ascending a rope efficiently with minimal equipment

10:39 a.m. on April 10, 2008 (EDT)
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How is the fastest way to ascend a rope with the least amount of fancy equipment? Apart from climbing I enjoy very much to do photography and I want to combine those two hobbies. So far I've tried a basic set up with two prusik knots, but I find it rather clumsy and slow. I want to buy an ascending device, but preferably not two... :)

11:13 a.m. on April 10, 2008 (EDT)
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Hi Paul, welcome to Trailspace.

It sounds like you've already discovered the "least equipment" option. Short of buying (and carrying) ascenders there are a couple different things you could try (in order of less to more gear):

- Attach your waist and foot loops to the rope with Klemheist knots instead of Prusik knots. The Klemheist is a bit easier to move up the rope than the Prusik.

- Add a couple carabiners to your setup and use either Bachmann or Klemheist knots to attach your cord and biners to the rope. The biners act as handles. (Freedom of the Hills has a good explanation and diagrams of all these knots)

- Short of full Jumar-style ascenders, there are a few lightweight mini-ascenders on the market, such as the Petzl Tibloc. The Tiblocs are light and easy to rig, but can be rather rough on your rope and are really meant for emergency use.

Also, whatever knot/ascender system you choose, you'll want to experiment with the lengths of your waist and foot loops -- it definitely takes a little trial-and-error to find the most personally efficient and comfortable combination.

7:33 a.m. on April 11, 2008 (EDT)
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Prusiking up a rope is slow and inefficient, but if that's your preferred method, you can improve on it by using a purcell on the lower part of the system. A purcell is a prusik with two length-adjustable loops. By placing one foot in each loop, you can use both feet to pump up with rather than just one.

There are many different "systems" for ascending a fixed rope. Fire departments and SAR teams us a different system than rock climbers, cavers have their own system, and tree climbers theirs.

My advice would be to try to learn about these systems from the sources and decide for yourself which system or combination of systems is best for you. There are no hard fast ascending rules - except that safety comes first. Wear a helmet and have a back-up plan.

If photography is your primary reason for jugging up a rope, then I would assume that the ability to move and change position fairly quickly and easily would be a plus. Prusiks don't offer that luxury. You need to use 2 hands on each prusik each time you want to move up the rope. Also, I've seen prusiks slip on muddy or wet rope, and actually burn almost all the way through from the friction. Ascenders offer a much safer and more efficient means.

For around a hundred bucks you can build a very efficient system that will get you up a rope as fast as you can climb a ladder. 2 Ascenders - right and left - and a couple of length of 8 or 9mm cord.

There is also a great system called the RADS - Rope Ascending and Descending System - no need to switch to an 8, rack, or ATC to come down. Everything is already in place. This system uses a single handled ascender, a Petzl I'd or Gri Gri, a foot loop, and a small pully.

There are MANY options - I hardly touched on them. If you want to feel completely overwhelmed about which gear to use or buy, go here:!

Good luck - be safe.

10:22 a.m. on April 11, 2008 (EDT)
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"There is also a great system called the RADS - Rope Ascending and Descending System - no need to switch to an 8, rack, or ATC to come down. Everything is already in place. This system uses a single handled ascender, a Petzl I'd or Gri Gri, a foot loop, and a small pully"

That's what I use most often to ascend. And, when I'm descending punctuated by long pauses, ditto.

Efficient and minimal equipment lines don't really cross when it comes to climbing a rope.

My bet is most pro photographers shooting high angle subjects use a Gri Gri at their waist, at least. Then ascend in combo with a single device above. Easy to move up and down quickly.

A pulley is nice, but, a carabiner works fine too. A nice rig is to use that DMM carabiner with a pulley built in, and a short ascender (rather than a long handled ascender). Lengthens the stroke.

If you wanted only one piece of major gear then you could easily ascend with a Gri Gri and a piece of cord (suggestions above great for something more efficient than a Prusik) with a redirect off a carabiner. Then you'd have any easy descent option as well as the ability to stop anywhere you wanted. On lower angle rock, I ascend with just a Gri Gri sometimes. Physical, but, fast.

-Brian in SLC

8:37 p.m. on April 11, 2008 (EDT)
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Hey Paul_L,

If you want to see some AMAZING high angle photos, go to the gallery at Primal Quest. Some of those photogs hung on rope for hours to get shots - and it paid off.

12:34 p.m. on April 17, 2008 (EDT)
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Thanks for great feedback! I think I might go for one regular ascender now, find a good combination with a prusik or two and then maybe upgrade the set up later. I find the idea with the grigri really interesting as it's a very flexible set up plus the grigri has other possibilities too.
If I'll ever get around to buy create a set up (I'm just darn slow...) I'll report back about how it worked :)

11:20 p.m. on April 17, 2008 (EDT)
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Here's an interesting read. I was thinking that the section on DRT might be interesting to Paul, since he's probably top roping anyway. We use DRT and SRT in tree climbing. Both systems can be easily adapted to rock.

Also, Paul, have you seen the Petzl Tibloc or Wild Country Rope Man? I don't know if I'd do a multi-pitch climb on these, but they're really neat and versatile pieces of gear to carry - just in case.

May 22, 2018
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