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Multi-pitch climbing with more than 1 partner
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Feb 24, 2013
Probably a dumb question but I tried searching the forums for an answer and couldn't find what I was looking for so I started a new thread.

I have been leading some multi-pitch routes, and I have 3 people that I climb with routinely, I have always climbed with just 1 partner at a time though and none of my friends are comfortable leading...if there were 3 or 4 of us in a group what is the standard procedure for getting everyone to the top? For example I'm confused about the crowding at belays...making sure everyone is clipped into the anchor and safe?
TJ Souther
From Brevard, NC
Joined Dec 12, 2012
43 points
Feb 25, 2013
Rock Climbing Photo: Me and the offspring walking back to the car after...
My advice is don't do any more than one leader and two followers- and even that can be a pain in the ass. Actually my advice is not to do it, but you're probably going to anyway, so do this: Use two ropes. Have the first follower unclip his rope from the protection and clip the rope he is trailing up for the second follower INTO the protection. The last follower cleans the route on their way up.

At the belay- probably easier to use a cordelette to build an anchor because you'll have three people into it. Lap coil the first rope onto YOUR (the leader's) connection to the anchor. Anchor follower #1 into the anchor. Have your follower (if possible) belay the second follower and have him lap coil the second rope onto his tether/connection to the anchor. When follower #2 arrives, anchor him in, flip the second rope (so that the bottom of the lap coil is now the top) onto follower #2's tether. Take the first rope that is coiled on the leader's tether and flip it onto follower #1's tether. The leader now goes on belay (if you're climbing multipitch), being belayed again by follower #1, and is ready to come off the anchor to start climbing again. The reason for flipping the coils is so that they feed readily without having to re-stack them. Takes some practice. Confused yet?

A few things to remember:

This sucks. I've done it a few times and will not do it again. It's fun when you first get into it, and you want your friends along, but it really is more trouble than it's worth nine times out of ten. YMMV.

If you have to ask this question, you may not be ready to take up two followers. It would be a damn good idea to practice the entire process on the ground several times to make sure you have your shit wired tight before you get yourself into an epic.

You have to have good rope management to avoid a clusterfuck and spending half a day at each belay.

If you choose to use this setup, you will need two cordelettes because your followers will still be anchored to one, and you'll need a second one when you arrive at your next belay to build an anchor.

If you're climbing somewhere that has bolts at each belay, it simplifies things, but not much.

Make sure the last guy up can clean gear- before you leave the ground.

Make sure you can also get three people down safely. Stacked rappel is your best bet. Know how to use a munter hitch to rappel- someone always drops their device. Oh, and bring an extra nut tool.

Don't get fancy and elaborate with things. You'll already have enough to manage, simplicity will make it more safe, and will take less time.

Give one role to everyone and keep it that way the entire way up. Have a dedicated middle guy, and a dedicated cleaner. That way everything is the same each pitch and everyone knows what their job is. This will hopefully make things more efficient.

Get on something that you feel confident on, and that you know your followers will be able to do comfortably. Having two followers is a pain. Having two followers you have to drag up a route is insanity.
Jake Jones
From Richmond, VA
Joined Jul 30, 2011
1,335 points
Feb 25, 2013
Rock Climbing Photo: The wife and I road-trippin on the Connie.
You have to vary your tactics depending on the route. If the pitches are straight, it's easy to belay both seconds up at once (on separate ropes), stagger them about 30 feet apart. If route traverses and a fall of a follower would result in a nasty pendulum, you do the caterpillar method, the second climber trails the rope for the third, unclipping their own rope and clipping in the third's to protect the climb for them, they don't get belayed up till the second climber is at the belay. This method is much slower. Most of the time I end up belaying both my seconds at the same time. More then 2 seconds will be a real cluster and move really slow.

Edit - Also consider the belays when choosing your method. If it's a hanging or crampe belay and ropes need to be carefully managed, do one second at a time. If it's comfy and you can stack ropes easy, both at once is nice.
Larry S
From Easton, Pennsylvania
Joined May 28, 2010
955 points
Feb 25, 2013
OK...that's basically what I figured, it sounded like a clusterfuck to me so I thought it would be best to stick to one follower at a would be nice for everyone to get to enjoy the top-out together but I'll probably wait on that until one of them feels comfortable enough to lead on their own. Thanks for the write up...I'll try to practice sometime and see how comfortable it feels before I actually try it TJ Souther
From Brevard, NC
Joined Dec 12, 2012
43 points
Feb 25, 2013
You can have both seconds climb about 10 or 15 m apart tied into the same rope (if the bottom climber falls it might pull the next one off too), or you can belay them both at the same time on separate ropes, or you can belay everyone one at a time. DannyUncanny
From Vancouver
Joined Aug 27, 2010
113 points
Feb 25, 2013
With 3 people, the answer is easy. Climb on doubles. I regularly climb on doubles in a team of 3 and we climb basically as fast as a team of two can. Using a reverso in guide mode, you can have both partners climbing at the same time (20 feet apart or so). You have an extra set of hands at the belay to help manage the double ropes. Once you have the technique down for doubles, you can almost always avoid rope drag. AND, you get to double rope rappel, so getting down is faster. Derrick W
From Salt Lake City, UT
Joined Jun 3, 2012
115 points
Feb 25, 2013
Rock Climbing Photo: Coffee after freezing our asses off near James Pea...
If you choose routes with nice belays that are big enough for three, it can be a lot of fun. Also, places like the Flatirons are conducive to parties of three since the climbing isn't that difficult. I've had two friends rope up close to each other on the Direct East Face of the First because I thought it would be fun for them to be right next to each other as opposed to taking turns. It went great. Other times I have used two ropes or tied off someone in the middle with a butterfly knot and two lockers. But the two half ropes is the best system for anything that is going to challenge your follower's climbing ability and not just be an easy romp. That works really well. Stich
From Colorado Springs, Colorado
Joined Jan 1, 2001
1,669 points

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