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Learning Toproping Skills

Jan 16, 2008
Once you have started climbing and feel comfortable in the indoor settings you have been practicing in, it will be time to start working on your toproping. Toproping is the first and most essential skill you will learn as a climber, and because it is both easy and safe it should not be too intimidating for a beginner.

Recently, because of the growth of indoor climbing gyms and bouldering courses, you can learn to toprope inside, where it is much safer and you can find instruction from paid professionals who have been climbing for years.

Gear You Will Need

For toproping, you will need a few basic pieces of equipment first and foremost, including climbing shoes, a belaying device, a harness, a locking carabiner, chalk and a chalk bag. You can rent most of this equipment if you are still a beginner and want a feel for the sport, but it will save you money if you buy your own sooner than later.

For shoes, look for something inexpensive and effective. You have yet to develop the necessary foot technique to keep your shoes from being ruined in a few climbs and expensive shoes will only force you to waste money. Find a good pair that will be tight enough to hold your foot without being too tight to feel uncomfortable.

For a belay device, your choice will depend on what kind of climbing you eventually plan on doing. If you plan on climbing outdoors only, an ATC device is best. For beginners, auto-blockers are good choices as they will block automatically to thwart mistakes. Be wary of auto-blockers though. They can result in bad habits developing in which you simply rely on the blocker to keep you from falling. You should never do this if possible.

For a harness, you will need a little more experience and a better idea of what kind of climber you plan on being. For beginners, it is actually best to rent or borrow a harness for now so you can get a feel for what you will need when you make a purchase. Alpine, Sport, and Trad climbing will all require that you choose a different type of harness, so start practicing now and make a purchasing decision only when you are sure of which style you will go with.

Toproping Technique

When you start toproping, you need a rope that has been run through a carabiner and affixed to an anchor at the top of the wall. If you are in an indoor gym, this should already be affixed to the climbing wall. If you are practicing your toproping outside, you will need to set this up with the help of a more experienced friend.

That friend can then tie into one end of the rope and the belayer and take up the slack on his end using his belayer. When he reaches the top, the belayer will block the rope and allow the climber to lean back on the rope and then lower themselves down the cliff backwards. It sounds complicated, but in truth it is a procedure that requires specific instructions in real time.

You will need to learn how to tie each of the necessary knots, handle your harness, handle the belaying equipment, learn the belaying technique and the descending technique, and finally how to walk down a cliff.

Start with the basics and ensure you have an experienced climber who can help walk you through these steps. If you learn to toprope outside, make sure you are very clear and well versed in all of these instructions and have good, quality safety equipment first. With the right preparation, you can learn to and succeed in toproping in no time.
About the Author
Tony Brian is a freelance writer for outdoor sports magazines and a contributing writer for paintball parts specializing in Toproping and toprope.
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