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)?

  • Did I answer your question? I don't understand what you mean by "halving the rope".
    – DavidR
    Commented Apr 30, 2013 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
    Commented Apr 30, 2013 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
    Commented Apr 30, 2013 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
    Commented Apr 30, 2013 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
    Commented May 1, 2013 at 12:04

6 Answers 6


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

  • 2
    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
    Commented Jul 21, 2013 at 23:52
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    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
    Commented Jul 21, 2013 at 23:54
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    @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
    Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 0:31
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    Aid climbers girth hitch fifi hooks and daisy chains to their belay loops. Big wall harnesses even have two belay loops, specifically so you can girth hitch a jumar via daisy chain to each one.
    – ShemSeger
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 3:29
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    @DavidR Please check the technical notice of the Corax harness. On its second page, the via ferrata lanyard is tied in using a girth hitch. This is supposed to catch high-factor falls, so clipping into an anchor (a static and small load) should be very OK. Commented Sep 1, 2017 at 21:12

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
    Commented Oct 24, 2013 at 20:26

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.


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.

  • looking back over this I'll break it out to a 2nd question, thanks again
    – STW
    Commented May 1, 2013 at 16:04
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    "The only thing that should ever go on to your belay loop is the carabiner attached to your belay device": holding fast to this advise, I wonder where all the climbers fix their cords, when going up the rope with prusik techique. In mountain guide schooling multiple things on the belay loop are perfectly ok. Just NEVER put a 'running' rope, sling, or what ever through your belay loop (or any other textile loop).
    – Phab
    Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 8:50

I've had a lot of discussions about this and what I gather is hooking a carabiner into both hard tie-in points when belaying from the ground is OK and it's moot point. Here's what happens when you catch your lead climber (from the ground). The rope goes tight and your carabiner has an upward pull. This upward pull will pull the bottom loop up and the impact load will be taken initially by the bottom loop against the carabiner. After that the second 'upper' loop will come into contact with the first 'bottom' loop and more load energy will be dissipated. The carabiner will only see one point of force. So for belaying upwards it is safe. HOWEVER, if you are rappelling and you have a carabiner through both hard tie in points, that is a very different situation. If you lay horizontally the hard tie in points will spread out and you will indeed have a tri-axle loaded system which is a big no-no. So, with that said, I believe the manufacturers are covering their bases by saying 'never' when it really is application specific. So they are saying 'never' to ensure that you don't accidentally use it in the wrong mode.

  • Are you referring to the belayer or the climber in your first example? The Petzl harness documentation explicitly puts a "skull & crossbones" by this configuration for a belayer, but that may be related to a special case: a grigri in this configuration would naturally be aligned sideways to the direction of pull, and a lead fall would apply twisting forces that could break the carabiner. If for a leader, in a non-upright fall the tie-in loop could easily be snagged on the gate (particularly if a screwgate), thus applying the load across the gate rather than sliding to the top of the 'biner.
    – requiem
    Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 6:52

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
    Commented Oct 26, 2013 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
    Commented Oct 28, 2013 at 13:34

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