Technical issues- moving together
Moving together is an advanced technique that is best suited to moderate terrain that falls between easy scrambling and pitched climbing, consequently it is most frequently used in the Alps. It involves two climbers attached to the rope, a short distance apart and moving simultaneously, safeguarded by runners placed by the leader. It is potentially a serious technique as it can result in a 'one off - all off' situation and requires confidence and steadiness in both partners. There are a few places on British scrambles where this technique is appropriate, hence it is included here.
It is possible to move at a steady pace with reasonable security on serious and exposed sections of scrambles where pitched climbing would be too slow and soloing would feel too dangerous.
Takes considerable practise to become efficient and requires good judgement of when to use it.
Shortening the rope by taking coils and tying them off is difficult to learn.
How it works
There must be a runner between the pair to hold them in the event of a fall. This may be a sling on a spike or a nut placed in a crack. The leader places these runners and the second removes them. It is obviously important that there is always at least one runner or good spike of rock between the pair. Once the leader has run out of gear to place there needs to be a changeover of leader or gear.
How to use the rope
The normal climbing rope is 50m long but this distance is too great for moving together so the rope is shortened to approx 15m by taking body coils. These are wrapped diagonally around the chest to waist level and tied off so they can't unwrap them selves while you are moving. It is also important that in a fall the coils can't tighten around your chest. A popular method of tying off the coils is to feed a bight of rope around all the coils and tie off with an overhand knot
Ridges often have an abundance of rock spikes around which the rope can be weaved. These can be used as natural runners. Alternatively, place slings over the spikes and clip them to the rope with a karabiner. As a last option, where no spikes or blocks are found, you'll have to look for nut placements to use as runners, but these are slower to place and retrieve. If no runners can be found then it may be best to stop and pitch the section.
Ridges often have an abundance of rock spikes around which the rope can be weaved
It is unlikely you'll need to move together for the entire route so it is important to recognise when to switch techniques. If the ground becomes considerably easier, (Grade 1 type scrambling with no other obvious difficulties ahead, pack the rope away but be prepared to get it out again if the difficulties increase).
If the ground is hard enough to make you stop and think that you might fall off then you should change to climbing in short pitches. It's slower but more secure.
Any Other considerations
- Don't worry if it takes time to feel confident with this technique, it is advanced and complex
- If you are unsure about it, consider getting some expert advice or instruction.
- Only use this technique if both of you are fairly confident moving on the terrain and reasonably familiar with the method.
- It requires judgement when to use it and practise to make it safe.
Libby is a highly qualified mountain leader with over 25 years experience, having worked as an instructor at Glenmore Lodge and Plas y Brenin and also having travelled the world seeking out the best climbs. She offers bespoke guiding, instruction and coaching sessions in climbing and mountaineering in her local area of North Wales - one of the best areas in the UK for outdoor sports.
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