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SplashClimber

rope tugs - does anyone really use them?

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Ok, all of the books say if you are having trouble hearing your partner, you move onto agreed-upon "rope tugs". So practically.... does anyone out there really use rope tugs to communicate when you cannot hear your partner??

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Yes, but I keep it simple. The only signal I use is "start climbing." The leader tugs the rope 5 times when they have either set up a belay or need the follower to start climbing so they can reach one. Either way, follower takes apart the anchor and starts climbing. Carefully. This will not be confused with "i'm flipping the rope off an edge" or "I'm about to make a move and don't want rope drag so I'm pulling the rope up so I have some slack" or "I'm just checking to see if you are there."

 

Even if we have not agreed upon this signal in advance, nearly all my partners have understood it when, even if they didn't get it the first time, I repeat it two or three times more after waiting a bit.

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I agree with Matt, keep it simple. Work out signals with partner before climbing. Also remember to really reef on the rope with long pulls and pause between each pull, otherwise rope stretch will negate any signal reaching your partner. Many times, especially at Icicle, you can see each other, but can't hear. Work out some hand signals for these situations.

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Learn Morse code and use it with the rope. This way you can have actual conversations with your partner - no confusion this way!

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Pretty similar, but I've managed to complicate it. A set of tugs basically means "OK, done, on to the next step".

 

First set of tugs from leader (usually I use 3 tugs) = "off belay".

2nd takes leader off belay, gives 3 tugs to indicate belay is off.

Leader pulls slack, puts 2nd on belay, gives another set of tugs.

Follower, if in doubt as to whether belay is on, gives tugs.

Leader replies with tugs to confirm.

Follower breaks down anchor and climbs.

 

That is a lot more tugging and complication than Matt's method, but it has worked for me since it follows the sequence I usually use verbally with my partners.

There are plenty of crags where you'll need some sort of signal because noise from a creek or road below, it's not just for the alpine.

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Yes, I wish more people would use them. Nothing ruins a peaceful day of climbing like listening to people scream at each other trying to figure out if they are on belay. Seriously, even cragging I like to use simple hand signals to take the leader off.

 

I use 4 hard tugs to take the leader off, and 3 hard tugs to put the follower on belay. Once the follower is on belay, there doesn't need to be any more communication, the follower can climb whenever they are ready. I've always been a bit confused when partners will call back and forth, "climbing" "climb-on." Once the belay is on, the belayer should be ready to catch a fall and assume the climber is moving or getting ready to move. No need to scream up every action your taking. "I'm drinking water" "drink on"

 

-Nate

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I've always been a bit confused when partners will call back and forth, "climbing" "climb-on." Once the belay is on, the belayer should be ready to catch a fall and assume the climber is moving or getting ready to move.

Yeah, ideally that is how it works. But it can be difficult to intuit when the 2nd is done breaking the anchor and starting to climb, and it can be frustrating for the 2nd if the leader starts "belaying" them while they are still disassembling the anchor. That's why the "climbing" confirmation can be helpful for some people, sometimes.

 

Even experienced leaders can be caught asleep at the wheel as their second starts climbing, especially if the second took extra time breaking the anchor. Have you ever started up a pitch as a second and wondered when your leader was going to start taking in rope? It's nice in this case to have a signal to alert them that you don't want to fall 15' onto the belay ledge. rarely necessary once dialed in with a partner.

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All good info above... I only have this to add:

 

Three tugs from the leader to say that he can be taken off belay and then three tugs from the leader to tell the follower that he is on belay... if the follower has excess slack, or wants to be held tight to clean a stubborn piece then one tug... Also, if you're going to use rope tugs you have to remember that in order to actually feel it on the other end you have to really yard on the rope - a casual pull will not be felt!

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Yes, I very much agree with Eldiente that I wish more people would use rope or visual signals to minimize yelling. Yelling commands is annoying. Yelling should be reserved for mighty yalps, badgering the leader, sasquatch impressions, and other expressions of joy.

 

 

My rope signals:

 

When leader is off belay, he/she pulls up about 20-30' of rope as fast as they can. This should be much faster than one would be climbing, so it is a clear signal to belayer that leader is off belay. Leader then pauses for ~10sec to allow belayer to remove belay device. Leader then reels in remaining slack, puts second on belay and gives three tugs to signal second is now on belay.

 

My visual signals:

 

hand cutting across the throat sign = leader is off-belay

waving towards me = come on up, you are on belay

middle finger = you are my friend and I like you

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I prefer that my follower NOT tug on the rope once I have completed a pitch and tugged or yelled to tell them so. Even though I am off belay(and, presumably secure), I could be in the middle of completing my belay station or adjusting my anchor or taking off my shoes, etc etc. I don't want to be pulled off balance unexpectedly during this process, or have the rope tugged just as I am attaching the belay device and have it popped out of my hand.

 

Since it's just a personal preference--not necessarily the way the next person wants it done-- I try to remember to mention this before I leave the ground and then everybody's happy. :kisss:

 

 

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I’m with Matt, keep it simple with one signal. You can anticipate what’s going on when the bulk of the rope is out (lead reaches the belay ledge.) Progress suddenly stops for several minutes (lead is building an anchor.) Rope suddenly feeds until you come tight (lead is taking up all the slack and putting you on belay.) Signal comes… and as you progress slack is taken in as you move forward (you’re on belay.)

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I’m with Matt, keep it simple with one signal. You can anticipate what’s going on when the bulk of the rope is out (lead reaches the belay ledge.) Progress suddenly stops for several minutes (lead is building an anchor.) Rope suddenly feeds until you come tight (lead is taking up all the slack and putting you on belay.) Signal comes… and as you progress slack is taken in as you move forward (you’re on belay.)

 

yeah, 99% of the time this is exactly how things progress, so as the second you can pretty much guess with good confidence what the leader is doing. still only a guess, but what else are you gonna do, wait for a sign from god? :o

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I prefer that my follower NOT tug on the rope once I have completed a pitch and tugged or yelled to tell them so. Even though I am off belay(and, presumably secure), I could be in the middle of completing my belay station or adjusting my anchor or taking off my shoes, etc etc. I don't want to be pulled off balance unexpectedly during this process, or have the rope tugged just as I am attaching the belay device and have it popped out of my hand.

 

Excellent point! Though if you make your anchor (and secure yourself to said anchor) before giving your tugs to indicate that you can be taken off belay, and use an autoblocker directly off the anchor to belay your second, then the only way the leader would feel the tugs is through the anchor itself, and thus there would be no way your second could pull you off balance - unless you set up a shitty anchor and all your pieces blew! OMG :shock: Plus, your belayer isn't going make any kind of tug until he/she knows that you are secure. :grin:

 

 

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I'd rather the follower not tug for the reasons mentioned above. I'd be a bit bummed if there my follower yanked me off a stance before I could finish my anchor.

 

 

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I'd rather the follower not tug for the reasons mentioned above. I'd be a bit bummed if there my follower yanked me off a stance before I could finish my anchor.

 

What reason would your second have to tug on the rope unless you gave him/her the signal that you were secure and ready to be taken off belay?

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Oh, it happens. Some people are seriously tug-happy. Their intentions may be good, but I find it annoying at best and dangerous at worst.

 

For instance, I've had followers tug on me to confirm that they've taken me off belay, had 'em tug when they thought I must not realize I've been taken off belay because I hadn't started pulling up the rope yet(perhaps I'm still building the anchor), etc.

 

As mentioned by Toast, if we cannot verbally communicate, a lot can be said for paying attention to the movement of the rope. When unsure, err on the side of safety(ie-if I'm following and I'm not sure my leader called off belay and the rope is being pulled but not necessarily quickly, I'll keep my belay device on until I have no doubt that they are in fact pulling the rope, rather than simply scurrying up an easy section).

 

 

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I get it that we're in the n00b forum here, but seriously, who are you leading that doesn't know not to pull on the leader? That's the first (or one of the first) things you learn when being taught how to belay the leader. You are far more trusting than I am if you are climbing with someone who tugs on the leader without the leader having tugged first. Sounds like these followers have other issues going on aside from good intentions becoming annoying and dangerous actions! And I'm right there with y'all in watching the movement of the rope: That's good attention to detail. For sure, if I'm not positive that my leader is pulling up the slack then they remain on belay until the rope is being pulled faster than I can comfortably pay it out. Of course that last statement applies mostly to routes that I can do in my sleep. If it's a route I've never been on before then the situation changes. :grin:

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I've found that if the leader is out of sight and out of listening range that rope signals also don't really work all that well (in Squamish at least). A tug down 50m of rope wandering around blocks and trees let alone the gear isn't exactly a juice can and string phone. The exception would be in high winds or near a raging river.

 

To me a confused message is worse than no message at all. You're in a tough spot getting pumped and set a piece ahead. You pull up rope in a hurry but are too weak and drop it. Repeat that a couple of times and you're off belay? :noway:

 

If there's no clear signal from the belayer I'll belay to the end of the rope and then take the belay device off. I'll then take the anchor apart. There's a certain rhythm to the tugs when you're on belay as the leader is feeling for you at the other end. I'll wait a little longer and then climb a bit. If the slack is taken up I proceed with caution until I'm sure I'm on belay.

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I've found that if the leader is out of sight and out of listening range that rope signals also don't really work all that well (in Squamish at least). A tug down 50m of rope wandering around blocks and trees let alone the gear isn't exactly a juice can and string phone. The exception would be in high winds or near a raging river.

 

To me a confused message is worse than no message at all. You're in a tough spot getting pumped and set a piece ahead. You pull up rope in a hurry but are too weak and drop it. Repeat that a couple of times and you're off belay? :noway:

 

If there's no clear signal from the belayer I'll belay to the end of the rope and then take the belay device off. I'll then take the anchor apart. There's a certain rhythm to the tugs when you're on belay as the leader is feeling for you at the other end. I'll wait a little longer and then climb a bit. If the slack is taken up I proceed with caution until I'm sure I'm on belay.

 

My impression with respect to the rhythm of the tugs is that they are supposed to mimic the number of syllables in the verbal commands. Someone please correct me if they have heard or been taught something different, but:

 

3 tugs means on-be-lay/off-be-lay (3 syllables)

2 tugs means climb-ing/climb-on (2 syllables)

1 tug means take (this comes from the follower only, of course)

 

Sure, I agree that when a route meanders and the leader gets out of earshot tugs may be ineffective because of the rope drag. But I have done many winding routes where I went out of earshot from my follower, or when the wind was howling to loudly for us to verbally communicate, and when I got to my belay, set up my anchor and tugged three times to indicate that I could be taken off I was tugging with nearly all my weight (and I have a fat J-Lo ass), and my message was always received. Of course as Sherri pointed out it helps to have this worked out before you leave the ground :)

 

 

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"Belay on."

"Climbing."

"Up Rope"

"Slack"

"Tension"

"Off belay."

"Belay off"

"ROCK!!!!!"

"FALLING!!!!!"

"OMFG!"

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There is no section describing the sending of Morse code signals using rope tugs. Is there a newer copy of FOH?

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... but seriously, who are you leading that doesn't know not to pull on the leader? ... You are far more trusting than I am if you are climbing with someone who tugs on the leader without the leader having tugged first.

 

The folks I'm thinking of tugged only AFTER I had gone off belay(all were new partners that I have not climbed with again, though they weren't all noobs). Someone apparently taught them that tugging was a good way to communicate/confirm signals. Surprised the hell out of me the first time, as it never crossed my mind that someone would pull on a leader when they could not see if this would endanger them in some way, whether on or off belay.

 

Just thought it was good to bring up here, as strange things do happen.

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