Mistakes when belaying

When belaying from the harness a belayer can commit a range of mistakes. In certain cases these mistakes are universal in character, that is, they are not bound to one specific type of belay device. In general it can be said that when belaying with a tubular belay device, Reverso, rappelling eight or Munter hitch, it is possible to make mistakes which in many cases are based on the same principle. The basis of the most frequent errors is holding the rope incorrect and losing control over the inactive part of the rope.

One very frequent error is to hold the inactive part of the rope (under the belay device) in the closed palm of a hand whose thumb is supinated away from the belay device. Such a grip may be very comfortable for feeding the rope into the belay device, but with an supinated palm you will have practically no option to grip with greater strength.

Along with this mistake another disadvantage follows, that when using this grip the rope is set with less braking force (the rope is threaded into the belay device in the shape of the letter “U” – more about this issue was written in the section Braking Position). Here it is important to become fully aware of the tragedy of the moment – the hand is holding the rope so poorly that it can’t grip the rope with any greater force, and yet it is holding the rope in such a way that a greater force is in fact guaranteed to ensue.

Incorrect – the hand holding the inactive part of the rope under the belay device has a supinated grip with the thumb away from the belay device; a supinated hand cannot hold a greater force.

Incorrect – the hand holding the inactive part of the rope under the belay device has a supinated grip with the thumb away from the belay device; a supinated hand cannot hold a greater force.

Another common error is holding the active and inactive parts of the rope with one hand above the belay device. Once again the reason for this mistake is that it is more comfortable to feed the rope into the belay device this way. Very frequently, however, the result is that at the moment when both strands are being held by the upper hand, the lower belaying hand briefly lets go of the rope altogether. If right at this moment the climber falls, it will be practically impossible to catch the fall.

What’s more, once again thanks to holding the inactive part of the rope up top, a lessening of the braking effect of the belay device will result. The rope is once again by this grip set into the “U” position and immediately you will have reduced braking strength.

Incorrect – not even a single hand is properly holding the inactive part of the rope under the belay device.

Incorrect – not even a single hand is properly holding the inactive part of the rope under the belay device.

Incorrect – due to the grip of the second hand above the belay device the inactive part of the rope has been set in a position with lower braking force; the rope will slip unhindered through the device.

Incorrect – due to the grip of the second hand above the belay device the inactive part of the rope has been set in a position with lower braking force; the rope will slip unhindered through the device.

The Munter hitch on an HMS carabiner (the UIAA belay method), thanks to its feature of using a sliding knot, is not at risk of loss of the braking effect when hoisting the inactive part of the rope upward. Nonetheless, even here it is a source of mistakes to hold both active and inactive parts of the rope in one hand. Above all, as mentioned before, it constantly tempts you to let go of the inactive part of the rope as you hand off the rope while feeding it. Once again, the fact is that once you are not holding the inactive part of the rope firmly in your hand, then you will not be able to catch a fall at that moment.

Incorrect – insufficiently closed hand holding the inactive part of the rope.

Incorrect – insufficiently closed hand holding the inactive part of the rope.

More in e-book.

Title Part 3Mountaineering Methodology – Part 3 – Belaying and Rappelling

ISBN 978-80-87715-09-3

MMPublishing, 2013

Available for download from Apple iTunes (in the Books section).

For example U.S. store – link

Another countries – look on the page Download

See layout.

Another possibility is Google Play. This version is a simplified (as PDF).

Title Part 3 GPMountaineering Methodology – Part 3 – Belaying and Rappelling

ISBN 978-80-87715-14-7

MMPublishing, 2014

Available for download from Google Play.