Tying into the sharp end is what it’s all about. You need to thoroughly understand gear placements, rope systems, and how to keep your second safe, among many other things.
This is the best way to learn how to place gear and understand multi-pitch systems in a safe and protected environment. Plus, you can experience some serious exposure!
The Multi-pitch Process
➺ It’s crucial to discuss the basics of commu-
Tie in (1) and begin to climb as you normally would on a sport climb. As you travel up, place protection into cracks, slots, and fissures in the rock (2). When you get to the top of the pitch (3), build an anchor (4). Tie into the anchor (see page 58), and then yell down to your belayer, “[partner’s name], off belay!” (5) When he responds and takes you off belay, pull up the slack in the rope and coil it at your feet if the belay ledge is big enough, or drape it over the rope/sling connecting you to the anchor (6). When you have pulled up all the slack, the second climber or follower will yell, “That’s me!” Put him on belay on your harness (7) or directly on the anchor. Yell to your partner, “[partner’s name], you’re on belay!” As he climbs, pull up the additional slack and keep coiling or draping the rope as you did before. When he gets to your stance, tie him in to the anchor, make sure he is in a comfortable position (8), and take him off belay. If your partner is leading the next pitch, give him the rest of your gear (9); if you are leading the next pitch, begin gathering the gear. After the leader has the gear, he will stay tied into the anchor until the belayer puts him or her on belay, saying directly to the climber, “You’re on belay.” The climber can then untie from the anchor and begin climbing upward.
nication with your partner before you leave the ground. There’s a good chance you won’t be able to hear your partner when he is 150 feet above you at a belay station, especially when you’ve got blowing winds, a rushing river, or a nearby road adding to the noise pollution. There are several different ways to do this, but what’s most important is to develop a system (even if it’s developed on the spot) and stick with it. A good example would be something like this: When the leader builds an anchor and goes off belay, he pulls sharply on the rope three times. The follower responds with three sharp pulls when he has taken the leader off belay. When the leader puts the follower on belay, he pulls sharply five times, and the climber responds that he is climbing by also pulling five times.
➺ For longer routes (four pitches or more), you will probably want to
carry along food, water, layers, descent shoes (especially for walking off; see page 62), and other sundries. In that case, take a small bullet pack that’s light and just big enough for the essentials for the two of you. Have the follower carry the pack with both climbers’ extras since the leader has the weight of the rack. For shorter routes (two to three pitches), you can either leave water and the rest on the ground, or you can clip essentials to your harness. It adds some bulk, but you might be really thankful you brought those luxuries along.
The Multi-pitch Process
courtesy beth rodden (opposite); courtesy kevin jorgeson (top); andrew burr
My first time I was terrified! I led a 5.6 at Donner Summit when I was 16. I had redpointed my first 5.13 earlier that summer and mentioned to my belayer, “Maybe I should just go do Warp Factor again. It would be easier.” Placing gear was more of a symbolic gesture than an actual safety precaution. None of it popped, but I do remember my partner laughing at almost all of the pieces. Start well below your limit, on toprope. Take out the safety and fear aspect and just learn to place gear. —Beth Rodden
1) Always check and double-check your own harness and knot, and your belayer’s setup, before you begin to climb. 2) Placing gear is a real art form and takes hours of practice. Begin by placing gear on toprope or at the base of a crag. 3) It’s always best to begin leading on climbs that are way below your ability—a route you know you can finish with no struggle and little danger of falling. For example, if you’re a 5.10 sport climber, try leading a 5.7 trad climb first. 4) There are infinite possibilities when it comes to building an anchor. See page 58 for the basics, and get solid instruction from a mentor or climbing guide so you know your anchors are trustworthy. 5) It’s important to use names because when there is distance between you and your partner, and there are multiple parties at a crag, you can end up mistaking someone else’s yell for your partner’s, and bad things can happen. Names alleviate this problem. 6) Coil or drape the rope in big loops at first, and then smaller and smaller loops as the second gets closer. This will help prevent the rope from tangling, saving time on each pitch. 7) Belaying from the anchor is useful when you have two people following the pitch or you expect the second to hang a lot. This should be done only when you have the correct style of auto-blocking belay device, and you have a bomber anchor at around chest height or higher. Otherwise, belay directly from the belay loop on your harness. 8) “Comfortable” is a very relative word in this situation. The crucial thing is that belayer can stand or sit for an extended period in a position where he can maintain a proper belay. 9) To avoid dropping gear during an exchange, hold out one or a few pieces until the other climber puts a hand on them and confirms, “Got it.”
My first time I came to trad climbing late, when I was 22. It was a random 5.9 in Joshua Tree, and I remember having a soloing mentality because I didn’t trust any of the rock or the gear. Get a solid foundation of basic safety under your belt. Begin to understand the systems involved with trad climbing: anchors, belays, rescues, and rappels. Then start leading on climbs way under your limit and have fun. —Kevin Jorgeson
Tie-in with a figure-eight follow-through on opposite end of the rope from the lead climber (1). Clip in to belay (2) as you would on any other roped climb. As you belay (3), the climber will move up and place gear. When he gets to the top of the first pitch, he will build an anchor. After he clips in to the anchor, he will yell, “[your name], off belay!” (4) Respond by yelling back, “[his name], you’re off belay!” He will then begin pulling rope up (5). Put your climbing shoes on and gather whatever pack or extras you’re bringing along. Double-check your knot, and wait for the leader to yell, “You’re on belay!” Before you start climbing, yell back, “[his name], climbing!” He should respond with, “Climb on!” or something similar, and then you can begin climbing. As you move upward, you will clean the route by removing (6) the pieces of pro, sometimes with a nut tool (7). Rack the gear on your harness or gear sling (8) as you clean. When you get to the end of the pitch, you will clip directly into the belay anchor, and the leader will take you off belay. Tips 1) This can be done later, after the climber has finished the first pitch, but doing it now will save some time and help prevent mistakes that might be caused by rushing. Make sure that the rope at your feet is properly flaked, instead of simply dumped on the ground, so it will feed properly to the leader. 2) Don’t forget to double-check your belay setup and the climber’s knot and harness. 3) You can leave your approach shoes on while you belay; there will be time later to change into climbing shoes. 4) Remember to use names to avoid mistakes. 5) Help the leader by making sure the rope
doesn’t get caught on flakes or trees. 6) It is good to remove the pro from the rock before unclipping it from the rope. That way, if the piece slips out of your hand, it’s still hanging from the rope. 7) Try to imagine how the leader put the piece in because, chances are, that’s how it will come out. Sometimes a piece has to be pushed down or sideways before it can be lifted out. But be careful not to shove cams in too deep or they can get stuck. 8) Try to put the gear in order as you clean to save time at each belay. Put cams in order from smallest to largest, and do the same with nuts. / august 2012 /