Rock climber escaping the system

How to escape the system


escaping the system

The advice on this page is meant as a reminder for people that have received qualified instruction on one of my rock climbing courses, or as pre-reading for those that are keen to learn as much as they can from one of Mountain-Trips rock climbing courses.

Under no circumstances should the advice on these pages be used without supervision from a suitably experienced person.


Escaping the system is a bit of a pointless skill! Once you have done all this you will find yourself stuck, halfway up a rock face with a injured climber hanging below you. This page does not cover what to do next - there are many things that could be done depending on the situation and it would be a near impossible task to explain these over the internet. The only true way to learn these skills is to book onto a rock climbing course. I can run a number of climbing courses that will cover rescue skills, these can be done outside or have a look at one of my indoor rock climbing rescue courses.


normal rock climbing belay stance

The first thing you should do is call for help. I always carry a mobile phone when climbing multipitch routes or have one in a bag on single pitch routes. The international number is 112 and your phone will pick up any network if you call this number. Let people know where you are going and what time you should be back - its good to know that help will arrive if you ever get stuck. A whistle is a useful bit of kit and does not weigh a thing. You should always be able to get help with one of these if your phone does not work. You can always try the high effective but embarrassing 'shout for help' method too.


These photos show the method for escaping the system when the anchor are in reach and there are two anchors. You may have placed more which will change the method use. These photos where also taken at a sandstone crag where there are fixed bolts in place - you will rarely find your self in such a ideal place. The likelihood is that you will be hanging from a loose sea cliff with 6 pieces of protection, on cramped stance with no one around.

The aim of this procedure is to attach the climber onto the belay anchors and free up some of the rope. There are some simple rules when performing this rescue...

  • Never trust a single prussic
  • Always have a back up
  • Ask your self what will happen before you perform each step

The first step is simple - tie off the belay plate. Once you have done this you will be able to let go off the dead end of the rope and perform the rest of the steps.


These photos show the next couple of stages. The first is to build a belay stance made out of slings if you have not already done so. How you do this will depend on your anchors and the equipment available. I am not able to explain how to do this over the internet as there are far too many options and considerations.


The next stage is to attach a prussic to the live end of the belay rope and then clip the prussic onto the new belay setup. A sling was used in this situation and shortened by tying an overhand knot.


Now you will have a tied off belay plate and a prussic knot keeping the rock climber safe.


This is where it starting getting complicated. This photo shows the end product of two stages. The first stage is to tie the dead-end of the climbing rope onto the new belay system using a tied-off Italian Hitch. This is done to back up the prussic knot before you remove the belay plate. You should now have three things holding the roc climber. 1. The prussic knot. 2. The tied-off belay plate. 3. The tied-off Italian Hitch.


As the prussic knot is now backed up by the Italian Hitch you can remove the belay plate. This will create a lot a slack rope between the prussic knot and the Italian Hitch. You should now remove all this slack using the Italian Hitch. Remember not to let go of the end of the Italian hitch when doing this.


The photo on the left show the result of the last stage. All the slack that was created when the belay plate was removed has been taken in with the Italian Hitch. The Italian Hitch has been tied-off again to free up your hands for the final stages.


On the right hand photo the prussic has now been removed as the climber is held by the Italian Hitch. The sling that was used to clip the prussic onto the new belay system has been used to clip the belayer into the new anchor system. Make sure your clip into the harness and not rope loop.


The final stage is to check everything and then untie the original belay system. You have now escaped the system and are now standing on a belay ledge, half way up a cliff face with no spare rope. The hardest part of escaping the system is working out what to do next!


Under no circumstances should the advice on these pages be used without supervision from a suitably experienced person.




I fully endorse the British Mountaineering Council's participation statement.....
"The BMC recognises that climbing and mountaineering are activities with a danger of personal injury or death. Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions."


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