How are ropes anchored on climbing tours

Proper abseiling when rock climbing: this is how it works!

First of all, three real examples taken from practice:

1: The highly experienced and accomplished climber Albert Precht, first time climber and developer of many climbing routes, died in 2015 while abseiling in Crete. He and his rope partner have roped off synchronously, that is, everyone has roped off one end of the rope on the single rope. How exactly the accident came about has not been finally clarified.

2: A couple goes to sport climbing, in the guide the route is given as 28 meters in length. The couple assume that the 60-meter rope will be sufficient. In reality, the route is 35 meters long. When lowering, the climber falls from around eight meters into steep terrain and is seriously injured. The second end of the rope was tied "loosely" to the rope bag, but has probably come loose.

3: Two couples go climbing, they know each other well and use the same ropes. When lowering from a long route, one of the climbers fell about seven meters to the ground, although the belayer knew the route and knew that his rope was long enough. What happened?

The other pair's rope (same model) had already been cut twice. When climbing various routes during the day, the two rope teams swapped the ropes. The belayer assumed he had the "long" rope, but actually had the one that had already been shortened twice.

All of these accidents could have been avoided and are based on mistakes made by the actors. The two lowering accidents (2 and 3) could have been avoided, for example, by using reliable and tight knots in all free ends of the rope. (See also our ALPIN tip)

ALPIN tip -

  • Node 1: Knots in the ends of the rope when abseiling would have saved many lives. It's that simple. Always make a reliable and tight knot in the free ends of the rope.

  • Node 2: When lowering, the free end of the rope should always be RELIABLE knotted to the rope bag or there should be a fixed knot in the end.

  • Drain: Even if it looks uncool, letting go of the first member of the rope team can have advantages in many situations and is definitely safer.

  • Fixed point: If possible, never abseil down from just one anchor point. A fixed point can always fail.

Abseiling is one of the basic skills in climbing and mountaineering. The routine handling of rope and belay device prevents serious mistakes, especially when exhausted.

In general, you should only abseil at trustworthy fixed points. It is best to set up abseiling stations consisting of two bolts connected by a chain or cord.

You should only abseil at one fixed point if it is a standing or abseiling hook, thick trees or overgrown rock heads.

Before starting to set up the abseil point, secure yourself to one of the fixed points with a prepared standing sling and a locking carabiner.

The expert advises:

  • The connection of the ropes on the stand is done with a blind stitch with 50 cm long ends.

  • The rope to be withdrawn lies on the rock face.

  • Always make a knot in the ends of the rope, unless you can clearly see that both (!) Ends are on the ground.

  • In alpine terrain, always abseil with backup (Prusik, cross clamp knot).

  • In adverse conditions or in extremely confusing terrain, it is better to lower the first than to abseil.

Since it is best to use two half or twin ropes in alpine terrain, a descent length of at least 50 meters is available. Many abseiling slopes are set up for this length.

If you descend with the single rope, you have to make sure that both ends of the rope are exactly the same length, and you have to find out (topo!) Whether you can get to the next stand with a rope.

Knot in the ends

So that the rope strands are secured against falling, the partners untie themselves from the rope and immediately thread one end of the rope through the fixed point.

You should make sure that the rope to be withdrawn later, viewed from the fixed point, lies on the side of the rock. This prevents it from being pinched off from the other strand.

The ends of the rope are immediately tied with a thick knot (sack stitch or figure eight loop). An essential security measure. It prevents the rope from slipping through the belay device if you abseil too far.

At the top of the abseiling hook, both strands are connected with a blind stitch, which should be 50 centimeters away from the ends of the rope. So you have enough leftover rope in case the knot slips through a bit.

The sack stitch straightens up when it is pulled off and therefore runs less of a risk of jamming. For ropes with different diameters, make a second knot directly behind the first knot.

Rope throw

Both ropes are now taken individually in loops and thrown out after the "rope" with which climbers located further down are warned.

As a test, it is now tested whether the rope that is used to pull off the rope after the descent - that is, the one on the side of the knot - runs well. Both climbers remember the color of this rope strand. "Red moves" is what it says, for example.

Only now does the first person to abseil insert his belay device into the rope. Under the descender, a short loop with a Prusik knot is attached to both ropes and with a carabiner on a leg loop.

This prevents you from falling if you pass out while abseiling, for example due to falling rocks. This Prusik knot is now loosely carried along with the braking hand. It must be so short that it cannot slide into the descender when it is loaded.

You can also hang your abseiling device in a sling, which is fixed in the safety loop of the belt, in order to create a greater distance between the safety device and the abseiling device.

The partner check

Now that the belay device and the Prusik sling have been attached, the other rope partner makes another comrade check to make sure everything fits.

Now the abseil person releases his self-belay and attaches it to the harness. The steeper the terrain, the faster the rope runs through the device. If you are hanging free, you should keep the abseiling speed low to avoid burns your hands from the rope.

If you have contact with the wall, you brace your feet against it with your legs apart. Often the rope got stuck on undergrowth or rock edges during casting. You should remove the jumble early on in such places and not only when you are a few centimeters in front of it.

In order to have both hands free, you can block the belay device. You can either load the back-up. However, it is sometimes difficult to get a prusik that has been burdened back on again.

But you can also block the belay device yourself. With the figure eight, this is very easy by jamming the braking line between the rope and the figure eight. With the tube you have to pull the brake ropes through the rope loop of the belt and fix them to the rope coming from above using a slip knot.

In heavily overhanging terrain, it may be necessary to attach quickdraws to existing hooks (reclipping). This prevents you from having no contact with the wall at some point.

When you arrive at the stand, you secure yourself with the stand sling and take the rope out of the belay device. "Rope free" is the call to the top, which signals to the partner that it is his turn. For inexperienced climbers, there is now another safety option.

The partner below takes both strands of rope loosely in his hand. If the abseiling person needs help with braking or if he is afraid, the abseiling person can be brought to a standstill by pulling the ropes.

# olafklärtdasschon

Reaction to comments: How do I rebuild safely - Part II

In the last video of our series # olafklärtdasschon, Olaf explained how to safely convert if there is no open diverter at the end of a climbing route. We have received some critical comments on this, which is why Olaf reacts with this video.

When both partners are secured to the stand, one of them threads the pulling rope into the new anchor point and immediately makes a knot in the end. While one pulls away, the other picks up the rope.

Very important: Both make sure to remove the knot from the second end of the rope. If the rope gets stuck, you first pull gently and try to get the rope free again by whipping movements. If you pull too hard, there is a risk that the rope will become jammed in the first place.


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