Tech Tips: Swing Time

Illustration by Jamie Givens

Illustration by Jamie Givens

Pitches that traverse sideways can be as dangerous for the follower as for the leader, exposing both climbers to the risk of long, swinging falls. When leading, a climber naturally seeks pro before the crux; after the difficulties, however, he may cruise across easier terrain unprotected. This leaves the second dangerously exposed. So the leader should also place gear right after cruxes on a traverse. Here, a few additional considerations to minimize swing time:

Sometimes it’s not possible or desirable to place gear after a crux. If the line traverses but then sweeps back, following a “C” path, you might be able to hold off placing pro until you’ve climbed back into the plumb line above the crux, so the rope will run directly down to the second.

It may be possible to climb a bit off route and arrange gear above the crux for your second. For example, after a rightward traverse, the rock might allow you to step back left, place some pro above the traverse line, and then continue up the route. (See illustration above.)

Double-rope technique may allow you to have the best of both worlds, clipping protection wherever you want with one rope, and leaving the second rope unclipped to provide a free-running toprope for your follower.

Guidebooks often note poorly protected traverses. On such routes, both leader and follower will need to be comfortable at the grade.

If you do a traversing route with one climber who will be at (or above) his limit, climb in a party of three. Belaying from both sides simultaneously can effectively protect the middle climber on almost any traverse.