After you finish a lead climb and are ready to descend by rappelling off the top anchors, do you pull the rope through all the quick draws or do you just clean the quick draws on the way down?

  • Depends on the climb and the repel path vs the climb up.
    – Jon Custer
    Sep 20, 2021 at 1:31
  • Can you clarify as I’ve never heard of this. Are you saying you are taken off belay, thread the rope through the lower-off and abseil down rather than being lowered by your belayer? Why would you do this? It’s less safe (no backup from belayer), and extra faff.
    – Darren
    Sep 21, 2021 at 4:45
  • @Darren In some crags there is no carabiner or maillon at the top anchor and lowering directly through the bolt will wear it out. In those areas it is the etiquette to rappel instead of lowering. (To my impression most crags nowadays have a maillon at the top or even a pigtail. In those crags lowering is the safer and more comfortable option)
    – Manziel
    Sep 21, 2021 at 6:48
  • @Manziel ah right. It’s that question again. In the Uk and every part of Europe I’ve climbing it’s always accepted to be lowered by the belayer.
    – Darren
    Sep 21, 2021 at 6:53
  • I know a crag here in southern Germany where each anchor now has 3 bolts, all with varying degrees of wear. But as I said, most developers now add a maillon to avoid redoing bolts
    – Manziel
    Sep 21, 2021 at 7:29

2 Answers 2


It depends, but I have made a habit to always leave the rope in the draws if I rapell from the anchors of a route.

There is a good reason for this. On some routes it is easier to clean the draws if you pulled the rope through. On other routes it is easier if you left it in. However, the inconvenience of having the rope in the draws, rapping down on a straight route is MUCH less than the pain of trying to clean a meandering or overhanging route if you pulled the rope.

So leave it every time, so you don't screw up the times it matters.


Several options depending on climb, area, ethics, and anchor type.

  • Leader gets lowered from anchor by belayer and follower cleans. This is the fastest and most efficient. (google endless arguments on lowering in mountain project)

  • For an easy to clean route, the leader raps and cleans without pulling rope out of draws - rope left thru draws.

  • Also for an easy to clean route, the leader can be lowered and also clean - need a smart belayer for this. A common variation on overhanging routes is for the leader to also clip a draw from harness to the line thru the draws so that the leader is kept close for cleaning.

  • For efficiency on a difficult to clean (wandering, overhang), I prefer to single line rap and let the follower clean. I only do this with an experienced partner:
    A. Leader goes straight on anchor and then off belay.
    B. Leader pulls rope to middle thru anchor.
    C. Belayer puts leader back on belay on same end of rope as led on.
    D. Leader double checks belay by pulling on it as hard as possible.
    E. Leader raps on free end.
    F. Follower cleans.

  • Pulling rope thru the draws would be the last, slowest and least needed option. I might only do this if the next climber intends to also lead the same route, but it would still be quicker to either lower or single line rap or just unclip and leave the draws on the way down.

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