Lead Rope Solo Accessories
Last updated: 3/10/2023
Bungee Draw (for Softer Catches)
An unfortunate downside of Lead Rope Soloing is the harsh catch without a belayer as a counterweight. The falls are quick and limited only to rope stretch for energy absorption. On a big wall, I use my haul bag as a dummy counterweight to soften falls, but this is impractical for single pitch cragging. With the friction of a lead rope passing through/over carabiners, it really only takes 50-75% of bodyweight as a counterweight to notice a large difference.
This bungee draw is my current method from softening catches in this scenario. The assembly is essentially a shoulder-length draw with burly lockers on each end, tensioned by 24" tarp straps folded over between the biners, all nested inside a nylon fabric sheath. I noticed a fall comfort increase with just one bungee, but am currently testing a double bungee configuration which barely bottoms out at body weight.
24" EPDM Tarp Strap Bungee - bottoms out at ~75lbs when folded over, soapy water is helpful to get ends onto a carabiner
A bungee draw seems to have advantages over other energy absorption methods (Kong Kisa, Screamers, Munter Hitches, etc) as it can be weighted and unweighted multiple times while you work up a pitch, without needing to be reset. Please let me know if you use this method and learn anything, this recipe is a first attempt at the design!
Quicklink Backfeed Keeper
A neat anchoring method for lead rope solo sport climbing is to stick clip an inline anchor using the first two bolts. The first bolt has the bungee draw explained above, pointed upwards. The second bolt has a draw with a quicklink on the rope side which acts as a knot blocking backup if the first bolt somehow disconnected.
A further upgrade is to use a rope cinching widget on that quicklink draw to hold the first bolt upward, reducing concern of crossloading biners, or un-noticed slack. This Quicklink Backfeed Keeper is my design to do so. It snaps onto a 5/16 quicklink and has flexible wings which flap back and forth to allow rope movement with purposeful friction. (See my video here for a demo of the anchor on a route). The taller side stays snapped in place, while the smaller side can be snapped on and off the quick link to swing out of the way and allow mid-rope loading.
This widget is 3D printed with no supports in flexible TPU material (I've been printing on a Prusa MK3s+)
My 3D Printable Design File (No commercial uses, please!) - Print without supports, on long slanted face, 100% infill
Draw Backfeed Keeper
Another slack concern while lead rope soloing is preventing backfeeding, where the rope passes backwards through the protection carabiners and piles up at the lower anchor. Various methods (rubber bands, one way hitches, etc) have been used to lightly hold the rope in place, but all are a bit clumbsy.
Matty Skinner then came up with a "Gromm Hitch" rubber widget design a few years ago which allows one hand cinching. It is a big rubber wing that bends upward as the rope is pulled to the bottom the carabiner, then pinches the rope in place. A great innovation for LRS free climbing!
This is my variant on that design - flexible wipers bend side to side rather than upwards. This over centering flap design allows a bit easier rope motion, while still holding well when the pull direction is reversed. This is useful since a bungee draw creates much more rope movement during a fall, and is also handy when giving redpoint attempts where you lower partially up a route and then try to pull your rope through the draws on the wall.
This widget is 3D printed with no supports (flaps pointed upward) in flexible TPU material (I've been printing on a Prusa MK3s+). Note that some scale experimentation may be needed to fit your biners well - the file below is scaled for chunky BD Livewire carabiners.
This is an early prototype which I hope to improve - please share your thoughts and check back for
Overture TPU Filament 95A - an affordable basic TPU, hard to get onto the carabiner, but then holds the rope pretty well.
FiberFlex MatteFlex 40 D - Stretchier with larger biner range, but less durable and more expensive
My 3D Printable Design File (No commercial uses, please!) - Print without supports, flaps pointed upwards, 100% infill
Minimal Chest Harness
A GriGri is usually held upside-down and backward while lead rope soloing to improve auto-feeding (SICgrips blog post on Gri attachment points). A non-structural chest harness or neck bungee is needed used for support. In the past, I've used the neck bungee as it can be shared with a TR soloing setup, and is reasonably comfortable.
Recently, I've been using this minimal chest harness instead. I've found that the added rigidity allows more consistent down-feeding slack prior to a clip. I do find that the harness needs to be fine tuned to just the right height, so adjustability is helpful. (Safety Note - A GriGri held in this manner will not catch a purely upsidedown fall!)
This very basic adjustable X design is made with 3/4" polyester webbing and side release buckles. The clip in point is 1/4" grosgrain as a purposeful weaklink, hopefully breaking away in the case of an upside-down fall. I use a plastic carabiner for the same reason. A straight stitching sewing machine can assemble this easily, since structural bartacks are not needed.
3/4" Polyester Flat Webbing (webbing alternatives - ripstopbytheroll.com, strapworks.com)
3/4" Curved Side Release buckles with double-back adjustment
1/4" Grosgrain - check your local sewing store in the ribbon section