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Belay systems

If the participants’ feet are higher than 1 m while on the elements, we must use a belay system to ensure their safety.

Spotting

It is a type of belay used mainly on low rope courses. Several group members stand immediately next to the climber on the element, stretch out their arms about 20 cm from the climber’s body and follow every movement so they are prepared to actively catch the climber in case of a potential fall. We can only use this type of belay on elements where the climber’s feet do not reach more than 1.5 m above the ground. Spotting is an effective method of ensuring safety on low rope elements only when performed consistently.

Self-belay

A belay method based on the Via-ferrata principle. Participants actively see to their own safety using belay sets. After completing each element they have to actively change their belay by “re-hooking” themselves from one belay point to another. This usually requires two carabiners (possibly also a pulley) with lanyards attached to the participant’s climbing gear in order to adhere to the main principle – the climber is attached at all times to at least one belay point (even when changing belay). The main belay point is usually a horizontally stretched steel wire rope that passes through the whole track at varying heights over the elements and that the participants use to belay.

You will find different belay types in ropes courses. We prefer belay method when carabiners with participants’ lanyards are attached to a rope through the pulley that runs along the rope. The pulley is secured to the shorter lanyard so that it won’t fall to the ground if the participant accidentally drops it. The climber places the pulley on the steel belay rope and hooks the shorter lanyard and carabiner onto the pulley under the wire rope. The climber hooks the longer lanyard and carabiner over the steel wire rope and places the carabiner at the top of the pulley so that in moving along the rope the carabiner does not wear down but rather travels along with the pulley.

The advantage of this belay method is that carabiners don’t wear out by rubbing on the steel wire rope and if participants run out of strength in the middle of the element, they can just stay hanging on the wire rope and reach the other platform by simply pulling by their hands – which is easy. Intervention and rescue on the part of the instructor is thus usually not necessary. The belay rope is installed above participants’ heads and does not interfere in completing the game.

Continuous belay

An innovative and very safe belay method for ropes courses that enables participants to progress from one activity system to the next and that does not require participants to undo or change the connection to the belaying system. Practically speaking this means that participants set up the pulley (or “glider”) only at the very beginning of the track and travel through the whole track without ever disconnecting from the belay rope. It is possible to complete all the elements including zip wires in this way. The only place where you can take the pulley off the rope again is at the very end of the track. In ropes courses continuous belay is considered the safest belay method.

Continuous belay for ropes courses generally comes from belay systems for ensuring safety in an industrial environment (work in industrial spaces, on roofs, in the energy industry) and not all such systems meet the norms for ropes courses.

Everything has pros and cons. One of the main disadvantages is the high purchase cost and the main operating disadvantage is that participants moving more quickly on the track can’t pass up slower ones. The best systems have two parallel ropes side by side, but more often there is only one.

Smart belay

Smart belay ensures mutual communication of two carabiners by means of lanyards in such a way that if one carabiner is closed, it can’t be opened as long as the other carabiner is also open. Only when the second carabiner is safely closed can the first carabiner open. This way, there can never be a situation where the participant opens both carabiners at once and is therefore unbelayed while up on the element or a platform. The carabiners are specially constructed for ropes courses and even have integrated pulleys that can be used for all types of zip wires.

Assisted belay

A belay method used for instance by climbers on artificial rock climbing walls. The climber is belayed by at least one other person (or it can be more than one as well), using belay devices and a dynamic rock-climbing rope passing over the upper reversible points (reduction block). The best use for assisted belay is in the developmental ropes courses for schools and corporate groups. The principle is that while on the high elements participants are belayed by their colleagues or fellow students themselves without the assistance (but under the supervision) of the instructor, even though they have never done it before. Climbing on the elements itself follows thorough preparation by means of games, completing the low ropes course and belaying practice on a climbing simulator. Only then do the participants go up onto the high elements. The program is dynamic, takes place on more than one element at a time, and constantly rotates the positions of climber, belayer and backup belayer, so all group participants are always actively involved. We have developed a detailed method for programs with assisted belay that is suitable even for early elementary school students.

 

Safety nets

The belay system we use for our children’s ropes course “Little climbers”. Safety nets are stretched under every element and in case of a fall, the climber ends up in them. This is our company’s original product and we are constantly working to develop and improve it. The greatest advantage is that the children don’t have to wear climbing gear, don’t have to learn belay methods and can pass each other on the track at will. The areas with safety nets are suitable for children 3 years and up.