Art of the Solo Toprope

By Kevin Riley

It’s no secret. I love to solo toprope. It’s become such a large part of my life that my climbing friends joke about it on occasion, calling me an anti-social, crusty, old climber. There’s truth in that. (Think I’ve had an affinity for crusty, old dudes ever since reading Old Man and the Sea and fancy to become one myself.) But solo toprope can very handy. Some of those same friends that tease me have bought static ropes and a couple devices, because, they too, want to unlock the art of the solo toprope.

There are already a couple great online articles that demonstrate how to solo toprope. So I won’t go through the whole process. Instead, I’m going to go over my solo toprope kit. I have owned a number of ropes, devices, and harnesses and have finally settled on a kit that works great and makes solo toproping a dream.

I have one 70-meter 9MM static rope and another 40-meter 10MM static rope. It’s nice to have the short and long lengths to suit crags of different heights and sometimes I bring both ropes when I’m climbing a tall route or multi-pitch. After using both 9MM and 10MM ropes I like the thinner 9MM rope best. It’s still stiff enough to allow the devices to freely ascend up the rope and durable enough to withstand typical wear and tear.

After using every solo toprope device on the market I have settled on two devices that make solo toproping more safe and more convenient. For the top device I use a Rescucender. I love this device for two reasons. First, it’s nice that the rope clamp has smooth grooves, like a Gri-Gri, and not sharp teeth, like a Traxion. It’s also easy to get on and off the rope with an openable cam-loaded rope clamp. No need to unclip the device from your harness. To keep the device at chest level I tied an elastic band through the rope clamp. When I’m climbing I put the elastic band over my head. It’s works great. For the bottom (backup) device I use a Micro Traxion. It’s a small and light and is simple to use. Its rope clamp has sharp teeth, but as a backup device it will rarely take weight and bite into the rope. It’s important to use anti-cross loading carabiners on both devices. I prefer the Metolius Gatekeeper.

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Now for the important part – the harness. When I solo toprope I like to use the trusty Misty Mountain Turbo. It’s provides just the right amount of support to keep me comfortable while switching devices at the anchor and light enough to allow me to climb at my peak ability. If I’m going to be climbing all day with lots of gear on my harness I may switch to the Misty Mountain Cadillac, but that’s on rare occasion.

So that’s my kit. What’s in your kit?

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