The conditions are right, you’ve planned your climb, and you’re ready to go! You want to feel the raw cliff under your fingers with your climbing partner and work your way, pitch by pitch, to the summit. Now every move must be just right: From knots to belaying and rappelling – well-founded alpine climbing expertise is what’s called for!
In this chapter, we’ll familiarize you with fundamental knowledge about alpine climbing. This knowledge is an important component for any rope team that wants to get into alpine climbing. Topics such as knot tying, belaying or the use of anchors play a central role. When your rope team arrives at the summit, that’s by no means the end of the climb – quite the opposite: The descent can be long and hard. As many mistakes are made here, we’ll pay particular attention to rappelling and descents.
Only when you and your climbing partner have mastered all aspects of alpine climbing can you recognize, avoid and promptly act on mistakes.
You and your rope partner are about to start your climb. You now need to set some ground rules for before and during the climb.
The partner check is a fundamental step before the rope team can get climbing. Every rope team must also decide for themselves whether they’re going to climb in crossover formation or using the caterpillar technique. Only when the rope team works seamlessly, with the correct rope commands and the correct clipping can the rope team move quickly and efficiently. If despite good preparation the follower gets into trouble on the rock face, it is important that the climbers have mastered methods such as the express pulley to provide quick help. Finally, clean rope handling is the mark of a good rope team, and helps avoid wasting time and critical situations.
The partner check is important for any rope team before setting out: It is an important component of climbing, be it sport and alpine climbing, ice and mixed climbing or an alpine tour. During the partner check, each climber checks him/herself as well as their partner. Particularly when it comes to routine activities, small mistakes can go unnoticed and have fatal consequences on a vertical rock face.
The helmet is properly fitted and the partner check has been fully carried out. Now it’s time to get started. If the climbers in the rope team cross each other, this means the lead climber and follower alternate. For the following pitch, the follower takes the lead. At the next belay, they switch once again. However, if there is only one lead climber, who takes the lead for every pitch, this is considered a permanent lead. Rope handling and belaying must be adapted accordingly.
The same rope commands are valid for both tactics. With these commands, each rope partner knows what he/she has to do. In well-attuned rope teams – or during alpine climbs where the rope team can no longer hear each other – the commands can be transmitted by pulling on the ropes. In the following section we look at the processes for a two-person rope team from the perspective of the lead and follower:
Check out the full series of Safety Academy Lab Rock videos below:
Visit ORTOVOX’s Safety Academy Lab Rock to view the climbing tutorials in their totality and test your knowledge with their fun and interactive quizzes.
Since the company was founded in 1980 in the south of Munich, ORTOVOX has stood for the highest possible protection during alpine activities. As pioneers in the avalanche safety field, we have played a key role in the development of emergency equipment for the mountains. Innovations such as the double-frequency avalanche transceiver and Smart Antenna Technology, and also targeted training measures, continue to be valuable contributions to making mountain sports a little bit safer and to saving lives.