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Ask the Master: Climbing Efficiently As a Team of Three

I was wondering if you had any tricks or techniques that allowed a group of three to climb quickly and efficiently.

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I have some partners that refuse to climb in a group of three because they say it slows them to a crawl, and I have other partners that swear that three people can climb just as fast as a pair. I’m sure the truth is somewhere in the middle and was wondering if you had any tricks or techniques that allowed a group of three to climb quickly and efficiently.

—Michael Parker

Martin Volken, owner of Pro Guiding Service and Pro Ski and Mountain Service in North Bend, WA, is a certified IFMGA Swiss Mountain Guide and guides in North America and Europe. He has been a member of the AMGA examiner team since 2000.
Martin Volken, owner of Pro Guiding Service and Pro Ski and Mountain Service in North Bend, WA, is a certified IFMGA Swiss Mountain Guide and guides in North America and Europe. He has been a member of the AMGA examiner team since 2000.

Hi there, and thank you for the question.

As a guide, you climb with two clients (as a team of three) quite often. If your anchor management is dialed, it can be almost as fast as climbing as a
pair. Anchor management (creating good anchor stances for the followers, good rope management and clear communication) can save a lot of precious time.

In a team of three, if the climbing is mostly steep fifth-class climbing, I generally climb with a two half ropes and belay from above with an auto-block
style belay device while the two followers climb about five meters apart, on separate ropes. If the climbing is pretty easy and has a lot of short
roping terrain, I often just use one single rope. Then the clients are tied into the rope as follows:

One person ties into the end and the other is tied into the rope about four meters or so above with long figure-eight on-a-bite with a little overhand
on-a-bite at very end. This person clips in with two lockers. We call this configuration “climbing on a V,” because the shape of the rope is an upside
down “V.” The two clients climb together, but it can be a bit annoying for the person on the figure-eight on-a-bite. It works fine for a good team,
however.

—Martin Volken


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