The third article in the Pure Outdoor series and this week we are looking at setting up good quality belays on gritstone crags.
You have just topped out after climbing your first Peak District rock climb. If you are used to climbing in different areas with an abundance of anchors, trees or at complex crags without a 'flat top' you may find Gritstone quite unique when it comes to setting up belays. Please note that these notes are written as a guide and are in no way any alternative to experience, training and practice in safe rock climbing techniques.
1. Low Anchors
You will find that loads of the anchors that you will be using will be low to the ground. If you are used to standing up whilst belaying at the top of the crag, think about sitting down. Think about where the rope runs in the event of a fall, is it running over your leg? You can always simulate some higher anchors by using some cunning with your rope setups (i.e bring the rope over the top of a boulder rather than round the bottom). By creating high anchors you can decrease any rope/rock wear and tear over a crag edge and also create a comfortable belay.
2. Distant Runners
Don't be afraid to look further away than the immediate top of the crag. You may find some bomber boulder or protection further away from the crag edge.
3. Fitted Stakes
Used occasionally in the Peak but not as much as other areas. Be wary, exercise caution and use appropriately. Do you have any knowledge about the history of man-made features? Are there any way of testing these? Attach to your belay low on the stake using a clove hitch (reversed so it tightens up when loaded). You will probably find a stake fitted in places where there are no other anchors.
4. At the top of the crag
Look after yourself. Be methodical. Identify anchors, think about direction of pull and then think of a reasonable place to sit/stand depending on the route.
To create the best belay possible consider the following.
If you are looking at using several anchors, would one failing affect the other one? Ensure that this is not the case by making your anchors independent.
Ensure that the anchors can cope with a pull in the direction of any force that could be generated by a falling climber.
Ensure that any forces put through the belayer/belay device are shared through all of the anchors equally.
To avoid creating a vector force and increasing the loading percentage shared on each anchor keep the angles between the anchors less than 60 degrees.
Try your best and be creative. Would you abseil on your set-up? A second falling off could create the same force so lets hope so!
Keep a good eye out for 'bomber threads' there are plenty around and many people overlook them. When using a sling to 'thread the thread' make sure you know where the sewn part is. This may just help you when it comes to retrieve the sling. keep the sewn part from getting jammed in any cracks or risk losing it forever.
7. Test your boulder
Top of the route, "there's a bomber boulder, lets use it". Make sure you test it. Does it move? Moving blocks are a no no. It may look good but there is often potential for rope to get trapped or run underneath moving blocks. Test it by 'giving it some welly', pushing and pulling - don't just give it a 'car test drive style' kick and think it is OK. Lots of the boulders at the bottom of Peak Grit routes were once upon a time at the top. Some at the top of the crag are simply perched, waiting to go.
How Big? Think 'scrunched up human' sized as a minimum for an anchor. When picking boulders that are embedded into the ground, check that the back of the boulder is undercut. If using a sling slide it side to side around the boulder to see if it comes off.
8. Attend a course
Pure Outdoor offers courses in Rock Climbing from 'Learn to Lead Climb' through to 'Beginner Taster' days and 'Improvised Rescue for Climbers' courses. If all of the above sounds good but you know that in practice you may need a bit of direction. Take a look at PureOutdoor or give us a call on 01143608007.
This report is one of a series coming in the next few months from Guy Wilson - Mountaineering Instructor and Company Director of Pure Outdoor. Pure Outdoor offer guidance in Rock Climbing, Hillwalking, Mountaineering and Scrambling. Based in the UK but operate country wide could have something that can get your climbing on track. To speak to Guy or the team call 0114 3608007 or visit Pure Outdoor