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The Third Rope

Author: JMaher
Date: April 28, 2009
I have been remiss in not looking over the articles here and was unaware that we have never had an article on the Third Rope. Since the idea was first posted, there have been several new versions reported. I will try to bring all of those together in one place and put them all together under one heading.

So just what is the Third Rope anyway? The Third Rope is a means of replacing the necessity of carrying a lanyard, or, for those who carry a lanyard, it can be employed in the event that an extra lanyard-like piece of gear becomes needed. There are any number of recreational climbers who do not carry a lanyard; the Third Rope can be used in those situations where a lanyard is needed. Replacing one's lanyard with a Third Rope is not a violation of life-safety protocols, but rather a matter of personal style. It's a matter of choice. And it is a very good "trick" to have in a climber's kitbag of options when emergency situations develop.

Disclaimer: To those of you who climb with a lanyard!This is not intended to tell you that you need to throw your lanyard away or leave it behind! The Third Rope is nothing more than an OPTION, one more trick to have in your bag. Professional tree workers need their lanyards and there are recreational climbers who won't climb without one. Those of you who swear by your lanyards need not have a hissy-fit, your lanyard is not going to be taken away from you! Is this understood?

So. Where did the Third Rope come from? While involved in an Instructor's Course quite a few years ago I was shown, by Peter Jenkins, what was called the double-daisy-technique. The double-daisy involved carrying an extra rope, of much shorter length than the climbing rope, and using it to create a lanyard-like tie-in that would supplement the tie-in already being utilized on the climbing rope itself.

This technique, as demonstrated by Peter, involved tying a harness connection knot in one end of the daisy rope (in this case it was a figure-eight-on-a-bight) and connecting to the harness. A short way up the rope and away from the climber, a slipknot was tied in the rope and a large bight pulled through the slipknot. This bight was placed around the setting to be used, then clipped into the same carabiner that already held the harness connection. The setting was secured by pulling the free end of the rope through the slipknot, thus drawing the climber closer to the setting. The friction created by the rope's passage through the slipknot, followed by the friction of both sides of the bight against the setting was enough to provide a safe tie-in. Once properly positioned, a safety slipknot could be placed in the rope and everything became pretty "bombproof".

Although I found the technique useful, I wasn't really interested in carrying along an extra rope. I set it aside and pretty much forgot about it, until the day that I got a monkey fist stuck over my head and found myself wishing that I had a lanyard or the double daisy to use. After sitting on a limb ninety feet up in the air for several minutes and trying to figure a way out of the predicament, it suddenly dawned on me that I didn't really need an extra rope in order to tie a double daisy set-up. I hauled up some of the slack dangling below me and created a double daisy set-up using the middle of the rope. It was like having another rope! One end of my rope was tied in a DRT configuration and was providing my security. The other end of the rope was stuck up there over my head. The middle of the rope became my third rope. The only real difference between this original version of the Third Rope and the Double Daisy was that I was using the middle of the climbing rope instead of needing another rope.

It didn't take long for me to figure out that if I could have a Third Rope, I could also have a Fourth Rope, a Fifth Rope, and so on, just as long as I had enough rope to tie them all.

Once I started showing this technique around, there were some climbers who were ready to discard their lanyards and daisy ropes and start using the Third Rope instead. And it wasn't long after that before some of the more innovative climbers began discovering different versions that could be used.

Ron Reese and David Obi came up with a Third Rope technique that only required one knot. Their Third rope version and the method for tying it can be viewed at http://treeclimbercoalition.org/phpbb/viewtopic.php?t=632&start=0&sid=96e13b6e8fdfb94fb7aba1c7f719f743

The downside to both the original Third Rope and the "One Knot" Third Rope is that while both of them can be easily tightened and used as a method for vertical advancement, neither is easily used for descent. They will move the climber upward very nicely but coming down can be very difficult. They both work quite well if the climber is only interested in using them for holding position.

Then Jeff "SwampFox" Newman came up with the idea of tying the Third Rope using a Blakes-on-a-bight Hitch. His method has been described at http://treeclimbercoalition.org/phpbb/viewtopic.php?t=954&start=0&sid=eff47ae5ae564b64643791b769ed2825

The pros of Jeff's Blakes-On-A-Bight are that it can be used for climbing upward and downward as well as for simply holding a position. The downside is that it uses a lot of rope and requires serious attention to detail and careful setting of the Blakes hitch.

The latest Third Rope method is that described by Andrew "Moss" Joslin, and Sam "Oak" Johnson employing the use of a splittail. More detail can be seen within the ABCs Of Climbing Thread at http://treeclimbercoalition.org/phpbb/viewtopic.php?t=1077&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0&sid=cd6ae48a03a0276f025ac0611566a661

I am sure there are those of you who have found other ways to create a Third Rope arrangement. If your way is not shown here, tell us about it and it can be added.

Added discussion (As of 5/2/09): There has been discussion on the forum over the idea of whether a connection knot is needed in the bight on the "Third Rope With A Splittail" setup. It has been pretty much agreed that some form of knot is needed in order to keep the separate strands of rope in line and moving together.

The question has been asked whether a prusik hitch could be used to replace the Blakes on this same setup. It can be used, as well as other friction hitches, however, some of them will make a descent movement very difficult.

Also...there has been discussion over the preferred "connection" knot. Most of the photos will show a figure-eight-on-a-bight. be awre that there are a number of other knots just as acceptable for use. Choice among these is a matter of personal style.

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