This is how we do it outdoors! Part II: Top rope and cleaning a route

This entry has been created thanks to the work carried out by Dz Major.

Disclaimer: Please be advised that the following post does not provide climbing instructions. This entry is a mere orientation about how our team approaches outdoor climbing. It is recommended that you double check and contrast the information provided as well as follow best BMC advice.

Setting up a top rope:

- Step one is…get to the top!

- You will probably be pumped and a bit scared, and desperately want to get your cows tail anchored in. But your cows tail is quite short and will never reach from where you want it to…so, get a quickdraw in (to the bolt or the ring which is attached to the bolt) and clip the rope in.

- Now you are not going to fall anywhere, you can climb up a bit higher and get your cows tails in.

- If you can, attach it to the other bolt compared to the quickdraw you just put in, so you have two points of contact on two different anchors.


- GENTLY lower yourself so the cows tail is taking your weight, do not fling yourself in to it as they cannot be shock loaded.

- Shout ‘safe’, and relax. Congratulate yourself on leading a route!

- Take two screwgates and put one through each bolt. The bolt is preferable, but your screwgate might not fit. In that case, put one screwgate through each ring.

- Make sure they are upside down i.e fat bit at the bottom. This is so if gravity does its thing, the gate will screw up tighter, not looser.


- Take your fat nylon sling and clip it through both of the screwgates you just put in.

- Pull the top strand down, to make a ‘V’.

- In the beautiful Microsoft paint drawing below, the black bits are rings, the purple bits are krabs and the blue bit is a sling!

- Now equalise it and tie an overhand knot with a little bit poking out of the bottom. To equalise, pull the sling in the direction of the climb. If this is straight down, it’s simple. If it’s off to the right or left, or if the bolts are different heights, you need to think about it a bit more. Ultimately, you want both ‘sides’ of the sling to be tight when weighted by your next climber.

- When you have tied your overhand knot, put two screwgates through the little loops that will be poking out. Put both screwgates through both loops.

- Put the rope through them (with the ‘live’ end coming out the front).


- Take the rope out of the quickdraw you placed at the beginning of this process, and remove the quickdraw.

- Check – is the rope through both screwgates? Are all 4 screwgates done up? Is the screwgate angled nicely i.e make sure the ‘nose’ is not pressing against the rock?

- Shout take, make sure you’re happy, shout ‘coming off cows tail’ or similar, and undo your cows tail biner.

- Get lowered down

This is what the finished thing should look like:

Stripping a route: This is the easy way, if the rings are big enough.

- Get to the top of the route and get your cow’s tail in to a ring or bolt (preferably bolt).

- You may have to climb slightly above the screwgates that the top rope is going through to get your cows tail to reach – this is fine.

- It will be easier for you in a few minutes if you can have your cows tail screwgate going through the higher of the two bolts.


- GENTLY lower your weight on to the cows tail sling. Gently! These are not designed to be shock loaded, so don’t fling yourself on to it, or let go and slump on to it.

- Shout ‘safe’ and relax! Take a few breaths, take your time. It’s better to be up there for 30 mins and get it right than rush and get it wrong. If people are shouting instructions and you would rather they all shut up and let you concentrate, say so.

- From your knot, pull up a load of slack. You need enough to put through the rings, doubled up, tie a knot and attached it back to yourself. Better to get too much than not enough.

- Pull from your knot end, so you are pulling the slack though the screwgates that the top rope is set up through – do not reach down and pull the rope from your side. By pulling from your knot, the top rope anchor is still ‘in play’ (protecting you) whilst you do the next bit.

- Double the rope up/fold it in half and poke it through the anchor rings.

- You made need to pull up more slack at this point, and you may have to really work on getting the doubled up rope to push through the rings as screwgates etc are also going through them.

- With the end of the rope (the left hand side in the image above), tie a figure of 8 on the bight (google it, practise it).

- Attach that to your belay loop with a screwgate (NOT a gear loop, NOT the loop of rope from your original and normal figure 8).


- Now for the scary bit – untie your original figure of 8!

- Yes, really.

- Make sure you are untying the original figure 8 that goes through your harness loops, not the one on the bight that you literally just tied (it has happened…).

- Don’t freak out – you are attached with the 8 on the bight, you are attached with the cows tail and maybe also attached by a quickdraw lower down (as mentioned in the other doc).

- Untie it completely and pull the loose end through the rings.

- You will have a big ‘tail’ now, and only one strand of rope going through the rings.

- Now you can undo the screwgates and sling that made up the top rope anchor. Unclip the rope, take out the biners etc. You can just unclip the sling and sort the overhand knot out once you’re back on the ground.

- So, you should now have just the rope going through the rings and your cows tail in. It is now much cleaner and easier to do the next bit, which is vital.

- CHECK, CHECK, CHECK!! Do your visual checks – does the rope come up from your belayer, go through both rings, and then down to you? Is your fig 8 on the bight correct and attached to your belay loop? Is your screwgate done up?

- Shout ‘take’.

- It is ESSENTIAL that you feel yourself being pulled up by the rope, not down.

- If you feel you are being pulled down, or if your belayer can’t feel your weight on the rope, something has gone wrong – do not come off your cows tail until the problem is identified and solved.

- If you are being pulled up, do your visual check one last time and shout ‘coming off cows tail’.

- You will need to take the weight off the cows tail to undo it, either through the rope pulling you up or by holding on to the rock.

- Undo your cows tail biner and get lowered down.

- Done!

#sportclimbing #outdoorclimbing #leadclimbing #toprope #cleaningtheroute #safetyfirst

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