/ Roped scrambling - Knots

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martinturner - on 29 Nov 2017
So I’m looking to move towards some more grade 2/3 scrambles, which obviously is going to involve some more ropework.

Now I’m looking at a couple of courses etc, but just a couple of queries first of all... I know none of these are written in stone rules, but just wanted to question some things.

So, I’ve roped up for a section, topped out, placed a nice piece of gear/sling and I’m making myself safe.
The norm seems to be to put a clove hitch just under your fig8, onto the krab.
But my question is why not just clip straight into your harness, rather than onto the rope?
My only guess is maybe the ease of being able to give a bit more slack if needs be?

Secondly, once I’m safe, I’ve took the slack rope and I’m putting my mate on belay. I’m then to tie an Italian hitch on the krab and belay using this.
Is this just to prevent needing to bring a belay plate? Less gear, thus less weight?

I’m not questioning if they’re the best methods at all. I’m only questioning as maybe in a few years I’d like to look towards my Summer ML, so I’d like to learn to do things the correct way. Learn the correct/most useful skills etc. But I’d also like to know why we do them aswell.

Thanks in advance.
jkarran - on 29 Nov 2017
In reply to martinturner:

> The norm seems to be to put a clove hitch just under your fig8, onto the krab.
> But my question is why not just clip straight into your harness, rather than onto the rope?

Sometimes you can, often a bit of adjustability is useful to put you in a solid comfortable position.

> Secondly, once I’m safe, I’ve took the slack rope and I’m putting my mate on belay. I’m then to tie an Italian hitch on the krab and belay using this.
> Is this just to prevent needing to bring a belay plate? Less gear, thus less weight?

An Italian hitch works well whether the HMS krab is on your harness or on the belay anchor above you (known as a direct belay), also needs no extra kit. Most belay plates don't work properly in a direct belay when that belay is above you (a common set-up), the kind which do work in this scenario known generically as guide plates (Petzl Reverso for example) generally also need a second locking krab so you're adding kit you don't need largely for the sake of it.
Greasy Prusiks on 29 Nov 2017
In reply to martinturner:

I'm not a ML but here's how I understand it.

After you've made your belay (obviously it's much safer to use multiple bits of equalised gear but it's also slower) it's almost always clipped with a clove hitch on the rope as you say. This allows you to move on the belay ledge, puts a dynamic element in to the belay, reduces the chance of gear being pulled out and is generally more comfortable.

You're right about the Italian hitch. It's lighter and is also a useful skill if you drop your belay plate.

Like I said that's how I understand it not what's necessarily on the ML syllabus. I'm happy to go into more detail if you need it.
bedspring on 29 Nov 2017
In reply to martinturner:
What I do is put a large loop on the bight and drop over a spike (if available) then body belay, which is much quicker. In scrambling your really protecting more against a trip or stumble, than a fall as such.
Post edited at 13:55
jezb1 - on 29 Nov 2017
In reply to martinturner:

Some good advice above already

Regarding ML ropework, slings and krabs are out of the scope of the scheme, so ML ropework is a bit different to Scrambling ropework.

(I’m an ML course provider as well as scrambling courses)
Dan Middleton, BMC - on 29 Nov 2017
In reply to martinturner:

Have you watched these yet?:

I think they'll cover your questions pretty well.
galpinos on 29 Nov 2017
In reply to Dan Middleton, BMC:
That link doesn't work for me, I'm assuming you meant it link to the BMC scrambling playlist?

I can't get the link to work in a post either!
Post edited at 15:48
Mark Kemball - on 29 Nov 2017
In reply to martinturner:

When I did my ML training (PyB about 6 years ago) the advice was that the rope was really a "get out of jail free card", and if you had to use it, you'd really made an error of judgment. The only knot used was an overhand on the bight, waist belays, no slings or other gear.

That said, if you're using a rope for security on scrambles, it's a good idea to take a few slings and screwgate krabs. A direct belay using an Italian hitch is probably the best way forward, especially if you're not that familiar with waist belays. The dividing line between the harder scrambles and the easier rock climbs is somewhat arbitrary so if you feel the need to carry a full rack and all the rest, that's OK (but it does mean more weight on your back)!
The Ex-Engineer - on 29 Nov 2017
In reply to martinturner:
One of my "grand plans" is to write a comprehensive instructional text on scrambling and mountaineering ropework as one doesn't really currently exist. So, I'm not surprised at all your questions...

The first point to make is that most scrambling and mountaineering "ropework" is currently taught within the context that the you have an "instructor/guide" and a "client/novice" rather than two equals. As such there is a slight bias to making things super safe for the second and the leader doing all the ropework. In real life, scrambling as equals you are much more likely to do things like un-rope completely on easy ground and not be as pedantic about always being connected to belay anchors.

As regards "belaying" when scrambling, you have a limited but still quite varied array of options:
1. Tight rope, braced stance
2. Direct Belay
3. Body belay (braced position, no anchor).
4. Body belay, with backup anchor
5. Italian hitch, single anchor
6. Italian hitch, equalised anchors
7. Belay plate, semi-indirect to anchor/s (as per normal climbing)

These options obviously vary both in terms of speed and security. It is probably stating the obvious, but:
Option 1 isn't very secure and is only ever suitable for VERY short sections.
The preferred options for speed are often 2 and 5 but they require BOMBER spikes or gear.
The next best secure options are option 6 (with well positioned anchors) or 7.
The use of body belays (options 2 or 3) is generally avoided but they may well be the best option with poor or non-existent anchors.

In some circumstances (e.g. on large ledges) you will decide NOT make yourself safe, in others you will definitely want to. A similar decision also needs to be made as regards the second. These decisions obviously influence which belay options are appropriate.

In some circumstances the 'pitch' may be literally 3 metres, in others it could be 50+ metres. Generally the longer the pitch the 'more secure' the belay needs to be. Again this will determine which options are sensible.

So, coming back to your original questions:

The whole premise for your first question is slightly misplaced. As mentioned above, the overriding process is to consider:
- How secure a belay do I need to provide?
- What spikes, boulders or other gear are available?
- Do I want to make myself safe?
- Do I want to make my second safe on arrival?

So assuming that you do want to make yourself safe, there is ONLY one sensible way to do it which is to connect yourself securely and with no slack to the anchor/s with a DYNAMIC element within the attachment. The most common method is exactly the one you describe - clove hitch on the nice stretchy rope you are already tied to. Missing out the rope and for instance, clipping a sling around a spike direct to your harness is a really, really shit idea. In the event of any shock loading there's no stretchy rope or tie-in knots to reduce the forces involved. I personally cut a dyneema sling 2/3 of the way through doing this on a route in Alps in 2010 and I certainly won't be doing it again!!!
See for more examples of what could happen when you only use slings and not the rope.

As to your second question, people generally use an Italian hitch because it's quicker. This is most often true when there is a big solid spike and especially if you decide that you don't need to make yourself safe first.
However, most people still carry a belay device because with situations requiring multiple anchors or where the anchors are positioned low down, a standard semi-indirect climbing belay is the better approach.

Finally, as others have already pointed out, it is worth noting that useful scrambling ropework for grade 2/3s and ML ropework are almost mutually exclusive. The security on steep ground ropework in the Summer ML syllabus is intrinsically limited, with the focus being on using the rope alone. The specific skills of using direct belays and body belays are transferable, but that's about all.

Post edited at 19:00
Dan Middleton, BMC - on 29 Nov 2017
In reply to galpinos:

Grr, how annoying. I checked the link worked in preview as well. Maybe it's too long?

That should work.
summo on 29 Nov 2017
In reply to The Ex-Engineer:

You might want to look at Nigel Shepherd's books before you spend too long slaving away writing.
GrahamUney - on 29 Nov 2017
In reply to martinturner:

A lot of good advice on here already. Bear in mind though, you will not need any of this if you decide to go for Summer ML. It is not a scrambling award. For your ML you will use a rope only 0 no harness, no slings, no 'gear', no karabiners, so no Italian hitches either. Within the Mountain Training awards, the one that covers summer scrambling (as well as general mountaineering and rock climbing) in the MIA, the Mountaineering Instructor Award.

The summer ML is a great award to aim for though. Good luck with it!
jezb1 - on 29 Nov 2017
In reply to GrahamUney:

No such thing as summer ML :p
Martin Hore - on 29 Nov 2017
In reply to martinturner:

Possibly worth mentioning that the Summer ML really only includes Grade 1 scrambling where, as someone mentioned above, the rope is really only for safeguarding a less confident member of the party on terrain where the leader is fully confident to move without a rope (and normally only in unexpected situations - you didn't expect anyone in the party to need a rope, but you made a misjudgement). On grade 3 or 3* scrambles I take a rope myself because I might want to use it for my own security when leading or moving together. I'll also normally wear a harness and carry a much reduced climbing rack and expect to use some of my climbing knowledge - much as I would do on easy Alpine rock routes at say PD.

I don't think that ML skills alone really equip you for Grade 3 scrambles. If you gain experience at grade 3 scrambling it will put you in good stead for ML but you will have to learn some ML specific ropework skills as well.

My ML experience (as a course tutor) is a little dated, so please someone put me right if things have changed substantially.


martinturner - on 30 Nov 2017
Some absolutely brillInt replies! Thank you very much.... I also received a great email from Robin Montaigne, which I will rely to when I have more than half a second.
But thank you very much for all the advice!

I also wasn’t aware this wasn’t on the ML syllabus, however, I think it might be handy to have these skills in real world ML for that ‘just in case’ factor!

Someone mentioned that in reality, it may only be a tiny part of the scramble that involves the rope. Maybe just the ‘crux’ of the scramble if you want.
Because of that, and I know every scramble is different, would you just get the rope out at certain parts and fully put it away? Or move in coils? Or even just carry on the whole of the remaining scramble attached?
I understand this is completely subjective, but just trying to gauge the feeling towards putting ropes away, getting them back out, moving with rope etc etc.

Thank you again!!
mysterion on 30 Nov 2017
In reply to martinturner:
That all sounds a bit too much like climbing. You should need a rope on grade 3, maybe. Making use of natural belays, not clanking around in a which bit goes where glacier travel setup
Post edited at 13:19
maxsmith - on 01 Dec 2017
In reply to martinturner:
Hi Martin, understanding when to solo/move together/pitch etc on scrambling or mountaineering ground is actually a very advanced and difficult skill to learn. There is no simple answer to your latest question. How you approach each section of a scramble depends on the route, weather, your experience, your partner's experience, what gear you are carrying etc etc. After around 10 years of scrambling I have only just reached the point where I can make these judgements on the hoof, and it has really increased my speed and enjoyment in the hills.

After looking at your logbook I would recommend starting out by choosing an easy grade 2 scramble (even something you might be happy soloing) and then pitching the entire thing. This will help cement the anchor and belay skills you mentioned in your first post. Later you should repeat the same route and see if there are sections where you can speed things up, perhaps by moving together on the easiest ground to turn two 'pitches' into one. Eventually you may be happy moving together for the entire route.

IMO moving together on a scramble you have never done before is quite a tricky skill you should not attempt bearing in mind your current experience.


ps lots of well-meaning advice on the post but much of it from climbers who are comfortable soloing grade 3 scrambles. For me I treat scrambling as easy climbing and use a rope from grade 2 upwards. Looking at your logbook I'd recommend you do the same until you have more experience.

As above this book is the bible for ropework:
Post edited at 09:48
jezb1 - on 01 Dec 2017
In reply to maxsmith:

Good advice there.

Scrambling requires a lot of judgement and I tend to think of it more as mountaineering.

In many ways it’s easier to teach lead rock climbing than it is scrambling ropework and judgement.

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