Advanced techniques in traditional climbing - advanced ropework

Advanced techniques in traditional climbing - advanced ropework

Nigel gives some tips about protection using a backrope on a traverse, an introduction to twin ropes and how to rig a Tyrolean Traverse.

As you gain more experience of rock climbing there will inevitably be situations that present unusual problems. Solving them is likely to require thoughtful use of more technical ropework. Such scenarios are numerous and varied but it is worth considering what you'd do if faced with a dodgy traverse and little protection.

The consequences of a fall are likely to be a horrendous pendulum that could result in injury. For the leader there is usually little that can be done apart from arranging a high runner well above the line of the traverse. For the second though, following could be a nightmare.

It is worth considering what you'd do if faced with a dodgy traverse and little protection
To make the whole experience a little more comfortable, leave one of the ropes clipped into the high runner and be prepared to sacrifice a piece of gear. As you climb across the traverse the leader can then take in on one rope and pay out on the one through the high runner. When you arrive in a safe position untie from the 'back rope' and pull it through the runner.

Side Rope

On short, extremely fierce and very poorly protected climbs, a fall on to the ground could be terminal. Mercifully these climbs are few and far between. If a climb cannot be protected from the ground up in a traditional sense, consider the possibility of arranging an extra rope from one side. There are a couple of ways to do this. Climb slightly off route to place a runner, or have someone else belay the extra rope. The belayer can then be briefed to pull you to one side if you fall - which could potentially save a long and otherwise direct to the ground fall.

Twin Ropes

Twin ropes are rarely used in traditional climbing in the UK but could be considered on longer climbs where speed and lightness are essential but you still require the facility of doubled ropes in order to abseil off the climb at the end. Twin ropes are usually around 8mm diameter and two ropes are used but treated as if you were climbing on a single rope i.e. both ropes are clipped into each runner.

Tyrolean traverses are fun!

Tyrolean Traverse

Tyrolean traverses are fun! Using one in a climbing situation though is very rare. The most likely situation in the UK is if you go to climb some of the sea stacks off the coasts of Scotland. There are a couple where you need to traverse above the sea to reach the climb. The biggest problem is getting the rope across first - you'll need someone to swim! The 'classic' Tyrolean of all time is probably the one from the top of the Lost Arrow Spire, back to terra firma in Yosemite Valley 

When you rig a Tyrolean treat it like an abseil.
  • At one end (the one you will leave from at the finish of the climb) all you do is thread a doubled rope through an anchor point.
  • Make sure that the anchor is sound and that you use a screwgate karabiner.
  • Take an old karabiner with you specifically for the task.
  • At the other end, you need to rig a system that will tension the ropes but one that is simple to release once you've finished.
  • Treat both ropes as one when rigging the following system.
  • A 'Lorrymans' hitch is a good knot to use but it is better to stretch the rope as tight as you can by pulling on it and then tie a chunky knot in the rope about five metres away from the anchor.
  • Clip a screwgate krab into the loop that is formed and then run the rope back through a krab on the anchor.
  • You now have a kind of simple 'Z' pulley and can gradually crank up the tension on the ropes.
  • Once you have the ropes tight enough, tie off the pulling rope at the anchor point.
  • Just a quick word of caution - don't stretch the ropes too taut. You don't need to be able to play a tune on them. You need them just taut enough to hold your body weight without them sinking too low. 

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