Friends Don't Let Friends Belay

I've just returned to Washington from a trip to Greenland with friends Scott Bennett and Bryan Gilmore. Among bunch of climbing, fishing, crosswords, bailures, and tent-sitting, one of the biggest revelations from the trip was that multipitch climbing shouldn't typically involve belaying a follower.

  • Lead, and clove hitch to the belay. This automatically puts the leader "off belay" and fixes the rope for the follower to begin immediately.
  • The follower should then TR-solo the pitch, and not be tied in to the rope.
  • Upon reaching the belay, the follower should clip in with a tether or daisy chain, and then simply pull up a few meters of the dangling rope, clip it through a progress capture device which is hung from some part of the anchor, and throw the leader on belay to lead the next pitch. As the the leader moves up, the follower/belayer just pulls up a few meters at a time of rope, which is never all brought up to the belay or stacked.


  1. Wow, that is a really freaking good point.

    I wonder if you could comment on your alpine tr solo system? My standardish double-microtraxion system seems like a kinda significant weight penalty on routes without significant simul-climbing. Then again, unlike, say, grigris, as far as I know microtraxions have zero history of failure, so maybe a single one with a backup knot every 10 meters or so is reasonable.


  2. Sounds like a great, safe way to go with a few exceptions perhaps. Routes with lines-it'd be frowned up, I imagine, to leave your rope hanging out on the line. Really wandering routes-where your line could get caught when you pull it.

    What's your solo TR set-up?

  3. On this trip we all TR solo climbed/followed with 2 devices. We used Petzl Mictrotraxions, CAMP Lift ascender, and the CAMP chest ascender. There really wasn't a clear preference among the three of us for which 1 or 2 devices were best. Since I've TR-solo climbed for years using a Trango Cinch, and since this device is also a belay and rappel device, I would use that in the future, along with a CAMP lift, or a microtraxion. I'd use the Cinch (or the newly updated Cinch 2.0 - AKA the Vergo) as the lower device, as a follower, and I'd use the smaller and lighter CAMP lift (or Micro T) as the upper device, held higher above my belay loop with a piece of stretchy elastic cord around my neck. This way I could belay the leader with the Cinch, and keep weight to a minimum.

  4. Would you recommend this method for a team of two? If so, can you explain how swinging leads would work or is this system for when there's only one leader? Specifically, if the follower isn't tied into the rope and the other end isn't pulled up, how does leading the next pitch work? I'm having trouble understanding this transition without having the first leader giving his end of the rope to the follower to tie in to lead the upcoming pith. Thanks.

  5. check out page 3 in the new patagonia catalogue.

  6. I would highly recommend this for a team of 2, but I would not recommend (generally) flipping leads on every pitch, unless you don't mind being slower, colder (or hotter), and less organized than if leading in blocks.

  7. Hey Blake, when you're using the Camp Lift, is it the primary device or secondary? It seems like the lift would do less damage to the rope sheath, or is that even really a concern on TR?
    Also, the lift, microcender, and every other device except the micro traxion seem to be completely sold out of everywhere....