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About Tradgirl
Toproping (Page 1 2)
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:  Trusting your life to something you read on the internet is just plain stupid.  Get corroboration from a more reliable source, use your common sense, don't get yourself killed, and don't come crying to us if you do.

What do I need to set up topropes outside? / How do I get started?
Should I use webbing or static rope for my toprope anchor?
What should I use to pad a sharp edge?
Is it safe to toprope on static rope?
How do I set up a toprope so that it's equalized correctly?
How do I toprope a route that is longer than half a rope length?
How do I carry and store large lengths of webbing?
How can I get hurt while top-roping? (avoiding common errors)
I'm going to [place]. What can I toprope there?

What do I need to set up topropes outside? / How do I get started? [back to top] [FAQ contents]

From: Adrian McNair

For climbing outside you really are going to want to take a course, meet somebody who is already a pro, or really really study a good book which explains toprope setup properly.

From: Eric Hueser

I would recommend that you read these books, they are packed with good diagrams and descriptions:

1. Climbing Anchors by John Long


2. How to Rock Climb also by John Long

From: Mike Farris

Read Toproping, by S. Peter Lewis (How to Rock Climb Series)

From: James Waldrop

Basically I've read a long list of books that people recommend, and when it comes to setting up anchors a lot of books talk about it a bit, but don't go into the depth you find you really need when you get out there for the first time. The best/only one in my experience is Freedom of the Hills, which many people here swear by. If you have one of the other books, you can pretty much expect to be confused the first time you try to setup anchors.

I strongly second the advice from one person, that you try setting up some anchors in non-top-rope situations, just to get practice.

Also, no matter how you learn it, make sure you have someone experienced check your setup. Your life depends on getting this stuff right.

From: Bob Ternes

Get a copy of John Long's 'Anchors.' (Climbing Anchors and More Climbing Anchors) And then buy Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills and read both cover to cover, twice.

As a final note, I urge you to educate yourself before you screw up someone else's day.

From: Robert Allen

It depends on where you climb. However in his basic rockclimbing book John Long gives some examples of what you need to toprope. Basically you need an arbitrary length of webbing/slings depending on where you climb, a few locking carabiners, a rope, and some harnesses (shoes are optional). If your anchor choices are extremely limited you could also need stoppers, cams, etc., too.

I would highly advise paying for some basic rockclimbing classes before setting up your own toprope anchor. Your life depends on the quality of your toprope anchor. If you blow it you could die.

From: Mateo

John Long's book on climbing anchors, and a couple of days with a climbing instrucor are the first two things you need to climb safely. I had my first class (though it was two days, and I half slept through the first) six years after I had started climbing, and was amazed at some of the basics I had missed....

From: Stu Hammet

Invest in a good length of the burly static, take a manual or two, and go on out to a route with some mighty trees at the top. Spend an hour or more creating the most perfect setup you can. Then tweak it some more.

Then hang a rope, get your belayer and climb. I don't mean to oversimplify things, but don't get too hung up on the mystique. You sound like you're taking a thoughtful approach and I'm guessing you're ready. It's a big mental hurdle the first time you hang on an anchor you devised yourself, but it's the first of many in this business. I say go for it. Choose an easy route, obviously, and check the anchor constantly to see how it's responding.

From: Tim Nam

You'll prbably want a rope, a harness, and a few quickdraws, some slings/webbing for setting up topropes, as well as a few locking D's. All that will probably set you back about three hundred bucks.

From: Chris Weaver

If you don't have friends who have the equipment, you'll probably need the following:

Belay device + locking biner to keep it on
2 or 3 locking biners for the toprope anchor & other stuff rope (opinions differ on brand, size, etc. - that's a whole other debate)
1" tubular webbing or static rope - this is for the toprope anchor. get at least 30 feet.

See also:

Should I use webbing or static rope for my toprope anchor? on Tradgirl
What should I buy for a beginner's rack? on Tradgirl

Should I use webbing or static rope for my toprope anchor? [back to top] [FAQ contents]

From: Douglas McMullin

Depends on the length needed. Spectra slings or cordellets for short runs. 9 or 10mm Static for long spans. Static is much more durable than long lenghts of webbing plus you can make some nifty adjustable systems that you cant do with webbing. Webbing is fine though... If you happen to like it.

From: Tom Moyer

Static rope is very good at taking abrasion. Tape (webbing) is bad. We've had this discussion before.

From: Ken Cline

According to them, BWII static rope is definitely better than webbing over an abrasive edge. Specifically, static ropes are designed with sheaths to resist this sort of abrasion.

In any case, I've used static ropes for tope roping for years and have found them to be nearly impervious when carefully setup and lightly padded.

Regardless of what material you use, having a backup is good practice.

From: Irishman

Static rope has only two drawbacks I can think of. Weight & Bulk. Those can be a pretty big deal considering you can't always setup with just one 40' rope.

From: Cam Sanders

1" tubular webbing is fine... don't cringe, I know dozens of people that have used it for many years without ever an incident. Webbing is also easy to work with, because it is so pliable. I've set up entire anchors with knots in webbing placed in crack constrictions and they are beautiful because they are so clean. This can be especially handy when the anchor must wrap around curved rock that might stress a biner perpendicular to its spine. It is easy to make knots of varying sizes for such application with webbing, so if you are short on gear, this can save you the cost of some stoppers. (Caveat! If you have no experience with passive chocks, then don't do this without having someone with experience inspect the placements.)

A simple overhand knot in tubular webbing is sufficient for most any top roping applications (providing you give several inches of tail). Also make certain that the webbing is placed so it won't be sawed by the rock while you are climbing; although it is more durable than most people believe. Of course, always run at least two anchor lines (preferably three) down to the biners holding the rope. Redundancy is good.

Save some pack space and weight and use 1" tubular webbing instead of the static line.

From: Ken Cline

One foot of static rope costs 75 cents at REI. Webbing is 30 cents. Slings made of webbing twice that - pretty close to the cost of static rope. Static rope has the potental to be more economical in the long run because of its better durability.

From: Matt Rogers

At my home crag I frequently have to use three anchor points an average of 40 feet back to get a good setup. This includes hanging it over the edge of the cliff. I would definately not want to carry 120 feet of static rope around with me because that would amlost double the amount of gear. 120 feet of webbing fits nicely if you do that daisy chain thing where it unfolds with the pull of the ends. It's also much lighter.

From: MadDog

I frequent a crag with rock so soft as to make leading on gear quite risky and bolting requires prior approval of a city council that is anti-bolt. Thus, I am quite experienced at setting topropes. In a bad year (not traveling elsewhere enough) I've been know to set on the order of 100 topropes there. Trees and chains set in cement are the primary anchors. For this crag, webbing is far superior. I can take a helmet-sized wad of webbing and set 3 TRs on routes spaced widely along this 1/4 mile long crag. I couldn't do that with static line unless I cut it up or brought a really big spool. Not only that, I don't like static line - heavy, bulky, stiff as wire. Webbing is more user-friendly and if it gets abraded, I can toss out that piece or cut it down and still use the remains. If my static line gets a cut in the middle, it will then be useless for its intended (by me) purpose.

From: Michael Riches

I like the idea of static where weight is not a factor (Static vs webbing weight). Static pieces can be picked up at most climbing shops for a decent price, that is the ends of the reels. As I'm a skinflint I always check the loose ends box and have picked up some decent pieces of both static rope and webbing. Static will wear better, but webbing is lighter and easier to deal with, easier to haul and a little more versatile....sure you can make an emergency harness out of a piece of static line but the one made with webbing feels so much better.....

If I was taking a bunch of scouts out to top rope, I'd much rather use the static rope for my anchors because the anchors will take some serious abuse, these kids will come up with the most incredible ways to punish an anchor system. But if I was just climbing with my buds and buddettes then I'd have to stay with the webbing, as it's (for me anyway) a whole lot easier to deal with.

From: Thor Lancelot Simon

I have an old dynamic rope, that I am considering retiring. Can I use it as a static rope for setting up anchors?

Don't use dynamic rope to set toprope anchors. If it runs around or over edges, trees, etc. the continual loading and unloading can cause the stretch of the dynamic line to saw the line in half over the obstruction. Oops!

If you *must* do this, you need a length of garden hose or similar to protect the rope with anywhere it might rub, and you need to use it religiously.

From: Kaminski

7 mm cordelette are very strong. If the cordelette was set up properly the advantage of its use is that the anchor it is equalized, redundant, and will not extend if one piece pulls out. I have used both cordelettes and webbing to set my top rope anchors - it all depends on the circumstances in which I find myself. An advantage that webbing has is that if it is drapped over an edge, it will fray less than a rope or cordelette will.

From: Chill Pill

I would trust my life to 7mm cord any day.

However, I have personally seen 7mm cord wear almost all the way through while running over an edge. Spectra pre-sewn slings and 1" tubular is MUCH more wear resistant when it comes to hanging it over a lip.

What should I use to pad a sharp edge? [back to top] [FAQ contents]

From: Tim Howe

If this is the case, pad the edge heavily (packs work well in lieu of anything else, as does pieces of wood, shoes, shirts, news-paper, floor mats, etc. Better to just bring carpet or ideally a piece of fire-hose) Also double up the sling running over the edge. If it is not padded sufficiently it WILL get cut, back it up and check it everytime you go up. As someone else mentioned, remember SRENE.

From: Kelly Rich

To protect over an edge, use a section of 1" tubular. This can be slid over another piece of 1" tubular, or over a section of static rope.

From: Stefan Axelsson

Or if the edge is sharp and full of crystals, as is common here, get a piece of fire hose, your local fire-station would probably give you a few feet of an old retired one if you ask.

From: Anthony Ingenito

I agree. A piece of old fire hose is the best idea. You can put rope, webbing, anything through it. (There is plenty of room.) If you slit a few pieces down the side, you can put them on where ever you need to. A removeable nylon wire tie will hold it closed.

From: Dave Condit

For the edge, you might want to try a sliding your runner through a piece of garden hose. I've used this in combination with runners made out of assualt line & felt they were pretty bomber. I've also seen people use a small piece of carpet for the edge.

From: Andreas

We use canvas tarps and purpose built tubular rope pads. The pads wrap around the rope and close with velcro. For climbing, you could try old T-shirts. Regardless of what you decide to use as padding, make sure you secure it well. You do not want to be half way up a climb and suddenly have an old T-shirt land on you!

From: Dan Rossi

Being mostly a top-roper I carry lots of protection for the edge. You can slide webbing over the rope. Run the ropes through pieces of fire hose. Lay down pieces of carpeting over the edge. I've even used the legs from an old pare of sweat pants.

You also may want to pad the tree where the rope goes around it. Rope tends to be a bit harder on the tree bark than webbing.

Is it safe to toprope on static rope? [back to top] [FAQ contents]

From: Ken Cline

It is also my assertion that static ropes put forces on anchor systems that they might not withstand.

When lead climbing, yes, but not when toproping.

"Static" ropes used in climbing stretch quite a bit. The modulus (springiness) of dynamic climbing rope is probably around 4000-8000(lb/ft/ft), while static ropes have been measured at about 16000 (BW II) and 20000 (PMI) - a factor of five. Note that worst case (ff=2) fall forces are proportional to the square root of modulus, so worst case we have added a factor of sqrt(5). Add to this the fact that low fall-factor falls depend less on modulus than higher ff ones, and it is reasonable to expect an increase in top rope fall force by a factor of two or less for static rope when compared to dynamic. Expect less of a difference when there is little slack in the system, and no difference at all for zero slack!

I don't recommend toproping on anchors that may fail under top rope loads, with either static or dynamic rope. Find a better anchor or move elsewhere.

I might add that I have TRed a lot with static ropes, and find they work quite well in practice when used sensibly.

From: David Emrich

Look here:

Blue Water's Technical Manual - Static Ropes
Sterling's SuperStatic Ropes

BTW, static ropes have varying amounts of stretch. I use an ordinary, a little bit stretchy one for top roping (solo, on a fixed line). I wouldn't care to use a super low stretch line like the Sterling HTP for that application.

From: Brad Brandewie

I believe that top roped climbing with a static rope has it's place. It is definitely more important not to let any slack enter the system than it is when using a dynamic rope. However, if done correctly, TRing on a static is safe in my opinion. NOLS uses static ropes for TR. (I have never been to NOLS, but when a friend of mine said they do this, I called their Lander office and confirmed that this is true.)

From: Bernd Nebendahl

If the belayer is trained (so that he leaves no slack) a static rope may be usefull in some situations. Lets assume you are on a 25m top-rope climb and after climbing 3-4m you take a fall. Even if the belayer arrests the rope you would still hit the ground with a dynamic rope. But of course you should NEVER lead on such a rope for obvious reasons, as you probably know.

From: Dave Condit

I've used both numerous times and find the static hold up better to the abuses of toproping (it's cheaper too.) As long as you're belaying properly (no slack), the static nature of a static rope should not present a problem.

From: Undercling

Let's add that not only are static ropes cheaper, and probably last longer in toproping (as they are not "working" as much with these small loads) but that it is much more convenient to use static lines when there is hardly any sag and stretch while hangdogging and working a route or preparing it in some way such as pre-protecting etc. The climber does not lose as much ground.

From: Tim Howe

I can't speak for anywhere else but I know that my local gym uses "gym ropes" which are basically semi-static ropes designed for toproping. They streach just enough that if your belayer is not paying attention you won't get whiplash (or worse) but they also don't stretch much. Quite nice for TRing IMHO.

From: Keith Jewell

Recently, I've been using 11 mm static line to toprope. I haven't noticed ANY shocking or back-wrenching falls from this rope. The rope is many years old, routinely gets run over cliff edges while weighted, and has 'nary a nick in the sheath. A true workhorse of a rope. It is, however, a pain in the ass to pull an ATC off of it, but I'm convinced that a beefy static is the way to go for topropes. My $0.02.

From: Karl Baba

The problem with static ropes is that they become a problem the instant circumstances change. It is easier to jug static lines for instance, and haul on them, however, I have seen a guy take a 30 foot fall on his jumars when a lame fixed pin he was jugging on pulled and he took a factor 2 fall on the previous belay (I know, weird example) He would probably be dead or messed up if it was a static line.

But what if the lead line gets cut (in a wall situation), or the top rope gets jammed in a crack and the second has to climb (like leading) up to it to free it, or leading becomes mandatory because of some emergency or stuck rope or whatever.

Static ropes are nice and they have their place. I just want to remind folks that they also create an opportunity to get wanked when you otherwise wouldn't.

How do I set up a toprope so that it's equalized correctly? [back to top] [FAQ contents]

From: David Fasulo

I think the best way to set-up a top rope is to use a length of static rope (7/16). Suppose you have two trees as anchors. Tie one end of the rope to a tree with a double bowline. Run the rope over the edge of the cliff (approx. 1 foot) and tie a figure 8 on a bite. Next, tie another figure 8 on a bite next to the first figure 8. Clip both figure 8 loops with a couple locking carabiners and hang your top rope. Take the remaining rope and tie it to the second tree using a tensionless hitch (wrap the rope around the tree a few times, tie a figure 8 on a bite, clip the figure 8 loop to the rope using a locking biner). If you weight the rope, with your top-rope, and then tie the tensionless hitch it is easy to equalize the two figure 8 knots that are clipped to the top-rop carabiners.

From: mphal

The other idea I had, instead of a bowline or a figure 8, was to wrap one end of the static rope around a tree half a dozen times and create enough friction so the rope won't slip, and secure it with a biner clipped into a figure 8 bight at the end of the rope and back around the rope like a quasi-girth hitch.

A tensionless system like you just described is an excellant top-rope anchor... Because there are no loaded knots in the system, the rope retains 100% of its streangth... I ust this system all the time to set top rope anchors for institutional use, and to set my own anchors for top-rope solos....

One suggestion is to use a re-threaded fig. 8 instead of a locking biner to tie off the tensionless system... Last year, I set up a top rope anchor at a nice 5.12 (a good grade above my ability level at the time) and top rope soloed up it... I took three falls on my way up, (I use a petzl rescuescender girth hitched to my harness on a 2' sling to solo, this eliminates any worry of cross-loading a biner, and makes the rescuescender self-feed much better, the downside is that any fall is for real... When you fall, you're airborn for four feet before you get caught...) So after three four foot falls, I reach the top, only to discover, to my horror, that some $%#@$ has stolen the locking biners out of my anchor... I took three four foot falls about 65' off the deck onto a 10mm static rope wrapped around a tree six times... I almost got sick right there... Since then, I have eliminated any non-loaded biners from my anchors at top-rope sites...

From: Michael Riches

One of the best ways to do webbing on trees and things that are similar is called the wrap three tie two. This requires a bit more webbing but it is not only much stronger, it also protects the tree better and does not load the knot quite as much, making it a little easier to untie.

Wrap your webbing around the tree three times tie a water knot, backing up the tails and then grab two of the strands and pull the slack out. Use these to connect your biner to. If the webbing is long enough take the two strands and do a quick overhand to help equalize it. In order to keep your angles right you will need about two feet or more left out away from the tree with your two strands that you will be tying into...try this a couple of times and you'll be surprised at how fast you can get when setting it up.

From: Cam Sanders

Adjusting the length of 1" tubular webbing is easy on the anchor-side: just pull the strand to the length you want (perhaps where you feel the right tension, or to where the anchor is positioned where you want it, etc.) going past the anchor biner you plan to clip (held approximately in its final position) by about four inches (or the far-side of an D-biner), and this marks the fold point for tying your overhand knot to clip to the biner (assuming you don't include additional twists, etc). You'll perfect the process in about three tries.

The problem I've had is that equalizing this takes time because I end up having to keep re-doing the water knot until the load is equal.

Yeah, the problem is the water knot to join to pieces of webbing. Those are a pain to work with to get the length right. I always rig things so that I connect one end of the webbing (or the middle of a long strand using a figure eight) to the rope-side biners, and then I use an overhand knot (bite) on the end that will be clipped into an anchor biner. The length adjustment is then made at the anchor biner as I described yesterday:

Length adjustment Scenario 1 -- To a biner:

Adjusting the length of 1" tubular webbing is easy on the anchor-side: just pull the strand to the length you want (perhaps where you feel the right tension, or to where the anchor is positioned where you want it, etc.) going past the anchor biner you plan to clip (held approximately in its final position) by about four inches (or the far-side of an D-biner), and this marks the fold point for tying your overhand knot to clip to the biner (assuming you don't include extraneous twists, etc). You'll perfect the process in about three tries.

Length adjustment Scenario 2 -- The girth hitch:

When girth hitching a rock or a tree, I lay the webbing out in the approximate destination position (with the rope-side overhand knot in place -- three to four inch knot tail -- ) and wrap the webbing around the anchor object and back to the webbing, adding perhaps six to eight inches to dictate the fold point to create my overhand knot. Then, I pull the rope-side tail up and thread it through the knot, and lay it back down until the rope is connected. Then after you have the rest of your anchor in approximately the correct setup, drop the rope. Now, to adjust the length on the girth hitch, simply rotate it in the direction that tightens it. (If you are worried about compression of a tree, you can always use two overhand knots and a biner instead of a girth-hitch, in which case you adjust the length as described in scenario 1. Let the size & health of the tree dictate your decision here.)

From: Mike Farris

I have to ask... How the hec do you tension this system?

(preface-I tie small loops in the ends of the webbing, using an overhang on a bight)

Depends on the anchors used, but:

1) set first anchor, tie sling to proper length, attach biners.

2) clip loops in ends of two other webbing strands into biners.

3) attach rope and toss it down. Rope/Biners are over the edge and that part is ready to go.

4. Now set the other two anchors and attach the slings to the new anchors.

5. The tensioning is simple if you standardize the way in which you tie the overhand loops in the end of the webbing. Since the rope is down, just pull the free end of the sling as tight as necessary, throw an overhand loop in, and clip into the anchor biner. For my loops, adding about 1/2 a carabiner length to the predicted length of the sling is about right. YMMV.

By dropping the rope early in the process you weight the system and it's easier to tension properly. Adjusting tension is easier and safer at the anchors, rather than the rope/carabiner junction. This also avoids the tedium of adjusting knots so that circular slings are the right length.

If I use trees, the easiest way to tension is to girth hitch the tree, then run the hitch around the tree a ways. Get the tension close at the biner/rope end, throw down the rope, then move the web around the tree to do the final tension.

Of course there are always exceptions.

From: Stu Hammet

About the girth hitch. Years ago a very experienced guide showed me the bit about adjusting the length of a girth-hitched sling by sliding the hitch back around the tree. No argument that this may be a little hard on the webbing, but for toproping loads or even as part of a belay anchor, I suspect that it's within the range of acceptable practices, as long as everything else is solid, equalized, redundant, etc. etc. The group may crucify me for this, but these materials are incredibly strong, and as long as we're not talking about leader falls, they aren't going to break. (As long as they don't get cut, hence Scott's advice about padding edges.)

From: Rex Pieper

You might want to make a "Woodson Setup" named after the San Diego Bouldering area Mount Woodson. Essentially you create 15 foot long daisy chains out of a length of 40' - 45' webbing. After you've tied it into a loop using the water knot to join the ends, tie overhand knots in the webbing every 6 inches or so to form "pockets" that you can clip a locking biner to at the required lengths.

Using this setup you can quickly rig a fairly well equalized TR that's easily adjustable.

From: Wayne Busch

Tie overhand knots in a long loop of webbing, 6' to 1 foot between knots. You can secure it by wrapping it around a tree and passing it through one of the loops girth hitch style, or use a carabiner to link it to another loop.

Dr Ascii isn't here, but I'll give it my best: x's are the overhand knots in the long sling. The single knot used to make the sling from a long piece of webbing does not appear here. You can see there are two pieces of webbing between each knot.


One factor of a good anchor is redundancy. Whenever a sling runs over a sharp edge, tying a knot in the sling above and below the edge allows redundancy. If one piece of the webbing is damaged or cut, the other is there to back it up. Top rope slings can sometimes be exposed to edges that are difficult to pad. This method allows a little more safety.

How do I toprope a route that is longer than half a rope length? [back to top] [FAQ contents]

From: Nathan Sweet

I use a double fishermans. Good finger exercise untying it when you are done to!

One thing to keep in mind, 3-400 feet of dynamic rope stretches ALOT if the climber falls. And the fall can feel odd to catch, like a slight tug then *bam*--- alot of force(spring-like). I was pulled off my feet the first time I caught a good double rope TR fall.

From: Bob Harrington

Another option that is easy to untie and very secure is to use a double figure-eight bend. Tie a figure-eight knot in each rope, then take the ends and follow through the knot in the other rope:


so you end up with two figure-eight bends. It's much easier to untie than a single figure-eight bend or double fisherman's, and it works with ropes of different diameters.

It's disadvantages are that it uses a relatively lot of rope and has two knots to potentially get hung up, but it's a nice knot for certain situations.

From: Carol Haynes

Reef knot (is that a square knot ?) with double fisherman's

As strong and secure as a double fishermen's. Only slightly more bulky (lengthwise only) and easy to undo after use.

From: Tom Moyer

In a double-fisherman's knot, the tension in the rope pulls the two grapevines together and locks them. In the backed-up square-knot, the tension in the rope pulls the square-knot tight, but the grapevines don't get tightened. If they scrape on the rock and get untied (which can't happen in the double-fisherman's), all you have left is the square-knot. Remember that a guy cratered last year in Southern Utah when his square-knot untied. (No, it wasn't backed up.)

The grapevine is a pretty reliable safety, but not reliable enough for me to bet my life on. I'll take the follow-through figure-eight or the DFK, thanks. I don't mind working a bit harder to untie them.

From: Fern

If you want to protect the knot from abrading or getting hung up take two 600mL soft drink bottles and slice the bottoms off. Then thread each rope in through the mouth of a bottle, tie, dress and tighten your knot and slide the bottles together nesting them around the knot. A wrap of duct tape will keep the package together. It's still important to inspect the knot every so often during the day.

From: Lord Slime

Use two belay devices side-by-side on the belayer's harness. If your brake hand is the right one, thread the right-hand device first. When the knot gets to the device, tie a figure8 in the free end, freeing your hands. When the climber gets 3' higher, thread the second device and continue as usual.

From: Jonathan Freedner

No need to pass the knot at all. Start with the knot right up against your toprope anchor on the belayer's side, and have the climber tie in not to the end of the rope, but to the point where the rope reaches the ground. The climber will reach the toprope anchor at the same time the knot reaches the belay device.

From: Dylan Ransom

After going through the annoying hassle of passing a toprope knot just the other day, I will now clip in to the middle of the rope. It's safer, easier, and faster. Use a backup if you like.

From: Clint Cummins

I usually belay with a Munter hitch on a big "pearbiner", and the knot can be passed through this without much trouble. It does require a little slack in the hitch, so if the person fell at that point, one of my fingers might get sucked into the knot.... So it's pretty safe for the climber, and perhaps risky to the belayer!

From: Grant

If you can't TR it with one rope, you probably shouldn't be TRing it at all.

From: Greg Sadowy

If you *must* toprope a long pitch, why not top-belay? That way your freaked-out newbie friend will only drop 3 feet on stretch instead of 6. Everyone seems to think that the slingshot top-rope is the olny way to go. Sure it's comfy (perhaps a bit too comfy), but it's not the best way to do it for many longer pitches.

How do I carry and store large lengths of webbing? [back to top] [FAQ contents]

From: Donovan White

I make an arm coil out of each piece of webbing - run loops from my palm down and around my elbow.

When I've got about four feet left, I start a tight wrap around the coil, making an 8 out of the coil. When I start the wrap, I run the free end through the bottom of that last half-loop, and wrap up the coil toward the top.

After a couple of wraps, I run a bight through the top half of the 8, run the free end over the top and through the bight, and snug tight, leaving about a foot of run free.

With two or three coils of webbing done like this, I tie the free ends together with a figure eight or an overhand knot, and clip the whole thing to the back of my pack.

For inside storage, I dump them into a stuff sack or hang them from pegs or a stair banister.

From: Jeffrey

For longer pieces, I fold in half, then fold in half again. I now have 4 thicknesses. I take the end without the tails, and tie an overhand knot. This is much faster than many of the other techniques you will hear of. If you want, you can then threat several of these through a piece of cord to keep them all together. For some Boy Scout activities I have packed dozens of lengths of webbing this way.

From: Kevin Fons

I just put all my webbing into a stuff sack. Fast and easy. If it gets wet I pull it out for a couple days to dry and then back in the sack. It is just for toproping anyway.

See also:

Daisy Chain on

How can I get hurt while top-roping? (avoiding common errors) [back to top] [FAQ contents]

Note: This isn't a complete list of ways to get hurt while top-roping; it's just a sampling.

From: Alex Black

Just remember: always have redundancy, always equalize, always reverse & oppose gates, test your knots, and test the directionality of all your TR anchors (and your lead anchors if you can)

Also, know how to escape a belay if you intend to climb anywhere you and your partner are alone (backcountry - or even in the valley if you're on a multipitch. Many people do not have this skill, and it requires maintenance.

Insufficient Redundancy

From: Bob Collins

The issue here is not one of which type of material or which knot to use, but one of redundancy. A "bombproof" anchor is fundamental to safe climbing, and redundancy is fundamental to a "bombproof" anchor. This applies to all areas of climbing, whether it be alpine, big wall, or sport climbing.

When toproping, with everyone standing around together at the base of a climb, it is easy to become complacent. Since the anchor for a toprope is usually out of sight and unattended, it would seem prudent to construct this anchor in such a manner as to leave NO DOUBT as to its integrity. Again, this is best accomplished by redundant attachments to the climbing rope. If the anchor cannot be inspected by those climbing on it, ask the person who set it up how it is rigged. If you don't like what you see or hear, change it! Many people climb with beginners, and they rely on us "experts" to keep them alive.

From: Chris LeDoux

In this case, it was a self-equalizing sling, attached to locking biners at the anchors and 2 on the rope, with a twist in the webbing. This is a common type of anchor used for routes that wander, so that weight will always be distributed across both anchors. Also very commonly taught for use as belay anchors on multi-pitch routes. However, there is no redundancy for the sling, only for the anchors. You can't use 2 slings because they will saw against each other. And even on multi-pitch, you should have another sling, a directional.

The solution (if you're using this type of system with 2 bolts): attach another, longer sling to one of the bolts (or to a piece outside of the system if possible) with a locking biner attached to the rope. This additional sling should be longer than the others so that it is hanging loosely on the rope. If the main sling fails, this is your backup sling and could save your life. Never trust your life to a single piece of webbing.

Another solution (for use with 2 bolts at the crags): attach 2 locking quickdraws to the bolts and thread the rope through. If one quickdraw fails, you have the other. This is very common and it's fast to setup. If you must use a self-equalizing, please back it up as described above.

Finally, there is no confirmation as to whether the knot came untied or if it was cut on the rock. The lesson here is that all anchor systems should have redundancy throughout (for both biners and slings). A quick glance around your local crag will show that this is definitely not always the case and it's most surprising that this doesn't happen more.

Always check and double-check the anchor and slings before you're lowered or rap off a route and make sure that it's backed up, especially if you don't know the person that you're climbing with very well. Never hesitate to question someone else's anchor system. That's your right if you're climbing on it. I toproped a few climbs with some people I met down in Tuolumne Meadows last September. I questioned the anchors, adjusted them so I felt confident climbing on them, and then did some fun climbs. If your partner has a problem with you questioning the system, maybe you should find a different partner. It's only your life. This advice is most important for beginners who have a tendency to trust those who've been climbing for awhile. Mistakes in judgment can happen at any time in your climbing and taking a look at the anchor is also your responsibility.

From: Irishman

You don't have enough slings to tie into both

Get more gear, or climb somewhere else, or don't climb at all. There will never be justification for top roping on a non-redundant anchor. I like MD's phrase. "No top rope route is worth dying for."

From: Mike Yukish

My theory is if the tree is big enough that if I were to pull it out it would kill me when it fell on me, it's big enough to use by itself.

A single tree is commonly used as an anchor point in top roping. Needless to say, that tree had best be strong enough to hang a truck on. The trick is to evaluate how firmly the tree is rooted. Sometimes it's hard or impossible to know. (Short of hanging a truck on it)

Once you decide to use a single tree, standard procedure is to use redundant gear to create your anchor. One way to do this with a single rope is to tie two eights in the middle with about 6 " of rope between. Clip a locker into each loop. The idea is to use each half as though it were an individual rope. Attach both ends to the "bomb proof" tree and you'll have a safe redundant anchor. Assuming the tree really is "bomb proof"

From: Ken Cline

Not too long ago, a local group that is ULTRA conservative on safety issues said that a single tree at least 5 inches (13 cm) in diameter, with a single rope is OK.

Then I guess I'm ULTRA, ULTRA conservative. Unless we're talking about a certifiably HUGE tree, I'll always go for a backup if conveniently available when setting up a top rope anchor. When I use one tree, I tie two separate lines to it. Clearly less anchor would hold most of the time, but you'll have to make that decision for yourself.

From: Richard Ferguson

I figure the real risk is not in uprooting trees, but in setup errors, ordinary human error when assembling the anchor system. Keep it simple, and consider a backup sling and caribiner. The 40 foot of webbing mentioned by another poster is a cheap investment, and allows you to choose your tree or trees, rather than being forced to use a funky tree or one in a less than ideal location.

From: John Robinson

The Bottom line (in my opinion) is never trust one piece of gear unless you have to such as a belay biner and a belay device but on a top rope anchor for the rope, I always use 2 biners (locking or non) cause I can.

From: Philip bgndmts

A compromise between safety and practicality on a top rope is dumb. Be safe, that is practical.

Running rope through webbing without a biner

From: JWover

I rescued an 18 year old kid at the Red River Gorge who fell 45 feet and crushed both ankles and a severe concusion. His partner had rapped off a sport climb that had a single piece of webbing slung between two Metoluos Mega-Hangers at the anchor. He had looped his rope not through the rappel ring but over the sling and rapped. Then his partner decided he wanted to do the climb on top rope, so he climbs the same setup, gets to the top with out incident and begins to lower off. As the climb got steep and more weight was placed on the ancor, the rope began to cut through webbing and in less than 10 feet (indicated by the fine black burnt line on the rope) the sling got sawed in half. That kid nearly died and his partner would have been responsible.

Do yourself a favor and perform this test take an old rope and several feet of sling, then with one person holding the rope and the other the sling cross them in the middle and start to saw with the rope back and forth as hard as you can against the sling till it breaks. I have seen this done in less than 30 seconds.

From: Alan Lindsey

Check out: [article no longer available online]

In short, Lady meets guy who claims to have been climbing for 12 years. He invites her to go climbing with him. Something goes wrong with the TR (details are sketchy, but it looks like the rope was run directly through the webbing). She falls, massive injuries and gets word that this dude's maybe not as swift as he let on .

From: James Robertson

the best one i read was in the accidents book about some climbers running the rope through some webbing on toprope then lowering the climber after the 10+ climb. it didn't heat through until the third climber!

Not tying in correctly

From: Dave Buchanan

This morning I finally checked my voice-mail and got a distraught message from my ex-girlfriend (we're still very good friends) about a horrible accident at the gym Tues in which she was involved. She was belaying her boyfriend, (who I happen to approve of, and in fact rather like) and when he got to the top of the 35 foot wall, leaned back to get lowered off.

He shot down at full velocity; not connected to the rope.

Apparently he had not followed through his figure-8. (He has been climbing for many years) He landed on the 1' high bench which separates the shredded-rubber floor from the carpeted floor, which sits about 10 feet away.

He shattered one ankle, and his other leg sustained a double tib/fib compound fracture. As the bench exploded, a piece of wood severely lacerated his forehead, and there was blood everywhere. "Luckily" this was at a time when the gym was relatively empty. The paramedics said had it not been for the bench absorbing much of the impact, he could have easily broken his back, or worse.

This is basically the same type accident which happened to Lynn Hill a few years ago, (60 footer) and very recently at a crag in the Sierra foothills.

From: Kelly Rich

However, the real reason I'm chiming in here is to say that I used to think "Aw geesh" whenever my partner asked to see my knot and harness. What a silly thing. Normally, it happens when I'm at the gym and am climbing with someone who just got out of the Basic Safety class. I'd go "Here" in a smart-assed way, showing my knot and harness.

Well that's not so any more, and I take the question as though the person were saying that they loved and cared for me. I have, through others, learned my leason. But I'll admit, I don't check my partner's harness often enough. Especially in the gym where you tie and untie so often.

Checking knots every time can be worst than your mother telling you to go brush your teeth every single night. But in the end, she's really just saying that she loves and cares for you. It's not so silly after all.

From: Jay Tanzman

Climbing with a half-tied knot is often the result of getting distracted while tying in. You start tying the knot, somebody asks you a question, you answer, and start climbing -- with half a knot. Once I start to tie in, I make it a point yo avoid interruptions until I have finished the knot. If someone asks me a question, I don't answer until I'm completely tied in. If I see a beginner allow himself to be interrupted while tying in, I point out the danger to him. The same caution applies to putting on your harness.

Belaying from above without redirection

From: John Tupper

On May 26th, I was climbing with my partner near Lake Massibesic in Southern NH. After moving the top rope, my partner lowered me down to the bottom of the cliff using a belay device. She was unable to control my speed and I hit the deck 40 feet below hard.

The setup: My partner was tied in to the top rope anchors, and was sitting at the top of the cliff facing down. I was tied into the rope, which went directly to her belay device which was setup correctly.

Now for the mistake! The brake rope ran from the belay device stright down the cliff to a pile of slack at the bottom of the cliff.

Once I started moving down the cliff, my partner had to life 40 feet of rope faster than it was already traveling due to my descent in order to apply the brake.

From: DRansom

I'm glad you mentioned this. (I assume you mean that both climbers are at the top, with one being lowered) I wish I would have known about this painful physics lesson before I tried lowering my father (who was almost double my weight at the time) from the top of a 100 ft. route. I was barely able to hold on to the rope, and he damn near "cleft me in twain". No accident in this case, but it could have easily been a disaster.

From: Clint Cummins

Actually, many belay devices do not generate sufficient friction to lower a person directly from the top position. Here are some better ideas:

1. Use a Munter hitch -- it has enough friction.

2. Only lower if you are belaying from the bottom of the crag, with the rop running through some biners at the top anchor (these biners are a useful additional source of friction). If you attempt to lower from the top position, even if the rope is at the top of the crag, you can't change your hip position to get the free end behind you -- you have to do everything with your one arm.

2. Don't lower -- rappel separately. It's easier on the rope. If you only have one rap device, either pass the rap device up on the rope, or lower the second person from the bottom position.

3. Walk around the back side of the crag, if feasible. At a local toproping area here, we have a firm rule against lowering off -- always untie and walk off the backside, if you make it up the route. It's just one less chance for the belayer or gear to fail

From: Mkword

One solution is to clip the rope through a piece just above the belay. This will help maintain control for the belayer as it adds some friction and it helps the belayer use the belay device as intended.

Rope stretch

From: Brad Brandewie

I was in Ouray TRing ice a couple weekends ago. When I was low on a pitch (being belayed from the top) I fell approximately 6-10 feet from rope stretch. That seemed like too much as I watched the ground or ledge get closer. I was on a 10.2 Beal Flyer rope with a static elongation of 7.7% under an 80 kg load. That translates to almost 8 feet if you are a half rope length below when you fall. I was wishing for a static.

From: Emil Briggs

There was an accident last year in North Carolina where someone suffered a broken foot as a result of toprope stretch.

From: John Davis

I myself nearly decked from 6m, though that was my own stupidity (top-roping a 20m route on a single 9mm - duh!!!). A friend got herself a nice concussion falling off a low crux whist seconding a 30m route on doubles - she basically bungeed onto the deck, whacking her head on the way.

it's real simple - skinny ropes stretch a lot more than thick ropes. Good when you're trying to keep forces down on dodgy gear, but can mean the second has to have the same 'don't fall' attitude as leading.


From: E Cox

Has anyone heard about the condition of the guide from Seneca Rocks climbing school who got nailed by a rockfall last Friday (April 9)? From what I understand, he and 2 other guides had a group of 11 Boy Scouts in the area of Luncheon Ledge. One of the scouts on toprope was pulling on a ledge and a sofa-size section broke off and shattered into chunks, which nailed another of the scouts and the guide who was belaying the climber (who was fine, btw--the injured guide held on).

From: Simon Isbister

A group was Corner Route, a 5.3 or .4 (which had actually been my first lead ever). Many of them were first timmers, but they had experienced belayers. About 25 ft up, the climber stood on a block (which he had just been pulling up on), and it tumbled loose (it was about the size of a mini fridge). For those of you who know the place, the belayer was laid back on that flat slab, about 15 ft back from the cliff. For those who don't know the place, That was where the rock was headed. I suppose the weight of the falling climber aided the belayer to his feet, but he was out of there in ZERO time- for one reason only: he had been aware, and closely watching his climber, even though they were "only" an easy route. He avoided having a rock for a torso, only by watching.

Pendulum (failure to directionalize)

From: JAG

This 40+ yr old guy was climbing a 5.3 on TR. He was wearing sneakers. It was his 1st time. The problem was that the anchor was 30feet to his right. The climb he was doing was nearly twice as high as the route his rope was on!!! He got about eye level with anchor (but 30ft to it's left). Now, keep in mind kids, this was a highly featured wall. A large butress stuck out between him and the anchor. I gasped at the sight and commented to his clueless belayer. He told his "friend" to down cimb. The poor guy struggled 'cause having been caught up in the excitement of climbing he did'nt know gravity of the situation. Well, he fell. Like fucking Peter Pan he did a slow-motion spiraling fall spread-eagle like, his body parallel to the ground. We all screamed at the eminant death, for we all were sure we were going to witness something truley horrible. As he spun his head missed the butress by inches, in fact i think his hair grazed it. It would've been skull shattering. He did bounce off some rock on the up-swing of his great pendelum swing. He looked scared as hell and almost started to cry.

Lowering the climber off the end of the rope

From: MB

3) while lowering the climber on a route longer than twice the length of the rope, the belayer lets the end of the rope slip through the belay device.

My situation was #3, but it was made worse by the fact that the route started about 30 feet off the deck (causing the climber to fall even further).

From: David Henderson

The scary thing is that the rangers said there were another *six* accidents, presumably non-fatal, at the City of Rocks in which the rope-end went through the brake.

From: John Tupper

P.S. I was "only top roping" when I got dropped about 40 feet. I'm damn lucky I didn't break more than I did, including my skull. I wasn't wearing my helmit - I will next be next time.

From: Steve Gray

Is there any reason, other than laziness, why

a) the belayer should not tie in as well, or

b) you shouldn't tie a belay-plate-jamming knot in the end ?

See also:

How do I belay safely with a Gri-Gri? / How can a Gri-Gri fail? on Tradgirl

Toproping: Page 1 2

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