How To Build Your Multi-Pitch Kit
Multi-pitch climbing commits the climbers to one route for multiple hours or days. The logistics of multi-pitch climbing require a higher level of knowledge and preparedness, as well as specialized equipment. The following gear-list breaks down the pieces of a common multi-pitch kit and explains some of the variables and challenges multi-pitch climbers must contend with.
May 23 2016
The best way to build an appropriate multi-pitch kit is to first get to know your local area or destination. Depending on local conditions a multi-pitch kit may look a lot like your sport climbing kit with a few additional pieces, or it may differ dramatically. Most guidebooks include a section that describes the common equipment needed in that specific area. A good guidebook will also include the local ethics and best practices for interacting with wildlife, other climbers, and land management.
Each climber will carry a harness, helmet, belay/rappel device, and extra or emergency equipment such as an anchor kit, cord, knife, rappel rings, pulley, or compact ascender. Climbers on multi-pitch climbs will also need the ability to securely attach themselves to an anchor. This may be accomplished either with a locking carabiner on a clove hitch, or with a dedicated personal lanyard.
While sport climbing is almost exclusively done with one single rope, multi-pitch climbing may be performed with a wide variety and combination of ropes. Rappels, rope-drag, party size, and potential for rope damage are factors a team must consider when selecting the rope(s) for any given route.
Rappels: If a climb requires multiple rappels, the team will need a single rope that is twice the length of the longest rappel or two ropes that are each as long as the longest rappel. If the rappels are 35m long the party will be able to rappel that distance with one 70m rope. If rappels are 60m in length the team will use two 60m ropes tied together or one 60m rope with a 60m pull cord. With a pull cord the team climbs and rappels on a single rope and then pulls the rope down with a lighter, skinnier line. Alternately, the team can climb on two half or twin ropes and rappel off of the two ropes tied together.
Party Size: If climbing as a party of three, the leader must be able to belay up each climber individually. The leader may climb on a single rope and bring up a second single or half rope to belay the third climber, or the leader climbs with half ropes and belays the seconding climbers each on their own rope. A single twin rope is not appropriate to belay either a leader or a second.
Rope Drag: On routes that traverse back and forth, rope drag can create additional difficulties for the leader. Each time a leader places protection laterally from the fall line, (like during a traverse) friction is added into the sytem. By using half ropes a leader is able to minimalize the rope drag.
Potential for Rope Damage: By climbing on half ropes instead of one single rope, a party increases the redundancy in their system. It is less likely that a fall or rockfall could destroy both ropes, whereas with only one rope a single event could have catastrophic consequences for the team. This is another insistance where a team of two climbers may prefer to use twin ropes in place of a singe rope.
The Second's Pack:
While on a multi-pitch climb the team lacks the ability to lower down for warmer clothes or a drink of water. Instead the climber who is not leading carries the team's provisions in a small pack. Usually between 15L and 20L, the second's pack will contain extra clothing, extra equipment, food, water, emergency gear, headlamps, and a necessities kit.
Most multi-pitch climbs in North America require climbers place their own protection on the route and build their own belay anchors. When building a rack for the first time, climbers should consult their local guide book to learn what gear is considered standard for their area. Often a rack consists of a set of seven to ten pieces of passive protection (nuts/stoppers/chocks) and six to twelve cams covering cracks from .3 to 3 inches. A double rack consists of two cams at each size, though depending on location climbers will carry more or less protection.
- 1. Guidebook - Guidebooks contain valuable information not only regarding each individual route, but also the general area.
- 2. Harness - On a multi-pitch climb a lightweight and comfortable harness is often the difference between enjoyment and misery.
- 3. Helmet - Multi-pitch routes are often more exposed to objective dangers than single pitch routes.
- 4. Belay Device - A self-braking belay/rappel device will allows the leader to simultaneously belay two seconds and rappel the routes.
- 5. Personal Anchoring Lanyard - On multi-pitch routes a climber must have a means of securing themselves to the anchor.
- 6. Single Rope - One UIAA rated single rope is an appropriate rope for multi-pitch climbs without long rappels or wandering routes.
- 7. Half-Rope - Two UIAA rated half ropes are appropriate for multi-pitch climbs with wandering routes, long rappels, or parties of three.
- 8. Nuts/Stoppers - Passive protection good for small cracks.
- 9. Cams/Friends - Active protection good for small to large cracks.
- 10. Gear Sling / Cord - Many climbers prefer to "rack" their equipment off of a sling around their shoulders rather than on their harness.
- 11. Runners - Extending a clip with a runner reduces rope drag and helps minimize the chances a cam or nut will "walk."
- 12. Quickdraws - Ultralight quickdraws help reduce weight on the rack.
- 13. Nut Tool - Useful for "cleaning" nut placements.
- 14. Anchor Kit - Slings and locking carabiners for clipping fixed anchors or building an anchor.
- 15. Emergency Kit - Items each climber will carry on their harness for added security. Individualized this kit will depend heavily on each climbers skill.
- 16. Cord - Cord is useful in creating a prussik hitch, to back up a rappel or as an inefficient ascender, or as extra material for connecting objects.
- 17. Knife - Primarily used to cut cord or webbing for rappel anchors.
- 18. Pulley/Ascender - Pulleys, ascenders, and other progress capture devices have numerous uses in building haul systems or ascending a rope.
- 19. Locking Carabiner
- 20. Necessities Kit - A small harness bag makes a great carrying case for those "extra" items a climber may want.
- 21. Toilet Paper - Please follow Leave No Trace ethics and properly dispose of all waste.
- 22. Tape - Cloth tape is preferred over duct tape.
- 23. Medical Kit - Always a good idea on a long route.
- 24. Food/Snacks
- 25. Extra Clothes - Either a wind/rain or insulation layer should conditions change.
- 26. Sunglasses
- 27. Headlamp - Rappelling in the dark without a headlamp should be avoided.
- 28. Water
- 29. Second's Pack - Small enough to comfortable while climbing but large enough to carry all the required gear.
- 30. Back-up Headlamp - Because rappelling in the dark without a headlamp should be avoided.
- 31. Sunscreen
- 32. Descent Shoes - Comfortable shoes for approaching and descending climbs.