May 2002 - Tech Tip Supplement
Protecting with the Second Climber in Mind - Traverses
or: Pooh tries to lead and Tigger takes a pendulum
Let's say you are leading a traverse on a rock climb and reach a difficult
point. Of course you will want to place an anchor point for protection
just beforehand in case you fall on the difficult part. So you finish
the pitch successfully and your second comes along. Now they need to
remove the piece just in front of the difficult part. What will happen
if they fall after removing the piece?
This will depend on whether you kept their safety in mind while leading.
If there is not an additional point of protection shortly after the
difficult stretch your second will take an ugly pendulum fall. They
may swing into something, and they are likely to have a hard time getting
back onto the route in many cases.
Traverses are the classic example of this kind of situation but you
may encounter others from time to time as well. The solutions are for
the leader to think ahead and for the leader and the second to communicate
their concerns and strategies when possible. Using a two-rope system
also offers solutions.
Important: This is not meant to replace hands-on instruction, nor
to replace the need for hands-on practice. Also, this was a creative
effort to demonstrate a particular point and does not reflect proper
belaying, tying in, etc. (Don't do the hands-off belay modeled by
Pooh in the second photo!)
||Pooh is leading. He just clipped into
an anchor point before the crux of the traverse then fell on the
crux. Because he hadn't gone very far from his last piece of protection
his fall wasn't too bad. Although he may have some trouble getting
||Tigger follows and removes the piece,
which he must do before moving across the crux. He falls on the
crux but since Pooh didn't add an anchor point on the easier section
after the crux Tigger takes a long swinging ("pendulum")
- - When leading think ahead and put yourself in the position
of your second. As you put that piece in ask as a second "What's
going to happen if I take it out and fall here?" The best
solution is often to put an additional piece of protection in
immediately after the difficult move or section.
- - As a second, point out any concerns you have to the leader.
This is sometimes difficult or impossible since the leader may
be out of view. But if you can see the next pitch from the belay
discuss it before the leader sets out, and if the leader is
protecting something like a traverse and is not too far away
for voice communication convey your concerns as a second.
- - The system of climbing with two ropes (called either the
double rope system or the half rope system by various people
and books) can offer additional ways to handle this type of
problem. However, this is an entirely different system involving
management of the two ropes simultaneously as well as a different
approach to clipping protection points. The details are beyond
the scope of this newsletter.
|| Climbing page