Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Rope Soloing Multi Pitch Climbs


Learning Curve

I felt like I was rediscovering how to lead.  In that way it was kind of exciting.  The same old routes at Seneca were once again a learning experience.  I was constantly discovering faster more efficient ways of doing things.  I still am.  If you are an experienced trad leader it will go much faster.  If you’re not an experienced trad leader I suggest you wait until you are. 


The first time I ever tried to rope solo I swear it took me at 2 hours to climb the pitch and an hour to set up the rigging.  Today I set up a rig and racked up in 15 minutes and climbed 5 pitches in 4 hours.  Practice really helps.  Analyze and visualize your system.  Then see what steps you can eliminate or combine to make it go faster.  See what gear you can eliminate to go lighter.  On the climb you should know what you need to do and when, and just do it.  Thinking wastes time.

Silent Partner

I believe that if you’re serious about lead rope soloing the Silent Partner is the tool to have.  The Silent Partner will do everything that it claims and nothing else.  It will not know when you need slack or when to take.  The Silent Partner is a really poor communicator, so keep an eye on it.


Those of you who think there is only safe and not-safe will not enjoy rope soloing.  Let’s face it.  You’re going out rock climbing – solo.  You’re not being safe, so let’s throw that out the window.  If you try be 100% safe you will probably quit because your safety systems are a pain in the ass. 

Aid Climbing

It’s good to know.  Retreat is difficult and will likely result in you leaving lots and lots of gear behind.


First off you’re carrying it all yourself. Secondly you’re gonna need a lot more. You need a normal trad rack. Then add your gear to rig your system. Then add a bigger rack to protect 60m pitches. Maybe add aiders, daisys, and ascenders. The rope goes on top.

Annoyance Factor

Rope soloing will never be just as smooth and easy as climbing with a belayer.  It doesn’t matter how smooth your system is.  Rope soloing is like climbing with a belayer who splits his time between falling asleep and short roping you.


The enjoyment that I get out of rope soloing is very similar to the satisfaction I get from solo hiking.  It’s all about being outside, enjoying the rock, the movement, being 100% self-sufficient.  Doing what you want to do whenever you want.  It is really great not having to yell commands at your belayer.  It is not about pushing myself, doing difficult climbs or trying to do max pitches.  I never rope solo because I don’t have a partner.

The 50/50 rule.

When rope soloing there are 100 things that can go wrong.  The good news is that 50 of them end in you not being able to get off the ground.  The bad news is that the other 50 end in death.  The kicker is that if something goes wrong you’re on your own.

Gephardt-Dufty at Seneca Rocks


I just got back from Seneca Rocks today where I climbed the Gephardt-Dufty route. It is a 5 pitch 5.7 with very much an alpine feeling. It ascends a long ridge buttress for about 500 feet.

The climb has tricky route finding because the buttress is quite wide in many spots, allowing a variety of options. When in doubt you’re probably off route, it shouldn’t ever feel harder than 5.7 (Seneca 5.7 anyway…). Additionally the rock has tons of lichen which is often right on the route. Which brings me to the fact that yes, there is a lot of loose rock on the route itself and on the ledges. Hand holds are not a problem since you can usually feel when the rock is loose. Foot holds are a problem, make sure you have a good handhold. Do not ever do this climb when other people are at the base. Make sure your belayer has room to duck. Test, every, hold.

That being said, it’s an awesome climb. You have probably the best view of all the climbs at Seneca, truly awesome. It’s a pity I didn’t bring my camera. It’s also quite adventurous if you’re into that kind of thing. It is probably the longest climb at Seneca!

The descent involves a 100 foot rappel on the east face of the southern pillar and a long mud/bushwhack/scree descent. It really sucks. You can avoid the crappy descent by stopping one pitch short of the top and going off the right to Climbing Punishment anchors.