Scarpa North America Blog

9 Tips for Multipitch Climbing

Jun. 19th 2014

Sarah Hueniken is one of only 10 women who are ACMG-certified rock and alpine guides in Canada. As a NOLS instructor and a private guide, Sarah has a number of first ascents under her belt, and has competed in many ice and mixed competitions. To add to this month’s theme of trad climbing, Sarah wrote out nine tips for SCARPA fans to follow when multipitch climbing.

Many hours of stumbling uphill over water-worn boulders rewarded us with a gorgeous sunrise and the first views of the classic route we had gotten up so early for. I was confused when my tired, light-adjusting eyes showed what appeared to be a few sleeping bags lying a couple hundred feet from the climb. It took a while for my head to realize that this was unlikely to be a few random campers. We had already “raced” and lost to another team on the headlamp approach, so when I saw the bivied party of three at the base still putting their harnesses on and arguing who would get to do the first lead, I almost lost my mind. My partner escorted me, embarrassingly, to another climb to hide my spraying dismay at the poor etiquette this party had shown on such a classic route.

Multipitching often feels like the essence of climbing. It’s about moving up a wall with your partner, under the fruition of your own skills and ability. It is so rewarding that it’s no wonder that so many of the “classic” lines can involve races with bobbing head-lamped strangers through pre-dawn starts and thorny bushes to find lines simulating those for Disney park rides.

Here are a few tips on how to work with your fellow climbers on popular multiptich climbs.

1) Communicate. We are all climbers, doing what we love. Friendliness goes a long way. Have a discussion about the flow of the day and how to work with the other parties and keep it safe for everyone.

2) Share. On bolted anchors, be willing to share. A climb can accommodate way more parties if groups work together. Keep anchors clean and simple to allow for another set. Understand which direction the party ahead has to leave the station and enter from the other side to make things smooth. Build your own anchor and get to know your new buddy.

3) Let faster teams pass. I never enjoyed having climbers breathe my neck. Of course, if it is an ice climb or a chossy Rockies peak, then I understand not wanting another party on top of you. But on clean popular lines or ones that traverse, why not make everyone happier by letting the faster party cruise by? Often letting a party link the pitch under and past yours makes this quick and easy when possible.

4) Be respectful of those coming after you. Relieving yourself directly down the line you just climbed, with a party below you ready to climb, is probably not a great way to make friends.

5) Leave space. On climbs that involve traditional anchors, try to be considerate in leaving space for another party to join your ledge. Build your anchor at the higher of two possible stations so both parties can still make upward movement smoothly without awkward leapfrogging.

6) Manage your ropes on rappel. Just chucking your ropes down the climbing line and yelling “rope” is not so cool if you know there are people below you. Try cowboy coiling your ropes (coils on either side that you gradually take out while rappelling) or at the least clip the ends of your ropes to your harness so that only a loop of rope is slowly going down and not two flying ends.

7) Work together. If descending at the same time, work with the other party. The first party can rap on their fixed full-length rope, so they can get two rappels done in one and get some space from the other group. The second party can simply unclip their rope for them and then start rapping single raps. This is an easy and quick way to give space.

8) If you start early enough to be the first, make sure you are ready to go. Bivying at the base of a classic line, only to sleep in and barely beat the early rising hikers is bad form. Be considerate of those behind you.

9) Show patience. Everyone has to learn sometime. Offer useful suggestions and be helpful in a positive way.

Have fun and good luck out there!

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