/ Instructing belaying with a Grigri

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bpmclimb 30 Oct 2019

I'm curious about in what circumstances instructors choose to teach the "V to knee, 1-2-3" method for bottom-rope belaying with a Grigri, as opposed to tunnelling the brake hand and sliding it up the rope (as recommended for the Grigri by Petzl and various other places).

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Philoosh 30 Oct 2019
In reply to bpmclimb:

This is a good practice to use for all belaying devices, not just a gri gri, so it would be in the best interest to teach it. It teaches inexperienced climbers to always have a good grip on the braking part of the rope and to not allow it to slide through the web part of the hand. Burns to be had in those circumstances with a thin rope and a big whipper through a bug!

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bpmclimb 30 Oct 2019
In reply to Philoosh:

>  Burns to be had in those circumstances with a thin rope and a big whipper through a bug!

Yes, V to knee 123 is standard practice belaying bottom rope with a bug, whether beginner or not; I don't think anyone would disagree with that. I was thinking specifically about the Grigri, and whether the technique initially taught varies with the age and experience of the group, and the expected path of progression (if any). It certainly seems to vary with which country you're in, and within the UK different companies have their preferences.

One company I work for favours bugs, with groups of children bottom-roping, with careful teaching of belay technique. It makes it slightly harder work for the instructors, but I quite like it. I can see a case for starting that way; then if progressing with those clients and introducing the Grigri, explaining that a slightly different belay technique is considered acceptable, and teaching it carefully.

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jezb1 30 Oct 2019
In reply to bpmclimb:

With bottom roping you could also just teach to always have two hands on the braking rope, on a ATC or Grigri.

Pros and cons to all the various methods, the difficulty being when to use which method and which device.

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Philoosh 30 Oct 2019
In reply to bpmclimb:

I also think with the way the Gri gri is designed paying slack out tends to be a more advanced thing to do and as a result it is easier to keep one hand sliding up and down the rope below the device and one above. It is just a little more dangerous....

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Paul at work 30 Oct 2019
In reply to jezb1:

> With bottom roping you could also just teach to always have two hands on the braking rope, on a ATC or Grigri.

My preferred method for teaching novices as it allows for a simple progression to "standard" belaying at a later point in time.

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Neil Williams 30 Oct 2019
In reply to bpmclimb:

"V to the knee, 1 2 3" works safely with almost every device including the Grigri and seems to have no disadvantages, whereas sliding the hand up the rope has an increased chance of loss of control, so I can't see why I would even consider teaching it to anyone.  It's also far harder to slide the hand up a rope than down it (if that makes sense).

It's unavoidable when paying out so that's a bit different.

Post edited at 22:50
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Luke90 31 Oct 2019
In reply to Neil Williams:

> "V to the knee, 1 2 3" works safely with almost every device including the Grigri and seems to have no disadvantages, whereas sliding the hand up the rope has an increased chance of loss of control, so I can't see why I would even consider teaching it to anyone.

I was always a "V, knee, 123" person as well but the DAV, who do tend to back up their opinions with research, advocate for sliding the brake hand up the rope even with an ATC. I would probably still teach the way I'm familiar with but I don't think it's an entirely open and shut case.

Over the years, I've encountered quite a few people who genuinely struggle to coordinate the "123" series of hand movements, sometimes to the point that it distracts them from getting the brake rope down, makes them grab the rope with their arms in a weak and awkward position or makes them fumble the rope altogether. Those people, at least, might have been better off with the sliding method. There's also an argument that it leads on more smoothly to lead belaying technique.

I can see what you mean about sliding having more potential for loss of control but the DAV's endorsement makes me wonder whether I've always overestimated that risk.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1pjGl4gs0A

Post edited at 07:33
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Neil Williams 31 Oct 2019
In reply to Luke90:

The DAV might have a good reputation, but this, which was about 30 seconds in which isn't a *great* start:

"ATC type devices with no grooves should not be used with modern ropes because they only cause a low brake effect"

...is a gross oversimplification.  I've got a Bug and that is grabbier on a variety of ropes than a good many other non-assisted devices I've used because of the steepness of the angle the rope is pulled to through the device.  Not all ungrooved devices are the same, but I find the Bug about the same as the ATC Guide in terms of grippiness.  (The non-guide version seems a little grippier, possibly due to the angle it sits at).

Watching the "tunneling up" bit gives me the nerves.  An experienced user can no doubt exert the right amount of pressure while doing this to ensure that if the climber fell at that precise second they'd catch them without rope burns, just as I imagine not many people die because of people lead belaying US style i.e. "normally open" with a need to actively brake.

But I simply can't see a novice getting that right, and unlike "V to the knee, 1 2 3" there isn't an obvious correct way of doing it - it's much harder to talk about relative amounts of force than it is to say "one hand must always hold the brake rope tight".  And "V to the knee, 1 2 3" can be done quite quickly, with experienced people doing the hand change at the same time as bringing the rope back down.

With regard to co-ordinating wrongly, I've seen it but only in novices during which they need to be being tailed anyway.  I've not come across anyone who didn't get used to it in the end who would be likely to get used to the nuances of the amount of pressure to exert when "tunnelling" the rope.

So in summary thanks for bringing that video to my attention but I still can't see any advantage of teaching the "tunnelling" method to anyone.  An experienced climber might work it out for themselves and fair enough to them if they do and carry it out safely, but I can't see how it couldn't be more dangerous for a novice.

With regard to lead belaying, you can slide the hand down with far more grip remaining on the rope than sliding it up (try it fi you don't see what I mean) - too much force when sliding up bends the rope.  So this is rather different.

Post edited at 08:45
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jimtitt 31 Oct 2019
In reply to Neil Williams:

Hmmm, the original ATC has around 20% less braking power than the ATC XP, the Bug even less.

Grabby and grippier are subjective, it's better to measure.

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Neil Williams 31 Oct 2019
In reply to jimtitt:

Measuring can be used to provide a means of comparison, but the best way to know what a device feels and acts like is to use one with the combination of device, krab and rope you are going to use.

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jimtitt 31 Oct 2019
In reply to Neil Williams:

What a device feels and acts like can be both "felt" and measured, how much braking force it provides can only be measured (though we can reasonably accurately calculate it).

Post edited at 14:02
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bpmclimb 01 Nov 2019
In reply to Neil Williams:

> With regard to lead belaying, you can slide the hand down with far more grip remaining on the rope than sliding it up (try it fi you don't see what I mean) - too much force when sliding up bends the rope.  So this is rather different.

Yes, but there is also a regular taking-in phase in lead belaying. Generally, belayers don't revert to V to knee 123 when they're doing that, at least not usually, even with a bug/ATC, and almost never with a Grigri. When those same belayers occasionally belay bottom rope with a Grigri, they would normally tunnel the hand; only with a bug would they normally revert to V to knee .... I think that's generally true, anyway.

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bpmclimb 01 Nov 2019
In reply to Neil Williams:

> Measuring can be used to provide a means of comparison, but the best way to know what a device feels and acts like is to use one with the combination of device, krab and rope you are going to use.

Assuming you gain familiarity with how the device behaves while arresting falls, and not just while climbing/lowering. The extra "grabbiness" of a deep V with grooves may not be fully apparent in non-fall situations.

I'm reminded of a fairly recent thread about how the Italian hitch behaves during fall arrest: interesting, and rather counter-intuitive.

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Neil Williams 01 Nov 2019
In reply to bpmclimb:

> Yes, but there is also a regular taking-in phase in lead belaying. Generally, belayers don't revert to V to knee 123 when they're doing that, at least not usually, even with a bug/ATC, and almost never with a Grigri. When those same belayers occasionally belay bottom rope with a Grigri, they would normally tunnel the hand; only with a bug would they normally revert to V to knee .... I think that's generally true, anyway.

Which again is fine - it's an experienced user who knows the nuances of the device.  And yes, I do use "V to the knee 1 2 3", or at least a quickened version of it, when taking in regardless of the type of belaying I'm doing - I just believe the best way for me to keep the climber safe is always to have a hand firmly holding the dead rope so far as that is possible, and I don't find the extra effort to be worth *not* doing it.

However, this again is not something I'd teach to a novice (unless they saw it happening and specifically asked about it) - they can work out safe methods for themselves once they are experienced and safe with the conventional one that works safely on all devices.

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Neil Williams 01 Nov 2019
In reply to bpmclimb:

> Assuming you gain familiarity with how the device behaves while arresting falls, and not just while climbing/lowering. The extra "grabbiness" of a deep V with grooves may not be fully apparent in non-fall situations.

Agreed.  (Because some climbers never fall and always shout "take" before they're anywhere near it, some people don't get that experience, and that can itself be dangerous - I suspect that may be true of some (not all) people who "tunnel" the rope on a tube device but have never had someone fall at the precise second they were doing it!)

> I'm reminded of a fairly recent thread about how the Italian hitch behaves during fall arrest: interesting, and rather counter-intuitive.

I forget - which aspects?  I've belayed with one a lot as we use it for peer belaying at our Scout wall (and have caught plenty of falls because falling off there is for fairly obvious reasons really common, albeit never on lead, and I can't see why I'd ever use one for leading as paying out would be horribly cack-handed), but the only thing I find unconventional about it is that the lock-off is the opposite way to any other device, i.e. ropes parallel provides the best lock-off.

Post edited at 12:56
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Frank R. 01 Nov 2019
In reply to Neil Williams:

> but the only thing I find unconventional about it is that the lock-off is the opposite way to any other device, i.e. ropes parallel provides the best lock-off.

Wasn't the difference in braking power between the two rope positions pretty small though? At least I remember catching falls pretty well with the HMS even in the "AAC" position (same as ATC) last time our group decided to trash some old discarded ropes with a big bag of sand for some fun and practice   I might be mistaken, but there must be people here who tested it properly.

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Frank R. 01 Nov 2019
In reply to bpmclimb:

> I'm reminded of a fairly recent thread about how the Italian hitch behaves during fall arrest: interesting, and rather counter-intuitive.

Which one? I did find just one from 2017 (not that recent at all, but the search is pretty bad) with Jim Titt chiming in re: anchors, was it about slippage and braking force, etc.? All the numbers I read then in some paper about it when I was bored with flu were a little above me So is it more dynamic than ATC or what? Or less ? Only thing I do remember that HMS (Italian hitch) had higher braking force than most other devices, but I have no idea how that translated to forces vs time in a typical fall arrest scenario (and the resulting forces on anchors and pro). Sorry for the slight digress from the original topic

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bpmclimb 02 Nov 2019
In reply to Frank R.:

Sorry can't find the thread - it could have been as long ago as 2017. As I remember, the gist of it was that the low friction position of the dead rope with Italian hitch actually becomes high friction in a fall, as the rope bites hard into itself.

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brunoschull 02 Nov 2019

To me, sliding one hand seems much safer than opening and closing and moving two hands.  I'm sure the V to knee 123 works fine when you get used to it, but it gives me the shivers just watching it. 

It's interesting that some people think sliding the hand is clearly safer (me) while others think that the V to knee 123 is clear safer (other posts above), citing essentially the same reason, i.e. better control of the brake strand. 

Does anybody have any links to studies/research?

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jimtitt 02 Nov 2019
In reply to bpmclimb:

From memory the low friction way is 20-25% less powerful but either is still (considerably) better than using a conventional plate. You can also increase the braking power by adding an extra turn when you put the first hitch on, around 65-70%.

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LeeWood 02 Nov 2019
In reply to bpmclimb:

Gri-gri - fundamentally flawed device. Costs more, weighs more, only useful on the ground. Encourages laziness ie. lack of attention, 1 2 3 or not. A reverso is sufficient for all circumstances. I did fine with a sticht plate but plate mode is great.

On lead the grigri is no substitute for attentiveness; the length of falls I take with grigri on belay is averagely longer than reverso. On lower-off I have experienced freefall several times, fortunately before the ground came up. Cause examples: a) kinking rope on the slack side caused belayer to open lever too far - then the kinking gave up b) belayer stood on gravelly slope, pulling lever downwards, feet slipped on gravel and reaction passed through to lever as he fell. What can you do ?! 

Post edited at 07:15
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wbo2 02 Nov 2019
In reply to LeeWood: that's your opinion.  

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Gwilymstarks 02 Nov 2019
In reply to jezb1:

I am with you on this Jez. I try to avoid V Knee 123 as a) you are asking a new belayer to let go of the rope with various hands and they often get it wrong and b) I don't actually want them to put their hand on their knee.

I find with beginners the 2 hands below method is easier to understand and safer as they are always holding the dead rope.

Post edited at 08:01
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Neil Williams 02 Nov 2019
In reply to brunoschull:

> To me, sliding one hand seems much safer than opening and closing and moving two hands.  I'm sure the V to knee 123 works fine when you get used to it, but it gives me the shivers just watching it. 

> It's interesting that some people think sliding the hand is clearly safer (me) while others think that the V to knee 123 is clear safer (other posts above), citing essentially the same reason, i.e. better control of the brake strand. 

> Does anybody have any links to studies/research?

I don't I'm afraid.  But anecdotally...have you ever caught a wholly unexpected fall which occurred precisely as you slid your hand?

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Neil Williams 02 Nov 2019
In reply to Gwilymstarks:

> they are always holding the dead rope.

But they aren't.  They are having to almost completely release it, and I don't think they would regain control of it without nasty rope burns if the climber fell at precisely that second.  Unless you're talking of using a Grigri only...but then if they later start belaying with a tube device?

Post edited at 08:32
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wbo2 02 Nov 2019
In reply to Neil Williams:  I'm trying to recall if I've had someone pop off just as I'm sliding the rope.  I'm pretty sure I have, but the lack of rope burns or spectacular memories make me suspect that if the hand is in approximately the right position to 'shut' the device the tube device will lock.  

Is the amount of force applied to the rope significant in braking or is the main effect to position the rope to lock the device?. I suspect the latter.

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jon 02 Nov 2019
In reply to LeeWood:

> Gri-gri - fundamentally flawed device (...) only useful on the ground. 

Not sure I follow this, Lee?

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jimtitt 02 Nov 2019
In reply to wbo2:

> I'm trying to recall if I've had someone pop off just as I'm sliding the rope.  I'm pretty sure I have, but the lack of rope burns or spectacular memories make me suspect that if the hand is in approximately the right position to 'shut' the device the tube device will lock.  

> Is the amount of force applied to the rope significant in braking or is the main effect to position the rope to lock the device?. I suspect the latter.

The braking force is (roughly) proportional to the hand force.

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LeeWood 02 Nov 2019
In reply to jon:

> Not sure I follow this, Lee?

ie. not on multipitch

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jon 02 Nov 2019
In reply to LeeWood:

Yes you can. Just attach it to the belay. I do all the time.

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Neil Williams 02 Nov 2019
In reply to jon:

Apart from the inability to bring up two seconds (or belay when leading with two ropes) I can't see how it would work any differently in practice to a tube device in guide mode.

Post edited at 09:45
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Neil Williams 02 Nov 2019
In reply to wbo2:

> Is the amount of force applied to the rope significant in braking

Yes (roughly) on most tube devices.  No on a Grigri or probably other brake assist devices to at least some extent.

> or is the main effect to position the rope to lock the device?. I suspect the latter.

Only on a brake assist device like a Grigri is that true.

I'd suggest a bit of experimentation using either a sandbag or a climber also being belayed by someone else on a loose rope (if one will volunteer) to give you a better feel?  That's the difficulty with the method - you really need to know how much force to use when sliding up the rope to keep control, or have good reactions.  With V-knee-123 you don't - you always have a hand firmly holding the rope.

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Neil Williams 02 Nov 2019
In reply to Gwilymstarks:

> I am with you on this Jez. I try to avoid V Knee 123 as a) you are asking a new belayer to let go of the rope with various hands and they often get it wrong and

A new belayer who you even think *might* fumble V-knee-123 is more likely to get the tension wrong when sliding, or to fumble that if you fall at the wrong second.  Basically, if you think the novice might fumble anything about belaying in any manner, they are not ready to be on their own yet - you need to be tailing them, or if you're climbing easy stuff not at a wall[1] to give them practice and don't have a third person you need to climb as if you were soloing - i.e. assume the belayer WILL NOT catch you if you fall, and choose your routes and moves accordingly.

[1] At many walls if you have a fumbly novice belayer someone will be over pretty quickly to grab the rope and tell you to pack it in, and that assumes they even signed them off to belay at all.

> b) I don't actually want them to put their hand on their knee.

It means towards the knee, I've used it loads and I have never, ever seen anyone interpret it to suggest that they should let go of the rope and put their hand on their knee.  It's common for them to take in too much in a panic, but that's why you are tailing.  Well, you are, aren't you?

> I find with beginners the 2 hands below method is easier to understand and safer as they are always holding the dead rope.

Except they are *not* always holding the dead rope.  They have their hand around it, but that's not the same thing.

Post edited at 09:52
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jon 02 Nov 2019
In reply to Neil Williams:

Well apart from bringing up two seconds on two ropes, a tube device in guide mode has no advantages over a grigri. And with a little thought you can even use it for retrievable abseils. But I already know you don't like them  

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wbo2 02 Nov 2019
In reply to jimtitt/neil

> The braking force is (roughly) proportional to the hand force.

Surely.  But what's the proportions?  And how does it vary when the hand varies position relative to a line through the rope.  Hand down - large number, hand relatively high small number. The advantage (devils argument) is that with the sliding rope I can keep my hand down at all times maximising the proportion.  With 123v there is a point where the proportion multiplier is very small

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jimtitt 02 Nov 2019
In reply to wbo2:

> In reply to jimtitt/neil

> Surely.  But what's the proportions?  And how does it vary when the hand varies position relative to a line through the rope.  Hand down - large number, hand relatively high small number. The advantage (devils argument) is that with the sliding rope I can keep my hand down at all times maximising the proportion.  With 123v there is a point where the proportion multiplier is very small


The proportion (the amount the device multiplies the hand force) varies with the device. For a given device the proportion drops with increasing force on the live rope as the coefficient of friction for nylon is pressure sensitive.

I have varied the input angle but the effects are very device  dependent, normally we use two standardised angles to compare devices, 135° for belaying and 180° for abseiling.

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LeeWood 02 Nov 2019
In reply to jon:

> Yes you can. Just attach it to the belay. I do all the time.

Why take the dvice which is so much heavier - 3x heavier ??

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jezb1 02 Nov 2019
In reply to LeeWood:

Well you obviously don’t like them so you wouldn’t!

I use a grigri sport climbing and wouldn’t swap it for any other device so I’d carry it on a sport multi pitch ‘cos I find it nice to use, especially if we’re working a route.

The weight of a grigri isn’t going to be the difference between me ticking a pitch or not.

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jon 02 Nov 2019
In reply to LeeWood:

Just pointing out the hole in your argument

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Neil Williams 02 Nov 2019
In reply to jon:

> Well apart from bringing up two seconds on two ropes, a tube device in guide mode has no advantages over a grigri. And with a little thought you can even use it for retrievable abseils. But I already know you don't like them  


I indeed don't like them, but preconceptions are a funny thing - I was actually agreeing with you.

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jon 02 Nov 2019
In reply to Neil Williams:

Yes I see now, having read it again!

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Neil Williams 02 Nov 2019
In reply to jon:

> Yes I see now, having read it again!

No worries

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brunoschull 02 Nov 2019

To Neil:

Well, obviously you're not a fan of sliding the hand!

I think we can agree to disagree.  But it's important to recognize that sliding the hand, or the brake-under-strand (BUS) method, is a very popular technique, endorsed by many large organizations, climbing schools, product manufacturers, and so on.  That is, it's not some fly-by-night ridiculous technique that sprang up in climbing gyms.  I'd factor that into your analysis....huge number of climbers and instructors, including some really skilled folks, prefer that method of belaying.  Why would they teach or use this technique?  Well, obviously, because they think it makes sense.  And you have your reasons for preferring the 123 method.  Different strokes for different folks.  But I don't think it makes sense to insist that your opinion is correct. 

As to your question, "Have you ever had to catch a fall at the precise moment of sliding your hand?"  I would simply counter, "How often do you think people using the 123 technique occasionally relax one hand before they have completely grasped the rope with the other.  I'm sure there is often a time interval when their grip on the rope is slack.  Also, as I said, I think the sequence of grasping and releasing introduces too many possibilities to mess it up, let go, and so forth. 

As to Grigri, people love to complain about them, despite their near ubiquity at crags around the world, and on the harnesses of sport climbers, big wall climbers, aid climbers, and even ice and alpine climbers.  They have their place in the alpine, and can be used in a variety of interesting ways.  They're so darn popular, they must be useful for something!

For the record, my device of choice for gym climbing, single pitch sport climbing outdoors, and single pitch dry tooling, is a grigri.  For anything multipitch, alpine, whatever, I use a Petzl Reverso. 

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wbo2 02 Nov 2019
In reply to jimtitt/neil: it would be interesting to test at perhaps 90 and 60 degrees too, and see what effect that... I doubt the drop off is linear.  These are hand situations that can occur with 123v and if a fall were to happen then.... .. 

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jimtitt 02 Nov 2019
In reply to wbo2:

I'm suprised the instructors promoting whatever this method is haven't tested it ........

Nothing of interest for me, I only look at things in the design that effect the performance.

Post edited at 16:12
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LeeWood 02 Nov 2019
In reply to jon:

> Just pointing out the hole in your argument 

such a gentleman ;)

but how often to you climb multipitch with a single rope ?

Post edited at 17:07
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LeeWood 02 Nov 2019
In reply to brunoschull:

> I think we can agree to disagree

Indeed, I think it all depends on attentiveness, regardless of method used. For those lazy buggars I see frequently at the crag - with a generous loop of slack always there for the next clip - then fate may already be decided in the event of a near-to-ground slip or rock-fracture. 

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Gwilymstarks 02 Nov 2019
In reply to Neil Williams:

No. Talking about using a tube

If you squeeze one hand whilst you slide the other you always have hold of the rope

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Gwilymstarks 02 Nov 2019
In reply to Neil Williams:

The joy of this job is we can all teach what we methods that we like and avoid ones we see issues with but I don't think you quite understand the method that some of us are explaining. There is always a hand holding whilst one is sliding. I will see if I can find a video of it somewhere for you to look at.

I am not sure where you even got the idea that no one is tailing them either! It is about making something that some people find complicated simpler and therefore if they find it less complicated, they are less likely to make mistakes.

I have regularly seen instructors teaching V to Knee and belayers bending in half to take the rope to their knee. Just because you haven't seen it happen doesn't mean it doesn't.

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jon 02 Nov 2019
In reply to LeeWood:

> but how often to you climb multipitch with a single rope ?

If it's bolted, most of the time, though this depends on where it is. If it's trad, never... and therefore by implication I'd never consider using a grigri for trad

Post edited at 17:32
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Neil Williams 03 Nov 2019
In reply to Gwilymstarks:

I think you are talking of something different to what the DAV video shows, then.  It shows the left hand remaining on the live rope at all times.

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Gwilymstarks 03 Nov 2019
In reply to Neil Williams:

Yes. I was agreeing with the methods described by Jez and Paul. I didn't mention the DAV.

Had a quick look but couldn't find a video and not currently in a position to make one as a long way from my climbing gear right now

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krikoman 03 Nov 2019
In reply to Luke90:

> I can see what you mean about sliding having more potential for loss of control but the DAV's endorsement makes me wonder whether I've always overestimated that risk.

There's a bloke who climbs with us who I think learnt to belay using the DAV method, he's forever f*cking it up and letting go of the rope, so much so that after 2 years with our club people are still nervous about him belaying. Trying to get him out of this horrible habit and back to a normal VK123 is a nightmare, he'll do it for a while and then drop back.

I know VK123 can seem very awkward for beginners, but like driving it becomes second nature and doesn't have to be thought about with practice.

Using DAV also means you have to change things when you outside bringing someone up as opposed to bottom roping at the wall. Try doing DAV when you sat on top of a route and I can imagine all sorts of hassle.

One system that covers all forms of climbing, is a great foundation, if you're doing mixed climbing. You can then move on to Grigri's, DAV, Bowline's and whatever else takes your fancy,

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Neil Williams 03 Nov 2019
In reply to Gwilymstarks:

> Yes. I was agreeing with the methods described by Jez and Paul. I didn't mention the DAV.

> Had a quick look but couldn't find a video and not currently in a position to make one as a long way from my climbing gear right now


I guess you're talking of something similar to "V to the knee 1 2 3" with the exception that the left hand is brought down next to the belay device rather than about a hand width below it, and the right hand is slid up the rope (not gripping it at all, as the left hand is gripping it instead) adjacent to the left, then the left is moved back to the live rope?  That is perfectly safe, the disadvantage of it is that it slightly reduces the amount of rope you take in each time.  I used to do it myself, indeed, though I don't any more for the reason of the disadvantage noted.  This method indeed probably does slightly reduce the risk of "following off the rope".

I suspect this method might be a bit cack handed for bringing up a second, though, as it means you could only take in a small amount at once.

I think we've ended up cross-purposes, though, as the method shown on the Petzl and DAV information showed a version of it (which I do consider unsafe for novices, or rather less safe than other methods) where the left hand remained on the live rope at all times, so while sliding nothing was firmly holding the dead rope.

Post edited at 17:55
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Neil Williams 03 Nov 2019
In reply to krikoman:

> One system that covers all forms of climbing, is a great foundation, if you're doing mixed climbing. You can then move on to Grigri's, DAV, Bowline's and whatever else takes your fancy,

I agree - the big advantage of VK123 is that it can be used safely for top-rope belaying on all devices in all situations in exactly the same way - are there even any at all where it can't?

Post edited at 17:52
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Kees 03 Nov 2019
In reply to krikoman:

It's not just DAV, Petzl also recommends the belay method with a sliding brake hand, not just with the Grigri, but also the Reverso.

https://www.petzl.com/LU/en/Sport/video/How-to-belay-the-leader-with-a-REVERSO---Belaying-techniques

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John Stainforth 03 Nov 2019
In reply to Kees:

Many thanks for pointing out this excellent video. The Petzl method, with a sliding brake hand, is how I have always belayed with plate or tubular devices, but contrary to current BMC recommended practice (which I think is the VK123 method people are talking about here). At UK climbing walls I am always told off for using the sliding brake hand method and I am forced to use the BMC method, which I find unnatural and cumbersome. I am not at all convinced that the BMC method is the safest. I can not for the life of me see what can go wrong with the sliding brake hand method.

The Petzl advice has always been amongst the best IM(H)O.

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lithos 03 Nov 2019
In reply to Gwilymstarks:

i couldnt find one either - but there's this graphic  - is this what Paul and Jez mean ?

https://imgur.com/rbtqPKf

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Neil Williams 03 Nov 2019
In reply to John Stainforth:

If you can use the method concerned safely (and e.g. have caught falls from people falling off at the precise second you did the slide) then it is probably perfectly safe for you to use it.

It's not that I'm arguing against.  I'm arguing against teaching it to novices because there are far more variables in it than VK123 or the sliding hand variant of that mentioned.

If you, as an experienced climber, have learned that method AND use it safely (i.e. you would catch 100% of falls using it regardless of when the climber fell without losing control) I have no issue whatsoever with you using it.

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brunoschull 03 Nov 2019

There is a sliding hand method popular in the US that is a little different to the sliding hand method in the DAV and Petzl videos.  It's called the BUS (brake-under-slide).  It adds an extra step, but it does not limit the amount of rope taken in (as speculated above), or, at least, no more so than Vknee123.

Here is a link from Climbing magazine:

https://www.climbing.com/skills/learn-to-climb-better-toprope-belaying/

If you search for BUS belay method you'll find a variety of videos of varying quality.

Neil wrote:

It's not that I'm arguing against.  I'm arguing against teaching it to novices because there are far more variables in it than VK123 or the sliding hand variant of that mentioned.

Your statement, "there are far more variables," is not a fact, it's your opinion.  My feeling is that there are more variables...opening and closing your hands, stitching positions, and so on.  Confusing.  I'd never teach that. 

And:

If you, as an experienced climber, have learned that method AND use it safely (i.e. you would catch 100% of falls using it regardless of when the climber fell without losing control) I have no issue whatsoever with you using it.

No method is 100% safe.  Not yours, mine, the DAV, the Petzl, BUS, and so on.  It's when you think your method is foolproof that things get dangerous...

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Kees 03 Nov 2019
In reply to John Stainforth:

In our climbing gym (Haarlem in Holland) the sliding method endorsed by Petzl, the DAV, the NKBV etc is also Verboten! One wonders who those people think they are? I don't think it is an insurance thing because other gyms have no problem with this method. 

To me this method is way easier to teach then the V123 method. You just have to hammer into the pupils that the hand never lets go of the brake rope and needs to tighten when neccessary. Luckilly, hand tightening is an intuitive impuls when things tend to go wrong.

Another great asset is that the brake hand never rises up very high like I often see being teached in the V123 method. That instant when the hand is high, the braking power of the device is very low.

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lithos 03 Nov 2019
In reply to brunoschull:

PBUS (pull, brake, under, slide)  is  much much closer  to VK123 than to the sliding tunnel method being recommended/discussed here.  

also anyone notice in that petzl video, linked above, behind the woman presenter at the start the belayer is using VK123 or PBUS not what they are advocating!

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brunoschull 03 Nov 2019
In reply to lithos:

Thanks--Got it.  When this thread started, I assumed (always dangerous) that the Petzl/DAV method and the PBUS were the same, but then I watched and videos and saw the difference. 

When I worked in for an outdoor educator, we were taught, and then taught out students, the PBUS (we just called it BUS).

When I think about my belaying now, I do a combination of the Petzl/DAV method and PBUS...sometimes moving my left hand down and grasping the rope before sliding my hand...sometimes just sliding my hand.  

Totally different conversation, but I started using those belay glasses thingys lately, and, as ridiculous as they look, they work really well!  In addition to keeping my neck happy, they make me watch my climber more closely, and, I think, improve the quality of the belay. 

Anyway, it's a wild world out there...good to stay informed and experiment.

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Neil Williams 03 Nov 2019
In reply to Kees:

> In our climbing gym (Haarlem in Holland) the sliding method endorsed by Petzl, the DAV, the NKBV etc is also Verboten! One wonders who those people think they are? I don't think it is an insurance thing because other gyms have no problem with this method.

Another disadvantage of the DAV method is that it's hard to see if someone is doing it properly because you can't tell by looking what pressure remains on the rope while "tunnelling" upwards.  Two people could appear to do it the same but one be safe and one not.  Whereas it's pretty clear whether someone is doing VK123 (or a variant) correctly by looking - all you're looking for is that there is never (other than paying out when belaying the leader) not a hand holding the dead rope properly.

This (not to open that debate again, but it's comparable) is similar to the reason why some walls don't like bowlines even though when tied correctly they are safe.

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Kees 03 Nov 2019
In reply to Neil Williams:

I don't think it is about pressure in your hand while sliding, it is about pressure in your hand while tightening your grip when braking.

V123 is just as safe, allthough a bit more cumbersome. But maybe you (and the climbing gym in Haarlem) should start to accept that the sliding method is just as safe, easy to learn, being used by tons of people who catch many climbing falls and is endorsed by some very knowledgable institutions.

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Gwilymstarks 03 Nov 2019
In reply to lithos:

That is the one. Works really well with novices as always two hands on the dead rope under the device

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Gwilymstarks 03 Nov 2019
In reply to Neil Williams:

Not quite. Never is there a hand on the live rope

See this diagram that Lithos found https://imgur.com/rbtqPKf  

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Neil Williams 03 Nov 2019
In reply to Kees:

> I don't think it is about pressure in your hand while sliding, it is about pressure in your hand while tightening your grip when braking.

No, it's very much not.

VK123 (and variants) have a hand firmly holding the dead rope at all times.  Therefore regardless of when the climber falls, and how much attention the belayer is paying, the fall will be held.

If you only tighten your grip when you see a fall start, it is LESS safe, because you have to actively react to the fall rather than just lock off.

This blurs a bit when it comes to lead belaying, however so do many other things, and the subject of the thread is about teaching it to novices.

I'd put it on a similar level to using the US style "palms up" method of lead belaying vs the European style "palms down".  The former is not safe by default because you aren't locked off until you see a fall, the latter is safer because the default is to be locked off if you're not at that second taking in or paying out.

> V123 is just as safe, allthough a bit more cumbersome. But maybe you (and the climbing gym in Haarlem) should start to accept that the sliding method is just as safe, easy to learn, being used by tons of people who catch many climbing falls and is endorsed by some very knowledgable institutions.

No, I'm afraid I cannot and will not accept that when it comes to teaching belaying to novices, which is the use-case under discussion - for that specific case it has a number of key flaws and in my view could be dangerous as they may appear to be in control and not be (unlike VK123 where it's obvious if they are or not).  If you want to belay that way as an experienced climber that's up to you and your climber, of course.

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Neil Williams 03 Nov 2019
In reply to Gwilymstarks:

> Not quite. Never is there a hand on the live rope

> See this diagram that Lithos found https://imgur.com/rbtqPKf  

Ah cheers, that's another variant.  I would find that quite cack handed, and I don't believe I've ever seen it done that way.

The variant I've seen is more like VK123 but instead of putting the left hand a hand's width from the plate and the right above it, you put the left by the plate and slide the right up.

The key to it being safe (and visibly so, for wall staff checking on people) is the principle that there must always be at least one hand firmly holding the dead/brake rope - it certainly meets that.  I am unable to accept that a variant that does not achieve that (the DAV method under discussion) is as safe, because it moves to a situation of "fail dangerous" rather than "fail safe" - to catch a fall something active has to be done rather than it happening passively (like US style "palms up" lead belaying).  Passive safety systems are near-always safer than equivalent active ones, because "safe" is the default.

Post edited at 21:13
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lithos 03 Nov 2019
In reply to Neil Williams:

> The variant I've seen is more like VK123 but instead of putting the left hand a hand's width from the plate and the right above it, you put the left by the plate and slide the right up.

that's the PBUS method as described and linked to above for completeness. 

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wbo2 03 Nov 2019
In reply to Neil Williams:ok, I've just researched the BMC video.  Simple q' - at one point during rope take in  the brake hand is very high , next to the climbers side of the rope.  At this point the belay device is not going to do much braking.  

Have you held a fall at that top position?

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Neil Williams 03 Nov 2019
In reply to lithos:

> that's the PBUS method as described and linked to above for completeness. 

It's not quite the same as your diagram, which shows the two hands only being used on the dead/brake rope.  The variant I've seen (and sometimes done in the past) uses the hands like VK123 i.e. one on each rope until the point where the "hand change" takes place - it only differs from VK123 in that regard.

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Neil Williams 03 Nov 2019
In reply to wbo2:

> ok, I've just researched the BMC video.  Simple q' - at one point during rope take in  the brake hand is very high , next to the climbers side of the rope.  At this point the belay device is not going to do much braking.  

> Have you held a fall at that top position?

Yes, a number of times, by bringing my hand back down again with no need to do anything about grip or hand position at that point.  And usually a comment like "oi, you git, don't fall off when I'm taking in"   (Said in jest of course, a belayer who meant that shouldn't be belaying).

I guess your argument would be "but that's the same as tunnelling the rope, you could grab it".  It sort of is, and it would be to an experienced climber - but not to a novice.

To reiterate - I am not saying experienced climbers should not use this method (unless a wall won't allow it).  I'm saying it is not an appropriate method for instructing novices, which is what the subject of the thread is.

Post edited at 23:51
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lithos 04 Nov 2019
In reply to Neil Williams:

> It's not quite the same as your diagram, which shows the two hands only being used on the dead/brake rope.  The variant I've seen (and sometimes done in the past) uses the hands like VK123 i.e. one on each rope until the point where the "hand change" takes place - it only differs from VK123 in that regard.

yes that what i said !  the diagram (not mine) is an alternate method.  To be clear we are now discussing 3 techniques (all right 4)

1) DAV  tunnel / slide as per OP and Petzl video

2) VK123 / PBUS  as taught in USA and by many/most places in UK

3) 2 hands below on dead rope always as suggested by Paul ,Jez and Gwilymstarks  (all very experienced instructors) and illustrated by the linked sketch

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Neil Williams 04 Nov 2019
In reply to lithos:

Thanks.  It's only (1) that I would consider unsuitable for teaching to novices.  (3) seems very cack-handed to actually do but certainly safe.

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krikoman 04 Nov 2019
In reply to Kees:

> It's not just DAV, Petzl also recommends the belay method with a sliding brake hand, not just with the Grigri, but also the Reverso.


I've just watched it, and the bloke is not only holding the dead end of the rope above the belay device for ages, but he 's "tunnelling" the rope too, this should never happen!! Except maybe when a person is used to tunnelling the rope in the first place. I don't know why they even had this as a demonstration, no one would do that in real life, if your hand is above the belay device, when taking in, it's got a grip on the rope, if you leader falls all you need to do is pull your hand downwards to lock it off. It happens many times in normal belaying, I've never dropped anyone yet.

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Kees 04 Nov 2019
In reply to Neil Williams:

Still don't understand why you think a more complex method is better suited for novices. Instead of a method that is easier, doesn't get the brake hand above the device where braking power is seriously diminished and, just to be sure, is being used safely throughout the continent and being endorsed by everybody down here who knows a thing or two about belaying.

Tightening your grip when the climber falls is a reflex. Bringing your hand down after you raised it above the belay device is not and should be learned. I have seen many a beginner keeping their brakehand way too long above the belay device. This is something that the instructor needs to be aware of in the tunneling method too, but somehow it is less of a problem there (I am an instructor too).

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krikoman 04 Nov 2019
In reply to Gwilymstarks:

> Not quite. Never is there a hand on the live rope

> See this diagram that Lithos found https://imgur.com/rbtqPKf  


This would be very hard work with thick ropes and it doesn't work with twins, when you might need to take only one rope in. So we're back to KISS and learning the most versatile method.

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krikoman 04 Nov 2019
In reply to Kees:

> Still don't understand why you think a more complex method is better suited for novices.

Because you can't tunnel twin ropes, you can't tunnel sat at the top of a climb bringing someone up, therefore, people need to "learn" and be happy with a number of techniques, rather than just one.

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jezb1 04 Nov 2019
In reply to bpmclimb:

All the methods discussed work just fine, done properly they’re all safe.

Any novice belay should have some form of back up in place and should initially learn without even having someone on the live end of the rope.

Having a preferred method is human nature, saying one method is unsafe or unsuitable isn’t sensible in my mind. 

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Neil Williams 04 Nov 2019
In reply to Kees:

> Still don't understand why you think a more complex method is better suited for novices.

Because it's easy to see if they are doing it correctly or not, primarily.  You can't tell whether they are holding the rope while tunnelling tightly enough to maintain control if a fall occurs then, or if you'll end up with a climber on the floor and a belayer with severe rope burns.  With VK123 you can easily see - even from the other side of the wall as a floor-walker might need to - whether it's being done right or not.

It can I'd imagine be used perfectly safely with an experienced belayer who will see a fall starting to "develop" - but I'm still not convinced with a novice.

Add to that that VK123 works in every setting with every device...

Post edited at 10:17
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Kees 04 Nov 2019
In reply to krikoman:

Why can't you tunnel with twin ropes? I do it all the time...

There are various different situations with differing methods. A grigri is being handled different from a tube, being different from a Munter for example. At some point a novice will have to learn something new, there is no one cure for all.

Belaying from the top of a cliff, sitting on the edge with a tube on your belayloop, is a very specific Anglosaxon method. We learn a different technique on the continent often belaying directly from the anchor. I think this difference is not just cultural but also a result of the different situation. On top of a gritstone edge there is very little to belay from as I found out to my surprise last summer, and your method is perfectly suited for this situation. I can see how you would prefer gripping over instead of tunneling in this situation.

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Kees 04 Nov 2019
In reply to Neil Williams:

Well, we have to agree to disagree then. I don't think your concern is realistic while you see all kind of danger in the system being tought widely on the continent.

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Neil Williams 04 Nov 2019
In reply to Kees:

> Why can't you tunnel with twin ropes? I do it all the time...

> There are various different situations with differing methods. A grigri is being handled different from a tube, being different from a Munter for example. At some point a novice will have to learn something new, there is no one cure for all.

Except they are not and there is.  A variant of VK123 (the rule "you always have a hand firmly holding the dead rope") works with ALL of those.  With a Grigri you need to know how to pay out and lower, and with a Munter you need to know that the ropes should be parallel for the best lock-off (though it largely works using one as if it was a tube device), but the basic principle stands for all belay devices that I can think of.

Post edited at 10:26
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Kees 04 Nov 2019
In reply to Neil Williams:

Tunneling works perfectly fine with tube devices, all the assisted brake tubers, the grigri and the Munter when you keep the brake line low, not parallel, in which case it still has more then adequate braking power.

You need to learn something new when giving out rope quickly with a grigri (completely different handpositions) and when you want to use the Munter with parallel ropes (shuffling technique and keeping your brake hand the other way round on the rope). I don't see that as a negative at all. Learning new skills is a continueing process, also for advanced belayers! I have had to unlearn and relearn quite a few things in almost 30 years of climbing.

The new paradigm is like the DAV movie explained, left hand on the rope going up, right hand on the brake rope, never lift the brake hand higher then the device but move it more forward then upwards and slide both hands. This way the brake hand never leaves the rope, unless the shuffling technique where the hand continually leaves and regrabs the rope, making a misstep possible where there is no braking. Likewise the idea to lift the brakerope almost parallel with the climbers end of the rope is now thought to be dangerous becuase it also introduces a moment with hardly any braking power. According to the DAV who have studied this quite extensive these have been major causes of groundfalls.

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Neil Williams 04 Nov 2019
In reply to Kees:

> According to the DAV who have studied this quite extensive these have been major causes of groundfalls.

It would be interesting to see if they've done any work relating to the US "palms up" method, as that seems to have the highest risk of that.

You could of course do VK123 (sort of, you'd need a new phrase - pull, to the knee, 1 2 3?) without lifting the brake rope fully above the device - the "pull through" action is identical.  Best of both worlds perhaps?

(One thing I'm quite aware of is that people often do what they're used to and don't consider other safer ideas, I suppose - the UK practice of acknowledging everything with "OK" is not as safe as the US practice of repeating it back e.g. "climb when ready, climbing, climb on" because at least in that case you can shout "stop" if the instruction has been misunderstood)

Post edited at 11:52
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krikoman 04 Nov 2019
In reply to Kees:

> Why can't you tunnel with twin ropes? I do it all the time...

Because if you leader has just clipped some gear above his head and the other rope goes direct to him, you need to pull one rope and let out slack on the other.

> There are various different situations with differing methods. A grigri is being handled different from a tube, being different from a Munter for example. At some point a novice will have to learn something new, there is no one cure for all.

But that's just the point I'm trying to make, using a tube and VK123, DOES cover all situations, GriGris have their place but you can't use them everywhere and in all situations.

Post edited at 12:02
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Kees 04 Nov 2019
In reply to krikoman:

Aha, double rope technique you mean. Now I don't see how that is any different between VK123 and tunneling. It can get quite contortionate pulling on the one and giving slack on the other at the same time! You will have to bring the other hand down to pull on one of the brakeropes, but it doesn't matter if the standard brake hand is tunneling or VK123-ing.

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wbo2 04 Nov 2019
In reply to krikoman:as a pedant that's double ropes, not twin.  More pertinently I'd argue that tunneling works an awful lot better than VK123 in that situation.  I'd like to see a video of someone  feeding slack on one rope , taking in with the other, all o n VK123 

Nor is it the topic this threads title implies

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Blanche DuBois 04 Nov 2019
In reply to Kees:

> Still don't understand why you think a more complex method is better suited for novices. 

If you observe many of the guy's posts on the technicalities of rock climbing you'll see that he habitually argues from the position that he's always right, and anybody who disagrees with him must by definition be wrong.  The fact that he, by his own admission, has relatively little real climbing experience and what experience he does have is of a very low level of difficulty, and that the people he's arguing against are more experienced and accomplished (sometimes vastly so) doesn't deter him from sticking to his main tenet - that he's always right.  It's a form of Kruger-Dunning, distilled into climbing.

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Neil Williams 04 Nov 2019
In reply to Blanche DuBois:

You can think that if you want - but I am not the only one arguing in favour of VK123 (or another method whereby a hand always firmly holds the dead rope) over "tunnelling".

Post edited at 12:45
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MischaHY 04 Nov 2019
In reply to Blanche DuBois:

I'm actually mildly convinced Neil has some kind of automatic notification system setup to let him know whenever there's a UKC thread involving Grigris. 

Either that or he's just really bored at work. ;-)

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Neil Williams 04 Nov 2019
In reply to MischaHY:

> I'm actually mildly convinced Neil has some kind of automatic notification system setup to let him know whenever there's a UKC thread involving Grigris. 

:D :D :D

(No, I haven't, for the record!)

Post edited at 14:47
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bpmclimb 07 Nov 2019
In reply to jezb1:

> All the methods discussed work just fine, done properly they’re all safe.

> Any novice belay should have some form of back up in place and should initially learn without even having someone on the live end of the rope.

> Having a preferred method is human nature, saying one method is unsafe or unsuitable isn’t sensible in my mind. 

I was hoping for a lively discussion with this OP, and haven't been disappointed  Thanks for all the replies, which I've read with interest. This is the one that I am most inclined to agree with.

I've long been an advocate of VK123 in instructing scenarios, whatever the device, but I'm willing to admit the possibility of an element of prejudice - just doing what I initially inherited and got used to. In recent years I've been increasingly struck by the difference between what I advocate to others and what I do myself when it comes to the Grigri. It's necessary to monitor novices, especially children, very carefully, and ensure they are backed up - these are the main safety precautions, and in this context I'm not convinced that a sliding hand belay method is significantly more risky than VK123, and there are positives - it's central to the procedure when paying out rope to a leader (if and when the climber progresses to that): where the thumb goes over the device to hold the cam down, the rest of the hand must make a reliable tunnel, but without gripping the rope at all. I also don't altogether agree that, with tunnelling, letting go of the dead rope completely is more likely; because when VK123 goes wrong, it tends to go very wrong; e.g. when the 2 of 123 goes up onto the live rope, and 3 follows it.

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