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Belaying Two Followers: Split Rope Technique

April 13, 2023 fmg-adminAlpine & Ice Climbing Guides' Tech Tips Rock Climbing

As an ice climbing guide, I often use a split rope technique for belaying two followers (primarily to keep two climbers climbing simultaneously far enough away from each other to avoid being hit by ice). Recently, I've been using it while guiding rock as well, as I've found it to be a useful technique to streamline my systems.

For context, let’s first discuss belaying two followers at a time, in a parallel fashion, on rock. Typically, we as guides (and competent climbers) have used a plaquette style device (Reverso, ATC Guide, GiGi, etc) with both strands through one device. Simple, right?  It’s straightforward, until you need to manipulate the system in any way. That's why I consider it a contingent system. Both ropes rely upon a single blocking carabiner that holds both of them in place within the device. In order to remove one rope, we need some sort of terminal closure to keep the other climber safe while removing a strand of rope.  The system gets complex quickly, and there is space for error in the potential mess. On top of this, the two-ropes/one-device system has a significant failure mode if used on a traversing pitch. The