Descending Two Pitches

There are times when it is imperative that you are able to get someone down two pitches quickly; perhaps a climber is injured and needs to be lowered quickly to rescuers on the ground. Or, perhaps a party of three is two pitches up when the big storm comes in, and putting one person back on the ground immediately allows the remaining two climbers to do two quick rappels to get down.

There are several methods for descending more than one pitch at a time; each requires that at least two ropes are tied together and that the joining knot is passed through the system efficiently and safely.

The following two methods are the simplest and most straightforward. The first method lowers the climber down two rope lengths; in the second method, the climber rappels the first rope length and is lowered down the second.

Each system requires two ropes tied together and two belay/rappel devices (a Munter hitch works well for one), and is easiest to perform directly off the anchor. These systems are relatively complex, and it must be stressed again that they should only be undertaken if no simpler or more efficient options exist.

Dave’s Lower

This improved variation on the traditional knot pass is very quick and straightforward; it was developed by Dave Kelly, an American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA)-certified guide from the Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School in North Conway, New Hampshire.

1. Attach a cordelette to a locking carabiner on the anchor with a Munter hitch, blocked with a mule knot and backed up with an overhand around the cordelette.

2. Clip a second, pear-shaped carabiner to the bottom loop of the cordelette.

3. Clip a third carabiner to the anchor and thread the second rope through it just above the joining knot using a Munter hitch, block it with a mule knot, and hack it up with an overhand loop clipped back to the anchor or tied around the rope.

4. Have the climber being lowered tie into the free end of the first rope, and put him or her on belay through a device (or another Munter hitch) on the locking carabiner on the bottom of the cordelette.

5. Lower the climber the length of the first strand through the belay device until the joining knot jams in the carabiner.

6. Untie the overhand backup on the cordelette, release the mule knot, and lower the load onto the second belay device with the Munter hitch on the cordelette.

7. Unlock the locking carabiner between the cordelette and the rope, and twist it until it comes off the rope (it will come off, even under a load).

8. Unclip and untie the overhand backup, release the mule knot, and lower the climber the second pitch using the Munter hitch on the rope.

Rappel/Lower Combination

This method is quick and simple but requires that the person descending first can rappel competently and knows how to safely use an autoblock backup. Begin by tying two ropes together. The strand of rope being used first will be called the “first rope” and the one being used last will be called the ‘second rope.’

1. Tie two ropes together and tie a knot in the free end of the second rope.

2. Thread the second rope through a belay device just above the joining knot on the ropes, block the device with a mule knot, tie an overhand backup, and clip it to the anchor with a locking carabiner.

3. The climber descending puts him or herself on rappel on the first rope just below the joining knot, establishes an autoblock backup, and rappels to the end of the rope (the climber will stop when he or she hits his or her tie-in knot).

4. The belayer now unclips and unties the overhand loop, pops the mule knot, and lowers the person down the second pitch.