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Climbing roped on rock without pro

Original Post
Martin Brzozowski · · Belleville, MI · Joined Aug 2019 · Points: 17

Hi all,

I recently watched a video (can't seem to find it anymore) of some guys climbing the Matterhorn. They were climbing roped to one another, but not clipped into any pro like you do simul-climbing. I can't remember if the leader was short roping the follower, but there was some slack and probably 30 feet between them. I've only ever done this for glacier travel, but is this method used on rock? Why or why not? It seems like if the follower fell, he would only pull the leader down with him (unless he clung real hard to a rock) whereas on a glacier you can at least self arrest.

Martin

Ven Popov · · Pittsburgh, PA · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 56

Without knowing the details of the terrain, there are some situations in which this makes sense.

  • Scrambling between pitches. Unroping and coiling the rope takes a lot of time. If technical pitches are separated by sections of easy 3rd to 4th class scrambling (even 5.0+), and the party is confident and experienced, then it can save a lot of time without being that dangerous because falling likelihood is very small. 
  • Easy climbing on a ridge where you can protect it by snaking the rope around Rock features. Imagine zig zaging among horns boulders, and other protrusions. If one person falls, if done correctly the rock features will catch the rope and act as pro. Saves time and gear on easy terrain
  • Some people practice this with the idea that if one person falls you jump towards the other side of the mountain on a ridge. Wouldn't recommend that
Generally if you are roped, you are right, you want to have pro. Bullet point 2 just uses natural pro, while the situation in 1 you are trading slight unlikely risk for speed on easy ground, and speed is safety in alpine environments. Depending on the situation, this can be preferable, but requires knowledge of the terrain and skill confidence. It also allows you to more easily begin pitching out a section if you find yourself at more tricky terrain all of a sudden 
Robert Hall · · North Conway, NH · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 19,197

The technique is actually quite common on Class 3 and Class 4 (in fact, I believe it's the definition of "Class 4 - Roped but no belays".) and is used on Class 5 "easy" terrain, "easy" being defined by the climber's abilities.  
Guides will also often use it.
Theories on how it works were given above by Ven.
The middle one actually worked for me once !

Nkane 1 · · Berkeley, CA · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 109

A lot of alpine ridge-y terrain is sort of stair-stepped, with little boulder problems separated by easier sections. So the stronger climber can lead, maybe with a spot from the second or a quick belay if he/she can get a piece in, and can then sit down and provide a hip belay from a stance when the second gets to the tricky move. Then the whole team can move quickly over easier terrain to the next step.

Mark Pilate · · MN · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 10

Lots of those Matterhorn videos are guides with clients.  They climb that way (short roping) and use fixed pro along the way at key points.  No real good reason for a regular team to climb that way for extended time.   

Basically you’re watching a dog on a leash up a cattle track

ddriver · · SLC · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 1,984
Ven Popov wrote: 
  • Scrambling between pitches. Unroping and coiling the rope takes a lot of time. If technical pitches are separated by sections of easy 3rd to 4th class scrambling (even 5.0+), and the party is confident and experienced, then it can save a lot of time without being that dangerous because falling likelihood is very small.

Mostly this.  Save time and cover terrain.  Both climbers can shorten their ends to keep it manageable without coming out of the rope.  A good example is the shoulder section on the North Ridge of Steeple.  


Shown here as 3rd Class.

Route Overlay North Ridge
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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