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snowman

belayer can't see or hear climber

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I want some advice on ways to communicate beetween climber and belayer when you can't see or hear each other. Also, Never having caught someone falling that I couldn't see, I was wondering if this something that is hard to recognize that they are falling and arrest the fall?

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I've used a system like this.

5 tugs on the rope, pause, 5 tugs = off belay

Then

Take slack out of the rope then 5 tugs = Belay on

Belayer above then keeps the rope snug but not tight.

For catching a fall you can't see, you need to feel whats going on and act quickly. Sorry I don't have better advice for this.

[ 03-11-2002: Message edited by: AlpineK ]

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I use nearly the same system as Alpine K, but I use only one 5 tug symbol. 5 tugs means "climb." Whether the leader has establshed a belay, or they have not reached one yet but see a good ledge fifty feet higher, the second does not know. But five tugs cannot be confused with "I'm trying to clear a rope snag."

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You can always lob a chockstone at your buddy when you want him to take you off belay. Seriously, I use a system like MattP's. When you have only one signal and it means only one thing, there's little chance somebody will climb away from a ledge under the illusion that they're on belay.

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I use a similar system to AlpineK. Also I have seen many guys using the little talk-about radios. They seem to work great on an apline rock climb.

2 cents

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I grew up in the Columbia Gorge and remember a lot of bad experiences trying to communicate over gusty wind. When I got into spelunking, I learned some good, simple vocal signals that worked most of the time. But Mattp's system sounds even better.

I used to make fun of the radio thing but then used them once on a longer multipitch and now see their place. I am wary of too many gadgets but on a climb where there were many sources of anxiety, the ability to communicate easily made the experience more pleasant.

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I have a set of motorolas with a 2 mile range. They work great as long as there isn't much wind. I still prefer not taking them. I always used three long pulls but everyone has their preferences. The 5 system sounds good. When you climb with the same person a lot, you need less and less communication.

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If you don' mind extra weight and a gadget, The radio's work great. Certainly a good partnership will be able to figure out what needs to be done, but the radios can also be fun and make communication so easy that it can add to the experience. Often, the clips provided seem weak, so I have just taken some really thin webbing and carried them over my shoulder on a single runner. It's comfortable, convenient and bombproof.

The first time I used them, I was taking a friend on his first ever multi-pitch: the West Face of Monkey Face hooking up to the pioneer route. We got a crack of noon start and it started blizzarding on us, so we were benighted in 20 mile an hour winds and him being rather puckered at panic point. The radios enabled me to explain every possibility and have him explain what he wanted to do. Very nice.

It probably shaved off an hour of monkeying around: He had decided he wasn't gonna go anywhere, and my only possibility would have been tying the line off, rapping down, then climbing back up to retrieve the gear and rapping back down, to pick him up as we descended.

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Family Radio Service transceivers - FRS - can be an amazing tool. I am an amateur radio operator - KA7HLV - and I bought a pair of Radio Shack FRS radios as soon as they became available in 1997. The Federal Communication Commission - FCC - allocated a very small chunk of airwaves for use by the public fully unlicensed (no citizenship requirement, no age requirement, no knowledge test, no skill test, no license document required or available). The regulatory folks thought the use would ultimately (and quickly) degrade to the level of Citizens Band Radio Service - CB - that long haul commercial truckers use (failure to identify yourself, use of profanity, rebroadcasting copyrighted music, etc, etc ).

Typical Users of FRS: In these first 5 years the FRS has shown to be actually economically elitist with downhill resort skiers, families in shopping malls, etc making up much of the use. Though FRS use has continued to explode, now that cell phones and cell service are less exorbitant and they have the ability to function similar to short distance two-way radios, many former FRS users don't use their radios. The bulk of use has been informative and highly useful for the public (as compared to the quality experienced on CB) and in fact many organizations/clubs have flocked to FRS because of the small size of the units, the very low cost of the units, and the unlicensed requirement. Some form of "Mt. Hood Ski Patrol" is using FRS this year, they chased me off their "customary" channel!

Transmission Distance. Besides CBRS and FRS there is also GMRS - General Mobile Radio Service - but GMRS requires licensing. FRS gets 1/4 mile to 2 mile, CBRS gets 1 mile to 5 mile, GMRS gets 5 mile to 25 mile. Phil F experienced receiving transmissions on FRS while in Snoqualmie area from the Bellingham area, this is not a function of his receiving radio, it is a function of the transmitting radio, the power of the transmitter. The FCC put limits on the transmitting power of FRS so that it would be a very localized broadcast and it is technically a federal misdemeanor to alter an FRS radio for greater power. Hence the severely restricted quantity of bandwidth, only 14 lousy channels. It would be impossible to use FRS if everybody had the ability to transmit 25 miles! Skiers in Utah, Colorado and Lake Tahoe would be bombarded by skiers' radio chatter on a dozen close-by ski resorts!!!

My Requirements: That first pair of Radio Shack FRS radios weren't so good. I waited several years and kept borrowing friends' newer units. Eventually I made my 1999 decision based on :

Inability to change channels inadvertentlyEase of useSizeWeightAbility to easily secure with 3mm cordPriceUse of ubiquitous AA batteries

My Choice: Motorola Talkabout FR50. These were the absolute lowest model that Motorola made at that time, and they cost just $35 at Costco ($70 for a pair). I have used many other models and I still prefer my FR50. They don't have subchannels but this makes them way easier to use. They function with all other FRS radios as long as the others are not using subchannels. There is also a remote headset/earphone jack.

Battery Drain. I have dozens of days' use and I've noticed that _talk-time_ determines battery life, and not the amount of time the unit is simply turned ON. If I limit my talking then they easily last for 5 10-hour days. If I had to replace the batteries after 3 long days' use I would be very satisfied, they easily give me value beyond the cost of 3 AA alkaline batteries. I don't use rechargeable AA for radios because those batteries would need to be replaced frequently.

Alpine Climbing. This is where radios provide increased communication that is excellent and sometimes almost critical. On my 70m rope scampering over ledges and aretes with the wind blowing….. many times it's IMPOSSIBLE to communicate safely by yelling at my belay. Even the "5 tugs means you're on belay" signal becomes useless when I'm saving time connecting 3 pitches with my 230-foot rope. With radios I've never been let down, adequate to perfect reception everytime. And sometimes the lead might want to ask for route alignment beta from the belay that has already lead the route several times…. Maybe I'm weak but I rather enjoy the simple convenience of talking casually with my partner rather than bellowing like a bull moose in rutting season.

Belay"…wazzzzup?! The rope hasn't moved up for nearly 10 minutes. You still awake up there?…."Lead"….well….can't decide…...it all looks HARD…..wasn't there supposed to be a 10B variation to the 11C crux?…."B:"….yeah, I remember it goes left, under a roof, then up the left side of the roof to a nice hand crack for 30 feet, which rejoins the main route…"L:"….ahh, hadn't thought of traversing beneath that roof over there….was looking straight up and…….…hey, thanks…."

L:"…I'm at the belay stance, give me 5 minutes to build an anchor and enjoy the view…"B:"…uhm, I'm freezing, the wind has really picked up down here, I want to begin moving now…"L:"…OK, I'll have you ON in 2 just minutes…"

Road Tripping with 2 cars or 3 cars: Coordinating full bladders, coordinating empty gas tanks, coordinating empty stomachs, coordinating spontaneous hiking/sightseeing breaks.

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I'll cast a strong vote for the FRS radios. I'm also an amateur radio operator, N7RHZ, and I bought a pair of FRS radios a couple of years ago. My wife and I use them when we take long bike rides so we can communicate easily even when we get a few hundred yards apart. She likes to tell me she doesn't trust the route decisions I've made and with the radios she doesn't have to yell.

My son ( Johnny- a poster on this site) and I used the FRS radios on the Ramp route on Guye peak this past summer. I'd done the route twice before and found the leader- belayer communication to be extremely difficult. The particular problem on this face is the traffic noise drifting up from I-90. The radio on a sling over our shoulder,opposite the rack when leading, solved the problem beautifully.

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Start climbin when no rope goes out for a while then you feel as though your being pulled off the anchor. The tug scenario could be misinterpeted. Radios i can see as an advantage on long climbs, but mostly what i see them where they aren't necesary. The goofballs climbing at Erie a few weekends back using radios on a short crag is silly and annoying to me [Wazzup] , but what do i know i like off widths also.

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the question raises several issues, which I will attempt to address separately:

1)communication with a partner you can neither see nor hear - I agree with the radio folks. Although I rarely carry a set of radios on personal climbs, I've found them indispensable on mountain rescue missions, where a coordinator must communicate accurrately with as many as three belayers/rope-handlers on raise or lower

2)how to know if your partner has fallen? occasionally, you may not be able to! I have been on both ends of unrecognized crevasse falls, where the partner remaining on the surface of the glacier, who had been out-of-sight when their ropemate fell through, continued moving (slowly lowering the fallen climber deeper into the crevasse!)until he/she could see what had happened! This was particularly unnerving the one time that I was the one who had fallen through!

3)on rock-climbs, the question that usually arises, is whether or not to take the leader off belay. whether or not to begin climbing is easily resolved - if the leader has used up all the rope and is still pulling, you have to start climbing. either your partner has you on belay, or he/she needs to move further to reach a stance, but in either case, you have to start climbing! when I cannot communicate with my leader, I simply keep the belay on until all the rope is gone, at which point, I dismantle the belay and commence climbing, moving no faster than the rope (thus allowing no slack to multiply).

hope this low-tech-conservative-commonsense approach helps. it has served me well for over thirty years of technical climbing...

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The radios are great, if you can figure out a way to carry it, retrieve it, yak into it, and stow it without a) grinding it into the rock or b) dropping the motherfucker.

The last climb I was on that we were using radios, we both kept inadvertently activating the call button against the rock; we sounded like a goddamn pinball machine. That is, until I dropped my partner's $120 talkabout to the bottom of Castle Rock. Having the radios on the rest of the way would have made that climb a little smoother, but we made it to the top with some basic signals: on a steady pull from below, get ready and belay; on a steady pull from above, get ready and climb.

arlen

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Shit, if I'd known that, I would have freed up my hands and radioed some reassurances--maybe "YA LOOK GRATE, MAN." grin.gif" border="0

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It would create a nightmare if everyone in a crowded area did this, but I've had very good luck with "fox 40" whistles. 1 blast = secure. 2 blasts = on belay and climb.

GB

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I like yelling out "OK Belay Off" whenever my partner is leading and mumbles stuff. It makes em communicate properly!

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I've used morolas too but found that the whistle works the best... Not many places i'v been where you can't hear a high pitch whistle.... The code is all up to you and your partner....

Thats great Dru...

shocked.gif" border="0

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On a one-day traverse of the Enchanments, I asked my wife to be at the Snow Creek parking lot at 2:00. She was. I was on the switchbacks coming down. Some backpackers came out ahead of me and convinced her that I wouldn't be out till after dark. Thanks guys. I watched her pull away from about three switchbacks up.

Now I have my handy radios and just call her when I get close to the trailhead. If she is at the family fun center she can usually hear me at least a little bit and knows to come with beer. I love my radios, my beer, and my wife. wink.gif" border="0

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quote:

Originally posted by KeithKSchultz:
I love my radios, my beer, and my wife.
wink.gif" border="0

Don't we all?

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I climb with this ole dude sometimes.

He can never seem to hear me at all. I wonder how his vision is these days..

Anyway he always knows when to start climbing though.. I just wonder if he could catch me if I ever fell wink.gif" border="0 Dont ask me how he knows when to start climbing. Maybe he gets the clue when i start trying to z pulley his ass up confused.gif" border="0

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quote:

Originally posted by rbw1966:

Don't we all?

Rob, are you saying you got a thing for Keiths wife or what? wink.gif" border="0

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All ropes speak a language if you look and listen. Movement on rock is different than rope being pulled up to clip. Watch carefully when the leader is in view, how the rope moves when both leading and placing pro. When the leader is out of view (and earshot) the rope will still tell you whats happening without a word. Its always un-nerving for me to climb with a partner who doesn't understand this.

 

3)on rock-climbs, the question that usually arises, is whether or not to take the leader off belay. whether or not to begin climbing is easily resolved - if the leader has used up all the rope and is still pulling, you have to start climbing. either your partner has you on belay, or he/she needs to move further to reach a stance, but in either case, you have to start climbing! when I cannot communicate with my leader, I simply keep the belay on until all the rope is gone, at which point, I dismantle the belay and commence climbing, moving no faster than the rope (thus allowing no slack to multiply).

 

I cut and pasted this from the last post because it was so succinct. If the rope comes tight you are on belay or the leader may desperately need you to simul climb to get to a good stance. The leader, if at a belay stance, knowing that you will climb when the rope comes tight, should put you on belay before pulling up the rope. Because it is a top rope, I do this with a waist belay for speed and switch on the fly to a belay device if warranted.

 

Double ropes have a greater vocabulary. If both ropes come tight, the overwhelming message is that you must be on belay. If you are not on, it is because the leader desperately needs some slack. Untie from the belay and give it to them.

 

Good Luck

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i can't whistle so that just doesn't work.

 

rope tugs-- five is good so it can't be messed up w/some other fiddling w/the rope.

 

just picked up a couple of radios this past winter. i use them to communicate w/my son at the crag. smirk.gif i haven't used them on a long multi-pitch yet but i plan on it. i like the idea of eliminating doubt/confusion whenever possible. i do think it's important to have a back-up, non-verbal way to communicate b/c sometimes radios fail or you might not be able to get hands free to use them.

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Start climbin when no rope goes out for a while then you feel as though your being pulled off the anchor.

 

In a situation where the climber hits a crux, they are likely to pause for a while while trying to figure it out [no rope goes out for a while]. Then, when the climber tries the crux, they might fall [belayer would feel as though (they were) being pulled off the anchor].

 

The above is VERY BAD advice in my opinion. I would NOT use that system.

 

 

The system I use and like is:

 

When climber is off belay, they pull in lots of rope (20-30ft) hand over hand much faster than they could climb then pause to allow belayer to remove rope from belay device. Then climber pulls up all slack. Three [very strong] tugs means second is on belay.

 

I think the "reel in lots of rope = off belay" method is better than "some number of tugs = off belay" because the belayer should keep a bit of slack in the rope and if they feel a tug, it could be the climber fighting with rope drag or trying to clip or something and they should give a bit more slack. You can't communicate a tug on a slack rope.

 

This system works so well for me that I often use it even when my partner COULD hear me if I yelled. It's really nice to ascend a multipitch rock route without all the yelling. Peaceful. Zen. Realigns the chakras and shit. It's da money.

 

I think any tug system is your best bet. Just make sure that both partners know the same system. It's probably also a good idea to practice your non-verbal rope commands in a safe environment (a multipitch sport route or something) before using it in the mtns.

 

It is unfortunate that there isn't a standard rope tug language like the whole "On belay, belay on, climbing, climb on" shizzle.

 

I'm a bit of a luddite, so I say, leave those radios at home YO!

 

Edited by Alpinfox

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