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Red Tape

Version 0.11; last reviewed 18-04-2021

Introduction

In order to safely and without-supervision participate in lead climbing/belaying activities at any UQ Mountain Club (UQMC) climbing events, you must obtain your “Red 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 a successful completion of the assessment of your “Red Tape”. In order to get your “Red Tape” approved, there are three main steps:

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

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

  3. Get yourself assessed for new theoretical and practical material by 2 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 “Green Tape” skills and their competency on new material. Note that climbing ability is not considered as a requirement for “Red Tape” and should not sway decision making. The “Red tape” can be awarded by the majority vote of the current Executive Team.

After a successful assessment, you will obtain your “Red Tape” on your UQMC card, which you will display on your harness together with your “Yellow Tape”, “Blue Tape”, and “Green 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 “Red Tape” indicates that a member is a competent lead climber/belayer and that they are able to clean a route by lowering off and rappelling. When a member has achieved their “Red Tape”, they are allowed to lead climb during Club activities without supervision from executives or other experienced members with “Red Tape”. Members with this competency have had enough experience to: gain a ‘feel’ for how much slack to give in all situations; to predict when their climber needs slack to be taken up or given; have learnt the communication and procedures performed when sport climbing; and to belay a climber with a 20- kg weight difference.

Prerequisites

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

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

You must have had the "Green Tape" for a minimum period of 3 months. However, this is a guideline. The Executive team can (and will likely) extend this period at their discretion, as emphasis is placed upon the member’s experience and attitude towards safety.

Testable material

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

Practical

The member with the “Green Tape'' competency has attended a number of UQMC lead climbing activities. During these events, the member has consistently demonstrated that they are experienced and knowledgeable to independently climb (without supervision). The member being tested, must be able to:

  • To safely catch a climber’s fall, regardless of weight difference;

  • Know how to clip a quickdraw correctly into a bolt;

  • Know how to clip the rope correctly into the quickdraw;

  • Clean a route, by lowering off and rappelling;

  • Demonstrate safe rappel;

  • Reliably and safely belay a leader that they may not have climbed with before, if required to do so.

During the events the member has attended, they have shown that they understand:

  • When and how communication is important on a route;

  • When and how a stick clip should be used to improve safety;

  • When and how an Edelrid "Ohm" should be used to improve safety; and

  • That they are responsible lead climbers that have a safe attitude and follow the Club’s safety procedures.

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

  • The member must be able to ascend and descend a rope using prusiks;

  • The member must be able to transition from a rappel to ascending;

  • The member must be able to rappel and belay safely on a Munter hitch;

  • The member must be able to set up a top anchor or a top belay anchor, and be able to top belay a climber from that anchor.

  • The member must be able to lower a climber off a climb when top belaying using the ratchet mode;

  • The member must be able to build an anchor for a fixed single strand rappel at the top of the cliff;

  • The member must know how to use an “Ohm” and a “stick clip” safely;

  • The member must have practised single pitch cleaning, i.e. back jumping to clean steep routes or the proper use of a trolley.

Theoretical material

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

  • Lead belaying - paying attention to the amount of slack (also known as the ‘cow belly’) given to the climber;

  • Soft and hard catches - knowing how and when to give a soft catch or a hard catch;

  • Dangers to climbers - like having your foot behind the rope, skipping bolts and going off route;

  • First bolt dangers - being able to assess the dangers of reaching the first bolt/knowing when to stick clip the first bolt;

  • Back and Z clipping - knowing when you clip the rope into the quickdraws incorrectly and knowing how to fix back and Z clipping;

  • Cleaning an anchor - knowing how to clean a climb by rappelling off or being lowered off;

  • Rappelling - knowing how to safely set up a rappel, including tying stopper knots into the ends of the rope;

  • Crag Ethics.

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

  • 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;

  • Transition from ascend to descend and vice versa, using prusiks and back-up knots;

  • Munter hitch rappel and belay - why the Munter hitch;

  • 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;

  • Using an “Ohm” and a stick clip;

  • The theory of single pitch cleaning, including back jumping on steep routes or the proper use of a trolley.

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

Sports climbing revision

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

Lead Belaying:

  • Flake the rope and tie in a stopper knot at the end;

  • Discuss the climb beforehand;

  • Buddy checks;

  • Spot the climber before the climber reaches the first bolt;

  • Command “On belay” when the climber reaches the first bolt;

  • Commands;

  • Pay attention to the amount of slack: no “cow belly” and no “short roping”;

  • The difference between hard and soft catches;

  • What to do when the climber reaches the anchor.

Lead climbing:

  • Tie in correctly with a Figure-8 knot and a back-up stopper knot;

  • Get ready to climb and check the amount of quickdraws needed;

  • Clipping: no “back clipping” or “z-clipping”;

  • Falling techniques;

  • Commands;

  • Cleaning a climb (2 PAS, figure-8, through rappel rings);

  • Rappelling (third hand);

Crag ethics:

Please go over your “Green Tape” booklet again if you have forgotten the theory or practise of these points. There is also additional material by Vdiff, which you should understand. These short reads are on (1) How to be a Better Belayer (link; 6 min) and (2) Sport Climbing Lead Skills (link; 6 min).

Bad Bolts

Bolts do not appear suddenly on the wall. They are bolted by volunteers from the climbing community and some by the Australian Climbing Association Queensland (ACAQ). There is a certain etiquette with bolting. Some crags have very spaced out bolts (called “run outs”) and you cannot bolt between older bolts, because the first ascender did not mean for that to happen. However, some climbs are considered unsafe and these get re-bolted, meaning that the older bolts get replaced with new bolts at the same spot.

However, no one is officially in charge of making sure bolting is safe. It is important as a climber to be aware of that and that climbers have to inspect bolts and anchor systems themselves. If you see a bad bolt or anchor, you should immediately report issues to organisations like ‘Safer Cliffs Queensland’ (link) or ACAQ (link), or post it on the crag or certain climbing Facebook pages (South East Queensland Rock Climbing GroupACAQ Facebook PageSunshine Coast Rock Climbers).

What do bad bolts look like? Bad bolts can be obvious (think of rust) or not. See these examples below. Question yourself first: “Why is this a bad bolt”, before checking the answers below.

               

For an album of bad bolts, please see the website of “Safer Cliffs Queensland”.

What should bolts look like? For information on bolt types, again, see the website of “Safer Cliffs Queensland”.

 

Note: UQMC does not bolt routes as part of our Club activities. If you wish to get into bolting routes, please visit the website of “Safer Cliffs Queensland”.

Ascending and descending on prusiks

When rappelling or multi-pitching, it is important for any climber to be able to ascend a rope. Reasons for ascending the rope could be:

  • You end up suspended in the air without being able to reach the rock;

  • You need to get back up to the anchor while rappelling;

  • Your rope got stuck when you tried to pull it down after rappelling.

Depending on the equipment you have, there are different ways to ascend, descend and transition to rappelling on rope. However, for this section of theory, we will assume that you are rappelling with your ATC and a prusik “third hand”. You will need to ascend the rope with the prusiks.

In order to adhere to the Club’s number one priority, safety, you must remember and apply these basic principles to your problem.

Basic principles and checks before taking the next step

  • Always have at least two points of safety/attachment to the rope, i.e. one top prusik and one bottom prusik.
    Check: If I remove X, how many points of safety do I still have?

     

  • Do not shock load a prusik. This means that your prusiks are designed to keep you from falling, but not to catch your fall. If the prusiks are shock loaded (you fall on the prusik), these might snap. So always sit/weight them carefully.
    Check: Can I control the weighting and releasing of my prusik?
     

  • Always have a backup knot when doing something unfamiliar. Having a third point of safety, which is ensuring redundancy, is always a good idea when doing something that you do not do often. Tie a figure-8 on a bight and clip it to your belay loop with a locking carabiner.

Basic method of ascending

There are two methods to ascending the rope. It depends if your rope is weighted by a casualty or not. If your rope is unweighted by a casualty, go through the following steps:

  1. You will need one prusik and two locking carabiners. To ascend, ensure a minimum of 2 points of safety at all times. The first being a short prusik attached to your belay loop with a locking carabiner. The second being a calamity knot tied and attached with a locking carabiner to your belay loop. A calamity knot is a backup knot (Figure-8 on a bight) in the tail of the rope. The knot is called a “Calamity knot”, although many Execs will call it a “Calamari knot”. Every two meters you re-tie a “Calamity knot” and untie the previous one. An optional third prusik may be added to the belay loop, but is not critical as long as two points of safety exist.

  2. Ascend the rope by making a foot wrap with the rope around your foot. Note that the foot wrap must be between your prusik and your calamity knot. Because if the footwrap is beneath your calamity knot, you will ‘step into your harness’.

  3. Stand on the foot wrap to unweight your prusik. You move the prusik higher up; as high as you can. Slowly sit back into the prusik as to not shock load it.

  4. Remove your foot wrap and make a new one higher up. Beware to retie another the calamity knot before you take your current one out.

  5. Repeat this process until you have ascended to your preferred height.

When the rope is weighted, you cannot tie a calamity knot. So you will use another prusik as a second safety.

  1. To ascend, you use three prusiks and two locking carabiners to attach yourself to the rope. In other words, a minimum of 2 points of safety at all times. One short prusik attached to your belay loop, one longer prusik attached to your belay loop as well, and one prusik as a foot loop. The foot loop is not attached to your harness. If the foot loop prusik is too long, use an overhand knot to shorten it.

  2. You stand up in the foot loop to unweight your two prusiks. You move the two prusiks higher up the rope, as far as you can, while using the foot loop prusik and the rope to balance.

  3. Then sit slowly in the two prusiks. You must do this slowly to carefully weigh the prusiks. Move your foot loop prusik up, so you can stand comfortably.

  4. Repeat this process until you have ascended to your preferred height.

Basic method of descending

Descending is the process of ascending, but then in reverse. The rope can be weighted or unweighted. The unweighted process is exactly the same with tying a calamity knot beneath you every 2 meters. The weighted process is described below.

  1. You are on two prusiks attached to your harness and have one foot loop attached to your rope.

  2. You stand up in the foot loop to unweight your two prusiks.

  3. You move the middle/shorter prusik lower down the rope, as far as you can. The top/longer prusik follows. Use the foot loop prusik and the rope to balance.

  4. You can sit carefully in your middle/shorter prusik, and then move the top/longer prusik even more down. Move the foot loop prusik down as well.

  5. You stand up in the foot loop prusik, and slide the middle/short prusik down as far as you can. You can then weigh the top/long prusik to move the foot loop prusik and middle/shorter prusik down again.

  6. Repeat this process until you have reached your desired location.

 

Source

The necessity of the “Calamity knot”: A calamity knot prevents a person from falling more than 2 meters in the event of the prusik slipping. If you make a back-up knot, you will have an extra redundancy point and you will not “fall” the whole length of the rope.

Please note that ascending the rope is somewhat easier than descending the rope, as it is harder to make sure that you do not shock load the rope when descending. Do not be too ambitious when descending and ascending, as it is important that you control your weighting of the prusiks. We understand this process is hard to explain on paper, so please ask for a practical demonstration. For more detail with diagrams, please check out Vidiff (5 min read). There is also an explanation on ascending and descending in this video (16 min).

Transition from ascending to descending and descending to ascending

Sometimes you have to transition from descending on your ATC system to ascending using prusiks. Or the other way around, from an ascent to a descent using an ATC. The most important thing to remember is to always be on two safeties.

If you are transitioning from ascending the rope on one prusik and a calamity knot to descending on an ATC, put a longer prusik above the short prusik already tied to your harness to lift the weight. Sit in that new longer prusik. Tie your ATC to your system and change your shorter prusik to a French prusik (third hand) and tie that to your leg loop of your harness. Test if the rappelling system is working. If so, great, create a footwrap and unweight the longer (most upper) prusik and sit slowly into your ATC and third hand. In order to rappel down, remove the calamity knot and lower yourself.

If you are transitioning from descending (rappelling) on your ATC and third hand to ascending with one prusik and a calamity knot, be sure to tie the calamity knot first! Then attach a longer prusik above your ATC and slide it as far upward as you can. Sit in the new longer prusik to undo your ATC and re-tie your French prusik (third hand) into a classic prusik. Slowly pull your longer prusik down, until you can slowly weight your shorter prusik. Ascend up with the methods described above.

Munter Hitch

A Munter hitch is a type of ‘hitch’ that you tie in the middle of a rope. This hitch is not a knot, because it needs something to tie itself around to be able to ‘work’ properly. At UQMC, we use a locking carabiner to tie the Munter hitch on.

Why do you need a Munter hitch? The Munter is useful for several reasons:

  • You can rappel off a Munter hitch

  • You can belay on a Munter hitch

Functionally, the Munter hitch can be used in place of an ATC. So, in a situation where you do not have access to an ATC (ie. you have dropped your ATC and cannot retrieve it; you have given your ATC to a less experienced climber who has dropped their ATC) you may use a Munter hitch instead.

You would not belay a sports climber on a munter for fun, it is more difficult to handle than an ATC or any other belay device. It is more suitable to top belay (belay from above).

 

How to tie a Munter hitch? Tying a Munter hitch is quite easy, but the sequence is a bit funny and it is hard to put into words. For a short demo, see this link (1 min). When tying a munter hitch, always ensure that the brake strand runs along the spine of the carabiner, ensuring that the rope does not interfere with the gate of the carabiner.

How to rappel of a Munter hitch: To rappel off a Munter hitch, you have to tie the Munter hitch to a locking carabiner and attach it to your belay loop. You tie your third hand (prusik) underneath the Munter hitch, as usual when rappelling. You “feed” the rope through the Munter hitch and go down. You can also use the Munter hitch when rappelling of a double strand rope.

How to belay of a Munter hitch: To belay with a Munter hitch, the sequence of belaying is the same. However, there are some differences:

  • When taking up, the Munter will be pulled up as well and will ‘flip’ on your carabiner. This makes it easier for you to take up and pull the rope forwards.

  • It is easier to belay with a Munter hitch from a top belay anchor than from your harness.

Giving slack and lowering are the same as using an ATC. However, do take care with lowering, as there is much less friction than with an ATC. If you need more friction, add another carabiner to the system.

 

For more information about how to belay and tie a Munter hitch, read this page (5 min).

Top Belay Anchor Set Up

Some climbs are longer than half of your rope meaning that you cannot lower someone down after completing the climb.

However, that does not stop us from climbing! Instead of lowering down, the first climber/leader can set up a top belay anchor at the top of a climb and the belayer can come up the climb (called “seconding a climb” or simply “seconding”), while you belay from the top.

Anchors must be SERENE:

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

  • E - Equalised: The tension on both stands is equal, meaning the load is evenly distributed to each anchor point.

  • R - Redundant: there is no single point 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.

Theory about anchors

There is a lot at stake when building a top belay anchor, therefore you must have knowledge of the following things:

1. Focal points and equalisation. An anchor system is a combination of two or more independent anchor points that converge at a focal point to equally share a load with no single-point of failure. In other words, the focal point is the point where the two strings/rope of the two anchor points come together. The angle of separation of the focal point (called “critical angle”) must be below 120°, otherwise the load of the two strands will be above 100%. See the diagram below.

Angle           % of Load

0°                   50%

30°                 51.7%

45°                 54%

60°                 57.7%

90°                 71%

120°              100%

150°              193%

170°              574%

This also means that the anchor must be equalised. Both of the anchor strings/ropes must hold the same amount of load. A 60° angle is the most preferred critical angle as the load is shared almost equally between the two points.

2. Redundancy. When you are setting up your anchor system, you must always build redundancy into the system. This means that consideration must be given to the possibility of something failing. Everything in your system must be doubled, like you are always on two safeties. There must be two anchor points, two equalised strings to the focal point, “bunny ears” at the anchor point, and making sure that you and your harness are not part of the anchor system setup. The doubling of everything is the minimum standard, as in many cases, having three anchor points may be better.

3. Extension. Extension has two meanings in the theory of an anchor.

Extension refers to the amount of slack that would enter an anchor system if an anchor would fail. For example, if one anchor point would fail, the locking carabiner slides towards the end of the sling/rope. This will create a sudden load for the other anchor point, which makes it more likely to fail. Therefore, to minimise this extension, we tie overhand knots in our system.

 

Sometimes anchor points are not close to the edge of the cliff. You will have to find two points that are a bit further away. You can either choose to make a rope anchor or you can make extensions. This means that you can use slings, tapes and locking carabiners to extend the anchors more in your direction. Beware that direct nylon-to-nylon contact must be avoided, and if possible do not make knots in your slings. An unknotted sling is able to withhold more kilo newtons than a knotted sling.

 

4. Dangers. There are always dangers when setting up a top belay anchor. Please be aware of the following:

  • Make sure that you as belayer are always on two points of safety at all times;

  • Orientate carabiners so they are gravity loaded;

  • Additional protective measures should be taken to insulate the rope, slings or tape from abrasion damage with padding or other protective material;

  • Any combination of both natural and/or artificial protection may be used in the rigging of the anchor system;

  • The climbing rope hangs clear off the cliff-edge and with minimal abrasion;

  • A fall during the climb will not result in a pendulum swing, resulting in potential personal injury to the climber;

  • Beware of the dynamic stretch of the rope when you are setting up and belaying.

Building a top belay anchor

A top belay anchor can be quite challenging to make, because it fully depends on your surroundings. For example, at Brooyar, there are these huge anchors, which you can easily make a rope anchor or a sling anchor on; while in multipitch situations you typically have just a double bolt belay. Because each situation is different, we will be teaching you 3 types of anchors: a rope anchor, a sling anchor and a quad anchor. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages.

A rope anchor. A rope anchor is built with the rope and 2 (big) locking carabiners. For this example, we are making a top belay anchor at Brooyar. The method:

  1. When topping out of the climb, make sure you put on your safeties as soon as possible, but beware that you are still tied in. Do not undo your figure-8 knot;

  2. Find two anchor points (big stainless steel bolts) near the top of the climb and close to the cliff edge;

  3. Put a big locking carabiner on each of these anchor points;

  4. Decide from a distance where you want to sit and belay the seconder. Then take out that amount of slack (starting from your own figure-8 on your harness) and make a clove hitch on one of the locking carabiners;

  5. Undo your safeties, as you are now on safety on the clove hitch system. Walk to the edge of the cliff to inspect if you have enough slack to get there. If not, take out more slack at the clove hitch. If so, great, walk back to the system and make a backup figure-8 on a bight and put this on the same locking carabiner as the clove hitch;

  6. Decide where your focal point will be. In other words, where you want to set up your belay system and where you want to sit. Make a V-shape with the rope from that point to both anchor points, but beware to have enough slack to make a knot. Make a clove hitch on the other locking carabiner;

  7. At the focal point, make a figure-8 on a bight with “bunny ears”. Note that we will show you in person how to do this. Ensure that when you make this knot, both of the strands are equally sharing the load (this is done by making the “bunny ears” equal in size) and the focal point is going down towards the climb;

  8. Retire your “bunny ears” or adjust your clove hitches until you are happy with the location and equalisation of your focal point. Do not forget that the anchor will extend a little with rope stretch when the system is loaded;

  9. Once you are happy with the anchor, the focal point, the redundancy, the equalisation and the place you have set it up, do your ABCDE checks.

  10. You can set up your ATC in guide mode and attach another safety to the focal point of the anchor system.

The anchor system looks like this, except that you will have a longer tail as a safety on the left anchor point and bunny ears at the focal point.

 

Advantages

  • Universal, will work on all types of anchors as the equalisation and length can be easily adjusted with the clove hitches

  • Need very little extra gear

Disadvantages

  • Takes longer to set up

  • Can be more difficult to escape the belay

  • More rope available to use in a rescue situation

A sling anchor. Another type of anchor is a sling anchor. This looks a lot like the rope anchor, but the main difference is that you do not need any clove hitches to make your own focal point. A sling anchor uses two slings from two anchor points to make a focal point with a locking carabiner. This type of anchor can be made in several different ways. You will need two or more slings and 3 locking carabiners. Some examples can be seen below:

 

This is a standard example of a sling anchor. It is easy, as you just clip two locking carabiners on two bolts, make an overhand knot as the focal point, and put in a locking carabiner at the focal point.

This type of anchor does require you to check for equalisation of both strands. Please note that UQMC requires you to use only locking carabiners for an anchor.

This example is a “Sliding-X” anchor. It is relatively easy: you take a sling, clip it in two bolts with locking carabiners, put a twist in one of the strands, and clip a locking carabiner through the twist and the other strand.

This sliding X is dynamically equalised: if you pull the focal point in different directions, the sling will shift so that both pieces are equally loaded. However, UQMC does not accept a sliding X as a top belay anchor. UQMC standards are that you tie knots in the sling. See the example below.

 

The last example is just clipping two separate slings to two separate bolts with two locking carabiners, and putting one locking carabiner in the middle as your focal point. Just keep in mind that the anchor has to be equalised and redundant, so make an overhand knot if the slings are not equal in length.

Advantages

  • Faster set up

  • Easy to escape the belay

Disadvantages

  • More difficult to equalise the focal point than the clove hitches

  • Less flexibility than with the rope method

  • Uses more of your gear

A quad anchor. A quad anchor is the easiest anchor of all of the anchors above, because you have already made this anchor before you started the climb and have clipped it to your harness; ready to go!

You get a long sling (180 cm or over 200 cm), tie two overhand knots, clip two locking carabiners in the ends of the sling and make sure that there is a locking carabiner attached in the middle as a focal point. See the image below.

 

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