View of Bowles Rocks

How to set up climbs on the Southern Sandstone crags of Kent and Sussex

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.

There are a number of different ways of setting up ropes for a sandstone climb. The information on this page is designed for people who already know what they are doing and would like a quick refresher. This page will not give you enough knowledge to fully understand how to set up climbs in a variety of situations. There are hundreds of ways to set up a climb, here are just two of them.

Kent climbing

This photo show one of methods for setting up a sandstone rock climb. A static rope of 11mm and 5 meters in length has been used. This allows you to place the top krabs over the top of the climb without having to dangle them down too far. A carpet has been used to stop the rope and the rock becoming damaged and the knots are the correct ones. A clove hitch has been used to attach the rope to a krab and the krab clipped to the bolt. A double figure of eight with a stopper knot has been used to clip the krabs that attach to the climbing rope.

Kent climbing

This is a poor way of setting up a climb. The slings used are not long enough, so they have been linked using girth and strop hitches. These are very weak knots and can reduce the strength of the sling by 50%. In certain situations slings could and have broken when linked in this way.

Kent climbing knots

You must never climb on this set up. Note how krab has been placed on the edge of the cliff. If the climber falls of it will cause the krab to be bent around the cliff edge. Krabs are not designed to be used like this and will break!

One of the best methods

The following advice is my thoughts on how to set up climbs and reduce the force applied to the bolts. This method is not that different from the normal method and will not take any longer perform.

Start by attaching the rope to one of the anchor points. This photo shows a clove hitch and krab but you could also use a bowline knot or a figure of eight knot.

Next tie a figure of eight knot and clip two krabs (facing different directions) on this knot. The main climbing rope can now be clipped into these two krabs. Remember that the krabs should be past the edge of the rope to stop moving ropes from damaging the soft sandstone. You will note that this method is exactly the same as the 'old' method. Nothing has changed so far.

Although using a static rope as the main climbing rope is normal, using a static rope to set up with and a dynamic rope to climb on would further reduce the force on the anchors.

Use the spare rope coming from the figure of eight knot and tie this to a second anchor. This photo shows this being done using another krab and clove hitch, but a figure of eight knot or a bowline would also work. It is important that the angle of the ropes coming from the figure of eight knot (shown as angle a) is not more than 90 degrees apart as this will increase the force on the anchors.

A carpet or rope protector should also be used to stop damage to the rope and the rock.

This last photo shows a method for protecting the top move of a climb if you have had to extend the two krabs and figure of eight knot a long way down the cliff. When the climber reaches the top they can clip the climbing rope into the extra krab so a large fall is never taken.

Learn more on climbing course.

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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