During all lead climbing, each climber in the team is either anchored or being belayed.
a. Lead climbing with two climbers is the preferred combination for movement on technically difficult terrain. Two climbers are at least twice as fast as three climbers, and are efficient for installing a "fixed rope," probably the most widely used rope installation in the mountains. A group of three climbers are typically used on moderate snow, ice, and snow-covered glaciers where the rope team can often move at the same time, stopping occasionally to set up belays on particularly difficult sections. A group or team of three climbers is sometimes used in rock climbing because of an odd number of personnel, a shortage of ropes (such as six climbers and only two ropes), or to protect and assist an individual who has little or no experience in climbing and belaying. Whichever technique is chosen, a standard roped climbing procedure is used for maximum speed and safety.
b. When the difficulty of the climbing is within the "leading ability" of both climbers, valuable time can be saved by "swinging leads." This is normally the most efficient method for climbing multipitch routes. The second finishes cleaning the first pitch and continues climbing, taking on the role of lead climber. Unless he requires equipment from the other rack or desires a break, he can climb past the belay and immediately begin leading. The belayer simply adjusts his position, re-aiming the belay once the new leader begins placing protection. Swinging leads, or "leap frogging," should be planned before starting the climb so the leader knows to anchor the upper belay for both upward and downward pulls during the setup.
c. The procedures for conducting a lead climb with a group of two are relatively simple. The most experienced individual is the "lead" climber or leader, and is responsible for selecting the route. The leader must ensure the route is well within his ability and the ability of the second. The lead climber carries most of the climbing equipment in order to place protection along the route and set up the next belay. The leader must also ensure that the second has the necessary equipment, such as a piton hammer, nut tool, etc., to remove any protection that the leader may place.
(1) The leader is responsible for emplacing protection frequently enough and in such a manner that, in the event that either the leader or the second should fall, the fall will be neither long enough nor hard enough to result in injury. The leader must also ensure that the rope is routed in a way that will allow it to run freely through the protection placements, thus minimizing friction, or "rope drag".
(2) The other member of the climbing team, the belayer (sometimes referred to as the "second"), is responsible for belaying the leader, removing the belay anchor, and retrieving the protection placed by the leader between belay positions (also called "cleaning the pitch").
(3) Before the climb starts, the second will normally set up the first belay while the leader is arranging his rack. When the belay is ready, the belayer signals, "BELAY ON", affirming that the belay is "on" and the rope will be managed as necessary. When the leader is ready, he double checks the belay. The leader can then signal, "CLIMBING", only as a courtesy, to let the belayer know he is ready to move. The belayer can reply with "CLIMB", again, only as a courtesy, reaffirming that the belay is "on" and the rope will be managed as necessary. The leader then begins climbing.
(4) While belaying, the second must pay close attention to the climber's every move, ensuring that the rope runs free and does not inhibit the climber's movements. If he cannot see the climber, he must "feel" the climber through the rope. Unless told otherwise by the climber, the belayer can slowly give slack on the rope as the climber proceeds on the route. The belayer should keep just enough slack in the rope so the climber does not have to pull it through the belay. If the climber wants a tighter rope, it can be called for. If the belayer notices too much slack developing in the rope, the excess rope should be taken in quickly. It is the belayer's responsibility to manage the rope, whether by sight or feel, until the climber tells him otherwise.
(5) As the leader protects the climb, slack will sometimes be needed to place the rope through the carabiner (clipping), in a piece of protection above the tie-in point on the leaders harness. In this situation, the leader gives the command "SLACK" and the belayer gives slack, (if more slack is needed the command will be repeated). The leader is able to pull a bight of rope above the tie-in point and clip it into the carabiner in the protection above. When the leader has completed the connection, or the clip, the command "TAKE ROPE" is given by the leader and the belayer takes in the remaining slack.
(6) The leader continues on the route until either a designated belay location is reached or he is at the end of or near the end of the rope. At this position, the leader sets an anchor, connects to the anchor and signals "OFF BELAY". The belayer prepares to climb by removing all but at least one of his anchors and secures the remaining equipment. The belayer remains attached to at least one anchor until the command "BELAY ON" is given.
d. When the leader selects a particular route, he must also determine how much, and what types, of equipment might be required to safely negotiate the route. The selected equipment must be carried by the leader. The leader must carry enough equipment to safely protect the route, additional anchors for the next belay, and any other items to be carried individually such as rucksacks or individual weapons.
(1) The leader will assemble, or "rack," the necessary equipment onto his harness or onto slings around the head and shoulder. A typical leader "rack" consists of:
• Six to eight small wired stoppers on a carabiner.
• Four to six medium to large wired stoppers on a carabiner.
• Assorted hexentrics, each on a separate carabiner.
• SLCDs of required size, each on a separate carabiner.
• Five to ten standard length runners, with two carabiners on each.
• Two to three double length runners, with two carabiners on each.
• Extra carabiners.
Note: The route chosen will dictate, to some degree, the necessary equipment. Members of a climbing team may need to consolidate gear to climb a particular route.
(2) The belayer and the leader both should carry many duplicate items while climbing.
• Belay device (a combination belay/rappel device is multifunctional).
• Rappel device (a combination belay/rappel device is multifunctional).
• Large locking carabiner (pear shape carabiners are multifunctional).
• Extra carabiners.
Note: If using an over the shoulder gear sling, place the items in order from smallest to the front and largest to the rear.
e. Leading a difficult pitch is the most hazardous task in roped climbing. The lead climber may be exposed to potentially long, hard falls and must exercise keen judgment in route selection, placement of protection, and routing of the climbing rope through the protection. The leader should try to keep the climbing line as direct as possible to the next belay to allow the rope to run smoothly through the protection with minimal friction. Protection should be placed whenever the leader feels he needs it, and BEFORE moving past a difficult section.
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