Anchoring your lighter belayer: the wife leash
Posted on May 3, 2013
A belayer lighter than his or her climber can usually offer a softer catch than a chubby counterpart. That’s pretty much the only benefit I can think of. On the down side, if your climber falls (particularly when leading and there is a bit of slack out) you’re going to get zippered up into the first draw or into the wall. In my case there isn’t even that much of a weight difference – about 15-20 kilos/33-44 pounds (largely dependant on his bread and my wine consumption levels).
In most cases this is merely a bit of surprise: terrifying for scaredy cats like myself, possibly quite fun for other people. The first real danger is if you’re belaying with an ATC and in the course of being pulled into the wall/draw you smash your hands and let go. However, having smooshed my hands (and other body parts) and few times in this manner, I don’t think you’re all that likely to let go – the instinct to not kill your partner is pretty strong – but it is possible.
Secondly, depending on where exactly they are, there is a distinct possibility of your climber decking out – as in – you (the belayer) get pulled up to the draw and your climber whooshes past you to the ground. By the time they hit the ground it probably wouldn’t be at full force and speed but it would easily be enough to break bones.
Thirdly, if there is a roof or ledge above the belayer they could end up cracking their head or other body part into it. I have had the impressive bruises across the top of my thighs to prove this. If you don’t have a helmet on and you hit your head it would be extremely easy to seriously injure/kill yourself.
So what to do? Anchor the damn belayer. Find a rock/tree/random strong thing and create a leash from your belay loop to the thing. Obviously you may need to be a little creative and also make sure you have your brain turned on when you do this. The belay device needs to go over the top of the leash (otherwise you’re going to end up with bits of sling interfering with your belaying (or ever ripping it out of your hands catching a fall). You also want to make sure that you have a nice place to stand – preferably so that you can see the climb as well as possible. You also want at least enough slack in your leash to allow you to step out of the way of a falling rock if you see one coming.
The down side of this system is that you can’t easily take in slack after a fall (if you have an annoying climber who wants to jug up the rope you’re going to have to undo your leash, which can be quite difficult when there is a lot of tension in the system) and you aren’t going to be giving a dynamic belay. It also doesn’t feel that great to be pulled in two directs at once – but so long as you are leashed through the belay loop you’re not going to get twisted up or anything actually painful or dangerous. There are also situations where isn’t not really practical to tie yourself to something (usually where there is nothing convenient to tie yourself to or where you’d be exposing yourself to some other danger – like rockfall or numpty climbers).
Overall though, an anchor is a very good idea. It also allows you to make no end of very punny jokes about your husband tying you down and or the kinkiness of putting your wife on a leash.