Climbing Puzzles


You’re having a great day climbin, but something unexpected occurs! How will you deal with it? Introducing Climbing Puzzles!

Situation 1: You climb to the top of the route, only to find a large boulder with a single rusty but stable-looking piton pinned in the back. You have the following items:

  • 2 screwgate and 5 sets nonlocking carabiners on alpine slings
  • 60m rope tied into your harness
  • belay partner 60 feet below
  • accessory cord (only long enough to wrap about the boulder once with a single strand)


Situation 2: You approach an anchor, but it appears that there are 3 anchor points. Two side by side, set 6 inches apart, and a third about 3 feet higher and a foot to the side. The bolted anchor in the middle is loose and rusty. You have the same items with you as above.


Situation 3: OH NO! Getting pumped, you’ve finally reached a bolt, ready to clip, and realize you didn’t partner check and you never finished your figure 8 knot. It wont fall off without warning, but it’s certainly not weight-bearing. You have 1 good hand sized jug, and small edges for feet. You need at least one hand to stay on the wall, and the bolt is 2 feet above your head. What do you do? Materials:

  • Rope, barely attached to your tie in point
  • Belayer, 70 feet below you
  • 2 quickdraws (not long enough to reach from the bolt to your harness)


Situation 3.5: Based off of a true story. This time it’s in a gym, you’re the belayer, and this time it’s your MOM that’s 60 feet up, with the rope barely danging on her harness. She has no gear on her, you have an atc with a screwgate carabiner currently attached to the live rope. What do you do? Materials:

  • Gym, with other members
  • Other routes next to the current route, all with bolts
  • Belay device and locking carabiner


Situation 4: You’ve reached the anchor, only to realize that you used up all your quickdraws on the way up. The anchors are bolted with 2 chains and rap rings hanging from it. Materials:

  • Rope, attached to your tie in points
  • Belayer, 70 feet below you
  • Your wits


Situation 5: Your belay partner is lowering you off a severely overhanging route. You’re 10 meters down from a 30 meter routeShe’s using a belay device and the gate of the carabiner gets caught between the tube entrance and the rope. She spends 10 minutes trying to get it out but its hopelessly snagged. She can’t open the carabiner gate because that’s the part that’s stuck. What can she do? Materials:

  • quickdraws
  • cordelette
  • locking carabiners
  • 20m left of remaining rope behind the belay device
  • alone at the crag


I’ll post my own answers in a few days! Message me if you’ve got other good puzzles where you’d like to hear answers from the community!



Preserving Booty

frustrated-man-hammer-26136802Bring lubricant in a small bottle. WARNING: ETHICALLY UNSOUND in popular areas

  • If you get a nut stuck or an overcammed friend, a few drops of lubricant can really help slide out the stuck gear
  • definitely don’t do this at any crag that gets frequent access, ass the lubricant will make the rock slippery for at least a day.

Double cam pulley system for marginal movement of rock

  • loosen mountain cracks or boulders with 2 pieces of (correctly sized) gear set opposed, and a Z-pulley system to double the pull power
    • this can expand the rock by close to 1mm, sometimes just enough to loosen the piece of stuck gear

Never give up! (How much do you make an hour?)

  • Calculate how much you make per hour, and then judge how much time you’re willing to waste to retrieve stuck gear.
  • ie: I make 15 dollars an hour, I spent 34 dollars for this 5-nut set, so I should spend up to ~20 minutes trying to save my nut
    • if I pass 20 minutes, I can feel at peace with giving up on my nut

Outdoor Leading Checklist

Taking a friend out to teach them how to climb outdoors because they don’t want to give 60 bucks to their shitty local gym *cough mesa rim cough*? Here’s a helpful checklist you can print out.

Disclaimer: This checklist is NOT a guide. Find an experienced mentor or hire a professional guide if you have no experience. Climbing is inherently dangerous. You are responsible for your own actions and decisions. By using this checklist you are acknowledging the risks of climbing and further agree to release and discharge me of any and all liability arising from your participation in such activities.

Lead Climbing Checklist:


RED – Pay attention to this or the climber/you will die

Bold—Important tip

Supplies for the leader and pre-checks:

  • Tie a stopper knot at the end of the rope (belayer’s side)
  • Helmet
  • Pre-count bolts +2 for quickdraws
  • Anchor materials
  • Rappel device (belay device) + autoblock (prusik)
  • PAS
  • Partner Checks

Rope and Safety Skills: Always practice these knots first before using them!

Screenshot (481)Screenshot (482)Screenshot (483)

Climbing Skills:

  • Quickdraw gate direction:
    1.  Gates always face away from direction of travel
    2. Always use bolt side carabiner on the bolt, so edges and burrs won’t cut up the rope
  • Clipping stance and hand position
    • Physics fact: You fall further when you clip from a lower position but pull out more slack vs at waist height with less slack
      • Try to clip from the most stable position, not at the first or last opportunity!Screenshot (484)
  1. When the gate is the other direction of your hand, hold the rope with the palm facing outwards instead (towards you). Tip: Thumb direction always matches gate direction.
  2. Make sure the climber side rope is on the outside edge, and the belayer side rope is by the rock, to prevent (covered further in “Climbing/Leading AVOIDANCES”)
  • How to fall
    1. Don’t push away from the wall
    2. If you have time, tell your partner to “WITNESS ME :O” before you fall
    3. Don’t yell “take” before falling
    4. Bend your knees
  • Ascending a rope:
    1. 2 prusiks, one for movement arrest attached to belay loop, one for your foot to ascend the rope
    2. Before ascending, tie a overhand knot in the rope below both prusiks in case of catastrophic failure

Screenshot (485)

  • Yell out clipping to communicate you need slack to clipScreenshot (485)
  • Yell out take after you are clipped in and you need to hang on the rope bec
  • ause you’re pooped or reached the top of the climb
  • Use your partners name when communicating!
  • How to bail:
    1. Clip your least favorite (rated) carabiner onto a bolt (make sure to check that it’s solid)
    2. Clip into carabiner with rope and ask for a take
    3. Wrap a prusik onto the opposite rope (closer to the wall, closer to the belayer) and attach it using a locking carabiner onto your belay loop as a backup.
    4. Get lowered, shimmying the prusik down and removing quickdraws as you go.



Climbing/Leading Avoidances:

1.) Z-clipping

Screenshot (486)

  • When the bolts are so close together you grab the rope from beneath a connection point (quickdraw) and clip it onto a higher quickdraw.
  • RESULT: extreme rope drag and 2x fall distance starting from the bottom of the Z shape.
  • FIX: by unclipping the rope and reclipping by grabbing the rope from the correct position.

2.) Backclipping

When you clip the rope so that the end attached to your harness (climber side) ends up between the quickdraw and the wall

Screenshot (487)

  • RESULT: higher risk of carabiner gate opening when you fall.
  • FIX: attach a 2nd quickdraw to the wall and clip so the belayer side is against the wall before removing the 1st one.

3.) Grabbing bolts or carabiners

  • When you grab at bolts or carabiners attached to the wall cuz you’re pumped
  • RESULT: Lost fingers
  • FIX: just fall instead, of if you’re really scared, clip your PAS onto the bolt

4.) Pushing away from the wall when falling

  • RESULT: slammed back into the wall
  • FIX: don’t push away from the wall

5.) Falling Rocks

  • Climber dislodges rocks while climbing
  • RESULT: Rocks hit the belayer and he/she dies, therefore releasing the brake on the belay device, inadvertently killing the climber as well
  • FIX: Belayer wears a helmet, uses an assisted-locking belay device, and the climber yells “ROCK!” if they see anything falling, doesn’t matter what it is.

6.) Rope AwarenessScreenshot (488)

  • Foot goes between the wall the and rope, so a fall will result in the leg catching on the rope and flipping the climber
  • RESULT: flipping upside down and cracking your head open
  • FIX: Wear a helmet, and be both aware as a climber and as a belayer to prevent it!

6.) Climbing far beyond comfort zone

  • Climbing is for fun, but if you feel super sketched out don’t push yourself way beyond your comfort zone
  • RESULT: Death/Permanent Maiming
  • FIX: Climb for yourself, no cute girl/guy is going to think you’re cool if you’re dead


Belaying Skills:

  • Once you say “On Belay”, that is a commitment to your climber–hands never leave the device, and full attention is paid to the climber until “Off Belay” is stated.
  • Partner checks
  • Learn the Munter-Mule-Overhand lock-off
    • This technique allows you to lock off the belay device, allowing you to go hands free or to escape the belay device (and attach it to a bolt or another person) and perform a rescue.screenshot-489.png
  1. Spot your climber before they reach the first bolt, and also make sure there is enough slack!
  2. Once your climber clips in, don’t belay from directly underneath them (they’ll fall on you)
  3. Give out slack by:
    1. Pulling up on the climber side while allowing rope to slide through the belay device by tilting the brake strand horizontally and allowing your brake hand to move with the rope (by holding it)
    2. Lock off on the brake side by tilting the brake side downwards again
    3. Slide brake hand down, place other hand back above the belay device to reset
    4. Repeat
    5. Remember you can still take in slack using the Same PBUS method learned from top rope belay
  4. Leave out enough slack that the rope exiting the belay device doesn’t go straight up, but also not so much that it droops down
  5. Be aware of situations (when climber is between 1st and 2nd bolt, between 2nd and 3rd bolt) of groundfall potential
    1. Action: As a belayer, lock off belay device and lean back or even run backwards to prevent a more serious fall
  6. Soft-catch, keep your body loose while belaying, and ride the pull of the rope upwards, only give this catch once groundfall potential is gone (3rd bolt+ usually, but not a hard rule, use your head)
  7. Repeat what your partner says before acting to prevent miscommunication
  8. Step towards the wall and feed slack when you see the climber clipping, or they yell out clipping. Step back and take in extra slack once they are clipped in
  9. Be aware of your partner’s feet, to make sure they don’t step between the wall and the rope.
  10. Let your climber know if the rope passes the mid-point (usually 2 black marks) through the belay device
    1. MEANING: Climber cannot lower directly from the anchor because the wall is taller than half the length of the rope
    2. RESULT: If the end of the rope is not knotted, the rope can slide through the belay device and the Climber will die
  • FIX:
    • Find a walk off at the top
    • Climber goes off belay, belayer free solos easy (downclimbable) terrain to belay from a higher location
    • Climber bails from a single carabiner attached to a (lower) bolt with a prusik backup
    • Belay asks for neighbors to borrow a 2nd rope, Climber goes off belay, belayer ties together two ropes,and lowering resumes
  • Use your partners name when communicating!


Anchor building and Lowering:

1.) Clip into chains or bolt with a quickdraw

2.) Check bolts for rust/looseness

3.) Create the anchor, following SERENE-SA rules





NE-no extension

SA-small angles

4.) Attach PAS with redundant backup (quickdraw, sling, etc…)

5.) Don’t forget to enjoy the view!

6.) If you are not the last climber, consider leaving the highest quickdraw clipped for extra redundancy, and leaving additional draws to prevent swinging toprope falls (based on user discretion).

7.) If you aren’t the last climber, let your belayer know you are ready to lower, give slack (don’t remove) on your PAS to test the rope, remove the PAS, and lower.

7.) If you are the last climber, and you are LOWERING, go to (A), if RAPPELING, go to (B)

Golden Rules:

  • Once clipped in, check that your weight is on the correct piece of gear
  • Never rely on just your hands to hold up something essential (rope)
  • Always have redundancy in your connection to the anchor wall (you’ll be taking apart the anchor sometimes)
  • Don’t unclip anything until you are done untying/tying everything
  • Unclip from things while weighted, prevents accidentally unclipping the wrong item

(A) How to LOWER as the last climber:

  1. Attach your PAS, and make sure your PAS is connected to the wall and redundant, ask for slack in your rope in order to check that you’re weighing your PAS directly.
  2. Do NOT go off belay, ask your partner for 3 armfuls of slack
  3. Take a few armfuls of rope from the belayer side and tie an overhand/figure 8 on a bight and clip it onto your belay loop using a locking carabiner (in case of catastrophic failure to perform steps 1, 2, 4, and 5 correctly, climber will just take a lead fall to the highest quickdraw instead of decking)
  4. Untie the rope from your harness
  5. Thread the loose end of the rope through the chains and retie onto your harness using a figure 8. Double check every aspect because you won’t have a partner to check on the system.
  6. Unclip the locking carabiner attached to your belay loop and untie the bight, yell TAKE to allow your belayer to take in all slack.
  7. Give slack in your PAS (DON’T REMOVE!) to check that your weight is completely on the rope and controlled by your belayer.
  8. Double check everything again before removing your PAS, and proceed to call out “ready to lower” to your belayer before lowering

(B) How to RAPPEL (A) with no extension or (B) with extension. (C) Tertiary backup Fireman’s Belay

  1. Attach yourself to the wall with a redundant PAS. Ask for slack in your rope and shift your weight fully on to the PAS.
  2. Go off belay and take up an armful of rope from the belayer side and tie a clove hitch onto a carabiner and clip it onto your belay loop.
  3. Untie the rope from your harness.
  4. Thread the rope through the chains and tie a stopper knot on the end. Unclip your carabiner from the clove hitch and pull through on the shorter end of the rope until you reach the center (two black marks) or until both ends touch the ground
  5. Ask your belayer to check that both ends of the rope are touching the ground and BOTH ENDS HAVE STOPPER KNOTS
  6. Proceed to rappel via (1) No Extension or (2) Extension

(A) No Extension

  1. Attach belay device to harness and rope like a normal belay, but insert both strands instead of just 1, make sure everything is backed and locked properly. If no device available, use a munter hitch.
  2. Wrap a prusik with at least 3 rotations around the braking end of the rope to form an autoblock–use a locking carabiner and attach it to the leg loop.
  3. Create slack (BUT DO NOT REMOVE) in the PAS, and lean back on the rappel system to check to see if the autoblock works. (If it doesn’t, add an additional wrap).
    1. Contingency plan–if autoblock fails to lock or is dropped, consider a prusik knot instead or a leg wrap (2 wraps minimum of the brake side rope around the leg)
  4. Once the blocking mechanism is proven to work, recheck everything
  5. Detach PAS AFTER rappel is weighted, with a hand on the brake strand
  6. Lower by shimmying the autoblock, or reducing to 1 leg wrap

(B) Extension (for comfort during longer rappels): Same as A except steps 1 and 2

  1. Girth hitch a sling that ends (either total length or with an overhand knot) about 1 foot away from your body onto your belay loop. Check that it’s tight and attach belay device and rope like a normal belay, except with both strands, making sure everything is backed and locked properly. If no device available, use a munter hitch.
  2. Wrap a prusik with at least 3 rotations around the braking end of the rope to form an autoblock–use a locking carabiner and attach it to your belay loop.
  3. Refer to (A)

Fireman’s Belay If you have a partner on the ground already, have them do a fireman’s belay by holding onto the two strands and pulling the rope taut to arrest a fall if you somehow fucked up so hard that you did several things wrong consecutively


Last modified: 2/1/18


Bouldering Trix

  1. Bring Flip Flops
  2. If you bring ~30 ft of cordelette, you can get a friend to hold onto one side and you can slowly downclimb while holding the cord safely. Even works for highballs because a lot of them (in Socal) have bolts on the top that you can loop the cord through
  3.  Everything else is obvious as shit how many tricks do you think there are for bouldering just get better

Re-appropriated Gear #1: Longboard Sling

They say that you shouldn’t ever use non-rated gear for climbing, and “they” are definitely right. But rated climbing gear is also super great for a lot of other purposes!

Retire your old PAS, or make a new one–either way it’s cheap as shit

You might have a Purcell Prusik, or you might have never heard of one. But it’s a pretty cheap way to anchor yourself  (relatively redundantly) onto a wall. I wont get into it because there’s plenty of guides online on how to make a purcell prusik. But it can also be used as a carry strap for carrying a longboard! The adjustable arms can be shortened or lengthened to fit onto a variety of longboards, and cinched down tight so your board doesn’t swing once its on your back.

The adjustable length allows it to be used for both short and long longboards! I like to use a carabiner with a wide gate so it’s easy to carry the sling on your belt loop when riding, and you can use it to clip onto the trucks.

Additional uses include a pull cord for hitching on your friends bikes, and for dragging your board up a steep hill!


Re-Appropriated Gear #2: Hammock Straps

Climbing gear is rated for thousands of pounds. Hammock gear is rated for 300 lbs. Guess which one weighs more? Which one takes up more space?

Here’s a cheap hammock I got from Costco: Chillax (if you’re crazy about this one please don’t buy it from here it’s literally 20 dollars at costco). The hammock itself is really light, but the “straps” are (at least) 8mm thick (unrated) cord and it has two huge injection molded plastic hooks.


I replaced the inside loops with a short 12 cm long dyneema sling, and the straps with 5/8th inch tubular webbing. Lighter, smaller, stronger, and better for the trees. Tie a bowline, or for faster setup/takedown, add 2 carabiners and just clove hitch the webbing onto it!

Screenshot (490)
Lost Lightweight in Paradise

Useful Gear: Stick Clip Hiking Pole

So I got this baby from a friend that only trad climbs now, and I have to say it’s pretty damn cool.

It’s a trekking pole–and a stick clip!

It extends out to something like 12 feet long, so an average person with arms can pretty easily reach bolts about 18-20 feet up. The nose of the hiking stick has 3 separate pieces that can extend out, each about 3 feet long. I attached a Superclip© (the red thing) by screwing it onto a trekking pole basket that came on the pole, and screwing that onto the stick. See below:

And that’s it! It’s a pretty straightforward piece of gear. I found it online, and it looks like it sells for around $65 bucks. I’d probably buy it. Link is here, not affiliate or anything.