I was asked a few weeks ago what to do if you can't complete a sport route and realised that there are so many options that it would be worth writing them down. There are lots of reasons why you might not be able to finish a route, thread the lower off and retrieve your quickdraws, it might be that its too hard, too wet or too late.
Firstly – no one likes leaving their gear behind, but it’s a small price to pay for getting down safely. None of your gear is worth as much as you,and the cost to replace it all can easily be made back the next day you go to work, and you can go to work because you’re not broken.
There are a few easy options to solve the problem that are worth trying first:
· Get a friend to finish the route for you.
· Make a new friend at the crag who can finish your route.
· Climb an easier route to one side then swing in when being lowered to get back your gear.
· Leave the highest ‘draw in place and come back the next day to finish the job
If none of these work for you then there is a way to ”aid” your way up to the lower off; clip yourself to the top ‘draw with your cowstail, then have a clipstick passed up to you. Using the clipstick, clip the highest bolt you can reach then pull your way up the rope, this is much easier if your belayer weights the rope when you pull down, repeat this until you reach the top.
If that doesn’t work for you then you can just sacrifice a bit of gear to lower off and retrieve the rest. It doesn’t have to be a whole draw, you can just use a single krab, but its even safer and cheaper use a Mallion (“may-on”) Rapide. Make sure its big enough to get your rope through and small enough to fit in a hanger alongside a ‘draw.
There is also the option to lower off from the bolt so long as it has a rounded profile and no sharp edges, as well as being big enough to thread your rope through whilst having a ‘draw clipped in. Large staples work well for this technique, but expansion bolt hangers would destroy your rope (!) and modern glue-ins are likely to be too small.
Lots of the above solutions require you to be lowered off the route by a single bolt while stripping the rest of the gear, if you are not 100% about the condition of the bolt you are to lower off from, Petzl have an ingenious technique for staying safe on the way down.
Remember – no route, or bit of gear is worth your life, keep safe and keep climbing!