Twin Rope Technique

Fig. 10-49. Chock picks, left to right: shelf bracket, pit on type, Lee per, skewer type or tent stake. Friend of a Friend.

to remove a chock. Give up if it refuses to budge. Wasting time trying to remove a badly stuck chock only tires you out and delays the climb.

In addition to chocks, carabiners, runners, anda chock pick, a rock climber often carries a belay device, a chalk bag, and tie-off loops (for such uses as emergency prusiking and for tying off a climber after a fall).

HOW TO CARRY THE GEAR

Once you've decided what gear to take, it must be organized for carrying. The technique of organizing the gear is called racking. The collection of gear is the rack.

Typically, pieces of protection are carried on a gear sling which is slung over the head and under one ami. (Climbing shops sell gear slings, or you can make your own by sewing 2-inch flat webbing into a loop and then rolling and sewing about half of it into a rope-like shape.) Single runners are grouped together and slung over the head—on top of the gear sling and under the opposite arm (fig. 10-50a).

Double runners are too long to handle without a little extra work. A double runner can just be doubled before it goes over your head. An alternative method, which makes it easier to get it when you need it, is to drape the double runner over one shoulder and then clip the two ends together under the opposite arm with a carabiner. Make one twist in the runner before attaching the carabiner, which will eliminate the possibility of the carabiner falling off when the runner is removed. When you need the runner, simply unclip the carabiner from one end and yank; the double runner will pull free.

Typical ways to rack gear

The ideal racking method would permit the leader to place protection efficiently and to climb without awkwardness despite carrying the gear. No such ideal method exists, but a variety of compromises are in use.

One carabiner per chock

In one common method, each chock and each runner gets its own carabiner (fig. 10-50b). In this setup, the gate of each carabiner that carries a chock should be up and toward your body, making it easier to unclip the carabiner from the gear sling.

This method can be very efficient for placing protection. The leader simply places the chock in the rock, clips the chock's carabiner to a runner, and clips the runner's carabiner to the rope. Easy.

Disadvantages of this method are bulkiness and poor weight distribution. The rack tends to be wider and more cumbersome, and there are fewer free carabiners. With a carabiner on each runner, the runners are more weighted and tend to shift, making climbing awkward.

Several chocks on one carabiner

In a second method, pieces of protection are grouped together, each group held by a single carabiner (fig. 10-50c). In this setup, the gate of each carabiner that carries a set of chocks is down and facing away from your body. In this method, single runners don't have carabiners, and extra

Fig. 10-50. Example racking methods: a, a climber carrying runners and a typical rack; b, a racking method where most pieces of protection get their own carabiner; c, a racking method where most pieces of protection are grouped together, each group held by a single carabiner.

carabiners are clipped to the gear sling in chains of two or three.

This second method can make climbing easier because it results in a less bulky rack with better weight distribution. But it also can make it more difficult to place protection. First of all, you have to decide whether to remove a single piece from the group of chocks on a carabiner, or to unclip the carabiner and hold the whole batch of chocks up to the placement.

If you've got a good eye and know what you'll want, you can remove a single chock and place it. But a wrong guess means you've got to put the chock back and try again.

On the other hand, if you unclip the carabiner with its batch of chocks, you can easily try out each chock and place the one that fits. You can then clip the carabiner to the rope for safekeeping while you finish constructing the placement. Finally, unclip the carabiner from the chock and return the carabiner and the unused chocks to the gear sling.

This method of racking gear with several chocks per carabiner usually means slower placements and more equipment handling. Even after placing a chock, the leader must handle two free carabiners and a runner to create the extension to the rope. All this increases the danger that the leader will drop gear or become exhausted. But some climbers feel the increased ease of climbing is worth the extra work.

Other methods

There are other ways to rack gear. Some climbers clip a separate carabiner to each larger chock, but group the smaller chocks so that several will be attached to one carabincr.

Some climbers carry part of the equipment on the gear loops of their harnesses. This helps distribute the weight of the rack, but be sure the gear doesn't hang down far enough to interfere with footwork.

Whatever the method, rack the protection in a systematic order that never varies, so you can find a particular piece in a hurry. The usual order is to start at the front with the smallest wired wedges and to work back with larger-size chocks.

A final point on runners

It's a good idea to carry a couple of runners readily accessible on the harness gear loops in case you can't get to the ones slung under one arm. (If that arm is being used in a jam crack, you won't be able to remove the runners.) You can carry quick draws on the gear loops. To shorten a longer runner so it won't trip you up, you can double it or "chain" (fig. 10-51) the runner and attach it to the

Fig. 10-51. "Chaining" a long runner: a, form a slip knot; h, pull runner through the loop formed by the slip knot; c, repeat this process until the runner is "chained"; d, the final loop can be attached to a carabiner for carrying and to ensure it does not unravel.

harness. When needed, just shake out the chained runner to remove the knots.

PLANNING THE ROUTE

The question of finding your way to the top depends on where you're climbing. If you're sport climbing in a popular spot, just follow the line of fixed pins and bolts, or look up the climb in the guidebook.

There's more involved in finding the route in alpine rock climbing. Even with a guidebook, the description may be sketchy: "Ascend NE Buttress for several hundred feet of moderate climbing." Figure on some planning and routefinding.

Start working out the route as soon as you can see the buttress, face, ridge, or whatever you plan to climb. Look for major features that the line of ascent might follow: crack systems, dihedrals, chimneys, areas of broken rock. Note areas of small trees or bushes that could indicate belay ledges.

Keep an eye out for deceptively tempting lines that lead to broad roofs or blank walls. These may not be visible from near the start of the ascent and if the climbers don't pay attention on the approach, they could climb four or five pitches only to hit a dead end.

Develop a flexible plan for the line of ascent, keeping in mind likely alternatives. Continue planning and routefinding as the actual climb begins, looking for more local features. The general principles are the same: look for natural lines to follow, such as cracks, chimneys and ledges; form a tentative plan for the pitch, perhaps including a place for the first piece of protection and a spot for the next belay station; and note alternative moves in case the planned line leads to a blank wall. Be prepared to look around the corner for easier alternatives not visible from below.

Faced with a choice between pitches of differing difficulty, look at the next pitch before deciding. It's better to climb two moderate pitches than to go for an easy pitch and then be faced with one that exceeds the party's ability.

On the way up, keep track of retreat possibili ties in case the climb is aborted, as well as good descent routes from the summit if you don't know of any established route.

PLANNING THE BELAY

It's simple enough: if it's a one-pitch climb, the second belay setup only needs to be directed against a downward pull from the second climber. If it's a multipitch climb, the belay station will also be used to belay the next lead. The climber who sets up this dual-purpose station should try to arrange anchors that will handle the downward pull from the second climber and then, with minimal change, the upward pull of the leader. An efficient belay setup is faster, safer, and leaves more time for climbing.

CLEANING A PITCH

The climber who follows and cleans a pitch should be neat and efficient. A second who is slow and sloppy can drop chocks, allow dangling protection to dangerously interfere with the next move, and hold up the climb while the hardware is untangled at the belay station.

Here are some suggestions for the second:

Start preparing to climb as soon as the leader is off belay. Get out of the belay setup and break down the anchor system (staying clipped into one anchor until you are on belay).

Put on the pack before anything else, except perhaps a hardware sling. Rack all chocks and carabiners on a hardware sling or runner worn over one shoulder and under the opposite arm; then put your runners over the other shoulder and under the other arm. Give the area a last look to make sure nothing is left. Then, once you are on a belay, start climbing.

Remove a chock in reverse order of the way it was placed. If it was slotted down and behind a constriction, remove it by pushing back and up.

Be persistent. Although vigorous pulling or tugging may only set the chock more solidly, it may be necessary to tap or wiggle the chock to free it. Sometimes it takes a lot of work.

Carry a chock pick. You'll need it to tug and push on stubborn placements. Some chock picks also can be used to pull the retraction trigger on a spring-loaded camming device that has "walked" back into a crack. Wired chocks can also sometimes be used for that purpose.

Consider leaving the chock behind if it won't budge. Sure, they're expensive. But you can waste too much time and energy on a chock that won't come out.

The second can minimize the risk of dropping gear by using a careful cleaning procedure, which may depend on how you prefer to rack the hardware. In general, cleaning from the rock to the rope is best.

Consider a typical placement consisting of chock-carabiner-runner-carabiner-rope. If your rack features one carabiner on each chock and on each runner, the following cleaning procedure is very efficient. First, remove the chock from the crack. Hold the carabiner that is clipped to the chock, unclip it from the runner, and clip the cara-biner-chock combination directly to your gear sling. Then loop the runner over your head, unclip the carabiner from the rope, slip the carabiner-run-ner combination under one arm and continue climbing.

If your rack features several chocks per carabiner, the following cleaning procedure works well with that method. First, remove the chock from the crack, unclip it, and rack it. Then remove the carabiner from the runner and rack it, then the runner, and finally the carabiner on the rope.

TRANSFERRING EQUIPMENT AT THE TOP OF A PITCH

If the second was neat and efficient in cleaning the pitch, organizing gear as it was removed, the transfer at the belay station will probably go quickly and the fun can resume.

First reconstruct the original leader's rack. The second clips the removed pieces to the leader's rack or hands them to the leader, who can rack them. Caution: don't drop any gear. The second then passes over the removed runners. If the original leader plans to lead the next pitch, the climbers then carefully switch places in the belay setup. This is one way to do it, but if the second is also a competent leader, it's a lot more efficient to swing leads, with the second now taking the lead.

To swing leads, the second usually takes over the leader's rack and runners. The original leader hands the runners to the second (an arm makes a good "post" to place the runners on). The rack is next, passed to the second, who places it over the head and under one arm. The runners then go over the head and under the other arm. The new leader checks and adjusts the rack to ensure that everything is ready for the new lead. During this whole procedure, the new leader stays clipped into a separate anchor and, as a backup, can remain on belay.

RUNNING BELAYS

The running belay is an old technique that is still occasionally used for the time it saves. Both climbers tie in and move simultaneously. There is no belayer. The leader places occasional protection and clips the rope through it. The leader also can weave between blocks and spires to take advantage of natural protection. The climbers can reduce rope friction and also stay closer together for communication by carrying some of the rope coiled. In any case, the follower usually carries a few coils in hand to avoid unpleasant jerks when the leader moves fast.

In a fall, the rope—running through the protection—will be held at some point by the weight of the other climber, because the rope is tied to both climbers' harnesses and neither is anchored. The friction of rope running over rock or snow also helps slow the fall. This technique probably only makes the difference between serious injury and total disaster. If either climber falls, both may fall—and a big fall is arrested only by dragging one's partner.

A running belay is not to be confused with moving in coils, which is simply carrying the rope over truly easy ground without using intermediate protection and when any type of belay is unnecessary.

HAULING PACKS

You may decide to shed your pack sometime because you can't fit inside a chimney with it or because the weight would make a pitch too difficult. Then you'll have to haul the pack up after you.

One way to handle this chore is to trail a rope behind you as you climb, tied to the pack down below. This can be either the unneeded end of the climbing rope, if the pitch is short enough, or a separate rope. At the end of the pitch, put in an anchor, haul the pack up hand-over-hand, untie it, and throw the end of the rope down to haul up your partner's pack. If you lack extra rope, have your partner untie from the climbing rope so you can pull it up through the protection and toss the end down for pack hauling.

Ice axes are often hauled separately so there is less danger the pack will snag as it is being pulled up. Tie the ice axe, and any other gear, securely to the rope.

Be sure you have a compelling reason for shedding your pack. If you're doing it only because climbing without it is more fun, think twice. Hauling packs takes valuable time, especially when they get stuck, and they do. It's also hard work that can rob you of precious arm strength. And remember, packs launch rocks.

CLIMBING WITH A PARTY OF THREE

Most rock climbing is done in teams of two, but occasionally a party will end up with three climbers. This works, though it's usually more awkward than climbing with just two.

A three-person team climbing on one rope is limited to pitches of only 70 to 80 feet, just half the rope length. Because many climbs have pitches much longer than this, a three-person team may need to carry two ropes.

With three climbers, the leader climbs while the second belays and the third remains anchored at the belay station. At the top of the pitch, the leader sets up a belay and brings up the second (who can also be belayed from below by the third).

If the pitch follows a straight line up, the second can clean the pitch. But if the line includes some traversing, the protection should stay in for the third climber, to help prevent a pendulum fall. In this situation, the second climber unclips each piece of protection from the first rope and clips it to the second rope. At the top of the pitch, the belay is reset to bring up the third climber. The climbers then may decide to swing leads, with the third climber leading the next pitch. The second generally doesn't do any leading in a party of three.

With all the anchors, ropes, and climbers involved, it can get messy and confusing at the belay station. A lot of time can be taken up setting and resetting belays. Throughout the commotion, it's critical that each of the three climbers be securely anchored. (The belay stations on some tough climbs are so small they couldn't accommodate a three-person team in the first place.)

There are occasional advantages to a three-per-son team, such as the added help in hauling packs and the availability of an extra rope if a full-length rappel is required. But the disadvantages usually outweigh the advantages.

SPECIAL ROPE TECHNIQUES

Much of this book describes climbing situations in which only a single rope, with a diameter between 10 and 11 millimeters, is used. However, climbers can opt for a system that uses two separate ropes (double-rope technique) instead of a single rope, or another in which two smaller-diameter ropes are used as one to replace the single rope (twin-rope technique).

Double-rope technique

Double-rope technique uses two ropes that serve as independent belay lines. The leader clips each rope into its own protection points on the way up, and a single belayer manages the ropes separately.

Yes, it's complicated, but the system offers some important rewards, such as reduced rope drag and safer traverses. The technique is widely used by British climbers and by an increasing number of climbers everywhere to protect highly technical routes. Double-rope technique usually employs b

Soloist Rock Exotica

Fig. 10—52. Double-rope technique: a, correct, the two ropes do not cross but run straight to reduce rope drag; b, incorrect, the two ropes cross and run in a zig-zag, increasing rope drag.

color-coded 9-millimeter ropes.

The leader clips one rope into one series of protection placements and the other rope into another series, the goal being to keep each rope in as straight a line as possible so rope drag is at a minimum (fig. 10-52). The drag is usually less than what it would be on a single rope on the same pitch because the single rope would have to follow a more meandering route. The double ropes typically run in roughly parallel routes, and do not cross. However, if both ropes must be attached to one protection placement, each rope should be attached using a separate carabiner.

The system also helps reduce the worries of the leader who is straining to clip in to the next piece of protection. In single-rope climbing, the rope is slack as the climber pulls up a big hunk of it to clip the next placement. But on a double rope, only the one rope is slack if the belayer is holding the other snug. If the climber falls at this point, the fall will be taken on the nearest placement used by the snug rope, usually making for a shorter fall.

The system has the advantage that both ropes are unlikely to be cut by sharp rock edges or b

INCORRECT

Fig. 10—52. Double-rope technique: a, correct, the two ropes do not cross but run straight to reduce rope drag; b, incorrect, the two ropes cross and run in a zig-zag, increasing rope drag.

Fig. 10-53. Advantages of double-rope technique: a, using a single rope, the second climber will be exposed to a longer pendulum fall after traversing beyond the first protection; b, using double-rope technique, one rope can utilize the first protection and then be left free to safeguard the second on the traverse; c, off-line protection can be utilized to minimize or eliminate the pendulum risk.

Fig. 10-53. Advantages of double-rope technique: a, using a single rope, the second climber will be exposed to a longer pendulum fall after traversing beyond the first protection; b, using double-rope technique, one rope can utilize the first protection and then be left free to safeguard the second on the traverse; c, off-line protection can be utilized to minimize or eliminate the pendulum risk.

Pendulum Risk When Falling

rockfall, or to otherwise fail, at the same time. And it provides two ropes for rappels.

The double ropes can also be used to protect a traverse, particularly one at the start or the middle of a pitch which then goes straight up. In the event of a fall, without a second rope the second climber risks a long pendulum (see Fig. 10-53a). With double ropes, the pendulum can be minimized or avoided. The leader can use one of the ropes for protection on the traverse and leave the other free to protect the second from above (see Fig. 10-53b, 10-53c).

Disadvantages of the double-rope technique? The two ropes weigh more and cost more than the single rope (though often each climber will contribute one rope). The principal problem is that the

belayer's job is more complex as he must handle the movements of two ropes, often letting out slack on one rope while taking it in on the other. For this type of climbing a double slot Sticht belay plate is particularly useful, though other belay techniques can be used. Moreover, the rope has to be constantly monitored to avoid tangling or kinking. With practice these difficulties are soon mastered, and on long and complex rock pitches the advantages vastly outweigh the disadvantages.

Twin-rope technique

Twin-rope technique—with two ropes used as one—features ropes that are 8 to 8.8 millimeters in diameter. Both ropes are clipped into each piece of protection, just as in single rope technique (fig. 10-54).

The twin ropes absorb more energy and thus can withstand more falls than a single rope. Two ropes also are safer running over an edge, as it's unlikely that both ropes would be cut through at the same time. The smaller-diameter ropes are individually easier for the lead climber to handle than a standard single rope.

However, the technique means the belayer has to handle and belay with two ropes, so rope management is tricky. As with the double-rope method, both belayer and leader need a good bit of practice before taking this technique out on the cliffs. And again, twin ropes cost more than a standard single rope.

Fig. 10-54. Twin-rope technique: two small-diameter ropes are used as one, with both attached to each protection placement .
Rope Course Cable Guide
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