The rigging for bottom rope set-ups for group climbing is not that different from setting up a releasable abseil, top rope, or even a belay at the top of a lead climb – they all need bombproof protection and equalised anchors.

The same basic principles apply:

  • Anchors loaded equally
  • Independently tied off
  • Angles no more than 60°

It’s possible to equalise with slings, though it may be more efficient (and common practice) to use a low stretch rigging rope, as it will help to reduce abrasion as the rope runs over the edge of the crag.


Pointers for rigging a bottom rope:

  • Using a low stretch rigging rope is a definite advantage
  • Use a minimum of two bombproof anchors per rope V
  • Tie off one anchor with an appropriate knot, e.g. overhand on the bight, or figure of eight on the bight
  • Tie off the second and subsequent anchors with clove hitches; this will make any adjustments easier
  • Equalise the rope between anchors and tie the V end off with figure of eight, keeping the knot over the edge of the crag
  • Consider using a rope protector to protect your rope where it runs over an edge


Belaying for bottom roping: bell ringing

The majority of groups I’ve seen using a bottom rope system tend to use bell ringing as their belay method of choice. They also tend to use a member of the group as the belayer, standing with their back to the crag, hauling down on the rope, with other group members pulling any slack rope through the belay device.

Points to consider:

  • It is extremely uncomfortable for the belayer using this method; it’s also difficult for the belayer to see the climber
  • Consider attaching the belayer to a ground anchor to prevent lifting
  • The only device that locks off in this situation (when the belayer has their back to the crag) is a GriGri type device or an Italian hitch, as these are designed to lock off in front


Ground anchors
A good alternative method of bell ringing is by using ground anchors, which is far more comfortable for the belayer.

Points to consider:

  • Make sure you’ve got a bombproof anchor (see photo)
  • Use an Italian hitch on an HMS crab
  • This system can be operated with one experienced person, or you can use a bell ringing system with a minimum of three group members: one pulling the rope down (bell ringer) and two pulling in the slack



Peer Belaying
Peer belaying is another method and one that allows you to coach the normal 5 point (or V Knee) method of belaying. If you haven’t tried peer belaying with your groups have a go; it’s a good alternative to bell ringing.

Points to consider:

  • Belayer stands close to base of crag
  • Belayer uses a belay device attached to their harness belay loop
  • Peer belayer positioned in lock off position

Benefits to using this method:

  • Each rope keeps three people involved
  • The belayer learns normal method of belaying
  • The belayer and peer belayer have to communicate and work together


Lowering the climber
Keep in mind that this may be the first time the climber has been in this situation, so they might find it a bit daunting. Make it as easy on them as possible:

  • Rather than wait for the climber to reach the lower-off point, run through the process on the ground first, e.g. correct feet and body position, so they are prepared for what they’ll need to do
  • Ask the climber to climb up a couple of metres, then practice the lower. This allows the climber and the belayers to practice and will give them confidence in the system