The rope, more than any other piece of equipment, symbolizes climbing and the climber's dependence on another person. Most climbers remember that very first tie-in—and their sudden dependence on the rope and on their partner or partners who joined them on that length of lifesav-ing line.
The rope is a "safety net" to catch you when the difficulty of a pitch exceeds your abilities or when the unexpected happens—a foothold crumbles, a snow bridge collapses, or a falling rock knocks you off an exposed stance. It is also fundamental to climbing because, when anchored, it can be climbed or descended.
The rope does not work alone in protecting you, but is one link in your chain of safety. Other links in that chain include the knots that allow you to use the rope for specialized tasks, the seat harness the rope is tied to, the loops of webbing known as runners that help connect the rope to rock or snow, and the carabiners that join parts of the climbing system. These links are the topics of this chapter.
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