Q&A 1

Second Opinions

The following is a little conversation I had with someone yesterday that highlights a few points that often come up.


Hey Andy, I was playing around with some friction hitches after reading your book, and I noticed that I could easily turn an autoblock into a VT hitch by easing the top two wraps down over the rest. I don't know if this is common knowledge or not, but it makes tying the VT hitch way easier.

I also have a little bit of a gear related question. 

My 5mm friction hitch cord is able to do 5 full wraps around 2 strands of 9.8mm rope (North American so single rope with half rope rappels). Are 5 wraps enough to use it as a third hand, or should I make a longer hitch cord? 

I feel like the answer is "does it grip the rope?" To which the answer is "yes" but I'm wondering if 6 wraps (or 4 on the top a VT hitch) is mandatory if it has to take your full weight, like if your lowering device fails. 

Thank you for sharing your gushing font of knowledge.

Reply (Andy)


The number of wraps etc. is probably more dependent on the type of cord, stiffness, age of the cord etc., so it's probably more about testing it, giving it a really hard yank. But this should be fine on two thick ropes, but you need to be more careful on two very thin/twin ropes (sub 8.5 mm), or a single rope (9 mm), but 5 raps (with a single cord, not a loop) seems to work. 

Sorry for the non-answer!


I appreciate it, I was just overthinking a little.

Reply (Andy)

I don't think you can overthink these things. I must have done a 1000 raps, and I still ask myself if I'm doing the right thing, or if something could be done better (as well as watching what others do, both the good, the bad and the ugly!).


We all like to get a second opinion, but it's worth understanding that we tend to already know the answers we seek, best demonstrated by the way British people often ask a question by first supply the most obvious answer, as in: "do you think this slope is safe?", or "will this piton hold my weight?".

In climbing, there is nothing wrong with first figuring it out for yourself, and then getting a second opinion. Sometimes by forgoing the answer to the test (cheating), you can dump some outdated dogma, and come up with a novel solution (knowing the 'correct way' can sometimes make it harder to discover a 'better way').

When seeking out a second opinion, you will generally be consulting someone who figured it out before you (maybe 50 years ago!), but maybe figured it out wrong the first, made a lot of errors and can pass on these as well, as in "don't do this…", which can be as useful as "do this…".