in the wrong direction can invert itself and fail if there is not a long enough tail/back-up, particularly when people thread the tail back through the knot to keep it out of the way...

 

My understanding about alpine bod harnesses is that the tie in point doubles as a belay loop, so there really isn't a need to belay through the rope anyways.

Edited by chelle

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The belay loop is flexible enough to allow the biner and belay device to rotate easily to match the position of the belayers hands. So, if the belayer's hands are to the left and right of the waist, the ATC will automatically orient itself in that way...there's nothing to keep it oriented with the slots in the vertical position you describe.

 

The problem I encountered when I bought my first harness with a belay loop was the extra 'slop' in the belay while taking in slack; those extra 3 or 4 inches irritated me. I solved the problem partially by switching to the smallest locking biner I could find. Compare biner load ratings to the big pear-shaped biner your probably using now....there's not much difference in strength, but it made quite a bit of difference for me.

 

Another problem inherent with belay loops and large lockers is the tendency of the locking mechanisms of some biners to 'catch' on belay loop as they rotate and turn around during the belay motions. I was using a large BD biner with a knurled barrel, and the barrel caught all the time. If I would have had to catch a fall with the biner in that position the gate would have been loaded...less than ideal.

 

To solve THAT problem I first tried the HMS Belay Master biner with the plastic insert to keep the biner oriented properly. That thing is functional, but a real PITA to screw with all of the time. Switching to the smallest locking biner with a smooth profile on the gate/lock also helped this situation. I just don't see a need for a big belay biner when using a belay loop.

 

This info is strictly for rock climbing. For glacier travel I still usually use the bigger biners, which seem easier to work with when I'm wearing gloves or mitts.

 

I agree with Jason about tri-axial loading on the biners when they're rigged thru the waist and leg loops. In addition, harnesses are now designed to be loaded at the point of the belay loop. If one changes the configuration, one can also change where and how the harness is loaded, with potentially significant effects. I've seen some study results published to that effect somewhere.

 

The lack of redundancy in the belay loop bugs me sometimes, though I know it shouldn't. One thing I often do is clip my belay biner thru both the belay loop AND the loop my rope makes when I'm tied in, which is generally thru the same parts the belay loop is rigged. This gives me just a little extra peace of mind.

 

PS, if your harness doesn't have a belay loop then it's probably old enough to consider replacing very soon.

 

The larger pear-shaped carbiners are partially to prevent the 'biner from sitting inside the device and adding friction. This isn't an issue on a reverso or a gri-gri, but an ATC will do this, especially when rappelling with a small carabiner. They are also shaped to allow for the extra bulk of a munter hitch.

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The larger pear-shaped carbiners are partially to prevent the 'biner from sitting inside the device and adding friction. This isn't an issue on a reverso or a gri-gri, but an ATC will do this, especially when rappelling with a small carabiner. They are also shaped to allow for the extra bulk of a munter hitch.

 

Agreed, though it's not been an issue for me as I weigh in at 200#. I do keep a couple of big pear biners on my rack for anchors and the occasional munter.

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If you are going to use your rope and you tie into your harness with a Fig8 follow through make sure you have a long tail and back up the know with a fishermans. A Fig 8 follow through if loaded in the wrong direction can invert itself and fail if there is not a long enough tail/back-up, particularly when people thread the tail back through the knot to keep it out of the way...

 

Though this piece of advice won't hurt anybody, it is incorrect. Tests have indicated that a figure 8 follow-though that is not completely tied will only fail about five percent of the time. There have been no tests that I'm aware of which indicate that a figure 8 will invert or untie itself after adding a Yosemite finish to the knot.

 

Most certified climbing guides do not tie a "safety knot" into their rope after tying in. Many of them do use the yosemite finish.

 

The only thing the extra "safety knot" does is to back up your system if you already tied your knot wrong. At this point the "safety knot" will probably fail as well. Instead of focusing on this extra knot it would be better for climbers to practice dressing their figure 8s. Though an undressed figure 8 is no less likely to fail, an unfinished or incorrectly tied knot is more likely to be missed if you are used to looking at sloppy knots. Clean and dressed knots are easy to recogize as correct and thus inherently safer.

 

Jason

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Jason,

 

I have seen the pull tests with the Yosemite tuck and the knot does fail at very low loads. It was enough for me to never do it. Keep in mind this is when the knot is loaded inside the loop not during a pull on the exterior of it. With the tuck back if one were to fall and get the knot clipped into a carabiner(I have seen this happen)the knot is very weak.

 

worth considering!!!!

 

Dale bigdrink.gif

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Here's a picture of my old harness I used for about a decade made from 2" on a friend's Singer with regular cotton/nylon thread. It put up a bunch of .10-.13 FA's back in the day, and held an endless stream of nasty whippers with no problem at all. It had no no belay loop and I still don't care much for the things.

 

I know on one hand these are serious discussions, but sometimes us old guys crackup over the level of concern and nuance around such topics as the gear now is just so much better than before with comparatively huge margins of error. Should you know how to use it, sure; but trust me - you are about a million times more likely to screw up then than have your gear fail.

 

6299harness_001.jpg

 

For that matter, for the first five years we just tied into the end of the rope or used 1" swamis...

 

On the ropes...

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- you are about a million times more likely to screw up then than have your gear fail.

 

so true ...

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Joseph, that looks a lot like a homemade version of the new CAMP XLH 130 harness CMP0008.jpg which is only 4oz! Your looks more comfy though, why didn't you wear it when you led me up Young Warriors? laugh.gif

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The green harness got retired in '87-88 or so after I moved to Oregon so as not to embarass my partners. It's still works fine and is comfy.

 

On a family trip to NYC last summer I took the girls up to Gunks/Mohonk for a day but as it was a family trip to the city mainly I didn't bring any gear at all. But walking on the carriage trail watching some folks I finally asked if I could take a ride.

 

The leader of the group I ask said, "sure, but you don't have any shoes..." and I said I'd climb barefoot and grabbed the rope. He then said, "but you don't have a harness...", but I had already tied one from the rope with a double bowline on a bight. As I started to climb he said, "but you don't have any chalk..." and I explained it wasn't hot and I didn't need any.

 

They apparently had never seen anyone climb old school and my wife was just cracking up as the conversation progress. The route was great, I had fun, but you'd think I was Martian or a Yeti by the way they reacted (actually they were fabulous and very nice...).

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He then said, "but you don't have a harness...", but I had already tied one from the rope with a double bowline on a bight.

 

 

But i bet it didn't have a belay loop! And that is the real issue that I'm sure he had with your methods. yelrotflmao.gif

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Jason,

 

I have seen the pull tests with the Yosemite tuck and the knot does fail at very low loads. It was enough for me to never do it. Keep in mind this is when the knot is loaded inside the loop not during a pull on the exterior of it. With the tuck back if one were to fall and get the knot clipped into a carabiner(I have seen this happen)the knot is very weak.

 

worth considering!!!!

 

Dale bigdrink.gif

 

After seeing this repeated thoughout and due to the fact that I teach this on a regular basis, I decided to do a little research. I emailed Craig Luebben, who does gear and rope strength tests on a regular basis then writes about them. I addressed this particular issue with him and this and this was his response:

 

"The "yosemite finish" only weakens the knot if you use the knot as a belay loop, and even then I am not sure how much of a problem it is. The deal is, if you load the loop of the knot really high it will invert, and then you only have part of the figure eight remaining. Some people cure this problem by passing the rope around itself before going through the hole, but that makes the knot a little bigger.

 

I use that finish almost all of the time, and I rarely use that rope loop for anything because I use my belay loop. I hope this answers your question. Have a great summer!

 

Craig"

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Thanks for posting that. I have been using this knot for quite some time and it is nice to have data-based fact on the table rather than hearsay.

 

I guess the bottom line is I've fallen on it a lot and I'm still here.

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Question for Jason or whoever else knows the answer:

 

I've heard this idea of triaxially loading the biner being a problem, but with my harnesses, if you pull on the biner, even just hooking your finger around the other end and tugging, the leg loop and waist belt webbing end up in the same place on the biner, and the load is made right by that. Obviously the effect of gravity is a lot stronger than that.

 

So I could see how one might worry about triaxial loads (or whatever it is we are calling that) if you didn't have gravity pulling everything *right* into shape, but in the gravitational world, I guess I can't see it. I prefer the leg loop/waist belt setup because it keeps the belay close to the body.

 

Far as why one might tie off the tail after tying the Fingure Eight doubled, your partner's already checked the knot before you left the ground, and by tying off the end, the belayer never has to look up and wonder why they see the tail of the rope. That's the reason I always tie off the tail even though it provides no extra protection in a fall.

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I've heard this idea of triaxially loading the biner being a problem, but with my harnesses, if you pull on the biner, even just hooking your finger around the other end and tugging, the leg loop and waist belt webbing end up in the same place on the biner, and the load is made right by that. Obviously the effect of gravity is a lot stronger than that.

 

So I could see how one might worry about triaxial loads (or whatever it is we are calling that) if you didn't have gravity pulling everything *right* into shape, but in the gravitational world, I guess I can't see it. I prefer the leg loop/waist belt setup because it keeps the belay close to the body.

 

The issue is design. We all make assumptions about gravity when we pull on the harness with our fingers. We assume that a fall will load the harness the same way...and it might. But then again it might not. Generally speaking, it is safest and best to use your equipment the way that it was designed to be used. In other words it is safest to belay off the belay loop. This is tested in a variety of ways with a variety of loads.

 

When you don't use your harness the way it was designed to be used, all bets are off. It's going to work for the vast majority of the falls you have to deal with. But you're not going to be very psyched when a weird load hits your harness and damages the biner...

 

Jason

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Okay, then let me ask it another way.

 

Has there ever been a case documented where tying into leg loops and waist belt contributed to a biner failing and causing an accident?

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Wait, you are trying to tell me a LOCKING biner failed, due to tri-directional loading, during a belay/rapping situation?

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JM,

 

So, if you don't have a belay loop on your harness (e.g., BD Alpine Bod), is it better to just belay the way the manufacturer intended, or to belay off your tie-in loop? For the Alpine Bod, BD recommends belaying with a locking biner through the crotch and waist straps of the harness. Is belaying off the tie-in loop inherently safer?

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