Logo Jim Frankenfield
jim@mountain-guiding.com; 1-877-604-0166

Mountain Guiding; Mountain Safety
An Experienced Professional

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Guiding Newsletter

May 2002 - Tech Tip Supplement


Protecting with the Second Climber in Mind - Traverses

or: Pooh tries to lead and Tigger takes a pendulum fall !

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 Falls 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 back on-route!
Tigger Falls 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") fall.


Solutions ?

  1. - 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.
  2. - 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.
  3. - 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.


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