As Seen In: USA Today, Discovery Channel, US News & World Report

Roped Climbing Methods

In military mountaineering, the primary mission of a roped climbing team is to "fix" a route with some type of rope installation to assist movement of less trained personnel in the unit. This duty falls upon the most experienced climbers in the unit, usually working in two- or three-man groups or teams called assault climbing teams. Even if the climbing is for another purpose, roped climbing should be performed whenever the terrain becomes difficult and exposed.

Top-Roped Climbing

Top-roped climbing is used for training purposes only. This method of climbing is not used for movement due to the necessity of pre-placing anchors at the top of a climb. If you can easily access the top of a climb, you can easily avoid the climb itself.

a. For training, top-roped climbing is valuable because it allows climbers to attempt climbs above their skill level and or to hone present skills without the risk of a fall. Top-roped climbing may be used to increase the stamina of a climber training to climb longer routes as well as for a climber practicing protection placements.

b. The belayer is positioned either at the base of a climb with the rope running through the top anchor and back to the climber or at the top at the anchor. The belayer takes in rope as the climber moves up the rock, giving the climber the same protection as a belay from above. If this is accomplished with the belayer at the bottom, the instructor is able to keep an eye on the belayer while he coaches the climber through the movements.

Lead Climbing

A lead climb consists of a belayer, a leader or climber, rope(s), and webbing or hardware used to establish anchors or protect the climb. As he climbs the route, the leader emplaces "intermediate" anchors, and the climbing rope is connected to these anchors with a carabiner. These "intermediate" anchors protect the climber against a fall-thus the term "protecting the climb."


Intermediate anchors are commonly referred to as "protection," "pro," "pieces," "pieces of pro," "pro placements," and so on. For standardization within this publication, these specific anchors will be referred to as "protection;" anchors established for other purposes, such as rappel points, belays, or other rope installations, will be referred to as "anchors."


During all lead climbing, each climber in the team is either anchored or being belayed.

a. Lead climbing with two climbers is the preferred combination for movement on technically difficult terrain. Two climbers are at least twice as fast as three climbers, and are efficient for installing a "fixed rope," probably the most widely used rope installation in the mountains. A group of three climbers are typically used on moderate snow, ice, and snow-covered glaciers where the rope team can often move at the same time, stopping occasionally to set up belays on particularly difficult sections. A group or team of three climbers is sometimes used in rock climbing because of an odd number of personnel, a shortage of ropes (such as six climbers and only two ropes), or to protect and assist an individual who has little or no experience in climbing and belaying. Whichever technique is chosen, a standard roped climbing procedure is used for maximum speed and safety.

b. When the difficulty of the climbing is within the "leading ability" of both climbers, valuable time can be saved by "swinging leads." This is normally the most efficient method for climbing multipitch routes. The second finishes cleaning the first pitch and continues climbing, taking on the role of lead climber. Unless he requires equipment from the other rack or desires a break, he can climb past the belay and immediately begin leading. The belayer simply adjusts his position, re-aiming the belay once the new leader begins placing protection. Swinging leads, or "leap frogging," should be planned before starting the climb so the leader knows to anchor the upper belay for both upward and downward pulls during the setup.

c. The procedures for conducting a lead climb with a group of two are relatively simple. The most experienced individual is the "lead" climber or leader, and is responsible for selecting the route. The leader must ensure the route is well within his ability and the ability of the second. The lead climber carries most of the climbing equipment in order to place protection along the route and set up the next belay. The leader must also ensure that the second has the necessary equipment, such as a piton hammer, nut tool, etc., to remove any protection that the leader may place.

(1) The leader is responsible for emplacing protection frequently enough and in such a manner that, in the event that either the leader or the second should fall, the fall will be neither long enough nor hard enough to result in injury. The leader must also ensure that the rope is routed in a way that will allow it to run freely through the protection placements, thus minimizing friction, or "rope drag".

(2) The other member of the climbing team, the belayer (sometimes referred to as the "second"), is responsible for belaying the leader, removing the belay anchor, and retrieving the protection placed by the leader between belay positions (also called "cleaning the pitch").

(3) Before the climb starts, the second will normally set up the first belay while the leader is arranging his rack. When the belay is ready, the belayer signals, "BELAY ON", affirming that the belay is "on" and the rope will be managed as necessary. When the leader is ready, he double checks the belay. The leader can then signal, "CLIMBING", only as a courtesy, to let the belayer know he is ready to move. The belayer can reply with "CLIMB", again, only as a courtesy, reaffirming that the belay is "on" and the rope will be managed as necessary. The leader then begins climbing.

(4) While belaying, the second must pay close attention to the climber's every move, ensuring that the rope runs free and does not inhibit the climber's movements. If he cannot see the climber, he must "feel" the climber through the rope. Unless told otherwise by the climber, the belayer can slowly give slack on the rope as the climber proceeds on the route. The belayer should keep just enough slack in the rope so the climber does not have to pull it through the belay. If the climber wants a tighter rope, it can be called for. If the belayer notices too much slack developing in the rope, the excess rope should be taken in quickly. It is the belayer's responsibility to manage the rope, whether by sight or feel, until the climber tells him otherwise.

(5) As the leader protects the climb, slack will sometimes be needed to place the rope through the carabiner (clipping), in a piece of protection above the tie-in point on the leaders harness. In this situation, the leader gives the command "SLACK" and the belayer gives slack, (if more slack is needed the command will be repeated). The leader is able to pull a bight of rope above the tie-in point and clip it into the carabiner in the protection above. When the leader has completed the connection, or the clip, the command "TAKE ROPE" is given by the leader and the belayer takes in the remaining slack.

(6) The leader continues on the route until either a designated belay location is reached or he is at the end of or near the end of the rope. At this position, the leader sets an anchor, connects to the anchor and signals "OFF BELAY". The belayer prepares to climb by removing all but at least one of his anchors and secures the remaining equipment. The belayer remains attached to at least one anchor until the command "BELAY ON" is given.

d. When the leader selects a particular route, he must also determine how much, and what types, of equipment might be required to safely negotiate the route. The selected equipment must be carried by the leader. The leader must carry enough equipment to safely protect the route, additional anchors for the next belay, and any other items to be carried individually such as rucksacks or individual weapons.

(1) The leader will assemble, or "rack," the necessary equipment onto his harness or onto slings around the head and shoulder. A typical leader "rack" consists of:

  • Six to eight small wired stoppers on a carabiner.

  • Four to six medium to large wired stoppers on a carabiner.

  • Assorted hexentrics, each on a separate carabiner.

  • SLCDs of required size, each on a separate carabiner.

  • Five to ten standard length runners, with two carabiners on each.

  • Two to three double length runners, with two carabiners on each.

  • Extra carabiners.

  • Nut tool.


The route chosen will dictate, to some degree, the necessary equipment. Members of a climbing team may need to consolidate gear to climb a particular route.

(2) The belayer and the leader both should carry many duplicate items while climbing.

  • Short Prusik sling.

  • Long Prusik sling.

  • Cordellette.

  • 10 feet of 1-inch webbing.

  • 20 feet of 1-inch webbing.

  • Belay device (a combination belay/rappel device is multifunctional).

  • Rappel device (a combination belay/rappel device is multifunctional).

  • Large locking carabiner (pear shape carabiners are multifunctional).

  • Extra carabiners.

  • Nut tool (if stoppers are carried).


If using an over the shoulder gear sling, place the items in order from smallest to the front and largest to the rear.

e. Leading a difficult pitch is the most hazardous task in roped climbing. The lead climber may be exposed to potentially long, hard falls and must exercise keen judgment in route selection, placement of protection, and routing of the climbing rope through the protection. The leader should try to keep the climbing line as direct as possible to the next belay to allow the rope to run smoothly through the protection with minimal friction. Protection should be placed whenever the leader feels he needs it, and BEFORE moving past a difficult section.


The climber must remember he will fall twice the distance from his last piece of protection before the rope can even begin to stop him.

(1) Placing Protection. Generally, protection is placed from one stable position to the next. The anchor should be placed as high as possible to reduce the potential fall distance between placements. If the climbing is difficult, protection should be placed more frequently. If the climbing becomes easier, protection can be placed farther apart, saving hardware for difficult sections. On some routes an extended diagonal or horizontal movement, known as a traverse, is required. As the leader begins this type of move, he must consider the second's safety as well as his own. The potential fall of the second will result in a pendulum swing if protection is not adequate to prevent this. The danger comes from any objects in the swinging path of the second.


Leader should place protection prior to, during, and upon completion of any traverse. This will minimize the potential swing, or pendulum, for both the leader and second if either should fall.

(2) Correct Clipping Technique. Once an anchor is placed, the climber "clips" the rope into the carabiner (Figure 6-29). As a carabiner hangs from the protection, the rope can be routed through the carabiner in two possible ways. One way will allow the rope to run smoothly as the climber moves past the placement; the other way will often create a dangerous situation in which the rope could become "unclipped" from the carabiner if the leader were to fall on this piece of protection. In addition, a series of incorrectly clipped carabiners may contribute to rope drag. When placing protection, the leader must ensure the carabiner on the protection does not hang with the carabiner gate facing the rock; when placing protection in a crack ensure the carabiner gate is not facing into the crack.

  • Grasp the rope with either hand with the thumb pointing down the rope towards the belayer

  • Pull enough rope to reach the carabiner with a bight

  • Note the direction the carabiner is hanging from the protection

  • Place the bight into the carabiner so that, when released, the rope does not cause the carabiner to twist.

(a) If the route changes direction, clipping the carabiner will require a little more thought. Once leaving that piece of protection, the rope may force the carabiner to twist if not correctly clipped. If the clip is made correctly, a rotation of the clipped carabiner to ensure that the gate is not resting against the rock may be all that is necessary.


Ensure the carabiner gate is not resting against a protrusion or crack edge in the rock surface; the rock may cause the gate to open.

(b) Once the rope is clipped into the carabiner, the climber should check to see that it is routed correctly by pulling on the rope in the direction it will travel when the climber moves past that position.

(c) Another potential hazard peculiar to leading should be eliminated before the climber continues. The carabiner is attached to the anchor or runner with the gate facing away from the rock and opening down for easy insertion of the rope. However, in a leader fall, it is possible for the rope to run back over the carabiner as the climber falls below the placement. If the carabiner is left with the gate facing the direction of the route there is a chance that the rope will open the gate and unclip itself entirely from the placement. To prevent this possibility, the climber should ensure that after the clip has been made, the gate is facing away from the direction of the route. There are two ways to accomplish this: determine which direction the gate will face before the protection or runner is placed or once clipped, rotate the carabiner upwards 180 degrees. This problem is more apt to occur if bent gate carabiners are used. Straight gate ovals or "Ds" are less likely to have this problem and are stronger and are highly recommended. Bent gate carabiners are easier to clip the rope into and are used mostly on routes with bolts preplaced for protection. Bent gate carabiners are not recommended for many climbing situations.

Figure 6-29. Clipping on to protection.

Figure 6-29. Clipping on to protection.

(3) Reducing Rope Drag; Using Runners. No matter how direct the route, the climber will often encounter problems with "rope drag" through the protection positions. The friction created by rope drag will increase to some degree every time the rope passes through a carabiner, or anchor. It will increase dramatically if the rope begins to "zigzag" as it travels through the carabiners. To prevent this, the placements should be positioned so the rope creates a smooth, almost straight line as it passes through the carabiners (Figure 6-30). Minimal rope drag is an inconvenience; severe rope drag may actually pull the climber off balance, inducing a fall.

Figure 6-30. Use of slings on protection.

Figure 6-30. Use of slings on protection.


Rope drag can cause confusion when belaying the second or follower up to a new belay position. Rope drag can be mistaken for the climber, causing the belayer to not take in the necessary slack in the rope and possibly resulting in a serious fall.

(a) If it is not possible to place all the protection so the carabiners form a straight line as the rope moves through, you should "extend" the protection (Figure 6-31). Do this by attaching an appropriate length sling, or runner, to the protection to extend the rope connection in the necessary direction. The runner is attached to the protection's carabiner while the rope is clipped into a carabiner at the other end of the runner. Extending placements with runners will allow the climber to vary the route slightly while the rope continues to run in a relatively straight line.

Figure 6-31. Use of slings to extend placement positions.

Figure 6-31. Use of slings to extend placement positions.

(b) Not only is rope drag a hindrance, it can cause undue movement of protection as the rope tightens between any "out of line" placements. Rope drag through chock placements can be dangerous. As the climber moves above the placements, an outward or upward pull from rope drag may cause correctly set chocks to pop out, even when used "actively". Most all chocks placed for leader protection should be extended with a runner, even if the line is direct to eliminate the possibility of movement.

(c) Wired chocks are especially prone to wiggling loose as the rope pulls on the stiff cable attachment. All wired chocks used for leader protection should be extended to reduce the chance of the rope pulling them out (Figure 6-32). Some of the larger chocks, such as roped Hexentrics and Tri-Cams, have longer slings pre-attached that will normally serve as an adequate runner for the placement. Chocks with smaller sling attachments must often be extended with a runner. Many of today's chocks are manufactured with pre-sewn webbing installed instead of cable.

Figure 6-32. Use of sling on a wired stopper.

Figure 6-32. Use of sling on a wired stopper.

(d) When a correctly placed piton is used for protection, it will normally not be affected by rope drag. A correctly placed piton is generally a multi-directional anchor, therefore, rope drag through pitons will usually only affect the leader's movements but will continue to protect as expected.

(e) Rope drag will quite often move SLCDs out of position, or "walk" them deeper into the crack than initially placed, resulting in difficult removal or inability to remove them at all. Furthermore, most cases of SLCD movement result in the SLCD moving to a position that does not provide protection in the correct direction or no protection at all due to the lobes being at different angles from those at the original position.


Any placement extended with a runner will increase the distance of a potential fall by the actual length of the sling. Try to use the shortest runners possible, ensuring they are long enough to function properly.

f. Belaying the follower is similar to belaying a top-roped climb in that the follower is not able to fall any farther than rope stretch will allow. This does not imply there is no danger in following. Sharp rocks, rock fall, and inadequately protected traverses can result in damage to equipment or injury to the second.

g. Following, or seconding, a leader has a variety of responsibilities. The second has to issue commands to the leader, as well as follow the leader's commands. Once the lead climber reaches a good belay position, he immediately establishes an anchor and connects to it. When this is completed he can signal "OFF BELAY" to the belayer. The second can now remove the leader's belay and prepare to climb. The second must remain attached to at least one of the original anchors while the leader is preparing the next belay position. The removed materials and hardware can be organized and secured on the second's rack in preparation to climb.

(1) When the leader has established the new belay position and is ready to belay the follower, the "new" belayer signals "BELAY ON." The second, now the climber, removes any remaining anchor hardware/materials and completes any final preparations. The belayer maintains tension on the rope, unless otherwise directed, while the final preparations are taking place, since removal of these remaining anchors can introduce slack into the rope. When the second is ready, he can, as a courtesy, signal "CLIMBING," and the leader can, again as a courtesy, reply with "CLIMB."

(2) Upon signaling "BELAY ON," the belayer must remove and keep all slack from the rope. (This is especially important as in many situations the belayer cannot see the follower. A long pitch induces weight and sometimes "drag" on the rope and the belayer above will have difficulty distinguishing these from a rope with no slack.)

h. When removing protection, the man cleaning the pitch should rack it properly to facilitate the exchange and or arrangement of equipment at the end of the pitch. When removing the protection, or "cleaning the pitch", SLCDs or chocks may be left attached to the rope to prevent loss if they are accidentally dropped during removal. If necessary, the hardware can remain on the rope until the second reaches a more secure stance. If removing a piton, the rope should be unclipped from the piton to avoid the possibility of damaging the rope with a hammer strike.

(1) The second may need to place full body weight on the rope to facilitate use of both hands for protection removal by giving the command "TENSION." The second must also ensure that he does not climb faster than the rope is being taken in by the belayer. If too much slack develops, he should signal "TAKE ROPE" and wait until the excess is removed before continuing the climb. Once the second completes the pitch, he should immediately connect to the anchor. Once secured, he can signal "OFF BELAY." The leader removes the belay, while remaining attached to an anchor. The equipment is exchanged or organized in preparation for the next pitch or climb.

(2) When the difficulty of the climbing is within the "leading ability" of both climbers, valuable time can be saved by "swinging leads." This is normally the most efficient method for climbing multi-pitch routes. The second finishes cleaning the first pitch and continues climbing, taking on the role of lead climber. Unless he requires equipment from the belayer or desires a break, he can climb past the belay and immediately begin leading. The belayer simply adjusts his position, re-aiming the belay once the new leader begins placing protection. Swinging leads, or "leap frogging," should be planned before starting the climb so the leader knows to anchor the upper belay for both upward and downward pulls during the setup.

Aid Climbing

When a route is too difficult to free climb and is unavoidable, if the correct equipment is available you might aid climb the route. Aid climbing consists of placing protection and putting full body weight on the piece. This allows you to hang solely on the protection you place, giving you the ability to ascend more difficult routes than you can free climb. Clean aid consists of using SLCDs and chocks, and is the simplest form of aid climbing.

a. Equipment. Aid climbing can be accomplished with various types of protection. Regardless of the type of protection used, the method of aid climbing is the same. In addition to the equipment for free climbing, other specialized equipment will be needed.

(1) Pitons. Pitons are used the same as for free climbing. Most piton placements will require the use of both hands. Piton usage will usually leave a scar in the rock just by virtue of the hardness of the piton and the force required to set it with a hammer. Swinging a hammer to place pitons will lead to climber fatigue sooner than clean aid. Since pitons are multidirectional, the strength of a well-placed piton is more secure than most clean aid protection. Consider other forms of protection when noise could be hazardous to tactics.

(2) Bolts. Bolts are used when no other protection will work. They are a more permanent form of protection and more time is needed to place them. Placing bolts creates more noise whether drilled by hand or by motorized drill. Bolts used in climbing are a multi-part expanding system pounded into predrilled holes and then tightened to the desired torque with a wrench or other tool. Bolts are used in many ways in climbing today. The most common use is with a hanger attached and placed for anchors in face climbing. However, bolts can be used for aid climbing, with or without the hanger.

(a) Placing bolts for aid climbing takes much more time than using pitons or clean aid. Bolting for aid climbing consists of consecutive bolts about 2 feet apart. Drilling a deep enough hole takes approximately thirty minutes with a hand drill and up to two minutes with a powered hammer drill. A lot of time and work is expended in a short distance no matter how the hole is drilled. (The weight of a powered hammer drill becomes an issue in itself.) Noise will also be a factor in both applications. A constant pounding with a hammer on the hand drill or the motorized pounding of the powered drill may alert the enemy to the position. The typical climbing bolt/hanger combination normally is left in the hole where it was placed.

(b) Other items that can be used instead of the bolt/hanger combination are the removable and reusable "spring-loaded removable bolts" such as rivets (hex head threaded bolts sized to fit tightly into the hole and pounded in with a hammer), split-shaft rivets, and some piton sizes that can be pounded into the holes. When using rivets or bolts without a hanger, place a loop of cable over the head and onto the shaft of the rivet or bolt and attach a carabiner to the other end of the loop (a stopper with the chock slid back will suffice). Rivet hangers are available that slide onto the rivet or bolt after it is placed and are easily removed for reuse. Easy removal means a slight loss of security while in use.

(3) SLCDs. SLCDs are used the same as for free climbing, although in aid climbing, full body weight is applied to the SLCD as soon as it is placed.

(4) Chocks. Chocks are used the same as for free climbing, although in aid climbing, weight is applied to the chock as soon as it is placed.

(5) Daisy Chains. Daisy chains are tied or presewn loops of webbing with small tied or presewn loops approximately every two inches. The small loops are just large enough for two or three carabiners. Two daisy chains should be girth-hitched to the tie-in point in the harness.

(6) Etriers (or Aiders). Etriers (aiders) are tied or presewn webbing loops with four to six tied or presewn internal loops, or steps, approximately every 12 inches. The internal loops are large enough to easily place one booted foot into. At least two etriers (aiders) should be connected by carabiner to the free ends of the daisy chains.

(7) Fifi Hook. A fifi hook is a small, smooth-surfaced hook strong enough for body weight. The fifi hook should be girth-hitched to the tie-in point in the harness and is used in the small loops of the daisy chain. A carabiner can be used in place of the fifi hook, although the fifi hook is simpler and adequate.

(8) Ascenders. Ascenders are mechanical devices that will move easily in one direction on the rope, but will lock in place if pushed or pulled the other direction. (Prusiks can be used but are more difficult than ascenders.)

b. Technique. The belay will be the same as in normal lead climbing and the rope will be routed through the protection the same way also. The big difference is the movement up the rock. With the daisy chains, aiders, and fifi hook attached to the rope tie-in point of the harness as stated above, and secured temporarily to a gear loop or gear sling, the climb continues as follows:

(1) The leader places the first piece of protection as high as can safely be reached and attaches the appropriate sling/carabiner

(2) Attach one daisy chain/aider group to the newly placed protection

(3) Clip the rope into the protection, (the same as for normal lead climbing)

(4) Insure the protection is sound by weighting it gradually; place both feet, one at a time, into the steps in the aider, secure your balance by grasping the top of the aider with your hands.

(5) When both feet are in the aider, move up the steps until your waist is no higher than the top of the aider.

(6) Place the fifi hook (or substituted carabiner) into the loop of the daisy chain closest to the daisy chain/aider carabiner, this effectively shortens the daisy chain; maintain tension on the daisy chain as the hook can fall out of the daisy chain loop if it is unweighted.


Moving the waist higher than the top of the aider is possible, but this creates a potential for a fall to occur even though you are on the aider and "hooked" close to the protection with the daisy chain. As the daisy chain tie-in point on the harness moves above the top of the aider, you are no longer supported from above by the daisy chain, you are now standing above your support. From this height, the fifi hook can easily fall out of the daisy chain loop if it is unweighted. If this happens, you could fall the full length of the daisy chain resulting in a static fall on the last piece of protection placed.

(7) Release one hand from the aider and place the next piece of protection, again, as high as you can comfortably reach; if using pitons or bolts you may need both hands free- "lean" backwards slowly, and rest your upper body on the daisy chain that you have "shortened" with the fifi hook

(8) Clip the rope into the protection

(9) Attach the other daisy chain/aider group to the next piece of protection

(10) Repeat entire process until climb is finished

c. Seconding. When the pitch is completed, the belayer will need to ascend the route. To ascend the route, use ascenders instead of Prusiks, ascenders are much faster and safer than Prusiks. Attach each ascender to a daisy chain/aider group with carabiners. To adjust the maximum reach/height of the ascenders on the rope, adjust the effective length of the daisy chains with a carabiner the same as with the fifi hook; the typical height will be enough to hold the attached ascender in the hand at nose level. When adjusted to the correct height, the arms need not support much body weight. If the ascender is too high, you will have difficulty reaching and maintaining a grip on the handle.

(1) Unlike lead climbing, there will be a continuous load on the rope during the cleaning of the route, this would normally increase the difficulty of removing protection. To make this easier, as you approach the protection on the ascenders, move the ascenders, one at a time, above the piece. When your weight is on the rope above the piece, you can easily unclip and remove the protection.


If both ascenders should fail while ascending the pitch, a serious fall could result. To prevent this possibility, tie-in short on the rope every 10-20 feet by tying a figure eight loop and clipping it into the harness with a separate locking carabiner as soon as the ascent is started. After ascending another 20 feet, repeat this procedure. Do not unclip the previous figure eight until the new knot is attached to another locking carabiner. Clear each knot as you unclip it.

Notes: 1.

Ensure the loops formed by the short tie-ins do not catch on anything below as you ascend.


If the nature of the rock will cause the "hanging loop" of rope, formed by tying in at the end of the rope, to get caught as you move upward, do not tie into the end of the rope.

(2) Seconding an aid pitch can be done in a similar fashion as seconding free-climbed pitches. The second can be belayed from above as the second "climbs" the protection. However, the rope is unclipped from the protection before the aider/daisy chain is attached.

d. Seconding Through a Traverse. While leading an aid traverse, the climber is hanging on the protection placed in front of the current position. If the second were to clean the section by hanging on the rope while cleaning, the protection will be pulled in more than one direction, possibly resulting in the protection failing. To make this safer and easier, the second should hang on the protection just as the leader did. As the second moves to the beginning of the traverse, one ascender/daisy chain/aider group is removed from the rope and clipped to the protection with a carabiner, (keep the ascenders attached to the daisy chain/aider group for convenience when the traverse ends). The second will negotiate the traverse by leapfrogging the daisy chain/aider groups on the next protection just as the leader did. Cleaning is accomplished by removing the protection as it is passed when all weight is removed from it. This is in effect a self-belay. The second maintains a shorter safety tie-in on the rope than for vertical movement to reduce the possibility of a lengthy pendulum if the protection should pull before intended.

e. Clean Aid Climbing. Clean aid climbing consists of using protection placed without a hammer or drill involvement: chocks, SLCDs, hooks, and other protection placed easily by hand. This type of aid climbing will normally leave no trace of the climb when completed. When climbing the aiders on clean aid protection, ensure the protection does not "move" from it's original position.

(1) Hooks are any device that rests on the rock surface without a camming or gripping action. Hooks are just what the name implies, a curved piece of hard steel with a hole in one end for webbing attachment. The hook blade shape will vary from one model to another, some have curved or notched "blades" to better fit a certain crystal shape on a face placement. These types of devices due to their passive application, are only secure while weighted by the climber.

(2) Some featureless sections of rock can be negotiated with hook use, although bolts can be used. Hook usage is faster and quieter but the margin of safety is not there unless hooks are alternated with more active forms of protection. If the last twenty foot section of a route is negotiated with hooks, a forty foot fall could result.

Three-Man Climbing Team

Often times a movement on steep terrain will require a team of more than two climbers, which involves more difficulties. A four-man team (or more) more than doubles the difficulty found in three men climbing together. A four-man team should be broken down into two groups of two unless prevented by a severe lack of gear.

a. Given one rope, a three-man team is at a disadvantage on a steep, belayed climb. It takes at least twice as long to climb an average length pitch because of the third climber and the extra belaying required. The distance between belay positions will be halved if only one rope is used because one climber must tie in at the middle of the rope. Two ropes are recommended for a team of three climbers.


Time and complications will increase when a three-man team uses only one rope. For example: a 100-foot climb with a 150-foot rope would normally require two belays for two climbers; a 100-foot climb with a 150-foot rope would require six belays for three climbers.

b. At times a three-man climb may be unavoidable and personnel should be familiar with the procedure. Although a team of three may choose from many different methods, only two are described below. If the climb is only one pitch, the methods will vary.


When climbing with a team of three, protected traverses will require additional time. The equipment used to protect the traverse must be left in place to protect both the second and third climbers.

(1) The first method can be used when the belay positions are not large enough for three men. If using one rope, two climbers tie in at each end and the other at the mid point. When using two ropes, the second will tie in at one end of both ropes, and the other two climbers will each tie in to the other ends. The most experienced individual is the leader, or number 1 climber. The second, or number 2 climber, is the stronger of the remaining two and will be the belayer for both number 1 and number 3. Number 3 will be the last to climb. Although the number 3 climber does no belaying in this method, each climber should be skilled in the belay techniques required. The sequence for this method (in one pitch increments) is as follows (repeated until the climb is complete):

(a) Number 1 ascends belayed by number 2. Number 2 belays the leader up the first pitch while number 3 is simply anchored to the rock for security (unless starting off at ground level) and manages the rope between himself and number 2. When the leader completes the pitch, he sets up the next belay and belays number 2 up.

(b) Number 2 ascends belayed by number 1, and cleans the route (except for traverses). Number 2 returns the hardware to the leader and belays him up the next pitch. When the leader completes this pitch, he again sets up a new belay. When number 2 receives "OFF BELAY" from the leader, he changes ropes and puts number 3 on belay. He should not have to change anchor attachments because the position was already aimed for a downward as well as an upward pull when he belayed the leader.

(c) Number 3 ascends belayed by number 2. When number 3 receives "BELAY ON," he removes his anchor and climbs to number 2's position. When the pitch is completed he secures himself to one of number 2's belay anchors. When number 1's belay is ready, he brings up number 2 while number 3 remains anchored for security. Number 2 again cleans the pitch and the procedure is continued until the climb is completed.

(d) In this method, number 3 performs no belay function. He climbs when told to do so by number 2. When number 3 is not climbing, he remains anchored to the rock for security. The standard rope commands are used; however, the number 2 climber may include the trailing climber's name or number in the commands to avoid confusion as to who should be climbing.

(d) Normally, only one climber would be climbing at a time; however, the number 3 climber could ascend a fixed rope to number 2's belay position using proper ascending technique, with no effect on the other two members of the team. This would save time for a team of three, since number 2 would not have to belay number 3 and could be either belaying number 1 to the next belay or climbing to number 1. If number 3 is to ascend a fixed rope to the next belay position, the rope will be loaded with number 3's weight, and positioned directly off the anchors established for the belay. The rope should be located so it does not contact any sharp edges. The rope to the ascending number 3 could be secured to a separate anchor, but this would require additional time and gear.

(2) The second method uses either two ropes or a doubled rope, and number 2 and number 3 climb simultaneously. This requires either a special belay device that accepts two ropes, such as the tuber type, or with two Munter hitches. The ropes must travel through the belay device(s) without affecting each other.

(a) As the leader climbs the pitch, he will trail a second rope or will be tied in with a figure eight in the middle of a doubled rope. The leader reaches the next belay position and establishes the anchor and then places both remaining climbers on belay. One remaining climber will start the ascent toward the leader and the other will start when a gap of at least 10 feet is created between the two climbers. The belayer will have to remain alert for differences in rope movement and the climbers will have to climb at the same speed. One of the "second" climbers also cleans the pitch.

(b) Having at least two experienced climbers in this team will also save time. The belayer will have additional requirements to meet as opposed to having just one second. The possible force on the anchor will be twice that of one second. The second that is not cleaning the pitch can climb off route, but staying on route will usually prevent a possible swing if stance is not maintained.

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