The Silent Partner. The Silent Partner is a speed actuated braking device. It attaches to a climbing rope with a clove hitch, and to your harness by way of two locking carabiners. As you move away from the anchor, light tension on the rope causes the clove hitch to “slip”. This action allows you to move without having to feed out rope manually. During a fall, the rope feeds out quickly. This increase in rope speed actuates a centrifugal clutch that causes the clove hitch to tighten and stop the rope from feeding. Because it is sensitive to the speed at which rope feeds through it, the Silent Partner will feed freely at speeds typical of climbing. During a fall, it will lock up regardless of your body position. The Silent Partner is released by pulling on the excess end of the rope. It will function as a lowering device by simply passing the rope around your hip to provide friction.
The Rope. A rope for rope soloing needs to be durable. The good thing about rope soloing is that there is no drag at all, and if you do it right, also very little weight. On tough climbs, go for 10.5 or 11mm ropes. If you’re on a big wall, you will probably need a second haul line/ rap line in case the lead line gets trashed.
Rope Bags. Rope bags are a vital tool for anything that’s longer than one pitch, allowing the rope to feed out without snags. It often seems that most of your time on a big rope solo is spent stacking ropes into bags; just make sure it’s nice and big and can keep open.
Bungee Prussic loops. This small prussic loops made from thin bungee cord allows the rope below you to be held, rather than hanging from your waist. Bungee is used rather than thin cord, as in a fall this cord will cut your rope, and bitter experience has flagged up the fact that 2mm or 3mm cord breaking under load can cut like a knife.
The climber is safeguarded in case of a fall, with the drawbacks being they must climb the pitch twice, and also abseil down the pitch, so in effect moving over the same ground 3 times. On a single pitch route this is fine, but on a very long route this requires a great deal of organization, stamina and the ability to be self-aware (there is no one to check you but you).
The anchor. The foundation of any rope soloing system is the anchor, as without a bomber anchor – good for both forces up and down – you don’t have a system. When rope soloing, the rope is attached direct to the belay and acts as your belayers body (but not their breaking hand on the belay plate). Big walls with fixed anchors make soloing easy, as you have two or three bolts at each stance makes building anchors a no brainer. On trad routes, things get a bit harder, especially one hard to protect ground, as finding simply a good anchor for a downward force is tough enough, let alone an upward pulling one.
Cams and pegs tend to be multidirectional, but not nuts. Always go for an anchor that has 3 solid pieces in both directions (3 pegs solid in both directions; 2 cams good both ways, 1 nut good for a downward pull, 1 nut good for an upward pull).
Due to the fact you have nobody attached to the end of the rope (static belay), you can have a larger impact force. Have the rope go from the belay to the haul bags, hence they are lifted up in fall giving a softer catch. Some people also attach a ripper sling to their powerpoint.
Rope management. The lead and haul lines are fed into rope bags, with the end from the belay going in last, and the end of the haul line (attached to the haul bags) going in first.
Limitation. Do not use the silent partner for the following conditions:
Attaching the silent partner to the rope. *Use only 9.8mm to 11mm
It doesn’t matter which end of the rope goes to the anchor. The Silent Partner will feed and lock to the rope in either direction.
The method of rope attachment is the same for both leading and top roping.
After attaching the silent partner to the rope, pull the anchored end to make sure it feeds and locks properly.
Attach the Silent Partner to your harness with two locking carabiners as shown in the figure to the right. If your harness uses a belay loop, clip to the same parts that the loop goes around. Don’t clip to the belay loop. Never attach the Silent Partner to a chest harness. If you do, the Silent Partner will hit you in your face when you fall.
Silent Partner Ground School. Before climbing with the Silent Partner, you should learn to use it while you are still on the ground. All you need is a climbing rope, a Silent Partner, a carabiner, and a suitable anchor for the rope.
Leading. The following four points are essential:
Always use a backup belay. The use of a backup belay is more than a safety consideration. The weight of the excess rope hanging from the device can make rope feeding difficult. Clipping backup knots to your harness will remove this weight.
The backup belay while leading:
Always tie into the end of the rope. If you don’t, the Silent Partner could feed off the end.
The features of the climb should dictate the positioning of the backup knots along the rope. Your backup knots should be capable of preventing you from hitting things such as the ground or ledge.
Setup at least two back knots at a time. That way, if you have to release a knot at a difficult part of the climb and are unable to tie another, you will still have a backup knot clipped in. It is usually easier to setup all of your backup knots while at the belay station. Then all you have to do is release them as you climb.
12 – 15 meters of rope between the Silent Partner and a backup knot is about the limit.
Preventing self-feed/slack accumulation while leading. The weight of the rope between the Silent Partner and the anchor can cause the rope to feed through the Silent Partner. This situation can result in a dangerous accumulation of slack in the belay system. To prevent this, it is necessary to support the weight of the rope at some point on the pitch.
Prusik method. The figure to the right shows the rope being supported by a prusik knot clipped into a protection point. This method is best since it does not cause an increase in fall factor. Use small diameter cord such as a bootlace so that the prusik will break if loaded during a fall. Bungee cord is an alternative to bootlace, which will stretch to provide a dynamic catch.
Figure eight method. A figure eight knot is tied into the lead rope clipped into a protection point. This method has the advantage of not requiring any extra gear, but does increase the fall factor if you fall above this point.
With both methods, the point of protection supporting the rope must be capable of holding both an upward and downward pull.
Occasionally pull up on the lead rope to see if slack is accumulating at the anchor. Slack accumulation can easily go unnoticed and increase the length of the fall. Checking is easy to do when clipping protection.
Top roping. The Silent Partner will feed and lock in either direction, allowing you to climb up or down at will. This makes the Silent Partner well suited for doing ‘laps’. The Silent Partner can be used to lower yourself at the top without changing the setup. Climbs with much traversing, large overhangs, or weave back and forth and not good choices for solo top toping. Stick to climbs that go straight up and follow a straight line. Also, because of the speed required for the Silent Partner to lock up, expect to fall further than being belayed.
The following points are essential:
As you climb, the Silent Partner will pull against the bottom anchor and feed upward. If you fall, the Silent Partner will lock to the rope and the upper anchor will support you. Do not grab the rope when falling. Always use a reliable backup belay system.
Falling. Consider the consequences of falling on an overhang or traverse high above the ground. It may be impossible to climb back to the route and too far to lower yourself to safety. Ascenders help you in this situation. Chose routes that lend themselves to soloing.
Falling with a Silent Partner. The Silent Partner’s locking mechanism is sensitive to the rate at which the rope feeds. The Silent Partner will lock anytime the rope feeds too fast. This makes it capable of catching you whether you are upright, upside down, or head over heels.
During a lead fall, the Silent Partner will lock as soon as the rope becomes tight. When top roping, the Silent Partner may feed some as you start to fall, since it will take some time for you to pick up speed. When you fall top roping, do not grab the rope with your hands. Doing so could cause rope burns.
The Silent Partner does not provide a dynamic belay. The forces generated during a solo fall will be higher than if you were being belayed by a human. Make sure your rope is in excellent condition and that your anchors and protection are bombproof.
Releasing the Silent Partner after a fall. There are two methods:
Weight off the rope.
Weight on the rope.
If you take a really severe fall, the clove hitch may become very tight. The easiest way to release it is with your weight on the rope. After you release the locking mechanism, bounce on the rope a little to get the clove hitch to slip. As the clove hitch slips, it will loosen.
Self-lowering. The Silent Partner is not recommended for routine rappelling. It does not provide much friction, and will force you to rappel very slowly. However, it is appropriate to use lowering yourself after a fall, after top roping, executing a pendulum or cleaning half-pitch climbs.
First release the locking mechanism, then pass the free end of the rope around your hip to provide extra friction. Now rappel as usual, but don’t go too fast, or the device will lock.
If you want the Silent Partner to lock up and hold you, drop fast enough to cause it to lock. The more sudden you release the rope, the quicker it will lock.
Choose climbs carefully. Not all climbs lend themselves to roped solo climbing. Climbs with long traverses, large overhangs, or features that tend to snag the rope will compound the difficulties of solo climbing.
Think Ahead. Anticipating difficulties and dangers is the best way to avoid them. Keep track of what is happening around you and with your belay system. It takes all the fun out of climbing, and may be dangerous to have a belay system foul-up during a crux move or long runout.
Maintenance and service. The silent Partner was designed and built to last a long time and hold many falls. It should require no routine maintenance other than generally wiping it clean. Do not lubricate any part of the silent partner.