October 4, 2021

What Is Multi-Pitch Climbing and How to Multi-Pitch Climb

by Bernice

Table of Contents

Recently, rock climbing has been getting more and more famous in the entire society. It’s one of the adrenaline-inducing sports that has become more addictive than ever before. 

Nowadays, anyone, female or male, can visit a local rock climbing gym, purchase the right gear, and go bouldering. 

Seldomly, multi-pitch climbing is also seen in gyms. However, the tricks and tactics of the trade are better learned outdoors on those huge walls. Multi-pitch climbing is only a fraction of all the types of climbing disciplines practiced these days.

For most climbers, multi-pitch sport climbing is a rewarding and thrilling sport out there. When compared to other routes, it calls for extensive communication, advanced skills, and trust.

Multi-Pitch Climbing

Understandably, you might still have pressing questions in regards to this sport. Namely, what you might require for the activity, and how to get started?

Here, we will cover all that and more to help you be better prepared when the time arrives. Let’s dive in. 

What Is Multi-Pitch Climbing?

Unlike lead climbing which involves one climber going up via one route, multi-pitch climbing will follow a similar concept of the single pitch.

Still, instead, it will lower the ground after completion. It involves more than one climber who transverse several routes on their way to the top or destination.

The top climber then fixes a belay station and belay the other climbers from the ground to ascend, and they all meet at the top of their pitch.

In climbing jargon, every person’s route is known as a pitch. So, multi-pitch climbing is the numerous route that climbers ascend to finish the climb. 

For one to achieve the multi-pitch activity, there has to be a leader and a follower. The leader is the first person to ascend the pitch, and the follower will belay the leader below. After getting to the top, the belay station, the second person will ascend the route. 

Multi Pitch Climbing

Note that the second ascension is the one that makes the climbing sport special. The follower will make it to the top safely only when the lead person belays from above. 

As the second climber makes the ascension, carrying all the required gear from the ground is necessary; it’s an activity that needs advanced skills and should not be tried by inexperienced climbers. 

After both climbers are at their belay station, they now move to the next pitch. Though teams tend to change leaders at every belay station, others feel comfortable maintaining their roles while climbing. 

Ultimately, the teams can decide what to do, and it’s better if both parties perform the role they are comfortable with. 

What You Need for Multi-Pitch Climbing

When going on multi-pitches, it’s only wise to carry this equipment as an addition to the normal items you pack for a single pitch.

Climbing Rope

Our #1 Product Recommendation in the Best Climbing Ropes Category

Generally, you should pack a more durable and long climbing rope for this activity. A rope with a length of 70mm and 9.5-9.8 as the thickness is ideal for the task. 

A sturdier rope is better suited for longer distances since they tend to be more resistant to wear and tear. It’s also recommended to carry an extra rope if the route you are using has an abseil descent. 

There are more anchors than half the rope’s length apart. It will also be necessary in case you are climbing as a team of three.

Climbing Harness

It’s critically vital to bring the right harness for the task; with the built foam designed for comfortability, it will not be a bother while you climb the rock or wall. 

2) PETZL SITTA Climbing Harness for Professionals

Lightweight Climbing Harness

This stylish harness is an excellent option for people who will be getting a lot of use out of their equipment. It is both comfortable and durable and can outlive most other harnesses on the market. It is made of WIREFRAME technology to ensure even and ideal distribution of weight.

Belaying Device

Another device that you should never forget is the belay device. You can never complete multi-pitch climbing without it. 

There are belaying devices that have an automated braking system and are now famous for multi-pitches. Note that bringing a backup is not a luxury when you are high up. 

3) Black Diamond Big Air XP Package

Finding a belaying device better than ATC XP is hard. There’s a reason why you can’t find an alternative to ATC XP. It comes as one of the most affordable and the best devices in any country right now.

Carabiners

It would be best if you considered packing a few pieces of carabiners in your backpack.

They are useful for various purposes, from your anchors to the belaying device. Therefore, you shouldn’t be worried about bringing in too many. 

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Guidebook

Once in a multi-pitch, you tend to forget some details on the fifth pitch, especially when two routes are branching off the same anchor. Though carrying the complete guide will be excessive, you should consider a top or route description. 

You neatly fold it and put it in the pocket to use when you need any guidance. Unless you can keep the routes in the head, a guidebook is necessary to avoid any confusion. It keeps both the leader and follower on track and safe as you change pitches.

Headlamp

At times you will get stuck in the dark while trying to finish a multi-pitch climbing. And getting through rock to the end when it’s dark could be incredibly dangerous and difficult. 

Therefore, bringing a headlamp is critically essential to finish the climb. It’s not advisable to be stuck in the middle of the wall at night; both the leader and follower should have a headlamp to use when it’s difficult to see. 

1) PETZL – ACTIK CORE Headlamp

This headlight model is a little inferior in terms of construction materials and strength but equally valid in terms of functionality and light quality.

Comfortable Clothes

When climbing, synthetic clothing is the best choice, mostly preferred for long approaches. This kind of clothing will insulate better than cotton in a cold or wet environment. 

Since there is so much climbing, it is great to bring in comfortable rock climbing clothes, which should only be synthetic clothes for longer routes, unlike lead climbing, where people prefer cotton clothes.

Your choice of dressing should be in sync with the weather, your partners as well. 

Shoes

With shoes, you might need an extra pair. First, comfy climbing shoes, and if you are up for it, a light pair will make you more comfortable between routes or while climbing. 

Our #1 Product Recommendation in the Best All Around Climbing Shoes Category

La Sportiva Miura all around climbing shoes.

Quality Bagpack

A bag is a great essential for your equipment. So, quality and durable backpack will help with multi-pitch supplies. However, ensure that it doesn’t interfere with the task as you ascend. 

The second climber can carry the bag with everything in it. However, depending on your route and the tolerance of suffering, you might not require one, and for hard routes to return to the ground, you should carry everything up.

You only need a good plan before you start moving. Also, carry chalk, tape for hands, and a chalk bag.

Our #1 Product Recommendation in the Best Climbing Backpacks Category

Food and Water

Some multi-pitches will take more than a few hours; in such a case, you should consider packing water and food to snack on the belays. There are routes with luxury belay ledges; if you are not in a rush, you could enjoy a vertical picnic.

That’s not the end; the list is inexhaustive. So while you prepare for the multi-pitch climbing, you should ensure to bring all the necessities for safety measures. 

Equipment for Multi-Pitch Climbing

Also, make sure the other person is comfortable with doing the climbing to avoid any accidents. You might be tempted to tag a friend, but it’s advisable to go with an experienced climber who can beat the unique challenges of this kind of sport. 

In addition, it’s imperative to select a person that you trust. You both require excellent communication skills to climb safely. 

Remember that it’s an activity involving signals employed in the belay process, and misunderstanding any cues could lead to death or fatal accidents. With such, you all must grasp the process to ascend the routes successfully. 

How to Get Started with Multi-Pitch Climbing

The most vital steps for a multi-pitch climbing start before you leave the base- the moment you begin to tie in. 

Both the leader and the follower should be belaying one another up the wall; therefore, as you tie in at the ground, every individual will tie in on the other end of the rope. 

You should flake your rope first; otherwise, you might ascend halfway through only to realize that there is a knot in the middle. 

The moment both parties are tied in, it means you are in together. To bar any emergency circumstances, no one should untie the rope until you complete the climbing. 

Now enjoy the symbolism and trust each other. 

Know Your Limits when Doing Multi-Pitch Climbing

How to do Multi-Pitch Climbing

You might be well prepared for the activity, and all of a sudden, things fail to go your way. For instance, the weather might shift; you probably might have made your judgment, but it all gets worse.

At that point, you should stay positive and realistic to help manage the risk. Have the skills needed for unforeseen obstacles, and the partner you get should be supportive to get you back on track when you panic. 

The best part about multi-pitch climbing is the adventure; you should embrace it. However, be humble and clear-eyed on what you are getting into, the risks involved. 

Take Away

Now that you know the basics of multi-pitch climbing, it’s time to get on a mini-adventure. However, this will require more commitment than the single pitch climbing at the crag. 

With this, you should be self-sufficient and in a position to adapt to various situations based on the route, gear, and other choices available as you get to the top. 

It is evident that it significantly differs from the single pitch. You must have a certain skill set like belaying from above and communicative and responsive skills for both partners. 

Before you begin climbing, the leader and the follower should be aware of what they are doing. It’s one great thing to read this guide, but it’s a different thing to climb up yourself. 

So, you should not attempt climbing if you lack the needed expertise. Don’t forget that the major goal is to climb with safety.

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About the author 

Bernice

Bernice often jokes that she is better at climbing than walking. With avid parents of climbing, her first encounter with the high vertical rock walls was at the age of one. Her favorite style of climbing is bouldering.

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