This is the classic method of belaying, an almost essential method if a person wishes for the ascent achieved to have athletic value. The concept behind this style of belaying is to perceive the cliff as impassable terrain which you approach and begin to climb with the goal of reaching the top once you can go no further on foot. It is to “conquer” the path metre by metre. And yet this style of belaying brings significant risk, and with it the chance of a fall. A belaying the leader is typical for climbing in the mountains, on sandstone cliffs (towers), and in short everywhere where the summits of cliffs are otherwise inaccessible on foot, or where the cliffs are large in size, and the ascent is several rope lengths long. This is the belaying style of romantic mountaineers, adventurers, and ambitious athletes. The accompanying feature of this method of belaying tends to be fear of falling. When belaying the leader the climber uses the rope to build intermediate protection from the bottom up, with the rope leading downward while you climb along it. You attach your carabiners to intermediate points of protection and threads your rope through them. Every time you build (or “place”) a point of protection you immediately leave it and climb above it, meaning that the risk of a fall will once again present itself. This style of intermediate protection can only temporarily address the risk of falling, a risk which will return with each advance, becoming ever more grave each time. It logically follows that with small spacing between intermediate points of protection the climber is only at risk of short falls. On the other hand, with larger spacing between intermediate protection a climber is at risk of a long fall at the very moment when he finishes climbing a section between intermediate points of protection and has climbed a ways beyond the last placed point of protection.
With this style of belaying the climber trails the rope behind her. The climber trailing the rope is called the leader. Her partner manages a belay device through which the rope is moving, and for this reason is called the “belayer”. In the event that the leader falls, the belayer will brake the movement of the rope in the belay device, and in this manner will stop the fall and catch the climber falling on the rope. After a fall, therefore, the scene that occurs has the belayer holding the rope in the belay device below, with the rope leading from him up to the highest intermediate point of protection, which has caught the fall, and from there the rope leads back downward to the fallen leader, who is currently hanging on the rope on the rock face.
A significant amount of force acts on the rope when catching a climber’s fall. A high-quality, new, and norm-compliant mountaineering rope can hold a fall with ease. The only thing which can endanger this is contact with a sharp rock edge at the moment of loading. At that time the rope can be cut in half by the sharp rock edge. This can be resolved with proper rope leading and appropriate placement of intermediate protection. There will be further discussion of this in the upcoming sections of this chapter.
Leading the rope
During her ascent, the leader must take care to pull the rope behind her correctly. She must retain an awareness of what a potential fall would look like, how the rope will behave during the fall, and which way it has been led. It is a very dangerous moment when a the rope leads between the legs of the leader and crosses one of her legs from behind.
Video: An example of a dangerous situation created when the rope ends up behind the leader’s leg. Notice how when he starts on a traverse, stepping to the side, the climber has shifted his leg under the rope – at that moment he has made a mistake and is now in danger. In the event of a fall he would be toppled upside down.
If the leader should fall at this moment, her leg will become tangled in the rope, and once her fall is caught she will be toppled head over heels. This fallen climber will then spin backwards and crack her head against the rock face.
Clipping in to the rope
The leader clips the rope used for belaying into the carabiners of the individual points of intermediate protection. Colloquially this is called “clipping in” to a carabiner (or quickdraw). The actual motor activity of clipping a rope to a carabiner must be executed properly; clipping in must be carried out automatically, almost unconsciously. Beginners who have problems clipping the rope should mount a quickdraw with a carabiner somewhere at home and keep a rope coiled up beneath it, then clip the rope to the carabiner every time they walk by, so as to cultivate automatic dexterity. One of the problems when clipping the rope is the actual weight of the rope and its friction against the terrain. This makes the rope difficult to pull up toward the carabiner using your hand. This creates a need to loosen your grip while pulling the rope upward, and of course it will be necessary to hold the rope at the moment you loosen your grip. Climbers often use their teeth for this purpose. Once again it is necessary to caution that if you fall at the moment you are holding the rope in your teeth, you might reflexively clench your teeth and seriously injure them when falling. For this reason experienced climbers, even if they can’t always pull it off, will climb all the way up until their waist is at the level of clipping in to the carabiner, and this way they can bring the rope closer to the carabiner and will not have to pull it up too far.
When clipping the rope in, be careful not to wrap your finger under the rope as you clip. This is particularly dangerous when you are clipping the rope in with your last strength and there is a risk of falling at any second. If you have your finger pinched between the rope and the carabiner at the moment of falling, a serious injury to the fingers may occur!
More in e-book.
Mountaineering Methodology – Part 3 – Belaying and Rappelling
Available for download from Apple iTunes (in the Books section).
For example U.S. store – link
Another countries – look on the page Download
Another possibility is Google Play. This version is a simplified (as PDF).
Mountaineering Methodology – Part 3 – Belaying and Rappelling
Available for download from Google Play.