The A-Z Multi Pitch Climbing Guide – Plans, Gears, & Key Considerations

For many years rock climbing has become one of the most inducing and addictive sports one can engage in. You can now engage in this sport either indoors or outdoors. If you are a fan of indoor rock climbing, you are used to single pitch climbing. However, as you hone gear placement skills and perfect your flexing capabilities, you might be provoked or tempted to try a multi-pitch climb. To answer single vs multi pitch climbing comparison, unlike single pitch climbing, multi-pitch climbing takes multiple outdoor rock climbing surfaces divided into multiple belay stations where the partners in climbing swap roles.  

There are multiple factors to work correctly for safe and successful climbing on multiple surfaces. This guide includes everything from scratch to finish and may be crucial for you to better understand the whole picture as a first-timer in a multi-pitch climbing endeavor.

multi pitch climbing
Belayer or Second Climber

What is a Pitch in Climbing?

In simple terms, a pitch refers to a single route that a climber follows from the ground to a set of fixed anchors. Here, the rock climber might utilize the means of natural holds present on the walls while placing his gears in the means of quickdraws as he clips the climbing rope.

As this happens, the climber can be delayed by another partner so that he can remain safe in case he or she falls. Once the climber reaches where the fixed set of anchors are positioned, he or she clips the anchors in quick draws, then clips the rope to the draws and can lower down freely. During single pitch climbing, you will only utilize one route at a time.

In most cases, the route is no longer than the rope. However, there are scenarios where you might want to use a route longer than the rope you have at hand. In this case, you will have to climb in sections, commonly known as multi pitch – a long stretch of climbing route divided into several single pitches. 

What is Multi Pitch Climbing?

Unlike single pitch climbing, multi pitch climbing refers to any climb that involves more than one pitch. This means that this climb can involve 2 or more pitches. 

Typically, the multiple pitches are usually broken up or separated by belay stations. Here, climbers normally switch roles, control their safety ropes, etc. Once they reach the belay station, the lead climber who has been belaying from above can switch roles and become the second climber on the next pitch. In case you multi pitch with three climbers, you can still swap roles so that you can have an easy time reaching the summit.

More importantly, it is imperative to note that multi pitch climbing is more advanced compared to single pitch climbing. As a result, you need to have ample experience in the whole sport so you can easily reach the desired point conveniently. To make this possible, consider perfecting your traditional climbing skills. If possible, train in lead climbing, sport climbing, belaying, and rappelling before you try multi pitch climbing.

Crucial Things to Stress

Before we get started, there are 2 main things that you should bear in mind. These include:

  1. Practice and Learn How to Utilize Your Multi Pitch Climbing Equipment

Although you might have come across several articles and blogs about your preferred multi pitch climbing equipment, you might be tempted to think that that knowledge is sufficient for you. However, this is no longer the case as you will need to know how to utilize all the equipment at hand practically. Therefore, you need to practice more and hone your skills in the process before the actual climbing sessions commence.

  1. Trad Gear When Multi Pitch Climbing in the United States 

As you purpose to get started with your first multi pitch climbing adventure, you need to learn or get acquainted with how you can place the gears and the various anchors you might have. This means that you have to get used to your trad gear to have a smooth scaling experience.

Multi-Pitch Climbing Gears and Essentials

As an advanced form of rock climbing, multi pitch climbing requires you to have an array of equipment and essentials to make your climbing smoother and successful. These crucial pieces of equipment include:

  1. Climbing Rope

One of the vital items that you should have during multi pitch climbing is a climbing rope. More importantly, your rope’s length should match the distance you want to cover during this exercise. If you have one already, you don’t to buy one but make sure that it is a properly stored rope and reusable.

  1. Locking Carabiners

These pieces of equipment can be used on prusiks, anchors, clove hitch, and belay devices. An in-depth carabiner guide can give you the necessary exposure to this crucial climbing equipment. 

  1. Belay Devices

You will be able to manage rope tension and slacking with this fantastic device. 

  1. Quickdraws

Typically, these are two connected carabiners that allow the climber to attach the rope to the anchors. This goes a long way in maximizing the safety of the climber as he or she scales up a mountain. But make sure you buy it from trusted resellers and brands of carabiners, ensuring top-notch quality.

  1. Slings, Multi Pith Climbing Anchors and Cordelettes

With these tools in place, your anchor points will be safe throughout the climb.

  1. Climbing Shoes

Multi pitch climbing shoes are no different from rock climbing shoes. Crucial is, they should be properly broken in and stretched out to fit snugly. Depending on the nature of the terrain that you are following, consider getting either moderate, neutral or aggressive models. Apart from this, consider getting a pair of climbing socks to keep your feet safe as you climb the mountain.

  1. Rock Climbing Helmet

This is safety gear, and you need to have a helmet to keep your skull unhurt in case of a bad fall. Rock fall is a common phenomenon during outdoor rock climbing activities.

  1. A Pair of Sunglasses and Sunscreen cream

Since the sun can be hot at the mountains, there is a need for you to protect your skin using a sunscreen cream. Besides this, wear a pair of sunglasses so your eyes can be safe from glare. If possible, ensure that your clothes cover the better part of your body. For instance, consider wearing a long sleeved shirt instead of a short one.

  1. A Pair of Gloves 

You ought to wear a pair of gloves to enable you to have a good grip on the rocky surface. Besides this, consider having a chalk bag so that you can improve your grip along the way. You can make a chalk bag of your own if you don’t want to buy one. 

  1. Enough Water and Food

Since you might get hungry and thirsty while in the mountains, there is a need for you to have some food supplies with you. A few snacks can actually go a long way. Besides this, ensure that you have a bottle of water so your body can remain hydrated for longer.

  1. Guidebook

To avoid getting lost, there is a need for you to have a guidebook. You can even have a printout for those routes that you plan to use. A mountain guide with proper certification will be wise if you’re a starter for outdoor rock climbing.

multi pitch with three climbers
Climbers in Belay Stations

Plan a Multi-pitch Climb Beforehand

With the proper and crucial climbing gear collected and basic climbing skills earned and honed, your preparation is nearly done. Now, you just are a well-planned strategy away from your long-cherished multi pitch climbing. Here is how to plan the critical multi pitch climbing. 

  1. Study Various Routes to Single out the One to Follow

Before you embark on the multi-pitch climbing, you should first study various routes and choose one that most climbers mostly use. You can even read the reports on various routes and choose the one that suits you.

  1. Get Guidebooks or Topographical Maps

Apart from studying various routes used by climbers, you should not hesitate to bring a copy of the topographic map with you. In case you do not have the top map, consider looking for a guidebook instead.

  1. Plan your Route Well

If you are a first-time multi pitch climber, you might be tempted to put more focus on the ascent route and forget that you will need to have a safer route when coming down. To be on the safer side, you should consider choosing a safer route ascending and descending the mountain.

  1. Wear the Right Climbing Gear

Besides the considerations mentioned above, consider getting the right gear for your multi pitch climbing adventure. From obtaining the right multi pitch climbing shoes to having the right multi pitch anchor, there is an avalanche of items that you should have at hand before you get started.

multi pitch climbing with 4 or fewer
Climbers Swaping Lead

Crucial Multi Pitch Climbing Steps

It is no secret that multi-pitch climbing can be a thrilling activity to say the least. However, for you to have unlimited fun, there is a need for you to ascend and descent safely. If you are multi pitch climbing for the first time, here are a few steps that can help you get started:

  1. Ensure Your Gears in Optimal Condition

Although you might have invested in multiple gears, some might be faulty. Before you get started with this form of climbing, there is a need for you to ensure that your gears are working well. Ideally, your gears should be in pristine condition.

  1. Get the Rope Ready to Tie in

Like we said, you will need to have a multi pitch climbing rope so that you can ascend and descend the mountain with utmost precision. Here, you should flake it first and then tie it in. Ideally, you and the other climbing partner should remain tied together. This is usually the case if you will not be using self belaying techniques. Here, the second climber will be the belayer.

  1. Do not Panic

Once you are ready to start your first pitch, do not panic. Instead, take a deep breath and get started. Even if you place the clipping bolts or gears, carry on until you arrive at the first belay station.

  1. Pull up to the First Belay to Secure Yourself

Once you are done with this step, the next juncture will be determined by whether you are good at sport climbing or a traditional climbing. More importantly, ensure that you are secured to a bolt or an anchor.

  1. Let Your Partner Know That You Are Ready to Come off the Belay

Here, you will be required to pull the rope upwards and then coil it well. If you are good at multi pitch rope management, be sure that you will be safe during the entire climbing session.

  1. Belay your Climbing Partner

At the stage, you can now go ahead and belay your climbing partner off the anchor that you were previously using. Thankfully, utilizing the anchor has proved to be a haven for many.

ready for next multi pitch climbing station

  1. Get Ready for the Next Pitch

Within a few minutes, your partner should reach your current location. Here, you can choose alternative positions and let him be the lead climber while you follow him or her. Better still, you can continue leading until you reach the next belaying station. Either way, you can perform some teamwork and be able to reach your desired destination.

  1. Have Ample Time for Descending the Rocky Mountain

Once you have reached the summit or the desired location, ensure that you have enough time to climb down. Remember that multi pitch climbing can take the entire day. More so, if you make it to the top within a short period, you will be able to get down in good time and proceed home safely. Besides this, ensure that you do not exhaust all your energy when climbing up, as you need to reserve some energy so that you can come down more conveniently.

How to Carry Gear on a Multi-Pitch Climb 

From the belay devices to food supplies, there are a plethora of items that you should carry at hand. Since these items can be too many to carry with bare hands, you need to carry a multi pitch climbing backpack or hiking bag with you so that all these items can fit in. Thankfully, you can get these climbing bags online or at your nearest retail store.

Those that cannot fit in the small pack at your back can be hung on your harness. If your climbing bag has several pockets, be sure that you will be able to store a number of items at a go. More importantly, avoid carrying bulky items as you might get fatigued along the way and thus not enjoy the climbing session.

multi pitch climbing near me
The Second Climber Leading Now

Safety tips for Multi Pitch Climbing

From having good judgment to having enough physical strength, many parameters are needed in multi-pitch rock climbing. For you to remain safe, you have to ensure that you consider the following tips:

  1. Ensure You Are Preparations 

Unlike single pitch climbing, climbing multi pitch needs you to make adequate plans of the gears you will need and the routes you will consider, among other ideas. When it comes to the routes you can use, consider using those well-known ones.

  1. Ensure the Gears Are In place

Even if you plan and choose your preferred route and fail to get the right gears at hand, you might not enjoy the multi-pitch rock climbing sessions. Instead, you might encounter a number of accidents along the way, among other inconveniences. To avert such scenarios, you should consider investing in high-quality gears. 

  1. Keep in Touch with Your Partner 

Whether you want to multi pitch with three climbers or two climbers, consider keeping in touch with every one of them. This is because multi pitch climbing is essentially a team activity. Regardless of the position, you take during the rock climbing session, you need to keep communicating with your partner below you. This will go a long way in maximizing your safety. 

  1. Study the Weather First

Although you might have everything with you before you make the first ascent, failure to study the weather can thwart everything. This is because bad weather can hinder you from reaching your desired destination. For instance, if there is a heavy downpour, you might have to postpone the whole undertaking and choose a day when the weather is quite friendly.

Things Can Go Wrong Despite Everything in Place

Regardless of the preparations that you might make in advance, something might go wrong at some point. For instance, the weather might go wrong when you least expect it. You can even rely on weather prediction reports only for you to reach the mountains and it starts raining heavily.

To be on the safe side, there is a need for you to be ready for anything. Many strategies can help you get started from having raincoats to being vigilant. More importantly, ensure that you manage the current risk well. In case you were multi-pitch climbing with your partner, offer unequivocal support to him or her. Better still, trust that your climbing partner will offer the much-needed support to you. Here are other strategies that can help you mitigate any risk at the mountains:

  • Acquaint yourself with basic self-rescue techniques when scaling the mountains.
  • Read articles and blogs about the various risks involved in multi-pitch climbing. More importantly, practice all the skills you will learn on either of these online contents.

By adhering to the ideas as mentioned earlier, you will be able to overcome any imminent challenge and be able to enjoy the entire multi pitch climbing adventure.

Ready for Multi Pitch Climbing

You can engage in multi pitch climbing outdoors and multiply your fun. As long as you have the correct gears and plan the route well, be sure you will be good to go. If possible, you can go in pairs so your friend or partner can play the belaying role. Everything mentioned in this guide above helps you take your climbing experience to new heights. But the crucial skill set – grasp on climbing holds, footwork, balance, and the likes – are meant to be your qualifying marks to step out for this advanced rock climbing form.

Afzall Rahman

Afzall Rahman is a college teacher by profession and is a rock-climbing enthusiast from his early childhood. So, anything on climbing keeps him glued to for hours - be it a movie on or related to climbing, book on or by climbers, article or podcast on climbing destinations, skills, gears, or the likes.

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