March 16, 2022

How to Do Rope Soloing Climb without a Partner?

by Kevin

Table of Contents

Rope soloing is a climbing technique where climbers belay themselves instead of a partner. It’s the most convenient climbing technique for climbers that can’t seem to find a climbing partner or want to enjoy the freedom that comes with climbing alone. Climbers can use this technique to top rope or lead belay.

Climbers can also use it when climbing up to reach injured leaders after escaping the belay or helping injured partners who can’t belay (when the easiest way out is up).

It also comes in handy when you need to set up a top-rope anchor individually. Read on to find out the best way to go about it.

What are the Variations of Rope Soloing?

There are three variations of rope soloing.

  • Rope solo free climbing
  • Rope solo aiding
  • Simul solo aid

Rope solo free climbing

This is a classic climb that involves top roping on a fixed rope. It’s also referred to as a sport or trad climb.

Rope solo aiding

Rope solo aiding is when climbers fix their rope to an anchor and connect themselves to the free end with knots or modern climbing gadgets designed for rope soloing.

The pitch is then led as a standard pitch would. Rope solo aiding is similar to roped solo free climbing; however, it’s usually more manageable.

Simul solo aid

This is a speed climbing approach involving two climbers that aid climbs simultaneously on both ends of the same rope. The climbers alternate between simul, aid, soloing, and free climbing depending on the current situation.

Rope Soloing Climb

The Basics of How to Rope Solo

Step 1:

Build a solid multidirectional anchor and tie one end of your rope to it. The anchor should be designed to withstand and hold an upward pull.

Thus, you should use a bolted anchor if it’s your first time learning about the technique.

Maintain the anchor’s position by tying a clove hitch to another piece of gear right above the anchor.

You could use other knots, too, like the alpine butterfly; however, the clove hitch is easier to tie more tightly.

You could also use a prusik to steady the anchor’s position; however, you have to remember that prusiks can slip when left unchecked, which could cause your rope to slip.

Using the clove hitch technique is more reliable and presents a lower chance of being involved in an unfortunate circumstance.

Step 2:

Tie in through the other end of your rope.

Step 3:

Stack your rope neatly, ensuring that it feeds out from both ends. When stacking, remember and factor in the fact that the side that feeds in from the anchor side is twice as fast as the side that feeds in from your tie-in side.

Step 4:

Pull enough meters of rope through from the anchor side and tie a clove hitch to a screwgate. Next, please attach it to your belay loop, forming your primary tie-in point.

Step 5:

Tie another clove hitch a few meters down the rope as a backup.

Step 6:

Get ready to climb. You should place your gear on the rope between the primary clove hitch and anchor as you do so.

Step 7:

You’ll need to adjust your clove hitch right before the rope tightens. Pull enough meters of slack rope, make another clove hitch tie, and untie the old one.

Remember that the extra slack you get from undoing the clove hitch adds to the distance you could climb up or fall. Re-tie the clove hitch ties as often as you can to keep safe.

Is there Alternative Rope Solo Method?

Yes, there is an alternative rope solo method. The primary reason you should be tied into the end of your rope is to make it impossible to be wholly detached from the system.

Depending on your competency in rope-soloing, you could choose to be attached to the design only with clove hitches, which means that there’ll be less rope dangling from your harness.

This decreases the possibility of a loop catching up on something far below you.

The best compromise is carrying your rope with you in a rope backpack as you climb. You’ll need to tie into the end of your rope and place it inside the backpack with the tie-in end stacked at the bottom.

Keep the backpack open, making it easy for you to pull out the rope when climbing.

What are the Potential Dangers of Rope Soloing?

The potential dangers of rope soloing are listed below.

  • Problems with Rope Management
  • Lack of Dynamic Belay
  • Ropes Can Get Stuck

Problems with Rope Management

One of the significant difficulties when rope soloing is estimating the right amount of rope needed for the next gear replacement of getting a good stance.

The extra slack in the system forces you to place gear more frequently than if your partner was belaying you.

It’s a tricky balance between minimizing your fall potential and having sufficient rope to do your climb. This gets more problematic if you are on a ledge or plan on climbing off the ground.

Thus, you’ll need to take your time and rely on your experience to make the proper adjustment.

Lack of Dynamic Belay

Rope soloing means you’ll lack a dynamic belay since you don’t have a partner.

Therefore, more force will impact your gear in case of a fall. This is one other reason why you should place solid gears more frequently.

Ropes Can Get Stuck

Ropes can get stuck more frequently, especially when it’s windy or climbing on lower-angled terrain. This could cause your rope to snag on something. However, you can minimize the dangers by following the steps below.

  • Attaching reliable gear more regularly than you usually do.
  • Identifying subsequent gear placement spots before reaching them.
  • Ensuring that you don’t have to re-tie the clove hitches while engaged in a difficult position or move.
  • Climb terrain that is level with your experience.
  • Pre-attaching a sling to the belay loop. Doing this helps you to clip onto your gear quicker. It’s useful when you want your hands to remain free enough to adjust the knots.
  • Manage your rope. Ropes are likely to get snagged when rope soloing. You could prevent this by carrying the rope in coils around your harness (it works better when you are high up and you’ve got less rope to handle) or taking the rope with you in a pack.
Rope Solo Climbing

What is Top Rope Self-Belaying?

There are situations where you’ll have to self-belay and lift yourself up a rope that’s above your head.

For instance, your rope may get stuck when ascending, and the solution would be for you to self-belay to a point where your rope is stuck.

You’ll need to climb and tie protective backup knots as you make your way up. You could reach a place where you are put on belay, and in such situations, the rope will remain still as you climb.

You’ll have to adjust the backup knots while the belayer takes in the rope.

Doing this helps protect the climber by preventing them from creating an unnecessary risk where they have a potential for falling as the rope is brought in.

What Gear Do You Need for Rope Soloing?

For rope soloing, you will need rope soloing “breaks” gear in two main categories Knot breaks and Mechanical devices.

Breaks are devices (or a technique) used instead of a belayer’s hand. As mentioned, there are two types of breaks that you could use: knots or mechanical.

Knot breaks

You will need the following knot breaks listed below.

  1. Clove hitch
  2. Figure 8
  3. Super prusik

1. Clove hitch

As stated before, clove hitches are the safes, best, and foolproof methods you could use when rope soloing. They are safe because the knot is tied every time it’s in use and can catch you if you fall when loosened.

Clove hitch knots can still be adjusted using one hand; however, you should still be careful since You can still hurt your fingers if you fall while they’re still in the clove hitch knot.

The problem with this knot is that you’ll have to move real slow. You could still clip a binder between the clove hitches strand to help pull slack through; however, the knot could still fail if it were to clip into an object in the fall.

Regardless, it’s the perfect tool for all climbers and is best when climbers need to self-rescue or when the rope is held back by drag.

When soloing using a clove hitch, you can use double-HMS krabs back-to-back or a twist-lock forged HMS. You could also use a steel Maillon.

Using a single HMS is okay since you’ll have a protective backup knot when rope soloing. Otherwise, you’ll have to depend on the crab, which isn’t safe.

2. Figure 8

You can use figure 8 when climbing on easy ground. Figure 8 tends to be used when tied with lots of slack.

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This allows climbers to make short moves before tying another one. You can also pre-tie a few more knots in advance.

One challenge with these knots is that they are tough to tie with one hand. Therefore, you’ll have to be extra careful while switching from one knot to another.

You can do this by using two screwgates placed back-to-back, clip your knot into the first screwgate, followed by the other.

Unclip the old knot using a similar fashion, meaning that you’ll have your knot through the crabs at any moment.

3. Super prusik

Many climbers in the early climbing days used super prusik loops.

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Prusiks are more likely to slip and melt in case of a fall and shouldn’t be relied on.

The lack of falls can be attested to their expertise, not the prusik’s efficiency.

Mechanical Devices

Climbers can use several devices to make their climbs; however, only three are meant for rope soloing. You still have to note that nothing (including their safety or efficiency) is assured with mechanical devices, which are listed below.

  1. Grigri
  2. Jumer (Ascender)
  3. Soloaid
  4. Soloist
  5. The Silent Partner

1. Grigri

Although it isn’t designed for the climbing technique, the Petzl Grigri device is more popular in rope soloing.

Most people probably do it because of their experience with the device and its price rather than its safety record.

A few climbers modify the device, allowing the rope to go through more smoothly. They also attach it with a wire or cord loop that helps fix the modification to their chest harness.

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Both of these modifications involve filling or drilling.

One downside to this device is its tendency to become snagged or tangled, stopping the unit, and preventing it from locking off.

The other issue is that it can only be attached by a single carabiner, and there’s the possibility you could load the carabiner incorrectly.

Ensure that you have a protective backup knot and reduce any untidiness that fouls the handle. You could use a maillon to attach the grigri to your harness.

2. Jumer (Ascender)

You could also feed your rope through your belay device and use a jumar as the brake hand that you can attach to your harness using a sling.

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You could use this system if you have a non-serrated jumar and a sling that’s long enough. However, you shouldn’t use any other type of jumar since it could damage the rope.

In addition, the forces affecting the jumar will be way beyond the device’s design spec.

3. Soloaid

This can be described as a clove hitch (mechanical) device that allows climbers to grab slack more quickly while climbing.

The device is also compact, secure, and relatively inexpensive. However, the final point is that you are probably better off with the clove hitch knot.

4. Soloist

The soloist is most likely the best device you could use for rope solo climbing. It allows climbers to move freely and doesn’t need self-feeding.

It is tied to a climber’s harness and clipped to the chest harness. The device works great if you place the setup right; however, you could feel pretty restricted if you set it poorly.

The rope feeds through the device (it’s safe for snags and tangles) and locks in case of a fall. The problem is the device doesn’t work when you fall upside down, which could be catastrophic.

The climber’s chest harness helps reduce this issue; however, climbers will still be thinking about it.

5. The Silent Partner

This is the best mechanical rope soloing device that you could use. It’s best for free or aid climbing and is safe for any fall.

The device runs smoothly but locks when you pull it too hard, which causes it to lock. The mechanism is placed inside a polished steel barrel with a simple clove hitch tied around it.

The barrel turns and allows the knot to run. It locks if the climber pulls the rope too fast.

Practical Tips on the Set-up for Rope Solo Climbing

This is a list of practical tips to help you set up for rope soloing.

  • Select a route that’s as straight as possible to prevent the rope from getting in your way while you climb.
  • Ensure that the auxiliary and safety ropes don’t run over sharp edges. If you can’t avoid this, you should use appropriate edge protection on the affected area.
  • Unless you have another way of climbing down, bring the proper equipment for rappelling.
  • Defuse straight ropes using intermediate securing devices.

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About the author 

Kevin

Kevin loves bouldering. Mainly because he can practice it alone without considering other people. Although he rediscovered this hobby in the last three years, the boulders turned out to be his most visited landmarks.

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