/ Is it ok to use other people’s ab ropes?
This came up in the discussion in the Castell Helen abseil thread and I think is worth discussing in its own right. A couple of assumptions:
- you aren’t able to ask permission because the owner of the rope is not around;
- the anchor and rope are in good order; and
- you just want to get down and aren’t bothered about having an ab rope in place while you’re on the route (clearly for particularly adventurous sea cliffs you might want the comfort of having your own rope in place).
Would be interested in people’s views. As a straw poll, please ‘like’ if you think it’s ok and ‘dislike’ if you think it’s not acceptable.
I think it’s generally ok:
1. Ask for permission if the rope owner is around.
2. Conversely, if asked permission to use your rope, give permission but note that you will pull it up after X hours / routes.
3. It’s fine to use an in situ rope if the owner is not around. Obviously check the anchor and condition of the rope.
4. Conversely, if you’re first to ab in, expect other people to use your rope, particularly at popular cliffs where belay options are limited and there are commonly recognised abseil spots (eg Huntsman’s Leap).
5. For abseils requiring ropes longer than 50/60m, may be best to use your own if you can’t see whether the rope reaches the bottom (the other team could have done a 50/60m ab and re-abseiled off the end - may be easier / safer to set up your own rope if it’s the requisite length).
6. If you ask for permission and it is denied, don’t argue about it even though the rope owner is probably being a selfish so-and-so, just set up your own.
I personally have no problem with my rope being used by other parties as long as they treat it with the respect they would treat their own.
Also I would always ask if I could see the owner/possible owner at the top of the crag, or if I see them after coming down let them know and ask if they don't mind.
Not had any major issues with this but do remember one morning at Crickmail having finished Aero and was surprised to see a queue of people waiting to abseil down our rope. Being bumblies from the backwater we had no experience of this kind of crowd culture and it did seem a bit off when our rope represented a fortnights wages. The queees seemed a little miffed when we pulled the rope up and moved on to another crag.
No. Unless you ask first.
If no one is around rig your own rope down.
I suppose in a way it depends on the crag. At a busy busy easy to escape from crag like say Sennen or dare I say Castell Helen where rescue is a shout away, either be happy and expect to have your rope used and set it in such a way or ab and pull. It is rather like leaving a top rope on Maudes Garden and going off for lunch, and wondering why it is a star thread on UKC on Monday morning if you query someone moving it.
In wilder places where its your only escape route, I cannot see it being a problem.
Everyone laying their own rope is just a recipe for a massive snag and snarl of multiple ropes and a mess and a hazard.
I have declined to use an in situ rope before (even though I had permission from the owner) as the core was exposed in three places between the stake and the edge and some bits of the core were cut and frayed and the rest of it so fluffy I couldn't get it through my belay device - I'm sure it was fine but not for me.
The other thing to note is treat ab ropes with caution if they've been out of sight. I went back to collect my ab rope once after a long multipitch to discover all the gear used to fixed it had been nicked, the rope in still place but retied with a load of overhand knots to only one of the three (not bomber) anchors I'd originally used...
> No. Unless you ask first.
> If no one is around rig your own rope down.
That's just impractical. At Castell Helen on a busy weekend this would result in about a dozen ab ropes going from the same point.
There's no need for black and white "yes it's OK/ no it isn't" rules here, it depends on the context and the consensus of behaviour for that particular crag. At Castell Helen it's generally assumed that you rig an ab rope if there isn't already one there, and you accept that other parties will use it until you're finished for the day.
I've always taken it as a given that if I'm going to set up an abseil, other parties will use it (especially if there are limited places to rig another abseil rope, like at Kenidjack), but like dinodinosaur, I'd still expect them to treat my rope with a bit of respect e.g. making sure my rope protector stays in place after they go over the edge.
I'll usually ask around at the crag for the owner of the rope to see if it's okay for us to use their rope and also how long they're planning to stay. If they are doing one last climb then I'll set up my own abseil.
Good point, so (7) bring your own rope and don’t expect one to already be in place.
Maybe the climbing around your way is less popular. As many people have said, if I'm at a popular spot with a "defined" ab and I've brought an ab rope, if I'm first I'll set it up, leave it and assume everyone after me will use it until I move on. I would always ask an owner if possible but if not and the insitu rope/anchors pass muster, I'll use it
If it's a remote a spot I probably won't have a dedicated ab rope, I'll be using my lead ropes in which case I'll pull them down after me, unless, say, in the alps when I've teamed up with another pair and to speed up the process they've abbed on our ropes, then we've abbed on theirs etc.
I would add, as someone who has had abseil ropes trashed by someone at Pembroke (they had obviously tried to use something like a T block as a sliding back up rather than a prussik) and had an abseil station completely re-set up by someone (presumably they didn't recognise alpine butterflies and bowlines):
- If you are new to abseiling, don't learn on other people's kit
- If you don't like someone elses abseil set up, set your own
- be safe
- be nice
The last time I used someones ab rope was going into Huntsmans. I think its accepted that a rope in the landward corner is for that purpose. There was no-one at the top to ask, so once down I asked around, found the belayer whose rope it was and said thanks; he was fine about it. So maybe its partly where it is. In this case no-one would be climbing that line.
Has anyone ever had a problem using someone's ab line as long as they treat it well?
That’s two pretty bad examples! Any rope with the core showing isn’t safe and the bad bit needs to be chopped. Someone nicking gear is just scumbag behaviour and leaving the rope tied to a questionable anchor is simply dangerous!
I always assume that I leave something in place that it is going to be used by others, and I just hope that they treat it with care. If it's needed for retreat, then I'll set my own, or if that's not practical I'll set it up but leave it stacked and ready to go for when the others pull their rope up and hope that they understand what it's there for.
I'll always ask and thank the owner if there is the opportunity at the top or over the edge. I have no problem with someone not being happy with me using their rope, as long as there is a sensible alternative.
I think I am more tolerant at a remote or serious crag where the competency might be higher.
Elsewhere in the past I've had someone use my rope who was slow, barely safe, bouncing down dragging the rope across an edge and leaving it full of kinks. My patience was challenged.
It's not necessarily their fault, they've just not been taught very well, but they shouldn't be offended when told so.
I had two climbers use my ab rope which was hanging down our intended route, Diedre Sud.
We were gearing up and they wanted to do a route somewhere to the left, they asked nicely and off they went.
Unfortunately they dragged the rope around the corner and managed to get it stuck in a crack and somewhere underwater.
To compound the issue there was a huge loop of slack between the anchors and the snag so pulling on the rope gave the feeling of a freely hanging rope.
Only after I’d abseiled some way down the corner did I realise that I couldn’t pull the rope back around the corner and that I couldn’t continue to descend.
After much faffing about we managed to free the rope and it didn’t spoil what turned out to be a good route.
If you use someone’s ab rope you really should look after it.
There is a big difference between caving and caving. There is generally only one set of hangers or bolts, so you have to share, but also an universal understanding that everyones life and often exiting the cave depends on that single rope so it is respected.
Using a rope that's already in place is absolutely fine and to be expected in my view. I'd be less inclined to use a rope that's neatly coiled on a ledge for the reasons that have been highlighted in the aforementioned thread.
> I went back to collect my ab rope once after a long multipitch to discover all the gear used to fixed it had been nicked, the rope in still place but retied with a load of overhand knots to only one of the three (not bomber) anchors I'd originally used
Bloody hell! Where was that? Hopefully somewhere mediocre that I didn't want to climb.
I once tried to use an in situ ab rope to get over a short step at Chair Ladder. There was no one obvious to ask. However someone on a route a little way away shouted asking us not to use it. So we just set up our own. Thought it was a bit odd.
Fair points. I guess it’s reasonable to not let other people use your rope if you suspect it will cause issues such as this. Of course in practice it’s hard to tell and most of the time there won’t be an issue.
It seemed reasonable to allow a party to use our ab rope and as you say there’s usually no problem. Like many things in life it just takes a little thought.
I think the etiquette in caving is that if you come to a short pitch that is pre-rigged with limited bolts, you leave your stuff at top belay and abseil/ladder down on the in-situ stuff. Knowing that when the owner ascends the pitch, they will re-rig it with your stuff, before leaving.
There seems to me to be a little bit of a leap of faith in using somebody else's abb rope, that it's in decent condition all the way down, and that it goes all the way down too?
I would be fine with someone using my ab rope. If using someone else's, I would ask before or let them know once at the bottom of the crag.
Not really that related to the original questions, but a while ago I was half way up a trad route, only to be shouted at by two guys at the top that I was in their way as they wanted to ab down on the route. I was in plain sight and definitely not off route. I don't think I am incorrect in thinking that this was just plain rude and the climber has priority. It was a crag with plenty of ab stakes at the top of other routes that were free at the time.
I think Misha covered both those points in their original post. As with so much else in climbing, it's a judgement call with lots of factors to consider.
> I don't think I am incorrect in thinking that this was just plain rude and the climber has priority.
To adopt an acronym I've only recently learned from Mumsnet, via UKC... YANBU.
I hope it was a case of miscommunication because otherwise that's just staggering selfishness on their part.
It's definitely a worthwhile discussion, especially at places (Mingulay and Pabbay, for example) where there is a significant chance of abrasion to ropes if people lack care with protectors, a risk which increases with each person who abs.
But I agree with all your points. It is generally okay, and rarely causes a problem as thankfully (most) people are (mostly) nice to each other.
One important point is that if you choose to ab on others' ropes, as I've done before, you don't know when the ab rope owner will leave. A lot of cliffs will instantly become a lot more intimidating as the ab rope disappears up out of sight when its owner heads home for the day!
I agree with you Misha and at this point in time so do 114 versus 6 who don't.
Exceptions I can't see have been mentioned are in certain places where you take a hanging belay at the bottom and would use the ab rope for this / as back-up, or where you would use the ab rope to safeguard a loose exit, steep grass etc, or to facilitate/back-up a belay short of the very top of the cliff.
I'll confess to keeping the ab rope under tension to prevent others from using it. This is usually where the top is loose or similar and I'm on the line directly on the ab rope/ fall out zone.
An example that springs to mind is Albacore (lundy) where the top is also a bit of a gully/ rock funnel, with loose stuff all over the place. You'd expect others to keep away from such venues if other teams are already in situ, but experience has shown otherwise, so now I can be a little "selfish/ preservationist" in my approach.
I have also seen ab ropes trashed by one persons descent on granite. Where the rock is especially aggressive, I think its fair to just use your own rope. Last thing you want on a week trip to somewhere remote is a stranger killing your ab rope on the first day.
I'm fine with people using my ab ropes considerately. I did once get very miffed when someone re-rigged my set-up because they didn't like the look of my caving style knots. They didn't seem to understand when I pointed out that if they didn't like my rope they should have used their own!
> There seems to me to be a little bit of a leap of faith in using somebody else's abb rope, that it's in decent condition all the way down, and that it goes all the way down too?
Fair point but (1) chances are that if the bit of the rope you can see is in a good state then the rest of it will be as well; and (2) unless the ab is over 50m, chances are the rope is long enough. Obviously you need to watch out for such issues when using someone else's rope but in most cases this wouldn't be enough reason for installing your own rope.
Fair points in such circumstances.
Yeah. Could be worse though, I once had an ab rope thrown past me while on Right Wall. It missed me narrowly. Apparently they had shouted but clearly hadn't looked. Considering that there are bold routes on that wall and there is a perfectly good ab point down the Corner (in fact better as it's just over the edge), that was pretty idiotic of them. But that's a whole different discussion...
On Pabbay and Mingulay people tend to pre-agree who will take which ab rope to which cliff as not everyone will have 100m ropes and it's a right pain to lug them to the cliffs every day (so better to leave them stashed in a refuse sack at the cliff top). It is then implied that people will use other people's ropes. You tend to know (or get to know) the others on the island, so it's all 'in the family'. My rope got a bit furry in places but was fine after a week. I did take care to place lost of rope protectors though. Another rope got sawn through to the core on a sharp flake. That was probably at least partly due to a poor choice of line by whoever installed the ab. The rope owner grumbled about it but I think took it as par for the course in the end.
These are good points. Of course if you belay on an ab rope it will be under tension so it shouldn't be possible to ab down it anyway.
So it seems the general consensus based on the comments above and currently 129 'ok' vs 6 'unacceptable' is that it's generally fine, with a few reasonable exeptions in fairly specific circumstances. At the end of the day, be nice and hopefully other people will be nice to you
I once saw and ab rope in the corner just west of Tatra (r.i.p.) at Boulder Ruckle which consisted of two ropes knotted together at 10m below the top. The weird thing was I swear the lower section was easily long enough to ab the line in one. The knot could only be seen once part way down(or from below) , so we thought that it might have been a prank to unsuspecting users without permission. Luckily we had already gone down on our own line.
I think we were on Pabbay at the same time. I wrote a wee thing for County Climber about the trip: https://issuu.com/thenmc/docs/county_climber_summer_2014v2.6_fina
Yes. Great write up, brings back happy memories! Hadn’t heard of or had completely forgotten the abbing in with no climbing ropes incident. I see you mentioned the rope damage incident. Glad my rope fared better - think it was used for 2 days.
We lugged my 110m static to the top of Grey Walls Recess to find Neil had already set up a rope, so we just used his (think he was still at the top so we asked him). Thing is, the way he set it up, it was free hanging from the word go, swinging out into space from the ‘launching pad’ start was terrifying! Possibly the most mind blowing abseil I’ve ever done. Fortunately you can see whether the rope reaches the floor some 90m below! Some people join two ropes and ab past the knot in mid air apparently - not that must be exciting!
For a short period an abseil rope of mine had a significant core shot.
As I was on a trip away I simply tied an alpine butterfly to exclude the core shot and continued to use the rope. When I pulled the rope up at the end of the day I found the knot had been removed.
I assume that someone had used my rope and got to the knot. Then being unequipped either in equipment or training had untied it rather than passing it and continued on the half cut inner.
User beware when using Insitu kit!
I think what Brown is describing is less a 'leap of faith', more a 'leap of stupidity'. ;-)
> It's probably worth knowing how to go back up an abseil rope
Well you're not wrong there. And also how to go past a knot on the way down or up again.
> Well you're not wrong there. And also how to go past a knot on the way down or up again.
Yes, the more scenarios I learn about the more I realise I don't know. At least that's a helpful thing.
Unlikely to be any in situ ab ropes in the mountains, if you find one then it’s probably someone shunting to practise a hard route. This discussion is really about sea cliff situations. Not to say that sea cliffs aren’t serious!
If you use someone elses rope to go down, you need to know they won't remove it... (eg gone somewhere else lower down and not aware you've used it) so I wouldn't usually use someone elses rope without asking...(but pple are 'always' helpful)
> Unlikely to be any in situ ab ropes in the mountains, if you find one then it’s probably someone shunting to practise a hard route. This discussion is really about sea cliff situations. Not to say that sea cliffs aren’t serious!
Yes, it was the seriousness of mountains I was thinking of, rather than the likelihood of ab ropes, I guess that filtered through hopefully.
It's weird how much more aware of my own mortality I've become, when I get back into lead climbing I'm probably going to be 'ticking every box'.
It's possibly a result of being concussed for two weeks (and a bit dumb feeling for the third) when I fell off my road bike at Surprise View in the Peak and headbutted the drystone wall. My helmet had abrasions all down the side and I had neck ache, if I hadn't been wearing it I think I'd have possibly fractured or broken my head. Quite sobering at the time. It's a nice view to appreciate while absorbing that kind of thing though, it's an amazing view.
In case your concussion has "removed" this information, surprise view has a sharpish right bend which i presume you failed to negotiate in a satisfactory manner
Hope you've recovered ok.
I would have said yes before last week but now only with reservations. My friend and I set up an ab rope to clear a route of loose rock with the intention of using a shunt on it as safety. He was just about to set off when a team abbed down. It was very fortunate as another minute and he would have been off the ground and as sadly became apparent there was masses of loose rock still on the top pitch which could have been funneled onto us. Now I would go to a lot more trouble to check that the ab rope was just being used as an ab rope before using it. I'd also endeavour to place a sign on the ab rope not to use it as an ab rope in similar situations. If the team who abbed down it read this, thanks again for all your help, dave is recovering slowly!
Yes, it's almost always fine. Only issues I've had, and these are isolated cases, are:
1) People swinging my ab rope into the crack I've tried really hard to keep it out of (happened at Mother Carey's when some, shall we say, "lower grade" adventurers turned up to do the HS)
2) When the existing set up is shocking (happened at saddle head. I offered to correct and the owner was receptive)
3) When you really don't want anyone on the rope because it would get messy. We towed the end across P1 of preposterous tales to give a retreat option. Made it as clear as possible by keeping it tight and making it awkward to get on, but a laminated sign would have been more appropriate as there is other starred stuff down there. Nobody came down, luckily.
Maybe there should be some sign for "do not use this rope" for cases like that. Extra low stopper-knot? Double overhand in a long tail? Strongly worded note written in pebbles?
With a top pitch as loose as you describe I'd have preferred to clean while descending, feeding the ab rope out from a bag so that there was no danger of a piece of rock landing on the lower portion of the rope.
> The other thing to note is treat ab ropes with caution if they've been out of sight. I went back to collect my ab rope once after a long multipitch to discover all the gear used to fixed it had been nicked, the rope in still place but retied with a load of overhand knots to only one of the three (not bomber) anchors I'd originally used...
One way to negate this somewhat is to carry a few maillons and a small lightweight spanner, fix the rope to the gear with the maillons instead of carabiners and spanner them tight. Anyone wanting to nick gear then has to either take the whole rope with them or cut it - a bit rich for the casual thief!