Thou Shalt Not Set Up Top Ropes on Fixed Gear! (But feel free to lower off.)

Don’t do it!

The registration form this year included a trick question to identify and nail nooblets. Some of the most experienced climbers clicked it on purpose just to rattle my cage, but many more clicked it cause they didn’t know any better.  Among questions such as, “I have lead 20+ sport routes”, there was a checkbox next to the phrase, “I typically set up top-ropes through fixed/permanent gear instead of using quickdraws”.  That was a trick question, and you shouldn’t have clicked it.

One frequent element of climbing is setting up top ropes for yourself to work a route, or more commonly, for not quite as uber-strong friends.  When setting up top-ropes, you don’t run the rope directly through the o-rings at the top, but instead through your own equipment (which is in turn attached to the fixed bolts or o-rings).  At an HC event, we prefer that you do this with at least one locking quickdraw (an auto-locker is even better).  It’s much more appropriate than a pair of non-locking quickdraws for a top-rope that might go uninspected for several hours.

In any event, YOU SHALL NEVER TOP ROPE DIRECTLY THROUGH THE ANCHORS. If you don’t know what this means, you shouldn’t be setting up top-ropes, period.  Doing this at the convention places you in the category of “people who besmirch HC’s reputation”, which is a subcategory of “people who are subject to getting banned from this and future HC conventions”.

Unless local rules insist on it (e.g. Muir Valley, where the anchors are privately funded and replaced), we don’t ask anyone to rappel off routes when cleaning, unless they just really want to.  In my own opinion, the number of deaths caused by rappelling vastly eclipses the cost of replacing o-rings, and if I have to make and sell a calendar of hot shirtless climbers to fund an anchor replacement initiative to win that ethics war, by God I’ll do it.  I just see no reason to bring the unholy number of rappelling death reports into the single pitch sport climbing world because we couldn’t collectively figure out a way to make a few more stops to ACE Hardware.

In any event, toproping through the fixed gear is lazy and obnoxious, as it efficiently grinds down the rings while doing little to further your safety, and thus you shouldn’t do it outside of pressing circumstances.

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