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4 Repositioning, Threading the Rope, and Lowering
a) The classic or normal method
of threading takes a little longer
than the blunt method (see
later) but is easier to follow for
most: The climber has fixed
himself, as described above, and
pulls in enough rope—about
3 m. He now attaches the rope
with a clove hitch to his harness
using either a quickdraw or a
carabiner (Photos 232-235).
Alternatively he can use a onesided overhand bend knot
(Photos 236-238). However, the
clove hitch is easier and quicker
to undo because you can do it
with one hand.
Photos 232-234: Tying the clove hitch
The climber then unties himself, opening the roping-up knot, threads the end
of the rope through the ring or locking chain link, and then does it up again
(Photos 239-241). It does not necessarily have to be fixed to the leg strap or the
waist-strap eye on the harness; it can also be fixed to the roping-up loop just as
well. Similarly, you can tie a one-sided overhand bend at the end of the rope and
attach this with a locking carabiner to the roping-up loop. Again, the carabiner
must be locked immediately afterwards.
The climber now loosens the onesided overhand bend (Photo 242) and
calls out “Off belay!” He puts weight
on his personal anchor sling and waits
for the response from his partner, “On
belay!”, and on the tightening of the
rope to know that he is again hanging
in to the belayer’s protection point.
After a final check to see if everything
is threaded properly and that he is
tied in correctly, he unclips from the
anchor point and calls out “down!”
(Photos 243 and 244)
b) The quicker version is the blunt-threading method of threading (Photos 245252). The climber secures himself and pulls in enough rope. He threads the
rope with a loop through the ring. He now ties a one-sided overhand bend
with a large loop and attaches this to the locking carabiner on the tie-in loop
on his harness, locking the gate right away. The climber then unties the rope
and calls to the belayer below, “Off belay!” The procedure from here is the
same as described in a) above.
CAUTION: During the lowering, the belayer must carefully observe the climber so
that he can stop giving out rope as the climber gathers the quickdraws. In addition,
the belayer must constantly watch the remainder of the rope so that no twists or
knots block the belaying device. Similarly, he watches the end of the rope so that it
doesn’t run out before the climber has reached the ground safely. What happens next
is described on Page 62.
In contrast to gym climbing, rappelling is a basic part of the skills to be learned for
outdoor rock climbing, since it is often the only possibility to gain solid ground
back under the feet again!
As a rule, the mechanics of repositioning at anchor points and rappelling should
be learned on the ground under supervision, and only then applied to a complete
climb on an easy route.
Preparation and Repositioning
at Anchor Points
If you are going to rappel, the lead climber must carry the following equipment
on his harness (Photo 254):
• A rappelling device: A Figure Eight plus a locking carabiner or tuber plus HMS.
Do not use a slim locking carabiner with the tuber, because when rappelling,
the bend of the tuber tends to trap the rope. To avoid this, the rope and the
tuber must be attached to the broader side of the HMS carabiner (i.e., quite
the opposite to using the tuber on protection points) (see Page 145). The
Figure Eight is carried with the larger eyelet in the locking carabiner on the
• A self-securing sling with a locking carabiner: This should be as small as
possible and have a small shank diameter so that it can be used on very small
protection point bolts or in an emergency connected to a link chain. This is
particularly important when cleaning an uncompleted route (see Page 166 ff.),
because in these cases the locking carabiner has to be fitted together with a
quickdraw or a rope onto the hook (Photo 255). The HMS carabiner is too
thick for this.
• A Prusik loop 5 or 6 mm together with a locking carabiner. Having a second
Prusik loop of a different diameter loop as reserve is also useful.
At the top, first the personal protection sling is attached onto a secure anchor
point. If two bolts are available, the upper one should be used (Photo 256). In
this way there is sufficient room below the belay point to thread the rope and
reposition yourself (cf., Chapter 4.3, Page 132 ff.).
If the anchor point consists of just one bolt with a single ring, the self-securing
sling and the rope are both attached to this (Photo 257). If the bolt has two
rings or a separate chain link, the self-securing sling is attached to the upper ring
(Photo 258) or directly in the bolt (Photo 259). The ring or chain link is used later
for the rope.
You now put weight on the personal protection sling. To do this, lean or step back
until the sling is tense and then call out the command, “Off belay!” The belayer
removes the protection for the lead climber and calls back, “Belay off!” He then
remains at his stand and watches the lead climber and his further actions. The
lead climber now gathers some rope and feeds a loop of it through a free chain
link or the free ring. He threads the rope through the anchor pulley until he
reaches the middle marking on the rope or his belayer calls out, “Rope out!” This
is when the lower end of the rope is still just on the ground.
CAUTION: When the command “Rope out!” is heard and the middle marking on
the rope is still well below the anchor pulley, the rope is too short for rappelling. The
climber must therefore come part way down and construct a rappel anchor, and
rappel from there to the ground.
The lead climber now unties from the rope and pulls the remainder of the rope
through the chain link or ring. He then ties a knot in the end of the rope, and
after calling out “Rope!” he throws the rope parallel to the other strand in the
direction of the start of the climb. Especially in easy routes that are not very
steep the rope will not land directly on the ground, but often gets caught up
somewhere on the rocks. (It is not necessary to pull up the rope and try again, as
the rope will normally come free when rappelling. One should just watch out for
loops and knots and untangle them before rappelling further.) Now, the climber
prepares the rappeling device. He starts with the short Prusik sling.