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What do people do with their cams after they've reached the top of the rock? Is there some special way of getting them down again? Seeing the prices of around 50 € per piece they can hardly just leave them up there.

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There are good answers below. I'd add that I have certainly had to leave gear on a wall in desperate situations, or when the cams get stuck. –  Greg.Ley Feb 15 '12 at 22:40
    
In some situations it may be wise to leave a cam behind. I had a serious injury last year when rappelling because my anchor failed. The anchor had been redundant, but I foolishly eliminated the redundancy by removing the cam, which I didn't want to leave behind. You life is worth more than a cam. –  Ben Crowell Feb 14 at 18:56
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2 Answers

In addition to Graham's answer, if you can't reach the top but have to descend again you have two options:

  1. Descend and unclip along the way (this will take time and can be very tiring, and you will always need to be prepared for a fall of twice the distance to the next cam)
  2. Descend all the way then if you can get to the top another way, top rope down to the cams you left behind (the risk here is that you can't find or retrieve all your expensive cams)

I'd usually go with option 1 unless I was exhausted. If I was too tired I may even have an option 3, which is to return to the bottom, wait a while then fast climb to the top cam and attempt to complete the climb (or let my partner try fresh)

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When using lead climbing techniques the lead climber is belayed by his partner and as he climbs he places protection (e.g. camming devices). Once at the top of the pitch, the lead climber then belays his partner on the pitch. The second climber retrieves the protection as he climbs.

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