Fixed rope

A fixed rope is a rope which is minimally anchored to a point of protection in the terrain by its upper end. The number of anchors can also be more than just one; usually the rope is anchored at its upper and lower ends, and many times in the middle of the rope. A fixed rope therefore does not move, is not taken in, and is simply pulled tight in the terrain so that the climber can advance along it. It is used mostly for securing a section of the route frequented by climbing individuals. The installation of the fixed rope thereby saves you time. The rope is installed once, and then a single climber can move along it multiple times, or multiple climbers one after the other, without having to take in the rope in the terrain and place points of protection. Most often you encounter it in the mountains where segments of the route are highly frequented; they are also used in extremely high altitude mountains during expedition mountaineering. We can classify a fixed rope and its use in various different ways based on its construction, whereas each way is applied in slightly different situations. We differentiate the following methods of protection with a fixed rope:

  • rope railing
  • progress along a fixed rope protected by ascenders or prusik hitches
  • progress directly along a fixed rope (single rope technique)

Rope railing

Used primarily during high altitude hiking. The rope is firmly anchored on both ends at minimum, but several anchor points may be added in the middle of the rope.However, installation of the rope in terrain assumes that in the group of people there is at least one skilled member who can handle the installation of the rope. The other climbers then advance along the rope, which they can clip into either using locking carabiners or ascenders, if applicable using prusik hitches. This is a combination with the method described in the next paragraph.

Rope railing

Rope railing

Progress along a fixed rope secured by ascenders or prusik hitches

A vertically mounted rope is anchored by its upper end, and the climber only belays himself during free progress through the terrain or when climbing along a cliff with an ascender; the ascender is fastened to his harness and during the ascent the climber pulls it along the rope with him.

Progress along a fixed line using an ascender.

Progress along a fixed line using an ascender.

This way progress along an inclined slope is also protected, where you can advance by walking but in locations where a potential fall would be dangerous. This method of belaying is often used when hauling heavy loads up a steep slope. For this purpose a so-called hand ascender is used, which is equipped with a handle. If you use a prusik hitch it is necessary that the sling be strong enough, i.e. thick, and attached to the rope using a prusik sling that can support firm gripping of the rope even with thick diameter (e.g. double prusik or Machard prusik).

Progress directly along a fixed rope (single-rope technique)

Progress is again made either along a rope railing or along a vertical rope anchored in a so called rope route. Belaying is carried out using an ascender or prusik hitch, which of course at the same time serves for climbs during which the climber can hang on the rope as well. Single rope technique is the basic method in speleoalpinism (climbing through caves). In mountaineering it is used as an auxiliary method, e.g. ascent by a second using the Yosemite ascent method, ascent from a glacial crack, etc.

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Title Part 3Mountaineering Methodology – Part 3 – Belaying and Rappelling

ISBN 978-80-87715-09-3

MMPublishing, 2013

Available for download from Apple iTunes (in the Books section).

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Title Part 3 GPMountaineering Methodology – Part 3 – Belaying and Rappelling

ISBN 978-80-87715-14-7

MMPublishing, 2014

Available for download from Google Play.