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Dropped Your Belay Device? Forget Your Harness? Here’s How to Make Do.

Dropped, forgotten, or mysteriously vanished gear can ruin a climbing day. Worst case, it can be life-threatening. But with a little know-how, you can recover from bone-headed mistakes and keep climbing—and also impress friends with your savvy.

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Tag Line

If you trash your tag line during a multi-pitch climb, you can still make double-rope-length rappels to get off. Feed the undamaged lead line through the anchor point, and attach it to the damaged line with a bulky knot that can’t pull through the rap rings. (This method is sometimes called the Reepschnur.) Don’t use it with an anchor that has webbing or carabiners at the rap point; the smaller the rap rings, the better. Next, rig a back-up by tying an overhand or figure-eight on a bight on the damaged line, near the knot, and clipping the loop to the lead line. With the knot jammed against the rap point, you can rappel single-strand on the undamaged lead line, then pull the damaged trail line to retrieve your good cord. This method can also be used to temporarily anchor one strand of a double-rope rappel so you can rap with a Grigri or other single-rope belay device.


If you run out of quickdraws, you may be able to substitute a nut. The cable loop on many wired nuts can be pulled away from the nut, exposing the end of the loop; clip a carabiner into each end of the wire for an instant quickdraw. (If the cable is soldered or glued at the nut, this method won’t work.) For a back-up long runner, carry a gear sling rated to full strength.

Belay Device

If you drop your belay or rappel device, use the Munter hitch. You can belay or rappel with this simple hitch, using only the rope and a locking carabiner. A large, pear-shaped carabiner allows more room for the knot to move and “flip” freely so it can engage or release braking power, but any locker will work. You can even use two non-lockers with the gates opposed and reversed. Tying the Munter is simple. Check that you’ve done it correctly by pulling the rope back and forth —the knot should “flip” as you change direction.

Essential Climbing Knots — The Complete Guide



If you show up at the crag without your harness, all is not lost. For single-pitch climbing, you can share your partner’s harness. The climber wears the harness while you belay directly off an anchor at the base: a sling around a tree or boulder or a gear anchor (see illustration below). Make sure the anchor is bombproof and good for multi-directional pulls, especially upward. The belay will be fairly static, so it’s not the best for taking lots of falls.

Ice Axe

When most of the snow is gone in your local hills, it’s tempting to leave the ice axe behind. Unfortunately, any snow you find may be rock-hard. Cross short snowfields by cutting sharp-edged foot- and hand-holds with a rock. You can use a nut tool as an ice dagger, but it’s more important to cut good steps and stand in balance. Hard snow is very abrasive, so always don a pair of light gloves for protection.

Shoes or Chalk Bag

So, you’ve emptied your pack, but shoes and chalk bag are nowhere to be found. Take a deep breath, open your mind, and step back into the 1960s. Layton Kor and Royal Robbins climbed 5.9 and 5.10 in footwear similar to your approach shoes, and never bothered with chalk. On belay!

“My Imaginary Relationship With Layton Kor Got a Little Weird.”