Top rope climbing

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Top rope climbing (or top roping) is a style in climbing in which the climber is securely attached to a rope which then passes up, through an anchor system at the top of the climb, and down to a belayer at the foot of the climb. The belayer takes in slack rope throughout the climb, so that if at any point the climber were to lose their hold, they would not fall more than a short distance. [1]

Top-roping is often done on routes that cannot be lead climbed for one reason or another. Most top-rope anchors can be reached through non-technical means, such as by hiking or scrambling to the top of the cliff.

It is the most common style used at indoor climbing walls and is also used in situations where other methods would be unsafe or environmentally damaging. For example, in Kent and Sussex in south-east England, the sandstone rock is soft and prone to erosion, so placing protection into the rock would be both damaging and unreliable. There, top-roping from permanent anchors and solo climbing are the only forms of ascent allowed.

By contrast, in some other areas, top roping is frowned upon for various reasons – including possible erosion from people trying routes too difficult for them or a lack of suitable top-rope anchor points.

When selecting a rope for heavy top roping use, a large diameter (>= 10mm) static rope (or low-stretch rope) is recommended for the anchors to prevent rope wear and reduce rock erosion and to ensure maximum safety in the event of a fall. A dynamic rope should be used for the climbers. It is important to arrange the anchor system in such a way that the climbing rope touches the rock as little as possible; damage to or destruction of the rope can result if a rope is loaded or dragged across sharp rocks enough times or with enough force. For anchors which are set back from the cliff edge, extending the anchor using multiple slings, a long adjustable-length sling, or a length of static line is common. Most practitioners run the climbing rope through two screwgate carabiners attached to the anchor, to provide backup in case one becomes undone. In the interests of safety at least two separate and redundant anchor points should be used, with forces distributed as evenly between them as possible. In the photo above, it can be seen that only the two locking carabiners protrude over the cliff edge, allowing the climbing rope a relatively free run from belayer to climber.

Top-roped climbing is safer, psychologically easier, and less physically demanding than lead climbing, in which the climber must clip into preplaced bolts in the rock as they ascend, or traditional climbing, in which protection is placed along the route by a lead climber. Most novice climbers initially experience the sport through top-roping.

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Climbing harness item of climbing equipment that secures a person to a rope or an anchor point

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Rock-climbing equipment type of tool for climbing

A wide range of equipment is used during rock or any other type of climbing that includes equipment commonly used to protect a climber against the consequences of a fall.

Abseiling Rope-controlled descent of a vertical surface

Abseiling, also known as rappelling from French rappeler, 'to recall' or 'to pull through'), is a controlled descent off a vertical drop, such as a rock face, using a rope.

Free climbing form of climbing

Free climbing is a form of rock climbing in which the climber may use climbing equipment such as ropes and other means of climbing protection, but only to protect against injury during falls and not to assist progress. The climber makes progress by using physical ability to move over the rock via handholds and footholds. Free climbing more specifically may include traditional climbing, sport climbing, bouldering and most forms of solo climbing. Free climbing a multi-pitch route means free-climbing each of its pitches in a single session. At the end of each pitch, climbers are allowed to anchor themselves to belay stations and rest. If they fail climbing a pitch, they are allowed to use the rope to return to the beginning of that pitch and try it again.

Belaying Rock climbing safety technique

Belaying refers to a variety of techniques climbers use to exert tension on a climbing rope so that a falling climber does not fall very far. A climbing partner typically applies tension at the other end of the rope whenever the climber is not moving, and removes the tension from the rope whenever the climber needs more rope to continue climbing.

Lead climbing Competitive discipline of sports climbing

Lead climbing is a climbing style, predominantly used in rock climbing. In a roped party one climber has to take the lead while the other climbers follow. The lead climber wears a harness attached to a climbing rope, which in turn is connected to the other climbers below the lead climber. While ascending the route, the lead climber periodically connects the rope to protection equipment for safety in the event of a fall. This protection can consist of permanent bolts, to which the climber clips quickdraws, or removable protection such as nuts and cams. One of the climbers below the lead climber acts as a belayer. The belayer gives out rope while the lead climber ascends and also stops the rope when the lead climber falls or wants to rest.

Rock climbing Sport in which participants climb natural rock formations

Rock climbing is a sport in which participants climb up, down or across natural rock formations or artificial rock walls. The goal is to reach the summit of a formation or the endpoint of a usually pre-defined route without falling. Rock climbing is a physically and mentally demanding sport, one that often tests a climber's strength, endurance, agility and balance along with mental control. Knowledge of proper climbing techniques and use of specialized climbing equipment is crucial for the safe completion of routes.

Ascender (climbing) Devices used for ascending, braking, or protection in climbing

An ascender is a device used for directly ascending a rope, or for facilitating protection with a fixed rope when climbing on very steep mountain terrain.


A Prusik is a friction hitch or knot used to attach a loop of cord around a rope, applied in climbing, canyoneering, mountaineering, caving, rope rescue, ziplining, and by arborists. The term Prusik is a name for both the loops of cord and the hitch, and the verb is "to prusik". More casually, the term is used for any friction hitch or device that can grab a rope. Due to the pronunciation, the word is often misspelled Prussik, Prussick, or Prussic.

In rock climbing, an anchor can be any device or method for attaching a climber, a rope, or a load to the climbing surface - typically rock, ice, steep dirt, or a building - either permanently or temporarily. The intention of an anchor is case-specific but is usually for fall protection; primarily fall arrest and fall restraint. Climbing anchors are also used for hoisting, holding static loads, or redirecting a rope.

Reverso (climbing equipment)

A Reverso is a belay device developed and patented by Petzl, used for example in rock-climbing and other activities which involves rope-work. Another version of this device is the Reversino, intended for use with thinner ropes.

Dynamic rope rope designed to stretch under load

A dynamic rope is a specially constructed, somewhat elastic rope used primarily in rock climbing, ice climbing, and mountaineering. This 'stretch' is what makes it 'dynamic', in contrast to a static rope that has very low elongation under load. Greater stretch allows a dynamic rope to absorb the energy of a sudden load such as from a fall more slowly, reducing the peak force and therefore the chance of catastrophic failure. Kernmantle ropes are the most common type of dynamic rope, and nylon has replaced all natural materials such as hemp since 1945 for durability and strength.

Belay device Mechanical piece of climbing equipment

A belay device is a mechanical piece of climbing equipment used to control a rope during belaying. It is designed to improve belay safety for the climber by allowing the belayer to manage their duties with minimal physical effort. With the right belay device, a small, weak climber can easily arrest the fall of a much heavier partner. Belay devices act as a friction brake, so that when a climber falls with any slack in the rope, the fall is brought to a stop.


  1. "Tradgirl Climbing FAQ - Toproping". April 29, 2008. Archived from the original on July 19, 2011.