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Tips and techniques for multi-pitch climbing

Multi-pitch climbing offers the chance to embark on a mini-adventure, one a bit more committing than the average single pitch route at the crag. Climbs with several pitches require self-sufficiency and the ability to adapt to a variety of situations based on the gear, the route, and the options available when topping out or bailing… Below are a few key tips and techniques to ensure a successful vertical adventure.

September 23 2015

Multi-pitch climbing

Multipitch © PETZL/Sam Bié

Before heading out, select the right gear

Choosing the right gear for the route will not only pave the way to a successful climb, but also serve to manage the descent or any potential difficulties encountered. Choose your gear based on the type of route. While the route topo should indicate the number of quickdraws required, the minimum rope length, the need for cams or slings, you still need to remember to bring the right gear for belaying, building the anchor, as well as other small essentials.

Multipitch limbing © PETZL/Lafouche

The basic gear list for a multi-pitch route

  • Helmet
  • Harness
  • Lanyard
  • Belay device for double ropes
  • A set of double or twin ropes
  • 10 to 14 quickdraws
  • 3 to 5 slings, 60cm and 120cm
  • 4 locking carabiners
  • 1 loop of accessory cord to make a friction hitch such as an autoblock or Prusik
  • 1 mechanical capture device (such as a TIBLOC) and a progress-capture pulley (such as a MICROTRAXION) to assist the second
  • 1 ascender to ascend the rope
  • Cams/nuts and a nut tool if necessary
  • Gear sling if necessary
  • Chalk bag
  • Climbing shoes
  • Lightweight backpack (20 liters)
  • Food
  • Drink
  • Lightweight windbreaker
  • Knife
  • Headlamp
  • Small first aid kit
  • Topo of the route, map

Download the basic gear list for multi-pitch climbing: 

Petzl basic gear list for multi-pitch climbing in English 
[pdf-744 Kb]

Basic techniques for multi-pitch climbing

Setting up the belay station, swinging leads, helping a second through a difficult crux section, and rappelling are all basic techniques every climber should know before venturing off on a multi-pitch route. Based on the difficulty of your objective, a quick review of these basic techniques is always a constructive exercise.

Setting up an equalized belay station

Multipitch © PETZL/Sam Bié

The belay station keeps the rope team safely connected to the rock, providing climbers with a secure tie-in point and a sound platform from which to belay their partner.

Belay station fundamentals: always rig at least two good anchor points together, anticipating the possibility of one bolt (or piece) pulling out. When building a belay station with suspect anchors or in poor-quality rock, equalization allows for distributing the load between each anchor point.

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Swinging leads

multipitch © PETZL/Sam Bié

For two climbers of equal ability, swinging leads is the most quick and efficient approach, requires the least amount of time and rope work at each changeover, and is the easiest way to manage the rope from one pitch to the next.

Climbers still need to pay careful attention at the belay station when switching from belaying the second to belaying the leader for the upcoming pitch.

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Helping the second

Multipitch © PETZL / Sam Bié

For crux sections of difficult pitches, the second may appreciate a helping hand. Although the technique looks complex, it is actually simple and quick to execute, and can make life easier for the entire rope team in certain situations.

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Multipitch © PETZL/Sam Bié

Climbers must remain attentive and alert when rappelling. Reaching the top of the route is only half the battle, and the ensuing post-climb fatigue will often affect the ability to remain focused, increasing the risk for error. When rappelling, the climbers are no longer tied in together, and the rope needs to be pulled and threaded while everyone remains connected to the anchor. The consequences due to climber error when rappelling range from a simple loss of time to a dangerous fall.

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Coiling your rope makes it easy to carry

Multipitch © PETZL/Sam Bié

There are several ways to coil your rope. The method to use depends on how you plan to carry it.

Learn more about different rope coiling techniques

View all of our tech tips for multi-pitch climbing

On each activity page, our tech tips are organized by chapter: basics, belaying, gear...

Multipitch climbing Petzl

Visit the tech tips page

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