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3-person multi-pitch alt method


Original Post
Brian morin · · Simi Valley, CA · Joined May 2015 · Points: 10

Did my first 3-person multi-pitch over the weekend and it went just fine. I led while trailing a rope for the 3rd so I could top belay both while they both climbed a few feet apart.

That being said, it added weight to trail the additional rope along with trad gear already weighing me down. To lighten the load (and cut down on rope management) I was thinking of doing with a single rope next time by putting the 2nd on a Petzl Croll backed up by a Petzl Micro Traxion. Seems very efficient to me but wanted to get feedback from others who have tried this method.

Should mention I'd only use this method on cruisers within everyone's ability to mitigate falls.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190

Not to be too not-picky, but "simul-climbing" usually refers to a specific technique between two climbers where both belayer and climber climb simultaneously, so your wording was a bit confusing.

Brian morin · · Simi Valley, CA · Joined May 2015 · Points: 10
Ted Pinson wrote:

Not to be too not-picky, but "simul-climbing" usually refers to a specific technique between two climbers where both belayer and climber climb simultaneously, so your wording was a bit confusing.

Edited to say they "both climbed a few feet apart" instead of "simul-climbed a few feet apart"

SinRopa · · parts unknown · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 50

Is there a reason not to have the first follower just clip into the "midpoint" (or whatever you want to call their position) using your knot of choice, like an 8 on a bight with a slip knot end?

mbk · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 0

Mike Barter covers end-roping around 4:30: 

Chauvin and Coppollilo say:  

https://books.google.com/books?id=-Ft7DgAAQBAJ&lpg=PA155&ots=K_HxLnzuuE&dq=end-roping&pg=PA155#v=onepage&q=end-roping&f=false

"end-roping is an aggressive technique that should be used sparingly.  The terrain to use this should be fairly easy and low-angled for fifth-class climbing.  In effect, it should almost be easy enough for the team to move together"

Jaren Watson · · Boise, Idaho · Joined May 2010 · Points: 1,205

I've only ever climbed with two ropes in a party of three, so I can't speak to your suggested alternative. I do know what you mean about additional drag/weight. But if you only plan to employ the other method on cruisers, I guess I don't see that the weight of two ropes is significantly burdensome. Maybe I'm wrong.

SinRopa · · parts unknown · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 50
Albert Kernberg wrote:

Why not: tie both ropes into the second,  have the second unclip the leaders rope, have the second clip the 3rd's rope, have the 2nd belay the 3rd, have the 3rd clean the pitch?

That works, but is a lot slower than having both followers climb at the same time (with a safe spacing between the two).

AndrewArroz · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10
Brian morin wrote:

To lighten the load (and cut down on rope management) I was thinking of doing with a single rope next time by putting the 2nd on a Petzl Croll backed up by a Petzl Micro Traxion. Seems very efficient to me but wanted to get feedback from others who have tried this method.

Just to understand, you're thinking about having the 2nd essentially self-belay on your "fixed" line using an ascender and then, after he/she is up, belaying the 3rd normally? Seems overly complicated. And a lot to ask of an inexperienced 2nd. I'd go with your 2 ropes for 3 people technique.

Brandon.Phillips · · Portola, CA · Joined May 2011 · Points: 55

It seems like the suggested method could put someone climbing into a lot of slack if both climbers weren't moving at the same pace.  It may introduce more issues than it solves.  Two ropes would still be the best/safest method. 

You could get a 70m, lead from the midpoint, and have two strands to belay 2 followers.  This assumes  35m or less pitches. 

I would still just use two ropes.

DaEyeDoc · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 20

We do this all the time but you need to be fairly competent at the grade with the stronger climber climbing last. Leader climbs up and gets the belay set. The weaker climber ties in on a figure 8 on a bight with a locker (about 15 feet from the end of the rope). The stronger climber ties into the end of the rope like normal. The stronger climber can also attach a gri-gri to the belay loop, if concerned with the amount of slack that may occur, and self belay. Communication between the two followers is important. Climbing at relatively the same pace is important but not crucial. This is a lot faster and way better than leading with two ropes in my opinion. If the middle person falls or needs to take they can have it. The stronger climber should not be falling but if they do then they will pull the middle person off the wall and should take a very short top rope fall.

beensandbagged · · R.I. · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 10
SinRopa wrote:

That works, but is a lot slower than having both followers climb at the same time (with a safe spacing between the two).

What's your hurry???

John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,530

Sure, that'll work. It'll be slow unless both seconds are fast climbers, though, as you'll have to fix the line and then put the third on belay after the second gets secure. 

Maybe use a thinner rope for your trail line? I usually use an 8mm half rope... 

SinRopa · · parts unknown · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 50
beensandbagged wrote:

What's your hurry???

Just saying, sometimes you've got a bunch of ground to cover, sometimes you're not in the mood to be out there all day, sometimes it's crowded and you don't want to be that party holding everyone up. Just an aspect to consider.

Greg D · · Here · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 871

Do what DaEyeDoc suggests.  The only thing I would add to that is use a butterfly on a bight instead of eight and, more importantly, make the bight about three feet long.  This will allow the middle climber several feet of independence from the other climber.  But, don't make the bight any longer than the climbers max reach otherwise the knot will jamb up against the lead gear before she gets to it, putting some slack in the system. 

Now this is important.  When your second reaches the belay, you will not be able to take in rope for your third because of the bight.  

Not so good method:

If the climbing is very casual for your third, have her pause while your second gets anchored and unties the bight.  As soon as the bight is removed, take up slack quickly and continue to belay your third.  This will introduce a bunch of slack in the rope.  So, be sure your third is solid.   This method is not ideal since it requires extra steps, your second will need to tie back in, lots of slack in the system for a short period of time.

Better yet:

If you need to keep a close belay on your third, when your second arrives at belay and assuming you have her on an auto block, have a locker ready on your master point.  Grab the rope below the second's bight and put in on a munter on the locker.  This will introduce a small amount of slack for just a moment.  Once the munter is on you can continue to belay the third.

 Be sure everyone understands these details before you get started. 

[edited for clarity and safer transition]

rgold · · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 525

The weight problem is well mitigated, if not totally solved, by using half ropes.

Greg D · · Here · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 871

And the budget problem is well mitigated by having $300-$350 of extra cash laying around for the occasional party of three.  

rgold · · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 525
Greg D wrote:

And the budget problem is well mitigated by having $300-$350 of extra cash laying around for the occasional party of three.  

DaEyeDoc said "we do this all the time," [emphasis mine] so it might make sense for some people, especially since the half-ropes can be used for everything, not just 3-person parties.

A few years ago there was a total end-roping epic on High E.  The third person fell off and ended up dangling in space, while the second person got dragged down and then pinned.  Neither climber was very experienced and both were freaking out. The belayer on top was not able to communicate with the fallen climbers---this is a feature of that pitch---and so was of absolutely no use.   A second party on the scene rescued the dangling climber by a process that involved cutting their rope,  after which the second was able to proceed to the top of the pitch.  (You can't make this stuff up.)

David Gibbs · · Ottawa, ON · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 6
rgold wrote:

The weight problem is well mitigated, if not totally solved, by using half ropes.

I was going to say twin ropes.... but the same idea.

Greg D · · Here · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 871

I totally agree that two ropes for a party of three is a much safer way to go for several reasons which is why I would only suggest the one rope method if the climbing is well below the party's ability.

Personally, I don't care to climb on a single half rope even if I'm only following.   I know it's considered totally safe by many. But, I like to have more rope between me and the hospital. I've seen thick ropes get damaged in an instant. 

rgold · · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 525

This is the type of personal choice that everyone has to decide for themselves.  I've been taking leader falls on a single 8.5mm strand for maybe 30 years now, so I have no qualms about following on one.

Nick Parker · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2016 · Points: 0

Context is everything. In the context of "normal" rock cragging in a team of two, belaying in guide mode does indeed suck balls. Change the context, and it no longer sucks balls -- it is THE way to go. For moving fast as a group of three on long ice/alpine climbs, where speed=safety, guide mode with double ropes is hands down the best way. 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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