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I'm a beginning climber and am trying to resolve conflicting instruction related to tying into my harness.

During a recent outing a friend (an experienced climber, but not an instructor) was showing me the basics of switching from climbing to rappelling. The basic steps followed were:

1) Climbing to the anchor while on belay, tied in directly to the rope

2) Securing a sling to my belay loop by threading it through itself, then securing it to the anchor via a locking biner (first question)

3) Securing the rope to myself, then untying from it

4) Halving the rope, attaching my rappel device, and using a locking carabiner to secure the device to the tie-in loops (second question)

5) ...the rest isn't really relevant

So my questions arise from the usage of the belay and tie-in loops. I've been taught by a trained instructor that rope should never be tied directly into the belay loop as it can generate excessive friction and cause failure.

My first question relates to my friend's instruction to secure the sling to my belay loop without a carabiner. This made me wonder if we were misusing the belay loop. Her rationale was that the tie-ins were occupied by the rope, and since the sling would be used to hold my static weight (and not a fall) that there was no risk of excessive friction.

My second question comes from attaching my rappel device. I was instructed to clip it through both tie-in loops rather than the belay device. Again her rationalization was that the belay loop was occupied by the sling.

And a final question related to the first two: most of the reasoning for this approach was to keep the tie-ins and belay loop occupied by a single sling / biner / rope at any time. Is it unsafe to have multiple connections to a single point while switching from climbing to rappelling (e.g. a rope and sling through the tie-ins, or two biners through the belay loop if I'm clipped to both a rope and a sling)?

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Did I answer your question? I don't understand what you mean by "halving the rope". –  DavidR Apr 30 '13 at 18:34
    
There are a couple of questions here. Could you split them into a question that says "Can I girth hitch my belay loop?" and "do I run my rappel carabiner through both tie-in points?" FWIW, the answer is "no" to both. –  DavidR Apr 30 '13 at 18:40
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FWIW, I think this friend you climbed with gave you a string of incorrect advice. These are common mistakes, so its possible this is just what someone told her once. :( –  DavidR Apr 30 '13 at 18:40
    
Something else occurs to me - it seems like you have a series of basic questions on setting up a rappel. Do you own a climbing book, like this: amazon.com/Rock-Climbing-Anchors-Comprehensive-Mountaineers/dp/… or this: amazon.com/Rock-Climbing-Mastering-Mountaineers-Outdoor/dp/… ? I forget which book covers which topics, and don't have my copies with me. But, I think you should get a book on trad climbing, and read it (and re-read it). :) –  DavidR Apr 30 '13 at 18:45
    
Thanks for all the input David, I kept them together as the first two questions influenced the third, and they're all related to "where can I tie what?". Thanks for the book recommendations, too--I'll look into them. –  STW May 1 '13 at 12:04
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5 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Question: Should I girth hitch my main belay loop

Answer: No! You shouldn't girth-hitch a sling to your belay loop. The belay loop should only ever be in contact with a carabiner, as the trained instructor told you. As the instructor told you, girth hitching to the main belay loop will cause it extra wear, and make it wear out faster.

You can girth hitch slings through the two "tie-in" points that the belay loop itself runs through - on most harnesses those tie-in points are designed for that - they're extra thick, have a protective nylon layer, and since they're two of them, they're redundant. But...

If you're asking about the "easiest" system to use, I'd recommend getting an "anchor chain". There are a few different ones on the market (see link). They are specalized slings that solve this problem you're facing, and many people find them more convenient than using slings. Also, because they're a commercial product, they come with instructions. :)

Question: Should I run a carabiner through both my tie-in points, or the main belay loop

Answer: DO NOT clip a carabiner through the two tie in points. This will "cross-load" the carabiner. Also, it will put the rappel device awkwardly close to your person and clothes. Instead clip it into the belay loop. That's what a belay loop is for.

See this link for images on how to tie in and a brief explanation of the reasoning behind.

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Nothing wrong with clipping into the top tie in point instead of the belay loop, they are both full strength and people belayed off just a swami belt for years. Generally its more comfortable on the belay loop, but there are valid reasons to clip into the tie-in –  crasic Jul 19 '13 at 22:24
    
If you think that, could you post an answer so that people can formally respond to it? I'm not saying that you're wrong or that doing this hasn't worked for you in the past. But I know that's now how equipment manufacturers recommend people set up belays with modern harnesses (at least I think not). Some modern harnesses are relentlessly optimized to save weight, and only tested as a unit, and I'd want to be careful assuming that any individual piece was rated to catch falls, even if traditional harnesses were. At least, that would be my basic concern. –  DavidR Jul 21 '13 at 23:52
    
petzl.com/us/outdoor/advice-on-harness-use_us For instance, here Petzl specifically recommends against using only the lower tie-in point to belay or tie in with Petzl harnesses. They don't comment on the use of the upper tie-in point. That is, for harnesses with 2 tie-in points. Some harnesses only have a single tie-in point. I don't know whether or not petzl designs them the same. –  DavidR Jul 21 '13 at 23:54
    
Lower tie in point is full strength but the leg loops are not, in general, as secure as the swami belt, the top tie in is a just the swami belt and the belay loop (also 22KN full strength) just links the two to make it more comfortable, On harnesses with full strength (22kn) gear loops it is safe to belay from one (though why you would I dunno) and I've read accident reports of people falling on them and they hold a fall fine as well. –  crasic Jul 22 '13 at 0:27
    
@crasic - :) look, my comment was really about what to do with carabiner (don't clip it into two points plus the belay device). The top loop may be fine, my point was just that that wasn't want the manufacturers were recommending, and I don't see why you'd go out of your way to encourage people to use it that way. Its tiny and inconvenient to get a carabiner in and out of (at least on most of my harnesses), and there's no reason to give beginners a suspicion that their belay loop isn't 100% designed to belay off of (which an endless stream of beginners seem to think). :) –  DavidR Jul 22 '13 at 0:31
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i have been approached in climbing gyms a few time with an employee asking me to set my atc device up on my belay loop when belaying. however i stand beside my knowledge of climbing 101, which is everything is set up on two contact points! i tie my rope in on two contact loops, never the belay loop. i set my daisy chain or pas22 on both contact points, never the belay loop. and a good mountaineer would be worried if i belayed him with my atc on the belay loop. gym instructors have been misguiding our youth on this. i understand the belay loop is strong but really it just holds the two contact loops together.never trust on contact point

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You can buy harnesses with two belay loops. You should NEVER attach a carabiner to your tie in loops. Carabiners are designed to be loaded on two points only, loading the spine. Unless you use twin or double rope technique, your rope is not redundant, your harness is not, your belay device is not, your belay carabiner is not... –  DudeOnRock Oct 26 '13 at 23:07
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Thanks for the answer, Blake. Don't be discouraged by the downvotes, it sounds like you're intentions for redundancy might in fact be undermining the goal of safety. If it leaves you with questions, ask them here :) –  STW Oct 28 '13 at 13:34
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I'd like to point out something not addressed in AlanL and DavidR's answers. There doesn't seem to be any allowance made in STW's friend's procedure for a safety backup for the rappel, e.g., in case rockfall causes you to lose your grip on the brake strand. The standard technique for this, described in ch. 11 of Freedom of the Hills, is to use a runner to extend your rappel device, and attach a Prusik to the brake strand. If you're putting a biner through both tie-in loops, then not only do you risk cross-loading the biner, as DavidR pointed out, but it sounds like you're not extending your rappel device.

Personally, I make the extension by girth-hitching to my belay loop. This appears to be the method shown in the diagram in FotH, although the text is (to me) unclear: "Girth-hitch the loop ... to the harness, around both the waist belt and the leg loop attachment."

To me, the issue of having a backup is primary, and the issue of whether it's OK to girth-hitch to the belay loop is secondary. You could certainly rig the extension using an additional biner in order to avoid the girth-hitch.

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I disagree with DavidR's answer to point 1. Girth hitching a sling to your belay loop to clip into the anchors whilst setting up a rappel is common practice and perfectly ok. Leaving a sling permanently girth hitched to the same spot on your belay loop and using it that way for years is a bad idea that has led - in the entire recorded history of climbing - to one high profile death of a very famous climber. So don't do that.

Far more important, when anchored with a sling or anything other than a dynamic climbing rope, is to never move above the belay, and ideally keep the sling weighted at all times. A sling has almost no dynamic energy absorbing capacity and even a short fall onto one can break the sling, or your pelvis, or both.

Karabiners through the tie-in loops are a bad idea, will cause them to be cross-loaded.

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I agree; Girth hitching the belay loop is fine (they are plenty strong and way over-engineered). –  Felix Oct 24 '13 at 20:26
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Oh, your 3rd question (I didnt see it):

Is it unsafe to have multiple connections to a single point while switching from climbing to rappelling (e.g. a rope and sling through the tie-ins, or two biners through the belay loop if I'm clipped to both a rope and a sling)?

Those are 2 separate questions (multiple things running through the tie-in points, or multiple things running through the belay loop.

Multiple things in the tie-in points

If I understand your question, are you asking "Can I have a rope, an anchor chain (and the belay loop) all running through my tie-in points at the same time, such that either of them, if weighted, would load the tie-in points?". If that's the question, then, yes. This is the standard setup.

Multiple things on the belay loop

The only thing that should ever go on to your belay loop is the carabiner attached to your belay device, so, no, I don't think you'd ever have multiple things attached to the belay loop.

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looking back over this I'll break it out to a 2nd question, thanks again –  STW May 1 '13 at 16:04
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