Threading a Lower-Off

March 15, 2019

One of the key skills you need to take your indoor leading outside is to be able to thread the lower-off at the top of your route. A lower-off is a pair of bolts, sometimes joined together, which allows you to pass your rope though them and clean out all of your own equipment ready to use on the next route.

The principle is simple – get to the top, untie, poke rope though the bolts, retie, be lowered off collecting your quickdraws on the way. The trick is to make sure neither you, nor the rope, fall to the floor, both of which can be fairly inconvenient and difficult to deal with!

You don’t need to thread the lower-off after every climb, if someone else is going to lead it or play on a top rope its best to just put your own quickdraws in the top and low off those. But if you’re the last one up then it’s a job that needs doing.

I thought that I’d share the simple and safe system that I teach my clients on a sport course, it works for almost every lower-off and is very hard to get wrong with a little practice. The key things to remember are to check the sequence and communicate with your belayer.

Step 1:

At the top of your route clip your rope into the top quickdraw/s. Now attach yourself to the lower-off with a cowstail, this can be a short (60cm) sling or better an adjustable rope landyard like the Petzl connect. These are both safer and more comfortable to use – invest on one!

Step 2:

Once connected to the lower-off (with the Karabiner screwed up) let your belayer know by saying “on the bolt”. This means they can pay out some slack for the next step, but does not mean they can disconnect and walk off for a cup of coffee, you still need them there.

Step 3:

 Whilst still tied on, poke a “bite” of rope through both bolts (or the main ring if joined by a chain).

Step 4:

Tie a double figure of 8 in the bite of rope and clip it to you using a karabiner, the one from your belay device will work just fine. This is now as messy and complex as this process gets, so bear with it.

Step 5: 

Untie your original knot from your harness and pull it out of the quickdraws and bolts. If its length is annoying then you can tie it in a knot or drape it over a shoulder.

Step 6:

Remove the quickdraws and double check you’ve done it right before you disconnect your cows-tail. The rope should come up from the belayer, pass though both bolts and be connected to you via a knot and closed karabiner.

Step 7

Once happy let your belay know you need them to take in and prepare to lower by saying “on you”. When the rope goes tight unclip your cows-tail, clip it out the way and lower slowly, stopping at each bolt to retrieve any quickdraws.

There are two times this system won’t work, firstly when the route length is exactly half that of your rope, so the 1m long tail means you can’t reach the floor. In this case follow steps 1-5, then retie onto the end of the rope, take out the double figure of 8 and continue with the next steps.

 The second time is when the bolts are too small to poke a bite of your rope through, you can get round this by being clever and remembering not to drop you or the rope to the floor, but if in doubt just leave a karabiner behind – you are far more valuable.

Happy climbing and as always if you need any help with these or other climbing skills then I’m always happy to help – just get in touch…


The "Princess Clip"

February 19, 2019

Mate: (sniggering) “You want your Princess Clip in for this lead?”

Me: (looking at sketchy sloper by first clip) “Yep! Princesses don’t have broken ankles…”

I was introduced to this term by a friend, its something I’ve used infrequently inside and out for years but never knew that it has such a good name!

In essence a “Princess Clip” is where you have your rope clipped through the bottom quickdraw/s of the route before your lead. Sometimes the difficulty of the climbing o...

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10 things you need to know about Sport Climbing

January 31, 2019

  1. Sport climbing is a style of outdoor climbing where you climb up a rock face that has had bolts pre-placed on the route for you to clip your rope into as you progress upwards. 
  2. If you can lead climb indoors then you already have most of the skills you need, but knowing how to clip a bolt and thread a lower off to get back down safely are really important things to learn.
  3. When using a quickdraw one end should always be used on the bolt, where it may get scraped and form a sharp edge, and the oth...

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Scrambling Rack

January 18, 2019

Scrambling cover a huge range off terrain from steep walking to easy climbing, so at times the use of a rope to protect you or others in your party is a good idea.

Scrambling grade vary a little from area to area,  but generally :

  • ·        Grade 1 = A steep walk, hands may be needed for balance.
  • ·        Grade 2 = Some tricky sections where the use of a rope to protect the leader or belay a second may be required.
  • ·        Grade 3 = An easy rock climb with sections of pitched climbing with...

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Sea Cliffs and the Climbing Instructor

December 5, 2018

The Rock Climbing Instructor qualification from Mountain Training is the most suitable award for those looking to work with groups in a climbing setting, however it excludes the use of sea cliffs. In South Wales sea cliffs are regularly used by instructors when working with groups, in fact they provide some of the best climbing opportunities and outstanding locations in the country. For an instructor to work on a sea cliff they simply need to be competent, this means having the knowledge and ...

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Climbing in the Winter Months

November 27, 2018

A winter approaches the air cools, the sun sets early and the rock can be cold and wet; you could be forgiven for just visiting your indoor wall to keep fit until Easter and the promise of sunshine and fair weather. 

There are many "Fair Weather" climbers out there and I can see why, I've spend more days than I'd like to remember rock climbing in wind, rain and sometimes even snow showers. Your hands freeze, water runs from wrists into your jacket as you place your arms above your head, you s...

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Retreating from a Sport Route

November 21, 2018

I was asked a few weeks ago what to do if you can't complete a sport route and realised that there are so many options that it would be worth writing them down. There are lots of reasons why you might not be able to finish a route, thread the lower off and retrieve your quickdraws, it might be that its too hard, too wet or too late.

Firstly – no one likes leaving their gear behind, but it’s a small price to pay for getting down safely. None of your gear is worth as much as you,and the cost...
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How to find Wellbeing in the Outdoors

January 26, 2017

So over these quieter winter months I find myself spending less time doing outdoor stuff and more time talking about it. I'm in a lucky position were I get to talk to government departments like tourism, sport and health and try to boost both our industry profile, and the impact we can have on the economy, health and happiness of the country. My most recent work has been with Public Health Wales, putting together an information sheet about how engaging in the outdoors benefits your Wellbeing....

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Life Lessons From Rock Climbing

June 6, 2016
Lovely short talk from veteran rock climber Matthew Childs, he shares nine pointers for rock climbing that can be effective at sea level too. Available from TED talks.

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How to become a Rock Climber:

April 13, 2016
A step by step process to becoming a rock climber - and we can help you with every step!

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Blogging Matters

Matthew Woodfield An infrequent collection of tips, tricks and ramblings about climbing, walking and the great outdoors...