Top belay

Top-rope belays can be carried out in a number of ways. All ways have in common the fact that the rope leads from the climber upward, that is, the climber does not need to fear a fall. If she does not hold to the rock, she simply sits into the rope. A typical situation is the position of a second who is belayed by her belayer from a top-rope belay. The second has a top belay and the rope is taken in for her as she climbs. Another way of conducting a top belay is belaying from the ground via a point of reversal (in the Czech Republic this is informally called “fishing” due to its similarity to reeling in a fish on a rod). This method of belaying ensures comfortable, almost recreational conditions for climbing. The essence of belaying is placing the rope into the point of reversal up on the rock in such a way that the rope leads to the climber from above. The rope is bent when inserted into this point of protection so that two strands of rope lead to the ground. The climber ties in on one of them, the second fastens the other to the belay device. While the climber progresses upward on the rock, the belayer takes in the rope for her, and therefore if the leader should fail to hold to the rock, she will not fall, but will merely immediately sit into a hang on the rope. If a group of people is preparing to climb with a top belay across a point of reversal, and there is no one who could manage to climb the intended route as a belayed leader, then this method of belaying can be carried out only where there is easy or pedestrian access to the top of the crag. One person from the climbing team must take the coiled rope, head up this easier route to the top of the cliff, and insert the rope into the point of reversal there.

Top belay via a point of reversal is appropriate only on smaller crags where the length of the rope is sufficient. It is useful for training novice climbers and children. Ideal for people who do not yearn for heroic performance and would rather enjoy safe movement along the rock. It is necessary, however, to mention that such climbing is often criticised for its sterility and “consumer” character.

Point of reversal

A point of reversal must be of high quality, firmly anchored in the terrain, as it represents your main, often only protection against a fall. The ideal is for the point of reversal to consist of a drilled piton (a ring or bolt) or other high quality installed protection device. You can clip a carabiner with gate lock into this protection device, through which you will thread the rope. If you do not have a locking carabiner you can also use two normal carabiners, but you will need to place them against each other in such a way that the tops of the locks are oriented in opposite directions. This is done to eliminate the possibility that the rope could come loose from both carabiners due to loading in one direction.

Left – a point of reversal with a carabiner with gate lock. Right – its equivalent in the case of insufficient equipment would be the simultaneous use of two carabiners without locks with the tops of the carabiners pointing in opposite directions.

Left – a point of reversal with a carabiner with gate lock. Right – its equivalent in the case of insufficient equipment would be the simultaneous use of two carabiners without locks with the tops of the carabiners pointing in opposite directions.

If, however, you are planning to climb for a longer period of time with belaying via a point of reversal, or if you do not have the point of reversal under visual control (i.e. you can’t see what is happening with the carabiners during more extreme rope movements), we strongly recommend using two carabiners with locking sleeves so that they can mutually back each other up.

Two carabiners with gate locks in a point of reversal to increase the redundancy securing the rope.

Two carabiners with gate locks in a point of reversal to increase the redundancy securing the rope.

It is not advisable to rely on one point of protection anchored in the rock, but rather on multiple redundant ones. A very common solution is for two points of protection to be connected. The fixed (permanent) installed point of reversal in the terrain tends to be connected using a chain; if, however, you build a temporary point of reversal yourself you can connect it using a sling. More on connecting points of protection can be found in the section of this book entitled Belay stations.

A point of reversal composed of a chain; two points of protection back each other up.

A point of reversal composed of a chain; two points of protection back each other up.

A backup for a point of reversal need not always be connected to the point of reversal itself. It can also be a different point of protection which must, however, lie within the vicinity of the point of reversal. Often, for example, the second to last point of intermediate protection under the point of reversal is used.

A point of reversal created by a single ring with a carabiner with a gate lock, a quickdraw close under the ring backs it up.

A point of reversal created by a single ring with a carabiner with a gate lock, a quickdraw close under the ring backs it up.

Fixed protection, such as rings, bolts, etc. have a variety of constructions. Certain have rings for connecting carabiners that cause the carabiner to be pressed flat against the rock. This is not ideal for a point of reversal, as the rope can fray against the rock while moving. In such cases you should first clip into the point of reversal with one locking carabiner, and only then should you clip the next one, through which the rope will be threaded, which will then be perpendicular to the rock and the rope can pass through it smoothly from left to right and vice versa.

The rope must be threaded in such a manner as to avoid rubbing the rope against the rock.

The rope must be threaded in such a manner as to avoid rubbing the rope against the rock.

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.