Rock Climbing CompanyAssociation of Mountaineering Instructors

Advanced Rope Work and Self Rescue Techniques

for Rock Climbing

 

Sea cliff climbing on Castell Helen Gogarth.

 

Gogarth belay on the Hustler ledge on Main Cliff

 

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Advanced Rope Work and Rescue Course for Climbers

 

Hanging in spaceAdvanced Rope Work and Self Rescue skills can not only help you escape from problematic situations safely and efficiently, but perhaps even more importantly give you the knowledge and foresight to minimise the chances of the incident occurring in the first place

However despite our best intentions and actions accidents do still happen and mistakes are made; when this occurs it is very useful to have the rope work and rescue skills necessary to extricate yourself from the situation.

This rope rescue course is aimed at climbers who wish to learn emergency rescue skills in a practical situation and aims to give you with the skills to be more self-reliant when climbing on adventurous terrain. The instruction is given from a climber's perspective - offering practical solutions to real situations using just the gear you normally carry.

We will look at and simulate real life situations:. Rescuing your climbing partner when you are on a multi-pitch climb, simultaneous abseils with an injured climber and passing a knot through the belay system/abseil device...plus lots more.

The instruction is held at a variety of local single and multi-pitch climbs where we can practice a comprehensive range of self-rescue techniques.

This is an advanced course and to get the most from it you should be comfortable with basic rope work such as belaying and abseiling. The course normally lasts two days

.A full outline of the course is below. The dates, venues and duration of all our climbing instruction is by arrangement and totally customisable so please don't hesitate to call or email and we'll try to build a course that works around your exact requirements.

There is more general information on or courses on the General Course Information page

 

 

Advanced Rope Work and Self Rescue Course

 

Rope rescue on multi pich climbsA practical working knowledge of rope work / self rescue techniques offers the climber a double advantage; firstly they are less likely to get into difficult situations because they are more aware of potential hazards and can arrange to minimise them; then secondly, when mishaps do happen the climber will most often have the skills and knowledge to get everything back to normal.

This course is best run over two days as this gives us the chance to cover the most common scenarios - the classic problems often involve stuck ropes, the leader or second falling into space, ropes being too short to reach the ground and having to ascend ropes. Less common problems include rescuing injured partners who may or may not be unconscious.

The course is suitable for all climbers who have a basic knowledge of rope work skills and want to learn the the more advanced techniques to become more competent, independent climbers. The course is applicable to all climbing disciplines; sport, adventure or group management.

We will help you learn these skills in practical situations and the instruction is given from a climber's perspective - we will show you practical solutions to real situations using just the gear you should normally carry.

The course can be customised to your requirements, but we will usually try to cover the following topics after Initially reviewing your basic rope handling skills to establish a reference point.

  • Anticipating problems: Avoiding a difficult situation is always better than having to escape from it...
  • Belay management, rope work and equipment.
  • Situation analysis and rescue strategies - Once a problem occurs then there are often many solutions to the problem, however staying calm and thinking clearly will is both safer and will save time and effort later.
  • Knots - the key building blocks for rope rescue.
  • Escaping from the system - a key skill that gives you independence to perform more complex rescues.
  • Using prussics and ascenders - choosing the best prussic knot for the job on hand and the advantages/disadvantages of various mechanical ascenders.
  • Hauling and Pulleys - building efficient pulley systems
  • Crag evacuation - Hoisting, lowering and abseiling
  • Rescues involving leaders and traverses - complex scenarios that are not quite so intimidating once the core skills are in place

This course normally lasts two days and aimed at climbers who wish to learn emergency rescue and rope work skills in a practical situation. The best ratio for instruction is 2 clients per instructor, although it is quite feasible to run it on a one to one basis.

However as normal dates, venues and duration of the courses are by arrangement and totally customisable. Please do not hesitate to get in touch to discuss your requirements.

 

 

Self Rescue - Useful Information

 

Aid Climbing in Spain1. Always carry a pair of prussics - you won't have to use them often, but when they are needed they are invaluable. Sling your chalk bag on 5mm or 6mm accessory cord of a length long enough to form a prussic - that way there is always a spare for the team.

2. Always keep things simple. When accidents happen it is easy to lose some clarity and feel pressured to take action quickly - simple techniques that have been engrained through regular use will be most effective in resolving the situation.

3. Know your prussics. The standard prusic knot has been pretty much superceded by the Klemheist prusic now because it can be released under load. The French prusic is also commonly used by climbers and can also be released under load, although it does have a tendency to lose shape/release a bit too easily. Too many turns on the prussic can be a real pain - normally 4 loops works well, but this depends on the diameters/condition of ropes + prussics being used.

 

 

 

 

Climbing Accidents:

Common Belaying Errors and Mistakes


Climbing Colossus in the Llanberis Slate quarries

Both the German Alpine Association (DAV) and, more recently, the large Swiss Gaswerks Climbing Wall have undertaken a survey of climbing accidents that took place at indoor climbing walls.

Perhaps surprisingly the climbing errors logged by the DAV were not related to age with as many mistakes being made by experienced, older climbers as by younger beginners. This may well be because the relaxed, sociable atmosphere in climbing walls can tend to allow climbers to drop their guard and make silly, but ultimately dangerous errors.

One interesting result was that climbers who had received formal training only made half the mistakes compared to climbers who were self-taught.

The most common mistake was made when the belayer lost control of the rope as the leader fell. The second most common was caused by the belayer allowing too much slack rope to enter the system and allowing the leader to fall an excessively long way.

Other common errors were a caused by a lack of clear communication when the leader was at the belay, had re-threaded the rope, but was then dropped by their partners as they unclipped from the belay to be lowered. Lastly, the report emphasized the number of times accidents were caused by climbers not tying into the rope correctly.

The BMC Technical committee have also looked at this problem and came to the following conclusions:

- Users are not aware of the differences between devices.

- A common fault is to use too thin a rope in a device which is sensitive to this factor

- Locking devices being incorrectly operated or misunderstood are a major concern and seen as being the cause of many near misses.

- Walls are perceived as a safe environment and so climbers do not pay as much attention as outside.

- Incorrect choice of karabiner can compound problems.

- However all belay devices will hold a fall if being correctly operated and an appropriate diameter rope is being used.

The Gaswerks Climbing Wall noted 31 roped climbing accidents during the period of their investigation. In 16 of these 31 accidents the belayer held the fall of the climber and the injuries sustained were mostly minor.

In 15 of the 31 accidents the belayer failed to hold the fall of the climber which resulted in the climber hitting the ground (or in one case landing on the belayer). The injuries sustained ranged from mild to severe. The belaying devices in use when these 15 ground fall accidents occurred included: 8 x HMS Munter Hitch, 6 x Grigri, 1 x Fig 8.

Investigation of the accidents found that 14 out of 15 accidents where the belayer lost control of the rope were caused by incorrect handling of the safety equipment (in one case, the exact cause could not be identified). This led the authors of the report to investigate the mechanism of the accident happening; their conclusion was that the greatest factor in all the accidents was habitual misuse of the belay device and this was accentuated by a lack of attention at the moment of distraction.

They concluded that the habitual misuse of belay equipment could not be compensated for by increased attention, because when accidents happen they happen fast and habitual reflexes take over. If your belaying technique is bad, then you won’t suddenly be able to rectify this in an accident situation.

This finding is backed by another investigation done in 2001 in which the belaying behaviour of 180 randomly selected subjects was observed - 50% of the subjects belayed properly whilst the other 50% belayed in such a way that they took the risk of not being able to control the rope in the event of an unexpected fall. The authors observed that subjects belaying style was always the same, at whatever wall they climbed, that is: always right or always wrong. This means that the way one habitually belays is always the same, depending on the way one was once trained.
Climbers can benefit from the ‘habit’ reflex if climbers are trained correctly from the start - this means observing the belaying practice of the new climber and immediately addressing mistakes.

The key principles involved in belaying safely were identified as:

1. When belaying your climbing partner, at least one hand must hold the brake rope firmly at all times - loosening the brake rope for a fraction of a second can already have fatal consequences.
This is true not only for all dynamic belay devices (HMS, Fig. Eight, Tubes, etc, but also for so-called semi-automatic devices (GriGri, SUM, Cinch etc), especially when these devices are used on relatively thin ropes.

2. Moreover, the proper function of each belaying device can only be guaranteed when the brake hand is also correctly positioned. Most belaying devices work by taking the rope through a series of tight bends which may then also initiate a mechanical clamping action on the rope.

The brake hand must, in the event of a fall, hold the brake rope so that the mechanism of the device can be effective.

When taking in the rope the brake rope is pulled upwards and then immediately downwards again. In the event of a fall - and the ensuing unexpected tension - the belayer should automatically yank the brake hand downwards und thus hold the falling climber.

Semi-automatic devices can have more error tolerance here, however with thin ropes, it is important to hold the rope in the brake hand and keep the brake hand down. It is also vital not inhibit the clamping action of the device. It is also this ‘it can not fail to lock-up’ assumption that actually is the source of the complacency/bad habits that are the source of most accidents.

1. Automatic belay device accidents – Grigri etc.

Belaying Errors with Grigri

Errors - see drawings


1. When the rope is inserted incorrectly in the device, the braking force of the device is drastically/completely decreased. In case of a fall the rope can often no longer be held, but if the rope is being held tightly downwards in the brake hand the belayer should be able to hold soft falls.

2. In some countries climbers are taught to use the device by holding it downwards because this facilitates feeding the rope to the leader. However in the event of an unexpected fall one tends to tighten the grip and this can impede the braking ability of the device and the rope can slip through the device unhampered. Danger of a ground fall is very great when the brake rope is not held correctly.

3. Holding the Grigri in your palm is especially dangerous, as in doing so the brake rope is neglected. Climbers who want to belay with this method are mistaken when they think that they can grab the brake rope with their brake hand fast enough.

4. Releasing the Grigri with your thumb. With this commonly used, but incorrect,, method the belayer uses the thumb to over ride the locking mechanism to feed rope out fast, however the grab reflex can cause the device to be gripped hard in a fall and the locking mechanism will be unable to clamp the rope.  Numerous near-accidents and some severe accidents were seen to have resulted from this practice.

Of fundamental importance in this area is the grasp reflex: As soon as the belayer feels that the climber is falling and feels that the rope is going to be ripped out of his hands, they clasp the rope with their hands and pull it towards their  body independent of whether they are startled or not. If the belayer is startled then ,the grasp reflex is even more pronounced. Whatever is in the hand is grabbed frantically.

This explains why belayers often get severe burns when they fail catch the start of the fall and the rope stats to run freely, for example by holding onto the live rope. Numerous examples of accidents have shown that the grasp reflex is stronger than the protecting reflex (i.e. releasing the "hot" object in order to prevent one's hands from getting injured).

If the belayer experiences that something is snatched out of his hands, another reflex occurs - what we call the "grab-after" reflex; for example, grabbing the running live rope or grabbing and clasping the Grigri that was snatched away. Even experienced belayers succumb to the "grab-after" reflex. When habitually belaying wrongly they run the risk of grabbing the wrong part of the rope or inhibiting the braking mechanism of the device.


5. Lowering without active brake hand. A situation that is often observed with beginners. Lowering with one hand often leads to accidents


2.  Tubular belay device accidents – ATC, Bug etc.

 

Belaying Errors with ATC

Errors - see drawing


1. Incorrect hand position. The thumb points away from the devices. Thus the forearm is twisted as soon as the hand is held down. From this follows that the force for grasping the rope is less than with normal hand position. Furthermore, this position induces an open brake hand

2. The belayer does not take in or pay out rope correctly and swaps hands on the ropes in the ‘live’ position – if a fall occurs at this time the fall will not be held.
The list below outlines some more common belaying / climbing errors that are all too easily avoided when climbing inside or outside:

Letting the end of the rope run through the belay device whilst lowering a climber from a route. This is an increasingly common problem both indoors and outdoors; indoors it is caused by the combination of the use of shorter 30m and 40m  ‘wall ropes’ and ever higher climbing walls whilst outside it is becoming more common because routes on the European continent get ever longer. A 60m sports rope is the very minimum needed on most sports routes in Europe and 70/80m are becoming ever more necessary. Always keep an eye on the ropes middle marker and if at all unsure tie a stopper knot into the end of the rope when lowering.

Using an incompatible belay device / belay carabiner / rope combination can cause the rope to either jam up in the device or not generate enough friction to stop a heavy fall. In particular do not use a modern skinny half rope (8.0 -8.2mm) with an old style, wide-slotted tube device i.e. a standard ATC. And don’t always believe what a manufacturer says in their literature – mistakes are made and claims can get exaggerated. Do your own research and ask your own questions.

If you belay the leader whilst being positioned unanchored and too far out from the crag base you are likely to be dragged off your feet and into the wall during a fall. At the very least this will cause the leader to fall a fair bit further and at worst can cause you to loose control of the rope and drop the leader completely. This can also cause the lower pieces of gear on a traditional climb to be ripped out due to the rope angle causing a lifting effect on the gear.

Thus stand close to the rock and as inline with your leader as safely possible. - use a helmet if you're worried about rock fall.
If you can’t stand inline with the leader then get them to place a multi-directional anchor (cam, opposing wires etc) as soon as possible. This type of anchor resists being lifted out of the rock.

Watching your leader hit the ground because either they didn't signal to lower or the belayer didn't signal and obtain acknowledgement before taking them off belay. Always get confirmation when taking someone off belay or committing to being lowered

Good belaying starts with making sure that the rope will run smoothly and easily to the leader when they need it – don’t make your  leader take a fall because you allowed a knot to creep into the slack rope. Flake the rope out before starting to belay - even if it looks neatly coiled

 

 

 

Equipment provided by Rock Climbing Company:. We will provide all technical equipment for this climbing course including ropes, climbing hardware and a helmet for each client. This is an advanced course and so you should have your own harness. You are welcome to use your own rack and supplement it with equipment from our stores such as extra screwgates, ascenders, prusic loops and static ropes.


What you need to provide:. You will need to bring a variety of clothing suitable for the time of year, bearing in mind that a lot of the course can involve static situations - so bring plenty of clothing to protect you from the wind and cold. Also bring a full set of waterproofs (top and trousers) and walking boots. Ideally you will need your own rock shoes as well, although we can arrange hire rock shoes if required. You will also need a rucksack (40+ litres) and plenty of food and drink for the day.

What is not included. Prices do not include, transport, accommodation, meals or insurance.

Ratios and course sizes. Advanced Rope Work is best taught at a ratio 1 or 2 clients to 1 instructor. Ideally the ratio is 2:1.

Prices. A list of all prices are found below:All prices include VAT.

 

Type of Course
Length
Ratio
Cost per Group Cost per person
Rope Rescue Course
1 Day Course
1:1
£170
£170
1:2
£180
£90
2 Day Course
1:1
£320
£320
1:2
£340
£170
3 Day Course
1:1
£480
£480
1:2
£500
£250

 

Dates, venues and duration of all of the climbing courses are by arrangement and totally customisable. Please do not hesitate to get in touch to discuss your requirements.

The full terms and conditions are on the booking page

Please do not hesitate to contact us for more information

 

 

 

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