I live climbing outside but as some people know there are lots of different ways to do things. Because of this there will be more than one way to address the problems that I bring up. That said I have compiled my top 10 tips for how to make your day of climbing faster easier and more fun.
We have written about this topic before but the Clove Munter hitch (relatives of etcher) are some of the most useful hitches that a climber could know. They can be used for everything from tethering yourself and friends to belaying people and are the fundamentals of on wall rescues. Another advantage is that a clove hitch requires nothing more than a locking carabiner and a rope, meaning that you wont have to carry tethers and other equipment for that purpose. Yet the biggest advantage is that a clove hitch they can actually be safer than tethers and slings because they are hanging off your knot and rope which are both rated for falls, rather than slings and daisy chains which frequently are not rated for dynamic loads. Studies have found that falls as little as 12 inches can break such devices. Thus a clove hitch on your rope is safer, requires less gear, and can be done faster than other forms of tethers making it my number one choice for tips to make your day easier, faster, and more fun.
Keep your rope pile neat and tidy. Half of the readers just rolled there eyes and the other half just blinked because there is only one way to do this. Keeping the rope in a small neat stack has many benefits, firstly it allows for the rope to sit neatly on the rope tarp increasing the life span of the rope and keeping it out of the way. Second it makes the climbing area safer as standing on ropes not only shortens there life span of the rope but can lead to issues if the rope is pulled by a falling climber, wind, or other hazard. Lastly the most important one (in my not so humble opinion) is the speed that neatness affords, whether it is multi pitch climbing or just moving between top rope and single pitch climbs, having a neat stack allows for the rope to be moved and flipped when switching sides of use. This will reduce the number of times that you have to flake the rope. This skill always reminds me of the saying that slow is thorough, thorough is efficient and efficient is fast.
Do your homework. It is the simple small mistakes that can ruin a day of climbing. Things like the length of the rope that is needed to climb a route are absolutely vital to know BEFORE you are half way down the rappel. While there are lots of different ways around this problem the simplest is to just know how long the route is. Additionally getting to know the approach before you get lost on the nonsensical climber trail can even save relationships. Perhaps most importantly knowing the weather and expected conditions for the day can help keep you and your party out of dangerous situations by knowing when to be off of the top and when wait for a different day.
Keep your harness organized. You have reached the crux of the route, your hands are fried, you are standing on a sewing machine, and you need to put in a cam. Oh wait where is it?!!! Is it on the right or the left? By the ATC or the quickdraw? I like to take the time to make sure that you have a good neat harness before you leave the ground so when you need things you have them. I find that organizing things to the side of the harness opposite to the good hand holds can be helpful as nothing is worse than getting to the hard clip and having to reach all the way around your back or switch hands. Personally I like to keep my quickdraw and trad stuff on the front most loops because I rarely panic grab my ATC but clipping in a rush does happen.
Bring a coat. I know… the most effective way to ensure that it wont rain is to haul your coat around all day. But when you need one they are worth there weight in gold. There is nothing worse than being that one guy in a group without a coat in a storm. Especially when you consider that modern rain coats weigh as little as 300 grams (a large orange) the extra weight it worth it. Additionally when things don’t go as planned having a coat for some extra protection means that your unplanned camping trip or long night is much more pleasant.
Take the time to find a good stance. If you are clipping into a awkward anchor, belaying on rocky ground or just built one in a weird place, take the time to make your stance comfortable. Sitting and standing in uncomfortable places is very inefficient. You use all of this energy using holding your self upright rather than taking the time before the climber leaves there last position to get settled in the most comfortable spot possible. This also applies for climbing shoes, take them off BEFORE the climber leaves rather than waiting for the middle of the climb to do the one hand one foot dance. As I have learned how to climb I have learned that comfort is the most efficient and thus the best way to spend your time. So embrace your inner cat and find the most lazy position.
Talk to the your neighbor. If you are at the local crag don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with the group next to you. Talking to your neighbor not only breaks the ice and makes a better atmosphere, but it is also safer and more efficient. Talking allows for things like switching ropes if you want to climb the other route (top rope. Don’t do this while leading) or simple warnings like “watch the group above us they are knocking rocks down”. These things are not said when everybody is silent leading to multiple people walking right into the same patch of ice. It is also the best way to get your picture taken.
If you can tether in do it. Regardless of wether it is a ledge or hole in the side, if you are at a spot where a bad fall is possible make a effort to protect all members of the group. There is a particular climb in Eldo where you belay from a ledge that is 3 feet wide for the first pitch. While it is not hard to not fall off (just don’t jump) plugging a cam into the crack 2 feet away and belaying while tied to it means that simple falls are impossible. The worst way to get hurt while climbing is not while whipping on the wall it is to fall off the ledge you were belaying on while scratching your butt. Take the extra time to try to ensure that everybody involved is as safe as possible.
The Tomb Stones
There is a difference between could keep going and should keep going. While pushing for the top can lead to some great stories, there is a point where it is not worth going on. Wether that point is just at the end of fun or where the risk of going on becomes more than the reward of getting there there is a point where you need to turn around. The game of evaluating risk is a fundamental part of climbing and there is a point where it is not worth it. Perhaps most importantly this point is not determined by the person who has the highest tolerance of risk but the person who has the lowest tolerance. (Top tip) If you take your significant other they are the one who determines this point. At the end of the day it is just a rocky mountain top or some bolts you will still have had your day in the mountains regardless so keep it fun.
If you are unsure of your ability or willingness to do a certain route get a guide. By hiring a guide you let them take on and mitigate the risk while helping with tips and tricks to make your day out more relaxing. Guides are great at evaluating and mitigating risk, they do the homework for you, and they will help reduce the stress of planning a trip and let you just enjoy the climb.