UKC

Building Fast Belays When Multipitch Sport Climbing Skills

© Jack Geldard

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  © Jack Geldard
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  © Jack Geldard
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  © Jack Geldard
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  © Jack Geldard
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  © Jack Geldard
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)  © Jack Geldard
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  © Jack Geldard
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  © Jack Geldard
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  © Jack Geldard
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  © Jack Geldard

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.



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9 Nov, 2016
Not really 'building' a belay is it? Just tie-ing in a belay that's already there.
9 Nov, 2016
Should this not be on the bight?
9 Nov, 2016
Not if you use your teeth to hold the slack.
9 Nov, 2016
Modern bolt belays do not need to be equalised and equalisation will rarely be achieved anyway. The second bolt is to provide redundancy and an extra clipping point for convenience, common practice is to position one bolt for clipping in direct with a 60cm sling and use the rope on the other bolt. The DAV recommend alternatively using the rope to clip in series and the belay device on one of the bolts. Climbing ropes aren´ t by any standards "extremely strong", they hold about 1/3rd to 1/2 of what any modern bolt can withstand.
9 Nov, 2016
4 screwgates! bloody nora, sod that. clip to one bolt with the rope ( or sling/daisy), belay direct from the other and join them together with a quickdraw.
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