Lowering off Chains Some More?

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pbeckham
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Lowering off Chains Some More?

Post by pbeckham » Wed Aug 12, 2015 11:40 am

Greetings,

Looks like the mods may have had enough of the tangents on the first version of this thread.
I certainly offered up a couple knee jerk, cathartic rants as some of the comments definitely pushed my buttons.

In reference to the OP's question as to whether or not there's an established etiquette here in Squamish, I doubt there is or could be here or anywhere for the matter.

Changeovers at belay anchors are fraught with peril and there's no shortage of examples of tragedies and near misses befalling some of the best.

I was climbing at the Back of the Lake in the mid nineties with a good friend who happens to be one of the legends of Canadian climbing.
He led a pitch we both knew to be longer than our 55 meter rope would allow for lowering off with and we agreed he'd belay me up and I'd trail a 9mm for the rap.
He got to the anchor, hollered down "I'm in" and I took him off belay.
As I was tying my shoes in preparation to follow, I heard a shriek and instinctively grabbed the unsecured, unknotted rope slithering up through the gear and looked up to see him flying through space well away from the rock and hurtling towards certain death.
There was enough drag through the gear that I was able to stop his fall with not more than 4 or 5 meters of rope left.
I calmly secured the rope to my harness with a prusik, tied in, payed out the slack between us and climbed up counterweighting his lower till we were at eye level.
He looked like he'd seen a ghost and I yelled at him "What the f#*k was that?!. We'll definitely be debriefing this when I get down!"
When the dust finally settled and the facts became clear, it turned out we'd both totally blew the program.
He decided at the last minute to lower to the anchor on anther route to give us a two for one top rope and thought he was still on belay.
I thought when he said "I'm in" he meant he was off belay and was preparing to bring me up as planned.
Assumption is the mother of all screw ups and this one almost cost my good friend his life.
I still shudder to think of how close we came to killing him and how impossible it would have been to live with such a loss.
We see each other now and then and he says, "You saved my life" to which I reply, "No, I almost killed you".

So…back to the question of what might be best.
Well, every situation requires it's own unique approach and to each their own.

If I'm leading, regardless of my partner's ability, I thread the anchors and usually lower and relieve them of the need to re rig the anchor.
If I'm not confident in my partner's lowering competence, I'll keep a hand on the line while being lowered or rappel.
If the anchors aren't set with appropriate hardware and there's any doubt about my partner's ability, I'll top rope the pitch last and arrange the rappel.

When I'm belaying and my partner reaches the anchor, I ensure the communication is absolutely clear.
If there's any indication they're off belay (such as "Off Belay or Secure"), before taking them off belay, I yell very clearly, "You're Off Belay".
No room for ambiguity or assumption allowed.

For those new to managing anchors, take a course or some training from someone competent.
Clip off to at least two separate points during changeovers, secure the rope so you don't drop it and check everything including your belayer before committing to the lower.

Auto blocking devices such as GriGris make it a bit harder (but not impossible) to drop someone while lowering or top roping.
Regardless of the length of the pitch or the rope, a stopper knot on the bitter end can't go through a device.
(I'll never forget the 1000 yard stare of a guy who let the bitter end run through a GriGri and killed his partner or the mess the guy made when he hit the boulders from 60 feet).
Lots of us don't tie in till our partner's been lowered so we can deal with the twists that often result.
Pros and cons both ways so be careful with that.

From a hardware point of view, we have no control over how people use the gear we fix at anchors and I assume they'll do what's most convenient and leave gear that ensures maximum capacity, ease of use and wear resistance.
I've come to hate chains as I think they're unsightly, unnecessary and typically wear the rock over time.
The chains on bolt studs common around here are an unforgivable abomination as far as I'm concerned.
A stainless mechanical link connecting a stainless forged ring to each stainless bolt in a two bolt anchor is my current default.
If we're lowering, rapping or top roping the rings tend to rotate in the link distributing wear.
The mechanical link makes it easy to replace worn hardware when the time comes.

Owens River Gorge is the one example of how lowering with gritty ropes can wear out hardware and where rapping eases the wear and tear.

Although, I'm not going to try to persuade anyone or be married to an outcome, it's a bummer to hear about or attend to preventable wrecks.
There's no cookie cutter or one size fits all solution to the OP's question.
Whatever you decide to do with anchor management should be based on an informed decision best for your situation.

As the Ironworkers say, "Be Careful and No Sudden Stops".

Thanks for letting me share,

PB

ACMG Alpine Guide
SPRAT Level 3
JI Rope Rescue Instructor
Squamish SAR

tobyfk
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Re: Lowering off Chains Some More?

Post by tobyfk » Wed Aug 12, 2015 3:41 pm

Thanks for the on-topic comments, Perry.

Your guess about the reason for locking the other thread is basically correct.

Web forums are strange beasts. One would think that after ~15-20 years in common usage, people would have given up on trolling, dick-swinging and similar behaviours, but apparently not.

Personally-speaking, I am especially bored by people who feel they can dictate which forum topics must be "serious" (their Ushba accident, naturally) and which deserve mockery (like the previous incarnation of this thread).

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Re: Lowering off Chains Some More?

Post by tobyfk » Wed Aug 12, 2015 3:44 pm

pbeckham wrote:If I'm not confident in my partner's lowering competence, I'll keep a hand on the line while being lowered or rappel.
I do this 100% of the time - hold the rope lightly when lowering for the first few metres, to confirm that I am still on belay - regardless of my partner's competence. It seems a good precaution.

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Re: Lowering off Chains Some More?

Post by maurop » Thu Aug 13, 2015 8:46 am

I'll bite.

As far as established etiquette goes, I'm not aware of any. But when I started climbing a couple years ago, it was run through my head that you do not lower off hardware, and that you either clean the route from the top and walk off, or you rap. Use only your own gear to run the rope through unless rapping was more or less what I was told.

I agree that every situation is different, and you have to do what best suits the situation.

Most important thing is to communicate with your partner before leaving the ground. Set up a communication if you can't hear each other, or have walkie-talkies.

I'm not a fan of chains, they make the belay messy.

If I'm not confident of my partners lowering ability, I likely wouldn't be letting them belay me in the first place. That being said I still always make a plan before i leave the ground, and then double-check everything at the top (if possible).

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Re: Lowering off Chains Some More?

Post by ryanlynne » Thu Aug 13, 2015 12:32 pm

tobyfk wrote:
pbeckham wrote:If I'm not confident in my partner's lowering competence, I'll keep a hand on the line while being lowered or rappel.
I do this 100% of the time - hold the rope lightly when lowering for the first few metres, to confirm that I am still on belay - regardless of my partner's competence. It seems a good precaution.
I too do this every time to ensure that I am indeed on belay and being lowered correctly regardless of the experience of the belayer.

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Re: Lowering off Chains Some More?

Post by tobyfk » Thu Aug 13, 2015 6:37 pm

tobyfk wrote:Your guess about the reason for locking the other thread is basically correct.

Web forums are strange beasts. One would think that after ~15-20 years in common usage, people would have given up on trolling, dick-swinging and similar behaviours, but apparently not.
If anyone has an issue with the moderating of this forum, please contact a moderator privately. Please don't spam this, or any other, thread.

BK
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Re: Lowering off Chains Some More?

Post by BK » Sun Aug 16, 2015 6:17 am

Testing test 123

pbeckham
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Re: Lowering off Chains Some More?

Post by pbeckham » Sun Aug 16, 2015 6:17 pm

BK

You're still on belay and I'm ready to lower you!
Check that thread job and retie on your harness!

PB

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Re: Lowering off Chains Some More?

Post by rolfr » Sun Aug 16, 2015 9:49 pm

Back on topic, BK made a valid point, lowering or rapping is about trusting your partner.

Another consideration is the placement of the anchours, too many old, route setters still adhere to the misguided belief that anchour bolts and rings should be parallel apart. Redundancy is still achieved with offset bolts , one higher than the other. My first consideration for lowering or rapping is the anchour arrangement. Lowering off a parallel ring bolt anchour is guaranteed to twist your rope into a knoted mess, the obvious choice would be to rap.

The reason I advocate chain anchours with quick links and rings is the ease of replacement and cost. Routes like Minor Skirmish at Skaha need to have their steel biners replaced on an annual basis because of toproping through the anchour, the bolt fairy doesn't replace them for free.

BK
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Re: Lowering off Chains Some More?

Post by BK » Mon Aug 17, 2015 5:06 am

I would like to point out to the moderator the following, as quoted straight off the web page:

"Squamish Climbing Forum
Everything and anything to do with climbing in Squamish."



Unless of course you feel entitled to dictate otherwise.

A trick I found useful when distrustful of belayers ( such as my 80 lb kids);

First, pick a route you can solo. Next find a good ground anchor for the grigri. Belay straight off the anchor. Instruct the belayer to hold the device so that they "block " the cam, avoiding the dreaded "short dick' as you battle your way up the pitch. Instruct them to "hands off" the grigri if you fall.

When it comes time to lower, the climber backs it up with a long prussik ( ideally dual tandem prussiks) from your harness to the belayer rope so that if the belayer blows it, you will catch yourself.

This gives them crucial practice with lowering without trusting them completely.

The other critical element is to instruct them in belay signals with an emphasis on assume nothing.

BK
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Re: Lowering off Chains Some More?

Post by BK » Mon Aug 17, 2015 6:49 am

Incidentally Toby, The idea of "holding the rope lightly" is not a bad idea, one that i do along with damn near everyone else.

However it should be noted that if the belayer drops you in a dynamic fashion that instantly multiplies body weight by a significant degree ( tripping, rapidly unblocking grigri....) the likelyhood of successfully securing your plummeting body with an ungloved hand is slim. Fortunately this effect is not put to the test very often. I'd be interested to hear if anyone has actually experienced such a drop rather than just hypothesize the siruation.

Perry's catch that he described is truly a spectacular save. I doubt his implied lesson was that we should ever rely on such a wild lunge to save the day. Must have been a fair bit of friction going on or something. Then again, when Jimbo pitched off his jumars on Uncle Bens, his keen sense of survival instinct meant his flesh burned to the bone and tendon rather than let go of his lifeline as he plummeted earthward.

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Re: Lowering off Chains Some More?

Post by relic » Mon Aug 17, 2015 11:15 pm

holy crap Perry!

pbeckham
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Re: Lowering off Chains Some More?

Post by pbeckham » Tue Aug 18, 2015 10:58 am

relic,

My point exactly!
At the time of that incident, my friend and I were experienced ACMG guides in top form on sighting 11+ and having a great day.
That was by far and away the closest call I've had in nigh four decades of climbing and I never want to get that close again.
I know of a number of experienced climbers who've had close calls or come to grief this way.
If we can screw it up that badly, anybody can for a variety of reasons around belay anchor management and lowering.

The experience changed my habits big time and I don't cut any slack (no pun intended) with my partners.
Maintaining a robust and consistent methodology is excellent prevention.

Regards,

PB

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Re: Lowering off Chains Some More?

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Re: Lowering off Chains Some More?

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