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Using Single Rope to build far away belay

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 CameronDuff14 25 Jun 2022

In short the problem I have is how to construct a belay on a trad route with a single rope, where the anchor is quite far away from the topout of the route. I climb with a single rope (am looking to move to halfs but currently lack the funds), and like to use my belay plate in guide mode when bringing up the second to take advantage of the auto-blocking this can provide.

My potential solution is to build an anchor like I usually would (a few bits of gear equalised and made independent with slings), and clove the rope to a locker on the masterpoint, run the rope out to where I'd like to stand/sit/kneel to belay from, and then back to another clove on the masterpoint, creating effectively a big old extension. Then I could equalise the two strands going to the masterpoint with a figure of 8 on the bight or similar, and set up the guide plate on that knot.

In my head this seems safe and sensible, but if there are any flaws I have failed to consider, or a less convoluted way of doing things I'm interested to hear people's thoughts

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 Wil Treasure 25 Jun 2022
In reply to CameronDuff14:

Depending on how much rope is needed:

I would usually clove hitch the first runner, then untie from the rope and back up the clove hitch with a stopper. You can rig the belay as if you were sat far back, but then clip the rope into the master point and walk to the edge and clip yourself in where's comfortable. Obvious downside is you aren't tied in while walking near the edge, so don't fall off, or protect yourself with a knot/prussik if needed.

You could do as you describe and go back and forth just creating a huge equalisation. In either scenario I wouldn't use an autolocking belay direct to the anchors as you'll have a lot of stretch and can easily rub through a rope sheath, better to belay as normal, make sure the you're tight on the anchors and have a bit of a brace to avoid getting dragged about.

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OP CameronDuff14 25 Jun 2022
In reply to Wil Treasure:

So sort of like a redirected belay through the masterpoint? Wouldn't this create a 2:1 on the anchor? Or have I misunderstood?

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 PaulJepson 25 Jun 2022
In reply to CameronDuff14:

Untie from the rope and figure-8 it to your anchor, clove hitch yourself back in at the edge of the cliff. If your anchor is multiple pieces then go back and forth with the rope to a bfk masterpoint and tie your rope back into said masterpoint then clove back into the rope at the edge again. 

If you want to rig guide mode, I believe it's possible to tie your plate in above you on the rope. I remember it a while back on a self rescue course so cant be 100% but I think an alpine butterfly would work? Someone else will need to confirm. 

Post edited at 21:56
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 Wil Treasure 25 Jun 2022
In reply to CameronDuff14:

Maybe I haven't explained well enough. Not a redirected belay. You've got an equalised belay, the. You attached to it with enough rope to get to the edge, then belaying from there as normal. If I'm understanding your method correctly you'll need more rope, but you'd also have less stretch in your system. 

 Martin Hore 25 Jun 2022
In reply to CameronDuff14:

It's not that uncommon in my experience to have to go a long way back to find a decent anchor. But when you've found one, it's quite uncommon for it to be both bombproof on it's own and in line with the load on the rope if the second falls. More often than not you need to find two (or more) anchors, and these often won't be close enough to join and equalise with slings. 

In this situation, if the single rope is not long enough to enable you to use it to tie to both anchors, you're in some trouble. Half ropes are hugely advantageous here. With a single rope, you can save one length by untying from the rope and tying the end to one of the anchors as you suggest (I would use a figure 8 on a bight rather than a clove hitch). Then run the rope to the stance at the cliff edge and back to the second anchor and then back to the stance again. That still needs 3 lengths of rope, which you may not have. An option if you don't have enough rope is to take your stance closer to the anchors but not at the cliff edge. This saves some rope, but you can't see or easily hear your second, and there's likely to be rope wear over the edge. 

All in all, if you think this situation is likely to arise, half ropes are well worth investing in when you can. I used to just own one, and climbed with partners who had another.

As Will says, I'm not sure why you would want to use a guide plate in guide mode here. In my experience - admittedly limited with guide plates - that really only works well with bombproof anchors that are close by and above you. In the situation you describe the anchors are often both a long way back and at your level. I would worry that the stretch on the rope(s) to the anchor(s) may mean that the guide plate is pulled out in front of you, possibly over the edge. Much better I would suggest to put yourself in the system, tight to the anchors and braced to hold a fall, and belay as with a normal plate. (Most guide plates have this option).

Martin

Post edited at 22:24
 Mlewis 25 Jun 2022

I sometimes used the 'direct isolation loop' method, sounds similar to your method but it uses an alpine butterfly where you suggested a clove hitch. 

Although I find this works best when you have a single anchor (tree or rock), however I sometimes build a multi point anchor which is equalised with a sling and the thread through that. 

It's detailed in the belay section on the below site. 

http://www.multipitchclimbing.com

 spenser 25 Jun 2022
In reply to CameronDuff14:

It depends on the layout of the gear placements.

If they are fairly close together build an anchor using slings and clip a figure of eight on a bight into the masterpoint of the sling anchor (i.e. where you would put a clove hitch if it was in reach). Then walk to the edge and clip a clove hitch on the rope into your belay loop (adjust the clove hitch so it's tight and then move to the edge and sit down).

If they are further apart put a figure of 8 on the left hand piece, walk the rope to where you want your central point to sit, tie a figure of 8 on a bight, then back to your second pieces of gear (clove hitch). Leave a bit of slack on the strand going back to the anchor's central point and clip a figure of eight on a bight into that central point (similar to setting up an abseil anchor using a rope).  Repeat the business with the clove hitch near the edge as per the other method.

Basically, read up how to set up an abseil anchor and then clove hitch in so the rope is tensioned when you sit at the top of the crag.

I would tend to use an indirect belay to avoid the possibility of the rope rubbing on any edges.

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 top cat 26 Jun 2022
In reply to CameronDuff14:

When walking back to the edge I use an Italian hitch to protect myself, i.e. I 'abseil' to the stance then change the Italian to a clove.

 henwardian 26 Jun 2022
In reply to CameronDuff14:

Lots of good solutions already. If you don't have enough rope to double back to the edge then you can:

- Make the anchor.

- Untie from the rope and tie the end of the rope to the anchor (fig 8 is the simplest way).

- Attach your shunt to your harness and the rope and with one hand on it walk back to the edge and sit down.

- Reach back above the shunt and clovehitch a biner into the rope for your guide-mode belaying.

- Pull up the rest of the rope, thread it in the belay device and start belaying.

Advantages with the shunt are:

1) You are protected all the time when you are walking back to the edge and setting up the guide-mode belay device.

2) You can move back up or further down easily enough while staying safe just by moving the shunt, so you can move to see the second, lean further over the edge to shout instructions/abuse, move up to fiddle with the plate if the second needs lowered, etc.

I've actually used this sort of method before now to get fully down over the cliff edge to shout and point while still being able to belay in the guide-mode (but obv at this point it's an effort to get back up to give slack).

2
 scott titt 27 Jun 2022
In reply to CameronDuff14:

Don't use an auto block, you are exposing yourself and your second to a whole world of trouble. KISS.

2
 jkarran 27 Jun 2022
In reply to CameronDuff14:

Create an equalised belay with slings/cord where the gear is (or walk around a tree). Walk/lower yourself back down to where you want to sit/stand always staying on belay in case you slip. Tie yourself of in your preferred manner* then call safe and belay conventionally off your harness or tie in as you prefer.

*I mostly just used fig8 knots for this, most people prefer a clove hitch on a locking krab

If you want to use guide mode: get to where you're going to stand, give yourself a little extra slack so you have rope to work with. Form a knot on the two strands coming down from the belay with a big fat overhand or fig8 giving you a couple of loops. That's your 'masterpoint' for your guide plate. If you need to shorten your remaining leash to feel secure you can clove hitch to a krab on the masterpoint or just take up some of the slack in your leash with a knot.

Lots of other options exist for trickier set-ups or where you have gaps in your remaining rack. Reading up, learning from others and figuring it out (making it up!) as you develop the knowledge to experiment safely is all part of the fun. There is no right way, just think through at each stage what is protecting you if you slip or trip? What is protecting your partner as they climb? What happens if individual parts of that fail? If the answer isn't satisfying (bearing in mind the probability of failure for the elemment you're considering), rework it.

jk

Post edited at 09:16
 jezb1 27 Jun 2022
In reply to scott titt:

> Don't use an auto block, you are exposing yourself and your second to a whole world of trouble. KISS.

When you say “auto block” do you mean guide mode?

 gravy 27 Jun 2022
In reply to jezb1:

Assuming the anchor is too far to double the rope from anchor to belay you only really have one option:

Assuming it is "safe", untie your rope and tie it to the anchor, walk back to the lip and clove hitch yourself to the rope and belay off that.

If it isn't "safe" do similar with precautions (ie attach yourself to the anchor before untying, "abseil" to the lip or use a prussik to secure you).

Whatever you do be aware that a long length of rope between you and the anchor will potentially give you a lot of stretch so make the rope good and tight.

Be aware that your anchors are a long way away so double check them before you leave them!

In reply to PaulJepson:

> If you want to rig guide mode, I believe it's possible to tie your plate in above you on the rope. I remember it a while back on a self rescue course so cant be 100% but I think an alpine butterfly would work? Someone else will need to confirm. 

You can, I often do this with just an overhand or figure-eight on a bight. A disadvantage of this approach is if the rope is tied off at your belay loop rather than the anchors (as it typically would be if the anchors are out of reach) then the belay device is no longer entirely independent and you can expect to be yanked by the rope if the second weights the device.

In reply to CameronDuff14:

What you propose is fine - you're simply extending the belay masterpoint (which is the object of the exercise). Things to consider:-

Comms - before heading off up easy ground to the belay let your second know the plan as you're much less likely to be able to communicate once you head over to the belay point.

Rope stretch - because you've added a load of dynamic rope to the belay system you'll need to make sure you're super-tight to it, otherwise a fallen second could pull you over the edge on the stretch between you and the anchors.

Lack of rope - once you've concocted your belay pull as much up as you can so you know how much you have to play with - see the comms piece above  - make sure your second knows your plan. You may end up having to run a single strand between the belay and your perch on the edge due to a lack of rope i.e. the end of the rope is tied to the masterpoint with a figure of 8 on the bight / bowline and you and your belay device are tied in further down the rope at the edge. The italian hitch and shunt methods suggested will work well, the other option on easy ground is to use a prussik to protect yourself.

Escaping the system - if you can, don't be part of the belay system. That way you don't have to escape it!

 icehockeyhair 27 Jun 2022
In reply to CameronDuff14:

Assuming you have enough rope, then this is what I'd do (similar possibilities in another video for half ropes):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzewtTpzg_M&t=523s

 Martin Hore 27 Jun 2022
In reply to icehockeyhair:

> Assuming you have enough rope, then this is what I'd do (similar possibilities in another video for half ropes):

I like the video. I like the way JB tries to introduce the principles and leaves you to practice variations yourself. 

I think though that the OP was asking about how to deal with this assuming the opposite of what you say - ie. you haven't enough rope. If the anchors are both 10m back from the edge, and too far apart to join with slings, which they often are - eg two stakes at Pembroke - then you need 40m of rope for this which you're unlikely to have. You can reduce that to 30m by untying from the rope (make sure you don't drop it!), attaching the end to one of the anchors, and returning to the edge (suitably protected with prusik, belay plate or Italian hitch) . Then heading out to the second anchor and looping a bight through that and back to your stance.

As JB's video suggests, if the two anchors are closer together than they are to the stance, then you can save a bit more rope by using his "isolation loop" method, although that can be a bit of a pig adjusting if the anchors are well back.

Half ropes makes the whole thing much more economic on rope. If you tie each rope off at one of the anchors, you need only 10m spare on each  - good for those 40m Pembroke pitches.

Martin

In reply to CameronDuff14:

I usually use a single rope. If I have used up all or most of the rope reaching anchors but prefer to go back to the edge I sometimes set up anchors and clip my rope through the "master" screwgate then walk back towards the edge as the second starts climbing, essentially both of us are on a direct belay as counterweights. Near edge we need to be OK with a little slack while I tie loop in second's rope, clip into it and belay as normal. Very simple.

However situational dependent and second should be experienced and know exactly what is happening eg by communication as leader tops out. Obviously slightly sketchy while there is slack (prusik sling from belayer to rope to second could be used while walking back to edge). 

I've also used method similar to other posts by clipping rope to anchor(s) untying and tying in again at edge. Rope stretch can be a problem, the simple method reduces that since the rope is double. 

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 jezb1 29 Jun 2022
In reply to icehockeyhair:

> Assuming you have enough rope, then this is what I'd do (similar possibilities in another video for half ropes):

Thanks for the share!

 Petrafied 29 Jun 2022
In reply to CameronDuff14:

Is the belay far away, or is it just very small?

In reply to oldie:

I'm struggling to understand the advantage of doing what you describe over clove hitching to the single strand going back to the far-away anchor and protecting yourself as you get there if required with your belay device or an Italian hitch?

In reply to tehmarks:

Cloving you are limited to the length of unused rope left when you set up the anchors and may not be able to return to the edge for communication etc. You can always reach the edge with the system I describe even if distance from second to top anchor and back to the edge is longer than the rope length, and rope stretch is less of a problem than if hitching to the anchor and untying before retying at he edge as the latter has only a single rope to the anchor. Also seems a bit simpler and quicker (no untying and retying).

 Martin Hore 29 Jun 2022
In reply to oldie:

I can think of a few disadvantages to your suggested method. The first you've mentioned. There's a minute or so when you reach the edge when your second has to stop climbing or slack will develop. The second needs to be on easy ground at this point which will not always be something you can rely on. You also need to have a good understanding with your second that this is what you might do, especially as communication might well be impossible until you reach the edge.  Also if the second falls while you are both moving you will be putting a double force on the anchors. Lastly, your method won't work if you need two anchor points which are too far apart to be joined to a master-point with slings. 

I think I'll stick with two half ropes myself, but it's good to hear other people's ideas.

Martin

In reply to Martin Hore:

Basically agree with you. As I said it depends on the situation including the second knowing  what is happening. An anchor should surely be capable of holding the weight of two people and if it isn't then obviously a different method is better (incidentally if only a single strand goes back to the anchor, as in some other methods it is also quite possible for a leader to be pulled over the edge so that both are hanging on the rope anyway). 

Again agree with the widely spaced anchor problem though In Theory one could clip rope from second through anchor 1, untie and connect rope end to anchor 2, then clip rope between anchors to leader's harness and walk back to edge and belay as previously clipping to knotted loops in both rope from second and next to the sliding krab(before removing latter): thus more rope could be available to reach edge as the second climbed and stretch would be reduced for a distant anchor as there would be three, not two, strands of rope to the belayer. Never done that myself!

Post edited at 21:08
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 Martin Hore 29 Jun 2022
In reply to oldie:

Never done that myself!

Possibly a good thing! I might have misunderstood you, but wouldn't you then have a 2:1 pulley situation? Second falls and leader will get pulled back to the anchors sharpish trying to hold twice the weight of the second just by bracing. Second decks I think.

Martin

In reply to oldie:

Sorry, I didn't explain myself well and think we're talking at cross purposes. What I would do is walk to the gear, untie, build the belay back to an alpine butterfly, then walk(/'ab') back to where I want to belay from, and clove hitch myself to the single line coming back from the gear. It doesn't use any more rope than it takes to get to the gear and build the belay (which, if the gear is merely far away from the edge bit otherwise close together, could even potentially be done with slings/cordelette/etc).

1
In reply to tehmarks:

Your suggestion is good and I have used similar myself. An alternative which I suggested and have also used myself does have the advantage of having a doubled rope (probably single rated as in OP) to the anchor which reduces the risk of rope stretch.

In my early climbing I can remember being pulled partly over the edge by a second at Swanage as I had pulled up one half rope and had to take it way back to a fence post for an anchor.

Another advantage is  simplicity and avoidance of the leader untying, but of course there are certainly disadvantages and situations where it is unsuitable, which I hope I've mentioned. Perhaps I've overemphasized the fact that the second can climb before the leader has a normal belay set up so more rope is available for a single distant belay, since in many instances it is unnecessary for the second to start climbing as there is sufficient rope (a safe way of extending the rope to the leader is also possible with slings etc similar to your suggestion).

In reply to Martin Hore:

> Never done that myself! Possibly a good thing! I might have misunderstood you, but wouldn't you then have a 2:1 pulley situation? Second falls and leader will get pulled back to the anchors sharpish trying to hold twice the weight of the second just by bracing. Second decks I think. <

Thanks, I think you're right.  Physics is not my strong point and I find I learn a lot by throwing ideas in threads like this and hope "In Theory" and exclamation mark were sufficient to show that! Might not the friction of the rope running over the edge and through two krabs be advantageous if the second fell? Sliding linked prusik type knots (between the rope to second and rope back to leader) might remove the risk of the second decking though I'm probably getting too silly here. The method would of course be safe if the rope length required was sufficient before the second needed to climb. I think many methods can work but often only in limited situations eg if a pitch had simple climbing at the start (second unlikely to fall) and hard moves near the top. 

 bpmclimb 01 Jul 2022
In reply to oldie:

> In my early climbing I can remember being pulled partly over the edge by a second at Swanage as I had pulled up one half rope and had to take it way back to a fence post for an anchor.

Yes, you generally only have to experience this once, and then forever after you sit yourself back a little from the edge, and get the anchor rope really tight with your body weight, so that some of the stretch is already taken up.

I've found this can be an issue even with double ropes, if the anchors are some distance back, and the ropes thin and stretchy.

One thing I look for in those situations is an additional nearby anchor (even if I'm almost sitting on it). In my locality, that's often a tree root (with two trees set back being the primary anchors).


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