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    Default Munter Hitch Belay

    I am sure this debate has been hashed out before on the forum, but here goes anyway.

    I am finding that the munter hitch is being used significantly in different parts of the country as the primary belay in a rope system. It is being applied in confined space (attaching to tri-pod), vertical rope rescue (rappel belay, and stokes with atendant).

    Here is my delema. I am a tandem triple-wrap prussik w/LRH kind of guy. I like the security that if my belayer sneezes and lets go of the rope I will stop. I also feel that when safety checking a rope system a "hands-off" approach should be taken. If everyone let go would the system stop. An even bigger concern is in training. As an instructor I have an issue with, litterally, a students life being in another students hands.

    Here are my questions. Is the munter capable of stopping a rescue load with a fall factor of 3? If it is capable, is the belay in a condition that it can still be part of the system. Ie converted to a raise or lower. (Assuming mainline failure) How do you operate your munter? Do you let the load pull it through, or do you use a "push/pull" method? (One hand feeds rope into the hitch the other pulls the slack through.)

    I am trying to embrace the munter hitch. But I need to be convinced it equals or out performs other belay systems.

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    I am by no means a rope rescue guru, so don't eat me alive on this. Our state fire academy where I attended my rope rescue training teaches and uses the munter to run the safety line. It worked well for us and is really the only method we were taught. We used a push/pull to give slack on the rope. I would say that as far as turning the rope into part of the system, use an acender to lock off the rope. Place a brake bar rack in the system to the rope and use to lower. Also, you could use the same locked off rope and build a haul system from the tag end. Release the acender from either senario and lower or haul as needed. Like I said, no expert by any means, but seems to work.

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    The munter hitch belay is one of the worst performers out there. The strong push to use it(especially by fire academies) comes from a misunderstanding of the NFPA 1983 standard. The 1983 standard was created as a manufacturer's standard and continually gets used as a user standard. Because of this, people will not use a tandem prussik belay because of the strength of the individual 8mm cord. Instead, one needs to look at the system of a tandem prussik belay, not the single cord strength. When a system is tested against another for it's intended purpose, then you will see it's suitability for that task. The munter hitch belay is very conditional. Typically there needs to be at least 90 degrees of edge friction, energy absorbers at the load, and the rope exiting the munter must be held parallel to the standing part at the point of impact. If these conditions are met and the belayer has adequate grip strength, the belay will hold. This technique, however, has been proven inferior hundreds of times through drop tests. There have even been rescuers who had blind faith in the munter hitch belay that could not hold the 600lb load statically with a munter hitch. If that's the case, how the heck will you hold it dynamically.
    Sometimes, in order to make an operation idiot proof, you must remove the idiot!

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    All the rescue training I have attended discusses the concept of the "whistle test"...that is, if someone would blow a whistle and everyone drops lets go of the system, would the load fall? The Munter hitch fails that test.

    We also do not allow the use of ascenders at all, even for load positioning, and certainly not as a safety device. Strictly double Prusiks here.

    We viewed some tests conducted at Louisiana State University in which 300 and 600 lb. loads were dropped, using a couple of different brands of mechanical ascenders and tandem Prusiks. I think the drop was something like 3 feet. The mechanical ascenders caught the 300 lb load but were damaged severely. They also severely damaged the rope, nearly to the point of failure. On the 600 lb load the mechanical ascenders basically exploded into pieces and completely failed the test. The tandem Prusiks, on the other hand, caught and held both loads with little damage to the rope other than some glazing of the mantle from friction. The ropes sustained enough damage to be removed from service but not nearly enough to fail. I was convinced at that point.
    Chief Dwayne LeBlanc
    Paincourtville Volunteer Fire Department
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    "I have a dream. It's not a big dream, it's just a little dream. My dream — and I hope you don't find this too crazy — is that I would like the people of this community to feel that if, God forbid, there were a fire, calling the fire department would actually be a wise thing to do. You can't have people, if their houses are burning down, saying, 'Whatever you do, don't call the fire department!' That would be bad."
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    The munter should only be used for a light duty situation. It does take some skill and it doesn't pass the whistle test.
    We have started to use the 540 and it is ok so far. Prusiks are good but if tied wrong can also be worthless.
    If you have the right rope size the grigri is also very nice.

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    Originally posted by ADSNWFLD
    The munter should only be used for a light duty situation. It does take some skill and it doesn't pass the whistle test.
    We have started to use the 540 and it is ok so far. Prusiks are good but if tied wrong can also be worthless.
    If you have the right rope size the grigri is also very nice.
    Oh, yeah, I forgot, we got the 540's a while back ......they work pretty well but have to be closely attended to keep them from locking up....
    Chief Dwayne LeBlanc
    Paincourtville Volunteer Fire Department
    Paincourtville, LA

    "I have a dream. It's not a big dream, it's just a little dream. My dream — and I hope you don't find this too crazy — is that I would like the people of this community to feel that if, God forbid, there were a fire, calling the fire department would actually be a wise thing to do. You can't have people, if their houses are burning down, saying, 'Whatever you do, don't call the fire department!' That would be bad."
    — C.D. Bales, "Roxanne"

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    jmatthe2, I just noticed that in your first post you mentioned a fall factor of 3. I am assuming this is a typo and should read 1/3. Just to clarify for anyone reading who is unaware, fall factor is a tool used to gauge the relative severity of a fall. It is determined by dividing the fall distance by the length of rope in service. A 3 foot fall on 10 feet of rope gives a fall factor of 1/3. Fall factor 2 is as high as it goes as it is only possible to fall twice the rope length.FYI the fall factor 0.3 or 1/3 is the standard belay competence drop test used by most of the industry. It represents a mainline failure at the edge transition where the rescue load is almost in the safety zone but is still exposed to a fall. Outside of pure, unattended stupidity, this should be our worst case as this is the point where the rope is shortest and the fall distance is greatest.

    Don't embrace the munter, undestand it's limitations and realize that there are far better, safer ways to do the job.
    Sometimes, in order to make an operation idiot proof, you must remove the idiot!

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    The Munter is just another tool in your tool box. It is great for certain applications. You just need to know when it is appropriate. It is great in some applications where a quick belay is needed. It is not the preferred choice in others.

    Recognizing the difference and making an informed decision is the key.

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    Originally posted by ADSNWFLD
    The munter should only be used for a light duty situation. It does take some skill and it doesn't pass the whistle test.
    We have started to use the 540 and it is ok so far. Prusiks are good but if tied wrong can also be worthless.
    If you have the right rope size the grigri is also very nice.
    Also the 540 tends to lock up frequently in wet conditions. I have used the 540 and it is a good tool, but as with anything it does have its limitations. I also use the tandem prussik belay, I think it is a more versitile belay set up. But that is just my opinion.
    Shawn M. Cecula
    Firefighter
    IACOJ Division of Fire and EMS

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    With all the tools and new technology out there, I struggle with the concept of using a munter in rescue.

    Where's the safety factors and mechanisms in case of failure or other problems?
    Luke

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    Exclamation Hitch

    I always thought of the Munter as a "last resort" or "bail out" hitch used only for escape situations.

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    I also am not a fan of the munter. I was taught that method as well as the double prussik and much prefer the prussiks. I think the only situation I would use the munter would be a bail-out, but I carry an escape 8 there. We also now use the 540 but they do tend to lock up, although they are easily released, unlike the prussiks when they become loaded. I would prefer to not even teach the munter except for a bail-out.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Flash0ver
    I always thought of the Munter as a "last resort" or "bail out" hitch used only for escape situations.
    The Munter is a very functional knot, when used in an application where it is suited.

    I am showing a wilderness rescue bias but I've found the Munter to be incredibly useful in rescue work. It is good for doing quick belays to get rescuers across exposed terrain, protect low-angle terrain, etc.

    Does it meet the whistle test? Is it the preferred choice when belaying a litter w/attendants over the side in a dead vertical hang? No.

    There seems to be a move towards creating overengineered solutions to some of our problems (or sell that new $495/one-application gadget) and we forget that speed and efficiency is part of that safety equation - for both rescuer and victim.

    Never say never and make sure you thoroughly test (including testing to failure) and understand YOUR systems and equipment and how you rig them.

    Just my $.02!

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    I can see using a munter hitch in a low-angle/low weight application. But for speed and efficiency?? Remeber we're talking rope rescue here not RIT or bailouts. How long does it take to wrap two cords around a rope? Less than a minute?

    I just got back from teaching a class in the northern US. For the most part the munter and 540 were the only belay's they were familiar with. During practical session when given the choice. The tandem triple wrap was used most often, followed by the 540.

    I will agree the munter is another tool in the toolbox. I'll think I'll just leave it in the bottom of the tray.

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    People are often mistaken on the use of a munter hitch as a primary belay device. Using the Munter when belaying a single person lead climber, taking into account the amount of rope in-service, is mostly an acceptable belay. Using it as a primary belay for a rescue load or any other similar load is simply DANGEROUS!! You are correct with your beliefs about the whistle test and your safety outlook. If you look at the belay standard from British Columbia Council of Technical Rescue they require a belay stop a 200kg mass (two person load plus equip) tied to 3m of rope with a 1m fall and allow no more than 1m of additional travel with less than 15kn of force. Resqteck (sp) stated why in his earlier post. The munter hitch meets none of these requirements. If you look at the average force created by the above standard and worse case scenario it is around 10kn to 12kn. Tests have shown that the average human can only create approx. 209N with their grip strength. A munter hitch is only about 15% efficient in load transfer, you do the math!! Try having someone hang from a rope (about two feet of the ground) and you see how long you can hold them in place with a munter. Let me know how it goes, I think you will be surprised. Try pulling them back up as well and you will see why it is not that versatile. Don’t worry about push/pull technique because when you have a mainline failure with a rescue load the rope will feed though just fine. The munter has its place in the belay world but not with anything similar or close to a rescue load. Do not be convinced that the munter hitch in no way outperforms the LRH, 540, or Radium release hitch with tandem prusiks. Try your own “drop test” using the munter hitch and see how it goes. You mentioned using the munter on the tripod during con space. Your belay should not be placed on a tripod due to if the tripod fails think about that distance that your rescuers will drop. The belay should be run along the ground and into the entrance when dealing with vertical conspace entrances. Sorry for the confusing reply.

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    i FORGOT TO PROOF READ-MINOR CHANGES

    Quote Originally Posted by CFABRIZIO
    People are often mistaken on the use of a munter hitch as a primary belay device. Using the Munter when belaying a single person lead climber, taking into account the amount of rope in-service, is mostly an acceptable belay. Using it as a primary belay for a rescue load or any other similar load is simply DANGEROUS!! You are correct with your beliefs about the whistle test and your safety outlook. If you look at the belay standard from British Columbia Council of Technical Rescue they require a belay stop a 200kg mass (two person load plus equip) tied to 3m of rope with a 1m fall and allow no more than 1m of additional travel with less than 15kn of force. Resqteck (sp) stated why in his earlier post. The munter hitch meets none of these requirements. If you look at the average force created by the above standard (200KG ON 3M OF ROPE W/1M FALL) and worse case scenario it is around 10kn to 12kn. Tests have shown that the average human can only create approx. 209N with their grip strength. A munter hitch is only about 15% efficient in load transfer, you do the math!! Try having someone hang from a rope (about two feet of the ground) and you see how long you can hold them in place with a munter. Let me know how it goes, I think you will be surprised. Try pulling them back up as well and you will see why it is not that versatile. Don’t worry about push/pull technique because when you have a mainline failure with a rescue load the rope will feed though just fine. The munter has its place in the belay world but not with anything similar or close to a rescue load. DO NOT be convinced that the munter hitch outperforms the LRH, 540, or Radium release hitch with tandem prusiks. Try your own “drop test” using the munter hitch and see how it goes. You mentioned using the munter on the tripod during con space. Your belay should not be placed on a tripod due to if the tripod fails think about that distance that your rescuers will drop. The belay should be run along the ground and into the entrance when dealing with vertical conspace entrances. Sorry for the confusing reply.

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    At our facility we only use the munter in compatition,for speed.
    In rescue the prussik is the only one we use.

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    We stopped teaching the Munter Hitch belay because when shock loaded it can take off and not be stopped. Tandem prussik or 540 belay is how we teach now. Most students and instructors prefer the prussiks.

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    Default everyone has an opinion - few have the facts

    Quote Originally Posted by jmatthe2
    I am finding that the munter hitch is being used significantly in different parts of the country as the primary belay in a rope system. It is being applied in confined space (attaching to tri-pod), vertical rope rescue (rappel belay, and stokes with atendant).
    ... I am trying to embrace the munter hitch. But I need to be convinced it equals or out performs other belay systems.
    Outperforms on what qualities? Compared to which other belay systems?

    Quote Originally Posted by resqtek
    The munter hitch belay is one of the worst performers out there.
    This is the kind of blanket statement that's all but meaningless. How do you measure performance?

    Too many fire rescue (and other) teams still rely on the rescue-8 for lowering or belaying a rescue load. The rescue-8 has less friction than almost any other DCD and twists the rope badly. A munter hitch offers 2-3 times the friction of a rescue-8, and has the advantage of being somewhat self-regulating - the more the load, the more the friction, because it is due to rope-over-rope contact.

    Quote Originally Posted by ADSNWFLD
    If you have the right rope size the grigri is also very nice.
    Beware! You're crossing a very dangerous line here. Best rule of thumb: never use a device beyond the manufacturer's design intention. The grigri was developed only for one-person sport belays and lowers, not for rescue. For rescue (and rope access), Petzl developed its big brother the I'D.

    Quote Originally Posted by CFABRIZIO
    Using it as a primary belay for a rescue load or any other similar load is simply DANGEROUS!! ... A munter hitch is only about 15% efficient in load transfer, you do the math!! Try having someone hang from a rope (about two feet of the ground) and you see how long you can hold them in place with a munter.
    What do you mean by 15% efficient? That it reduces the load by 85%? That would mean, if you do the math, that it can easily accomodate a 300 lb load (45 lb at the brake side).

    To hold a one-person static load, as you challenge, would require perhaps two fingers with a munter hitch. I've used it hundreds of times, and it provides more friction than any sport device on the market. But we're talking rescue...

    Quote Originally Posted by MtnRsq
    The Munter is just another tool in your tool box. It is great for certain applications. You just need to know when it is appropriate. It is great in some applications where a quick belay is needed. It is not the preferred choice in others. Recognizing the difference and making an informed decision is the key.
    This is the only appropriate answer. If one understands the benefits and limitations of each device or technique, then one can choose the proper tool for each application. There are times when an unconditional belay, or even a seperate belay line, is simply not necessary and can cause more problems than it solves.

    As far as the original question: a general rule would be that the munter is an good alternative for either rappeling, lowering, or belaying a one-person load in circumstances that don't require an unconditional belay (such as SRT), but typically inappropriate for multiple-person loads when there is the possiblility of any shock loading.

    - Robert

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    Just my two cents but the munter hitch seems to have a more practical application in the recreational climbing world. In the rescue world we have much safer belay devices ie 540's or the TAndem prussik LRH..so why not use them..

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    Quote Originally Posted by capcityffyter
    In the rescue world we have much safer belay devices ie 540's or the TAndem prussik LRH..so why not use them..
    Safer in what way? Handle larger loads? Take shock loads without malfunctioning? Are "unconditional" (or hands-free, whistle test devices)? Easier to learn, quicker to rig, less problematic to use?

    "Safer" is meaningless unless you define your parameters.

    No device or technique gets high marks on all the above criteria. So, as with any device or technique, it has to be matched to its application.

    If you dismiss any particular device or technique out of hand, then you've only reduced the available tools in the toolbox.

    540's and tandem prusik belays are both susceptible to inadvertent lockup if proper technique is not mastered. The 540 is ridiculously expensive (particularly compared to the tandem prusik), it's a mechanical device that can malfunction. And both of these "unconditional" belays are meant to compensate for a low level of competence and occassional inattention.

    For me, the KISS (keep it simple & safe) principle places skill and simple technique above clever devices or complicated systems which can lead to complacency and inattention or confusion and mistakes.

    - Robert

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    Robert you strayed from SARBC and it's good to see a fresh view on things here. I have been taught to use all the above and there is is no one device that fits all applications. I still prefer the muniter over the 540, tandam prussik, MIO, or Rescue-8 for ease of use.
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    Refering to be 15% efficient in load transfer with a rescue load (200kg) as you have a 10-15kn peak force from a shock load from the standard belay test of the British Columbia Council of Technical Rescue would equate to 8.5kn-12.75kn, alot more than one could handle as tests have shown the average human can grip 209n. This is a suitable belay for lead climbing and one person loads but a rescue size load (200kg) recieving the belay test shock of 1m fall on 3m of rope creates to much force for one person to retain. The BCCTR recommends that the load withstand the fall and travel less than 1m with less than 15kn of force.
    The initial posts asks if the M. hitch is suitable to use in a rescue size load and out preforms other belay devices....refering to rescue size loads. AT THIS TIME multiple test have shown the Radium Release hitch with TPB is the prefered method for belaying a rescue sized load where a belay system would be needed. It is one of few belays that meet the BCCTR standard for belays. Just like any other belay technique it requires competent training and continued practice for safe operation. It is easy to learn and does not require much strength from the belayer.
    If you would like the test results and data go to www.riggingforrescue.com and look under publications. Here you will be able to find the reports on grip strength and belay devices. It is some good reading and should give you all the information you need!

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    Default Munter hitch belay

    While all the empirical drop test data can make the case for the strength of the munter hitch, the original post was asking about it's efficacy for rescue belay. I personally like the munter hitch for several applications - rescue belay is not one of them. A number of years ago (probably about 8 or 9) tests were conducted at our state fire academy of a more "rubber meets the road" kind of test. They took a 300 lb. load and dropped it on both the tandem prussik/LRH (pre-radium releasing hitch) and the munter hitch belay system. The belayer on the munter hitch was a very experienced Rope Rescue Instructor (who as luck would have it also an experienced rodeo rider - incredible grip strenght) who in drop after drop was unable to hold the rope. I can't remember the drop distance, but it was significantly less than a fall factor of 3. For that very reason, I do not use it in our rescues for a belay except as an integral part of the radium releasing hitch. There are better, safer (taking into account complexity and use) ways to accomplish the same thing. I doubt I will change someone's mind who is a diehard munter advocate armed with data on the strength of the system. The problem is that the munter hitch in and of itself, without the use of auxillary braking systems, is not the weak point in the system. The belayer is the winkest link. Our tests indicated to me that even the most competent would have a problem holding the load regardless of the fall factor.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CFABRIZIO
    as you have a 10-15kn peak force from a shock load from the standard belay test of the British Columbia Council of Technical Rescue would equate to 8.5kn-12.75kn, alot more than one could handle as tests have shown the average human can grip 209n. This is a suitable belay for lead climbing and one person loads but a rescue size load (200kg) recieving the belay test shock of 1m fall on 3m of rope creates to much force for one person to retain. The BCCTR recommends that the load withstand the fall and travel less than 1m with less than 15kn of force.
    With all due respect to the BCCTR, their "standard", like any test standard, is arbitrary and does not necessarily reflect the loads and conditions that any particular rescue team is likely to encounter.

    That the standard is quite arbitrary is indicated, among other things, by the fact that the UIAA limit of survivability is 2650 lb. deceleration force (~12kN). Since the human body cannot withstand even that much shock loading without permanent, usually fatal, injury - a 15kn max force seems to be simply pulled out of someone's hat.

    Another arbitrary standard is the 200 kg (440 lb) rescue load. A "rescue" load could be a single-person being lowered to the victim, a two-person pick-off, a high-angle litter with one or two attendents, a low or steep-angle litter with a patient and 3, 4, or 6 attendents. Because a "rescue" load is so variable, depending on application, there can be no one single technique or device appropriate to all. The more tools in the toolbox, the more choices are available to the properly-trained technician.

    AT THIS TIME multiple test have shown the Radium Release hitch with TPB is the prefered method for belaying a rescue sized load where a belay system would be needed. It is one of few belays that meet the BCCTR standard for belays.
    I understand that Rigging for Rescue has determined that this is the only acceptable system (I'm quite familiar with their test results). They are not, however, the last word on rescue systems.

    Just like any other belay technique it requires competent training and continued practice for safe operation. It is easy to learn and does not require much strength from the belayer.
    I've heard from a number of instructors that as often as not the TPB is NOT used properly, that it's difficult to teach and learn well, and that skill retention is often not good. The same is true of the Rescue 540.

    - Robert

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