Seven Reasons to Encourage Your Friends to Toprope

Toproping tends to get a bad rep in the climbing world, and for many good reasons. It’s pretty hard to “cheat” and let your belayer take weight off through the crux if you’re on lead, and toproping (usually) isn’t as scary as tying into the sharp end. However, sometimes it can be beneficial to encourage your climbing partners to tie in to a pre-hung rope:

Luke wishing he was toprope belaying.
  1. You can now belay with your butt in a lawn chair. You’ll never fully recover between burns if you’re standing to actively lead belay, and you need all the rest you can get to send. However, simply taking in slack can be done from your feet or your behind. Just make sure to pick a flat section of ground for your favorite lawn or foldable camp chair.
  2. Using your Grigri becomes much less complicated.  There’s a lot involved in lead belaying with a grigri: continuously holding down while paying out slack, not dropping the overly large device, and raising the handle just enough for a smooth, steady lower. Make your life simpler by only taking in slack and smoothly lowering after your partner has reached the end of his/her toprope. Even better, you don’t have to crank down on the break hand if/when they fall like you would with an ATC; let the assisted belay device do the work for you.
  3. No more cleaning your own draws. Especially on overhung routes, cleaning the draws on the descent can be an unexpected crux. But if you can get a friend to toprope through the draws and clean them on the way up, you’ll never face this challenge again. Simply tell your partner it’s good clipping practice—it’s harder to unclip than clip—without the stress of leading.
  4. You can belay by feel. No more neck pain, and no reason to spend your hard-earned dollars on belay specs. Whenever you feel the rope go slack, simply take in until the rope is taught again; no need to watch the climber. Still feel the need to be safe and watch your climber? Take number one above to a new level and belay laying down on your back; neck pain solved again.
  5. You’ll have less wear on the rope. If your climber plans to fall repeatedly, hanging toprope will put less strain on your rope, as (s)he will fall with more rope out and onto more than just one quickdraw. Use this excuse whenever using your own rope and offer it as a “helpful suggestion” to your friend if using his/hers.
  6. You get to show off your anywhere-anchor-building skills. Impress your friends with your ability to toprope unbolted and possibly previously unclimbed routes by disappearing over the top of the cliff, wrapping some cordelette around a sturdy tree, attaching locking biners, and rapping off. Volia: insta-climb.
  7. You’ll look like the group tough guy/girl. Want to impress others at the crag by looking like the experienced one of the group? Being the only leader does just that. Leading 5.10 and above also helps.

Originally published January 25, 2016, on 

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