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Black Tape

Version 0.8; last reviewed 17-06-2021

Introduction

In order to safely and without-supervision participate in multi-pitch activities at any UQ Mountain Club (UQMC) climbing event, you must obtain your “Black Tape”.

First and foremost, UQMC promotes a “safety first culture that guides all our activities”. That means that whatever you are doing, you must make sure that your and others safety is the number one priority at any given time.

This document will guide you towards successful completion of the assessment of your “Black Tape”. In order to get your “Black Tape” approved, there are four main steps:

  1. Read and remember the knowledge displayed in this document,

  2. Put all this knowledge in a correct manner into practice,

  3. Get yourself assessed for new theoretical and practical material by 3 members of the executive team who will ask you theoretical questions and will assess your practical skills during one of the UQMC events.

  4. The Executive team will vote upon the competency of the member in an Executive meeting based on the development of their “Red Tape” skills and their competency on new material. Note that climbing ability is not considered as a requirement for “Black Tape” and should not sway decision making. The “Black tape” can be awarded by the majority vote of the current Executive Team.

 

After a successful assessment, you will obtain your “Black Tape” on your UQMC card, which you will display on your harness together with your “Yellow Tape”, “Blue Tape”, “Green Tape”, and “Red Tape”.

 

Please read the following instructions carefully.

 

NOTE: We do not endorse all the information by the content creators given below. However, we have checked the specific links and believe that they are great learning resources. These links do not replace learning practically from club members, but will be helpful to aid your learning.

Description

Having “Black Tape” indicates that a member is a very competent lead climber and belayer, they are able to set up and use a top belay anchor, have the skills and knowledge to ascend a rope or ‘self rescue’, and understand the importance of rope management.

When a member has achieved their “Black Tape”, they are allowed to lead a climb that is longer than a single pitch during Club activities without supervision from executives or other experienced members with “Black Tape”.

Prerequisites

You must be a member of UQMC to be tested for the “Black Tape” competency.

You must have the “Yellow Tape”, “Blue Tape”, “Green Tape” and “Red Tape” competency to be tested for the “Black Tape” competency.

Testable material

The material testable to obtain the “Black Tape” competency can be broken down into the following categories:

Practical

The member with the “Red Tape'' competency has attended a number of UQMC multi-pitch activities.

During these events, the member has consistently demonstrated that they are experienced and knowledgeable to independently climb a multi-pitch (without supervision). The member being tested must be able to:

  • Ascend and descend on prusiks;

  • Munter hitch rappel and belay;

  • Build an equalised and redundant anchor for top-belay using slings, rope and a quad;

  • Safely lower a climber from top-belay using the ratchet method and the redirect method;

  • Setting up a single strand rappel at the top of a climb.

The member must be formally tested on the following new skills:

  • The member must know the process of multi-pitching;

  • The member knows how to safely set up a multi-pitch anchor;

  • The member knows how to safely lead-belay from a multi-pitch anchor;

  • The member must know how to safely lock off a top belay (to escape the belay);

  • The member must demonstrate a safely transition from top belay to lead belay, including placement of an appropriate ‘jesus draw’;

  • The member must be able to communicate appropriately throughout all multi-pitch processes;

  • The member must demonstrate safe rope-signal communication;

  • The member must demonstrate appropriate rope management;

  • The member must safely demonstrate how to climb with a party of three;

  • The member must be able to safely haul a climber up on a 3:1 hauling system;

  • The member must be able to safely pluck off a climber who has fallen unconscious;

  • The member is able to safely set up and use: (1) retrievable single strand rappel, (2) retrievable double strand rappel with two ropes, and (3) rappel with knot bypass.

Theoretical material

The member being tested must have a comprehensive understanding to explain the theory behind:

  • Bad bolts - understand basic bolting and how to recognise bad bolts;

  • Ascending and descending on prusiks - how to safely ascend, personal anchor systems, when to use which prusik;

  • Munter hitch rappel and belay - why and when the Munter hitch may be used;

  • Understands anchor principals such as equalisation and focal points, weights on anchor, redundancy, extension, and dangers;

  • Build an anchor for top-belay using slings, rope and a quad;

  • Understand how to safely set up top belay with guide mode tubular and understand dangers associated with a top belay set up with a grigri;

  • Safely lower a climber from top-belay anchor using the ratchet method and the redirect method;

  • Setting up a single strand rappel at the top of a climb - theory of absolute anchors.

They must also be as tested on the new material including:

  • How multi-pitching works;

  • How to safely set up a multi-pitch anchor;

  • How to safely lead belay from a multi-pitch anchor;

  • How to transition from top belay to lead belay;

  • What the purpose of the ‘Jesus draw’ is;

  • How to catch a fall;

  • How to avoid dropping quickdraws while seconding;

  • How to avoid dropping belay devices when attaching/ detaching them from the rope;

  • Communication;

  • Rope management - understanding why rope management is important and how and when to correctly manage your rope whilst on the wall;

  • Climbing with a party of three: (a) How it works; (b) Two ropes;

  • The knowledge on how to set up and work a 3:1 hauling system;

  • The steps of a “pluck off”;

  • Setting up a rappel with different types of setups: (1) How to set up a retrievable single-strand rappel, (2) knowledge of knots when setting up a double stranded rappel with two ropes, and (3) the steps of a “Knot bypass”;

  • Understanding the dangers of a stuck rope when retrieving an abseil and how to safely retrieve the rope;

  • Crag Ethics.

The better you understand all the following material, the safer you will be as a climber and the more likely you are to avoid a climbing accident. Having a “safety first” culture within UQMC is the highest priority when climbing.

Reading for theoretical material

Revision

In order to receive your “Black Tape”, you need to review your knowledge from your “Green” and “Red Tape”. This section is a very short outline of the most important points from those booklets:

  • Lead belaying;

  • Lead climbing: Clipping, falling techniques, commands, cleaning a climb (2 PAS, figure-8, through rappel rings), and rappelling (third hand);

  • Bad Bolts;

  • Ascending and descending on prusiks;

  • Munter hitch;

  • Anchor principals: equalisation, focal points, weights, redundancy, extension, angle of separation and dangers;

  • Building a top belay anchor (3 methods: Rope, sling or quad anchor);

  • Belaying from a top belay anchor;

  • Ohm and stick clips;

  • Crag ethics.

Please go over your “Green Tape” and “Red Tape” booklet again if you have forgotten the theory or practise of these points.

Remember: Anchors must be SERENE

S - Solid: The anchor, which you are using (bolts, bollards, trees), is solid and you have inspected it.

E - Equalisation: The tension on both stands is equal, meaning they are both taking the equal load.

R - Redundant: there are no single points of failure.

E - Efficient: The anchor should be simple, so you can easily inspect it.

NE - No Extension: If a piece fails, the anchor will not shock load.

What is multi-pitch climbing?

Multi-pitch climbing is climbing a route which has multiple anchors up the wall. So you basically climb from the ground, to the first anchor (called the first pitch), to the second anchor (second pitch) all the way to the top of the climb.

Multi-pitch climbing can be tonnes of fun if you are climbing comfortably at the hardest grade on the route and if you have all the skills you need to keep yourself out of trouble. Self-rescue skills, anchor building skills, and rope management skills are essential when multi-pitch climbing as you cannot simply be lowered to the base of the cliff. Some multi-pitches can be 100+m!

For some psych and visual aid in understanding multi-pitching, you can check out this video of a relatively normal (not elite) climb in the Blue Mountains (13 min).

Preparation is key

Preparing for a multi-pitch is equally important than actually climbing the route. To make sure you will not get an “epic” (a multi-pitch where literally everything goes wrong), you must prepare your squad beforehand.

Step 1: Time. A multi-pitch takes a lot of time. From getting to the crag, walking in, finding the climb, starting, climbing, finding where to rappel, rappelling, walking back out and driving home. Climbers often overlook the time it takes to actually get to the right spot to climb. So consider leaving early for your multi-pitch.

Step 2: Check the grade and length of the route. When multi-pitching, you really do not want to be pushing your grade as this makes it more likely that you will get injured and turn the day into an epic. Therefore, choose a climbing grade you consistently onsight.

Also, consider the length of the climb, the number of pitches and how long it will take you. It is also worth considering if you have the endurance to do a long route. For example, boulderers might get more tired than single pitch sport climbers.

Step 3: Check that you have enough gear. It is highly recommended that you either put the necessary gear on your harness the night before or pack your bag with the necessary gear. This way, you do not forget anything when you rush off early in the morning.

Depending on the route, there may be advice on how many draws and what type of draws you need. It is common for when doing a multi-pitch to use alpine draws to avoid rope drag, however, you can also just extend the draw with a sling.

Harness Gear list

  • 6 locking carabiner minimum;

  • Anchor building material (e.g. slings or accessory cord to build a quad);

  • 2 personal safeties or PASses;

  • 3 prusiks (for self-rescue ascending and descending, and third hand on rappel);

  • Prusik/sling/daisy chain to extend your belay device;

  • Belay device - ATC and if preferred, a Grigri or other assisted belay device;

  • Comfortable climbing shoes;

  • Helmet.

In your backpack

  • Basic first aid equipment and medication (e.g. climbing tape, bandage, ibuprofen);

  • Head torches;

  • Water and food;

  • Walkie talkies (not necessary but makes it so much easier);

  • PLB and phone in case of an emergency;

  • Comfortable walking shoes for walking down/back to the car.

WHY? As you are climbing up, you cannot leave any gear or stuff behind on the ground. Pack light, smart and enough.

WHO CARRIES THE STUFF? The seconder carries the stuff as lead climbing with a bag can be a hassle.

Step 4: Check that you and your partner have the necessary climbing, belaying, self-rescue, rappelling, anchor building setup and rope management skills. It is highly advised that you do not choose any random climber you found on Facebook and trust them as your climbing partner. It is important that you know that as a team, you have the skills to get yourself up or down safely if something goes wrong.

Always practice your anchor building and rappelling skills the day before you plan on multi-pitching, so you are ready to go and confident in your/your partner’s abilities.

How does multi-pitching work

A multi-pitch is usually done by two people, where the climber-belayer pairs swap roles. UQMC recommends multi-pitching with a group of 4, as you always have two ropes, double the gear and more hands and brains to help if something goes wrong.

To make things more clear for the following explanation, we will call the fictive people Climber A and Climber B. Consequently, Climber A is also Belayer A and Climber B is Belayer B.

The steps are the following:

Step 1: Start

You start at the base of the cliff. You and your climbing partner both tie in at each end of the rope with a rethreaded Figure-8 knot. Climber A will be climbing first, and carries all the quickdraws and other gear. Perform the buddy checks:

  • The rope is appropriately flaked such that it smoothly feeds slack as Climber A ascends;

  • Both climbers have correctly tied into the ends of the rope;

  • Both climbers’ harnesses are in good condition and are correctly fitted;

  • Both climbers are wearing helmets;

  • Climber B has correctly set up the belay device and is ready to belay;

  • Climber A has sufficient gear to complete the climb (enough quickdraws, 2 PAS, 6 carabiners, guide mode ATC (and an optional assisted braking belay device), prusiks and slings;

  • Both climbers are aware of the communication commands.

 

Climber A will then lead climb as normal up to the first double-bolt-belay (DBB). At the first anchor, Climber A will put in their two safeties and set up their own anchor (rope, sling or quad), creating a redundant master point from which to top belay.

Climber/Belayer A will then pull up the rope until it becomes tight on Belayer/Climber B who will yell out ‘THAT’S ME!’. It is important to remember that Climber B is NOT on belay at this point. Belayer A will load their belay device correctly, connect it to the masterpoint, and conduct all last checks (SERENE and ABCDE) before communicating that Climber B is on belay.

Step 2: The first pitch:

Once Belayer A has created a top belay anchor, Belayer A will communicate to Climber B that they are “ON BELAY”. Climber B checks to see if there is any slack in the rope by tugging hard and shouts “ON BELAY” back. Subsequently, Climber B will start climbing and will shout to Belayer A “CLIMBING”, so Belayer A knows Climber B is starting and starts taking up the slack. Climber B will climb the route and will be removing quickdraws from the wall as they climb.

Tip: The easiest way to remove the draws is to find a secure position, unclip the draw from the u-bolt, let the draw fall to the belay loop and then clip the draw to the gear loop. This also prevents dropping your quickdraws into the abyss.

Step 3: Transitioning back to lead climbing and lead belaying

Once Climber B reaches the belay station, Climber B will get onto two points of safety and communicate this to Belayer A. Climber B tells Belayer A to come off belay. Belayer A will let Climber B know when they are off belay. Belayer A will then switch to lead belaying with either an ATC or assisted braking device (Grigri). Climber B will pass the bag to Belayer A.

Climber B puts a Jesus draw (quickdraw) into the anchor or first bolt (if this is within reach) and clips the rope through that quickdraw. Climber B gets ready to start leading the next pitch. Both perform buddy checks. Belayer A lets Climber B know when Climber B is on belay. Climber B can start climbing after taking the two safeties off.

Step 4: Getting to the anchor of the second pitch

When Climber B gets to the second pitch (anchor), Climber B will go on two points of safety and set up a top belay anchor.

Step 2, 3 and 4 are repeated for remaining pitches, until they reach the top of the climb. More visual information can be found on this website.

Safely set up a multi-pitch anchor

Setting up a multi-pitch anchor is identical to setting up a top belay anchor. The types of anchors are discussed in the “Red Tape” booklet.

The only difference is that you are on the wall instead of on top of a cliff or climb. It is therefore important that you first put in two safeties when reaching the double bolt belay or another anchor setup. Depending on your surroundings, you can choose your anchor setup: rope, sling or quad anchor.

Belaying from a multi-pitch anchor is identical to belaying from a top belay anchor. Just make sure that you get in a comfortable position in your harness and/or against the wall.

Safely lead belay from a multi-pitch anchor

Again, lead belaying on a multi-pitch anchor is the same as lead belaying on a single pitch, except that you are not standing on the ground, but dangling off a cliff. However, the communication, signals, giving slack, taking up and all other techniques are still the same.

Keep in mind that you are sitting (most likely) in your two safeties, carrying a backpack, hugging the wall and managing the rope. You do not want to short rope your climber.

Purpose of a Jesus draw

From the first pitch and up, it is important to put in a Jesus draw. Basically, this is a quickdraw with the rope clipped into it, put on the anchor system or the first bolt, if this is within reach.

The reason why this is UQMC protocol is because if a climber falls before the first bolt, the Jesus draw will catch the climber, instead of the belayers’ device which is attached to their harness. This also makes sure that the belayer can step up to give a soft catch as well.

If there is no Jesus draw, falling from the first bolt could potentially be dangerous, as all the weight falling down will be caught by the belayers’ harness. And the belayer will be yeeted down, instead of up. The weight is not good for the harness, the anchor system and the backs of both the climber and the belayer.

Catch a fall

Falling on a multi-pitch can be quite scary, as you sometimes are very high. But catching a fall on a multi-pitch can also be equally as scary. In essence, catching a fall of a climber on a multi-pitch is the same as on a single pitch. You still need to give a soft catch if you can by standing up.

However, there are more factors to consider when you are multi-pitching.

  • You cannot jump, as you are tied to the anchor with your two points of safety. So just step up - a big step when someone is heavier and a smaller step when someone is lighter.

  • You have all this rope on you, near you, around you. So when you step up, make sure that you do not yeet the rope off the wall. It is immensely annoying to retrieve the rope back up.

  • You might be belaying in an awkward spot and stepping up is going to be difficult.

  • You might not hear the climber as you are higher up. There might be wind noise, and the distance between you and the climber may be larger.

So when multi-pitching, as a belayer, be more alert when the climber is falling.

What do I do when I drop quickdraws while seconding?

The situation where you drop a quickdraw does not necessarily mean you cannot ascend your multi-pitch. It makes it a bit harder, but not impossible.

If you have dropped your quickdraw/s, assess first where they have fallen.

  • Have they fallen on a ledge? Great! Then you can ask your belayer to lower you to the ledge and grab them. Or climb up then rappel down to grab them.

  • Have they fallen all the way to the bottom? Ai, that sucks. You can either grab them when you rappel all the way down, or hope that someone has found them and will return them back to you (the climbing community is usually quite honest). You might want to inspect your quickdraws and consider retiring them if they have fallen from a substantial height.

Assess how many quickdraws you have left, how many pitches you need to complete, how many bolts each pitch has and how long/high each climb of the multi-pitch is. If a route is 40 meters, you need more quickdraws. Shorter routes usually require less.

Assess the gear you have got, can you for example ‘make a quickdraw’ with a sling and two carabiners?

Lastly, assess how safe it is to keep on climbing with one or more missing quickdraws. This is different for every situation, so therefore talk this over with your climbing partner.

If the situation is unsafe, immediately rappel down and try to climb the multi-pitch another day.

What do I do if either me or my partner has dropped their belay device?

Dropping your ATC is not ideal, but you can complete the multi-pitch without a belay device.

The first step is determining who has the least experience, this person should carry the remaining belay device. It can be quite difficult and tedious to belay without a belay device (ATC). There are two options to top belay a seconder and one option to lead belay a climber.

  • Top belay with Garda hitch: You can find a page here on how to tie a Garda hitch.
    How to top belay with a Garda hitch:

  1. Attach 2 carabiners (preferably of the same size) to anchor masterpoint;

  2. Use Garda hitch to secure rope in guide mode;

  3. Belay the climber up using the same technique as belaying in guide mode
    with an ATC.

 

 

  • Top belay and lead belay with a Munter hitch: use this to belay a climber, the same way you use a Munter hitch to rappel. It is quite easy to top belay with a munter, however, it is important to remember that a munter is not an assisted brake or auto-locking, so you must keep a firm grip on brake rope at all times. See this video for more information (4 min). It can be a bit harder to lead belay with a munter, but this will get better with time.

Communication

When multi-pitching, communication is very important. If you start climbing, but you are not on belay, this can have deadly consequences. Therefore, you must keep your communication short, clear, loud and simple. The most common commands are:

  • ON BELAY

  • OFF BELAY

  • ON SAFETY

  • OFF SAFETY

  • CLIPPING

  • CLIPPED

  • CLIMBING

  • CLIMB WHEN READY Be aware that you sometimes cannot see your belayer or climber, so you should also have rope signals in case this happens (very likely). Discuss the rope signals before you start climbing the multi-pitch.

Bringing up walkie-talkies is also a good idea.

Rope management

When you are multi-pitching, you will keep building anchors higher and higher on the climb. This means that you will take the rope up with you as well. When you are finished setting up the top belay anchor, you will have to take out all the slack in the rope before putting the seconder ‘on belay’.

Usually you do not have a ledge or a spot where you can collect your rope when you are taking (the seconder) up. You are suspended in mid-air or awkwardly hanging on the side of the mountain. Therefore, UQMC recommends good rope management by taking up the rope and placing it over your legs or over one of your safeties. To help the rope feed out you want to make the loops big and have them get smaller so they do not overlap.

 

 

Rope management is important when doing a multi-pitch. For example, you do not want your rope to get stuck below you when you are top belaying your seconder - this means you have to rappel down to get it again. Or when switching from top belaying to lead belaying, it is harder to belay a climber if the rope is really tangled.

Climbing with a party of three

Sometimes you will be multi-pitching with a party of three, which can be good if something happens, but can also cause more of a fuss as there are two people at the anchor.

The sequence of climbing is the same as with a party of two. One person climbs up, and sets up an anchor. The second person climbs up and waits at the anchor. The third person climbs up and leads the next pitch.

There are a few scenarios which can play out with a party of three. Depending if you are using one rope or two. However, you should always bring two ropes with you if you are with a party of three.

One rope:

  • Instead of tying in the end of the rope, the second climber ties in in the middle of the rope with an Alpine Butterfly knot. This way the top belayer does not have to remove all the slack in the rope, but can just start belaying the second person up.

The third person will tie in at the end of the rope with the normal rethreaded figure-8 knot. Beware that there has to be enough rope for three people to climb the pitch!

  • When the second person is tied in with an Alpine butterfly, this person will take off the quickdraws, but not all of them. Because you still want the rope in the correct place for the third person to go up, you will leave some of the quickdraws.

The second person will climb up to the quickdraw, unclip themselves, go above it and reclip the quickdraw below their Alpine Butterfly knot. This way the third person can take the quickdraw off.

Two ropes:

If there is not enough rope to climb the first pitch with three people, i.e. the first pitch is 30 meter. Then you should bring two ropes up. Again, there are two options for climbing with two ropes.

  • The second person will be tied at the end of the first rope and the start of the second rope. The second person will also unclip the quickdraws, but again, reclip some of the quickdraws with the second rope when going up.

 

Source

Beware to clip the bolts like this, otherwise the ropes will cause friction on each other and will cause damage to the rope or can even cut a rope.

 


Source

  • The first person is tied into both ropes and clips both ropes when going up. The second and third person are tied in in the first and second rope, respectively. The first climber will belay both climbers at the same time, but with the second climber a bit higher than the third climber, so they will not be in each other's way.

 

For more information, you can watch this simple youtube video (3.5 min) where they explain both these methods and what happens when there is a traverse, or this video (3.5 min) on the errors to avoid when multi-pitching. Check this website on more information about climbing with a party of three.

Hauling - a love-hate relationship

Sometimes a seconder cannot get over the crux of a climb. You, as belayer, need to get the seconder over the crux. There are two options. The first and easiest one is that the seconder could prusik up the rope. However, if this is not possible, you can get the seconder up by hauling.

Before we explain the concept of hauling, the following concepts are important to know and remember:

  • Compound system: A hauling system with two or more moving pulleys. These pulleys are moving in series, thus moving in the same direction relative to the anchor and are combining their pull.

  • Progress Capture Device (PCD): A ‘break’ system which ‘captures’ the progress made through the physical effort of hauling. You pull the hauling strand as much as you can and the PCD will break the haul when you let go of the hauling strand. A PCD will enable you or your team to ‘reset’ your hauling system and take a break in between hauls. A PCD is either a prusik, a micro-traction or a Grigri.

  • Pulley: Usually a carabiner which can be used to pull a climber up. However, an actual pulley will help reduce friction and make hauling much easier.

  • Reciprocating system: a hauling system with one or more pulleys, which are moving in the opposite (or reciprocal) direction of the other moving pulleys.

  • Reset: Getting the maximum extent and effort of travel of your pulleys to allow the maximum out of your haul. The PCD will ‘reset’ your system by blocking the belay device, giving you a moment to reset your energy and your pulley system. A number of resets will be required before you have hauled your climber over the crux. Beware that the more resets you need, the heavier and longer the haul takes.

  • Simple system: A hauling system with only one or more moving pulleys, placed parallel.

Depending on how heavy your load (i.e. climber) is, you might have to set up a 3:1 or higher hauling system. For the purpose of “Black Tape”, we will explain in this booklet how to set up a 3:1 system. We will show you how to set up a 3:1 and 5:1 hauling system during practise.

Set up a 3:1 hauling system

When setting up a 3:1 hauling system, you will need 1 ATC, 2 prusiks, one pulley or locking carabiner and two extra locking carabiners. The setup sequence is the following:

  1. Lock off your belay device (ATC) and be sure that you are safe;

  2. Tie a calamity knot and put this with a locking carabiner on your anchor;

  3. Add a PCD to your system with one of the prusiks. This PCD must be before your ATC and fit somewhat tight to your ATC. You will put a locking carabiner on the PCD and attach it to your anchor;

  4. Add another prusik on the climber/seconder strand and adjust the length of that prusik if necessary. You need it to be small as well, in order for the haul to work most efficiently. You clip a locking carabiner or a pulley unto the prusik;

 

  1. Put the break rope in the locking carabiner or pulley attached to your rope. You will pull this strand when hauling;

  2. Unlock your belay device (ATC), but be sure that you do not let go of the break rope.

Haul with a 3:1 hauling system

Hauling can be quite exhausting and you do not want to be too exhausted when you are multi-pitching. Therefore, you should be as efficient as possible.

The steps for hauling are the following:

  1. You pull the brake rope hard towards you, and keep pulling until the pulley (small prusik on the climber’s rope) reaches the PCD.

  2. At this point, you can stop hauling. You make sure that the PCD is catching the seconder and is ‘locking off’ the belay device. In other words, the PCD is carrying the weight of the climber and should be loaded.

  3. You can reset the pulley again by lowering the pulley down the rope as far as you can. Keep in mind to hold the brake rope at all times.

  4. Whenever you have hauled up more than 2 meters, you tie another calamity knot and take out the previous calamity knot. This way you have two safeties for the seconder and you ensure no extension in the rope.

  5. After your reset, you can haul the seconder up again and go through the steps described above until you have reached the preferred height or you have hauled the seconder all the way to the top.

This video (3.5 min) shows a 3:1 hauling system, but beware that the video does not have a PCD, as the climber is using a Grigri.

The system is called a 3:1 system, meaning that for every 3 meters you have hauled, the seconder only goes up 1 meter. In short, hauling someone with the minimum gear is strenuous, tiring and slow, especially if you are in a hanging belay. Keep this fact in mind when you are planning to do a multi-pitch which is harder than someone’s normal climbing grade.

Another aspect that can be a hindrance in hauling is weight difference. When you and your mate weigh the same, hauling someone up can be hard, but not impossible. If you have a larger weight difference, you might have to set up a 5:1 or a 7:1 even. This means that if you haul up 5 meters, your seconder only goes up 1. Again, this can be very time consuming.

If you think you will be needing to haul someone up, you should bring a pulley (or a micro traction or something else) with you. Just to be sure, as these pulleys are made to haul someone up and makes the hauling significantly easier.

More information on hauling and mechanical advantages can be found here.

Rappelling Skills

Well done! You have completed a multi-pitch, it is always super satisfying! Yay! After looking at the view for a while, you will need to get down.

After completing the multi-pitch, you usually rappel down. This might be a long rappel and with a bigger party, it will take longer. On some multi-pitch climbs, you rappel off the same anchors you used on the route. However, it might be safer, easier and safer (yes safer twice) to rappel somewhere else.

So before climbing up, beware of where to rappel off. The crag usually has a good description of where to lower off, but you can also ask your more experienced friends who have done the route before. On some multi-pitches at Tinbeerwah or Tibro, you can just walk down or walk out.

There are multiple ways to rappel down. In earlier booklets, you have learned about the double stranded rappel and a single stranded rappel. The actual rappelling from a (1) retrievable single strand and (2) double strand with two ropes is the same as what you have learnt earlier. The difference in these two other methods is the knots.

Always tie a stopper knot in both ends of the rope before rappelling.

Retrievable single strand rappel

You want to rappel down, but you only have a Grigri. That sometimes happens. There is an easy way to rappel down on a single strand and get your rope back!

You will need to set up the rope the same way as you normally would do through the rappel rings and with stopper knots in the ends of the rope, but this time you will add an Alpine Butterfly knot in the middle of the rope. You clip a locking carabiner to the eye of the Alpine Butterfly knot and the other strand of the rope (on the other side of your rappel station). This way the rope does not friction itself when you are pulling it down, but will friction on the carabiner.

You rappel down on the strand without the Alpine Butterfly knot, so on the strand with the locking carabiner. When you have reached the ground safely, you will pull the strand down with the Alpine Butterfly knot. Voila, you got your rope back and got down safely. To be absolutely sure, ask yourself: “What would happen if I rappel on the side with the Alpine Butterfly?”. Hint: it is NOT good.

Double stranded rappel with two ropes

When you are climbing with a party of four, you can also decide to use both ropes to rappel down. This can save you time and a physical struggle, as you do not have to set up another rappel station, but can just go down 60 or 70 meters in one go. It is easier when the ropes are the same length, but not impossible when they are not. Just be aware of the lengths before rappelling down.

To set up a double strand rappel with two ropes, you will need the ends of the ropes together using a rethreaded offset overhand knot, where you wrap one strand one more time into the knot. It seems a bit unsafe or strange, but this knot is actually rated and the best way of tying the ropes together. Be sure that there is at least 20 cm of tail when tying the ropes together.

You can set up your rappelling system on these two ropes and rappel the length of the ropes down the normal way. The knot is at one side of the anchor, as pictured above. So whenever you have reached the ground and want to pull the ropes down, remember which of the two ropes has the knot. Easier when the ropes are two different colours!

Beware that when using two ropes, there might be a slightly higher chance that one of the ropes gets stuck when retrieving. However, this is always the case with rappelling anyway.

Bypass a knot

Sometimes a rock might hit your rope or your rope has a tear somewhere. However, you still need to rappel down. This is possible with a maneuver called ‘bypassing the knot’. To bypass the knot, you will need (1) a long prusik, (2) extra two locking carabiners, (3) a short prusik, and (4) a sling.

To ensure that your rope is still safe to use, you need to tie an Alpine Butterfly knot around the tear. This will keep the rope and yourself safe. Before you start rappelling down, you must know how to tie a munter mariner hitch.

 

  1. Wrap your prusik with a classic prusik hitch around the rope;

  2. Place a munter hitch made with the prusik around the locking carabiner, attached to your harness. Make sure that the loose part is opposite of the gate;

  3. Wrap the prusik around itself tightly with a minimum of 6 wraps. Beware to push the wraps together (ideally after 3 wraps) to make it nice and snug;

  4. Pull the cord through the two prusik strands.

You will need the munter mariner hitch later on.

You can set up the rappel in the same way you will always do: find the middle, put the rope through the rappel rings and get the middle in the middle, and tie two stopper knots at the end before you deploy it down. You will rappel down the normal way, until you are about 1 meter to the Alpine Butterfly knot.

You will perform the following steps:

  1. You are a meter away from the Alpine Butterfly knot. Tie a calamity knot 2 meters below the knot and attach the calamity knot to your belay loop with a locking carabiner;

  2. Tie a munter mariner hitch above your belay device, but not too far as you will need to retrieve the prusik later;

  3. Slide the munter mariner up to weight it;

  4. Undo your third hand and redo your third hand below the Alpine Butterfly knot. This is okay as you are on two safeties: munter mariner and the calamity knot (and the belay device);

  5. Unweight your belay device. If you are having trouble unloading the belay device, make a foot wrap to stand up and slide the munter mariner a bit higher up the rope;

  6. Detach your belay device and reattach it below the Alpine Butterfly knot and above the third hand prusik;

  7. Undo your munter mariner and slowly unwrap the hitch until you are fully weighted on your belay device;

  8. Untie your munter mariner and undo the calamity knot while holding the brake rope;

  9. Continue to descend until you are at the correct spot.

If you already know that there is an Alpine Butterfly knot in the rope, you can also decide to rappel with a munter mariner above your belay device, instead of a third hand prusik below. This is also rated. However, it is slightly harder to rappel down with a prusik above the belay device, as you can get stuck sometimes.

Great, I got my rope stuck. Now what?

Sometimes when retrieving your rope, your rope gets stuck. It is not great as you might want to go home and it is getting dark. When your rope gets stuck, assess the situation: can I see where my rope got stuck, how far off the ground is it stuck, how much rope is already down on the ground, can I reach my rope? These are all questions you need to answer before you can get your rope back.

The easiest way to get your rope back, is to try to flick the rope up and down and sideways. It might be that some momentum will swing the rope out of place. You can also pull a bit harder on the rope as well. Beware of falling rocks however, when you do this.

If the rope is really stuck, but not that high up and you have a long enough tail to ascend the first pitch again, you can try to lead up to the first pitch again and retrieve the rope. However, you must be sure that the tail has enough length.

Look around to see if you see more climbers and can ask for help. Others might be able to climb up to retrieve your rope or have an extra rope for you to borrow.

If all of the above is not possible, you might have to bail and leave the rope to retrieve it the next day or be at the mercy of the climbing community. Bad luck.

Pluck-off

A pluck-off sounds a bit strange, and it actually is a bit strange. A pluck-off is basically the rescuing of someone off the wall, either climbing or rappelling, when this person has fallen unconscious, ill or injured. You will lower yourself down to the person and get them off their rope onto your rope and lower them down on your system. Hence, the name ‘pluck-off’.

Pluck-offs are considered to be one of the more complicated vertical rescues. And they absolutely can be! However, a pluck-off is actually just a combination of all of the simple skills you have learnt so far.

We will demonstrate a pluck-off with a scenario, as this is the most common way to ‘pluck’ someone off.

The scenario:

You and your mate have just finished a climb where you have to rappel down. Your mate has set up a rappel and is rappelling down. Your mate falls unconscious halfway down. As you are doing a 30 meter route, using prusiks to descend on your mate’s rope is difficult and long. Luckily, you brought two ropes to the crag (smart!). You notice your mate is unconscious and decide to do a pluck off.

Step 1: Set up a rappel directly beside the rope of your unconscious mate (casualty).

Step 2: Rappel to the casualty using your second rope. Stop rappelling when your knees are at the casualty’s head height. Perform first aid on the casualty and take care of your casualty. You should apply a chest harness to minimise risk of suspension injury and increase the casualty’s comfort (although a chest harness is not really that comfortable, but okay).

Step 3: Add friction to your belay device using a ‘super S’. This means you take a big locking carabiner and put that between your brake rope and the rope coming from out of your belay device. This will be easier to show in reality than on paper.

Step 4: Tie calamity knots below both yourself and your casualty and attach these knots with a locking carabiner to your casualty and your belay loops, respectively.

The next steps will vary slightly depending on the situation. In a real scenario, you will need to use your own judgement to decide the best course of action. These are the two most common situations.

 

RAPPELLER IS USING AN ATC + THIRD HAND

Step 5: Install pluck off system

  1. Attach the casualty to yourself using a sling or their safety from their belay loop to the carabiner of your belay device. This ensures that the weight of the casualty is transferred to your device and not onto you or your harness. Trust us, it is very uncomfortable if you forget this step.

  2. Attach a classic prusik knot on casualty’s rope above their ATC (and third hand) with a locking carabiner clipped to it. Add a sling or prusik to the casualty’s harness, and redirect the sling or prusik up to the locking carabiner above to make a hauling system. Add extra redirects if you are lifting a heavy casualty.

  3. Stomp/stand/yeet on the redirected sling to lift the casualty’s weight off their third hand prusik, and slide down the third hand prusik to unweight it.

  4. Slowly lower the casualty until they are fully weighted on your device. Do not shock load the device.

  5. The casualty’s weight is now fully on your device. You may remove casualty’s belay device and third hand prusik, as they are on two safeties: your device and a calamity knot.

  6. Undo all the other prusiks and knots of the rope of the casualty and take these down with you.

  7. Untie both your calamity knots then continue to descend. The casualty will be hanging below you while you are descending. Try to keep the casualty as comfortable as possible. A good method of doing this is to descend with the casualties back to the cliff, whilst you are facing the opposite direction with both feet against the cliff. Hang each of the casualties arms over your legs to provide as much support as possible.

RAPPELLER IS USING A GRIGRI - the casualty has made your life a lot easier by using a Grigri. Why? Because you do not need to unweight their prusik to continue the rappel. You will get yourself on the rope of the casualty and lower both of you off on the casualty’s system.

Step 5: Install Pluck off system

  1. Tie a calamity knot for both yourself and the casualty.

  2. Attach the casualty to yourself using a sling or their safety from their belay loop to your belay loop.

  3. Attach yourself to the carabiner of the casualty's belay device (Grigri). You can either use a sling or safety. In other words, you are hanging off the belay device, and will be underneath the casualty.

  4. Rappel down with your own belay device until you have fully weighted the attachment to casualty. Ensure that the casualty’s belay device is within reach as you will need to use the lever of the Grigri to lower you both.

  5. When you are fully weighted on the casualty’s Grigri, remove your own belay device and prusiks. Untie both your calamity knots.

  6. Descend using the casualty's device until you have reached the ground.

Note that in the first situation, you transferred the casualty to your rappel, but in the second situation, you transferred yourself to your casualty’s rope. If you do not understand why, ask us!

Dangers of multi-pitching

While multi-pitching is extremely cool, there are some things you have to look out for and be aware of. A multi-pitch can easily turn into an epic.

  • During a multi-pitch, unexpected things can happen, such as you cannot get over the crux, you cannot find the climb, or you went down the wrong rappel station. These things are not unusual, so keep in mind that these take time. Do not plan a multi-pitch on a tight schedule. Take your time and plan in time for unexpected things to happen;

  • The perfect weather for a multi-pitch is a dry but overcast day in summer or a sunny and semi-cold day in winter. However, Queensland weather is tricky.

  1. Beware that when you are climbing on a wall which is in the sun, dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are very likely. All of these can lead to dangerous situations;

  2. The higher you get on a multi-pitch, the more windy it is. If you are in the shade as well, it can get chilly;

  3. If it starts raining, make sure that you are safe. When you are sure that you are safe, assess the situation. Is it too wet to go up? Can you rappel down? Do not keep climbing when it is too wet. This can have disastrous consequences;

  • Make sure that every climber has enough experience to confidently climb a multi-pitch, knows how to set up anchors and proven that they can rappel safely. Your group is as weak as the most inexperienced climber, so keep the pace of that climber.

  • Climbing with a group of 2 can quickly turn into an epic. UQMC recommends going on multi-pitches with 2 groups of 2. As there are always other people to assist you whenever you encounter unexpected things, i.e. the rope gets stuck, someone drops their ATC or something else. Again, climbing with 2 groups of 2 will take more time, so plan accordingly.

  • When possible, take two ropes up instead of one. This will increase your chances of a good outcome when something unexpected happens.

  • It is possible that a member of your party gets injured. Assess the injury and perform basic first aid. Is the casualty in immediate danger? Call a helicopter. If not, assess the situation and decide how to get down safely and quickly (in that order). Can the casualty rappel down themselves? Should you rappel down together? How many ropes do you have? Where on the climb has the injury occurred? High up, then multiple rappel stations are needed, is that possible? Lower down, try to get down as quickly as possible.

  • The rope might get stuck, as mentioned above.

  • You may not be able to find the multi-pitch climb, as the description might be too cryptic. Be aware of that. UQMC would recommend climbing with someone who either knows where the multi-pitch is or has done the multi-pitch before.

  • Some less trafficked multi-pitches can be a bit chossy. So there might be more holds breaking off or rocks failing. Always wear a helmet when multi-pitching. We promise you will look cooler (and more alive) if you do.

Crag Ethics

It is UQMC policy (and just common courtesy) to leave no trace whenever you are climbing. Access to crags is something UQMC wants to keep, so we all must be good environmental stewards at all times. Some crag ethics, therefore, are:

  • Avoid making too much noise (music, load conversations, swearing etcetera);

  • Do not leave tones of chalk on the climb or on the ground. Use your brush to brush it off the rocks;

  • Pack out rubbish and food scraps;

  • If you set up hammocks, be careful not to ring bark trees;

  • Try and stick to the existing crag trails;

  • Do not leave toilet paper EVER;

  • Leave your pets at home whenever they are not allowed at the crag (e.g. National Parks). Otherwise keep them on a lead or at least in eye shot, so you can pick up after them. Also, make sure they are not attacking or hunting local wildlife and are not annoying (or scaring) other climbers or members of the public.

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