climbing fast

Techniques for all kinds of climbing, Learn new moves. Share your training secrets, find out how other people are getting strong, and get motivated!
Post Reply
Posts: 84
Joined: Mon Jul 06, 2009 8:08 am
Real Name: Raymond Kroger

climbing fast

Post by Ray » Tue Aug 10, 2010 10:25 am

My wife and I have just climbed Mount Kenya, Batian Peak. We had a really excellent time, although something bothers me about our slow progress. the guide-book we used and the general consensus says that it should take 12 hours there and back (minimum) from Shiptons Camp. We took over 12 hours to get to the top - needless to say we bivvied on the highest bivvy ledge around 5100m... Thankfully we had good weather (it snowed the day before and the day after!).

Then, we (and my wife's dad) headed to Blouberg this weekend to give Moonshadow a go - a 10 pitch 18 on the main face. It was mind-blowing climb, but we only got up three pitches in about 4-5 hours and were past the cut-off time at the grassy ledge and had to bail out on the abseils to avoid a bivvy. On both climbs, we were aware of the need to climb fast and change-over fast, but we just didn't seem to get it right/dont know what to do differently.

So, my question to the trad-greats of this forum is: How do you climb fast? How do you change-over fast? (We have been climbing for two years now, and tradding for about one year.)

I have heard the phrase "if in doubt, run it out" but I don't like the sound of that! I prefer the phrase " empty your rack into the crack" :) (with discretion)

And then a related question - how do you abseil fast? I kept getting huge knots to untangle while abseiling as we tossed the rope down down, even though we piled them nicely and threw them seperately?

thanks :shock:

User avatar
Posts: 3787
Joined: Sat Apr 30, 2005 8:31 am
Real Name: Justin Lawson
Location: Montagu/Cape Town

Re: climbing fast

Post by Justin » Tue Aug 10, 2010 11:15 am

Well done the high altitude bivy!

Abseiling: When throwing the ropes down (with their respective knots in the end). Throw overhand (not underhand) this usually stops the rope from becoming entangled on itself / other objects on the rockface. You can also clip a quickdraw onto your legloop and the other end between the rope (below the abseil device). This allows the rope to be fed correctly (straight) into the abseil device. A safety backup prusik loop is also recommended.

Climbing with 3 people, the leader should belay both seconders up at the same time - when the first second arrives, the 2nd should take over the belaying (of the 3rd) and the leader should get ready to leave again (leader will have to wait for the 3rd to arrive to get the rest of the gear).
Note that the leader needs to have setup the belay in a certain manner in order to make this work.

Placing gear: get really good at this (practice makes perfect) - see the placement, choose the piece, slot it in, clip and move. You don't want to be picking and choosing, testing or praying whilst placing gear. 'Know your rack'
The same goes for the 2nd'er whilst removing gear.
Climbing easy trad routes is good practise for this.

Route finding - know where you are going.
Nothing wrong with 'running it out' - however if you do, ensure that you have a clean fall (i.e. running it out on Arrow Final on TM is NOT a good idea, because if you fall you will hit a ledge).
Keep it neat: Pack ropes neatly and rack orderly

Good stance setups: When the leader arrives at the stance, the stance should be setup to allow for the 2nd(er's) to clip in quickly and be comfortable (i.e. arrive, clip in and not have to move).

Find a good guide / instructor; ask the them to teach you the 'technical side of Trad climbing & how to move quickly'
There are very likely a lot of tips & tricks that you might not be aware of. Doing it practically is always better.
It will most likely be money well spent (and might save you from a nights bivy on a small ledge one day :P

If/when you risk something, make sure it's a calculated.
Ultimately keep it safe.
Climb ZA - Administrator

Posts: 1179
Joined: Mon Oct 16, 2006 8:53 am
Real Name: Charles Edelstein
Location: Cape Town

Re: climbing fast

Post by SNORT » Tue Aug 10, 2010 6:33 pm

Climbing trad well is all about efficiency and a lot depends on how you get into it and who you start climbing with and continue with. It really does take years to climb trad well and you have to keep at it. Single pitch routes simply do not cut it.

Like flying aircraft it takes around 10 000 hours of trad climbing to become proficient.

If you can get to climb with proficient climbers and they have the patience to climb with you, you have a good chance of learning but no proficient climber will bother if you are not seriously motivated and take care of all those other things that you can do on your own like tie knots quickly, flake a rope properly and coil it well and obviously have a decent level of fitness to at least easily climb 21+ well on say sport routes .

Guides and instructors also in my opinion will not get you proficient unless they actually go climbing with you and are fast and proficient themselves. This requires them letting you lead and correcting your mistakes as you go. Licensed guides also, because they have to take extra care have certain protocols that are not efficient such as balanced belays and the like.

Everything matters in trad including the weight of your rack, the type of ropes and weight, the actual gear and so on.

Most inexperienced climbers carry far too much gear and this slow one down.

Nuts are very light and strong and one must be able to place them well to cut down on heavy cams.

On an easy route on Blouberg one should really only have one set of nuts to size 9 or 10, and a set of cams from 5mm to 9cm, 4 slings and 8 qd's and preferably two 8.4mm 50m ropes. Everything else is extra.

Finally, the best way to learn is to have lots of epic bivvies. They make you strong and they make routes memorable.

User avatar
Posts: 238
Joined: Fri May 27, 2005 7:34 am
Real Name: Brenda Marx
Location: Stellenbosch

Re: climbing fast

Post by tygereye » Tue Aug 10, 2010 6:51 pm

Finally, the best way to learn is to have lots of epic bivvies. They make you strong and they make routes memorable.
Touche! :thumleft:

User avatar
Nic Le Maitre
Posts: 1341
Joined: Mon Apr 02, 2007 9:40 am
Real Name: Nic Le Maitre
Location: Stellenbosch

Re: climbing fast

Post by Nic Le Maitre » Wed Aug 11, 2010 7:33 am


Abseiling: Flake the rope separately onto the ground. Coil about 10m in your hand from the top of the flaked pile and throw that. the rope will then feed downwards under its' own weight.

Fast change overs: Use a bandoleer rather than racking all the gear on your harness, that way you can pass over unused gear much faster.

Place less gear: Only place gear where you are worried about falling. There is no point in placing gear on easy angled terrain with lots of ledges. Gear placed there won't protect you from hitting a ledge if you do fall and will only add to rope drag.
Happy climbing

Posts: 1179
Joined: Mon Oct 16, 2006 8:53 am
Real Name: Charles Edelstein
Location: Cape Town

Re: climbing fast

Post by SNORT » Wed Aug 11, 2010 7:58 am

When you get to a stance, rack all your left over gear on a bandolier the way know your partner likes it. Put all the other gear that he/she prefers to attach to a harness on a sling. Your partner can then hang that sling over his/her neck and rack it to preference. Don't hand gear over by hand. It is in-efficient and you can drop it.

Don't over-protect your stances and as you approach a stance place a good piece if there is one in case the stance is a bit dodgy. One good piece on a stance if it is a flat ledge is OK if you can sit flat and stable at least to get your partner climbing. And then look around for more. If your stance has only one obvious piece then make sure you are sitting flat and stable. That's is worth a piece of gear and even a heavy climber won't pull you off if the rope is going straight down and there is no slack in the system. Obviously if the follower might take a big fall like on a traverse then be sure you have a decent back-up. Communicate properly!! If you can't use your cell phones....!!! Most climbing areas have reception.

When your partner gets to a stance get ready. Take out all but one good piece and rack it nicely for your next lead. Be ready - always _ to start climbing when you are told to.

Always look for something to do before you start climbing. Make sure the ropes won't tangle or catch on vegetation.

Be careful about how deep in horizontal cracks you place small cams. Make sure the triggers are not too deep and make sure the cam is not overcammed. Abandon stuck gear quickly.

When you belay make sure you don't ratchet your leader. That is most off-putting and slows him down.

Posts: 760
Joined: Fri Jun 27, 2008 8:38 am
Real Name: Derek Marshall
Location: Port Elizabeth

Re: climbing fast

Post by Marshall1 » Wed Aug 11, 2010 9:01 am

Keep quiet: only make the proper nessesary calls. Avoids confusion, frustration & time wasting.

Focus & anticipate what is coming next. Constantly adjust & make small plans to save time.

Abseiling: fold the rope over your shoulders. Release it off your shoulders as you go snaging or knoting.

Posts: 74
Joined: Thu Jun 11, 2009 9:40 pm

Re: climbing fast

Post by Daydreams » Wed Aug 11, 2010 9:22 am

Climb more.... All the above makes sence but unless you can get out climbing trad as often as possible you will loose it. I am no speed freak and I notice that after a good couple of outings I am more effiecent on the rock

Posts: 259
Joined: Mon Jan 23, 2006 1:52 pm

Re: climbing fast

Post by Brussel » Thu Nov 11, 2010 9:25 am

We did Batian in 2005 in 12 hours hut to hut in a party of three....what an amazing day out!
All of what has been said here is excellent advice. My 2 cents on something like 'Exposure in F' which is a 13 pitch country route as an example:

1. Climb fast and smoothly as Justin says place gear, yank, go no faffing
2. Don't place too much gear on easy terrain
3. On the stances get gear from one to other fast, I don't like bandoliers and we can still climb fast

on 13 pitches an extra 10 minutes/pitch and an extra 10minutes/stance = over 4 hours slower!

Experience is key! When I started tradding on Table Mountain about 8 years back, a single climb like Atlantic Crag (6 pitches) would take most of a day to climb. Last weekend we did it in 4 hours car to car (walking and not using the cable car) smooth fast climbing, quick belays, and fast threading on the abseils all shave many many minutes off.
Last edited by Brussel on Thu Nov 11, 2010 4:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Posts: 165
Joined: Fri May 18, 2007 10:39 am
Location: Cape Town (mostly :) )

Re: climbing fast

Post by Tristan » Thu Nov 11, 2010 12:18 pm

By the way the Nose In A Day record was recently bettered: its now 2hr36min45sec. Thats 3000ft of vertical terrain in 2 and a half hours!

Not sure that helps answer the question on how to climb fast though :jocolor:

<basically if u follow Dean's lead you just don't stop climbing...and then you are fast>

Posts: 429
Joined: Mon Jan 16, 2006 8:21 pm

Re: climbing fast

Post by Hector » Thu Nov 11, 2010 5:15 pm

There's a great book by Hans Florine called Speed Climbing. It's full of really useful time-saving tricks and some pretty insane marginal stunts as well. But his basic premis is any time not spent ascending is wasted time. So for the fairly conventional tradding we do in SA, that means stop faffing at belays. You can have a lekker chat back at the car. When the leader reaches a stance, place one good piece, then yell off belay. Place the other anchors while your second is dismantling the stance. The second must be ready to climb as soon as the leader yells on belay. That means all anchors but one removed, shoes on, backpack on, chalked up etc. Linking pitches saves huge time. On easy ground, climb till you run out of rope. You dont have to find a comfy ledge if you're not planning on staying there very long. While climbing don't be reckless, just dont faff and dont agonise over gear.

Post Reply