What goes up must come down

Jeff Ward
Submitted by Jeff Ward on

What goes up must come down

Climbing is dangerous.  These tech tips are meant for experienced climbers that understand the dangers and limitations of these systems.  Please seek qualified instruction from AMGA trained and certified guides.  These guides can help you safely take your climbing to the next level.  

NCMG's owners, Jeff Ward and Larry Goldie, are fortunate to be instructors and examiners for the American Mountain Guide Association (AMGA).  This allows them to keep up on the latest and greatest techniques in the climbing and guiding industry.  Not only do they keep up with the ever evolving curriculum at the AMGA but the "cross pollination" of guides from around the country on courses and exams always produces new and innovative techniques.  Recently we finished up our Spring guide training at NCMG and one of the more popular techniques shown was the top managed belay to lower.  

There are several different ways to accomplish this, but here is our current favorite.  When your climber reaches the belay and wants to be lowered back down all you have to do is clip another carabiner into the master point and redirect the load strand through this carabiner.  This redirect keeps the load strand from pinching the brake strand, essentially removing the auto blocking feature from the belay device (see picture below).  We strongly recommend you add a friction hitch backup to the brake strand before you redirect the load strand.  This "third hand" will be a backup to your lower in case you accidentally lose control of the brake strand, and gives your climber the extra piece of mind while being lowered (see video below for demonstration of using the "third hand").  

Lowering a climber from above with an auto blocking belay device.

Important!  The redirect carabiner (green locker on the right in the picture above) must be clipped to the same part of the anchor as the carabiner clipped to the belay device (blue carabiner above).  If you clip the redirect carabiner to a higher shelf it can create some strange angles and make the friction less predictable.  

This technique above requires the climber to unweight the system.  If the rope is loaded and cannot be unloaded a more complicated system must be used.  Below is a video from Jeff Ward showing two ways to accomplish this.  

If you would like to learn more contact our office and set up a day of instruction this summer.  No matter what your skill level or prior experience is we can help take your climbing to the next level.