2009 Petzl Roctrip at the Natural Games in Millau, France
- The 2009 Ultimate Routes (Infinity lane)
- Petzl Roctrip Video at the 2008 Natural Games (10mn)
- Official site for the Natural Games
With only a few days left until the Petzl Roc Trip, we thought it would be a good time to go over some basic rope handling techniques for multi-pitch sport climbing. The objective here is not to go in great detail about the activity itself, but rather to highlight the basics and go over some tips that will make climbing multi-pitch routes more enjoyable. The photos in this article are only meant for demonstration and have no technical purpose.
The beautiful lines of Cathédrale are waiting for climbers at the Petzl Roc Trip.
The Gorges de la Jonte have many classic three- to five-pitch sport routes rated from 4+ to 6b. Most of the routes have been re-equipped with glue-in bolts and don't require cams or other traditional protection. However, the re-equipping was done in the spirit of the original ascent. While the chances of a potentially dangerous ledge fall have been minimized, it doesn't mean that the routes are bolt ladders. Even on the routes rated in the 5's can be a little run-out.
Crowds on on the first belay acnhors at the "Diagonale du Gogol" sector.
A jumble of climbing teams crossing each other while others are rappelling.
A helmet is highly recommended.
Climbing has become more and more popular, as evidenced by the crowds at this cliff earlier this spring. The first thing we noticed: even on this warm weekend, most all of the climbers were wearing helmets. Without a doubt, the technical improvements over the recent years that have allowed helmets to be lighter, more comfortable, well-ventilated and good-looking mean that there is no longer any excuse for not wearing one. Not only do they help protect your head from falling rocks and other objects, but helmets also help protect from impacts as a result of a fall.
Attention : make sure the rope does not run under your leg
Things get complicated at the belay, where rope management plays a key role in the helping ensure climbing safety. In general, things go pretty well when the belays are equipped with glue-in bolts linked by a chain 1.5m above a nice big ledge. But in reality, it becomes more complicated when there's not a ledge, when there's no chain between the bolts, when more than one climbing party is sharing the same anchor, when your climbing in a party of three or when the same person is leading the entire route, etc.
Second belay station on Biotone. A station like this requires very a organized set-up adapted to the situation. Above, a climber from one party has just started a pitch as a climber from another party has just arrived at the belay...
More in detail, we can see the first piece is not clipped. The leader has already clipped several bolts, so the belayer can free the redirect bolt for the next team. A situation to be ancipated...
In every case, it's important to follow these rules:
- Everyone is directly or indirectly clipped to 2 separate anchors (using locking carabiners). Attaching the climbing rope with a clove-hitch to the anchor allows for simple adjustments so there's no slack in the system. Never rely on a single carabiner at the belay station!
- Keep the belay station simple and well-organized.
Belay used when swapping leads:
Belay station using a sling. Each rope is attached individually to each bolt with a clove hitch.
The locking carabiner and belay device are attached with a clove hitch.
Both bolts are equalized.
Belay station using the rope and two clove hitches.
To be used only when both anchors are deemed to be solid.
Clove hitch for tying off at the anchor
- When the leader is building the belay, s/he should try to anticipate rope management needs for the next pitch. There are different techniques for this, depending on the situation: whether the team is swapping leads, the same person is leading the entire route, or if its a team of three.
- Before setting off on the next pitch, always make sure a redirect is clipped as high as possible on the belay. If the leader falls before clipping the first bolt on the route, this redirect allows for the correct operation of braking belay devices like the REVERSO. Attention: this redirect reduces the fall factor, but increases the potential force on the belay anchors. A redirect on the belay station is for multi-pitch sport climbing, with bolted anchors. If the anchor doesn't seem totally solid, you should avoid this type of set-up.
On a piece very close to the belay or on the bolted belay itself.
- At the belay, the rope is stacked so it won't get tangled or stuck. Try to avoid letting the loops hang lower than the belayer. A few minutes of organization before the leader sets off will help prevent a real mess later.
Three solutions for organizing the rope
Second belay on the Arête Ouest with no ledge.
Here, the leader belays the second and stacks the rope on the anchor.
This helps prevent the rope from getting hung up on the flakes below.
The same team at the start of the 3rd pitch on the Arête Ouest. The same person is doing the leading (white helmet) and the second (orange helmet) took the time to re-stack the rope. At the beginning of the pitch, the belayer pays very careful attention to the climber, especially when clipping.
Why aren't all belays equipped with chains? The classic routes of the Cirque des Vases are frequently climbed. Not putting chains on the anchors prevents people from rappelling the routes and getting in the way of other climbers. A specific rappel descent was put in place. If a team does have trouble and needs to descend, it could at least rap off the glue-in bolts. At the top of the routes, the last belay is often placed on the edge of the cliff. They are set up this way to avoid rock fall from the top caused by the rope, etc. and they also make it easier for the team to communicate, especially if there's a lot of wind. If the leader does decide to belay from the top, s/he should be careful to keep in mind what's going on below. Pay careful attention to the knots and the correct usage of belay devices - realizing that the set-up might be the opposite of how it is normally. It's usually preferable to hang below the edge and belay.
Pay attention to these situations:
- When climbing in a party of three, the two seconds can climb at the same time, but make sure that there is enough space between the two, so one doesn't fall on the other.
- When climbing in a party of three, the first of the two seconds must not remove the other second's rope from the quickdraw, especially when there is a traverse involved.
Climbing with three people on the Arête Ouest. Here, the leader is belaying both the seconds at the same time. In this scenario, the REVERSO 3 is ideal (it's important to take up slack on each line regularly, keeping the ropes taut and always keep your brake hand on each of the ropes).
The 1st second removed both ropes from the last quickdraw on the pitch. As a result, the 2nd second is not well protected for the last moves of the traverse.
There's a risk of a pendulum fall and the rope will rub against the sharp rock.
It's important to master and know the maneuvers for rappelling. Every member of the team MUST use an rappel back-up (prusik, Klemheist, Bachman, or a SHUNT).
It's simple to install and it does the following:
- stops someone in case there's rock fall,
- allows the climber to stop and rid the rope of tangles and knots,
- allows the climber to be backed up while connecting to the next anchor,
- allows the climber to stop the descent and install an ascending system (if the climber has descended to far).
A knot at the end of the rope is also obligatory.
Installing a sling for the rappel
Setting up the rappel and joining two ropes
Preparing for rappelling
While rappelling, the back-up also enables the climber to stop and undo knots, etc.
Once at the rappel station, connect directly to one of the anchors.
Multi-pitch climbing areas like the Gorges de la Jonte, are ideal for working on rope management techniques and improving your knowledge on a few pitches. It's the required rite of passage before heading out on longer and more technical routes in the mountains. Rope management is not something you improvise and it takes constant practice. Don't hesitate seek out more information, ask questions, or take a climbing course taught by professionals for full climbing enjoyment.
Climb safe and have fun!
The Arête Ouest can be climbed in a single 90m pitch (Infinity lane). Check it out at the Petzl Roctrip !
This information is not exhaustive. Refer to the technical pages of the Sport Catalog and technical manuals.
Technical training is essential.