SKILLS: Building Fast Belays When Multipitch Sport Climbing

by Jack Geldard Nov/2016
This article has been read 17,450 times

There are loads of ways to tie in to a belay, whether that belay is built of bolts or traditional gear, but over the years I have come to favour a few simple methods that I use time and again.

This article shows one of my favourite and most simple methods that I often use to tie in to a double bolt belay when I am multipitch sport climbing and am 'swinging leads'. This method requires no slings, makes use of the extremely strong climbing rope and just needs two carabiners if you have double ropes, or three carabiners if you are using a single rope.

Double Ropes

1: Arrive at the belay to find there are two bolts, and either these bolts are not equalised (common) or they are not equalised very well (also common) or they are equalised by a bit of dodgy old tat (also common!).

2: Put a screwgate carabiner on the left bolt and use your left rope (if climbing with double ropes - quite common on multipitch routes) to clove hitch to the carabiner. See photo below.

Left rope clove-hitched to the left bolt, 216 kb
Left rope clove-hitched to the left bolt
© Jack Geldard

3: Put a screwgate carabiner on the right bolt and clove hitch your right rope on to this carabiner. See photo below.

Both ropes clove-hitched to the bolts, 237 kb
Both ropes clove-hitched to the bolts
© Jack Geldard

4: If required adjust these two clove hitches so that the ropes from you to the carabiners are of a comfortable length and you are stood in the best place to belay.

5: Take the tails of both ropes, aim them in the direction of pull from a falling climber (aim them down the pitch you just climbed up), and tie a large overhand knot on the bite. See photo below.

Overhand on the bite tied between the 2 clove hitches, 236 kb
Overhand on the bite tied between the 2 clove hitches
© Jack Geldard

6: Use an autolocking belay plate (a belay plate that has a 'guide mode' - DMM Pivot, Petzl Reverso, Black Diamond ATC Guide etc) and clip this to the large loop you created with your overhand knot on the bite. See photo below.

Belay device clipped to the overhand knot, 243 kb
Belay device clipped to the overhand knot
© Jack Geldard

7: Pull up your ropes until they come tight on your second (the climber who is coming up behind you - often referred to as the 'second' or the 'seconder').

8: Put theses ropes in your belay device ready for them to start climbing and make your usual climbing call that they are on belay.

SIMPLE!

Single Rope Variation:

If you only have a single rope (also pretty common if you are not expecting to have to abseil the route) then you can do a slight variation that isn't quite as neat but works really well and is also very simple.

1: Arrive at the belay to find there are two bolts, and either these bolts are not equalised (common) or they are not equalised very well (also common) or they are equalised by a bit of dodgy old tat (also common!).

2: Put a screwgate carabiner on the left bolt and use your single rope to clove hitch to the carabiner. See photo below.

Single rope clove-hitched to first bolt, 246 kb
Single rope clove-hitched to first bolt
© Jack Geldard

3: Put a screwgate carabiner on the right bolt and clove hitch your rope on to this carabiner leaving a loop of slack between the two bolts. See photo below.

Single rope clove-hitched to second bolt (note slack loop between bolts), 248 kb
Single rope clove-hitched to second bolt (note slack loop between bolts)
© Jack Geldard

4: Take the rope from the tail of the 2nd clove hitch and bring it back to your harness, and clove hitch it there. See photo below.

Single rope then clove-hitched back to harness, 237 kb
Single rope then clove-hitched back to harness
© Jack Geldard

4: If required adjust these clove hitches so that the ropes from you to the carabiners are of a comfortable length and you are stood in the best place to belay.

5: Take the loop of rope that is between the two bolts (you need to leave it long enough!) and aim it in the direction of pull from a falling climber (aim it down the pitch you just climbed up), and tie a large overhand knot on the bite. See photo below.

Overhand knot tied between the two bolts on the single rope, 241 kb
Overhand knot tied between the two bolts on the single rope
© Jack Geldard

6: Use an autolocking belay plate (a belay plate that has a 'guide mode' - DMM Pivot, Petzl Reverso, Black Diamond ATC Guide etc) and clip this to the loop you created with your overhand knot on the bite. See photo below.

Belay device clipped to overhand knot, 207 kb
Belay device clipped to overhand knot
© Jack Geldard

7: Pull up your ropes until they come tight on your second (the climber who is coming up behind you - often referred to as the 'second' or the 'seconder').

8: Put theses ropes in your belay device ready for them to start climbing and make your usual climbing call that they are on belay.

ALSO SIMPLE!

Additional Info:

  • There are many ways to skin a cat and this is just one (well two actually) ways to tie in to a double bolt belay.
  • If the belay is already equalised well (perhaps with a chain or similar) then you can skip this and just clove hitch in to the powerpoint that has already been created.
  • This system can also work on trad belays if you are using two points and they are very good pieces of protection.

Not swinging leads?

If you are block leading, (if you are leading multiple pitches in a row instead of 'swinging leads' where each climber leads a pitch in turn), then it is faster and easier to use a sling to equalise the belay instead of the rope. This is because the seconder needs a fixed powerpoint to clip to when they get to the belay, and you as block leader need to be able to leave the belay easily and without dismantling the powerpoint.

Jack Geldard, 108 kb

About the author:

Jack Geldard is a consulting editor at UKClimbing.com. He also works as a climbing instructor and coach, holding the Mountain Instructor Award. He is also a trainee British Mountain Guide.

He has climbed in 5 of the 7 continents, up to a very high level, and enjoys all forms of climbing, from winter alpinism through to summer bouldering. He's still not overly keen on falling off though...

His particular favourite styles of climbing are UK seacliffs, classic Alpinism, and multipitch sport climbs. Or pretty much anywhere sunny.

Forums ( Read more )

Staff Picks

Jun 2017

thumb Two weeks ago the masses were informed about one of the greatest climbing pieces of art that we have heard about. Alex's... Read more

What's Hot Right Now

16 Oct 2017

thumb Statistically, only a small percentage of those working in rope access identify as women. This fact may come as no surprise, as... Read more

Top Spot: Climbing Destination

May 2008

thumb The Melloblocco bouldering competition, has evolved over a few years from attracting a small number of climbers to an... Read more