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Besides of using adequate gloves, I would like to have some safe options to decrease skin abrasion while belaying, due to the friction of the rope to lower the climber, mainly. I've come up with some, but I am not really aware of their potential problems:

  • Making the Grigri's cam absorb most of the friction by finding the sweet spot of its lever, if this device is employed.

  • Making your leg/clothes absorb part of the friction.

  • Using a kind of Prusik knot under your braking hand so it absorbs friction.

What are the risks/problems they involve and what better options are accepted? I guess that similar ideas may hold for abseiling/rapelling.

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  • "Making your leg/clothes absorb part of the friction." - this would be the Dülfersitz. I think nowadays, it should be used only in case of emergency. Apr 16, 2023 at 20:34
  • Why are you asking this? Are you concerned about the weight difference between the belayer and lead climber? Then the Edelrid Ohm could be an option Apr 16, 2023 at 20:39
  • No, I was thinking mainly in the final descent after climbing. About the Dülfersitz, I was referring to the belayer using such friction, not the abseiler, but thanks for the reference!
    – Andrestand
    Apr 21, 2023 at 21:30

3 Answers 3

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Making the Grigri's cam absorb most of the friction by finding the sweet spot of its lever, if this device is employed.

You should always be doing this anyway. Never depend on friction of the brake hand against the rope, because if you miscalculate the speed, you can burn your hand and it will release reflexively and drop the climber. Keep your brake hand loose and use the lever to adjust the friction.

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    This is true for ANY belay device, not just a Grigri. The whole point of a belay device is to add an appropriate (and adjustable) amount of friction. When lowering you employ the proper ratio of friction of device and friction of hand. On a Grigri it's the lever, on an ATC it is using the rope angle/groves, etc.
    – noah
    Dec 19, 2022 at 19:39
  • @noah I haven't used an ATC for belaying in a while, but I feel like you still need to apply some friction with the brake hand, angling it isn't enough. I wore gloves when I used them.
    – endolith
    Dec 20, 2022 at 16:30
  • Yes, you absolutely need to apply friction with the brake hand using an ATC. You should also be applying friction with a Grigri when belaying/lowering properly, just to a lesser extent. The key word in my comment was "ratio". It's letting the device handle most, but not all, of the friction. Gyms now often double wrap top ropes to add drag, meaning your brake hand doesn't really need to add friction, which while safer for gym use can lead to some bad belaying practices.
    – noah
    Dec 20, 2022 at 20:16
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What are we talking about? Depending on the task and the device there is different solutions.

  • Belaying with any locking device (Grigri, Smart, MegaJul,...): in the event of a fall, the device should lock so you will not have any issue with your skin
  • Belaying with a non-locking device (e.g. ATC): wear gloves. But honestly, catching a fall there is not much force to hold if you use the device correctly. There should be no slack between the device and the brake hand and therefore no sudden jerk on your brake hand. It is more like a gentle pull.
  • Lowering with GriGri. I have a Freino carabiner. It is overpriced but very comfortable for controlling the descent by increasing friction.
  • Lowering with other devices: Just go slowly. It may help to step back a bit to increase friction in the first quickdraw, especially in the gym where friction is very low. Gloves help here.
  • Rappelling: Use gloves and a Prusik/Machard as a backup.
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Making the Grigri's cam absorb most of the friction by finding the sweet spot of its lever, if this device is employed.

Strictly speaking of what I do when lowering a climber on belay, I agree with the first one - let grigri absorb all the friction. I prefer placing the guide hand under the brake hand, that allows me to maintain a slow and steady feed of rope. With a steady feed the likelihood of sustaining major skin-burns due to friction is less. With an inconsistent/jerky feed, you may burn your hand badly.
Secondly, I prefer keeping the thumb of the brake hand upwards, as in towards the device, that allows better control. Just a note, irrespective of lowering a climber or belaying him/her during a tope rope ascent, keep the brake hand a safe distance away from the belay device so that in case of an unforeseen fall your hands wouldn't lead to getting pinched in the device.

Making your leg/clothes absorb part of the friction

I don't see how effective it is going to be. I'd rather focus on the point above. IMO, the legs would come in play for absorbing the dynamic falls over a climber during an ascent. Your body should/will act as a counterweight, using your legs to push against the wall will prevent any injuries and catches a heavy fall better.

Using a kind of Prusik knot under your braking hand so it absorbs friction.

I haven't seen such a setup, but if I interpret your arrangement here - you'd attach the prussik to rope where you want to your brake hand and the other end is attached to your harness? If yes, I don't see why that would help. Because, if the hand of prussik goes off the rope for whatever reason, if the length is not managed carefully, the prussik will lock but lead towards the device, making things worst. I have seen using prussik on the guide hand (loaded end of the rope) for better control, but I have never used it. It is something that I'll try tomorrow and see how it works! :-)

Hope this helps.

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    "I prefer placing the guide hand under the brake hand, that allows me to maintain a slow and steady feed of rope". This makes no sense to me if using a Grigri. You can't have two hands on the brake strand and open the cam w/ the lever. Or maybe I'm just misinterpreting what you mean.
    – noah
    Dec 19, 2022 at 19:42
  • Same thought as noah. About the Prusik, I've seen the setup referred to as "third hand", making it hold a small load (break side) instead the full one, also for abseiling, provided the device connector is extended a bit to have clearance enough.
    – Andrestand
    Dec 20, 2022 at 5:32

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