This article originally appeared in the Climbing’s May 2013 issue; we’ve given it a new life online.
The only thing I love more than climbing is climbing a lot. I like to squeeze every pitch I can out of the day, and efficiency is the name of the game. Itʼs all about trimming the fat out of your systems so no time is wasted. Many good ideas about building and cleaning anchors, transitioning at belays, and cleaning pitches are covered in books (I found Speed Climbing! by Hans Florine and Bill Wright to be the most useful), so Iʼm going to share just a few of my personal tricks that save me time. Some are a bit silly, and some will seem inconsequential, but in they end they all add up to give me more time in the day to climb.
1. Building Anchors
When climbing multi-pitches with bolted anchors, I always make the anchor out of rope. I clove-hitch myself into one bolt, pull up some slack, tie into the other bolt with a clove hitch or figure eight, and then tie a ﬁgure eight on a bight in the slack between the two bolts. I belay the second with an auto-blocking device clipped to a locker on this middle bight. (See fig. TK) It’s fast and simple, and it’s easy to break back down. And there’s no need for a cumbersome personal anchor system or breaking down a mess of slings and biners.
(Photo: James Lucas)
2. Belay Transitions
When the second reaches the anchor, I grab his belay device and put him on belay, using the end of the rope coming out of my auto-block belay device on the anchor. This way, he doesn’t have to clip in to the anchor to switch the belay. When he’s ready to lead, he detaches my belay device from the anchor, and he’s good to go. No need to ever be off-belay or waste time clipping and unclipping from the anchor and moving the belay device from the anchor to my harness—just switch devices back and forth.
Simul-rapping is almost always the best bet as it effectively cuts rappel time in half. This means rappelling simultaneously, with each of you on one strand of the rope; the weight of each climber will counterbalance the other. It’s quicker, and being next to each other means it’s easy to communicate about where to stop or where the next anchor is. The main thing is both of you are constantly watching the ends and making sure everything is safe. Obviously, any anchor you’re rapping off should be solid enough to hold the weight of you and your partner.