Senario: I am leading the climb with 2 ropes. I reach at the first pitch. I put myself on the self anchor and built a master point. Now I want to top belay 2 climbers at the same time. They both will be climbing with approximately 15-20 feet of distance between them. I know how to top belay 2 climbers simultaneously with the following ATC: enter image description here


the ATC-Guide features a lightweight design, two friction modes and an auto-blocking guide mode that lets you belay a seconding climber off the anchor.

But I don't have this ATC with me. I have this one: enter image description here


I wanted to know if I can give a simul--top belay to 2 climbers using the ATC shown above?

And is it safe to do it?
If not can anyone suggest me a another time efficient way of climbing a multi-pitch route with 3 people in a team?

Equipment that I have includes ATC, 2 Ropes, 20-Quick Draws (sport route), slings and cordelette.

  • 2
    Why belay two people at the same time at all? Why not attach one safely to some anchors, belay one, then when they are at the top and secure belay the other person. This would be the most safe option I'd say. It's quite difficult to concentrate on two things at once.
    – user2766
    Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 10:03
  • @Liam agree with you on the concentration aspect but if I have a correct ATC i.e Picture-1 then it will auto lock in case of fall..so it is still safe for the climber even if I lose my concentration for a while.. I wanted to know if the same thing is possible with the second atc in the above picture-2 ..
    – Scorpio
    Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 10:27
  • 1
    Just to clarify, you are asking if it is possible to achieve an auto locking effect while belaying a second with that belay device, so that if you day-dream or get hit by a rock and someone falls they are still protected? Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 13:29
  • 3
    I wouldn't trust that as an auto lock. I prusik would be a much better backup.
    – user2766
    Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 16:36
  • 2
    As Raz Peel's answer explains, it is certainly possible to set up a belay with a standard ATC to be auto-blocking. However, one of the design features of the ATC guide is that it makes it easier to get the auto-blocking. My understanding is that the name of the ATC guide refers specifically to the fact that guides may frequently find themselves in a situation where they need to belay two clients at once. The autoblocking feature of the ATC guide makes it easy to lock off one climber and get that hand free (but I guess you'd want to make sure they stopped climbing, to avoid slack).
    – user2169
    Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 21:35

4 Answers 4


Simple answer is the same way you would belay one climber. The two should climb simultaneously with the second tied in to a loop (Alpine Butterfly) about 5-10 meters above the third. If the difficulty is such the a fall is more than a remote possibility for either of the following climbers, or simultaneous climbing maintaining same separation is too difficult, they should not be belayed together and should climb separately. Simultaneous climbing is not for everyone, it adds difficultly and requires constant communication. Recovery from a fall is often a lot more difficult.

By trying to jury rig a special case for a relatively (I hope) rarely used scenario, you are creating plenty opportunities for incorrect rigging. The rope management problems that could come from two climbers moving at different rates at different times, along with the need to lock off of the correct strand all make it what I would consider and unsafe set up (However, I personally believe any auto-locking set up unreliable and should only be used as a last resort or backup, never relied on as the primary safety measure)

  • This answer doesn't speak to the "how" you would belay at all. Belaying the "same way" as you would on the ground means reversing the direction of the break hand, or re-directing the belay rope to be above you. Additionally, there is no reason to doubt the reliability of auto-locking setups such as guide-mode on ATC.
    – Raz Peel
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 18:28
  • I presumed that someone who is leading multi pitch routes on twin ropes would know how to belay.
    – user5330
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 21:25

1) Is it possible to belay 2 climbers using the picture-2 ATC

I think It would be as possible as belaying one leader using double ropes. You would need to take in slack at different rates, as apposed to give it out and prepare to hold a fall with either rope. (in case it isn't obvious) You would belay from your rope loop/belay loop instead of off the anchor as there is no 'guide mode'.

Where you would run into trouble would not being able to take in slack for one second while holding the fall of the other. For this reason I would avoid doing so.

One alternative is for the first second to trail a rope and instead of cleaning the route unclipping to pass protection, then clipping the trailing rope back in for the second-second(third?) to clean/be protected.

2) Is it possible to achieve an auto locking effect while belaying..

Not with out impairing use of the belay device. So no.

  • 1
    Possible yes - Safe - I doubt it.
    – user5330
    Commented Mar 14, 2015 at 0:31

It's possible, even feasible, and I'll explain how to do so further down. I'd like first suggest that in the absence of a guide mode loop on your belay tube, your likely going to be better of using another system like the auto-locking Italian hitch, than using your ATC XP or similar.

Read here for more information on locking Italian Hitch: http://www.climbing.com/skill/munter-magic/

Locking Italian Hitch

That said, you could still do it by extending your belay station. Here's how:

  1. Once you've finished constructing an anchor, clip your followers rope(s) through your master point.
  2. Lower yourself a certain amount to a comfortable belay spot, say 10 or more feet to a ledge / edge, or just hanging if needed.
  3. Belay from your harness like you normally would on the ground, using the strand(s) of rope that are now redirected through the anchor above you.

Note: If there is a weight differential, you may want to anchor yourself down using a tree, slcd or other piece of gear, just like you would want to if belay at the ground.

I have employed this system myself in certain scenarios, mostly topping out on blocky terrain, where you are slightly less worried about your second falling, but are concerned about lack of visibility or communications. As the probability of falling increases though, so should your inclination to belay directly from an anchor. > It simplifies things a lot should you have to do any self-rescue for your group.

Update: There are several ways to make a belay locking and I'd encourage you to read the following book if the topic is of interest to you: http://www.mountaineersbooks.org/Climbing-Self-Rescue-P262.aspx. For the sake of inclusion though, here is one method that most people should already know. Any type of grabbing hitch tied to the brake side of the rope, mostly commonly used when belaying yourself (rappelling), but you could can certainly use it to belay somebody else also.

Backup Belay Hitch
(source: mountain-guiding.com)

  • 1
    Never heard the term grabing hitch I'd call that a prusik or possibly an autoblock
    – user2766
    Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 16:40
  • This prusik on the belay device looks horrible. its going to massively impede taking slack in. Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 17:21
  • 2
    @Liam I've updated to include the word "any" before "grabbing hitch". I was simply trying to describe any slide & grip hitch that you can attach to the rope - autoblock, prusik, machard, bachmann etc..
    – Raz Peel
    Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 20:01

One thing you don't want to do is hang the ATC from an anchor by its wire loop and provide a belay from above. This method is a poor one because the braking position would require the brake strand to go upward. But that's awkward and contrary to what people have in their muscle memory. (A workaround for this problem is to redirect the brake strand through a carabiner.)

Auto-locking would be generally impossible with this device, at least as far as I know. While there might be ways of achieving that, I have not found any, and would strongly discourage any experimentation.

Belaying via your body and e.g. dummy runners might be possible, but I haven't found any mention of this in the DAV (german alpine club) brochures that I've read so far, only some forum threads talking about it. The gist seems to be that it's not a good idea since one of the followers falling might draw you into the anchor point, leading to a loss of control

TL;DR: An ATC Guide would be a really good investment for your (and your partners') safety, don't try anything you might regret.

  • 1
    I don't quite follow the first paragraph. It seems to be responding to something that wasn't actually the question that was asked. I don't see anywhere in the question that the OP refers to using the wire loop. I think the first paragraph should just be deleted.
    – user2169
    Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 21:27
  • 1
    My point was the following: If you were to belay the seconding climbers from the central point, you would have to attach the ATC via the wire loop. (Which is a bad idea, since you would almost certainly have both sided of the wire leaving the device in the same direction, leading to almost no friction.) This is the only only imaginable alternative to the option that I mentioned in the third paragraph, i.e. belaying via your body. The OP asked about whether it is possible to belay seconding climbers with a normal ATC, and my answer basically explains why both options are a bad idea.
    – anderas
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 9:33
  • 1
    I think I understand you now. I'm going to edit the first paragraph. If you don't like my edit, feel free to roll it back.
    – user2169
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 15:34
  • If you watch the video linked in the question it demonstrates how the "autolocking" works.
    – user2766
    Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 16:16

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