How to Climb and Belay Alone a Multipitch Route


Mountain is hazardous.

Rock climbing is dangerous.
Climbing alone is even more dangerous (e.g., Serious Accident.
I use to climb integral solo without belaying, with two gold rules : being able to climb-down every step, and no objective hazard (no stones falling, solid rock).
2008 I decided to test auto-belaying. To climb harder than 5b (my climbing-down limit). And to be able to escape from a high and long route, if my partner was wounded, and if a short section was too difficult for me to climb it alone
The method explained below is not recommended by device makers, and has no safety garanty: if you use it, it is your responsibility. According to a device manufacturer, auto-blocking funtion is made to block the second climber: rope over blocks rope under. However, when a first climber falls, the huge energy will force rope over side-by-side with rope under. The rope-to-rope friction will make rope to melt, and breal..
The ONLY device I think is correct and safe is the Silent Parner, Wren Industries. But it is expensive ($250) and heavy (450g). I do not use auto-belaying frequently enough to buy it, but I think you should.
Grigri is less expensive and lighter, but less safe I guess (see the Grigri solo belay: C2C 2010 in French). See also a tested system with a Grigri plus a Shunt Système Grigri + Shunt Grigri ouvert vu de près + noeud

Well, after this necessary preliminary,let’s explain: To belay I use ATC-guide or Reverso (used as the auto-blocking X, click climber on the left). They are very similar, but for solo belaying, ACT is better. “My” method, explained below, comes from Epicurie, forum C2C 2004 (in French).

1- Clip small loop of ATC or Reverso to the harness with a carabiner
2- Clip a second carabiner to a neck collar (it’s better to make an-8 harness on shoulders, carabiner hanging on the sternum. Leave 3-4 fingers space between carabiners).
3- Clip the second carabiner to the rope loop (out of ACT/Reverso) and the ACT black wire or the large Reverso loop

ACT-solo system (see Reverso system down)
ATC-guide – ATC-guide – ATC-guide

– One rope end is free (the “hand” side on Réverso or ACT). It will flew while you climb (secure the end with a knot)
– The other rope end (the “climber” side on Réverso or ACT) is attached to an anchor at the belay down. If the first steps from the belay are hard, insert a shock absorber or add some rope length for elasticity (tree, anchor below first peg…). Check the autoblocking properties by clipping your rope in a first anchor over your head: when you sit down, rope blocks you.
Reverso system (ACT-guide above)
Reverso – Reverso – Reverso

– When arriving to a new anchor during the climb, pull several times on the rope attached to the belay down there, to free enough length to clip the anchor above. It’s tedious, and much easier to clip the point when you are above it.
– If you fall heads up, it blocks nicely the rope (see pictures above). I did not test it with great falls already. If you fall head down the system does not block the rope (French stroy of an accident on C2C website). To block a head-first fall, make a knot on the main rope below the ACT-guide, and shift it when possible
– This system can use a single large rope, or two thin ropes (more dynamic, but heavier).

ACT-solo system blocking after falling – / – Blocage par le Reverso après une chute
ATC-guide – Reverso solo

Other Autobelaying Solo Systems
– The ONLY device I think is correct and safe is the Silent Parner, Wren Industries. But it is expensive ($250) and heavy (450g).
– With Grigi and rope-man: Solo : Grigi+ropeman /Avranches
– Barnet System (Machard knot + pulley): Solo: Machard+poulie /Olivier Humbert