The standard team size for technical rope climbs has always traditionally been two people. These two people are called the leader and the second.
The reason people climb in twos is that it is considered faster and safer. But, today, there is such as thing as a 3 person climbing system.
In this article, we’re going to tell you more about a 3 person climbing system. Additionally, we’ll run you through when and where this system is used as well as the pros and cons of adopting it.
A 3 person climbing system is great on big wall climbs. While this system is great on shorter expeditions, it’s also perfect if you have a few days of climbing ahead of you as having three people can take some of the strain off you and your teammate.
Put simply, a 3 person climbing system is great for longer and harder excursions where you’re going to need some support and backup.
Bigger teams can play to their strengths in tough situations as there is always one person who is better on rock, one who is better on ice, and one who is better at navigating.
While time has proven the efficiency of two-person climbing systems, there is still room to explore climbing systems using three people as well. Here are some of the main advantages of a 3 person climbing system:
Some of the worst moments of a hard climb are the times you spend on your own at the belay. Aside from worrying about whether your partner is going to make it, you have the weather conditions to consider as well.
With an additional person, you won’t be as bored and you won’t have as much time to think or worry. The conversation alone can make your experience climbing as a trio more enjoyable.
Aside from having a person to keep you company, this third team member can take on some of the workload. The additional person will help stack ropes and unclip backpacks. Not only this, one of you can be in charge of snapping some pictures of your great adventure.
But, it’s not just the climb that becomes more organized. Setting up camp, preparing food, and refilling water bottles can become more of a priority. With a 3 person climbing system, the leader can rappel down to a prepared campsite with food and water ready for him.
Above all, the biggest advantage of a 3 person climbing system is that you only need the same amount of equipment as if you were in a team of two. This means that the gear of two people can be divided between three thus giving you more energy for the climb itself.
While the gear is the same, it is important to remember to bring additional food and gas. Despite this, the amount of gear needed is significantly less. During harder climbs, the leader could climb with virtually no equipment while the two other team members split the load.
It’s clear that a 3 person climbing system takes some of the weight off, but the psychological advantages are also incredible.
In tough situations, three brains are much better than two. In fact, having a third person can make the difference between not finishing a climb and getting to the top.
A team of three is more rational, level-headed, and brave. The additional energy will help reduce stress and if someone gets injured, you’ll have better chances of pulling through.
While the advantages of a 3 person climbing system are clear, there are a few disadvantages that are worth mentioning, here they are:
Having three people on a climbing team can take significantly longer, especially if you are not an experienced group. This is one of the main reasons that people stick to groups of two, despite the many advantages mentioned above.
That being said, with the right rope tricks and system as well as the correct tactics, a team of three is just as efficient as one of two.
If you’ve just started climbing you have probably only climbed with one other person. Because climbing is such an extreme sport with a lot of risks associated with it, adding a third person to the mix can make things challenging for someone less experienced.
Groups of two are more popular because many climbers simply aren’t confident when it comes to taking on the responsibility of a third person. It is worth noting that the rope systems and tactics used in a 3 person team are different.
Last but not least, many believe that a three-person team can be less efficient as the rope systems and tactics are more complicated.
This is in the eye of the beholder as having an additional person in your group could make you more efficient in some cases, for example, during tougher and longer expeditions where the extra morale and physical support could save the day.
Despite many believing that climbing with a two-person team is more efficient and quicker, the complexity and time factor aren’t considered a handicap to many professional climbing groups. In fact, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages in most cases.
One thing to always remember when rock climbing, is to start your excursion with the right gear. Remember, with a three-person team you will not need more gear but you will need more fuel and food.