Rope drag can cause confusion when belaying the second or follower up to a new belay position. Rope drag can be mistaken for the climber, causing the belayer to not take in the necessary slack in the rope and possibly resulting in a serious fall.
(a) If it is not possible to place all the protection so the carabiners form a straight line as the rope moves through, you should "extend" the protection (Figure 6-31, page 6-52). Do this by attaching an appropriate length sling, or runner, to the protection to extend the rope connection in the necessary direction. The runner is attached to the protection's carabiner while the rope is clipped into a carabiner at the other end of the runner. Extending placements with runners will allow the climber to vary the route slightly while the rope continues to run in a relatively straight line.
(b) Not only is rope drag a hindrance, it can cause undue movement of protection as the rope tightens between any "out of line" placements. Rope drag through chock placements can be dangerous. As the climber moves above the placements, an outward or upward pull from rope drag may cause correctly set chocks to pop out, even when used "actively". Most all chocks placed for leader protection should be extended with a runner, even if the line is direct to eliminate the possibility of movement.
(c) Wired chocks are especially prone to wiggling loose as the rope pulls on the stiff cable attachment. All wired chocks used for leader protection should be extended to reduce the chance of the rope pulling them out (Figure 6-32). Some of the larger chocks, such as roped Hexentrics and Tri-Cams, have longer slings pre-attached that will normally serve as an adequate runner for the placement. Chocks with smaller sling attachments must often be extended with a runner. Many of today's chocks are manufactured with pre-sewn webbing installed instead of cable.
(d) When a correctly placed piton is used for protection, it will normally not be affected by rope drag. A correctly placed piton is generally a multi-directional anchor, therefore, rope drag through pitons will usually only affect the leader's movements but will continue to protect as expected.
(e) Rope drag will quite often move SLCDs out of position, or "walk" them deeper into the crack than initially placed, resulting in difficult removal or inability to remove them at all. Furthermore, most cases of SLCD movement result in the SLCD moving to a position that does not provide protection in the correct direction or no protection at all due to the lobes being at different angles from those at the original position.
Note: Any placement extended with a runner will increase the distance of a potential fall by the actual length of the sling. Try to use the shortest runners possible, ensuring they are long enough to function properly.
f. Belaying the follower is similar to belaying a top-roped climb in that the follower is not able to fall any farther than rope stretch will allow. This does not imply there is no danger in following. Sharp rocks, rock fall, and inadequately protected traverses can result in damage to equipment or injury to the second.
g. Following, or seconding, a leader has a variety of responsibilities. The second has to issue commands to the leader, as well as follow the leader's commands. Once the lead climber reaches a good belay position, he immediately establishes an anchor and connects to it. When this is completed he can signal "OFF BELAY" to the belayer. The second can now remove the leader's belay and prepare to climb. The second must remain attached to at least one of the original anchors while the leader is preparing the next belay position. The removed materials and hardware can be organized and secured on the second's rack in preparation to climb.
(1) When the leader has established the new belay position and is ready to belay the follower, the "new" belayer signals "BELAY ON." The second, now the climber, removes any remaining anchor hardware/materials and completes any final preparations. The belayer maintains tension on the rope, unless otherwise directed, while the final preparations are taking place, since removal of these remaining anchors can introduce slack into the rope. When the second is ready, he can, as a courtesy, signal "CLIMBING," and the leader can, again as a courtesy, reply with "CLIMB."
(2) Upon signaling "BELAY ON," the belayer must remove and keep all slack from the rope. (This is especially important as in many situations the belayer cannot see the follower. A long pitch induces weight and sometimes "drag" on the rope and the belayer above will have difficulty distinguishing these from a rope with no slack.)
h. When removing protection, the man cleaning the pitch should rack it properly to facilitate the exchange and or arrangement of equipment at the end of the pitch. When removing the protection, or "cleaning the pitch", SLCDs or chocks may be left attached to the rope to prevent loss if they are accidentally dropped during removal. If necessary, the hardware can remain on the rope until the second reaches a more secure stance. If removing a piton, the rope should be unclipped from the piton to avoid the possibility of damaging the rope with a hammer strike.
(1) The second may need to place full body weight on the rope to facilitate use of both hands for protection removal by giving the command "TENSION." The second must also ensure that he does not climb faster than the rope is being taken in by the belayer. If too much slack develops, he should signal "TAKE ROPE" and wait until the excess is removed before continuing the climb. Once the second completes the pitch, he should immediately connect to the anchor. Once secured, he can signal "OFF BELAY." The leader removes the belay, while remaining attached to an anchor. The equipment is exchanged or organized in preparation for the next pitch or climb.
(2) 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 multi-pitch routes. The second finishes cleaning the first pitch and continues climbing, taking on the role of lead climber. Unless he requires equipment from the belayer 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.
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