I have been sport climbing for many years, both indoors and out, but have only ever tried single pitch climbs. I would like to learn multiple pitch climbing, but have no idea how you manage the transition.

Do you get to a ledge and then belay your partner up then effectively start again on the new pitch? Or do you let your partner climb past you as the new leader?

Do you need to do anything special with regards to safety as you change from being the leader to being the belayer halfway up a wall?

2 Answers 2


So, as no-one has answered, I thought I'd pop up some of the info I found in my research.

It doesn't seem to matter much whether the leader continues or whether you swap leads, however leading for a couple of pitches and then swapping may get your hand in with placing anchors on that climb. Weigh this up against fatigue.

The key piece for all multi-pitch climbs is rope handling at each belay point - this is where some additional techniques and practices come into play:

From Petzl's guidance:

Everyone should be directly or indirectly clipped to 2 separate anchors (using locking carabiners). Attaching the climbing rope with a clove-hitch to the anchor allows for simple adjustments so there's no slack in the system. Never rely on a single carabiner at the belay station!

A sling between the two belay points with a central carabiner allows for equal weight distribution and safety.

two equalised belay points and sling

Two aspects I had not considered at all - where to prepare the rope for the next climb (if you let it hang it will catch, so you need to coil somehow, but on a narrow ledge your options are limited - go for hooking through a carabiner or over your fixed rope) and where to place your first clip on the next climb (this is important, as your 2 belay point anchors will not be set to withstand a fall from above)

Another quick comment from outdoorsmagic.com advises thinking about where you stand at belay points depending on whether you are left or right handed to make rope handling as easy as possible on the climb.


A few points about multipitching:

You each tie into an end of the rope and stay tied in for the duration of the climb. When you finish the pitch, often you will tether yourself to the focal point of the anchor and set up a top belay off of the shelf (correctly!). When the 2nd climber gets up to you they can also attach themselves to the focal point. (Be careful to keep any tether weighted since the lack of stretch can result in serious shock-loads.) Next, regardless of who is climbing, you will need to transition from a top belay to a regular belay. At this point you will also transfer the full rack to the new leader.

The rope can be stacked on the ledge or looped over top of your tether. If the 2nd climber will continue through and lead the next pitch, make each loop smaller than the previous and it will avoid rope tangles. 2 equalized bolts should certainly be able to catch a fall if the person is on belay (not tethered) and there is rope stretch and some slippage through the device to limit the peak force. However, the belayer needs to be prepared to catch a fall that will pull downwards!

Most importantly, do a LOT of learning before you try any of this! Hiring a qualified guide to teach you is a very good idea. This book is also helpful (but maybe not comprehensive): https://www.amazon.ca/Rock-Climbing-Anchors-Comprehensive-Guide/dp/1594850062/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1525908315&sr=8-3&keywords=climbing+anchors. Learn some basic self-rescue techniques and make sure you have all your systems completely sorted out on the ground before you get up there. Remember, you might not even be able to see or hear each other by the time you get to the anchor.

Stay safe.

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