Self Rescue

Self Rescue is a complex subject that can encompass a large range of tools, techniques, and high risk. Seek qualified instruction to learn to execute these techniques, and use your best judgement when it comes to risking your life, or your climbing partners.

More often than not the right call to make might be to reach out for help from and not put yourself into an unknown and possibly deadly situation.

Familiarize yourself with the self rescue tool box on the ground in a low risk setting - at the base of a local crag is a great place to start.

Always apply proper backups, such as an extra fixed line connected to the “injured” climber’s belay loop, or a backup belay from a third person while practicing. Catastrophe knots, and tying the rope directly to the anchor via Clove hitch or figure 8 on a bight.

Backing up the system is always step #1 when taking any course of action.

Table of Contents

Recommended Gear List

Belay Device

Plate Style Belay Device & HMS Style Locking Carabiner.

Example: Black Diamond ATC, Petzl Reverso.


1 Double length sling 120 cm

1 Quad length Sling 240 cm

Nylon, Dyneema, or Aramid materials.


20′ section of 6mm or 7mm climbing cord. tied in a loop with a junction knot.

Junction Knot

6mm or 7mm climbing cord. Tied in with a Cordelette. 


3-5 locking carabiners

4-5 non locking carabiners

Friction Hitch

Examples: Sterling Hollow Block, a tied loop of cord.

Self Rescue Tool Box

Useful tools and techniques recommended for self rescue. These are built off of standard climbing skills such as the direct top belay, and the extended rappel.

Clove Hitch

The Clove Hitch is a very versatile hitch and is commonly used as a tie in at the anchor. The Hitch is fully adjustable, some of its other uses are self belaying, anchor rigging, and self rescue applications.

Munter Hitch

The Munter Hitch is a releasable hitch that can be used to transfer weighted loads between carabiners, or masterpoints. This extremely valuable tool is very important for self rescue applications.

Munter Mule Overhand

Tying off the Munter Hitch with a Mule Overhand. This allows you to go hands free.

Autoblock Hitch

The Autoblock is a prefered friction hitch for rappelling because it’s friction can be loosened more easily than the Prusik or Klemheist.

Prusik Hitch

The Prusik is great for grabbing the rope with high friction. It can be hard to loosen if it has been weighted.


The Klemheist offers high friction, it can be difficult to break if it has been subject to a heavy load.

Self Rescue Backups: Going hands free

Tying a Catastrophe Knot Direct Belay

Before going hands free for any anything (including taking a photo, or grabbing a sip of water) tie a catastrophe knot in the brake strand of the rope. This is especially important when belaying directly off the anchor with a GRIGRI.

Tying Off The Belay From The Ground

Tying off the belay in order to go hands free. It’s important to use the spine side of the locking carabiner for this method. You may consider always setting up your belay on the spine side of the belay device to utilize this tie off technique if it is ever needed.

Ascending The Rope Guide ATC

This method can also be used with a Petzl GriGri. Be sure to back up the brake strand with a “cat knot” every 6-10 feet.

Drop Loop Assist

If the follower cannot climb a section of the route and is within close distance to the leader. This method can get the follower to the belay.

3 to 1 Hauling System

3 to 1 Hauling System. This is an effective hauling system for raising the follower through a short section of a climb.