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Ascending The Rope

You've all seen the movie where the mountaineer is left hanging in the wind on the end of the rope, his partner unable to help. Our hero inevitably whips off his shoe laces, and uses them to ascend the rope. It makes great footage, but unless you're feeling like James Bond material, or you start using 6 or 7mm accessory cord as shoe laces, I suggest you use a more practical approach. There's probably dozens of ways to ascend a rope, but here's a few I can think of. Again, I make no claim the following is accurate, Chockstone Photography | Landscape Photography Australia | Australian Landscape Photography

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Ascending With Mechanical AscendersPetzl AscensionPetzl Ascension
The standard means of ascending a rope is to use two mechanical ascenders (sometimes called "Jumars", which is just a brand name). As an example, the Petzl Ascension is pictured right. A device such as this will be handy on a big wall, or when a lot of planned rope climbing is required.

One way to use ascenders is to simply attach both to the rope, clip them each to your harness with slings, then attach something like an aider or etrier to both ascenders. Stick one foot into the appropriate rung of one aider and the other foot into the other aider, and up you go, weighting and sliding the ascenders up one at a time. There's not much point in describing it in detail, because if you have such a device you'll also have the manual.Petzl TiblocWild Country Rope Man II

You might also like to check out Phil's tips on Ascending A Rope with a Jumar and GriGri. There's quite a variety of mechanical ascender's available and not all are big like the Petzl Ascension (pictured above right). Petzl also make a "Tibloc" (pictured far right), which they claim is the worlds smallest ascender (but those teeth look sharp). The Wild Country Ropeman (pictured right) is supposed to be light and small. In any case if you've not planning on ascending, a couple of prusiks will do the job in a pinch.

Ascending With Two Friction Knots
If you not lugging around a pair of ascenders, perhaps the next most common means is to employ two friction knots (pictured right), for example, prusiks. Tie the first prusik to the rope and clip this to your harness. Tie a second prusik (perhaps from a longer loop of cord) to the rope, form a slip knot in it's tail and put one foot through the slip knot. Now simply stand up on the foot prusik and, once the harness prusik is unweighted, slide it up as high as you can reach. Sit down and weight the harness prusik once more, and then slide the foot prusik up a comfortable distance. Stand up, and repeat the whole process over and over again. It can take quite some time if you have to ascend a full rope length, and can be somewhat tiring. 

As a safety precaution tie off the slack end of the rope, using a figure eight on a bite, at progressive intervals and clip to your harness. To avoid having a clutter of these knots all hanging off your harness you might choose to untie and release each previous one. Note, however, some climbers prefer the clutter to potentially getting the trailing rope snagged far below.

Ascending With One Friction Knot
It's also possible to ascend the rope with only one friction knot, you might chose to use a bachman in this case. Follow the above "two friction knot" example, except that for the foot prusik you simply wrap the rope around your shoe a few times. This is far more tedious. You could also use a Garda Hitch to replace the foot prusik. I won't go into detail, because I've never ascended the rope in this manner. Whatever you do, make sure you've got the figure eight backups in place.

I've had success ascending a rope over slabby terrain that was less than vertical using a GriGri rigged as for abseiling, and basically muscling my way up. I doubt it's recommend by Petzl, and is quite tiring after only a short distance, but if I need to gain a few metres in a hurry, I find it quite handy. Make sure you tie backup knots, and please don't let this give you idea's about top rope soloing. At least not without fully investigating the methods & equipment required. (See Dawn's FAQ page, if you're mad keen to TR solo).


Further Reading:
Ascending The Rope - From Time Outdoors web site.
How Do I Jug - From Dawn's FAQ on TradGirl web site.
Comparative Review Of Ascenders - From web site.


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