How do rock climbers get down

Let’s take a look at how do rock climbers get down from the top of the route. In part, it depends on the climbing venue but when rock climbers want to get down from a climb, they have a few different options. One option is abseiling, which is also called rappelling. This involves attaching oneself to a rope that is anchored at the top of the cliff and then sliding down the rope. Another option is to descend on foot. This can be done by carefully walking around and down to the bottom of the rock face.

Finally, climbers can be lowered to the ground by another person who is belaying them from the top. This is typically done when the climbers are too tired to descend on their own, or if the rock face is too difficult to navigate

No matter which method is used, getting down from a climb is always a lot safer than it looks. That’s because climbers take many precautions to ensure their safety.

How do rock climbers get down - How do rock climbers get down

How do rock climbers get down at indoor climbing walls?

Climbing centres have been carefully designed to be safe. The routes up the wall are typically marked with different coloured holds, so climbers know which route to take. At the top of the wall, there will be a lower-off point that the rope goes through. This is used to lower the climber to the ground.

How do rock climbers get down when climbing outside?

Outdoor rock climbing can be more dangerous and has several options depending on the venue. Some places allow you to walk off easily, others will demand that you abseil off the top.

Walking Off

The most common method of getting down from a rock face is to walk off. This is usually the safest option, as long as the climber takes care to watch their footing and not get too close to the edge. Climbers will often use a guidebook or map to help them find the best route down.


If the rock face is too difficult to walk off of, or if the climbers are too tired, they may be lowered down by another person who is belaying them. Belaying is a technique where the climber is attached to a rope that is controlled by someone else. This person can lower the climber down slowly and safely but this is limited by the rope length. The belayer can be positioned at the top of the route (common in trad climbing and multi-pitch routes) or at the bottom (common in sport climbing).


The final option for getting down from a rock face is abseiling, also known as rappelling. This is usually only done when the other two options are not possible. To abseil, climbers attach themselves to a rope that is anchored at the top of the cliff and then they slide down the rope. This can be dangerous if not done correctly, which is why it is always best to have someone experienced with you when you abseil. It also usually involves either leaving gear (slings and carabiners) behind or relying on some gear being fixed and left in place to abseil from.

Getting down from a rock face is an important part of climbing. Climbers must be careful to choose the safest method depending on the situation.

Using trees to abseil off a route

You can kill trees by using them as an abseil point so please do follow this advice. If there is a sling and carabiner in place on a tree use that or place your own sling around the tree. Do not place your ropes around the tree and directly abseil off the tree.  When a rope moves across the bark of a tree it creates friction that directly damages the tree, the heat can also damage the tree.

Why is the important? Trees on crags are often used as belay points or abseil points. They live in very harsh conditions and take many years to become established and some are essential to the continued enjoyment of the route(s) nearby. If a tree is used as an abseil point the rope friction will kill the tree making climbing under it dangerous and replacing it will take generations.

Multi-pitch rock climbing

Multi-pitch climbing is a type of rock climbing where climbers ascend a series of pitches—sections of rock between belay stations. Pitches are typically 10 to 50 metres (30 to 150 ft) long and the length is usually decided based on how meandering the route is, or the location of suitable ledges and to set up a belay stance with enough room for 2 people.

Abseiling down a multi-pitch route can be time-consuming and usually relies on multiple abseils. The leader abseils down to a belay stance, makes himself safe by attaching himself to the rock and is then joined by the second climber. They then pull the ropes down from above and construct another abseil. They descend the ropes and again, find a ledge, make themselves safe and pull the ropes down.

You keep on repeating the process until you are on the floor.

Multiple abseils can be very committing if you end up in terrain that is unclimbable or, even worse, your ropes get caught/snagged on a rock when you pull them down.

Note: Make sure you tie knots at the end of your rope when abseiling. This will stop you from abseiling off the end of your ropes. This does happen and is usually fatal.

Guide books for rock climbing

Guidebooks are available for most outdoor climbing venues. They detail the routes (route names, route descriptions, number of pitches, and difficulty grade) along with details on how to get to the crag and how to descend to the bottom of the routes. They are available online and at most climbing stores such as V12 Outdoor and Joe Brown’s

How Do Free Climbers Get Down?

Free solo climbers, or those who climb without ropes, typically walk down from their climbs. Once at the top of the route, they are normally at the top of the crag or mountain. From here there is normally an easy way down to the bottom of the route.

The second method that free solo climbers use is rappelling/abseiling. This involves attaching oneself to a rope that is anchored at the top of the cliff and then sliding down the rope. This is not that common as the rope either has to be carried to the top and left or they have to use a fixed rope already there. On shorter routes, soloists may downclimb a route to get to the bottom too.

How Do Climbers Get Their Ropes Back?

The first thing that needs to be done is to set up an anchor at the top of the climb. This is usually done with a few pieces of gear placed in cracks in the rock or around boulders. On crags where abseiling is common (or the only option), there is often gear (a rope and a carabiner) that is left in that can be used. Shorncliff, for example, has numerous abseil points placed on trees at the top of the routes. The rope is then threaded through the anchor carabiner to the midpoint of the rope. The climber then abseils down the rope using both strands. Once at the bottom the rope is pulled through the carabiner and will fall to the floor, ready to be used again.



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