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Pros and Cons of 2 vs 3 man team
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By Colorado Climber
Nov 27, 2012
I'd love to hear some advantages and disadvantages of two and three man teams. I'm looking to aid something big (2-4 days) in the near future and need to decide between a two man or a three man team.

Thanks for sharing!

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By Moof
From Portland, OR
Nov 27, 2012
3 man times means nastier hauling and having to jug an often free hanging rope. Often the free hanging line may run over feature that have never been duck taped. Jugging a fixed line does much more sawing than dragging a haul rope over it. The walkoff is usually a bit better thanks to splitting the rack 3 ways instead of two, but you still have 1 rope per dude, etc.

On the plus side, with 3 dudes belays are less boring. It is easier to send the third guy pig diving for rations.

If you are all wall monkeys, then a short fix 3 man strategy can let you go faster. On my one experience, two of use were off the couch and we probably overall moved slower, but had a little more fun.

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By Princess Mia
From Vail
Nov 28, 2012
Chillin' at City of Rocks
The biggest disadvantage is the man part.... Personally I don't mind a three person team too much, but an all man team would be tricky as I am not......

Of course it is nice to share a double portaledge with only one person and total suck pill to haul an extra ledge for the third......

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By Cor
Nov 28, 2012
black nasty
far in the mountains, or at yosemite?

it is good to have 3 deep in the mtns maybe...

better for the main haul of goods in to spot.(not much more for 3 vs 2)
day long blocks (lead, follow, jug/haul duty.)
if something happens, 2 peeps to get the 1 injured out.

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By kevin deweese
From Oakland, Ca
Nov 28, 2012
Birds and Beards
3 Person team if the pitches are hard aid because of the ability to have someone to talk to while the person on lead shits themselves again and again for their 4 hour snail's pace lead. Plus you can get some time to get yourself together after a hard lead by switching off and letting the other two take the next pitch. A good combination is to have a strong aid climber with a strong freeclimber with a hauling beast. The two portaledge system works better on trade routes because the belays are often fat bolts that have been spread out to accommodate multiple ledges. On more obscure routes often you may need to set up intricate gear belays to accommodate extra ledges. Best is the climb routes with large ledges so the cluster of a hanging belay with three people is avoided. Belay seats are a must because at least one person is sitting on their hands doing nothing for every pitch.

2 Person teams are better for easier aid routes especially those with lots of free climbing because 3 people can bog down the speed of accent and force you to have to carry more supplies, more hauling suffering, etc.

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By Steven Lucarelli
From Moab, UT
Nov 28, 2012
Showing off Johns almighty poop tube on the top of El Cap, after climbing the Nose.
I actually prefer a 3 man team on bigwalls. Yes you have to haul a little more weight but its mostly water and that goes fast. These are the main advantages I've found with a 3 man team:

1. More muscle to share the hauling duty
2. You can skip hauling certain pitches if you plan properly. For example on the Nose from the top of the Boot Flake two members of the team can lead up pitches 17, 18 & halfway through 19 (intermediate belay on topo) while the third hangs out on the Boot. The third can then lower out the bag while they haul skipping several pitches of hauling. Then the third then lowers out and jugs. This can also be done on other sections of the route or other routes. Big time saver!
3. Split up carrying the load to the base of the route and off the top.
4. Company at belays
5. If the 3rd starts jugging as soon as the ropes are fixed leaving all the cleaning up to the 2nd the leader and the 3rd can usually haul the bag before the 2nd is even close to being done cleaning the pitch. The 3rd can then start leading the next pitch and tag up any gear he/she might need from the previous pitch once the 2nd gets to the anchor. This is another big time saver, especially if the leader can't haul the bag by themselves and has to wait for the 2nd to help haul (in a two man system).

I have used this system several times and it has always been easier and faster than a two man system if you plan properly.

Yes you will have a little less weight with 2 and one less rope but your still going to move slower unless you don't take the advantage of the 3rd person.

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By Wally
From Denver
Nov 28, 2012
Awesome post - thanks Steven!

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By Colorado Climber
Nov 28, 2012
Thanks everyone! The advice is much appreciated.

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By kevin deweese
From Oakland, Ca
Nov 28, 2012
Birds and Beards
Jeremy Aslaksen wrote:
More butt sex if you have a team of three...just saying...


Or if you drop one of the partners, there's still another for the sexing!

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By Russ Walling
From www.FishProducts.com
Nov 29, 2012
Russ
Steven Lucarelli wrote:
5. If the 3rd starts jugging as soon as the ropes are fixed leaving all the cleaning up to the 2nd the leader and the 3rd can usually haul the bag before the 2nd is even close to being done cleaning the pitch. The 3rd can then start leading the next pitch and tag up any gear he/she might need from the previous pitch once the 2nd gets to the anchor. This is another big time saver, especially if the leader can't haul the bag by themselves and has to wait for the 2nd to help haul (in a two man system).


Steve is onto something. I like the 3 man team too and it is faster than a "standard" two man team. As to #5 above, it is even faster if the leader fixes the lines, the new leader jugs the free lines, then the new leader only helps the 1st leader get the bags of the station below, and then goes out on lead immediately. The bags are now free hanging, you have a guy out on lead, and a guy cleaning. The cleaner will help leader #1 haul the bags.

Check this out too:
fishproducts.com/howto/ht3pers...

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By Daryl Teittinen
From Truckee CA
Dec 1, 2012
I thought the 3 man team did not need an extra rope. In my mind it goes:

1.Leader arrives at belay and fixes haul rope. One guy takes off speed jugging up this line.
2. Pull up slack in lead rope and fix it. Speed guy arrives at belay.
3. Lift bags off anchor and cleaner unclips them.
4. Cleaner starts up while bags are hauled/new leader starts to short fix out.

I have heard lots of stories of the 3rd having to lower out with the bags "riding the pigs", nobody talks about bringing extra chicken lines to back up the free jugger or the cleaner. Is this standard practice?

A 3 person team is definitely better for sharing the load of leading, and carrying a small pack, and having a cameraman, and an extra heckler, BUT you have to be much better organized at the belay or it can get ugly quick. Russ's system sounds like you would have to have a rope bag or four or you would be screwed...
D

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By Woodchuck ATC
Dec 1, 2012
Rock Wars, RRG, 2008
2 is climbing, 3 is a party.

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By Steven Lucarelli
From Moab, UT
Dec 2, 2012
Showing off Johns almighty poop tube on the top of El Cap, after climbing the Nose.
I've always brought an extra lead line for a party of three for the following reasons.

1. Third is tied into a rope in the extremely unlikely event that both jumars somehow come off the rope.
2. If you are linking pitches you don't have to worry about not having enough rope left over for the third to start leading the next pitch.
3. Third has their own rope for pendulums.

I also bring an extra half rope for lowering out the pig and the third can us it to lower themself out.

I actually bring 5 ropes for a party of three

Two lead lines, one static haul line, one half rope for lowering out and one skinny tag line for pulling up the haul line and the second lead line to the anchor. The tag line is much lighter than leading with two normal size ropes and your lead rope hanging off you, its also better for tagging up gear.

5 ropes may seem like a lot but its much faster and easier, just remember to bring two or three rope hooks to keep it all organized.

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By Russ Walling
From www.FishProducts.com
Dec 2, 2012
Russ
Russ's system sounds like you would have to have a rope bag or four or you would be screwed...

I've never actually used a rope bag on a wall... It sounds like a lot of cords, but since they are in "play" they don't really give you much trouble. A lot of it has to do with how you arrange and manage your stations.

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By Jim Reynolds
Dec 2, 2012
THe Knows of Al Kepiten
Daryl Teittinen wrote:
One guy takes off speed jugging up this line. 2. Pull up slack in lead rope and fix it. Speed guy arrives at belay. D


Holy shit that guy is fast!

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By skiclimber
Dec 2, 2012
jibbing at chasm lake
I've been waiting my whole life for a menage y tois!

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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Dec 2, 2012
El Chorro
Steven Lucarelli wrote:
I actually prefer a 3 man team on bigwalls. Yes you have to haul a little more weight but its mostly water and that goes fast. These are the main advantages I've found with a 3 man team: 1. More muscle to share the hauling duty 2. You can skip hauling certain pitches if you plan properly. For example on the Nose from the top of the Boot Flake two members of the team can lead up pitches 17, 18 & halfway through 19 (intermediate belay on topo) while the third hangs out on the Boot. The third can then lower out the bag while they haul skipping several pitches of hauling. Then the third then lowers out and jugs. This can also be done on other sections of the route or other routes. Big time saver! 3. Split up carrying the load to the base of the route and off the top. 4. Company at belays 5. If the 3rd starts jugging as soon as the ropes are fixed leaving all the cleaning up to the 2nd the leader and the 3rd can usually haul the bag before the 2nd is even close to being done cleaning the pitch. The 3rd can then start leading the next pitch and tag up any gear he/she might need from the previous pitch once the 2nd gets to the anchor. This is another big time saver, especially if the leader can't haul the bag by themselves and has to wait for the 2nd to help haul (in a two man system). I have used this system several times and it has always been easier and faster than a two man system if you plan properly. Yes you will have a little less weight with 2 and one less rope but your still going to move slower unless you don't take the advantage of the 3rd person.


Ha, funny enough Steven I was actually thinking of you when I read the OP. I was with Wayne, Megan and Adam at the creek a few years ago and we shared a few fires with you guys. I was the weak guy learning to crack climb at Broken Tooth!

Anyways I did a road trip with Megan last year and remember her talking about how you liked three man teams. I don't have any idea why it came up but it stuck with me.

I know you guys were trying to get something started in Moab - I guess it went well?

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By Steven Lucarelli
From Moab, UT
Dec 10, 2012
Showing off Johns almighty poop tube on the top of El Cap, after climbing the Nose.
Hey Ryan, I remember hanging out at the Creek, good times! Megan and I are still talking about doing a wall sometime, perhaps next year.

Moab is great, and people are loving the food truck! Hope we can catch up again sometime.

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By John Shultz
From Osaka, Japan
Jan 13, 2013
Above the beautifully positioned routes at Makapuu. Oahu, HI.
This is my take on three man technique:

A Gumby's Guide to Three Person Big Wall Technique

It is even faster if the leader can solo. Also an extra lead line makes the free-jugger super safe.

Cheers from Osaka,

john

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By mucci
From sf ca
Feb 8, 2013
I have always run 4 ropes with 3 man teams.

This allows for space hauling simultaneously with leading.

Gotta get all the scallywags pulling the keel when your adrift!

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By Kirk B.
From Boise, ID
Feb 21, 2013
belay slaving on some route I forgot the name of way right of Bloody Fingers.
Aye, matey.
I prefer to keep things simple. 2 folks is my ideal Wall team. I have done a couple as a 3 team, but it can make for quite the junk show. Just my .02. Cheers!

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By "Pass the Pitons" Pete Zabrok
From Oakville, Ontario
Mar 27, 2013
Left to right - me, Sam Adams, Thomas Huber, Alex Huber
I really prefer a three-man team, having done a few walls that way lately. Properly done, it is the most efficient way to climb a big wall. It splits the work more equitably, and the pitches go by a lot faster, thus leaving you more time for coffee in the morning and beers in the evening!

In a three-man team, when the Leader reaches the upper anchor, he zips up the top of the haul line along with the anchor kit and the spare lead gear, which could all be in a piglet. The Leader then fixes the haul line for the Second to immediately jug.

The Second jugs up quickly - this should take five minutes or less, so modify your jugging system to the Frog system for free-hanging jugs - and the Second arrives at the upper belay and either takes over as Leader, or gives the continuing Leader a belay. It is handy to have either an extra-long lead rope which can be pulled up to short fix, or have a second lead rope.

The Second/Belayer gives the Leader a belay, while the Third/Cleaner gets the pigs ready to go. Once the pigs are free, the Cleaner cleans the pitch while the Second/Belayer hauls. When the Cleaner reaches the Belayer, he can help with the hauling. This is a huge benefit.

The other huge benefit is that properly done in this or a similar manner, the sharp end of the rope is ALWAYS moving upwards. With a two-man team, the ship stops moving during cleaning and hauling. [Unless you are short fixing, in which case the Second/Cleaner/Hauler is forced to do everything]

One fundamental in the three-man system described above is that the Cleaner needs to be connected by a zip line to the Second, who is in turn connected to the Leader by another zip line. This is so that when the Cleaner removes gear from the lower pitch, he can zip it up to the Second/Belayer, who can in turn zip it up to the Leader as need. What I like to use for a zipline as Leader is a skinny mountaineering half rope, which is sufficient to haul a piglet full of gear and supplies. You can even jug and rappel such a half rope in a pinch, although such a skinny-ass rope can KNOTT rub against the rock at all when you are jugging. Something really skinny and long to connect the Cleaner to the Second is also needed. I just use a 5mm perlon cord for this.

I recommend rope bags for everything - including the zip lines - to reduce the clusterfuckage. I have never been any good at flaking ropes over slings, and when the inevitable twists occur - this is not Big Wall Theory, this is Big Wall Fact - a rope in a bag is far quicker and easier to decluster.

Disadvantages include that two guys might have to share a double ledge, unless you bring a third ledge. [Note: Princesses are welcome on my ledge. Please bring your glass slipper as it will make an excellent Gatorita glass] Your pigs will be bigger in a three-man wall, and you will only get to lead a third of the pitches instead of half the pitches, if you care. You will also want to bring extra gear, because the Leader will be taking off on lead immediately, before the pitch below is fully cleaned.

Lots of good suggestions above, especially the team composed of Aid Man, Free Man and Burly Haul Monkey. Also the ability to link hauls, I forgot about that benefit.

Cheers, eh?

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