The self-arresting belay plate (photo 1) is an extremely simple and efficient device used predominantly on long alpine routes and, ever more frequently, on multi-pitch sports routes. It is used to bring up the second (or even two climbers simultaneuosly) and can also be used as an abseil device. However, it is not used to belay the leader.
Once connected directly to the belay anchor, the plate is used to take in one or two ropes (also half and twin ropes). If weight comes onto these (i.e. if the second falls), then the plate locks automatically. Since the two ropes self-arrest independently of one another, one climber can fall and rest on the rope while a second climber continues to climb up to the belay. This characteristic, apart from the obvious safety implications, allows the leader greater freedom at the belay; the ropes can be coiled up more neatly, photographs can be taken, etc.
The great advantage this system has over the Italian Hitch is the far greater ease with which the two climbers can be brought up, and that the ropes don't get tangled (as is almost always the case when two Italian Hitches are used).
Advice on how to use the plate (photo 2)
An HMS carabiner is clipped directly to the belay and the plate is connected to this carabiner (A). The bights of ropes are fed through the slots and another carabiner is then clipped into these bights (B). This carabiner is placed horizontally and the gate must face away from the HMS carabiner, to prevent it from opening accidentally.
The rope which leads to the second (the "live" end) must be placed above, so that the carabiner pulls downwards if load is applied; this action creates friction and effectively locks the rope.
A carabiner with flat sides and smooth angles (B) is preferable to one which is completely rounded, since this generates considerably more friction and is thus safer.
Slack rope is taken in very simply, while care is taken to ensure that the arresting carabiner (B) is positioned correctly.
Difficulties can arise when rope needs to be paid out, especially if the rope is already in tension. Working the carabiner loosens the rope enough so that it can then be paid out, but this can, at times, prove tricky, especially if the ropes are supple.
The plate as an abseil device (photo 3)
The plate can also be used as an abseil device, by clipping it first to an HMS carabiner. Bights are passed through the slots and the carabiner is clipped into these bights (B). In this case the carabiner must lie exactly as depicted in photo 3. The HMS carabiner is then clipped into the harness or, better still, to a loop in a daisy chain.
The great advantage of this system is that the ropes are kept separate and do not tangle. Always use a pussic loop or other self-arresting device below the plate for added security. This is recommended practice whenever abseiling.
|photo 1 - the self-arresting belay plate.|
|photo 2 - the plate in action. Note the flat angled carabiner facing away from the large HMS carabiner.|
|photo 3 - the plate used as an abseil device. Remember always to use a pussic loop or other self-arresting device below the plate for added security.|