• Can a Belay Device Jam Open?
  • Marking the Middle of a Rope
  • Fitting Rock Shoes to Problematic Feet
  • Defining the Cheater Stick and Stick Clip
  • When Your Partner Steals Your Gear...
  • Can You Climb on a Wet Rope?
  • Can You Decrease Fall Factor?
  • Should You Be Allowed to Practice Lead Falls in the Gym?
  • Rope Certifications: Twins, Doubles, or Both?
  • Are Cam Placements Compromised in Wet Rock?
  • What's the Correct Way to Girth Hitch to Your Harness?
  • Choosing Ice Screw Length
  • The Holding Power of Nuts
  • Should You Clip the Belay As Your First Lead Pro?
  • Should I Worry About Spinning Bolt Hangers?
  • Belay-Loop Myth
  • Rock Cleaning Made Easy
  • More, on the EDK
  • Why Not Clip Directly to Cam-Stem Loops?
  • Can You Recommend A Self-Release Knot?
  • What's The Protocol For Naming a Route After Yourself?
  • Is Dropped Gear Still Safe?
  • Can Ropes and Slings Be Contaminated By Essential Oils?
  • Is It Okay to Wear Socks with Rock Climbing Shoes?
  • How Should You Test Gear Placements?
  • Can You Use Adhesive Tape on Ropes, Cords, Webbing?
  • A Better EDK?
  • What's the Difference Between a Double and a Single Rope?
  • Does It Count As a Free Ascent If You Grab the Anchor?
  • Can You Use Cams As Passive Pro?
  • I Found a Rope - Is it Safe to Use?
  • Am I Using a Daisy Chain Wrong?
  • Should I Buy a Plastic or Foam Helmet?
  • Why Doesn't Anyone Climb in Knickers Anymore?
  • Is Weight or Range More Important in Cams?
  • The Mysterious Phenomenon of Rope Shrinkage
  • How Often Should You Place Trad Gear?
  • Worst-Case Scenario - A Factor 2 Fall
  • The Trouble With Glue-In Bolts
  • The Nuts and Bolts of Nuts and Bolts
  • Why Are Climbing Shoes So Expensive?
  • Flaws in the Yosemite Decimal System
  • How Durable is Trad Gear?
  • Using Super Glue on Your Fingers
  • The Worst Gear Ever Invented
  • Rap Ring Strength
  • Spinners and Losers
  • Why Do People Use Oval Biners?
  • Is it Ethical to Clean a New Route?
  • Aid Climbing = Moped Riding
  • Will Sweat Harm My Harness?
  • Should You Use Rope or Webbing to Connect to an Anchor?
  • Choosing Between C4s and Friends
  • Can You Lead On a Static Rope?
  • Can I Use Climbing Bolts For Anchors in a Gym?
  • Are My Modified Crampons Safe?
  • Are Falls Held or Breaking Strength More Important In a Rope?
  • Does Poop Harm a Climbing Rope?
  • Are Homemade Draws Reliable?
  • Shopping for Economy Carabiners
  • When You Fly, Can You Carry On Climbing Gear?
  • Can I Trust Fixed Draws?
  • Which Helmet WIll Fit My Big Head?
  • Are Adjustable Leg Loops Useful?
  • Should I clip Ice Screws with Screamers?
  • How do I Make a Bomber Anchor?
  • Can I Modify my Crampon Without Compromising the Integrity?
  • How to Place Ice Tools and Crampons - Will Gadd's Tips
  • How to Place Ice Screws - Will Gadd's Tips
  • Hot Versus Cold Forging
  • Caring For Your Fingertips
  • Are Sewn Slings Stronger Than Knotted Ones?
  • When to Replace Climbing Webbing
  • Using Grip Dip To Color Code Gear
  • The Benefits of Cotton
  • How to Pull a Rappel Rope
  • How to Properly Orient a Carabiner Gate
  • How to Toprope
  • How To Rig Trad Anchors/Belays
  • Are My Fuzzy Quickdraws Safe?
  • How to Stretch Climbing Shoes
  • Are 1/2-inch bolts really better than 3/8-inch?
  • Should I Resole My Rock Shoes?
  • How to Hand Drill
  • Lonely Climber Looking for Woman
  • Is My Invented Knot Safe?
  • Difference Between Double and Twin Ropes
  • Dealing With an Argumentative Partner
  • Will Antifreeze Ruin Rope?
  • Why Is a Rack Called a Rack?
  • Rock Shoes For a Big Guy
  • Do They Kill Geese To Get Down?
  • How to Wash a Rope
  • Do Cam Teeth Do Anything?
  • Can I Fix Delaminated Rock Shoes?
  • Can I Mix a Static With a Dynamic Rope for Rappelling?
  • Should You Lower Or Rap Through Anchors?
  • How Should The Middle Man Tie In?
  • How Do I Get a Good Climbing Man?
  • Do Falls Weaken Bolts?
  • Should I Rope Solo?
  • Should I Angle Ice Screws Down?
  • How Should Old Climbers Train?
  • Can I Make a Belay Loop?
  • Reusing Ice Screw Holes
  • Overcoming the Fear of Falling
  • Choosing a Stove Fuel
  • Will My Hiking Boots Work With Crampons?
  • Do Heavy People Shock Load the Rope?
  • Can Offset Cams Subsitute for Regular Cams?
  • Can I Resling My Cams Myself?
  • Are Older Alien Cams Safe?
  • Will sports drinks freeze more slowly than water?
  • The Truth About Climbing Supplements
  • Can I Make My Leashed Tools, Leashless?
  • Rope Stretch Facts
  • How To Cut a Rope Without a Knife
  • Secrets of the Toprope
  • How to Sharpen Crampons
  • Should I Become a Climbing Guide?
  • Preventing Climbing Rope Wear
  • How to Remove an Old Bolt
  • How to Customize Ice Tool Picks
  • Double Rope Facts
  • Do It Yourself Fruit Boots
  • Climbing Rope Sheath Slippage
  • Rockfall Safety
  • Do Screamers Work?
  • Climbing Skin Care
  • Selecting a Gym Rope
  • Quick Links for Climbing
  • Are Russian Cams Good?
  • When To Retire Climbing Gear and Ropes
  • Should I Get a Link Cam?
  • How to Get a Climbing Mate
  • Will Dog Urine Harm My Rope?
  • Using Steel Carabiners for Fixed Quickdraws
  • Petzl Tibloc and Climbing Rope Sheath Damage
  • How to Train for Rock climbing
  • How to Rappel
  • Overcoming Anger
  • Fixing a Spinning Bolt
  • Video Spotlight
    First Repeat of Jeff Lowe's Metanoia on the Eiger North Face
    First Repeat of Jeff Lowe's Metanoia on the Eiger North Face
    Whipper of the Month
    Weekend Whipper: 60-Footer on Castleton Tower (Trad Fall)
    Weekend Whipper: 60-Footer on Castleton Tower (Trad Fall)
     



    Can a Belay Device Jam Open?

    12-Jun-2017
    By

    I was about 10 feet above a bolt, couldn't keep it together, fell, and took a big ride. So did my belaying girlfriend, whom I outweigh by 80 pounds. She went flying up the route and slammed into the first bolt.

    Is it possible for a belay device to jam open when it gets pulled into a bolt, or will it automatically re-lock after the initial impact? —Ryan Stefani


    Most “assisted-braking” devices will lock up without any effort from a human belayer, but unjamming one still requires a sentient being.  Photo by Klaus Fengler.A belay device can jam open when it is sucked into a quickdraw clipped to a bolt, and it may not re-engage because it is under load. An astute belayer might be able to push away from the rock, re-engaging the device, but that is a big if with everything happening faster than you can spit. Having the device re-engage also assumes that the belayer hasn’t been knocked unconscious or broken his shoulder or hand when slammed into the rock. Most “assisted-braking” devices will lock up without any effort from a human belayer, but unjamming one still requires a sentient being.

    It all comes back to fundamentals and physics. You can read about the large forces generated in a fall in my answer to the highball-bouldering question (on this page). In route climbing, rope stretch, friction and drag will reduce the force, but these factors are difficult to predict accurately, and the belayer should expect a worst-case scenario, and be positioned and braced accordingly. Since you vastly outweigh your girlfriend (ex-girlfriend now?), it is no surprise that she launched like a pop-bottle rocket.

    Here is how you can be a better partner next time.

    1. Anchor the belayer to an immovable object on the ground. You know, a tree, a boulder, even a bumper. I hate doing this because belayers like to move around and fetch all sorts of interesting objects from their packs, but safety first!

    2. Get your belayer a nice pair of leather gloves. These will keep those hands from being coated in rope guck and, if you neglected to heed the advice I dispensed in #1, will protect her hands against being trashed by the quickdraw or rock, and will prevent rope burn when the rope zips through the device at warp speed.

    3. Buy your belayer a really nice helmet. I don’t think I need to explain why.

     

    This article appeared in Rock and Ice issue 243 (July 2017).

     

    Find More Climbing Gear Advice Here

     

    GOT A QUESTION? E-mail Gear Guy! rockandicegearguy@gmail.com

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