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"Rope", "Slack", or "Clipping"


ClimbingCowboy
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So you're leading a sport/trad route. You've clipped your 'biner in the bolt or pro and now ready to place the rope in the 'biner. The belayer or leader is new to this in that they always top-rope, so verbal communication is used because the new person is unaware that some extra rope is to be needed.

 

Does the leader say, "Rope", "Slack", or "Clipping"?

 

The "Mountaineers" 6th ed defines the command rope to be used when tossing the coil over the side. It doesn't say to use it for slack. I say slack. I think it unwise for my belayer to wonder, for any length of time, if they need to look for a rope being dropped from above or if I need slack to clip the rope.

 

However, some gym-taught/college course people here in Chicago are being taught to say rope and it seems they aren't seeing the logic I just described above.

 

Am I missing a change in the climbing communication universe here?

 

As an aside, when I climb with anyone new, I cover the terms that are going to be used on a climb. Once I'm comfortable with someone, then this becomes less of an issue.

 

 

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Does the leader say, "Rope", "Slack", or "Clipping"?

 

Say what ever you want…..just make sure your belayer knows what you mean. I suggest covering this before you leave the ground.

 

When I am ready to grab the rope and run it through the carabineer, I have a habit of saying “rope” then I say “clipped” once it is in. When climbing with someone new I try to go over this on the ground.

 

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You shouldn't ever have to open your mouth to communicate with the belayer that you need slack to clip. The belayer should figure that shit out beforehand.

 

If the climber is out of sight then there's probably going to be enough slack to at least start to clip from without the belayer reacting. Once the rope starts feeding a bit, the belayer should let more out for clipping.

 

If the climber is falling, that's when to scream.

 

 

And as an added, complicating note. If you're climbing on doubles and alternating clips, then the belayer can/should leave more than enough slack in the clipping rope, since it will not be the one that is currently protecting the leader. Continually getting caught short roped when trying to clip, while using double ropes, is dumb and can be easily avoided.

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I agree it seems like a poor idea to start recommending the call "rope" to mean "feed me more rope" because formerly many climbers were taught "up rope" as meaning "pull in the rope" and simply "rope" as meaning "heads up."

 

Maybe we need to re-define all the signals and teach a new method - kind of like how we should probably switch to metric from feet and inches some time, but it seems to me the calls we have been using are just fine. I've already been confused by new signals coming from the gym's - as in where my buddy yelled "take" several years ago and I had never heard it before and thought he was yelling "slack." Needless to say, I didn't do what he intended.

 

I'd favor sticking with the traditional calls : on-belay, climb, up rope, slack etc. and augmenting them with more specific informative ones like where I use "clipped through" to tell my belayer I've clipped a piece and they can now belay accordingly. That signal especially helps when I've clipped over my head in a double rope setup and for the next couple of moves I want the belayer to simultaneously feed one rope while pulling in the other, or where I'm sketched and want a snug belay after I just a minute ago called for slack -- and it has not caused confusion.

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Remeber the KISS acronym?

 

I agree with MattP.

The standard I learned was:

 

Slack (let out rope).

Up-rope (take up rope).

Off/on belay.

 

One reason to stick with those is that in many circumstances you can't hear each other very well. Then the number of syllables tells you what to do: Blah! = slack, Blah blah! = up-rope. Blah Blah Blah = on/off belay (confirm before taking climber off belay).

 

If you can easily hear each other then do whatever you want, but talk about it beforehand to avoid confusion.

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One thing they probably won't teach you in Chicago is what to do when you cannot hear your belayer. Even at the big climbing areas like Jackson Falls or Devil's Lake you don't have the experience we find common on longer climbs in a more mountainous setting or more complex crag where you may pass over a bulge or around a corner and cannot communicate visually or vocally.

 

I use one single and simple signal. The leader gives five quick tugs of the rope. It means "stop belaying and start climbing." The leader may have a belay set up, or they may be just short of a belay and need the second to start out so they can get there. The message is the same. You probably don't want to use tugs in the other direction, as without having visual or voice contact, the belayer could misunderstand and pull on the leader while they are in a tenuous position.

 

By the way: I was taught the same "reasoning" for the one, two and three-syllable calls that Rad describes, but I'm not sure that it has ever worked out that I could hear syllables but not the calls -- in 35 years of climbing. It is not uncommon that I can hear the other guy yelling something I don't know what it is, but I'm not sure I could ever count syllables and this worked to communicate.

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When I climbed with a friend and some of his gym friends a few months ago, they used the gym terms and I didn't know them so they assumed I was not really an experienced climber. That worked out OK since I can't climb anymore but I have wondered when a death will occur because of this new system.

It is just another itteration of the differences between gym climbing and trad climbing. We are now faced with the "majority" using gym terms. I try to learn new things once in awhile just to keep my brain from atrophying. But this one has been particularly hard to swallow.

Why do these newbies get to tell ME how to signal "correctly"?!

The answer is simple. We suck

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I agree it seems like a poor idea to start recommending the call "rope" to mean "feed me more rope" because formerly many climbers were taught "up rope" as meaning "pull in the rope" and simply "rope" as meaning "heads up."

 

 

 

Did you not read what I wrote?

 

It really does not matter what you say when you need rope…..as long as you and your partner are together on what your method means before you leave the ground.

 

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Did you not read what I wrote?

 

Yes. And I heartily disagree. People want to do things the latest way, I understand, but I see no reason to think a new set of auditory signals - at least any new set that I've heard so far - is any improvement over the old. And there is real potential for confusion just because somebody in a gym in Oklahoma City decided that they wanted to make up their own system.

 

Did you not read what I wrote?

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Every region uses a different set of verbal commands. Everyone I've climbed with uses different language and after one pitch we've worked out something that is safe for the both of us.

 

Each examples you gave for the use of 'rope!' has a completely different context.

up rope!-> take in rope while top-roping

rope!-> I'm about to drop a coil of rope from the top of the cliff.

rope!->feed me some slack so I can make this clip while leading

 

I've tried rope tugs before but have found that if the leader is out of sight and I can't hear them then there is usually too much rope drag to feel distinct tugs.

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Maybe I'm just a mountaineer at heart (never joined but I do sometimes wear shorts and polypro and I used to have my initials on my helmet). However, just about anybody (in the U.S.) I have ever climbed with who did not come from a gym or sport climbing background used the same "old fashioned" signals. I have traveled around a bit and climbed with "pick up" partners at a variety of areas and this sample includes climbers from east, west, north and south. It certainly isn't a big deal to stumble over belay signals for a pitch or two until you get it figured out, and I've adapted to the latest gym rat lingo or the staunch "old fashioned" practices and guteral grunts of a German who I could barely talk to, but on the other hand it is also easier if you don't have to. And it is not a bad thing if, in a moment of anxiety, you don't have to remember that if you yell "rope" the guy is going to feed you a bunch of slack instead of taking it in.

 

I think that as we are seeing the sport become much more specialized, so that many climbers ONLY climb at a gym - one gym in many cases - or where they get intensely focussed on the scene at a single area, or they only pursue overhanging sport, or maybe they are a big wall speed climbing guy or whatever - certain practices can easily seem universal even if nobody outside the local area or their specialty ever heard of them. There have always been climbers local to specific areas, but it used to be said that "every climber in the U.S. sooner or later goes to the Tetons." I don't think there is a modern equivalent; we have segmented much more.

 

Even if you don't plan to travel or climb with unknown partners, what is the advantage in having a bunch of different lexicons? As I said above, it is not that big of a deal to work things out over the course of a pitch or two, but how is it really a plus to have to do so?

 

If not tugs on the rope, what system do you use when you can neither see nor hear the other climber? Radio?

 

 

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I've tried tug systems a few times when there's a lot of rope drag I find it hard to tell if it's a tug or just the climber moving fast over easy terrain. I've always ended up belaying out the rope as fast as it is being pulled out, pausing until I think I'm on belay and waiting a little longer before start climbing. My partners always felt this was best in the situation. I think radios might be the safest method.

 

I agree that a universal system would be safest but I don't think it's possible to create one that everyone will agree on and use even within North America.

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Gotta admit, for years I said "rope" when going to clip in a tight spot, trad or sport. My partners always seemed to understand, but I've converted (I think...mostly) to saying "clipping," especially when out-of-sight from my belayer.

 

More troublesome was my other (really) bad habit of yelping "OFF!" when I took a surprise fall. I think I was finally cured of this while climbing with a person who's posted multiple times on this thread. My sliding skid down a Darrington slab turned into a 40-footer before he stopped feeding slack!

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I'm thinking mostly of situations of long or linked pitches where the route goes around a large convex feature of low angle rock. The leader ends up way out of sight with a big chunk of rock in between so it's hard to hear them. In my memory those times were made worse by high winds. I think it's unavoidable that you will get a lot of rope drag with 40m to 50m of rope running over rock let alone tugging the full weight of the rope with stretch.

 

I just haven't found it to be an effective way of communicating and I like to be sure before taking someone off belay. It will continue to be the backup communication method though and maybe one of these days it will work.

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I hardly ever verbally communicate with my belayer…she always knows what I am doing …she can feel it thought it through the rope, sometimes , I yell slack when I get a tight clip …but it is always a kink in the rope …she is sooo good!!!! :brew: Tequlia midweek sooo bad!!!off to work at 4 am that soo sucks

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Remeber the KISS acronym?

 

I agree with MattP.

The standard I learned was:

 

Slack (let out rope).

Up-rope (take up rope). sobo edit: or "tension" if on lead

Off/on belay.

 

One reason to stick with those is that in many circumstances you can't hear each other very well. Then the number of syllables tells you what to do: Blah! = slack, Blah blah! = up-rope. Blah Blah Blah = on/off belay (confirm before taking climber off belay).

 

This is the way I learned it as well. It's a syllabic thing. You can't always count on understanding all of the words, but you can almost always hear all of the syllables.

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The other thing that I use is just knowing my partner's manner of climbing. Some go all-out fast, others are more pedantic and "cerebral" in their approach. If you're out of sight of each other, and the rope's not moving, and you both have some idea of how much rope is left (which you generally should, leading or seconding), you can make some reasonable assumptions:

Lots of rope left, but moving slow? pedantic climber

Not a lot of rope left? time to look for a belay

Hit a tough move, but capable? give a little slack

Off route, and getting sketched? be prepared for air time

etc.

You get the idea.

YMMV

 

Nowadays, once I've clipped the piece/bolt, I say "I'm in."

Note that it also has two syllables. ==> just as in "up-rope" or "tension", you get the same result: the slack is removed.

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