Speed And Safety

A speedy ascent is sometimes an important part of safety on an alpine climb. On long routes, speed minimizes the risk of being caught by darkness. It provides extra time to deal with equipment breakdown, routefinding problems, injury, or illness. It lessens the length of exposure to rockfall, storms, or lightning.

Speed doesn't mean careless rushing. It means developing efficiency in such activities as testing holds, belaying, exchanging gear, and rope management. It means looking ahead at the route, formulating a plan, and moving smoothly ahead without thrashing over routefinding dilemmas.

As a team, climbing efficiently requires planning and practice, as well as development of a systematic approach to all basic activities. Moving efficiently over the rock saves a lot of time, promotes safety, and conserves energy for each member of a climbing team.

A light pack helps in completing a route quickly. Safety lies in having enough gear to do the climb and survive unexpected situations—not in carrying every piece of gear and shelter that might possibly come in handy.

The size of the climbing party and of the rope teams has an important bearing on speed. The more rope teams there are, the slower the party generally will move. However, rope teams of two are considerably more efficient than teams of three on an alpine route. Other things being equal, two rope teams of two can move much more quickly than a single team of three.

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