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A recent question made me wonder how a running belay is really done.

Suppose you are climbing an alpine route, maybe of difficulty UIAA 5. You encounter a stretch of 100m of UIAA 1 terrain with no visible difficult parts and ample opportunity to place protection (or even some bolts). It is possible to do it in two or three pitches, but from what I heard, this would be the perfect candidate for simul-climbing with a running belay.

As far as I understand it, the leader would start climbing on belay and placing protection. After a suitable distance, the second would clean the anchor and follow while the leader continues.

I don't suppose the second would wait until the whole rope is out (i.e. until the leader climbed about 50m), but tie into the middle of the rope and somehow store the excess rope somehow. How would he do that?

  • Perhaps you have different terminology, but I understand a running belay ("runner" for short) to be an intermediate belay through which the rope can move, as opposed to a stance where the movement of the rope is controlled. What you're describing is moving together, which may use running belays for protection. – Toby Speight Nov 8 '17 at 17:53
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What you want to learn to tie is a Kiwi Coil.

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A kiwi coil is an alpine coil you manage and wear while still tied into the end of your rope. Tie in as you normally would while climbing or glacier walking, then coil as much rope as you want around your body. Tie off in the middle of the rope by passing a bight of rope through your belay loop and around the coil, finish it off by tying an overhand on a bight onto the rope leading to your partner (back up by clipping the tail end of your bight to your belay loop). If you tie it right, you can safely take a fall and all the force will go into your harness as if on the end of the rope.

You can keep smaller coils (3-5m) in your hand too, tie a "magic knot" (slip knot) to hold in your hand as a handle between your hand coil and your partner, this helps you keep a better grip on the rope and coil, and in the event you need to drop the coil, the slip knot will come undone as soon as the rope goes taught.

If you have a long rope, each climber can carry a kiwi coil, distributing the extra rope between the two of you.

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The way I have always done that is wrap the extra rope around my self. It goes over one shoulder and then under the the arm on the other side. Then, in addition to tying it at the end of the rope with a figure-eight like normal, you tie another figure-of-eight on a byte and clip that to your belay loop with a locking carabiner.

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