clove hitch for rope solo


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Barcelona, Spain
Topic Author's Original Post - Sep 8, 2008 - 04:17am PT
I've been doing a little rope soloing to set up TRs for mini-traxioning. I'm using a clove hitch, cinched down on a locking biner. When I get to a bolt, I clip in, and then add enough slack to get to the next bolt, and cinch the clove hitch down again. So far I haven't used any backup knot, since doing so would result in another loop of rope hanging down. Supposing the locking biner doesn't fail, the only way I could go for a big ride is if the clove hitch slips, which seems unlikely to me since it is already tight.

After reading about a grigri (or a factor 2 fall) breaking an aluminum locker, I'm going to get a steel locker for this.

Another thing I'm doing is throwing a clove hitch on each quickdraw as I place them, at least the first several off the ground.

Any comments/advice?
Juan Maderita

Trad climber
San Diego, CA
Sep 8, 2008 - 05:34am PT
"Another thing I'm doing is throwing a clove hitch on each quickdraw as I place them..."

By putting a clove hitch on each quickdraw, you are essentially tying the rope off at each point. While that might seem to increase your safety, it does quite the opposite. Each time you tie off to a quickdraw, you are setting yourself up for a possible factor 2 fall.
If you do not tie off to the quickdraws, you will have a longer rope length which will stretch and absorb a fall.
Of course, make sure that your bottom/ground anchor is bombproof.

Regarding the clove hitch to carabiner at the harness: The less that I have to trust a single point to something so critical, the better. My preference would be to back it up with a knot, on a separate locking carabiner, every 30' feet or so. The inconvenience of another loop is minor compared to one's life. I would also tie in to the end of the rope, directly to the harness.

If you are planning on doing much roped soloing, or if the bolts are spaced more than a few feet apart, you might invest in a soloing device. And continue to use backup knots.

Barcelona, Spain
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 8, 2008 - 06:31am PT
"Each time you tie off to a quickdraw, you are setting yourself up for a possible factor 2 fall."

Wow, I never thought that I was that stupid. I'm glad I posted! I did this one time when all I had for an anchor was the first bolt, so tieing into the second seemed appropriate. Then tieing into the third did, too, and so on. OK, I won't do that anymore.

A cinched-down clove hitch on a steel locking biner seems bomber to me. Nothing can get in to make the knot slide.

About devices, such as a grigri, they seem to add convenience but not security. The clove hitch seems at least as secure as a grigri to me, and it's plenty convenient for what I'm doing. It won't lever the biner, and I have read several reports of grigris not locking up. I read one report of a clove hitch slipping due to a wired nut getting into it. Having it cinched down seems to make that just about impossible.

Thanks a lot for the heads up!

East Coast US
Sep 8, 2008 - 08:33am PT
When I've rope-soloed using a clove-hitch, I always use two (2) locking/matching carabiners through my harness. I tie a single clove-hitch around both biners. Even then, I tie a back up way down, just in case.

Mountain climber
The Dirty South
Sep 8, 2008 - 08:51am PT
I'm reading posts about going solo because I'm trying to learn everything I can before I give it a whirl. Nobody in my area does it so there's no one to learn from. Trying to figure out if I should use a an auto belay and climb like on normal lead or do it the way mcreel is. Bottom up seems like a good idea.
When I drop down a big pit and plan on jugging back out I like to tie in to an anchor point then bring the rope over to another point with as little slack as possible and use an alpine butterfly. I think thats how I would tie my bomber anchor.

Barcelona, Spain
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 8, 2008 - 09:53am PT
I've wondered about how the increased radius from using two biners would affect the holding power of a clove hitch. Anyone have data on that?

Well, here's some general clove hitch info:

East Coast US
Sep 8, 2008 - 10:37am PT
I've wondered about how the increased radius from using two biners would affect the holding power of a clove hitch. Anyone have data on that?

I've taken more than one significant fall using the system. My only concern is that it has a very fast grab, like a completely static hold. The Silent Partner, OTOH, has a nice soft catch.

Even with two lockers, the clove-hitch is a bear to undo. Maybe put a third biner, not attached to the harness, into the clove-hitch? This third biner could be used to loosen up the knot.
Delhi Dog

Trad climber
Good Question...
Sep 8, 2008 - 10:58am PT
Good advice given above (actually I'd say critical)
Mine is;
back it up dude-no question
second biner + tie into the end + use the quickdraws as intended...rope running freely not tied off.


Trad climber
Las Vegas
Sep 8, 2008 - 01:28pm PT
I am probably setting myself up for ridicule, alas here we go...

I have not solo'd anything in decades.
When I did there was no such thing as a 'silent partner' and I would have no desire to afford the cost of one unless I intended on doing a lot of soloing.

I used to use a Stitch plate with a double locker. I would (of course) use a back up knot but before that I would have a biner on a harness loop at my hip. I would run the lead rope through the Stitch/ATC and then around the side of my harness and through a biner as a fair lead.

This seemed to work pretty good. if it got loaded it was (ever so slightly) dynamic as the Stitch would let a foot or so through before a complete lock down. As well, unlike using a Clove hitch it was possible to sometimes feed a little rope through the plate, 'hands free' by tugging on it gently (so as to feed but not lock). Of course, if the system was loaded in a fall it was not a bitch to relosen, unlike the clove hitch.

As discussed above, putting a clove hitch on every piece is effectively climbing on a rope no longer than the distance between pieces. However in previous threads discussing solo rope tech there has been talk of using a clove on the first piece to keep the upward load on the unattended belay anchor.

This works ok but something I found to be easier and more effective.
I took a bicycle inner tube and cut a runner out of it. I use the rubber runner on the first piece. If the rubber runner is say a 2 feet loop, I will attach it to the lead line with a prussik about 4 feet below the first piece then streeetch it and clip it to the first piece. This keeps tension on the anchor yet does not effectively shorten the rope by the distance from the anchor to the first piece, (the rope still takes the load).

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Sep 8, 2008 - 01:51pm PT
My first roped soloing was way before any specialty devices. I used jumars, then evolved to the now discredited "Barnett System" on which I took several falls, before rejoining the century. My only constant was -- and still is -- back it up. Every device has the ability to fail. By the way, I also agree with the advice NOT to tie off to each anchor, for the reasons given.

Double D

Sep 8, 2008 - 04:45pm PT
I've done a bit of aid climbing with a clove hitch...there're a bear to loosen if you fall. Because your hands are free standing in aiders, it's pretty easy to let out rope. Free climbing with a clove hitch... I've never been able to gauge the amount of slack needed for the next stance to reel out more.

The above posted link about the load direction of a clove hitch was a real eye opener for me. I've never even thought about the load direction. I've also never tightened the knot while leading free stuff as it is such a pain to yard out more.

I kind of like the idea of the stitch plate or possibly an upgraded atc auto-locking device (like the BD Guide) would work in the same manor and be easier to feed rope through then a clove hitch. Anyone ever tested any rigs like this?

Trad climber
Sep 8, 2008 - 11:24pm PT
Use 2 cloves, don't plan on falling if you are belaying with this system, who goes lead climbing on sport climbs solo anyhow? That is more top rop terrain if possible. Tie one 20 feet out and another 40 feet out.

I've used this on short fixing/big wall climbing when the leader wants a belay but doesn't want to have the entire death loop of slack to keep going. The 2nd clove is a back up knot when you have it for you and when you need more slack you just untie the first one and keep going with it. By then ur tie in knot is ur back up.

We use petzl attache biners if that thing ever gets cinched you can usually get the knot moving & slide the rope off with out catching on the gate.

hither and yon
Sep 8, 2008 - 11:34pm PT
I used to use the 2 clove hitch method, one per locking biner with about 5-8 feet between them. Fell a bunch and never died, so I guess it works.

IMO, the advantage of two hitches is not only the back-up, it's that it gives you the ability to stick your neck out free if you have to.

I don't know how many times I decided to get out of the aiders and go for it and absolutely underestimated the amount of slack I'd need to catch my next stance. It's fairly simple to ditch your primary clove hitch with one hand, and you still have a knot (albeit only one knot) on the rope.

Pretty sketchy, probably not real smart, but it seemed cool when I was young and immortal.
Dr. Rock

Ice climber
Castle Rock
Sep 8, 2008 - 11:46pm PT
Why can't you use that prussik type system where you leave Kilmster knots every so often, only do not take all the excess tag buckets or whatever that stuff was?
Warning: could be talkin out my arse since i don't know jack.

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jul 26, 2013 - 01:32pm PT
I just found these pages

I think they are quite good, but it's interesting that there are NO photos. For me that's a refreshing and good change from those youtube instructions (wince). I would guess that a person has to be somewhat familiar with roped soloing to really take advantage of them, though. He sings the praises of the Silent Partner if one chooses to use a device.
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
Jul 26, 2013 - 01:58pm PT
Chongo developed a clove hitch rope solo system, that may appear in his book. The trick is to use two locking 'biners, with all of the clove hitch fully around one locker, but only half the clove hitch around the second locker.

On the second locker, you attach a sling as a handle, so that as you move upwards, you pull outwards on the sling-handle thus releasing the clove automatically.

When setting it up, the trick is to make sure that "metal touches metal". You need to try it and figure it out, but it's rather clever.

He developed it around the time that everyone realized that an unmodified Grigri makes a superb solo aid device, so the system never really caught on.

Try it - it works!
Paul Brennan

Trad climber
Jul 26, 2013 - 02:45pm PT
Interesting. Must explore this before getting on another wall. Always good to have some tricks in the bag should you drop your grigri/SP/whatever. Have you posted any info on the biner brake anywhere Pete? All I've seen of it is in Mark Hudon's Iron Hawk trip report. Would be another good fallback trick to have in the arsenal. Looks like it works on the same principle as that ladder/rack thing you N American cavers use? (I'll be sticking with my Stop for that purpose I think :-) )

As an aside, I made the same mistake the OP did on the first thing I tried to solo, and factor 2'ed onto a clove hitched RP. Very unpleasent, and the hitch jammed so tight I ended up having to cut the rope to get it off the biner. Not the best of ideas. Initially clove hitched it to stop the rope back feeding through my grigri. Now carry some velcro straps that do the job of holding the rope's weight.

Topic Author's Reply - Jul 26, 2013 - 02:46pm PT
One of the funny things about the internet is that you can get a reminder of the stupid stuff you did and wrote about in the past. I'm still alive, by the way, happily rope soloing every now and then.

Trad climber
Jul 26, 2013 - 02:57pm PT
Silent Partner is really the only way to fly roped solo free climbing.

Trad climber
Jul 26, 2013 - 03:01pm PT
Maybe you should cough up the cost of a silent partner. It provides a nice soft catch is you do fall. Once you get used to it things are great.
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