The Figure-8: How to Tie In to a Climbing Rope

This article about the figure of 8 knot is part of the book - Rock Climbing Basics: The Beginner's Guide.

VDiff learn to climb e-book book

Unless you are bouldering, you'll need to tie the end of the rope to your harness before you climb. The best way to do this is using a rethreaded figure of 8 knot. It's important that you do it correctly, as this knot connects you to the whole climbing system and keeps you safe. Try to avoid talking to someone or distracting them while they tie in.

Likewise, once you start tying your figure-8, keep going until you’ve finished before responding to any questions. Accidents have happened because climbers were distracted halfway through tying in and then fell with a half-completed or incorrect knot.

How to tie in to a rope for rock climbing with a figure 8

How To Tie In with the Figure of 8 Knot

Step 1
Make a loop about a meter from the end of the rope. Wrap the end of the rope around the base of the loop, then push the end through as shown.

How to tie in to a climbing rope

Step 2
You should end up with an '8'. Make sure the knot is around 90cm from the end of the rope. The exact length varies with ropes of different diameters.

How to tie in to a rope for rock climbing

Step 3
Pass the end of the rope through both of the two points on the front centre of your harness – the same ones your belay loop runs through. It is important that the rope goes through your harness in exactly the same way as your belay loop does.

How not to tie a figure of 8 knot to a rope for rock climbing


Step 4
Use the end of the rope to re-trace the figure-8. Follow the twists of the rope starting from where it joins your harness.

How to tie into a climbing rope with a figure eight

Step 5
Continue following the twists until you end up back at the start of the knot.

Pull the whole thing tight.

Figure of 8 knot and stopper knot climbing rope

Step 6
Make sure the end of the rope is around 25cm long. If it is shorter, you'll have to untie and start again. After this, you will need to tie a stopper knot. Loop the short section of rope around the main length.

Tie into a rope for rock climbing

Step 7
Do this twice, with the second loop closer to you than the first.

How to tie into a rope with a figure of 8 knot for rock climbing

Step 8
Push the end of the rope through these two loops as shown.

Step 9
Make sure the stopper knot is pushed right up against your figure-8 knot. Pull it tight.

How to tie in to a rope for rock climbing with a figure eight

The Stopper Knot
The stopper knot has no bearing on safety as long as you tied your figure-8 correctly, so don’t panic if the stopper knot starts to unravel as you climb.

The purpose of the stopper knot is to ensure that you have left enough tail to stop the figure-8 failing – a short tail could slip through the knot.

Also, if you left a long tail dangling without a stopper knot, it could be mistaken for the main rope when clipping quickdraws, or the anchor. Always tie a stopper knot for these reasons.

If you didn't have enough rope left to tie a stopper knot, you'll need to retie the figure-8 so that you do.

How to tie in to a rope for rock climbing with a figure 8


Tying In To a Climbing Rope: Common Mistakes

Incorrect 8 shapes

tie to a rope for rock climbing with a figure eight

Only threading rope though one part of the harness.

tie to a climbing rope with a figure eight

Safety Check: Have You Tied In Correctly?

Rock Climbing Infographic: Have you tied in to the rope correctly?

Visually inspect your knot, and your partner’s knot, before every climb.

If someone asks you a question or distracts you when you are tying your knot, wait until you have finished before answering. Do nothing else until the knot is complete.

The Difference Between Top Rope and Lead Climbing

This article about top rope climbing is part of the book - Rock Climbing Basics: The Beginner's Guide.

VDiff learn to climb e-book book

There are two main types of climbing system; top roping and leading. Both of these use the rope and gear to catch a fall, but in different ways. Most beginners start top rope climbing, as it's the safest and easiest way to learn. Once you've mastered the basics you can move on to leading.

Top Roping
- Rope is through the top anchor
- Safer
- Easier to belay

Lead Climbing
- Climber clips the rope into quickdraws as they climb
- Bigger fall potential
- More advanced belaying skills needed

Climbers at an indoor climbing wall

Top Rope Climbing: How It Works

* These steps are discussed in more detail in Rock Climbing Basics.

Step 1
The climber ties into one end of the rope (it doesn't matter which end).

The belayer attaches their belay device near to the other end of the rope.

Climbers top rope climbing at an indoor climbing wall

Step 2
As the climber moves up the wall, the belayer takes in the slack (extra rope) through their belay device. This is known as belaying.

It's important to learn this skill well before you trust someone's life to it.

Climbers top rope climbing at an indoor climbing wall

Step 3
If the climber falls, the belayer simply holds them where they are – the friction from the rope running through the belay device makes it easy to hold their weight.

Climbers top rope lead climbing at an indoor climbing wall

Step 4
Once the climber is at the top (or if they just want to come down at any point), the belayer lowers them back to the ground by letting the rope slide through their belay device under control.

Climbers lead climbing at an indoor climbing wall


Lead Climbing: How It Works

Step 1
The climber ties in to one end of the rope. The belayer attaches their belay device to the rope next to the climber.

Climbers lead belay climbing at an indoor climbing wall

Step 2
The climber clips the rope into quickdraws on their way up the climb.

The belayer switches between feeding rope out and taking it in, depending on whether the climber is below or above a quickdraw.

Climbers top rope climbing at an indoor climbing wall

Step 3
If the climber falls, the belayer holds the fall via the rope running through the highest quickdraw.

Climbers top rope climbing at an indoor climbing wall

Step 4
When the climber reaches the top, they clip the rope through the top anchor.

Climbers top rope climbing at an indoor climbing wall

Step 5
The belayer lowers the climber to the ground by letting the rope slide through the belay device under control.

Climbers top rope climbing at an indoor climbing wall

Step 6
The climber unties and the rope is pulled down.

Climbers top rope climbing at an indoor climbing wall

Top Rope Climbing Calls

'Top Rope Climbing Calls' is part of the book - Rock Climbing Basics: The Beginner's Guide.

VDiff learn to climb e-book book

Climbing calls are certain words that climbers use so everyone knows exactly what is happening. These calls may seem a bit excessive when you're standing next to each other in the gym, but they help to avoid any confusion when you're starting out. Once you're 50m away from each other outside and the wind is howling, you'll see why they're essential!

Note: These are the climbing calls commonly used in the UK. Climbers in other countries often use slightly different terms. Before you climb, make sure that you and your partner are familiar with the same climbing language.

Take In
Once the safety checks are complete, the climber tells the belayer to 'take in' the slack rope.

The belayer pulls the rope through the belay device until it is tight on the climber.

Climbing calls what to say when rock climbing belaying

That’s Me
When the rope is tight, the climber tells the belayer 'that's me'. This lets the belayer know that the rope is tight to the climber and not twisted or stuck anywhere else.


On Belay
When the belayer is ready to belay, they tell the climber they are 'on belay' and they can 'climb when ready'.

Climbing calls what to say when rock climbing belaying

Climbing
As a final check the climber tells the belayer they are 'climbing'.

But the climber doesn't leave the ground until they hear 'OK' from the belayer. Everything's good to go!

Climbing calls what to say when rock climbing belaying


Take
If the climber wants a rest, they can tell the belayer to 'take'.

This informs the belayer to take in all the slack from the rope and hold it tight with both hands. Once they have done this, the belayer replies 'OK'.

Climbing calls what to say when rock climbing belaying

Lower
If the climber wants to be lowered down at any point (or if they reach the top), they tell the belayer to 'lower'.

The belayer replies 'lowering' and then lowers the climber down.

Climbing calls what to say when rock climbing belaying

Safe
When the climber is back on the ground, they tell the belayer they are 'safe'.


Off Belay
The belayer removes the rope from their belay device and replies 'off belay'.

Climbing calls what to say when rock climbing belaying

Top Rope Climbing: How To Belay

'Top Rope Climbing: How To Belay' is part of the book - Rock Climbing Basics: The Beginner's Guide.

VDiff learn to climb e-book book

This article explains how to belay for top rope climbing.

Using a belay device makes it possible for the belayer’s limited grip strength to control the large forces generated in a fall. How easy this is depends on:
- The belayer’s grip strength
- The weight of the falling climber
- The diameter of the rope
- The angle of separation between the rope strands

In most cases, it is very easy to stop a fall once you have mastered the techniques. However, it’s important to understand that heavier climbers and thinner ropes make it more difficult. To compensate for this, consider wearing leather belay gloves for extra grip.

There are 3 main techniques that you'll need to master to top rope belay safely:

How to belay top rope climbing

Note: The descriptions on the following pages assume that you’re right-handed (i.e: your right hand never leaves the brake rope). Feel free to switch right and left hands if it works better for you.

The Angle of Separation

To safely operate a belay device, you must first understand the angle of separation. This is the angle between the rope strands which determines how much friction is produced. More friction makes it easier to hold a fall.

Little friction is produced when approaching 0 degrees. In this position, you have very little control over the belay and it is impossible to hold a fall.

How to belay top rope climbing

Some friction is generated as the angle increases to 90 degrees. Depending on the design of your device, this is a good angle for taking in rope.

How to belay for climbing

At the maximum angle of 180 degrees, enough friction is generated to control the full force of a fall. This is the most effective lock-off position.

How to top rope belay climbing


How To Belay: Locking Off The Rope

To hold a climber's weight on the rope, you need to 'lock off' the belay device. Remember that the climber could fall off without warning, so you have to be ready to catch them at any point.

Step 1
Move your right hand down towards you. This causes the rope to kink through your belay device, which creates the friction needed to hold a fall.

Rock climbing belaying locking off the rope tight

Step 2
Hold the rope tight.

If you are holding the climber for a while, it can be more comfortable to hold the brake rope with both hands.

Rock climbing belaying two hands on brake rope

How To Belay: Taking In Rope

As the climber moves up the wall, you'll need to take in the extra rope that is created. You should aim to keep the rope tight enough so they won’t fall any distance, but slack enough so you don’t interfere with their movement. Watch the climber carefully so you can take in rope appropriately as they move up.

Step 1
Put your left hand on the live rope above your belay device, and pull down to take in the slack rope. Your right hand should be on the brake rope below your belay device.

At the same time as your left hand pulls down, move your right hand slightly up (keeping hold of the rope), so the angle of separation is around 90°. This makes it easier to pull the rope through the device.

How to belay for rock climbing top rope

Step 2
Move your right hand back down towards you to ‘lock off’ the device.

Make sure you perform these two steps quickly. If the climber falls as you're taking in, it's harder to hold them.

How to belay climbing

Step 3
Your right hand will now be further down the rope towards the ground. You'll need to move it back up towards your belay device before you take in any more rope. It's important that you do this without letting go of the rope.

Bring your left hand down and grab the brake rope just below your right hand. Hold on tight with your left and loosen your grip with your right hand. Then slide your right hand back up the rope to just below your belay device.

Rock climbing belaying top rope take in slack rope

Step 4
Now you're 're-set' and ready to take in more rope.

It's easiest to only take in about 20-30cm of rope at once.

Rock climbing belaying lock off rope


How To Belay: Lowering The Climber

When the climber reaches the top, or just wants to come down, you'll need to lower them.

Step 1
Take in any remaining slack and lock off the rope. You should be able to feel the climber’s weight on the rope. Hold the rope in both hands, with your left hand above your right.

Rock climbing belaying top rope lowering climber

Step 2
Keep hold of the rope with your right hand and loosen the grip with your left.

Move your right hand upwards so some rope slides through your left hand and then through the belay device. This will lower the climber a short distance.

Rock climbing belaying lower climber down

Step 3
Once your right hand is up against your left, hold on tight with your left to lock off the rope. Then slide your right hand back down.

Repeat this over and over until the climber is back down on the ground.

Rock climbing belaying lowering a climber down on top rope

Step 4
The climber should lean back on the rope, with their feet against the wall in front of them, as if they're sitting in a chair. The climber 'walks' their feet down the wall as they are being lowered.

Make sure to lower the climber slowly and in control so they don't bash into the wall.

Indoor rock climbing belaying lowering a climber down on top rope


Good Belaying Technique

- Ready to take in, give slack or lock off

- Rope fairly tight

- Hands correct distance away from belay device

- Tight grip on rope

- Holding the brake rope in the correct downwards direction

Example of good belaying rock climbing technique

Remember: Keep Hold of the Rope!

When belaying, you need to keep at least one hand on the brake rope all the time. This is what stops the climber from falling to the ground. Letting go of the brake rope is like letting go of the steering wheel while driving on a fast country road. Avoid the temptation to loosen or release your grip, even just for a second.

Use your other hand to wave to friends, get something out of your pocket or scratch your butt. Or better yet, just wait until you’ve finished belaying. Your partner’s life is literally in your hands. If they fall while your hand is loose or off the rope, you probably won’t catch the fall.

Rock climbing bad belaying

How To Belay with a GriGri

'How To Belay with a GriGri' is part of the book - Sport Climbing Basics.

VDiff learn to sport climb free e-book ebook

Belaying at the crag is more difficult than belaying indoors. Uneven ground, falling rocks, strong sunlight, wind, insects, stray children and dogs are just some of the factors which complicate the task.

Any type of belay device can be used for sport climbing, though using an assisted-braking belay device (such as the Petzl GriGri) is the most common. The GriGri functions like a car seat belt. You can pull rope through slowly without it catching, but if the rope moves through quickly (e.g. if a climber falls), a cam inside the GriGri rotates and pinches the rope. This makes it easier to hold the fall. It also requires much less effort to hold a climber while they rest for a few minutes.

GriGri's are not auto-locking; you still have to hold the brake rope at all times, just like you would with a normal belay device. This is especially true with thinner ropes, very light climbers or if there is rope-drag on the route. The GriGri can be a safe belay device, but accidents have happened due to improper use.

GriGri's are designed to work with the following rope diameters. Make sure you're using the correct rope for your device.
Other assisted-braking belay devices have different specifications. Check the manufacturer's instructions before you use them.

grigri rope diameter sizes

How To Attach a GriGri To Your Harness

Step 1
Open the device and feed the rope in as shown. (Diagrams for rope installation are engraved on the interior and exterior of a GriGri).

How to attach a grigri

Step 2
Close the GriGri.

How to use a grigri

Step 3
Clip a screwgate carabiner to your belay loop.

Clip a screwgate carabiner to your belay loop.

Step 4
Clip the GriGri to the carabiner and fasten the gate.

How to belay with a grigri top rope


GriGri Belaying: How To Take In

Simply pull rope through the GriGri as you would with a normal atc-style device, making sure to keep hold of the brake rope.

How to belay with a grigri

GriGri Belaying: How To Lock Off

If the climber falls, lock off downwards. The Grigri’s camming action will hold most or all of the weight. Pulling the brake rope down also helps the cam to engage rapidly.

How to belay with a grigri

GriGri Belaying: How To Give Slack

Giving Slack Slowly
To give slack slowly, pull rope up through the GriGri as you would with a normal atc-style device, making sure to keep hold of the brake rope.

How to belay with a grigri lead climbing

Giving Slack Quickly
If you try to feed slack through too quickly, the cam will engage and lock the device: not ideal when your partner is trying to clip a quickdraw. To avoid this happening, there is another technique you can use:

Step 1
Hold your index finger out while gripping the brake rope tightly with your other three fingers.

How to lead and top rope belay with a grigri

Step 2
Place your index finger under the lip on the side of the GriGri.

How to feed slack rope with a grigri

Step 3
Put your thumb over the back edge of the handle and push it down. This temporarily disengages the locking mechanism.

At the same time as doing this, pull out slack rope with your left hand.

How to give slack with a grigri

Step 4
As soon as you've pulled out enough rope, go back to the primary belaying position. If the climber falls when you are disengaging the locking mechanism, immediately remove your thumb and continue to hold onto the brake rope.

It's important to perform these steps quickly.

How to lead belay with a grigri


GriGri Belaying: How To Lower a Climber

Lock the rope with your brake hand, and slowly pull the handle back until you feel resistance. This will disengage the locking mechanism slightly. Hold the handle at this point and slowly lower the climber, making sure to keep hold of the brake rope. To stop lowering, simply let go of the handle.

It's important not to pull the handle all the way back. This will completely disengage the locking mechanism, making it very difficult to keep control of the device.

Remember to practise these techniques well in a safe environment before you belay someone at the crag.

How to lower a climber with a grigri Gri Gri

GriGri Belaying: Common Mistake

A bad habit while giving slack is to keep the handle held down without holding the brake rope. If the climber falls when you are in this position, you will not be able to quickly lock-off the rope (or lock-off at all).

Lazy belaying can kill your partner. If you hold the handle down to give slack, even just for one second, make sure to keep hold of the brake rope and release your thumb straight away.

How not to belay with a Gri Gri

GriGri Belaying: Directly from the Anchor

You can belay directly from the anchor with an assisted-braking belay device in a similar way to the guide mode technique. This method can be very dangerous if used incorrectly (see below).

Set the device up as shown. Make sure the device is orientated so the handle is away from the rock. If the handle is pointing into the rock, it could get jammed if the climber falls. This means it will not catch the fall.

This technique is useful only when there is absolutely no chance of the handle catching on something or getting pressed into the rock, such as on an overhanging belay.

belaying directly from anchor with a grigri

To lower a climber, use a re-direct on a high point of the anchor. Failure to do this will make it extremely difficult to lower a climber in a controlled manner.

The manufacturers of assisted-braking belay devices recommend against belaying directly from the anchor due to the chance of the handle pressing on the rock in a fall.

If you are not completely certain that your anchor is suitable for this type of belaying, you should use another method instead.

Belaying in guide mode with a grigri

Sport Anchors – Part 3 of 4 – Cleaning the Anchor

This 'Clean a Sport Anchor' article is part of the book - Sport Climbing Basics.

VDiff learn to sport climb free e-book ebook

Cleaning a sport anchor means removing all of your gear from it. Three of the main ways to do this are described below.

Which you choose depends on the type of anchor and whether you plan to lower or abseil.

Types of climbing anchor

How To Clean a Sport Anchor For Lowering – Method 1

This method is suitable for anchors with a central point which is big enough to feed a bight of rope through. You will remain ‘on belay’ during the whole setup.

You will need:
* Two spare quickdraws
* One screwgate carabiner

Step 1
Clip your rope through a quickdraw on one of the anchor bolts.

How to clean a bolted sport climbing anchor

Step 2
Clip another quickdraw into the other anchor bolt and clip it directly to your belay loop. Rest your weight on this quickdraw.

clean a bolted sport climbing anchor

Step 3
Pull up a little slack and push a bight of the rope through the main anchor point as shown.

thread a bolted sport climbing anchor

Step 4
Tie a figure-8 on the bight and clip this to your belay loop with a screwgate carabiner.

How to thread the rope through a bolted sport climbing anchor

Step 5
Untie from the end of the rope.

How to clean a bolted anchor

Step 6
Pull the end of the rope through the main anchor point.

How to clean a bolted sport anchor

Step 7
Remove the quickdraw which isn’t holding your weight. Ask your belayer to take you tight.

How to clean a sport climbing anchor

Step 8
Rest your weight on the rope, then remove the other quickdraw. You are now ready to lower.

How to clean a sport anchor


How To Clean a Sport Anchor For Lowering – Method 2

Sometimes, you won’t be able to push a bight of rope through the anchor. This depends on the thickness of your rope and the type of anchor. In this case, you must use a slightly different method. As with method 1, you will remain ‘on belay’ during the whole setup.

You will need:
* Two spare quickdraws
* One screwgate carabiner

sport climbing anchor chains and bolts

Step 1
Clip two quickdraws into the anchor bolts; one clipped through the rope and the other clipped directly into your belay loop, just the same as method 1.

Rest your weight on the quickdraw.

How to clean a sport anchor

Step 2
Pull up some slack rope and tie a figure-8 on a bight. Clip this to your belay loop with a screwgate carabiner.

What to do at the top of a sport rock climb

Step 3
Untie from the end of the rope.

What to do at the top of a sport climb

Step 4
Feed the end of the rope through the main anchor point(s).

What to do at the top of a rock climb

Step 5
Tie in to the end of the rope.

threading rope through climbing anchor

Step 6
Remove the screwgate carabiner and untie the figure-8 on a bight.

threading rope through sport anchor

Step 7
Remove the quickdraw which isn’t holding your weight. Ask your belayer to take you tight.

How to clean a sport route

Step 8
Rest your weight on the rope, then remove the other quickdraw. You are now ready to lower.

How to clean a sport route anchor


How To Clean a Sport Anchor For Abseiling (Rappelling)

In most cases that you clean a sport anchor, you will lower down - this is much quicker than abseiling. It’s also much easier to retrieve gear on your way down when lowering. However, abseiling puts much less wear on the rings. This could be the best option if the rings are already showing signs of wear.

You will need:
* A belay device with a screwgate carabiner
* A prusik cord with a screwgate carabiner
* Three spare carabiners (two of these must be screwgates)
* Two 60cm slings

Step 1
Girth-hitch both slings through your belay loop and attach them to the anchor bolts with screwgate carabiners.

You can now tell your belayer that you are ‘off belay’.

abseil from sport climb

Step 2
Pull up some slack and tie the rope to a carabiner. Clip this to your belay loop. You don’t necessarily need to use a screwgate carabiner here, and it doesn’t matter too much what knot you use. The point of this is so you can’t accidentally drop the rope during the following steps.

Some climbers clip this to a gear loop, since it will not be weighted. This is okay, but it’s possible to break your gear loop if the rope gets stuck on something, meaning that you would end up ‘stranded’ at the top of the climb without a rope.

rappel from a sport climb anchor

Step 3
Untie from the end of the rope.

How to abseil from climbing anchor

Step 4
Feed the end of the rope through the main anchor points.

Tying a knot in the end of the rope stops it from zipping through the anchor if you accidentally let go of it during the next step.

How to rappel from a sport anchor

Step 5
Remove the carabiner from your belay loop and untie the knot. Pull the rope down so that both ends are on the ground. Some ropes have a convenient middle marker to make this easier.

Ask your belayer to confirm that the ends are down. If the ends are only just down, or if you’re abseiling to an exposed ledge, you should tie knots in both ends of the rope. These knots stop you from accidentally abseiling off the end of the rope.

How to abseil from a sport anchor

Step 6
Attach your belay device and prusik to the rope.

How to rappel from a sport route anchor

Step 7
Weight your belay device to check the setup. Then remove the slings. You are now ready to abseil.

How to abseil from a sport route anchor


Cleaning Sport Anchors – Top Tips

* Always double-check the setup before you untie each knot. A mistake could be fatal.

* Make sure to communicate with your partner so they know if you plan to lower or abseil. If you plan to lower but your partner thinks you will abseil, they will take you off belay! Be clear about what you are doing.

* Look out for sharp edges beneath the anchor. Consider abseiling, rather than lowering, if your rope could run over a sharp edge.

* It’s important that you don’t add wear on the anchor rings by top-roping off them. Make sure to use your own screwgates and slings for top-roping so any wear is on your own gear rather than the rings.

* Always inspect the quality of the anchors and the rock around them before trusting your life to them.

* Never thread a rope directly through a bolt hanger. The square edges are likely to damage or cut your rope. Only thread your rope through round-edged metal.

Trad Climbing Gear > When To Place Gear

'When To Place Trad Gear' is part of the book - Trad Climbing Basics.

VDiff learn to trad climb e-book book

Where Should I Place Trad Gear?

Trad gear is normally placed in cracks, behind flakes and around blocks. The important thing to remember is that these features are weaknesses in the rock. Some of these features are solid, and some are incredibly unstable and dangerous. To a beginner, these may appear the same. You must pay close attention to how solid the rock is. You can test flakes and blocks by hitting them with your fist; loose rock sounds hollow. Look for fracture lines (super thin cracks) around features and visualize how they are attached. If a block isn't securely attached to the main part of the rock, then look for something else. Gear placed behind loose features is likely to be pulled out in a fall, along with the feature itself. This could potentially hit your belayer or cut your rope.

Because most trad gear relies on friction to stay in position, you must make sure the rock is clean and dry. Gear placed in a crack coated with dust, mud, ice or water is much less reliable.

There are no definite guidelines of exactly which type of protection should be used for each particular situation. The important part of learning to use trad gear is understanding the physics behind it; how and why each piece generates force on the rock.



How Often Should I Place Trad Gear?

Here are some things to consider:

Trad Gear is Less Reliable than Sport Climbing Bolts
It's generally safe to fall at any time on a bolted sport route, whether indoors or at the crag. However, if the same attitude is applied to trad climbing, you'll soon get injured.

Nuts can wiggle out, slings can lift off and cams can walk out of position. This is caused by movements in the rope as you climb past. As a general rule of thumb, you should place two good pieces of trad gear for every bolt you would clip on a sport route.

learn to place trad climbing gear

Where is Your Next Gear?
If gear placements are far apart, poor quality and/or difficult to find, you should place gear at every opportunity. As a beginner, however, 'runout' climbs like these are best avoided.

learn to place climbing gear

Bigger Falls Generate More Force on Gear Placements
Most pieces of trad gear are strong enough to hold an enormous 'whipper'. The gear itself probably won't break. However, the force of a huge fall is more likely to break the rock which holds it in place.

The higher you climb above a piece of gear, the less reliable that piece becomes. Click here for more information about fall factors.

learn to place trad gear

How Good is Your Last Protection?
If the pieces below you are sub-optimal, place solid gear as soon as you can.


Pulling Crux Moves
A crux move will be much harder if you stop in the middle to place gear. If possible, place a few pieces as high as you can just before the crux, and then commit to the moves. Place gear again once past the crux.

Obviously this is only safe if the gear is good and the consequences are minimal.

If the crux section is long, you will need to seek out the best points to place gear during it. Utilize large hand holds or good stances and look for spots where the gear is quick to place.



Consequences of a Fall
When you climb above a ledge, spiky flake, or any other nasty rock feature, make sure to place gear to stop you from hitting it.


The Likelihood of Falling
If the chance of falling is near zero, because the rock is solid and the moves are incredibly easy, you can justify placing less gear.

If the chance of falling is high, because the moves are insecure or the rock is brittle, you should place lots of gear close together.

Be careful of getting into the bad habit of placing minimal gear, even on super easy terrain. If you’re carrying the gear anyway, you may as well use it.

Holds can break or you might find a weird move with no protection. If you placed gear on the easy terrain below, it could save you from a long fall. Easier ground tends to be blocky and slabby – a long fall down this could be fatal.

place trad climbing gear

Safeguarding the Follower
When climbing traverses, make sure to place enough gear to keep your partner safe as they follow.

If there is a traversing crux, you’ll need to place good gear immediately after it to prevent them from taking a dangerous swing if they fall.

placing trad climbing gear

Saving Gear for the Anchor
Make sure to ration out your gear so you arrive at the anchor with a sufficient amount of protection to build a solid anchor.


The Golden Rule
Always keep at least two good pieces between you and the hospital!

Rock Quality

Trad protection is only as strong as the rock it is placed in. Placing gear behind loose flakes or blocks is very dangerous. Not only is the gear unlikely to hold a fall, but it could dislodge loose and sharp rocks which could hit your belayer or cut your rope in a fall.

place trad gear

Rock Type
Granite, limestone and sandstone are the most prevalent types of rock in climbing areas, though many other types exist.

Each rock type has a different strength and probability to have loose features. Generally, ‘soft’ rocks (such as some types of sandstone and slate) are likely to have brittle edges and loose features.

Harder rocks (such as granite) lend themselves to more reliable protection. Even though granite is solid, you will often find loose blocks or bands of
poor quality choss in random areas.

Some types of sandstone are coated with a hard patina of mineral-hardened rock. This makes the surface strong but masks an underlying soft layer. When a cam is heavily loaded, the lobes can punch through the patina into the softer layer, causing the unit to skate out of the crack. For this reason, it’s wise to place protection more frequently in soft rock.

Cams in Poor Rock
Because of the large forces applied outwards on the sides of the crack, cams should always be placed in extremely solid rock. If you fall on a cam which is behind a loose flake, the cam lobes will press outwards and force the flake away from the main wall, meaning that your cam will be pulled out.

If the rock seems a little suspect, try finding a constriction to place a nut instead, since nuts apply far less outwards force when weighted.

Visual Test
Look at the feature and figure out how it is attached to the main part of the wall. If it looks detached, don’t touch it.

Some features have very thin fracture lines around them, which suggest poor rock quality. These fracture lines are sometimes covered in lichen or otherwise hard to see, so look carefully.

Tap Test
If you are still uncertain about the quality of a rock feature, give it a gentle tap and listen to the noise it makes. Loose rock ‘echoes’ and sounds hollow.

If you must climb through a small band of brittle flakes, determine which are the best holds and selectively distribute your weight between them. Pull down on holds, rather than out.

Advanced Trad Anchors > Part 3 of 5 > The Quad Anchor

This article about the quad anchor is part of the book - The Trad Climber's Guide To Problem Solving.

VDiff trad climbing self rescue book

The 'Quad Anchor' is an anchor system which self-adjusts to keep an equal force on each anchor point. It can be better than other methods of equalizing in certain situations.

Self equalizing quad anchor

Advantages

- Distributes the load equally between the anchor pieces. This puts less force on each piece, therefore decreasing the likelihood of anchor point failure.

- Provides two independent attachment points for the belayer and climber. This helps to prevent carabiners from jamming up at the same master point.

- The two attachment points adjust laterally, meaning that the anchor remains equalized even when different directions of pull are applied at the same time. This is useful during multi-pitch belay changeovers, or if the route traverses in or out from the belay.

- On multi-pitch routes where you have bolted anchors that are approximately the same, you can speed up your anchor building by keeping the quad tied.


Disadvantages

- The quad will extend slightly should either anchor point fail. This can shock-load the remaining piece(s).

- Since the quad needs to be doubled up, it is difficult to equalize anchors where the placements are far apart.


Best Situation To Use The Quad Anchor

To equalize two bomber anchor points such as a two-bolt anchor.

How To Tie The Quad Anchor

You Will Need:
* 2, 3 or 4 solid anchor points
* A cordelette
* 3-5 screwgate carabiners

Step 1
Double over a cordelette so there are four strands of cord. Make sure the double fisherman’s knot of the cordelette is near one end.

Climbing cordelette

Step 2
Tie a ‘load-limiting’ knot on one side of the cordelette. This can be either an overhand knot or a figure-8 (The figure-8 is easier to untie after loading. The overhand uses slightly less cord).

Climbing cordelette

Step 3
Tie another load-limiting knot on the other side and clip both ends of the cordelette to the anchor points with screwgate carabiners. Make sure the knots are fairly even when the anchor is weighted in the direction of loading. The four-strand ‘master point’ should normally be around 12 inches long.

These load-limiting knots minimize the distance the cordelette drops if one anchor point fails. The closer you tie these knots to the master point, the less shock-loading is applied to the remaining anchor point.

If the strength of your anchor points are difficult to assess (e.g: older bolts), you should move the overhand knots closer together. However, this also reduces the lateral range over which the quad self-equalizes.

Climbing quad anchor

Step 4
Separate the four strands of the master point into two doubled strands.

Climbing quad equalizing anchor

Step 5
Attach yourself to two of the master point strands (using a clovehitch on a screwgate carabiner).

If belaying in guide mode, attach your belay device to the other two master point strands.

Belaying in guide mode with a quad anchor

Warning!
It is important to only clip into two of the master point strands. If you clip into all four, you could become completely detached from the anchor if one point fails.

Dangers of the quad anchor climbing


Equalizing 3 or 4 Anchor Points

To equalize three anchor points, simply split one of the double-loops, attaching one loop into each piece. You will need to re-tie the load-limiting knots to equalize these pieces since they will probably be at varying heights.

Do the same with the other side to equalize four points.

Quad anchor rock climbing

Sometimes it can be difficult to equalize three or four points correctly, as this uses up a lot of cordelette. In this case, consider equalizing the furthest away pieces with a sling to create two anchor points. Then attach your quad to those.

Quad anchor with slings and cordelette rock climbing


Using The Quad as a Top Rope Anchor

You can use the quad anchor to set up a top rope. This is useful if you want to top rope two different routes which are immediately next to each other, but share the same anchor. The quad will self-equalize for both of them without needing any adjustment.

As always, make sure your anchor meets the requirements of the six point rule before you set up a top rope.

Step 1
Clip a screwgate carabiner into two of the master point strands.

How to make the quad anchor rock climbing

Step 2
Clip another screwgate into the other two master point strands.

How to equalize rock climbing anchors

Step 3
Clip the rope through the screwgates and fasten them.

It is important not to clip a carabiner through all four strands (see above).

Self-equalizing anchor rock climbing top rope

Trad Anchors > How To Set up a Top Rope

This 'Top Roping' article is part of the book - Trad Climbing Basics.

VDiff learn to trad climb e-book book

With the security of an anchored rope above, top-roping is the safest way to climb. A top-roped climber can rest on the rope whenever they are too tired to continue, safe in the knowledge that they will only fall a few inches. Top-roping is great for beginners, large groups or for experienced climbers who want to push their physical limits.


Forces
Forces on gear when top-roping are much less than forces on gear during a leader fall. However, with a little slack in the system, the force at the anchor could exceed several times the combined weight of the climber and belayer. The anchor needs to be bomber.


Lowering
When belaying from the top, the climber is often lowered down and then climbs out. If possible, it can be much better to belay directly from the anchor. This keeps the climber’s weight off the belayer’s harness.

If lowering is impractical (e.g: it could damage the rope or it’s difficult to communicate when to stop being lowered), the climber could abseil down instead. This could be on the same rope, or a separate one. Plan logistics well before descending.

Top or Bottom?
Depending on the terrain, the length of your rope and the anchor arrangement, you may choose to belay from the top or the bottom of the crag.

Belaying from the bottom:
- Makes it easier to switch between climbing and belaying.
- Generally creates a more social setting.
- Makes communication clearer.

Belaying from the top can be better if:
- The bottom of the crag is difficult or impossible to access (e.g: the last pitch of a tall cliff).
- There is a chance of a climber knocking rocks on the belayer.
- The crag is higher than half a rope length.


Setting Up the Anchor
Be careful when walking around the top of a crag un-roped. You may need to make an anchor further back from the cliff edge and then be put on belay while you set up the top-rope anchor.

how to top rope climb

Top Roping > How To Set Up the Anchor

Step 1
Find enough good gear placements directly above the route to make an anchor, making sure they meet the requirements of the six point rule.


Step 2
Equalize them together with slings, cordelettes or a section of static rope to create a central point which fulfils the criteria in the anchor check list.

Remember that the top roping anchor will be out of sight and not consistently weighted while you are climbing. This means you will have to build it with gear that cannot wiggle out of position with movements in the rope.


Step 3
Extend the central point over the edge of the crag, if it isn't already. Static rope is the best for this, but you can also use nylon slings or a thick cordelette. Make sure to double up the slings or static rope which extend the anchor over the edge.

how to set up a top roping anchor climbing

Step 4
Place a rope protector over any rough edges. An old piece of carpet, foam pads or garden hose pipes (without metal lining) make good rope protectors.


Step 5
Clip the middle of the rope to the central point with two screwgates. Make sure the screwgates are opposite and opposed (they are facing opposite ways and the screws twist downwards to fasten them).

how to set up a top rope anchor climbing