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Yellow Tape

Version 0.6; last reviewed 16-01-2021

Introduction

In order to safely and without-supervision belay a climber at any UQ Mountain Club (UQMC) climbing event, you must obtain your “Yellow Tape”, which is the first of all the tapes to receive at UQMC.

First and foremost, UQMC promotes a “safety first culture that guides all our activities”. That means that whatever you are doing, you must make sure that your and others safety is the number one priority at any given time.

This document will guide you towards a successful completion of the assessment of your “Yellow Tape”. In order to get your “Yellow Tape” approved, there are three main steps:

  1. Read and remember the knowledge displayed in this document

  2. Put all this knowledge in a correct manner into practise

  3. Get yourself assessed by a member of the executive team who will ask you theoretical questions and will assess your practical skills during one of the UQMC events.

After a successful assessment, you will obtain your “Yellow Tape” on your UQMC card, which you will display on your harness.

Please read the following instructions carefully.

NOTE: We do not endorse all the information by the content creators given below. However, we have checked the specific links and believe that they are great learning resources. These links do not replace learning practically from club members, but will be helpful to aid your learning.

Description

"Yellow tape" indicates that a member has obtained the first possible skill competency level: the ability to belay and climb on a top rope climb unsupervised.

Out of all our possible competencies, this is the only one which is absolutely necessary, if you would like to be climbing with the club regularly. It is the basic skill set, which all other competencies build upon. Additionally, the attainment of this level relieves a bit of pressure off the supervisors early in the year.

When climbing or belaying, members without this competency (an “unskilled” member) must be supervised by a member who has already obtained their “Yellow Tape”. It is the role of the supervisor to:

  • Check any rethreaded figure-8 knot tied by the “unskilled” member, and;

  • Back-up belay the “unskilled” member whilst they belay.

Prerequisites

You must be a member of UQMC to be tested for the “Yellow Tape” competency.

Testable material

The material testable to obtain the “Yellow Tape” competency can be broken down into the following categories:

Practical skills

The member being tested must be able to:

  • Correctly wear both a harness and helmet.

  • Unassisted tie into the rope with a well-dressed, rethreaded figure-8 and stopper knot through the correct loops of their harness.

  • Load the rope into the belay device in the correct orientation.

  • Correctly demonstrate the 5-step belay method.

  • Lower a climber with the correct technique.

  • Perform “Buddy Checks” with their partner before every climb.

  • Safely supervise “unskilled” members by:

    • Checking any figure-8 knot tied by the “unskilled” member, and

    • Back-up belay the “unskilled” member, by holding the brake rope as a fall-catching insurance, whilst they belay.

Theoretical skills

The member being tested must have a comprehensive understanding to explain the theory behind:

  • The harness:

    • It’s importance, and

    • How to use it.

  • The importance of wearing a helmet.

  • The rethreaded figure-8 knot:

    • It’s purpose,

    • How to identify an incorrectly dressed rethreaded figure-8 knot,

    • The importance of a stopper knot, and

    • The proper attachment of the rope to the harness using said figure-8 knot.

  • The belay device (ATC):

    • Correct belay device setup,

    • Appropriate use of anchor point, and

    • Correct carabiner orientation (e.g. what cross loading is).

  • Communication:

    • “Buddy checks”,

    • Common terms used, and

    • The importance and purpose of having clear and precise communication between climber and belayer.

  • The 5-step belay method.

  • The correct lowering off procedure.

  • Assisting unskilled members:

    • Mistakes to watch for, and

    • How to safely back-up belay.

The better you understand all the following material, the safer you will be as a climber and the more likely you are to avoid a climbing accident. Having a “safety first” culture within UQMC is the highest priority when climbing.

Theoretical material

 

Harness

Importance: Simply enough, when top roping, the climbing harness is used to secure the climber to a rope, which in turn is anchored to the top of the cliff. There are many different types of harnesses out there in the market, ranging from those aimed at indoor gym climbers to those wishing to impart on a big wall adventure.

How to use it: When you are using a top rope, it is important to highlight four main elements of the climbing harness and how to use them:

  1. The waist belt: As in the name the waist belt of the harness must sit on your waist/ above your hips. Use the buckle to tighten the waist belt until it sits snugly above your hips without the ability to fall down over your hips.

  2. The leg loops: Ensure that the leg loops are not twisted before putting a leg through each loop. These loops are not required to be super tight against your legs, however it’s important to reach a happy medium between being too loose or too tight. Ultimately it is on you to decide what you find comfortable.

  3. Tie-in loops: The tie-in loops are the points through which you thread the rope to tie your rethreaded figure-8 knot. The club harnesses only have a single tie-in loop, which doubles as your belay loop. If a member has a harness of their own, they will more than likely have two tie-in loops and a separate belay loop as in the figure pictured right.

  4. Belay loop: The belay loop is where you attach the belay device when belaying someone on top rope. As mentioned above, the club harnesses have a single tie-in loop, which doubles as the belay loop.

  5. Gear Loops: The gear loops are only for storing equipment (ATC, prusik cord etc.). Gear loops are not rated. They are not an attachment point that should be weighted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helmet

Importance: The helmet is used to protect the climber's head from injury, for example falling rocks, hitting their head against the rock and more. As good as a photo without a helmet might look, your safety is far more important. Always wear your helmet, even when hanging around the bottom of the cliff. You never know if someone might knock off a rock accidentally or if some kids are throwing rocks down for fun. These things happen, stay safe.

How to use it: Like any helmet, it is important that it sits snug on your head. Most climbing helmets will have an adjustable buckle at the back to change the tightness level. Additionally, ensure the chin strap is done up so the helmet doesn’t fall off when climbing or belaying.

Who should wear a helmet if you have only one? The belayer should wear the helmet if you only have one. Especially if they are using an ATC belay device, which is NOT auto-locking, and therefore need to be conscious and have a firm hold on the brake rope to catch a fall. They are also more likely to be hit by rocks that the climber dislodges.

However, when climbing with UQMC, both the climber AND belayer must be wearing helmets.

The rethreaded figure-8 knot

Purpose: The rethreaded figure-8 knot is used by climbers to tie into the end of the rope. It is also easy to recognise when tied correctly/incorrectly, thus making “buddy checks” more simple than if an alternate knot was used. The rethreaded figure-8 is identical to a figure-8 on a bight, apart from its’ ability to be tied around existing objects (e.g. your harnesses tie-in loops), whereas the second forms a loop that a carabiner must be clipped through to use.

How to identify an incorrectly dressed knot: A dressed rethreaded figure-8 knot is when the rope stays parallel in the bend, as pictured in the LHS figure-8 knot. The RHS figure-8 knot is an undressed knot, with the arrow indicating the error where the rope does not stay parallel in the bend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why dress the knot? If you take a fall, a dressed figure-8 will be much easier to untie. A dressed figure-8 is also more recognisable and easier to “buddy check”.

The importance of the stopper knot: A figure-8 knot is essentially a stopper knot, as it jams when under strain. However when a figure-8 knot is dressed correctly, it is easier to untie than other stopper knots, for example an overhand knot.

20 cm of the tail should be ‘sticking out’ after tying the figure-8 knot. The longer tail is needed to ensure the knot is still secure when it slips while it tensions. To check if the tail has the sufficient length and to keep it out of the way while climbing, you can tie a double overhand stopper knot. This finish is required at all Club activities.

How to tie into the rope using the above knots: No matter how well you know the theory behind how to tie these knots, it’s essential you practice with a rope. The more you practice, the faster you will get it and the easier it will become to recognise a dressed knot or to fix an undressed knot. The following videos (video 1 and video 2) explain how to tie into the rope correctly, along with some handy tips and tricks.

The belay device (ATC)

Correct belay device setup: In the club you will more than likely come across three main types of ATCs, as pictured below:

 

 

 

 

From left to right: tubular ATC, ATC XP (extra power) and ATC guide. More detailed videos can be found here and here.

To correctly load these devices:

  1. Create a bight in the system (essentially a big U). One side of the bight will lead to the anchor at the top of the cliff and in turn the climber. Whereas the other side will become the brake rope.

  2. Thread the bight into one side of the belay device.

    • When using the tubular device, the orientation of the device does not matter. However you should thread the bight through one of the rope slots, so that the brake rope sits on the edge of the device closest to the cliff.

    • When using a device with a high friction side, a side with little grooves to bite down on the rope; as in the ATC XP and ATC guide, the bight should be threaded through one of the rope slots, so that the brake rope sits on the high friction orientated edge.

  3. Clip a large carabiner through both the rope threaded through the ATC, and the metal U cable at the device's base.

  4. Clip this carabiner through your belay loop and ensure the gate is locked.

Appropriate use of the anchor point: While top roping at Kangaroo Point, UQMC will set up anchor points where ever possible. In this situation, you should clip the carabiner attached to your belay loop and in turn the belay device to the anchor point on the ground. Ensure that the gate is locked.

What is cross loading and what is the correct orientation of the carabiner? Cross loading is where the carabiner is loaded across its gate, as in the RHS image. This is bad, as the carabiner is less strong in this position (usually rated about 8KN). When the load is distributed up/down the stem of the carabiner, as in the LHS image, the carabiner is much stronger (usually rated above 20KN). Therefore, you must pay attention to the orientation of your carabiner to avoid cross loading when belaying. Do not panic if your carabiner is cross loaded, and do not let go of the brake rope to fix it. If you notice your carabiner has cross loaded, just be more careful next time you belay.

 

 

 

Source

Communication

How to do “Buddy Checks”: The ABC Method is a check used by climbers and belayers before they begin climbing to ensure that everything is set-up correctly. ABC stands for:

A - Anchors checked by climber and belayer or experienced member. Look up to the anchor and ensure that the rope is not twisted.

B - Belayer checked by climber or experienced member. Ensure that the belayer is securely attached to the belay device, and that the climbing rope is running through the belay device correctly and securely. This involves checking that any carabiners the belayer may be connected to, are locked and not cross loaded. Finally, ensure that the belayer is wearing a helmet.

 

C - Climber checked by belayer or experienced member. Ensure that the climber is tied into the climbing rope correctly and is wearing a helmet.

How to communicate whilst climbing: Before leaving the ground make sure the climber and belayer know each other's name. This is highly important, so you can safely communicate directly to your climber/belayer, and also make a friend in the process if you have never met.

No manners are needed while climbing. Communication needs to be clear and concise to avoid confusion.

 

The following commands cover the typical communication for all kinds of climbing:

Rock -  Used by all

  • A signal that a rock has been knocked over the edge and that anyone below should be aware/take cover.

Rope/ Rope Below - Used by all

  • A signal to those below that a rope is being thrown over the edge/towards the ground.

Climb when read - Used by belayer on top rope or lead

  • The belayer is ready for the climber to begin climbing.

Climbing - Used by climber while bouldering, on top rope or lead

  • A signal to either the spotters or belayer that the climber is about to begin the route.

On belay - Used by belayer on top rope or lead

  • The belayer is actively belaying. This call should only be used in lead climbing after the first bolt has been clipped and excess slack has been removed from the system.

Slack - Used by climber on top rope or lead

  • A signal to the belayer that the climber wants more slack in the system.

Take - Used by climber on top rope or lead

  • A signal to the belayer that the climber wants slack to be taken out of the system. This call usually precedes the climber resting their weight on the rope. Note, the belayer should not pull the rope tight if a lead climber is above their last clipped draw.

On me - Used by climber or belayer on top rope or lead

  • When used by belayer - a signal that the belayer is actively holding the weight of the climber and all slack has been removed from the system. When used by the climber - a signal that the climber is climbing and does not want their weight to be held by the belayer.

On you - Used by belayer on top rope or lead

  • A signal to the climber that there is slack in the system and they are free to climb.

Watch me - Used by climber on top rope or lead

  • A warning to the belayer that the climber is at risk of falling in this area.

I've got you - Used by belayer on top rope or lead

  • A signal to the climber that the belayer is ready to catch the climber in case of them falling. This response can be given instead of taking up the slack if the belayer believes doing so would endanger the climber further.

Falling - Used by climber on top rope, lead or bouldering

  • A signal to the belayer or spotters that the climber is about to fall or in the process of falling.

Clipping - Used by climber on lead

  • A signal to the belayer that the climber is about to clip the rope into the next quickdraw. The belayer should ensure that an appropriate amount of slack is in the system when hearing this call.

Clipped - Used by climber on lead

  • A signal to the belayer that the climber has successfully clipped their rope into the quickdraw.

Dogging - Used by climber on lead

  • A signal to the belayer that the climber is going to ascend towards their last quickdraw by pulling on the climbing end of the rope.

On Safety/Secure - Used by climber on top rope or lead

  • A signal to the belayer that the climber has attached a PAS or is a safe distance away from an edge. Note that the belayer should remain alert and on belay even after hearing this call.

Ready to lower - Used by climber on top rope or lead

  • A signal to the belayer that the climber is ready to be lowered to the ground or next bolt in the case of cleaning a lead climb.

Lowering - Used by belayer on top rope or lead

  • A signal to the climber that the belayer is about to lower them to the ground or next bolt in the case of cleaning a lead climb.

Come off belay - Used by climber on top rope or lead

  • A signal to the belayer that the climber is safe and that they are able to come off belay. If this call is unclear care should be taken to check that it was heard correctly before taking action.

Off belay - Used by belayer on top rope or lead

  • A signal to the climber that the belayer is taking themselves off belay.

Off rope - Used by all while rappelling

  • Letting others know that they have finished their rappel and have detached themselves from the rope. If multiple people are rappelling down the same rope this is a signal to the next person that they may begin rappelling.

That's me - Used by climber or belayer both on lead

  • A signal used primarily in multi-pitching to communicate that all the excess rope has been collected and the rope is pulling directly on the harness of the person who is calling out.

Five step belay method

Within UQMC, a 5 step belay method is used. Note that this description assumes a right-handed belayer, the belayer may reverse the hands if preferred.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The correct lowering procedure

To correctly lower the climber when they wish to come down, follow the steps outlined below:

  1. Grasp the brake rope with both hands, locking off the device.

  2. Communicate to ensure the climber is ready to be lowered.

  3. Slowly feed slack through the belay device, keeping both hands on the brake rope, lowering the climber at a safe pace until they are safely on the ground.

Assisting “Unskilled” members

Mistakes to watch out for: When assisting an “unskilled” member, it is important to ensure

  1. When climbing, that:

    • The climber is tied into the rope correctly: (a) the correct tie-in loops are threaded, and (b) the rethreaded figure-8 and double overhand stopper knot are tied and dressed correctly.

    • The climber understands the basic climbing communication terminology as outlined previously.

  2. When belaying, that:

    • The belay device is threaded correctly and attached to the belayers belay loop with a locked carabiner.

    • The belayer is attached to the anchor point.

    • The belayer understands the basic climbing communication terminology as outlined previously.

    • The five step belay process is followed exactly

    • The correct lowering procedure is followed exactly

How to safely back-up belay: When back-up belaying, you must always have both hands on the brake rope. Make sure you leave enough slack in the system between you and the belayer so as not to “short rope” them, inhibiting their ability to smoothly follow the five step belay process. You must always be ready to catch the climbers’ fall. If the belayer was to let go of the brake rope, stay attentive.

Common mistakes: Some mistakes that unskilled belayers commonly make:

  • Too slow to put the brake rope into the locked position

  • Holding the brake rope out of the locked position

  • Not watching the climber

  • Fumbling when switching hands on the brake rope

Because some of these common errors are quite dangerous, we will need you to hold the brake rope when supervising.

Hold the brake rope at about a meter of rope out from the belay device to allow just enough slack for the unskilled belayer to belay comfortably. Let the rope run through your hand as the belayer belays, but always keep a hold of the rope. Ensure that you hold the brake rope lower than the belay device, so that when the slack leaves the system the brake rope is locked off. If the climber falls and the belayer fails to hold on the brake end of the rope, you will catch the fall.

Test questions:

 

During the practical assessment for this level, your assessor will ask you a minimum of two questions from the following to test your understanding of the theoretical material:

  1. Why is it important that the belayer wears a helmet?

  2. Why is it important that the top-rope climber wears a helmet?

  3. Which part of your harness do you tie your figure-8 knot into?

  4. What is a “well-dressed” knot and why do we like them?

  5. How should the belay carabiner be orientated? Why must it sit in this orientation?

  6. Why should you know your climbers name when belaying?

  7. What step in the five step belay method should you spend the least time in? Why?

  8. When supervising an unlevelled member, what can you do to ensure that the climber’s fall will be caught in the event that the belayer you are supervising makes a mistake?

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Step 1:

The belayer has their right hand on the belay side of the rope. One hand MUST remain on the belay side of the rope at ALL times and their left hand on the climber side of the rope. To take in slack they will pull down on the climber side, while pulling up on the belay side.

Step 2:

Keeping a firm grip on the belay side of the rope, the belayer moves their right hand down to their side, locking off the belay device.

Step 3:

The belayer removes their left hand from the climber side of the rope and uses it to grip the belay side of the rope two hands-breadth from the belay device.

 

Step 4:

The belayer removes their right hand from the rope and moves it up to grip the belay side of the rope below the belay device.

 

Step 5:

The belayer removes their left hand from the belay side of the rope and places it on the climber side of the rope, at which point they are ready to begin at step one again.

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Version Table

V0.1    Gen Forshaw    20-09-2020    Created Document

V0.2    Nicole Carter    25-09-2020     Reviewed and adjusted

V0.3    Meike Go            24-11-2020     Updated the layout, added an introduction and adjusted

                                                                          some wording within the main frame

V0.4    Nicole Carter    23-12-2020     Reviewed following Meike adjustments

V0.5   Jazzi Neville       29-12-2020     Minor grammar changes

V0.6   Meike Go             16-01-2021      Adding the test questions and other sections from the old website