/ Practicing Trad/Sports routes solo

This topic has been archived, and won't accept reply postings.
sunny123 13 Jul 2019


Pretty new to climbing only just bought a rope last week and have started doing long routes. The issue I have is I live in Glasgow where the weather is highly inconsistent and I don't know too many people. 

Some nice days I'd just like to get out on the rocks, am I able to just use a GriGri and practice some routes this way whether it be sport/trad ?

Thanks in advance


CragRat11 13 Jul 2019
In reply to sunny123:


Yes, is the simple answer, though there are some really important considerations.

It's hard to do this with sport routes because you often can't get to the top of them (people obviously just lower down off the top anchor rather than topping out). If you can drop a rope down a sport route be very careful, as there's a good chance there will be loose rocks on ledges etc above the anchor given that it's not a well used top out. The closest I have come to dying climbing is abseling off a very short sport route at a minor crag to work it on a shunt. When I reached the bottom my rope dislodged a rock the size of my head directly above me, it only missed by a few inches.

Often trad routes are better for working as they have natural anchors to use at the top (or possibly stakes/trees), and the top out will have seen a lot of traffic so should be clear of loose crap. Make sure you use some kind of rope protector if the rope is running over edges.

The next tricky bit is what you use as a braking device. GriGris can be good, and that's what I started using. The main reason I like them is because you can easily abseil back down to try moves again. However, make sure the GriGri isn't worn out as it may not catch you properly if it is. They wear quite quickly when you are shunting alot.

I now use a shunt, as my GriGri is too worn out to trust. The shunt seems to be a reasonably safe option, though I would never fully trust anything. You should be tensioning your rope so that there is never much of a fall if you come off. I usually tension the rope at the bottom with something that can move if I need it to (ususally my rope bag with a rock in it).

It's good practice to tie a knot in the rope below you once you get 5metres or so above the ground. That way if your braking device did fail you would hit the knot before you hit the ground - hopefully!

Just be careful ey, shunting is never very safe. But it can be really good if you can't find partners or are short of time. Have fun.


CragRat11 13 Jul 2019
In reply to sunny123:

I notice you said you were new to climbing - have you been taught how to build anchors at the top of crags?

It's a 100% vital that you know how to build a properly tensioned three point anchor before you go putting a rope down any routes. Unless there is a really solid tree at the top!

Mick Ward 14 Jul 2019
In reply to sunny123:

Like you, I started out climbing on my own, many decades ago. Simple reason - there were only about 30 active climbers in the whole country (Ireland) at the time (1960s). And I didn't know any of them. No rope - so solo!  It was a hard road.

Appreciate you're aiming to top rope solo (huge difference!) but you may have some of the same issues I had: lack of technical skills and lack of judgement. The former are more obvious and easier to remedy than the latter. You may have the 'don't know what you don't know problem'. And the ultimate penalty is...

You're probably mad keen to climb and I don't want to put you off. Soloing - however you do it - breeds a self-reliance which is probably impossible to get in any other way. So there are benefits.

But lets assume you work everything out safely. It's highly likely that, sooner or later, you'll want to do routes which need belayers. Then you'll have to find other people.

So why not go finding other people now?  Join a club. If it's crap, or cliquey, join another. Put an ad up for climbing wall partners. This doesn't stop you doing routes off bomber anchors (I use a shunt, with regular knots tied in it. Please note: if it's slightly overhanging, the shunt will most likely slip. Those knots are essential!) Why not go for the best of both worlds?  Appreciate the weather problem but Scotland has fantastic crags/routes, best shared with others.

Good luck!


mauraman 14 Jul 2019
In reply to sunny123:

Lots of good advise already given here, just adding my personal experience.

I am, like you, at the learning stage and have been for a while, having now climbed for well over ten years. I am still very keen despite having discovered climbing late in life, in fact I am completely gripped. Unfortunately I can't climb very often, only when I have the luxury of free time, hence the very slow learning curve and status of perennial Beginner/Punter.

I am not attracted to the Club scene, I am self conscious and weary of joining much younger climbers for fear of slowing them down, not climbing well enough and also not having much in common with younger people apart from climbing. that is why I end up quite often climbing alone as I need my fix as often as possible, which is more often that the only partner I have at the moment (also tied down with commitments).

As a consequence, I have solo top roped many trad and sport routes, I have solo led trad multipitch (low grades only, accidentally discovering that I DO love the self relaiance and solitude) all of which has helped me to improve technique, both in terms of movement and ropes management/knots/abseiling/gear placements/anchors, etc...

Before setting out I have read everything I could find on the subject (hrs of research and reading, but I enjoyed that too...), then practiced the techniques "on the ground" and in "safe" environments (not in the mountains alone, instead using trees in the garden etc...)

I have at the same time practiced self resque techniques such as Prusiking (or jumaring if you want to use ascenders), passing knots on abseils, etc.. this was also a great opportunity to learn other techniques such as pulleys, escaping the system, etc.. as these are often described in self-rescue books/tutorials and are useful skills to have, in general even if not relevant to soloing. I have put up a lot of practice setting anchors and, whenever climbing or practicing I have ALWAYS used back up systems and redundancy to minimise the chances of something going horribly wrong!

I then started going out for single pitch top rope solos, experimented with a few systems until I found what I liked best (completely personal, you will have to find yours too) and familiarised until it felt comfortable. Only at that stage I started to "work the routes and concentrate on the moves, as the technicalities of soloing where becoming natural rather than requiring high concentration. I later started to go for short multipitch routes (2 or 3 pitches as the technique is quite laborious and time consuming). Having tuned up a workable and safe system I now venture into longer climbs, 8/10 pitches. When I do this I never climb at my limit, staying  well within my comfort zone ( for me that translate to grades Diff and VDiff. To put it into prospective, many experienced climbers will be happy to solo those grades unroped). 

This is my personal experience, it has given me many unforgettable experiences and so far it has worked for me, I have survived and learned a lot in the process. This doesn't mean that it is the way to do it or that it will work for everyone. 

Be aware that soloing in general ande specially learning to climb in this way is both highly dangerous AND slow as there will be no one there to correct your mistakes or help you if you run into troubles. Another downside is that You might also learn "bad habits" that, when later corrected by experienced climbers, will seem hard to get rid of.

In retrospective I think that when starting out it is worth to find partners, as already suggested by others. Your climbing will improve much faster and you will be safer. 

Whatever you chose to do, If you are into trad climbing, the UK is a great place to be in terms of climbing possibilities, tradition and history!

Good Luck! Enjoy and climb safe

BrendanO 15 Jul 2019
In reply to sunny123:

I know it’s frustrating, but FWIW I think you shouldn’t rope solo yet. 

You have a rope- lots of other climbers have no rope, but have a car, so that sorts your trips out. Chat to others at the wall (even bouldering wall). Post ads, at the wall and online. If you’re friendly with any wall staff, you may be able to get yourself invited along. 

One Glasgow option is the free boulder park at Cuningar Loop, might want a mat for it, or be selective otherwise. Topi available on Forestry Commision website.

Hope I don’t aeem too much of a worrier. And the other replies are great.

Pefa 22 Jul 2019
In reply to sunny123:

There are a few climbing clubs in Glasgow you could look into I heard the Lomond climbing club are good.I'd hook up with you but I have a frozen shoulder atm. 


This topic has been archived, and won't accept reply postings.