Tip 5: Ascending a Fixed Rope

By Calvin Landrus
C L I M B I N G - T I P

Many of the big walls in Yosemite Valley have fixed ropes. To increase the efficiency of the climbing, ascending these ropes is often the status quo. Normally, when you ascend the rope, you are “tied in short” (tying a clove-hitch or figure eight knot into your harness) as a backup. This gives you the freedom and confidence to unclip one of your ascenders to pass a knot.

Well, what do you do when you ascend a fixed rope that is tied in at the bottom? (Hint: it works best if top is tied in as well!) You can’t “tie in short” because it is impossible with the trailing end tied to the anchors. Do you momentarily detach one ascender and become attached to the rope with only one point? Dangerous! Do you take the time to put a prussic knot onto the rope as you pass the knot? Time consuming! Recently, I completed my sixth big wall (a free ascent of Freerider – El Capitan. Read more!). We had a slick, new tool along for safely passing a knot.


We had a Petzl Mini Traxion (TM) on our rack. As you can see, it has a pulley on one end and a teeth-covered camming device and anchor hole on the other. The sides come open and swing apart on the pulley’s hinge. The rope is placed between the pulley and the camming device. Then the Mini Traxion is closed and the spring-loaded, rope-grabbing part is released. You can look on the diagram on the unit to see if you have done it right but a quick check to make sure the device only goes in the direction you want confirms you are ready to attach it to your harness.

With the Mini Traxion below both of your ascenders, you can start up the rope. At first you need to feed the rope through. But, once you have ascended fifteen feet of rope, the weight of he rope allows for hands free movement. When you come to the knot, pass over it by unclipping one ascender at a time, moving up the rope, and then transferring the device above the knot. You have now successfully ascended past the knot with confidence!

Bonus Thoughts About the Mini Traxion

The device is multipurpose. On Freerider, we used it for hauling and it worked well. It eliminates the need for a downside ascender to keep the haul line from going back down. When you get the haul bag to the anchor, it’s a breeze to release and hang the bag directly on the anchor. My only observation was that it would be nice if the pulley was a little bigger to make the hauling easier. We only had one with us, so we always had to trade off when at the belays. I would go with two next time.

The Mini Traxion has other uses such as ascending fixed ropes on big mountains or to get you across a Tyrolean traverse. Remember that the Mini Traxion is rated for personal use in “Fall Factor 1” or less situations. Meaning you can climb up to your anchor but not above it. You can find out all the details about the Mini Traxion at Petzl’s Website. Finally, in the spirit of full-disclosure, I’m not financially connected to Petzl or any distributor of this device.

L I V I N G - T I P
Confidence in Personal Growth

Very few people prefer personal growth, for the simple reason that growth requires more work than maintaining the status quo. Change is never easy! Why? Let me suggest three reasons:

    1. A wrong attitude towards growth.
    2. The lack of the right thoughts for growth.
    3. Not sure which direction we should be growing in.
To help you ascend confidently -passing the knot of change- I will address each reason...

The attitude of entitlement is rampant in our society. It’s so easy to look at others, see what others possess or have done and conclude that they are the lucky ones, being in the right place at the right time. This attitude is a growth stopper! It may not have a complete stranglehold on your life, but small slices feed of it the desire to maintain the status quo. Author Tommy Newberry says, "Be aware that the natural tendency is to mentally set an almost unreachable standard for success while simultaneously creating a definition of failure that is easy to obtain." You will never pass the knot of change, if you expect growth to be handed to you on a silver platter.

Many think that change is not a profitable endeavor. Until we believe that such change will ultimately be in our best interests, our ability to change is crippled. Pitching great, Nolan Ryan says, "Enjoying success requires the ability to adapt. Only by being open to change will you have a true opportunity to get the most from your talents." Here are some thought patterns that give me the confidence to change:

  • Positive - This allows me to look for the best and receive the best.
  • Creative - This allows me to find answers when others quit looking.
  • Bottom line - This allows me to prioritize and get rid of busy work.
  • Simple - This allows me to communicate my thoughts to everyone.
  • Practical - This allows me to apply principles to everyday life.
  • Continual - This allows me to assimilate everyday experiences into projects. .

Perhaps you’ve heard it said that it’s a sad day when one has climbed to the top of the ladder of success only to find that it’s leaning against the wrong building. Being sure of which direction we should be growing will give us the confidence to change. Leadership expert, John Maxwell, says, "Success is knowing my purpose in life, growing to my maximum potential and sowing seeds that benefit others."

As Christians, we must also fully realize that God sometimes places hurdles and challenges in front of us. He does so not to make life difficult for us (as ascending ropes can sometimes be!), but to increase our character and deepen our faith in Him when we come through victorious on the other side! “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). Remember, God desires our success!!!

My purpose in life is tied to what I believe God has done for me. In fact, the Bible communicates this often. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-10) I know God has a plan for my life. Discovering it and growing into it is the greatest joys of my life.

As you formulate your strategy for personal growth, remember that the knot of change will need to be passed. You can confidently ascend past it by having the right attitude, thinking the right way and having the right direction.

Continue the discussion at the Where Climbers Gather Forums.

Date Posted - 12.21.13

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