Episode 4 – Is the Belay Competency Drop Test Still Valid?

 Contributors in this Episode


To be prepared for an edge transition gone wrong, the Belay Competency Drop Test is supposed to be representative of a fall onto a second line from your main line during an edge transition. The Belay Competency Drop Test is a 200kg mass falling 1 meter onto 3 meters of rope with no more than 1 meter of rope slipping through the device and the maximum arresting force felt on the anchor should be no more than 15 KN. This is now an ASTM standard: ASTM F2436 – 14(2019). In this episode hosted by Kelly Byrne with guests John McKently, LeRoy Harbach and Wayne Chapman we discuss the question, ‘Is the belay competency drop test and whistle test (where everyone lets go of the system at once) still a valid test method or rigging paradigm?’ and is there a better way?

Topics Discussed:

  • What is the Belay Competency Drop Test?
  • Brief history of past papers and arguments discussing the topic.
  • How do you have a good test to test something where you have to let go of it to make it work?
  • Is there a way to account for the human element?
  • Is there a better test?
  • If one line fails, is it still controllable?
  • Where do you want your best guy?
  • What is the safest belay system?
  • When was the last time there was a main line failure during a real operation as opposed to training?



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  • Many of the activities discussed in this podcast pose a very substantial risk of serious injury or death.
  • Products and techniques discussed in this podcast are intended for use by specially trained professionals.
  • Technical rescue, rappelling, climbing and the training involved are very hazardous activities. Each situation has its own unique conditions and must be evaluated by those present. Effective risk management comes from experience, proper training and good personal judgment.
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