Position Stance: The Stance

By Don Graydon.

Consider the strength of the stance alone, apart from any attachment to an anchor, since in most cases it is primarily the stance that prevents you from being jerked around by a fall or reduces the consequences of being tossed about. The following findings on the comparative value of different stances apply when using both the hip belay and modern belay devices.
Located behind a solid object: In unusually fortunate situations, you can assume the strongest stance of all, directly behind an immovable object, such as a rock protrusion. Don't count on this luck often.

Sitting stances: Suitable for rock, snow, or brush, this is the most common and versatile stance. Your feet and seat make three solid contacts with the mountain.

  • It is most stable if the rope passes between your feet or legs, for it then resembles a tripod. The tripod's apex is the attachment of the belay to the front of your harness; one leg is your pelvic bones and seat, the other two your own legs.
  • In that configuration, tests indicate that the average person can hold 350 pounds of tension on the rope for several seconds, or an impact about twice as great.
  • Knees are strongest when the angle at the joint is nearly straight (180 to 140 degrees). The stance is only about half as strong if the knees are bent at an angle below 100 degrees or if the rope runs over the foot support (directed slightly outside the tripod).
Standing stances: In this position there are only two points of contact with the rock. It should be done only with a short, tight rope to the anchor, which will take most of the force, or when standing just below the first protection, so that you cannot be pulled over.
  • With one foot well forward, the average belayer can hold 200 pounds from below but less than half as much with a pull to the side or with the feet together.
  • Belaying a leader from a standing position ("slingshot" belay) is extremely weak if the pull is forward.

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