Short roping

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Short roping is a general name for a wide variety of belaying techniques where the rope between the climbers is as tight as possible (rather than not at all when leading). The name hints at the fact that in most cases only a section of the rope is used, and sometimes - a very short section (a few metres). The term short roping is used especially for two techniques:

  1. All belaying techniques where a short section of rope is used.
  2. A technique used in mountaineering and alpine climbs, mainly on less technical terrain and combines two sub-categories:
A. Classic short roping, usually used on guided routes between a guide and his client when moving together (simul-climbing) on a route. The guide and the client (one may, of course, substitute "experienced climber for "guide" and un experienced climber for "client") are tied together for safety even though sometimes there are no pieces of protection clipped on the rope between them.
On steeper, or more technical terrain, the guide can stop and take the rope in, practically belaying his client. The important thing with this practice is to keep the rope as tight as possible (short). The principle is that since the rope is tight, the client cannot fall. Since there can not be a fall, therefore the impact force can't be too large, and the guide can hold the client, even without setting a traditional belay anchor. Furthermore, the tight rope allows the guide to pull/help his client on a hard move, and if the client slips off a hold, to pull him back and restore his ballance.
B Short pitching is used when simul-climbing, or at any case that requires eye contact or good communication. When short-pitching the leader places a few pieces of gear and clips the rope onto them, and his second cleans them. There should always be at least one piece between the climbers. There are techniques using uni-directional mini-devices (such as a TiBloc or Ropeman) to prevent the second from falling and pulling the leader down. These too are considered short roping, because the rope should be kept as tight as possible.

In recent years there has been extensive objections to short roping, as used by many mountain guides, especially europeans.The most repeated claim is that with no belay anchor (or any anchor) the rope is useless. Experiments show that the chances that an experienced guide will arrest a clients fall are high. On the other hands, the probability that a guide will arrest a group of clients (two or more) are slim at best. The reason is that when a climber falls, he pulls after him both the other client as well as the guide. Even if the guide manages to self arrest, the secod client falls until the rope tightens and pulls the guide again...

An important question arises: why should anyone use short roping and not simply lead in pitches?

The answer to that is speed! Leading pitch by pitch is considerably slower than moving together. The main reason is that in leading, only one climber is on the move at any moment. Another reason is that setting belays and cleaning them takes time. there are other reasons, but the bottom line is that the slower you are, the longer you spend on the route, that requires more water to carry, which makes you heavier and more tired. All in all - speed is safety.

So, one might ask, why lead at all? The question is, of course, that on harder sections leading is definitely safer. Short roping is usually used on easier routes or on easier sections of a route.

The next paragraphs demonstrate a few examples where short roping would be faster and more efficient:

Traversing a ridge

Glacier travel

External links

Further reading

contributions to this page by: : Mica yaniv, Tal Niv and others...