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Multipitch Climbing

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 28 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Multipitch Climbing Multipitch Climbing

Multipitch climbing has the obvious advantage over top rope climbing as with the latter, your distance is restricted by the length of the rope. With multipitch climbing, you need at least two people to climb and, in groups of two, and often more, it’s simply the manner in which you can climb to much higher ascents by inching your way up a mountain bit by bit with a leader at the helm placing anchors every 15 feet or so with the rest of the team following beneath you anchoring themselves as they go until you reach a belay station, which is a suitable place chosen by the leader to anchor to some sturdy rock or some other safe fixed point to protect the other members of the team below, from where he can belay from above until the rest of the team catches up with him. Those below the leader remove the anchors as they pass them so that they can be used again. Once they are all reunited - that is called a ‘pitch’. So, then from that point, the whole process begins again until you reach the next pitch and so on and so forth. By using this method, it allows a group of climbers to ascend ever higher without the need to worry how long their rope is.

Is It More Difficult Than Top Rope Climbing?

It does involve more gear and a greater reliance on technique and everybody working as a team and places a lot of the emphasis and responsibility onto the leader who must be confident in what they are doing as the climbers following are solely reliant on the leaders’ anchor placements. Not only that, it’s only the leader that isn’t protected so to have to lead all the way on an extremely long climb places enormous emphasis and pressure on the leader. This is why when groups go out multipitch climbing, they’ll often have different leaders for each pitch so that the onus is not always on any single person.

Are There Any Other Dangers Or Problems To Encounter?

As you climb higher and higher from one pitch to the next, to the highly experienced multipitch climber it will give them fantastic panoramic views which, for many, is what climbing should be about. However, to the uninitiated who, perhaps, have only been used to top rope climbing, this can be quite daunting and, depending upon the height of the climb, if you’re planning on going higher than 3,000 feet, then there’s always a risk of one or more members of the party suffering from altitude sickness.

Depending on the number of people within the group, there will be things like communication problems and with the distance between each member of the climbing party, communication is likely to be done more by hand signals or by different kinds of ‘tug’ on the rope which must be clearly understood by all members of the party who can relay any leader’s messages accurately to the person beneath them, who must do the same to the one below them and so on and so forth and this must all be done accurately or you could be putting the entire party at risk, e.g. knowing whether you’re on belay or not is a prime example.

There might also be issues with sudden severe bad weather and having to all seek refuge or come back down, both of which is often more difficult the higher you climb.The other danger to watch out for is being hit by any rock or other kind of debris from above which is more likely in multipitch climbing than in top rope as, although debris can come down on top of you at any time, a climber above you obviously has the capacity to accidentally loosen rock as he goes about finding and fixing suitable anchor points.

Ultimately, however, multipitch climbing will give you a true sense of what teamwork is all about, allows you to climb even higher and for longer and to experience ever more spectacular views and will almost certainly bring with it, a greater sense of achievement and exhilaration.

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