Belaying and descending on multi-pitch climbs on a single rope - Petzl USA
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Belaying and descending on multi-pitch climbs on a single rope

When climbing a more difficult pitch, a single rope is more comfortable and straightforward. For the belayer, using a GRIGRI is also more convenient if the leader needs to work certain sections. Descending a few pitches can be done on blocked rappels with a single rope and a retrieval cord. For long rappel sequences, half or twin ropes are more efficient.

Warnings

  • Carefully read the Instructions for Use used in this technical advice before consulting the advice itself. You must have already read and understood the information in the Instructions for Use to be able to understand this supplementary information.
  • Mastering these techniques requires specific training. Work with a professional to confirm your ability to perform these techniques safely and independently before attempting them unsupervised.
  • We provide examples of techniques related to your activity. There may be others that we do not describe here.

While climbing:

1. Belaying the leader dynamically

With the GRIGRI, the belayer moves in order to make it dynamic.

On a multi-pitch route, this movement is limited by the risk of hitting the station. A long lanyard gives the belayer room to move.

Belaying the leader dynamically

2. Belaying the second

The leader can climb light with a REVERSO, which is convenient for belaying the second.

Belaying the second

Descending on a blocked rappel

The single rope must be installed with a blocking technique and a retrieval cord that allows recovery. Descending can be done with the GRIGRI or the REVERSO (with back-up device or knot).

Do not descend on the retrieval cord; it is used only to recover the rope.

Examples of blocking the rope

Blocked rope 1.

Risk of the knot passing through the quick link, even though it may appear blocked.

This technique does not allow descending on a single rope.

Blocked rope 2.
  • Blocked on a small quick link with back-up.

    If the knot goes through the quick link, the fall will be stopped, but rope recovery will be complicated.
  • Second rappel can be set up only after the rope has been fully retrieved.
Blocked rope 3.
  • Blocked with a large knot.
  • Second rappel can be set up only after the rope has been fully retrieved.
Blocked rope 4.
  • Blocked without a rope-joining knot, with auto-locking carabiner.
  • Second rappel can be set up without threading the rope through the quick link.
  • With a large quick link, risk of poor carabiner positioning and/or stuck rope.

Warning:

  • Blocking techniques are cumbersome; beware of sticking the rope: if the single rope gets stuck out of reach, the retrieval cord can not be used to belay for the recovery.
  • The difference in diameter between the ropes may dictate using a double fisherman's knot instead of a classic joining knot.
  • The blocking carabiner may fall during recovery. This carabiner must be inspected before any further use.