FISH How-To Pages, Big Wall Climbing


This is probably the most asked question we get. And with good reason. Climbing walls with three people has a lot of advantages, including speed, relative workload, and gives you somebody besides the leader to yell at while belaying. In the basic form, you will have someone out on lead, someone cleaning the pitch and someone belaying and if possible, hauling. All this is going on simultaneously, so as you can see, things will happen pretty fast if everyone does their part .

The various methods:

Method #1 ( you need: a static haul line, a zip line, 2 cordalettes or 15ft. sections of 7-9mm rope, and 2 lead lines)

The leader (#1) goes out on lead with (a) the lead line, and (b) the zip line. The zip line can be a light rope like a 7mm or 9mm. The pitch is lead, and the leader sets up the anchor with the cordalette and then secures the lead line (a) to one end of the anchor. The leader (#1) now pulls up the zip line. Attached to the zip line is the real haul line that is ideally a static cord (c) and the next lead line (d) attached to the next leader #2. The leader #1 then secures the next lead line (d) and the haul line and tells leader # 2 to Jumar on up to the station on the haul line, with the lead line (d) acting as a safety from above. While leader #2 is Jumaring, the leader #1 sets up the haul on the slack between the hauling device and the anchor point #2 is Jumaring from. Once leader #2 gets to the station he weights the haul line to free the bags from the station below. Once the bags are free, the leader #2 takes all the rack left and heads out on lead, with the zip line (b) attached to his harness. Leader #1 is belaying leader #2, the bags are hanging free waiting for the Cleaner (#3) to assist in the hauling, and the cleaning of the last pitch is underway. After cleaning the pitch, leader #1 and the cleaner (#3) haul the bags and eventually secure them at the station.When leader #2 has reached the anchor, he will set up the anchor with a cordalette and then haul up the zip line. Attached to the zip line is the real haul line, and the rope that #3 will lead on, the one that was clipped to one end of the anchor. Then, #3 can Jumar the static haul line (which can already be set up to haul, but a loop has been taken and clipped directly into the anchor as not to Jumar on the hauling device) while top anchored by his soon to be lead line. He can tie off on this line from above as needed for added safety while Jumaring the haul line. Once at the station, the #3 leader helps get the haul bag off the station below and then goes out on lead with the zip line attached to his harness. Leader #1 now starts cleaning the pitch and will help haul the bags when he gets to the upper station. This method is continued all the way up the wall.

The fatal flaw with this #1 method is the extensive use of cordalettes. Each anchor must be set up real clean in order to free up the various lead lines at the given time. All of the free Jumar lines must be able to get released from the anchor at will. This takes planning and meticulous attention to the layering of the anchor. It can be done, but there is an easier way.

Method #2:
You will need all of the above but skip the cordalettes and take 1 extra lead line.

This is the method I prefer and is easier to manage than method #1. All the techniques are the same as the above except for a few things. At the anchors, you will set them up using all the available slack in your lead line. This gives you room to move around at the anchor to haul and dodge big blocks from above. When you haul up the zip line, the real haul line will be attached, along with a free lead line that should be attached to the next leader. The next leader Jumars the haul line with this free lead line as a top anchored rope for tieing off to while Jumaring. The other lead line can be used to lower him out prior to Jumaring, and give an additional belay if he is going mental. After reaching the upper station, this line he was trailing can be clipped into the anchor and then used as a chicken line back down to the cleaner. This method give everyone the option of having a chicken line just in case of bad edges or wig sessions. Another good thing is the additional rope might come in handy if you chop a lead line or plan on fixing a long way from a "porta-city" that is a great or protected belay.