Climbing with a team of three can be a real cluster if you are using two ropes to belay each second, and a time-waster if the leader belays the second AND then the second belays the third on a separate rope.
If the climbing is well within the abilities of everyone (i.e., little chance of a fall), then having both seconds climb at the same time, on the same rope, may be a better option. Here’s how to set it up:
Call the climbers A, B and C: A is the leader, B is the second person on the rope, and C is on the end of the rope.
- Climber C belays Climber A. as A leads to the top of the pitch. Climber C is tied into the end of the rope; all standard practice so far.
- After Climber A calls “off belay”, Climber B ties a butterfly loop into the rope, about 20 feet from the end. Climber B clips to this loop with 2 locking biners. Climbers B and C are now ready to climb.
- Once they are safely on belay from Climber A, climber B starts to climb. After 20 feet, Climber C starts to climb. Climber B does NOT clean gear, but unclips it from the rope, moves past it, then reclips the rope.
- Climber C cleans the gear quickly, calling “cleaning” so climber B knows to stop and wait.
- Climbers B and C smoothly and efficiently move up the pitch.
With a bit of practice, this method is almost as fast climbing with a team of two.
A few notes and cautions:
- This system works best if the pitches are not a full rope length, and if the pitches do not traverse very much.
- The better climber of the two seconds should be on the end of the rope, in position C. The last person on the rope will be cleaning gear, and they need to do it fast.
- This system works on both snow/ice and rock.