Tech Tip - Trad - Belay changeovers - Climbing Magazine

Tech Tip - Trad - Belay changeovers


The second arrives at the belay and is safely secured.

Tech Tip - Trad - Belay changeovers

Faster belay changeovers with an auto-block

Whether you’re trying to blitz the Regular Northwest Face on Half Dome, or just interested in putting some verticality between you and the queue forming below those Supertopo five-star classics, belay changeovers can be fumbly and slow, and are a good place to shave serious time off a route. When my partner taught me how to use an auto-block belay device (such as the Cassin GTC, Petzl Reverso, or the Trango B52) for faster belay changeovers, I picked it up quickly and rewarded myself with some turkey jerky and a cold, cold Keystone. By utilizing an auto-block’s self-locking mode when swapping leads, you’ll be up and off the route quicker than you can say its name. Here’s how. Bombproof belays. For this Tech Tip to work, you’ll need to belay your second directly off the anchor, so only use this method if you’re 100 percent confident in your point of attachment. A cordelette is useful in equalizing all points, but the important thing is to create a power point suitable for attaching the belay device.Keep it rigged ’n’ ready. After the leader constructs the anchor he’ll bring his second up, belaying directly off the power point. To use an auto-block’s self-locking mode, you’ll need the auto-block and either one or two locking carabiners, depending on the model you’re using. Keep these items together, and make sure you’re familiar with the function of your particular device. Use the auto-block as a tie off. Once the second arrives at the belay, have him weight the auto-block so that it locks. Make sure you keep your brake hand on the rope! Once he’s locked off, tie a back-up overhand loop knot in the brake line, directly below the auto-block. The second is now safely tied off. Once the second is safe, pass him the rack (a gear sling is highly recommended!) so he can begin organizing for his lead. As the second is organizing, grab the belay device from his harness (it doesn’t have to be an auto-bloc), thread the brake line (below the back-up knot) through the device, and clip the device to your harness, ready to belay.

The new leader is ready to go.

Tech Tip - Trad - Belay changeovers

Prep the new leader. Once the second belay device is in position, help the new leader organize. Clip draws and other gear directly onto his harness, as this will save time. Consult the topo, share some water, or pass around a snack. Always make sure you’re doing something!Blast it! When both climbers are ready, put the new leader on belay. Then, the new leader will un-weight the auto-block, untie the safety knot, pull up a loop of slack, and clip his lead rope into the power point as his first piece. Before he leaves the belay, the new leader cleans the auto-block and brings it with him. Repeat. Repeat this procedure until you top out. Belay changeovers should never take more than two minutes. Blitz on!