The Trad Climber's Guide To Problem Solving

  • 0 0 0
  • Like this paper and download? You can publish your own PDF file online for free in a few minutes! Sign Up
File loading please wait...
Citation preview

Sold to [email protected]

The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving E-Book Edition © VDiff 2019. All rights reserved. This publication is the property of VDiff. Writer and illustrator: Neil Chelton Photographers: - Alex Ratson - James Rushforth - Andy Kirkpatrick - Maria Parkes Front Cover: Lynne Hempton on Via Myriam, Cinque Torri, Dolomites, Italy. Photographer: James Rushforth

Warning: Climbing is Dangerous This book is intended for climbers who are competent at basic trad climbing skills such as: - Placing trad gear - Building trad anchors - Abseiling - Multi-pitch climbing This book is designed to be supplemented with practical instruction from qualified professionals. Do not rely on it as your primary source of rock climbing information. If you are unsure about any of the information given in this book, it is strongly recommended that you seek qualified instruction. Failure to do this may result in serious injury or death. The writers and employees of VDiff disclaim all responsibility and liability for any injuries or losses incurred by any person participating in the activities described in this book.

Terminology To simplify and standardize the terminology in this book, the following terms will be referred to as: In this book GriGri Prusik Abseil ATC

Other names Assisted-braking belay device Friction hitch Rappel Tube-style belay device

The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving Self-Rescue Techniques

The Aim of This Book There are thousands of poor situations you could encounter when trad climbing, most of which do not have a textbook solution. At the crag or in the mountains, there are an endless amount of everchanging variables. Problems may be solved much differently depending on what gear you have available, how windy it is, how close you are to the ground or how loose the rock is. This book introduces the basics of problem solving and encourages you to develop the flexibility to craft a solution for each unique situation. However, this book alone is of limited use. An essential part of the learning process is to go to the crag with your climbing partner and physically ppppppppppp

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving

practise the techniques described. Challenge each other to improvise different solutions for each problem. The more times you solve similar problems with similar variables, the easier they are to solve again. Over time, these common problems will be solved subconsciously. When you combine the theories in this book with real-life practise, your decisions will, hopefully, start to get better and become more subconscious. That is the aim of this book. See you out there, Neil Chelton VDiff Founder




Accident Prevention


Advanced Anchor Building




Lead Skills



124 Essential Knots

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving


Accident Prevention 8

The First Bad Decision




How To Practise

Climb: The South African Route, Torres del Paine, Patagonia. Photographer: Neil Chelton.

The First Bad Decision The vast majority of climbing accidents are preventable. They typically happen due to a series of bad choices. A single bad decision is often not a problem – if you realize it straight away and can do something about it. The problem begins when you allow your bad decision to lead onto another, and another. When combined, these decisions can result in disaster. In the summer of 2010, I decided to rope solo a long multi-pitch in Yosemite, California. I chose to use two ropes; a lead rope to belay myself with and a haul rope to pull up a haulbag containing my food, water and other equipment. I’d practised this self-belaying system before, but I didn’t have time to become competent at it before the climb (first bad decision). I knew the theories of self-rescue, but I hadn’t actually practised the techniques in real life (second bad decision). In Yosemite, the temperature was a blistering 100°F and forecast to stay that way for the duration of my climb. ssssssssss

My chosen route was in direct sunlight all day, but I decided to climb it anyway (third bad decision). Despite knowing how much water I should bring, I decided to save weight and bring less (fourth bad decision), thinking that I would somehow just be able to climb faster. I eventually ran out of water, of course, still with many pitches above. The combined effect of my four bad decisions had left me exhausted, dehydrated and completely uncertain that I’d actually be able to retreat to the ground by myself. My mouth was so dry it felt like I was constantly inhaling boiling sand. This caused me to make my fifth bad decision – to rush upwards as fast as I could, placing minimal gear and taking massive risks. And that’s when it all went wrong. My haulbag was stuck, 30 meters below. I had to abseil down to dislodge it. I would just be able to reach by abseiling on the other side of my 60 meter haul rope. Due to some combination of fear, delusion aaaaaaaa

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Accident Prevention


and panic caused by my five previous bad decisions, I neglected to use my other rope as a back-up. The haulbag acted as a counter-weight as I descended. But only because it was stuck, not because of its weight (it was almost empty). I pulled the haulbag free, then realized my sixth bad decision the moment it slid away from my fingertips. The fall started slow. I tried to keep pace by running down the rock but I immediately tripped over and forwardrolled down the wall in a tangle of slings, screams and wide-eyed terror. The haulbag picked up speed exponentially and was soon rocketing up towards the belay, while I tumbled out of control. It felt like I was falling forever.

Luck was on my side. Instead of hitting ledges and spiky blocks, I fell in between them. The haulbag jammed into the belay and I survived the 30 meter fall with just a few scrapes and a bruised ego. I continued up, teetering on the brink of a peculiar kind of madness. A few pitches higher, I found an ancient gallon of water on a small ledge. I sat there and drank the whole thing. Life became good again and I made it to the summit. It’s a good skill to be able to catch yourself making that first bad decision. Think about how this decision narrows your choices further on in the climb and the problems it may create. If you can master that, you are well on your way to having a safe climbing career.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Accident Prevention


Psychology Exhaustion Climbers often make decisions differently when tired, hungry, cold or in a rush for whatever reason. Shortcuts are made. Safety is compromised. Accidents become more likely to happen. In some situations (such as finishing that final pitch when a huge storm is just starting), it can be safer to cut corners and speed things up. However, in most situations the safer option takes longer. It is important to understand why you are making a potentially dangerous decision. Have you ever abseiled off a poor anchor because you were cold or tired and wanted to get down faster? Having the ability to make good decisions when exhausted is a great skill to have.

Risk Risks are part of the climbing game. Falling is an obvious risk, but others are more subtle. For example, if you don’t know how to escape the belay with your chosen setup (see page 85), you risk being unable to help your partner in an emergency. The more problems you can solve, the more ‘risks’ you can take. This doesn’t mean you can climb more dangerous routes. It means you can climb bigger routes in more remote places while being competent enough to solve any problems that you may encounter. Before making a decision, ask yourself this: If you take the risk and it doesn’t go in your favour, can you solve the problem that it creates?

Confidence Vs Competence Most accidents involving leader falls happen because the leader did not protect the route as well as they could. Protection was available, but the leader either placed gear poorly or chose not to place any when they had the option. There are three types of climber who do not protect routes well: - Beginners (because they haven’t yet learnt how to place gear properly) - Competent climbers on easy routes (because the chance of falling is near zero) - Over confident climbers (because they are trying to appear competent to their belayer or impress whoever is watching) Climbers often mistake confidence for competence, or to put it more simply – how good you think you are with how good you actually are. Being overconfident is fine in a safe environment, such as the indoor gym. Confidence will cause you to try hard moves and improve your physical technique. However, it will not cause good gear placements to appear when you need them, or that loose flake to hold your weight when you stand on it. Being humble about your ability and immortality will help you make better decisions and prevent problems in the first place.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Accident Prevention


Heroes It is often seen as more heroic to climb a route in a more dangerous style, with the ultimate heroes being those who can free-solo everything. The climbing media only reinforces this message. Photos of helmet-less climbers and videos of Alex Honnold free-soloing El Cap may be impressive to watch, but it ccoooooooooccccc

encourages everyday climbers adopt poor safety standards.


It’s important to understand why you are choosing a particular style of ascent. Are you doing something dangerous because you are competent? Or are you just trying to be a hero?

How To Practise It is essential to practise the techniques described in this book before you actually use them in real life situations. You should aim to reach a level of competence where you can set up any system without needing to refer back to this book.

outside at the crag. Many skills can be practised with the same top rope. For example, with a single rope fixed to an anchor, you can practise the Zabseil, tandem abseiling, the carabiner brake, abseiling past a knot and prusiking.

Some of the skills can be practised at ground level (e.g: tying knots or building anchors), whereas others require a top rope to be set up. This could be done inside at the gym or oooooooo

However you choose to practise, always go with a partner and always make sure to back up any system which you are not familiar with.

Partner belays you on a separate top rope

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Accident Prevention

Fixed rope to practise techniques


Advanced Anchor Building 14

Equalization Considerations


Self-Equalizing Anchors


Building Anchors with the Rope


Building Anchors with Minimal Gear

Climb: Stately Pleasure Dome, Tuolumne Meadows, California. Photographer: Maria Parkes.

Equalization Considerations In Trad Climbing Basics, we introduced various methods of creating belay master points by tying an overhand knot in a sling or cordelette. These methods are safe, simple and perfect for most situations that a beginner trad climber would find themselves in. However, they have drawbacks in more complicated belay dddddddddd

Loading Direction When loaded directly downwards, each piece of this anchor will take 33.3% of the load. If the loading direction changes (e.g; the climber mmmmmmmmm 33.3%



setups. The main problem with the overhand knot is that it does not spread the load equally between the pieces, especially if one strand is short, or if the loading direction changes. This uneven distribution of force could mean that all of the force is applied to the poorest piece of the anchor.

moves to one side and then falls), 100% of the force will go onto one piece. This could cause that piece to fail. 0%

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Anchor Building




Strand Length If one strand of the cordelette is much shorter than the others, more force will be applied to the short strand when weighted. This is because a short strand reaches maximum stretch before a longer strand.




These concepts are easier to understand if you imagine how elastic bands would stretch in these situations. The same is true for dynamic rope. More force is applied to the top bolt in this case. ~70% ~30%

Number of Strands A double strand of cord (or rope) stretches less than a single strand when weighted. More force is applied to the right piece in the example below. ~20%



In this anchor, the strand of cord on the center piece has been doubled up to keep the master point higher. Because of this, more force will be applied to the center piece when weighted. ~25%

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Anchor Building




Similarly, more force is applied to the upper two pieces in this anchor. ~40%



Getting perfect equalization is not so important for situations when each piece of the belay is bomber. In most cases, the variations described on the previous pages are fine.

However, in more complicated belay setups, or for equalizing marginal lead protection, a self-equalizing method could be much safer.

Self-Equalizing Anchors Advantages The main advantage of using a selfequalizing anchor is that it continues to distribute the load equally between the anchor pieces as the loading direction changes. This maintains a lower force on each piece, therefore decreasing the likelihood of anchor point failure. This is especially useful when equalizing marginal pieces of lead protection.

Disadvantages The main disadvantage of using selfequalizing knots at the anchor is that if one piece fails, the whole belay shifts. This shift is barely noticeable on a well set up anchor. However, with some setups the sudden jolt could cause you to lose control of your belay device. Be careful where you use selfequalizing anchors and make sure to tie appropriate extension-limiting knots to reduce the possible sudden shift in belay position.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Anchor Building


Example If two micro nuts are equalized with an overhand knot as shown, it is likely that one of them would take most of the force of a leader fall. This could be due to a slightly offcentre adjustment of the knot, or a gggggggg ~10% ~90%

slightly different loading direction (you may not fall directly downwards). If the fall generates 4kN of force, it will cause the 3kN piece on the right to fail. This will put 100% of the force on the remaining piece, which will most likely cause that to fail too.


If the same two micro nuts were equalized with a sliding-X, the knot would self-equalize during the fall and distribute 50% of the force (2kN) onto each nut. The nuts would then be much more likely to hold the fall.




The Sliding-X The sliding-X is useful for: - Equalizing two pieces of trad gear as part of an anchor - Equalizing two pieces of lead protection

- Equalizing a two-bolt anchor for top roping

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Anchor Building


Step 1 Clip a sling through two pieces of gear. Make sure the sewn section of the sling is near the top of one of the pieces so it doesn’t interfere with the sliding-X knot. Step 2 Twist the sling 180 degrees and then attach a carabiner to it. The central point will now be equalized even when the pull comes from different directions.

Step 5 Repeat steps 3 and 4 with the other side. You can now adjust the overhand knots so they are as far down as possible while still allowing the central point to move freely where it needs to.

Step 3 Position the central point where you want it. Unclip the sling from one piece and tie an overhand knot near to the central point. This is known as an extension-limiting knot. The closer to the central point you tie them, the less the anchor will extend if one piece fails. Step 4 Clip the sling back into the piece.

If one piece fails, the central point will shift as shown below.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Anchor Building


Warnings 1) It’s essential that you twist the sling in step 2. If you don’t, the central point can become completely detached from the anchor if one piece fails. 2) It can be difficult to clip another carabiner into the main point of a wwwwwwwwwwwww

sliding-X when it is weighted. If you must do so, make sure you have clipped the carabiner through the sling in exactly the same way as the original carabiner. A much better alternative is to use the quad anchor (see page 22).

Sliding-X Variations There are many ways of incorporating the sliding-X into an anchor. However you do it, make sure that if any piece failed, the resulting anchor shift: - Is minimal - Causes the remaining pieces to reequalize - Will not cause you to lose control of the belay

Step 1 Clovehitch a 120cm sling to the lower right piece.

The following arrangement uses one 120cm sling to equalize three pieces.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Anchor Building


Step 2 Clip the sling through the upper right piece.

Step 3 Add two extension-limiting knots.

Step 4 Clip the sling into the left piece.

Step 5 Put a 180 degree twist in one of the master point strands and clip a carabiner through both loops as shown.

Adjust the knots so they limit extension while allowing for some directional movement.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Anchor Building


You could also equalize four pieces by clovehitching another piece on the left. You may need to adjust the extension-limiting knots after adding the fourth piece.

If your belay consists of one bomber piece (the bolt) and four mediocre pieces (the micro nuts), you could use an arrangement like the one below. This method equalizes the pieces so the bolt takes 50% of the load and the four micro nuts take approximately 12.5% each.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Anchor Building


The Quad Anchor The quad anchor self-adjusts to keep an equal force on each anchor point in a similar way to the sliding-X. Advantages * Distributes the load equally between the anchor pieces. This puts less force on each piece, therefore decreasing the likelihood of anchor point failure. * Provides two independent attachment points for the belayer and climber. This helps to prevent carabiners from jamming up at the same master point. * The two attachment points adjust laterally, meaning that the anchor remains equalized even when different directions of pull are applied at the same time. This is useful during multi-pitch belay changeovers, or if the route traverses in or out from the belay. * On multi-pitch routes where each bolted anchor is approximately the same, you can speed up your anchor building by keeping the quad tied.

Disadvantages * The quad will extend slightly should either anchor point fail. This can shock-load the remaining piece(s). * Since the quad needs to be doubled up, it is difficult to equalize anchors where the placements are far apart.

Best Situation To Use The Quad Anchor To equalize two bomber anchor points, such as two bolts.

How To Tie the Quad Anchor You Will Need: * 2, 3 or 4 solid anchor points * A cordelette * 3-4 screwgate carabiners Step 1 Double over a cordelette so there are four strands of cord. Make sure the double fisherman’s bend of the cordelette is near one end.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Anchor Building


Step 2 Tie an extension-limiting knot on one side of the cordelette. This can be either an overhand knot or a figure-8 (The figure-8 is easier to untie after loading. The overhand uses slightly less cord).

Step 3 Tie another extension-limiting knot on the other side and clip both ends of the cordelette to the anchor points with screwgate carabiners. Make sure the knots are fairly even when the anchor is weighted in the direction of loading. The four-strand ‘master point’ should normally be around 30cm long. If the strength of your anchor points are difficult to assess (e.g: older bolts), you should move the overhand knots closer together. However, this also reduces the lateral range over which the quad self-equalizes.


Step 4 Separate the four strands of the master point into two doubled strands. It doesn’t matter which two you separate.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Anchor Building


Step 5 Attach yourself to two of the master point strands (using a clovehitch or figure-8 on a screwgate carabiner). If belaying in guide mode, attach your belay device to the other two master point strands.

Warning! It is important to only clip into two of the master point strands. If you clip into all four, you could become completely detached from the anchor if one point fails.

The Quad Anchor – Equalizing 3 or 4 Anchor Points To equalize three anchor points, simply split one of the double-loops and attach one loop into each piece. You will need to re-tie the extensionlimiting knots to equalize these pieces since they will probably be at varying heights. Do the same with the other side to equalize four points.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Anchor Building


Sometimes it can be difficult to equalize three or four points correctly, as this uses up a lot of cordelette. In this case, consider equalizing the furthest away pieces with a sling to create two anchor points. Then attach your quad to those.

The Quad Anchor – Setting Up a Top Rope You can use the quad anchor to set up a top rope. This is useful if you want to top rope two different routes which are immediately next to each ttttttttt Step 1 Clip a screwgate carabiner into two of the master point strands.

other, but share the same anchor. The quad will self-equalize for both routes without needing any adjustment.

Step 2 Clip another screwgate into the other two master point strands.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Anchor Building

Step 3 Clip the rope through the screwgates and fasten them. It is important not to clip a carabiner through all four strands (as described earlier).


Building Anchors with the Rope You can build an equalized anchor without using slings or a cordelette – great if you’ve used them all during the pitch. Many variations are possible. Two simple methods are sssssss

shown below, along with the more advanced equalizing figure-8. These methods use up quite a lot of rope, so you might not have enough on those long pitches.

Rope Anchors – Simple Methods Advantages - Can equalize pieces which are very far apart. Disadvantages - Often uses a lot of rope. - Must belay directly from harness. - Difficult to get perfect equalization.

Tying an alpine butterfly knot as shown below will use less rope, but tttttttttttttt

- Very difficult or impossible to escape the belay in an emergency situation. - Not great for multi-pitch belays if the same person is leading every pitch. To attach to the anchor, the belayer will have to clip each piece in the same way as the leader. This is time consuming and can be a bit awkward.

still has the same disadvantages as the example above.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Anchor Building


Rope Anchors – The Equalizing Figure-8 The ‘equalizing figure-8’ is a rarely used knot which could be useful in some belay setups. Advantages - Creates a master point in the rope so you can belay directly from the anchor in guide mode. - Much easier to escape the belay than the previous two methods. Disadvantages - Difficult to equalize anchor points which are very far apart. - Difficult to adjust belay position once set up. - The equalizing figure-8 is not redundant. If one piece fails, the whole anchor shifts down. Only use this method with bomber gear, such as bolts.

Step 1 Tie a figure-8 with a large loop.

- In the unlikely event that one rope loop is cut, the whole anchor could fail.

Step 2 Pass the loop back through the figure8 as shown.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Anchor Building


Step 3 This creates three new loops. Clip each loop into an anchor piece and adjust them as necessary.

Alternatively, collapse one loop for clipping into two pieces.

Step 4 To create a master point, tie a figure-8 loop in the rope just below the equalizing figure-8. You can belay in guide mode directly from this.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Anchor Building


Building Anchors with Minimal Gear The following methods are great to know in case you reach the top of a pitch without a cordelette, only a meter of rope to spare and not quite enough slings to create a selfequalizing anchor. Endless variations and combinations are possible depending on the hhhhhh

Example 1 A 120cm sling equalizes the two pieces on the left. An overhand knot is tied in the 60cm sling on the right to equalize it with the others.

equipment you have and where the gear placements are. A few examples are given below. It’s hard to get any of these anchors equalized perfectly, but if you’re short on slings and rope, these are probably your best options.

Example 2 A 120cm sling can join three pieces, if two of them are in line with each other. Simply tie an overhand knot in the sling above the lower piece.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Anchor Building


Example 3 The upper cam is clipped through the sling of the lower cam. This isn’t ideal, but it’s better than just having one cam. Often you can slide cams up or down a placement to fine tune their position.

Example 4 The upper two pieces are equalized with a 120cm sling. The overhand knot is adjusted so the lower piece can contribute to the anchor.

Top Tip – Minor Adjustments You can wrap a sling two or more times through a carabiner to shorten it slightly. Keep the wraps close together and away from the gate if possible. If you need to shorten a sling more, it’s better to tie an overhand knot as shown in Example 1.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Anchor Building


Advanced Anchor Building – Summary There isn’t a ‘best’ method of equalizing anchors, since every trad anchor situation is different. Understanding the advantages and ttttttt

limitations of a wide range of anchor systems gives you more options. Use your knowledge to select the best method for each unique situation.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Anchor Building


Abseiling 34

Increasing Abseil Friction


Abseiling without a Device


Abseiling with Damaged Ropes


Abseiling Past a Knot


Pendulum Abseils


Stuck Abseil Ropes


Descending from Bad Anchors and Loose Rock

Abseiling off Serratus Mountain, Tantalus Range, British Columbia, Canada. Photographer: Alex Ratson

Increasing Abseil Friction Whether you're abseiling down a skinny rope at the sport crag, or retreating from a multi-pitch with rainslicked ropes and a heavy pack, the jjjjjjjjjjjj

following techniques will help you increase friction when abseiling, and get down safely without rope-burnt palms.

Increasing Friction – Simple Methods Method 1 – Reverse Many belay devices are asymmetrical, offering more friction if reversed. Try it out both ways to see which provides the most friction for your device.

Method 2 – Double Up Attach your belay device to your belay loop with two screwgate carabiners. This causes the rope to rub against a greater surface area, which creates more friction. Large carabiners work best.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Abseiling


Method 3 – Add a Prusik We recommend always using a prusik (friction hitch) when abseiling. A prusik won't provide consistent extra friction during the abseil, but it will auto-lock if set up correctly. This means you can 'rest' mid-abseil, providing added security on tricky descents. You can use a prusik in conjunction with any of the other methods described in this section to further increase friction when abseiling.

Method 4 – Extend Feed a 120cm sling through the hard points of your harness, tie an overhand knot in it and then clip both ends of the sling to your belay device. This puts your belay device further away from your body, making it a little easier to control. This also enables you to attach your prusik to your belay loop, which is safer than attaching it to a leg loop.

Alternatively, you can girth hitch a 60cm sling through the hard points of your harness (or belay loop). It's better to use thicker (and more durable) nylon slings than thin Spectra/Dyneema for extending your belay device.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Abseiling


Increasing Friction – The Z-Abseil The Z-abseil is quick to set up and provides much more friction than the previous methods, meaning that you yyyyyyyy

can abseil rain-soaked skinny ropes confidently.

Step 1 Set up your belay device for abseiling as normal, staying attached to the anchor with a back-up sling.

Step 2 Clip a screwgate to one of your leg loops and clip another screwgate around the ropes above your belay device.

Step 3 Run the ropes down from your belay device through the leg-loop screwgate, up through the upper screwgate and back down to your brake hand. Make sure the ropes are running neatly next to each other.

Step 4 Fasten up the screwgates and make a final check of the system. Then detach your back-up sling from the anchor and enjoy a maximum friction descent.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Abseiling


The Z-Abseil – Top Tips * Make sure your screwgates are fastened tight. Vibrations in the rope can cause some types of screwgate to unfasten. Check them during your descent. * If you don't have enough screwgates, you can use two opposite and opposed snapgates instead. * You can use the same method for single rope abseils. Simply set up the system in the same way.

* Don’t use this method when abseiling with a GriGri. The top carabiner will hold the handle down and prevent it from locking. * It's possible to set this system up mid-abseil – useful on the last half of a long abseil when the weight of the rope below you has decreased. This will be easier if you pre-attach the two screwgates before you leave the anchor; one on your leg loop and one sliding down the ropes above you.

Abseiling Without a Belay Device Dropping your belay device at the top of a ten-pitch abseil descent isn't recommended. But if you do, knowing how to use the ‘carabiner brake’ will change your descent from epic to easy. The munter hitch (see page 137) can be used as an alternative, but it tends to kink the rope and causes abrasion to the sheath.

You Will Need: * One screwgate * Four snapgates Full size oval or D-shaped carabiners provide the smoothest descent, but almost any carabiner can be used. Really small or sharp-spined carabiners should only be used as a last resort.

Step 1 Clip a screwgate to your belay loop and fasten it. Then clip two snapgates to the screwgate, making sure the gates are facing opposite directions and they are opposed.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Abseiling

Belay Loop


Step 2 Push a bight of both ropes through the snapgate carabiners.

Step 3 Clip another snapgate around the ropes and also through the loop as shown.

Step 5 Pull down on the rope until the carabiners align over each other. Make sure the rope runs over the spines (not the gates) of the outer carabiners. The carabiner brake is now complete.

Step 4 Clip a second snapgate next to this, with the gates on the same side, but facing opposite ways.

Step 6 Add a prusik and abseil as you would with an ATC. Remember that the carabiner brake may provide a different level of friction than your belay device.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Abseiling


Abseiling with a Damaged Rope If you climb long enough, you will inevitably end up having to abseil with a damaged rope at some point. Unfortunately, getting a core-shot (when the white core is visible) seems to be more common on long multipitch climbs where the terrain is blocky and the abseil descent is complicated. How you solve this problem depends on the severity of the rope damage and where you are when it happens. If it is more practical to continue up than descend (e.g; If you are ten pitches up a steep face, but only one pitch away from an easy walk-off descent), you may choose to continue climbing on the longest section of undamaged rope. You’ll have to do shorter pitches, but this may be the best option.

Step 1 Attach the rope through the anchor as shown. A figure-8 is shown here, but you could also use other knots (such as the overhand, figure-9, clovehitch or alpine butterfly). The point is to have a knot which physically cannot pull through or get stuck in the main anchor point. The important part of this setup is to clip the rope back to itself with a screwgate carabiner to make a cccccccccccc

If a small amount of core is showing through the sheath, and the core is in perfect condition, you can wrap a piece of finger-tape tightly around this abraded section. This helps to hold the sheath together and prevent the core from being further exposed. Use just a small amount of tape so that your abseil device still feeds through easily. It is not safe to lead on a damaged rope like this, whether taped or not – This technique is only suitable for abseiling. It enables you to get down safely, but is not a permanent solution. The rope should be retired afterwards. The following method explains how to abseil if the rope’s core is damaged. You can abseil on a single ‘good’ strand of rope, and treat the damaged part as the pull-down cord. You don’t need to cut your rope.

closed loop around the main anchor point. This way, the system wouldn’t fail completely if the knot slipped through. You would, however, have to prusik back up (see page 116) to solve the problem. The same setup applies if you are abseiling on two ropes. Tie them together and use the damaged rope as the pull-down cord.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Abseiling


Step 2 Attach your abseil device to the good strand of rope. Follow the same safety precautions as you would when abseiling at any other time: tie a knot in the bottom end of the rope, use a prusik and weight the rope to check the system before you commit to it.

Step 3 Abseil down the good strand while keeping hold of the pull-down cord. It’s a good idea to keep the end of the pull-down cord clipped to you. Watch the setup as the first climber descends. If the knot gets jammed or slips through, you’ll need to tie a bigger knot or change the main anchor point to something smaller (small maillons/ quick-links are good for this).

Step 4 Pull your ropes down. It’s possible that the knot and carabiner could get stuck. As when abseiling in a normal situation, keep an eye out for cracks and features where this could happen before you pull your ropes. On a multi-pitch descent, remember that you will have to thread the same rope through each anchor.

Top Tips * Add slings and cordelettes to the end of the pull-down cord if you need a little extra distance on your abseils. * If both of your ropes are damaged, the best option may be to salvage the longest section of undamaged rope as the ‘good’ rope and join the rest together as the pull-down cord. You won’t be able to abseil as far, but it is better than not being able to abseil at all. * Another option is to fix one end of the rope to the anchor and abseil on a single strand, passing knots (see next page) on the way. You will not be able to retrieve your ropes, so this only works if your ropes reach to the ground.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Abseiling


Abseiling Past a Knot Times when you might need to abseil past a knot: - When descending a single strand ‘fixed’ rope, where a knot has been tied to isolate a damaged section - Passing a knot joining two ropes during an emergency retreat As always, first try to utilize the terrain

to make passing the knot easier. For example, if you have a ledge to stand on, you can bypass the knot without needing prusiks. However, if you are dangling in space with a heavy pack pulling you backwards, you’ll need to follow all the steps described.

Step 1 – Stop Stop abseiling when your prusik is about 30-40cm before the knot. Allow the prusik to take your weight. If you are abseiling without a prusik (not recommended), you can wrap the rope around your leg a few times. This adds friction but does not lock your belay device, so make sure to keep hold of the rope for the next couple of steps. And use a prusik next time. If your belay device jams into the knot, you’ll need to ascend (see page 116) a short amount.

Belay Loop

Leg Loop

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Abseiling


Step 2 – Back Up Pull up about two meters of rope and fasten a back up knot (clovehitch or figure-8 work well). Attach this to your belay loop with a screwgate carabiner.


Step 3 – Add Prusik Fasten a prusik above your belay device (classic or autoblock types work well) and attach it to your belay loop with a short sling. Abseil down a short amount to allow your weight to be taken by this prusik.


VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Abseiling


Step 4 – Pass the Knot Detach the un-weighted lower prusik from your leg loop but keep it in position on the rope. Remove your belay device and reattach it to the rope immediately beneath the knot. Lock your belay device by tying it off with a muleoverhand (see page 142).

Step 5 – Add Foot Loop Clip a short sling to the lower prusik. Stand in this sling to un-weight the upper prusik.

Stand in this loop

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Abseiling


Step 6 – Remove Prusiks Remove the upper prusik and sit back to weight your tied-off belay device. If you can’t weight your belay device from this position, you may have to down-prusik a couple of times until you can weight it. Alternate between weighting the upper prusik and standing in the lower foot loop. Adding an extra sling to the lower foot loop makes this easier.

Step 7 – Descend Reposition the remaining prusik back to your leg loop (without the foot loop sling), unfasten your back up knot and then release your tied-off belay device. You can now continue your descent.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Abseiling


Top Tips * Before you pass the knot, assess if it would be better to: - Unfasten it - Re-tie a better knot (alpine butterfly is recommended) - Ascend back to the anchor and find a different way down * It’s highly recommended to practise this technique before you actually need to use it. Dangling in space with your belay device jammed into the knot and a prusik out of reach above is a common error for first-timers. Try it out on different angles of rock, with your prusiks at different heights and attached to different lengths of sling.

* If you know there are knots in the rope before you descend, you can speed things up by abseiling with a pre-attached prusik above your belay device. * The same technique can be used when abseiling with an extended belay device. During step 6, you will need to down-prusik a few moves to ease your weight onto your tied-off belay device. * There are many variations of this same technique. The most important thing to remember is to fasten a backup knot before you detach your belay device.

Pendulum Abseils Multi-pitch descents are not always straightforward. The next abseil station may be far to the side of the previous one (they often are when descending loose ground). Or maybe you need to bail down an overhanging wall.

Being able to swing or tension across to reach the next abseil station is key in these situations. You can pendulum when leading too (see page 61).

It is recommended to abseil with an extended belay device and a prusik (see page 35) for tricky abseils like these. Being able to go hands-free is crucial.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Abseiling


Step 1 To swing to an abseil station on overhanging ground, you’ll need to start the pendulum early. Push out from the rock with your legs as you descend. Keep your momentum and be ready to clip or grab the next anchor. If you end up stranded in space, you’ll need to prusik (see page 116) back up and try again. On traversing ground, it’s often better to tension across (semi-climb while weighting the rope), so your rope isn’t rubbing over possible sharp edges of rock. If this is too difficult, a pendulum will get you further across, but be very careful of loose rock and sharp edges when doing this.

Step 2 Once you have made it to the next station, tie the end of the ‘pulling’ rope (the one you will pull to retrieve your ropes) to the anchor. This gives your partner something to grab so they can get to the anchor without having to pendulum there. It also ensures that you cannot drop your ropes. On long traverses, you can help your partner by belaying them in too.

Step 3 Once all climbers are at the lower station, pull your ropes and repeat.

Top Tips * It’s better for the first climber to descend with the minimum gear needed. The other climber(s) should take the heavier loads since it is much easier to follow than ‘lead’ a descent like this.

. * To avoid getting your ropes stuck when traversing, consider abseiling with them in coils clipped to your harness. Release them one at a time as you descend.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Abseiling


Stuck Abseil Ropes – Prevention The techniques described in this section are simple guidelines for preventing your ropes from getting stuck in standard situations.

If you are about to abseil down complex terrain, consider these prevention strategies before you throw your ropes.

Reduce Anchor Friction If there is a lot of friction at the abseil point, the following three methods can help to reduce it.

2) Move the knot so it is over the lip of a ledge

1) Add a carabiner if the rope was previously threaded through cord

3) Extend the main abseil point over the lip of a ledge

Rope Angle Avoid abseiling from anchors that are low down and far away from an edge, forming a right-angle in the rope. The added friction from the rope running around the edge will make it more difficult to retrieve the rope. Also, if there is mud or snow on the edge, the rope will cut into it, causing the knot to get stuck. If you must use an anchor like this, you could extend it with cord so that the main point hangs over the edge. If this is not possible, it may be wwwwwww

wise to make a short abseil over the edge and then set up a second anchor on the face.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Abseiling


Shorter Abseils When abseiling down terrain where ropes are likely to get stuck, it is much better to do shorter abseils. This will allow you to have more control over where the ropes run, and will also mean that you won't have to climb back up as far to retrieve stuck ropes.

Test Pull If there is a lot of friction between the ropes and the rock or anchor, it is worth doing a test pull. Once the first climber is down, they pull on the retrieving rope. If the ropes don't move, the second climber can reduce friction at the anchor (see previous pages). Then do another quick test pull to see if that solved the problem.

Windy Abseils When throwing your ropes down in high winds, they are unlikely to drop where you want them. To combat this, clip the rope to yourself in short loops. Release the loops one at a time as you descend.

If the ropes still won’t pull, the second climber could abseil part way down the face and make an intermediate anchor to abseil from, before joining the first climber at the lower anchor. This, however, may cause more problems if the ropes get stuck during retrieval, since it is much harder to retrieve ropes alone.

When Pulling Ropes By standing further out from the wall when pulling ropes, the knot is pulled through the air instead of against the rock, meaning that it is less likely to get caught. It also helps to flick the rope to guide the knot around obstacles.

Check While Abseiling As you abseil down, look for places where the knots could get caught. Flakes, cracks, spikes, trees or constrictions between boulders are classic places for ropes to get stuck. Flick your ropes so they don’t run over these features.

Stuck Abseil Ropes – Solutions Prevention is better than cure. But sometimes, no matter what you do to prevent it, your ropes will get stuck anyway. How you retrieve them depends on:

- If you have both strands within reach - How much rope you have pulled through - How easy it is to climb up - What the rope is stuck on

First Considerations Be aware that when a stuck rope comes free, it could dislodge loose rock. Try to get yourself into a position

where you can move out of the line of rockfall and not shock-load the belay which you are hanging from.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Abseiling


If you have just started pulling the ropes, first make sure you are pulling the correct one, and are not pulling the knot up into the anchor.

to see if you can dislodge them from wherever they’re stuck. You can also pull on the other end to see if reversing the ropes unsticks them.

If you are at a single pitch crag, consider if it would be easier to walk to the top to retrieve the ropes.

If this doesn’t work, you might as well pull on it as hard as you can. To make this easier, wrap a prusik cord around the rope and lean back with it clipped to your belay loop, or get more weight on the rope by having your partner pull too.

Resist the temptation to immediately pull hard on a stuck rope, as this may jam it further. Instead, flick the ropes jjjjjjjjjjjj

Climbing Up To Reach a Stuck Rope If a stuck rope cannot be freed from below, you must climb back up to deal with whatever is holding it in place. There are two main ways to do this; leading and prusiking. Leading is the preferred method since it avoids the danger of releasing loose rock if the rope suddenly comes free.

Stuck Rope

Tie into the end of the rope that you have managed to pull down, then get belayed on this end as you lead back up to the problem. The obvious limitation is that you can only climb back up as far as you have rope available.

Spare Rope

Prusiking Up To Reach a Stuck Rope If the rock you abseiled down is unclimbable, you will have to climb the rope itself using prusiks (The technique of prusiking is detailed on page 116). Just because you and your partner have been pulling on the rope doesn’t mean that it won’t suddenly come free while you are prusiking up.

This is especially true when you get higher up and change the direction of pull in the ropes. Therefore, it is essential that you keep yourself safe while you ascend. The method you use to do this depends on if you have one or both ends of the ropes.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Abseiling


Prusiking Stuck Ropes - If You Have Both Ends of the Ropes Having both ends of the ropes within reach is much better than just having one. You can either wrap your prusiks around both ropes (as shown on the right), or just the ‘pulling’ rope (described below). Whichever method you choose, make sure to keep re-tying back-up knots (figure-8 on a bight or clovehitch work well) in the ropes as you ascend. If you prusik up just the pulling rope, you’ll need to counterbalance it with your partner’s weight in order to be safe. Do this by getting them to attach to the other rope. This closes the system so that you won’t fall if the ropes suddenly come free. The advantage of this method is that your partner will be able to feel your weight pulling on their harness at the point rrrrrrrrrr

when the ropes can move freely. This gives you a better idea where the ropes are stuck. Once you reach the anchor, or a point where the ropes move freely, you can avoid getting them stuck again by rerouting the ropes, building an intermediate anchor or extending the original anchors over an edge.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Abseiling


Warnings 1) If the ropes are running through cord at the abseil station (instead of a carabiner or maillon), make sure to prusik on both ropes. The sawing action of you prusiking on one rope could melt the cord and cause it to fail.

2) Bouncing up and down on the ropes while prusiking generates more force on the anchor than the force you applied when abseiling from it. If you are uncertain about the quality of your anchor, you can place gear on the rope which you are ascending, while being belayed (described on the following pages).

Prusiking Stuck Ropes - If You Only Have One End of the Ropes If you have a lot of rope available If you were able to pull quite a lot of rope through, you can tie into the end of the rope and get belayed up on this. Place gear and clip it to the ‘lead’ section of rope as you prusik up the stuck section. Once you have reached the end of the other rope, it will be safer to switch your prusiks to be around both ropes. Make sure to back up your prusiks with a knot on both ropes if you do this. Before committing to prusiking up a single rope, assess how many gear placements there are above and how much rope you have available to lead up. An alternative is to cut the rope and abandon the section which is stuck above you. You will then be able to use this to protect sections of downclimbing and to make short abseils. VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Abseiling

Spare Rope


If you don’t have much rope available This is a poor situation to be in. However, it may still be possible to retrieve your ropes. This technique involves prusiking up the stuck rope aaaaaaaaa

and placing gear on it as you go. Your partner belays you on this rope. Here’s how:

Step 1 Tie a clovehitch (figure-8 on a bight is fine too) on a screwgate and attach it to your belay loop. This is your tie-in point.

Step 2 Your partner ties into the end of the stuck rope (to close the system) and then puts you on belay.

Step 3 Prusik up the rope. You will need to re-tie the clovehitch as you ascend. Tie a new one before untying the old one.

Spare Rope

You could also shuffle rope through the clovehitch to adjust it, but be aware that if the stuck rope pulls free while you are mid-shuffle, the knot may not lock properly and there is a real danger of severing your finger in the suddenly tightened knot.

Step 4 Place gear as you ascend and clip this into the rope between you and your partner. If the stuck rope suddenly pulls free, you will fall and be protected by the gear you placed. Your belayer will need to give slack as you ascend and take in slack when you adjust your clovehitch.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Abseiling


Descending from Bad Anchors Poor abseil anchors are often found on seldom travelled multi-pitch descents or alpine ridge traverses.

Never trust an anchor if you have any doubts about its reliability. Other options include:

Sometimes there is no anchor where you need one, or the existing anchor is untrustworthy. It is your responsibility to fully inspect every anchor before you use it.

- Belayed downclimbing - Beefing up the anchor - Backing up the anchor

Belayed Downclimbing If the terrain is easy enough, it may be possible to downclimb. This means you don’t need to leave any of your own gear behind. The leader climbs down first, placing gear as they descend. Once they reach an anchor (or the ground), they can belay the follower, who removes the gear on their way down. The last climber must be careful as they will downclimb above gear which they didn’t place. You will need some sort of anchor at the top to begin the descent. This anchor needs to be solid but can be ffffffffffffffff

fairly unsuitable for abseiling, such as a few cams which are widely spaced apart.

Beefing Up the Anchor If you embark on a route which has a complicated descent, it is worth bringing ‘leaver’ slings, nuts and carabiners for beefing up anchors.

If you make a new anchor, be sure to remove any ancient gear that you replace so no-one uses it in the future.

Poor anchors do not necessarily need replacing entirely. Often one extra piece equalized to the anchor will make it good enough.

Sometimes the anchor pieces are good, but the carabiner or maillon (quick link) at the main point is worn. This is a critical part, since it is the ooooooo

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Abseiling


only thing connecting the rope to the anchor. Add another if you are unsure. If you leave a snapgate carabiner, make sure to tape the gate closed so it can’t unclip during your descent. Sacrificing your expensive climbing gear to beef up an anchor is painful. But it’s not as painful as falling down a mountain after the anchor fails. Make sure it is bomber.

Backing Up the Anchor If an anchor is okay but not completely bomber, you can add a separate backup to test it’s strength without fully committing to it. Your backup must be: 1) Connected in such a way which means it doesn’t hold any of the weight 2) Positioned appropriately for any potential direction of pull 3) Capable of holding the load should the initial anchor fail The heaviest climber descends first with most of the gear or the heaviest bag. The second climber carefully watches the anchor for any signs of failure and then decides whether to leave the backup in place or to remove it and trust the original anchor alone. The original anchor has not passed the test if the backup holds any of the

weight. In this case, the backup should be left in place when the last climber descends. If you’re not sure, just leave the backup there and enjoy a stress-free and safe descent.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Abseiling


Reaching a Poor Anchor when Leading If it is not possible to make a safe anchor after leading a pitch, you can use the techniques described on pages 108-110 to get down safely.

Descending Loose Rock Abseiling down loose rock is a climber’s nightmare. Seek out other options (such as downclimbing or abseiling a different way) before committing to the descent. However, if you encounter a chosspile in the middle of a multi-pitch descent, you can ‘zigzag abseil’ to reduce the chances of being hit by rocks when you pull your ropes. Move sideways as you descend (pendulum or tension traverse) and make the next abseil anchor as far to one side as you can. This might mean leaving gear behind, but it puts you out of the line of rockfall when you pull your ropes.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Abseiling


Lead Skills 58

Loose Rock and Runout Routes


Pendulums and Tension Traverses


Basic Aid Climbing


Basic Hauling


Simul Climbing

Climb: Monte Sordo, Finale Ligure, Italy. Photographer: James Rushforth.

Climbing on Loose Rock Accidents involving loose rock fall into three main categories: 1) Belayers being hit by rocks from the leader 2) Leaders falling because they held/ stood on loose rock 3) Being hit by random rockfall from above (either from other climbers, natural rockfall or from your ropes when abseiling) One of the major contributing factors to accidents when climbing on loose rock is known as ‘positive reinforcement'. You climb a chossy route, place gear behind loose flakes and climb on loose blocks. They stay in place and you’re fine.

up stuck in a band of choss, take your time and be very gentle. There are precautions you can take (such as wearing a helmet, not starting a route beneath other climbers, or just avoiding loose routes altogether), but if you climb enough alpine rock, you’ll eventually encounter an unavoidable loose section.

You climb another chossy route without dislodging rocks on your belayer. And another and another. Success! There’s nothing like positive reinforcement.

The real skill is to learn how to deal with choss. You can place gear in loose rock, you can pull on loose blocks. But you first have to factor the following into the equation: - Exactly how loose the features are - How sharp the edges are - How big the loose rock is - Where the rock would fall if it broke - If you have gear beneath you in solid rock - How your partner will follow the pitch

However, the truth is that in most near misses, the climber has no idea they even had a near miss. Maybe you didn’t weigh quite enough to pull that huge block off. Climbing on loose rock is a bit like playing football on a minefield. Stay away, but if you end mmmmmmmm

It is fairly safe to climb through a small band of brittle flakes if your belayer is out of the rockfall zone and you have good gear in solid rock just below you. Place gear appropriately so that your rope runs clear of any loose blocks or sharp edges. Communicate with your pppppppp

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Lead Skills


partner so they know where the loose sections are. It is not safe to climb a massive, teetering jenga-tower of sssssssss

sharp-edged ‘death blocks’ with your belayer and another team directly below.

Testing Rock Quality Visual Test Look at the feature and figure out how it is attached to the main part of the wall. If it looks detached, don’t touch it. Some features have very thin fracture lines around them, which suggest poor rock quality. These fracture lines are sometimes covered in lichen or otherwise hard to see, so look carefully.

Tap Test If you are still uncertain about the quality of a rock feature, give it a gentle tap and listen to the noise it makes. Loose rock ‘echoes’ and sounds hollow. If you must climb through a small band of brittle flakes, determine which are the best holds and selectively distribute your weight between them. Pull down on holds, rather than out.

Runout Routes Runout routes (climbs with little or no protection) should only be attempted by experienced climbers who understand the risks involved. You can obviously reduce your chances of an accident by not climbing a sparsely protected route. However, if you are lured in by the appeal of danger, or if you just end up on a runout section, you will be safe if you abide by the two golden rules: 1) Do not climb up something that you cannot climb down 2) Do not fall!

Here are some tips to help you stick to these two rules: * Choose a route which is well within your comfort zone. * Make slow, controlled movements, keeping three points of contact at all times. * Place gear at every possible opportunity. Go off-route if you have to. * Equalize gear to make a stronger point of protection. A lot of bad gear equalized together is better than no gear.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Lead Skills


* Test the quality of each hand and foot hold before you use them. Stay away from loose rock.

* Remember that you can always downclimb if the route gets too sketchy.

Following a Runout Traverse – Back Roping The consequence of falling on an unprotectable traverse is likely to be a horrendous pendulum. Depending on the route, this could be much worse for the follower than the leader. To reduce fall potential, the leader should place protection as high as possible before and after the traverse.

If the follower still faces a serious fall, they could use a ‘back rope’. Back roping works best when climbing on two ropes (such as half ropes). If you only have one rope, consider the lowering-out technique instead (see page 62).

Step 1 Leave one of the ropes clipped into the last reliable piece of gear. It must be bomber and capable of taking a sideways and a downwards pull. You will have to leave this piece of gear behind.

Step 2 Clip a carabiner or quickdraw to your belay loop and to the rope which you are back roping from. This ensures that you can retrieve your rope after the next steps.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Lead Skills


Step 3 As you climb across the traverse, the leader takes in on one rope (red) and gives slack on the other (blue). If you fall, you will be suspended between the ropes. Step 4 After the traverse, untie from the back rope and pull it through the gear. Make sure there is no knot in the end of the rope! Step 5 Tie back in to the end of the rope and allow your partner to take in the slack before you continue climbing.

Pendulums and Tension Traverses Knowing how to ‘bail sideways’ is a good skill to have. Maybe you’ve climbed off-route and now have a blank expanse between you and the right route, or maybe you’re halfway up a pitch and the climbing gets too difficult.

Your problems may be solved if you can pendulum (swing across) or tension traverse (climb across while assisted by a tight rope) to easier ground. Pendulums can also be used when abseiling (see page 45).

Step 1 Place a piece of gear which can hold a downwards and a sideways pull (you may want to equalize a couple together). This gear needs to be bomber, and you may not be able to retrieve it later.

Step 2 Clip your rope into the gear and ask your belayer to take you tight on the rope.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Lead Skills


Step 3 Get your belayer to lower you. If you plan to pendulum, you can start swinging as you are being lowered. Do this by running sideways across the wall. Communicate with your belayer so you don't get lowered too far – make sure you know where you're trying to swing to! Step 4 Keep your momentum and swing a little higher each time. Often, you'll need to grab a hold at the pinnacle of your swing, so be ready for this. Once you've stuck the pendulum, continue climbing as normal, making sure to eeeeeeeee

extend the next few pieces of gear to reduce rope drag. A tension traverse is similar but instead of swinging, you will semiclimb across with some of your weight on the rope.

Top Tips * Choosing between a pendulum and a tension traverse is dictated by the terrain. Pendulums are more suited to smooth rock where there are no features for your rope to snag. A tension traverse is a better choice for lower-angled, blocky terrain. * Your partner will need plenty of slack rope to follow the traverse (around twice the diagonal distance of the pendulum). This usually isn't a problem, but if you climb a full rope length with a pendulum at the start of the pitch, your partner won’t have enough rope to follow it safely.

* If using half ropes, clip one to the pendulum point and the other to the pieces after the traverse. This will significantly reduce your rope drag and make it easier for your partner to follow.

Following Pendulums and Lowering Out Following is easy if the leader did a short traverse and extended gear well afterwards. Just follow the pitch as normal and gently swing/tension across. However, for longer traverses across unclimbable terrain, you won’t bbbbbbbb

be able to remove the gear which the leader traversed from or else you'll swing uncontrollably across the wall. To avoid this, you'll need to do a lower-out. It’s important to communicate well with your partner bbbbbbbbb

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Lead Skills


during this process (If you are climbing with two ropes, you may choose to use the simpler back rope technique – see page 60).

from falling to the end of the rope. You will still swing across the rock, but much less than if you had lowered out without a belay device.

There is no completely safe way to follow a long traverse because there is always the danger of the lower-out piece failing. Using a belay device as described on the following pages significantly reduces the consequences of a fall if the piece fails. If it fails, your belay device (in most cases) will lock, stopping you lllllllllllll

GriGri’s (or similar) will lock in the majority of cases that they are suddenly loaded. However, they are not actually designed for this. Depending on the distance, difficulty and consequences of the traverse and the quality of your lower-out piece, you may want to back up your attachment with a prusik.

Step 1 When you reach the gear which the leader traversed from, clip into it with a sling. If you have a good hands-free stance, you don’t need to clip in. Make sure the gear is still bomber after being pulled sideways by the leader. If you’re not certain about it, back it up with another piece. Step 2 Attach a GriGri to the rope as shown. Step 3 Tell your partner that you are ready to lower. They will pull in the slack so the rope comes tight. You can now remove your clip-in sling if you are using one. Be aware that the tensioned rope will pull all the other pieces of gear in different directions which may cause them to be plucked out. Step 4 Communicate with your partner as they lower you down and across. If semi-climbing (tension traversing), your partner may have to alternate between taking in and lowering out.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Lead Skills


Step 5 Once you make it across, you’ll need to retrieve your rope from the lowerout point and then transition back to climbing. This is much easier if you have a hands-free stance. If you don’t, you could clip directly into a piece of gear to un-weight the rope. Either way, tie-off your belay device and remove any prusiks. Step 6 Untie from the end of the rope and pull it through the lower-out point. Make sure to completely remove your tie-in knot before you let go of the rope! Step 7 Tie back in to the end of the rope. Step 8 Release your tied-off belay device and belay the slack rope through while your partner takes it in at the same time. This protects you from falling to the end of the rope should you fall at this point.

Step 9 Remove your belay device once your partner has taken in all the slack. You are now ready to continue following as normal. If you have lowered down too far, or still cannot climb the pitch, you can prusik up the rope (see page 116) until you reach easier ground. It may be possible to retrieve the lower-out gear by penduluming to it when you are higher up.

Basic Aid Climbing Using protection pieces as hand or foot holds is generally regarded as a poor style of ascent. But using this simple technique to get yourself out of trouble is very good style. Many alpine routes have sections that, in poor weather, may be impossible without using aid. Just a few aid moves may be all that is needed to reach a summit or a safer descent. Knowledge of aid techniques

can also provide a way to safely move up or down a crag in an emergency.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Lead Skills


French-Free This is the most basic form of aid climbing which means grabbing hold of a piece of gear and pulling on it to miss out a move. You could also clip a sling directly to the gear to use as a foot loop. If you think your partner may struggle to follow a section of the climb, you can help them by placing gear frequently enough so they can pull from one piece

to the next. Times when you might french-free: - To avoid a tough move - If you need to move quickly and don’t have time to figure out a crux sequence - If you think you’ll fall while clipping a piece of gear. You can hold onto the gear, then clip, then continue climbing

Basic Aid Setup Aid climbing is more efficient when using daisy chains and etriers, but these are not worth taking on a climb unless you specifically plan to aid sections. Here is an improvised set of aiders: * Two 120cm slings girth hitched through tie-in points (or belay loop), with overhand knots tied at intervals. Knots are offset so the loops stay open (improvised daisy chains).

Daisy Chains


* Two long slings/pieces of webbing attached to daisy chains with a carabiner. Offset overhand knots are tied at intervals (improvised etriers). * Carabiner attached to belay loop. This is used for shortening the daisy chain or clipping yourself directly into gear.

Top Tip It’s better if the daisy chain is on the spine side of the carabiner, and the etrier is on the gate side. This allows your daisy to slide up the spine (rather than get stuck in the gate, or unclip from it) when you stand up high. VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Lead Skills


Basic Aid Technique Step 1 – Place Gear Place a piece of gear and clip an aider to it.

Step 2 – Test Gear Unless you've just clipped a bolt or an obviously bomber piece of gear, you should test it before fully committing. How you test it depends on what the gear is. First, ease your weight onto the piece, until it holds the majority of your body weight. Nuts, slings and pitons can be ‘bounce tested’. Do this by bouncing your weight on your top daisy or etrier, with a slightly increased force each time. Essentially, you are shockloading the gear. If the gear fails, you'll swing gently onto your daisy on the lower piece, which should be strong enough to hold because you bounce tested it – right? Bounce testing is a skill that requires a fair amount of practise to understand the amount of force which is generated. A piece that survives the bounce test will likely hold your weight while you walk up your aiders but it does not necessarily mean it will hold a fall.

More easily damaged or low-strength gear, (such as cams or micro nuts) should only be very gently bounced. Tiny cams or skyhooks shouldn't be bounce tested, as they would be damaged over time. To test, weight the piece, press your body away from the wall and move side-to-side. This generates a little more force than bodyweight without the harsh impact of a bounce and simulates the direction you might pull the piece when you're higher up on it. Try not to look directly at the piece you are testing – if it fails, it'll hit you in the face! Look away, and wear a helmet.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Lead Skills


Step 3 – Commit Once you're happy that the piece will at least hold your weight, it's time to commit. Shorten your daisy or clip in directly to the piece so you can sit in your harness.

Step 4 – Reset Clip your lead rope into the lower piece. Then remove your aider from it.

Step 5 – Get High Getting as high as possible on your top piece means less moves to the top. On slabby terrain, use your etrier steps to walk upwards. With practise you should be able to stand in the top step. Your daisy will slide up the spine of its carabiner. Adjust your daisy shorter to give you some downwards tension for balance. This also means that if you lose balance you won't fall the full length of the daisy.

Vertical or overhanging terrain is more strenuous. Pull on the gear while walking up the steps until you can clip directly into the gear with the carabiner on your belay loop. Once you are as high up as you can get, it's time to place another piece of gear and repeat the sequence.

Basic Aid – Following To follow a section of aid, you can either prusik up the rope (see page 116) or aid up using the same technique as the leader.

Make sure to communicate with the leader so they know whether to belay you or fix the rope to the anchor for prusiking.

Removing Gear while Prusiking If a piece of gear isn’t being pulled sideways by the rope, you can simply unclip and remove it. Make sure to unclip the gear when your prusik is still a few inches below it – your iiiiiiiiiiii

prusik will jam into it if you go too close. Often, the gear will be pulled sideways by the rope and it is very hard to uuuuuuuuuu

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Lead Skills


unclip. In this situation: - Weight your lower prusik - Remove your upper prusik from the rope - Re-tie the prusik on the rope above the gear and weight it - Now you can more easily remove or unclip the gear Sometimes, this results in your lower prusik getting ‘sucked in’ to the piece of gear (particularly if the route is slightly traversing or overhanging). For pitches like this, it is useful to have a belay device (GriGri’s work best) set up on your belay loop. Here’s how:

Step 1 Prusik close to the piece. Step 2 Pull slack through your GriGri and weight it.

Step 3 Remove both prusiks (one at a time) and reattach them above the piece.

Step 4 Release rope through your GriGri so that you are weighting the prusiks. Step 5 Now you can remove the gear.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Lead Skills


Basic Aid – Traverses and Overhangs The system for aiding a roof is basically the same as a traverse. Just place a piece then reach as far sideways as you can to place your next piece. It's often difficult to bounce test from this position, so try stamping in your etrier instead of weighting your daisy. Clipping every piece of gear to the rope will make it easier for your partner to follow.

To follow a traverse or a steep overhang, you'll need to take your prusiks off the rope and clip directly into each piece of gear that the leader placed. Effectively, you are 'leading on top rope’. Simply clip across the pieces, removing the ones behind you as you go. Make sure to re-adjust your back up knots frequently, so you won’t fall far if a piece fails.

Basic Aid – Top Tips * Always use a back up (such as a clovehitch attached to your belay loop with a screwgate) when prusiking up a rope. * When leading, clip as high on the piece as possible (e.g; in the plastic thumb-loop of a cam, rather than the sling). This gives you more height, meaning quicker overall progress.

* When switching from aid to free climbing in the middle of a pitch, attach a sling to your top piece. This will be your final foot step before you free climb. Make sure to clip your aiders and daisies away on the back of your harness so you won't trip over them.

* It's better to use a 'keyhole' style carabiner for your aiders, as it will be less likely to get stuck on slings and wires than a 'nose' style carabiner. You can use either a snapgate or screwgate.

Basic Hauling Hauling a bag on a separate rope can be much easier than climbing with it on your back. This technique is useful for: - Overnight routes - Long, steep multi-pitches when your daypack is heavy

Hauling is typically only beneficial on terrain steeper than 80 degrees, where there are few obstacles and no loose rock. Otherwise, you’ll be better carrying the load on your back.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Lead Skills


How To Haul Equipment For a basic hauling setup, you’ll need: - A second rope - A hauling device (such as a Petzl Micro Traxion) - A durable bag

Step 2 Attach the bag to the other end of the haul rope and also directly to the anchor with a sling.

Step 1 Attach one end of the haul rope to the back of your harness. If your harness doesn’t have a designated ‘haul loop’, you can loop a short sling around the back of your waist belt and attach the rope to that. Be careful of using gear loops – they can break if the rope gets stuck.

Step 3 When you arrive at the top of the pitch, attach the hauling device to the master point. Feed the rope through the device first, then unclip the rope from your harness (this ensures that you cannot drop the rope). Pull through slack until the rope is tight on the bag at the lower anchor.

Step 4 The belayer releases the bag from the lower anchor.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Lead Skills


Step 5 Haul the bag up, stacking the rope neatly as you go. For light loads, it is quickest to hand-over-hand the rope and periodically pull slack through the hauling device. For heavier loads, it is much easier to use your body weight to pull the bag up. Use a GriGri as shown.

Step 6 Clip the bag to the anchor with its sling and remove the hauling setup. You can now belay your partner.

Belay Loop

Basic Hauling Tips * A specifically designed ‘mini haulbag’ is best, but any backpack can be used, providing the terrain is suitable. Make sure to attach the pack securely, tuck away any straps and use common sense. Hauling a lightweight pack up low-angled rock will most likely result in you losing all your belongings and dislodging rocks.

* Using a dynamic lead rope (instead of a static rope or cord) as your haul line gives you more options. It acts as a back up if your main rope is damaged, or it can be used in conjunction with the main rope for wandering pitches (i.e: treat them as half ropes). Having a second rope also doubles the length of your abseils.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Lead Skills


* On long traversing pitches, the bag should be tied in short with an alpine butterfly. This enables the belayer to lower the bag out gently with the remaining rope. If the bag is fairly light, you can simply lower it out by hand. Heavier loads may need to be lowered out using a munter hitch or belay device as shown.

Spare Rope

* If you don’t have a pulley, an alternative for light loads is to simply belay the bag up with an autoblocking belay device (such as a GriGri or an ATC in guide mode) or a garda hitch. If the bag gets stuck, you can pause hauling and begin belaying your partner. Once they have climbed up and freed the bag, you can tie-off the lead rope and continue hauling.

* Some hauling devices may not always lock with certain rope diameters. If your chosen technique involves letting go of the rope, you should add the occasional back up knot so the bag cannot fall the full length of the rope.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Lead Skills


* Some hauling devices are easily dropped. To prevent this, the leader can trail the haul rope with the device pre-attached as shown. After leading a pitch, the device can be attached to the anchor before removing the rope from your harness. This means that you can’t drop either the device or the rope while setting up the haul.

Simul Climbing Simul climbing is a technique where all climbers move at the same time while tied into the same rope. Protection is placed by the first climber and removed by the last. This technique allows climbers to extend the length of their pitches, without extending the length of their rope. With experience, a simul-pitch can stretch for 300m or more, whereas a belayed pitch is limited by the length of your rope.

Simul Climbing is Most Useful: - On long, easy routes when it is safer to move fast (e.g: if climbing pitch-by-pitch would result in getting hit by a storm or stranded overnight). - On a long, exposed approach or descent when a fall is very unlikely, but the consequences would be severe. - If a pitch is slightly longer than your rope length. A short section of simul climbing can allow the leader to reach a more solid belay.

Advantages - Much faster than belayed climbing.

Disadvantages - Much more dangerous than belayed climbing. If the follower falls, they could pull the leader off too.

Simul Climbing is Dangerous: - If any member of the team might find the route difficult (especially the follower) - On loose rock - On runout routes (climbs which offer little protection) - For inexperienced climbers

Prerequisite Skills Simul climbing introduces a level of risk that is completely inappropriate for beginner climbers. This section is written for experienced trad climbers who are proficient at: - Placing trad gear and building anchors - Route-finding on complex terrain - Leading long multi-pitch routes - Self-rescue - Analysing and managing risk

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Lead Skills


The Basic Simul Climbing System Step 1 The leader begins climbing. They place gear and are belayed with a GriGri.

Step 2 When the leader has climbed the full length of the available rope, the belayer simply begins climbing (leaving their GriGri attached to their belay loop).

Step 3 Both climbers continue up, moving at the exact same speed and keeping protection on the rope between them.

Step 4 When the leader reaches a suitable anchor, they stop climbing and belay the follower up.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Lead Skills


Simul Climbing Equipment What To Take With both climbers constantly moving, it is easier to stay warm, and so belay jackets could be left behind. With a faster style of ascent, you could take less food and water. The less you bring, the easier the climbing will feel, and the less chance you will have of getting exhausted or benighted on a long route. However, the decision to leave critical items behind should only be made with lots of experience. Depending on how far you plan to stretch your simul-pitches, you may want to bring a bigger rack. Having more gear enables you to climb the route in less pitches and therefore spend less time changing over belays.

Gear Distribution It’s better to distribute the gear fairly evenly between the leader and the follower so that neither climber has an excessively heavy load. Often, the leader will take a little more weight so the follower will be able to stay as light and nimble as possible. Remember that the leader will start the simul-pitch with the whole rack, but the follower will have it all by the end.

Simul Climbing Devices In addition to the equipment you would normally take on a multi-pitch, these two devices give you more options for simul climbing: - Progress capture devices (such as the RollNLock or Tibloc) - An assisted braking belay device (such as a GriGri)

The Simul Climbing Setup For most situations, the optimum distance between climbers while simul climbing is around 30 meters. This is close enough that you can communicate well with each other and manage rope drag, but also far enough to ensure adequate protection between climbers.

Simply using a 30m rope has drawbacks, especially if your route has an involved descent. Shortening a full length rope with coils will give you more options on the route. There are several ways of doing this. A simple setup is described on the following page.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Lead Skills


Follower: - Tied in to the end of the rope with a figure-8. - 20-30m of rope is neatly coiled over the shoulder, then pulled tight to belay loop with an alpine butterfly. - GriGri pre-attached to belay loop with a small amount of slack in the rope.

Leader: - Tied in to the end of the rope with a figure-8. - GriGri pre-attached to belay loop (this allows a quick transition to belaying when needed).

Optional Rope Coils The leader could also attach to the rope with coils in the same way as the follower. Each climber takes half the number of coils so the length of rope between them is still the same. This enables the leader to quickly release some extra rope without needing to communicate this to the follower.

Make sure to keep your rope coils tight so they are unlikely to snag on rock features as you climb. Whenever releasing coils, always keep a hand on the brake strand of rope until you either re-tie your coils or reach the end of the rope – GriGri’s are not designed to be hands-free.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Lead Skills


Simul Climbing – Understanding Dangers Falling The main danger with simul climbing is falling. This isn’t a big deal if the leader falls (assuming they protected the climb well and the follower hasn’t allowed slack into the system). However, if the follower falls, they will probably pull the leader off too. The leader will then be sucked, crotch first, into their last piece of gear. The force applied to that piece of gear during a simul-fall is far greater than the force applied in a standard leader fall. This is because: - There is twice as much weight falling on the piece. - The second cannot give a dynamic belay because they are falling. This increased force is much more likely to cause the gear to fail. For this reason, it is not safe to simul climb on routes that are loose, runout, or that either member of the team may find difficult. Using progress-capture devices reduces the chance of this type of fall (see page 78).

Awareness It’s easy to get swept up in the flow of a long simul-lead, and take unnecessary risks. As a simul-leader, you should: - Communicate clearly with your partner about your plan. - Ensure that you protect the climb well when needed. - Save enough gear to make a solid anchor. - Be prepared to switch to belayed climbing anytime, even if this involves downclimbing. - Be aware of your partners position on the route. If they are about to climb a tricky section, you should place gear on the rope in front of you just before they climb it, so you are both protected. Or better, make an anchor and belay them up.

Unroping On long ridges, there are often stretches of non-exposed hiking between steeper rock sections. A rope which is dragged through hiking terrain is likely to get stuck or dislodge rocks. It may be safer to put the rope away and stay close together, therefore avoiding any self-inflicted rockfall danger, and being able to communicate more easily about route-finding. Make sure you have a solid belay when transitioning back to belaying or simul climbing. Being unroped on exposed and/or difficult terrain is obviously very dangerous.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Lead Skills


Climbing at Different Speeds – The Accordion Effect It is important for both climbers to move at the same pace so there is no unnecessary slack in the system. Having too much slack can result in either an unnecessarily long fall for the leader, or a high loading of the progress-capture device if the follower falls. The follower also risks pulling the leader off the wall if they are not keeping up the pace, or if they have to down-climb. Keeping the exact same pace all the time is extremely difficult. However, using rope coils makes this much easier. For example, the leader may stop to place gear, when the follower is in a strenuous or awkward position. Instead of staying there, the follower can move up to a comfortable position while pulling the excess slack through their GriGri. From a resting position, the follower can then belay the slack rope back while the leader climbs up.

Also, if the follower would prefer a real belay for a difficult section, but the leader needs more rope to reach a solid anchor, the follower can release some coils and belay the leader until they find an anchor. Once the leader has made a suitable anchor, the follower can either tie-off the coils again or continue belaying out the rest of their coils while the leader belays the rope in. This ensures there is never any unnecessary slack in the system. Once all the slack has been taken in, the leader can continue to belay the follower up to the anchor. Similarly, if the leader encounters a difficult section, the follower can stop at a good stance and/or make an anchor. The follower can then release their coils and belay the leader. Being able to quickly transition between simuling and belayed climbing allows you to safely navigate crux sections while cruising across the easier terrain.

Using Progress-Capture Devices The use of a progress-capture device (such as the RollNLock or Tibloc) can protect the leader from receiving too hard of a pull on their rope if the follower falls.

Rope To Leader

The leader simply attaches a PCD to a piece of gear as shown. In theory, if the follower falls, the device will lock on the rope and hold the fall without affecting the leader.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Lead Skills


In reality, there are serious drawbacks, which could make the situation more dangerous if the system is not fully understood. PCD's should only be attached to bomber multi-directional gear with minimum extension. Clipping one directly to a bolt is the best option, but they can also work well with trad gear if some cunning sling craft is used. Make sure your rope is able to run freely through the device. The more the device can move up or down, the more the leader will ‘feel’ a tug if the follower falls and therefore have a greater chance of being pulled off. This will also exert a greater force on the rope, increasing the chance of ruining the sheath. For this reason, do not extend a PCD. The leader should place another progress-capture device before the follower removes the previous one, so there is always one in the system.

Dangers of Progress-Capture Devices * Many types of PCD work poorly on wet or icy ropes. * If the leader needs to downclimb, the follower cannot take in any of the slack created. In this case, the leader must belay themselves down with their GriGri.

* A high force (such as the follower falling when there is slack in the system, or falling on a ridge traverse) could sever the rope’s sheath. * On wandering climbs, the PCD may get pulled to one side, causing it to (depending on the type of device) disengage or add rope drag.

* If the follower needs to downclimb, they will have to remove their coils and self-belay down.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Lead Skills


Types of Progress-Capture Device There are many types of PCD’s available, but some are more suitable than others for simul climbing. A device with a ribbed camming style is less harsh on rope sheaths than a toothed device. A PCD with a ball bearing pulley will feed rope through smoother than one without. A good device is the Climbing Technology RollNLock which features a ribbed cam and a ball bearing pulley.

Other ribbed devices include the Kong Duck and the Wild Country Ropeman. These do not have a pulley, so do not feed as smoothly as the RollNLock. A much simpler device is the Petzl Tibloc which is cheaper and lighter than the others but is toothed and has no pulley.

Another commonly used device with a ball bearing pulley is the Petzl Micro Traxion. However, this is a toothed device and so is more likely to damage a rope’s sheath.

Simul Climbing – Summary Simul climbing does not need to be epic. For example, if after climbing a full rope length, the leader is still 3 meters away from a belay, the follower may be able to safely provide them with enough rope by removing their belay and walking 3 meters across a ledge. This may be much safer than the leader attempting a desperate downclimb.

The techniques discussed in this section are for advanced, experienced climbers who are looking for creative ways to solve problems and climb faster. Make sure you fully understand the dangers and only apply simul climbing techniques to situations when it is safe to do so.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Lead Skills


VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Lead Skills


Self-Rescue 85

Escaping the Belay


Hauling Your Partner


Retreating Mid-Pitch


Tandem Abseiling


Rope Soloing



Photographer: Alex Ratson.

Self-Rescue – Introduction Having a good knowledge of selfrescue skills is essential for any climber. The more effectively you are able to improve a poor situation (e.g; if you are able to escape the belay and descend with an injured partner to the ground, instead of waiting in the middle of the crag for assistance), the less risk is required of rescuers and the quicker you and your partner will receive help. Your self-rescue skills should be accompanied by a solid understanding of first aid (not covered in this manual). We recommend attending a wilderness first aid course to brush up on your skills. If you are capable of rescuing yourselves, you may not need to call for outside help at all, if that is even an option. Depending on the weather vvvvvvvvvv

and your position, a rescue may not be possible. Many remote areas do not even have a rescue service available. The self-rescue techniques described in this manual are merely guidelines. Many of the techniques simply will not work in the pickle you actually find yourself in. For example; you cannot safely descend if there is nowhere to make a reliable anchor. You cannot safely escape the belay and rope solo to an injured leader if you have no gear to make an upwards pulling anchor. You will often have to use your creativity to find a solution that works for your particular situation. Make a solid plan before attempting any kind of self-rescue and consider the additional risk it puts on you and your climbing partners.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


In general, if you can't solve your problem by escaping the belay and setting up a tandem abseil for you and the injured climber, it is unlikely that you'll be able to effect a safe rescue. In this case, you should consider calling for help or leaving the situation (if possible) and going for help yourself.

However, leaving an injured partner alone adds a whole other set of problems to the equation. If it’s possible to call for help (either using a phone or shouting to nearby climbers for assistance), this is usually by far the best thing you can do if you are not confident solving the problem with your current set of skills.

Escaping the Belay The belay escape is a technique whereby the belayer frees themselves from the responsibilities of belaying. This fundamental skill is necessary for many rescue situations. Situations when you may need to escape the belay include:

- If your partner needs hauling through a crux while following - If you need to descend to your partner to give immediate first aid - If your partner falls and is injured while leading - If you need to detach yourself from the rope to get outside help

The Belay Escape – How it Works Any safe version of the belay escape involves the same four checkpoints: 1) Get hands-free 2) Transfer climber’s weight to anchor 3) Transfer climber’s belay to anchor 4) Remove all excess prusiks, carabiners and knots The belayer can detach from the rope completely if needed. The end result is a system which can be released under load and can be used again as a belay. Returning to belay mode is often needed once a rescue has begun.

The full belay escape system is described in this chapter. Depending on the situation, you may not need to complete all of the steps (e.g: the process is much simpler if your partner is able to un-weight the rope). However, it’s important to know the complete system before taking shortcuts. Three different methods are described. These cover belaying: 1) From your harness (anchor is within reach) 2) From your harness (anchor is out of reach) 3) Directly from the anchor (e.g: using guide mode)

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


The Belay Escape – First Considerations Before starting a belay escape, make sure it is the best course of action for the situation. Maybe a much simpler option exists, such as lowering your partner to a ledge, or getting them to prusik up. Depending on the direction of loading and your course of action after escaping the belay, you may need to make your anchor stronger. Some rescue techniques (such as hauling) exert high forces on the anchor. Beefing up the anchor is straightforward if you are belaying a second and there are protection points available within reach. With some creative sling craft and fine tuning, you may be able to equalize a few extra pieces to the belay. If you are belaying a leader on a multi-directional anchor where there is only a single piece holding an upwards pull (example shown), you will need to add gear or build a new anchor before escaping the belay.

Make sure the anchor still protects you from a fall while you are adjusting pieces.

This is very difficult (or impossible) if the leader has the whole rack with them. However, you may be able to adjust the existing anchor pieces and cordelette to hold an upwards pull.

As a last resort, you might be able to rope solo (see page 113) or prusik (see page 116) a short distance to retrieve gear for backing up the anchor.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


The Belay Escape – When Belaying from your Harness (Anchor within Reach) Step 1 Get hands-free by tying off your belay device with a mule-overhand (see page 142). Rope To Climber

Spare Rope

Step 2 Tie a prusik hitch on the weighted rope with a long cordelette. Make sure the double fisherman’s bend which joins the cord is close to the prusik hitch.

If you don’t have a long cordelette, you could use a short prusik cord attached to 120cm sling.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


Step 3 Clip a screwgate to the master point of the anchor.

Step 4 Tie a munter hitch with the cordelette to the screwgate. Flip the munter so it’s in the lowering position and pull all the slack through.

Step 5 Add a mule-overhand to the munter hitch on the cordelette (see page 141). This creates a munter-muleoverhand.

Step 6 Slide the prusik along the rope towards the climber to take up any remaining slack in the cordelette.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


Step 7 Carefully release your tied-off belay device and let a small amount of slack through so the climber’s weight iiiiiiiiii

Step 8 Attach a screwgate (yellow carabiner in this diagram) to the master point and tie a munter hitch on it with the bbbbbbbbb

is transferred to the prusik. You are no longer hands-free, so keep one hand on the brake rope for the next 3 steps.

brake rope. Pull most of the excess rope through so there is just enough slack to remove your belay device.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


Step 9 Keeping hold of the munter’s brake strand, remove your belay device.

Step 10 Pull the extra slack through the munter hitch and flip it so it’s in the lowering position. Finish the munter with a mule hitch and an overhand knot to make it a munter-muleoverhand. You are now hands-free again.

Step 11 Release the mule-overhand from the cordelette and use the munter to transfer the climber’s weight from the cordelette to the rope.

Step 12 Once the climber’s weight is fully on the rope, remove the cordelette completely. You have now escaped the belay and can move on to the next step of your rescue.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


Note The same steps can be followed to escape the system if you are belaying from your harness and using a redirectional through the anchor.

The Belay Escape – When Belaying from your Harness (Anchor out of Reach) This method is great if you are far from the anchor and/or do not have a long cordelette available. The description below assumes that the bbbbbbbb

belayer is tied in to the end of the rope and then attached to the anchor with a clovehitch or figure-8 on a bight.

Step 1 Get hands-free by tying off your belay device with a mule-overhand. Rope To Climber Spare Rope

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


Step 2 Fasten a prusik on the weighted rope as shown and attach a screwgate to it.

Step 3 Reach back to your tie-in at the anchor and grab the free end of your tie-in. If you can’t reach, run through the rope stack until you get to it.

Step 4 Tie a munter-mule-overhand on the screwgate with this part of the rope.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


Step 5 Slide the prusik down the rope towards the climber to take out any excess slack.

Step 6 Transfer the climber’s weight onto the prusik by releasing your tied-off belay device. Be prepared for a bit of rope stretch before the prusik takes the weight. You are no longer hands-free, so keep one hand on the brake rope for the next 3 steps.

Step 7 Move back to the anchor and tie a munter hitch to it with the brake strand of rope.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


Step 8 Remove your belay device.

Step 9 Bring in the excess slack and finish the munter with a mule-overhand. You are now hands-free again.

Step 10 Release the mule-overhand from the rope which is attached to the prusik. Use the munter to transfer the climber’s weight from the prusik to the munter-mule-overhand on the anchor.

Step 11 Once the climber’s weight has been transferred, you can remove the prusik and its munter hitch. You have now escaped the belay.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


The Belay Escape – When Belaying Directly from the Anchor When belaying directly from the anchor with a self-blocking belay device (such as an ATC in guide mode) or an assisted-braking belay device (such as a GriGri), you have already escaped the belay. These belay methods are not completely hhhhhhh



hands-free – a light hand must be kept on the brake strand while belaying. Therefore, the only step remaining is to add a back-up. Simply tie-off the device with a muleoverhand as shown below.



VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue



Hauling Your Partner This section describes methods of hauling your partner up part of a climb. Times when you may need to set up a hauling system include: - Assisting your partner through a short crux. - If your partner falls while following a steep pitch and is left dangling in space. - During a multi-pitch rescue of an injured climber, where descending would be more difficult or dangerous.

follower to prusik up the rope than it is for the leader to haul them. However, hauling may be the best option if they are injured or cannot use prusiks. Warning – Unconscious Climber Dragging a climber up a cliff may cause additional injuries. If the climber is unconscious, they should not be hauled unless directly attended. If a long or complicated haul is required, utilizing search and rescue professionals is usually the best course of action.

In most cases, it is easier for the tttttttttt

Mechanical Advantage The hauling systems in this section are described using their mechanical advantage.

Taking this into consideration, a 3:1 setup is still a simple and effective solution for many situations.

A 3:1 means that for every three meters of rope that you haul, your partner moves up one meter. With a 5:1, five meters of rope must be hauled to move your partner one meter. In theory, a 3:1 is three times easier than just pulling on the rope (1:1). In reality, improvised hauling systems are fraught with inefficiencies, creating a significant difference between theoretical and actual mechanical advantage. This is primarily due to friction around carabiners and stretch in the rope (see page 107).

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue




Hauling Your Partner – Drop Line 1:1 Best Use - Assisting your partner through a short crux near the top of a pitch. Advantages - Simple.

Disadvantages - Only possible when the climber is less than 1/3 of the rope length from the belayer. - Must be able to drop a rope to the climber easily. Getting your rope stuck will add more problems.

Step 1 Tie off your belay device (see page 142) so you can go hands-free.

Step 2 Attach the standing end of the rope to the master point. Depending on your belay setup, it may already be attached

Step 3 Lower the rope stack to the climber.

Rope To Climber

Standing End

Spare Rope

Step 4 Release your tied off belay device. Your partner can now pull on the standing end of the rope while you belay them up – they do all the hard work! Make sure the climber pulls on the correct strand of rope. You could also pretie some loops in the rope so it is easier for them to pull.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue

Climber Pulls on this Rope


Hauling Your Partner – Drop Line 2:1 / 3:1 Best Use - Assisting your partner through a short crux near the top of a pitch when belaying in guide mode. Advantages - Simple.

Disadvantages - Only possible when the climber is less than 1/3 of the rope length from the belayer. - Must be able to drop a rope to the climber easily. Getting your rope stuck will add more problems.

Step 1 Attach a screwgate to the rope stack and lower it down to the climber.

Step 2 The climber clips this screwgate to their belay loop.

Step 3 Tie a back up knot (such as a figure8) to the anchor. This back up knot should be adjusted every few meters.

Spare Rope

Step 4 The climber pulls down (with a 2:1 advantage) while the belayer pulls up (with a 3:1 advantage).

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


Hauling Your Partner – Simple 3:1 Best Use - Hauling your partner through a crux when passing the rope to them is not possible.

Advantages - Only requires a few meters of rope to set up. Disadvantages - The climber cannot assist.

Step 1 If belaying from your harness, you’ll need to escape the belay (see page 85).

Step 2 Tie a prusik on the weighted rope and clip it to the master point with a screwgate (depending on how you escaped the system, you may already have this).

Spare Rope

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


Step 3 Tie another prusik on the weighted rope as far down as you can reach. Clip this to the loose brake strand with a screwgate (Use a pulley here if you have one).

Step 6 Transfer the load onto the upper prusik by slowly unfastening the munter-mule-overhand. Make sure you keep hold of the brake rope from now on.

Step 4 Connect the rope to the master point with a screwgate as shown.

Step 7 Remove the carabiner which the munter-mule-overhand was tied to. Pull in all slack.

Step 5 Tie a back up knot (such as a figure8) in the slack rope and attach this to the anchor.

Step 8 You are now ready to haul. Keep one hand over the upper prusik to maintain its position while pulling upwards on the rope. Make sure the prusik does not get sucked through the carabiner.

Step 5

Step 4


Step 3

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


Step 9 The lower prusik will eventually join the upper prusik. At this point you will need to reset it. With the weight on the upper prusik, push the lower prusik down the rope as far as you can.

Step 10 Repeat steps 8 and 9 until your partner is able to continue climbing. At this point, re-attach your belay device and remove the prusiks.

This would be a good time to adjust your back-up knot (tie a new one before untying the old one).

Push Prusik Down

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


Hauling Your Partner – 3:1 Tips Self-Sliding Prusik If an ATC is available, you can add it to the master point during Step 4. The ATC will not add friction, but it can help to prevent the upper prusik from getting sucked through the carabiner.

Downwards Hauling If pulling upwards is difficult, you can re-direct the rope through the anchor to change the hauling direction. This will allow you to more easily put your weight into the haul. The disadvantage is that it adds more friction to the system without adding any mechanical advantage.


VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


Hauling Your Partner – 3:1 with Guide Mode You can easily set up a 3:1 system if you are belaying directly from the anchor in guide mode.

Advantages - Quick to set up. There is no need to escape the belay or attach the upper prusik.

Disadvantages - Adds more friction to the system.

Step 1 Attach a prusik to the rope as previously described.

Step 2 You are now ready to haul.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


Hauling Your Partner – 3:1 with a Garda Hitch A garda hitch (see page 153) is an improvised ratchet pulley.

Advantages - Eliminates the need for the upper prusik.

Disadvantages - Adds more friction to the system. - The garda hitch is almost impossible to release when loaded. It is essentially a one-way hitch.

Step 1 Instead of tying a munter-muleoverhand when escaping the system, tie a garda hitch with a back-up as shown.

Step 2 Attach a prusik to the rope as previously described, and you are ready to haul.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


Hauling Your Partner – 3:1 from Your Harness The same system can be set up from your harness.

Advantages - Can be used with many belay setups. - No need to escape the belay.

Harness Belay Loop

Disadvantages - The weight of the climber hanging from your harness can be uncomfortable. - Your range of motion is restricted – pulling the rope and adjusting prusiks is much more difficult.

Step 1 Tie-off your belay device to get hands-free.

Step 2 Follow steps 2-10 of ‘Simple 3:1’ described on pages 99-101.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


Hauling Your Partner – Adding More Advantage Adding more mechanical advantage means easier but slower hauling. Endless variations are possible by aaaaaaaaaaa

5:1 System A 3:1 can be converted into a 5:1 by adding a sling and 2 carabiners.

adding more prusiks, slings and carabiners. Two of the most common systems are shown below.

9:1 System A 3:1 can be converted into a 9:1 by adding 2 carabiners and a prusik.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


Hauling Your Partner – Forces, Friction and Efficiency Forces on the Anchor Mechanical advantage hauling systems place increased forces on your anchor. It may be wise to beef it up with more gear prior to hauling. If you continue hauling with something stuck (e.g: a prusik or carabiner gets caught in a crack), the forces on the anchor increase exponentially. Don’t force the haul if it feels like something is stuck.

Friction More friction means harder hauling. Friction is increased by: - More weight on the rope - More carabiners in the system - Rope running over more surfaces

Carabiner and Pulley Efficiency Pulleys significantly reduce friction in hauling systems, but are rarely taken on climbs because they are unlikely to ever get used. A good compromise is the DMM Revolver carabiner which features a tiny pulley. It reduces friction and can be used as a normal carabiner too.

Creating a 5:1 or a 9:1 may not necessarily make the haul easier, especially if your anchor is built on the ground and the rope is zigzagging over rough rock. Not only does this generate a lot of friction, it also means that you will have to haul five (or nine) meters of rope to get your partner one meter up. Depending on how far you can reach to reset the prusiks, you may only haul your partner a few inches between each reset. If set up on an awkward stance, it could literally take hours to haul a person half a rope length.

In a simple 3:1 setup, the weighted rope runs around 2 carabiners. This is the minimum number for a 3:1 haul, and therefore this system has the least friction.

Hauling Your Partner – Summary Keeping your system simple, straight and away from unnecessary friction will help much more than adding mechanical advantage to an inefficient system. If you can throw some rope to your partner, the ‘drop line’ techniques will be quickest. If not, a 3:1 will be the next best option. It is often more efficient to pull harder on a 3:1 than it tttttttt

is to add carabiners (and friction) to set up a 9:1. Only add more mechanical advantage if you need it. Complicated belays and loose rock on belay ledges can add more problems than a hauling setup may solve. Consider alternative solutions (such as lowering your partner, or getting them to prusik up) before you set up a hauling system.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


Retreating When Leading Sometimes, a climb may prove to be too difficult, forcing you to retreat. This is fairly straightforward if you: - Can downclimb - Can reach an anchor by frenchfreeing, aiding (see page 65) or penduluming (see page 61) - Are less than half a rope length up a pitch However, if you are more than half a rope length up a pitch, cannot downclimb or make a belay, you can still get down.

The Cost of Leaving Gear Behind The following methods involve leaving your precious climbing gear behind. When deciding on which pieces or how many to leave, remember that the cost of climbing gear is far less than the cost of being seriously injured. It is obviously very dangerous if the lower-off piece fails. Leave behind solid gear and worry about replacing it later. Depending on the location, it may be possible to retrieve your gear later by abseiling in from the top on a fixed rope and then prusiking out.

Mid-Pitch Retreat with a Single Rope This method assumes that the gear you lower from is very reliable. It is recommended that you back up the lllllllllllll

lower-off piece either by equalizing it with another or by leaving a couple of protection pieces below the top piece.

Step 1 Get lowered to a place where you can make an anchor.

Step 2 Attach to the anchor with a sling.

Rope To Belayer

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


Step 3 Pull a bight of rope through the anchor, tie a figure-8 on a bight and attach it to your belay loop.

Step 4 Untie from the end of the rope, pull the rope through and re-tie back into the end.

Step 5 Remove the figure-8 on a bight and ask the belayer to take in the slack. If there is a huge amount of slack, consider tying intermediate knots while the slack is being taken in.

Step 6 Once the slack has been taken in, you can unclip your sling attachment and lower down to the belayer, or to another anchor to repeat the process. If the route traverses or overhangs, make sure to lower down with a sling or draw attaching you to the rope. This prevents you from getting stranded. You’ll have to clip past any gear that you are leaving.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


Mid-Pitch Retreat with Two Ropes If you are climbing with a lead rope and trailing another rope (e.g: a lightweight ‘tag’ rope for hauling or adding distance to your abseils), it is tttttttttt

Step 1 Clip the middle of the tag rope (green in this diagram) into your highest good piece of gear.

possible to use a different technique which is slightly safer (if you protected the pitch well) and means you can leave less gear behind.

Step 2 Abseil on the tag rope while getting belayed down on the lead rope. If the top piece fails, you will be protected by the gear you placed on the lead rope. Remove this protection as you descend.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue

Step 3 This technique allows you to descend up to half the length of the tag rope. At this point, you will need to create an anchor and repeat the process.


Tandem Abseiling Tandem abseiling means two people descending with the same device. It is most useful when descending with an injured climber. A simple tandem abseil setup: - ‘Lead’ abseiler is attached to a belay device with a 60cm sling girth hitched through their belay loop. - Lead abseiler uses a prusik. - Second abseiler is attached to the same belay device with a 60cm sling doubled through their harness. This allows the climbers to be staggered slightly. - Both climbers are attached with separate screwgates to the belay device. The two carabiners add extra friction therefore making it easier to control the descent. This also allows each climber to be on independent systems.

Multiple Tandem Abseils If your partner is incapacitated, you should attach them to each station with a releasable clip-in (such as a length of cord tied with a muntermule-overhand), backed up with a sling. Pre-attach this to their harness before you begin the descent. Because of the doubled weight, you might benefit from adding extra friction to the abseil (see page 34).

Second Abseiler

Lead Abseiler

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


Chest Harness You could make an improvised chest harness to keep your partner in a better position during the descent.

Step 2 Insert your partner’s arms into the loops, as if you were helping them put a jacket on.

Step 1 Tie an overhand knot in the middle of a 120cm sling.

Step 3 Clip the two ends of the sling around the abseil rope (no knot is needed – the carabiner should run freely down the ropes). An alternative is to clip the chest harness to your partner’s abseil sssssssss

sling. Be careful not to descend past your next abseil station – prusiking back up with an extra person hanging from your harness may be impossible.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


Rope Soloing Rope soloing is a technique where you belay yourself instead of being belayed by your partner. You can use this technique to lead or top rope belay. More complicated techniques are needed to solo an overnight alpine route or aid-solo a big wall. These skills are outside the scope of this book. Only the basic technique is described here. Times when you may need to rope solo include: - Climbing up to reach an injured leader after escaping the belay. - Assisting an injured partner who cannot belay and when the easiest way out is up.

- Setting up a top rope anchor by yourself.

Rope Solo Devices Devices exist which are specifically designed for rope soloing (such as the Silent Partner). Assisted braking belay devices (such as the GriGri) work to some extent, but are fairly unreliable for rope soloing and must be backed up with the technique described here anyway. In keeping with the improvised character of self-rescue, we will assume that you don’t have a rope solo device with you.

How To Rope Solo – The Basics Step 1 Build a bomber, multi-directional anchor (a bolted anchor is best when first learning this technique) and tie one end of the rope to it. This anchor primarily needs to hold an upwards pull. You can maintain the position of the anchor by tying a clovehitch to a separate piece of gear above the anchor as shown (other knots work too, such as the alpine butterfly, but the clovehitch is much easier to cinch tight). Alternatively, you can use a prusik to maintain the anchor’s position. Be aware that prusiks may slip when left on an unattended, moving rope like this. If it is critical that your anchor stays in position, use the clovehitch technique instead. VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


Step 2 Tie in to the other end of the rope.

Step 3 Stack the rope neatly so that it feeds out from both ends. The rope will feed out twice as fast from the anchor side than from your tie-in side, so factor this in when stacking.

Step 4 Pull a few meters of rope through from the anchor side and tie a clovehitch to a screwgate on your belay loop. This is your primary tie-in point. Rope Stack

Step 5 Tie another clovehitch a couple of meters further down the rope. This is your back-up.

Step 6 You are now ready to climb. As you ascend, place gear on the rope between your primary clovehitch and the anchor.

Step 7 You’ll need to adjust your clovehitch just before the rope comes tight. Pull up a few meters of slack rope, tie another clovehitch, then remove the old one. Remember that the extra slack from untying will add to the distance you can fall as well as the distance you can climb up. Re-tie the clovehitches as often as needed to keep yourself safe.


VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue

Rope Stack


Alternative Rope Solo Method The main reason to be tied into the end of the rope is so that it’s impossible to become completely detached from the system. Depending on your level of competence with rope soloing, you may choose to only be attached to the system via the clovehitches. This means you have less rope hanging from your harness and therefore less tttttttttttt

chance of a loop getting caught on something out of reach below. A good compromise is to carry the rope with you in a backpack while climbing. Tie into the end of the rope and stack it inside the backpack (your tie-in end is stacked at the bottom). Keep your backpack open so you can pull rope out easily while you climb.

Rope Soloing Dangers Rope Management One of the main difficulties of rope soloing is judging the amount of rope needed to get to the next gear placement or good stance. It’s a hard balance between having enough rope to move up, and keeping fall potential to a minimum.

Dynamic Belay Without a partner, you will not have a dynamic belay. This means more force is applied to your gear in a fall – another reason to place solid gear more frequently.

Stuck Ropes Another common problem (especially on lower-angle terrain, or if it’s windy) is getting a loop of rope stuck on something out of reach below.

Reducing Dangers You can reduce these dangers by: - Placing good gear more frequently than you normally would. - Identifying upcoming gear placements before you reach them. - Making sure you don’t need to re-tie your clovehitches in the middle of a difficult move. - Only climbing terrain you find easy. - Having a sling pre-attached to your belay loop. This allows you to quickly clip in to a piece of gear – useful for getting your hands free to adjust knots. - Managing your rope well. If your rope is likely to get stuck far below, you could carry it in coils on your harness (this works better higher up the pitch when there is less rope to deal with), or take it with you from the start in a small backpack.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


Top Rope Self-Belaying Other situations exist where you may need to self-belay up a rope above you. For example, if the rope above gets stuck when you’re following a pitch. A solution would be to self-belay to the point where the rope is stuck. In most situations like this, the rope remains still while you ascend. Simply climb up and tie backup knots as you go. Depending on the situation, you may reach a point where you can be put on belay. In this case, you should adjust the backup knots while the belayer takes in rope. This ensures tttttttttttt

that you do not create unnecessary fall potential while the rope is being taken in.

Prusiking up a Rope This section explains how to ascend a rope using prusiks, assuming that you already know how to tie one (see page 148). Prusiking is most commonly needed if:

- You abseiled too far - You abseiled the wrong way - Your ropes get stuck after abseiling - You fall while leading or following a steep pitch

Before You Prusik up a Rope Only prusik up a rope which is properly attached to an anchor Sounds obvious, but many accidents have happened because a climber was ascending a ‘stuck’ rope which suddenly came free. Another fatal mistake is to ascend only one rope on a double rope abseil, hoping that the knot will remain jammed in the anchor. When under ooooooooo

load, even large knots can squeeze through carabiners and certain types of chains or rings. If you descended both ropes, you’ll need to ascend both too. Remember that prusiks work equally well on one rope or two.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


Always back up your prusiks Prusiks are not full-strength attachment points. Tie a back-up knot in any rope which you are ascending. Clip this knot to your belay loop and re-tie it frequently as you ascend. Make sure to tie the new back-up knot before removing the old one.

How To Prusik up a Rope: The Standard Technique Advantages - Safe to use in almost any ropeascending situation.

Disadvantages - Often more strenuous than other methods, such as the slingshot (see page 119).

Step 1 Tie a back-up knot (clovehitch, overhand or figure-8 on a bight work well) in the slack rope(s) beneath you. Clip this knot to your belay loop with a screwgate. If you are ascending two ropes, make sure to tie back-ups in both of them. If you are mid-abseil, simply weight your prusik and tie the back-up knots. If you are abseiling without a prusik and dangling in space, you can wrap the rope around your leg at least three times, tie a prusik, release the rope from around your leg, weight the prusik and then tie the back-up knots. Whatever you do, make sure to keep hold of the brake rope until you have tied the back-up knots.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


Step 2 Attach two prusiks (classic or klemheist types work well) to the rope(s) above you.

Step 3 Girth hitch a 60cm sling to your belay loop and clip it to the top prusik (if it’s too long you can tie a knot to shorten it). Use screwgate carabiners for all connections. If you don’t have enough screwgates, you can substitute two snapgates with gates opposite and opposed.

Step 4 Girth hitch another sling to your belay loop and clip it to the bottom prusik.

Step 5 Make a foot loop by clipping a long sling/piece of cord to the bottom prusik.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


Step 6 Now the hard work begins. To ascend, push the top prusik up the rope as far as you can, then sit back in your harness to rest your weight on it.

Step 7 Slide the unweighted bottom prusik up the rope and stand in the foot loop. As you stand up, slide the now unweighted top prusik up the rope.

Step 8 Repeat this process, making sure to adjust the back-up knots as you ascend.

How To Prusik up a Rope: The Slingshot Technique Advantages - Less strenuous to ascend the rope than the standard technique (see page 117).

Disadvantages - You can only use this technique when both strands of rope are within reach. For example, you cannot regain your high-point if you fall into space when leading or following a steep pitch. - Difficult to set up mid-abseil if you can’t un-weight the rope. - Causes the rope to rub over the main anchor point. Never use this method if your rope is threaded through webbing, a sling or any fairly worn-out anchor point. The sawing action of this technique can cause the rope to cut the sling!

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


Step 1 Anchor yourself independently of the abseil ropes (if you’re not already on the ground) and remove your belay device.

Step 2 Tie a figure-8 on a bight in both strands of rope. Clip both of these to your belay loop, each with their own screwgate. One of these will remain weighted as you ascend, the other is your back-up knot.

Step 3 Tie both prusiks on the side of the rope which has the knot joining the two ropes. Attach yourself to both prusiks and rig a foot loop as described on page 118. If you anchored independently from the abseil ropes, you will need to detach yourself from the anchor at this point.

Step 4 Prusik up the rope, using the same technique described in steps 6 and 7 on the previous page. As you pull down on one side of the rope, the opposite side will pull up, assuming there isn’t much friction at the anchor point. This makes the ascent easier, but slower, than using the standard method. Re-tie your back-up knot as you ascend (on the blue rope). Make sure to get the right knot though – do not untie the weighted knot!

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


Step 5 In most cases, you’ll have to pass the knot which joins the two ropes. Simply re-tie your prusiks past this knot one at a time.

How To Prusik up a Rope: Using an Extended Belay Device Advantages - Fairly quick to set up.

Disadvantages - Only works if you are abseiling with an extended belay device which has a guide mode function.

Step 1 Fasten a prusik knot (klemheist works well) around both ropes above your belay device with a long piece of 5mm or 6mm cord. This will be your foot loop. If you don’t have a long piece of cord, just use a short one and attach a sling to it.

Step 2 Step into the foot-loop and stand up, taking the weight off your belay device. Make sure to keep hold of both brake ropes as you do this.

Step 3 Connect your belay loop to the autoblock hole on your belay device with a screwgate. Sit your weight onto your now auto-blocked belay device.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


Step 4 Slide the top prusik up the rope and stand in the foot loop again to take the weight off your belay device.

Step 5 Pull the slack rope through your belay device and weight it again. Repeat as necessary.

Prusiking up a Rope – Summary Knowing how to prusik up a rope is an essential skill for any trad climber. Having this knowledge can transform a potential epic into a mere inconvenience.

It is strenuous and awkward at first, and it may take a while to figure out the exact lengths of cord you need. But with a little practise, you will soon become a prusiking pro.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Self-Rescue


Essential Knots 127



Figure-8 on a Bight




Overhand Loop


Double Bowline


Girth Hitch


Water Knot


Slip Knot


Munter Hitch






Alpine Butterfly


Double Fisherman’s Bend


Prusik Knots


Garda Hitch

Climb: Russian Direttissima, Eiger North Face, Switzerland. Photographer: Andy Kirkpatrick.

Essential Knots This chapter introduces the most commonly used knots for climbing and rescue situations. Every climber should be able to recognize, tie and untie the following knots without having to think about it. Remember that you may have to tie them in situations which are far from ideal and you will trust your life to each knot.

Dressing After tying any knot, it is important that you dress it correctly. This means tightening each strand and adjusting the loops and twists so they are perfectly aligned. Your knots should look exactly like the diagrams in this manual. A knot which isn’t well dressed could slip or fail.

Each knot has multiple uses and, in most cases, there are many knots you could tie to achieve the same result. Before choosing a knot, consider the following. In order of importance:

Webbing and Cord Webbing (tape) is flat. Cord and ropes are round. Knots which are designed for flat webbing may be useless when tied with rope and vice versa. Make sure you understand what material your knot is for.

1) Is it suitable for the intended use? 2) Could it slip or roll? 3) Is it easy to untie or adjust?

Diameter, Flexibility and Surface Friction The examples given in this manual assume that you are tying identical sections of cord, rope or webbing tttttttttttttttt

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Essential Knots


together, except of course for prusiks. Knots work best when every rope involved is of the same diameter, flexibility, elasticity and surface friction. Minor differences are fine. For example, tying a 9.5mm and a 10.2mm dynamic rope end-to-end for abseiling is safe. But tying a 6mm tag a

line to a 10.2mm rope with the same knot will probably result in that knot falling apart. Likewise, a knot joining an old, stiff static rope to a slick, flexible dynamic rope is likely to slip, even if they are the same diameter. A simple alternative for joining ropes or cord of different materials or diameters is to tie a figure-8 loop in the end of each and clip them together with a carabiner.

Figure-8 Tie In Uses The figure-8 is widely accepted as being the safest knot to tie-in with.

Step 1 Make a loop about a meter from the end of the rope. Wrap the end of the rope around the base of the loop, then push the end through as shown.

Step 2 You should end up with an '8'. Make sure the knot is around 90cm from the end of the rope (the exact length varies with ropes of different diameters).

Step 3 Pass the end of the rope through both of the two points on the front centre of your harness – the same ones your belay loop runs through. It is important that the rope goes through your harness in exactly the same way as your belay loop does.


VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Essential Knots


Step 4 Use the end of the rope to re-trace the figure-8. Follow the twists of the rope starting from where it joins your harness.

Step 5 Continue following the twists until you end up back at the start of the knot. Pull the tight.



Step 6 Make sure the end of the rope is around 25cm long. If it is shorter, you'll have to untie and start again. After this, you will need to tie a stopper knot. Loop the short section of rope around the main length.


Step 7 Do this twice, with the second loop closer to you than the first.

Step 8 Push the end of the rope through these two loops, away from you.


Step 9 Pull this tight too (make sure it's pushed right up to your figure-8 knot).

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Essential Knots


Figure-8 on a Bight Uses - Attaching the rope to an anchor.

Step 1 Take a bight of rope and form an ‘8’ shape as shown.

- Creating a master cordelette or sling.

Step 2 Push the end of the rope through the top part of the 8.




Step 3 Pull it tight.

Stopper Knot When tying a figure-8 in the end of a rope, make sure to add a stopper knot.

Warning! Figure-8’s should only be end-loaded (pulled along the line of the knot). If you load the loop in two opposing directions, the knot can roll over itself and lose strength or fail completely. For this reason, you should never use the figure-8 to join ropes for abseiling.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Essential Knots


Tying into the Middle of the Rope You can use a variation of the figure-8 to tie into the middle of a rope. Follow steps 1-5 described on pages 127-128, but use a bight of rope instead. Clip the final loop into your belay loop to complete the knot.

Clovehitch Uses - Attaching yourself to the anchor.

- Attaching ropes, cord or slings to carabiners.

Step 1 Make two identical loops in the rope. Put the rear loop over the top of the front loop.

Step 2 Clip a screwgate carabiner (never use a snapgate carabiner) through these two loops.

Step 3 Pull it tight and fasten the screwgate.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Essential Knots


Overhand Loop Uses - Creating a master cordelette or sling.




Step 1 Clip the sling to both bolts and pull the strands down so they are equal.

Step 2 Pull the bottom of the sling around to form a loop.

Step 3 Push the end of the sling through the loop as shown. Pull the knot tight.

Step 4 This forms two small loops beneath the overhand knot. Clip a screwgate through both of these loops to form the central point.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Essential Knots


The same knot can be used to equalize three or more pieces.

Double Bowline Uses - Securing the end of a rope around a large object such as a tree.

- Could also be used to tie the rope to your harness.

Step 1 Wrap the end of the rope around a tree or other suitable object. Form two loops in the rope as shown.

Step 2 Push the end of the rope up through the two loops and around the back of the main strand. Then push the end of the rope back down through the loops.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Essential Knots


Step 3 Pass the end around the back of the knot and push it up through the new loop as shown.

Step 4 The double bowline is now tied, but needs a stopper knot to be complete. Pass the end of the rope around the main strand twice.

Step 5 Finish the stopper knot to complete the double bowline.

Warning! The double bowline is great for tying around a tree or boulder as part of a toprope anchor. Some climbers also use the double bowline for tying in because it’s easy to untie after multiple falls. However, it has been known to untie itself, especially if the rope is stiff. This is due to lots of movement in the rope as you climb. The figure-8 is recommended as a much safer alternative for tying into your harness.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Essential Knots


Girth Hitch (Lark’s Foot) Uses - Attaching slings to your belay loop. - Attaching slings together.

- Fastening a sling around a tree. - Connecting a sling to a carabiner without opening the gate.

Step 1 Feed a sling through your belay loop.

Step 2 Put one end of the sling through the other.

Step 3 Pull it tight.

Strop Bend You can also link two slings together using these same steps. Arrange the girth hitch as shown below to create a strop bend. This is basically a neater version of the girth hitch.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Essential Knots


Water (Tape) Knot Uses - Joining flat or tubular nylon webbing of equal width.

Step 1 Tie a loose overhand knot near one end of the webbing.

Step 2 Thread the other end into the knot as shown.

Step 3 Retrace the original knot, making sure it lies flat at all times.

Step 4 Cinch the knot tight. The tails should be at least 10cm long.

Warnings! * The water knot should never be used to join: - Dyneema webbing - Any webbing of unequal width - Rope/cord to webbing In these cases, the knot is very weak and prone to slipping.

* The water knot can untie itself over time with repeated loading and unloading. Make sure the knot is tight and the tails are at least 10cm long each time you use it. * Some climbers duck-tape the tails to keep them neat and to help prevent creeping. If you do this, leave the ends of the webbing in view so you can see them.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Essential Knots


Slip Knot Uses - Tying off pitons, tree stumps or other poor gear in order to reduce leverage.

Step 1 Form a loop in a sling (thin Dyneema works better than nylon).

Step 2 Pull a bight through this loop as shown.

Step 3 Slip this bight over the piece of gear.

Step 4 Cinch it tight and push it as close to the rock as possible. This reduces leverage on the piece, therefore making it a stronger piece of protection.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Essential Knots


Munter Hitch Uses - Belaying without a belay device. - Abseiling without a belay device. - Creating a releasable knot when escaping the belay.

Note The munter hitch tends to 'kink' the rope when used for abseiling or belaying. It can also cause slight abrasion to the rope's sheath, especially if the leader falls. It is a useful skill to know, but is not intended for long-term use.

Step 1 Clip the rope through a large, pearshaped (HMS) screwgate. Smaller screwgates work too, but will make belaying more difficult.

Step 2 Twist a loop in the climber's end of the rope as shown.

Rope to Climber

Step 3 Clip the loop into the screwgate.

Rope to Climber

Step 4 Clip the carabiner to your belay loop and fasten the screwgate.

Rope to Climber

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Essential Knots


Step 5 Test the knot by pulling tight on either end of the rope. The knot should flip through the carabiner easily both ways.

Warning! Make sure the brake strand is on the 'spine' of the screwgate. If the brake strand is on the 'gate' side, it could rub against the gate and potentially open it. Rope to Climber

Rope to Climber

Belaying with a Munter Hitch The main difference when belaying with a munter hitch (as oppose to an ATC) is that you 'lock-off' in the opposite direction (see next page). This goes against a climber's natural reaction, so make sure to practise this technique well before using it. When bringing up the second on a munter hitch, it's easier to belay directly from the anchor (if your anchor setup allows), rather than from your harness. Whichever method you choose, you must keep hold of the brake rope at all times. Rope to Climber

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Essential Knots


To Lock Off The munter hitch creates a lot of friction. Depending on the situation (rope thickness, weight of climber, rope drag, etc..), it can be locked off in any direction. However, for maximum friction, you must hold the brake rope forward (so that both strands of rope are parallel to each other). Rope to Climber

To Give Slack Hold the brake rope loosely and pull through slack rope, similar to giving slack with an ATC. Rope to Climber

100% Friction at 0 Degrees

75% Friction at 180 Degrees

To Take In Pull the brake rope so that the knot 'flips'. More rope can now be taken in by continuing to pull rope through forwards.

To Lower Lock the rope off in the maximum friction position. Slowly move the rope back and lower as you would with an ATC. It can be tricky to find the 'sweet spot', so make sure to move position slowly.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Essential Knots


Belaying with a Munter Hitch – Top Tips When using a small diameter rope, it's worth using two carabiners to increase belay friction.

To belay the second with half ropes, you can treat them as one and tie them together in the same munter hitch.

If you need to pull one rope through faster than the other, you should use two separate knots instead.

To lead belay with half ropes, you'll need to use two separate screwgates with a munter hitch on each. This can be difficult at first, especially giving slack on one rope while simultaneously taking in the other. Practice well before you use this technique.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Essential Knots


Munter-Mule-Overhand Uses - Tying off a munter hitch when belaying or escaping the system.

Step 1 Form a loop in the brake-strand of rope. Step 2 Feed a bight of the brake rope around the climber's rope and through the loop as shown.

Step 3 Pull the knot tight, either by easing the climber's weight onto the rope if they are weighting it, or by pulling on the climber's strand of rope if they're not weighting it. This is now a muntermule, which is tied-off, but not backed-up.

Rope To Climber

Step 4 To complete the knot, you must back it up. One way of doing this is to tie an overhand around the climber's strand of rope. To start, wrap the loop around the back of the rope.

Step 5 Then feed it back through as shown. Step 6 A carabiner completes the hands-free munter-mule-overhand.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Essential Knots


To Release Unfasten the overhand knot. Then pull forwards on the brake strand of rope until the knot pops free. If the rope is weighted, you can expect a few centimetres of rope to slip through the munter hitch. Prepare for this by holding the brake strand tight with both hands.

Tying Off a Belay Device – The Mule Overhand Times when you may need to have both hands free when using an ATC include: - Switching gear on a multi-pitch - Sorting out a rope tangle when belaying - Passing a knot when abseiling - Escaping the belay in an emergency situation In situations where the rope isn't weighted, a simple overhand knot backed up to your belay loop (as shown below) will work. However, if the rope becomes weighted when using this method (e.g; if the leader falls), it will be almost impossible to release the tie-off.

If there is any chance of this happening, you should instead use the mule-overhand method (described on the following pages). This allows you to tie-off your belay device while the leader is weighting the rope, and also release the tie-off when it's weighted.

Step 1 Pass a loop of the slack rope through your screwgate carabiner with one hand while keeping hold of the rope with your brake hand.

Step 2 Pass a loop from the opposite side through the first loop so that a mule knot is formed around the spine of the carabiner.

This can be difficult when heavily weighted – you’ll need to pinch the rope tight.

Do not tie this knot around the gate of the carabiner.

Step 3 Make sure the second loop is around 60cm long. Pull it tight.

Step 4 Tie an overhand knot around the tensioned rope as shown.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Essential Knots


Step 5 A carabiner completes the hands-free mule-overhand knot.

Step 6 – Releasing Under Load To release the tie-off with the rope loaded, first untie the overhand knot. Then holding the slack rope securely with both hands, simply pull down to release the mule knot. You should be ready to expect a few centimetres of rope to slip through. Keep a firm grip so you do not lose control of the belay device. You can now belay or lower the climber as normal.

Top Tips * If you are belaying with two ropes, simply treat them as one rope and follow the same steps. * Make sure to communicate with your partner so they know not to continue climbing while tied-off.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Essential Knots


Alpine Butterfly Uses - Equalizing a two-bolt belay. - Isolating a damaged section of rope. - Forming a fixed loop in the middle of a rope. This provides a clip-in point which can be loaded in 2 or 3 directions.

Step 1 Form a loop in the rope.

Step 2 Twist the loop so it becomes two loops. Then pull the top of the upper loop behind and underneath the line of the rope.

Step 3 Push the now lower loop through the original first loop.

Step 4 Pull it tight.

View From Front

View From Back

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Essential Knots


Alternative Method An alternative way to tie the alpine butterfly is to wrap it around your hand three times as shown. Pull the top wrap down over the other two, then back up behind them.

Equalizing a Two-Bolt Belay Tie a large-looped alpine butterfly to one screwgate and a clovehitch to the other. You can adjust the size of the loop once the alpine butterfly is tied. Then adjust the clovehitch to fine tune the equalization.

Isolating a Damaged Section This is useful when using your rope as a fixed line or in a situation where the rope will not pass through any carabiners. Obviously, you will not be able to lead climb with a knot in your rope!

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Essential Knots


Double Fisherman’s Bend Uses - Tying two ends of cord together to make a prusik or cordelette.

Step 1 Loop one end of the cord around twice as shown to create two loops. Then push the end through these loops.

Spare Cord

Step 2 Pull it tight and do the same with the other end of the cord.

Step 3 Pull it all tight so that the two knots jam together. Make sure the tails are at least 10 times the diameter of the cord (e.g: 5cm tails for a 5mm prusik cord).

Triple Fisherman's Bend Add an extra coil to make a triple fisherman’s bend. Some slippery cords (such as dyneema) require a triple so they don’t slide apart under load – check the manufacturer’s recommendations.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Essential Knots


Prusik Knots: Different Types Explained A prusik (also known as a friction hitch) is a short piece of cord which can be wrapped around your climbing rope to add friction. They can slide up and down easily, but lock around the rope when weighted. Prusiks are most commonly used for abseiling but are also incredibly useful in a variety of emergency situations such as ascending a rope or escaping the system. Four types of prusik knot are described on the following pages: - Classic - Autoblock (French) - Klemheist - Bachmann

Prusik Cords: Size and Material Size The diameter of your cord should be 60% to 80% of the rope’s diameter, whether you are using the prusik on one rope or two. If you use a cord that is too thin, it will cinch tight around the rope when weighted and be difficult to move freely. If you use a cord that is too thick, it won’t have enough friction to lock up when you need it to. In general, 6mm cord works well on 10mm ropes, whereas 5mm cord is better for 8mm ropes. The cord length should be 1.2m 1.5m.

Material Prusiks are usually made out of nylon cord, tied together with a double fisherman's bend. If the cord is too stiff, it won’t lock properly around the rope. The stiffness may also make it difficult to create the knot itself. Test your cord before you take it climbing so you can be sure that it works. If you are planning to use your prusiks frequently, you should consider buying some pre-sewn prusik loops. These come in a variety of forms, either without a bulky knot or with the knot sewn together and covered by a plastic sleeve.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Essential Knots


Prusik Types: The Classic Prusik Advantages - Very secure when loaded. - Locks in both directions.

Best Uses - In situations where you don’t need to keep sliding the prusik (e.g; escaping the system).

Disadvantages - Often difficult to release when tightly loaded.

Step 1 Pass the cord around the rope and through itself as shown, making sure the double fisherman’s bend is at the end.

Step 2 Pass the cord around the rope and through itself again.

Step 3 Make at least three wraps around the rope, pull the cord tight and clip a carabiner through the loop.

Step 4 Weight the knot in either direction to lock it. Pinch the knot to loosen it. This allows you to move it up or down the rope. If the knot gets stuck, you can push some cord in from the center of the knot to loosen it.

Make sure the knot is neat.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Essential Knots


Prusik Types: The Autoblock (French) Advantages - Easy to tie and untie. - Can be released under load.

Best Uses - As a back-up when abseiling.

Disadvantages - Tends to slip when used to ascend ropes.

Step 1 Wrap the prusik neatly around the rope a few times as shown.

Step 2 Clip the ends together with a carabiner. More wraps will create more friction around the ropes, though four wraps are generally enough. Make sure the autoblock is neat and the double fisherman's bend is away from the ropes.

Step 3 Pinch the knot to loosen it. This allows you to move it down the rope. Weight the knot to lock it. The autoblock locks in both directions, but the double fisherman's bend tends to wrap itself into the prusik when the direction is switched, making it much less effective.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Essential Knots


Prusik Types: The Klemheist Knot Advantages - Easy to release after being loaded. - Can be tied with webbing.

Best Uses - Ascending a rope.

Disadvantages - Only works in one direction.

Step 1 Wrap the prusik neatly around the rope a few times as shown.

Step 2 Pass the end of the cord through the loop.

Step 3 Attach a carabiner. Weight the knot downwards to lock it, or push it upwards to release.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Essential Knots


Prusik Types: The Bachmann Knot Advantages - Easy to operate when wearing gloves.

Best Uses Ascending ropes when wearing bulky gloves.

Disadvantages - Not good on icy or slick ropes. - Doesn’t grip as well as other types of prusik.

Step 1 Clip the cord through a large carabiner. This will be the ‘handle’ carabiner.

Step 2 Wrap the cord around the rope, feeding it through the carabiner each time. Keep the wraps snug to each other.

Step 3 Allow the end of the cord to hang down through the carabiner. Clip your load to this end. Do not clip your load to the carabiner which functions as the handle – this will release the knot!

Step 4 Push the handle carabiner up the rope to release the knot. Weight the lower carabiner to lock it.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Essential Knots


Prusik Cord Tips * Prusiks are not full-strength attachment points. Always have a back-up so you’re attached to the rope ‘properly’.

* Make sure not to wrap the double fisherman’s bend into any friction hitch. This will greatly decrease the knot’s effectiveness.

* The number of wraps should be increased or decreased depending on the cord stiffness, cord diameter and moisture conditions, with three wraps as a minimum. Before using any prusik knot, test it to see if it grips and releases well.

* If using prusiks in conditions where they might fail (e.g; prusiking up a wet or icy rope), it’s better to use two different types of prusik (and a full strength back-up, of course). If conditions exist to cause one to slip or fail, the likelihood is that the other prusik would not fail under the same conditions.

* If you don’t have a prusik cord, you can use a sling instead. Slings don’t work quite as well but it’ll help you get out of a tricky situation. A narrow nylon sling is better than Dyneema (Spectra). Don’t use a sling for anything except a prusik after using it once as a prusik.

* Check your prusik cord for wear and tear regularly. Make sure the double fisherman’s bend isn’t slipping and the cord isn’t abraded. When it’s looking worn, retire it and get a new one – cord is cheap.

Garda Hitch (Alpine Clutch) The garda hitch uses two parallel carabiners to create a system where a loaded rope can move in one direction but not the other.

Uses - As an improvised ratchet pulley for hauling.

Step 1 Secure two D-shaped carabiners together with a girth hitch so they lie parallel with the gates on the same side.

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Essential Knots


Step 2 Clip the rope through both carabiners.

Step 4 Clip this loop through the left carabiner and fasten the screwgates.

Step 5 Pull the loop back so it sits around the spine of the carabiners.

Step 3 Form a loop in the nonloaded strand as shown.

Loaded Strand

Step 6 The garda hitch is now complete. You will be able to pull rope through in one direction only. Make sure you have it the right way around.

Warning! * The garda hitch is a one-direction knot – it cannot be released under load. Be careful how you employ it. * It’s vital that you use D-shaped carabiners. A garda hitch tied on HMS or oval carabiners is prone to slipping down which causes the knot to fail.

Pull Up

Pull Down

* You must girth hitch the two carabiners together as shown in step 1. If you simply clip the carabiners through a sling or another carabiner, the garda hitch will not function correctly.

Loaded Strand

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving > Essential Knots


Other VDiff Titles

Having the knowledge of safe climbing skills is the lightest and most useful equipment you can take on any climb.

Available as paperbacks or e-books. For more information, visit:

Learn before you go. Don’t actually take these books up there with you!

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving


Index Abseiling, 32-55 bad anchors, 53-55 damaged ropes, 39-40 extended belay device, 35 increasing friction, 34-37 past a knot, 41-45 pendulums, 45-46 stuck ropes, 47-52 tandem abseiling, 111-112 without a belay device, 37-38 Accident prevention, 6-11 Aid climbing, 64-69 Alpine butterfly knot, 145-146 Alpine clutch, see Garda hitch Anchor(s), 12-31 bad anchors, 53-55 equalizing, 14-16 minimal gear, 29-30 multi-directional, 86, 113 quad anchor, 22-25 rope anchors, 26-28 self-equalizing, 16-25 sliding-X, 17-21 top rope, 25 Autoblock prusik, 150 Bachmann prusik, 152 Back roping, 60-61 Belaying without a device, 137-140 Carabiner brake, 37-38 Chest harness, 112 Classic prusik, 149 Clovehitch, 130 Competence, 10 Confidence, 10 Cordelette, 14-15, 131-132 Core-shot rope, 39 Daisy chain, 65 Decision making, 8-9 Double bowline, 132-133 Double fisherman’s bend, 147 Downclimbing, 53 Drop-line hauling, 97-98

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving

Equalizing anchors, 14-16 Equalizing figure-8 knot, 27-28 Escaping the belay, 85-95 Etriers, 65 Exhaustion, 10 Extended belay device, 35 Figure-8 knot, 127-130 Freesoloing, 11 French-free, 65 French prusik, 150 Friction hitches, 148-153 Garda hitch, 72, 104, 153-154 Girth hitch, 134 Guide mode, 24, 95, 98, 103 Hauling, equipment, 70 forces, friction and efficiency, 107 a haulbag, 69-73 your partner, 96-107 Klemheist prusik, 151 Knots, 124-154 alpine butterfly, 145-146 clovehitch, 130 double bowline, 132-133 double fisherman’s bend, 147 equalizing figure-8, 27-28 figure-8, 127-130 garda hitch, 72, 104, 153-154 girth hitch, 134 mule-overhand, 142-144 munter hitch, 137-140 munter-mule-overhand, 141-142 overhand, 131-132 prusiks (friction hitches), autoblock, 150 Bachmann, 152 classic, 149 klemheist, 151 sliding-X, 17-21 slip knot, 136 triple fisherman’s bend, 147


water knot, 135 Lark's foot, 134 Lead skills, 56-80 Loose rock, 55, 58-59 Mechanical advantage, 96 Micro Traxion, 70, 80 Mule overhand knot, 142-144 Munter hitch, 137-140 Munter-mule-overhand, 141-142 Overhand loop, 131-132 Pendulum(s) abseils, 45-46 following, 62-64 leading, 61-62 Piton tie-off, 136 Progress-capture devices, 78-80 Prusik cord, 148 Prusik knots, 148-153 Prusiking, 116-122 aid pitches, 67-69 stuck abseil ropes, 47-52

Rock quality, 59 Rope anchors, 26-28 Rope soloing, 113-116 Runout routes, 59-61 Self-equalizing anchors, 16-25 Self-rescue, 82-122 belay escape, 85-95 hauling your partner, 96-107 prusiking, 116-122 retreating mid-pitch, 108-110 rope soloing, 113-116 tandem abseiling, 111-112 Simul climbing, 73-80 Sliding-X, 17-21 Slip knot, 136 Tandem abseiling, 111-112 Tape knot, 135 Tension traverse, 61-64 Top rope, 25 Triple fisherman’s bend, 147 Tying off a belay device, 142-144 Tying into the middle of a rope, 130 Unroping, 77

Quad anchor, 22-25 Water knot, 135 Retreating mid-pitch, 108-110 Risk, 10

VDiff > The Trad Climber’s Guide To Problem Solving

Z-abseil, 36-37