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>>I was at the gym when I saw a guy “self-belaying” on toprope. He was tied into one side of the rope and he had a tube-style belay device clipped to his belay loop, which was attached to the free-hanging side of the rope. He would climb up five feet or so, pull the slack through his device, then continue up. I stopped him as soon as I saw what was going on.—Ryan R., Boulder, Colorado
LESSON: It takes half a second to fall five feet. The chance that a climber could find the rope, grab it, and brake in that time (while airborne!) is slim to none. Proper rope soloing should be done with progress-capture devices*. These will stop a fall regardless of what you’re doing. It’s important to use two devices (Petzl, manufacturer of many such devices recommends using two different ones) for redundancy in case one should fail. Rope soloing is a complex skill not to be taken lightly, and certainly not to be left up to reflexes. In fact, it should probably never be done in a gym without permission. That’s what autobelays are for. For a more information, check out our primer on toprope soloing.
*It's possible to rope solo using knots, but the most widely used systems employ progress capture devices.
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