Getting a Grip

Getting a Grip
November 5, 2019 Orvel Miskiw

Rope handling is one of the most basic groups of operations in climbing, as we use ropes everywhere for their tensile strength, for steadying, extractions, descending, and hauling, as well as protecting against falls. In many of these operations, ropes are managed by hand, or could be handled for speed and efficiency, rather than gripped by or fed through mechanisms, as long as participants are able to pull or hold a rope by hand, with adequate force for the purpose.

Few climbers seem to concern themselves with the occasional need to apply serious holding or pulling force to a rope by hand, and so may be unable to do it adequately when necessary: they usually just grab the rope and pull, at which time they may find the load uncooperative — not coming, or actually getting away from them, as the rope slips, and possibly suffer scorched hands and pride, and need to go to Plan B if one is still available.

The modern trend to thinner ropes increases the problems of load handling because they are harder to grip, simply because of their smaller surface area that necessitates greater gripping pressure to produce whatever required tension. And women have an additional limitation in this regard because of their average significantly lesser hand strength in comparison to men.

Forming the Figure 8 Grip

Fortunately a simple technique that few climbers seem to know about is available to allow anyone to bypass their limited hand-grip strength and apply arm strength and body weight or position for pulling on a rope — the Figure 8 Grip. See my discussion of this method, titled “How Do You Hold a Rope?” in the Safety Page, accessed from Resources on the Home Page.

Orvel, Director of Safety


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