Hanging belays on ice quick notes

February 26, 2013
Will Gadd
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Here’s an interesting “hanging” belay on ice, maybe done to practice hanging belays? It has a few interesting things going on (plus in other images I won’t publish here) that I thought I’d comment on.
-In 30 years of ice climbing I’ve never had to do a hanging belay. Put belays in flat spots where the belayer is sheltered. Seriously, there is no reason to do a hanging belay–the belayer is a sitting duck for falling ice, which will hit him or her as he’s not sheltered if he’s hanging…
-Maybe don’t hang climbers off to the side on individual ice screws; if that one screw fails (and screws under load often slowly melt loose…) the shockload on the other screw is going to be MASSIVE, and may very likely rip it. If you have to do hanging belays, and again I never have on ice, put the climbers into the “focal point” of the belay.
-Clipping a screw in the anchor for the leader is generally not a good idea; if the climbing is really insecure put the belayer a few meters below the belay and run the lead rope through the focal point of the belay. This is much, much stronger, and the belayer likely won’t get slammed into the ice really violently if the leader falls off. A direct anchor belay may be an option with ice screws also.
-In general don’t clip into the belay with sling; use the rope, makes for a lot lower impact forces in a factor-two fall onto the belay (assuming you don’t clip a screw, which I generally now don’t for a lot of reasons).