Before we get into the different ways of using the Hitch Climber for work positioning I would like to clarify that there are primarily two different approaches for setting up a Double Rope Technique (DRT) climbing system. Both approaches are possible with using the Hitch Climber, and both have their advantages and disadvantages.
We can have a long climbing system allowing us to manage slack easily when walking back in from limbs as well as while ascending into the tree by using the body trust or foot lock technique. On the other hand we can use a short climbing system that will allow us to better control the friction hitch when limb walking out, but that needs more attention when managing slack on the way back in. A short climbing system does not allow the climber to body trust when ascending into the tree.
For me an easy way to know that I am using a great climbing tool is when I can find a hundred different safe ways of using it. The Hitch Climber is one of those tools and although there are many ways to set it up, I would like to share my basic Hitch Climber configuration.
I use two DMM ultra-O carabiner to ensure the best possible loading of the system. Once my preferred friction hitch is tied to the climbing rope I place the Hitch Climber underneath the friction hitch. The first carabiner goes through the first termination knot of the lowest Hitch Climber hole and through the second termination knot of my friction hitch. The carabiner is turned until its opening is at the bottom, so that it can be opened easily to attach to my harness d-ring or my rope termination when using the o-rig. The second carabiner goes into the middle hole of the Hitch Climber and gets turned till the opening is at the top, this allowing for the easy attachment of the splice. I recommend using the middle hole instead of the top hole for the termination carabiner as this will tilt the Hitch Climber a little and allow for a bit more room between the friction hitch and the termination splice. When using a termination knot we recommend using the o-rig setup and avoiding the standard or short Hitch Climber configuration since the manufacturer states the termination knot can press on the friction hitch and may therefore prevent the auto block function of the knot.
Short Hitch Climber Configuration (Standard Configuration)
The most common way of using the Hitch Climber is to configure it in a short climbing system, enabling the user to pull above the friction hitch as well as to footlock below the friction hitch on the rope tail when ascending. When pulling on the rope above the FH it is important to manage the rope slack by pulling on the rope tail with your hands or by foot locking.
Managing slack in the climbing system
Compared to using a long climbing system, the friction hitch is now closer to the user. This makes it a lot easier to maintain control over the friction hitch when limb walking out onto the tips of the branches.
The downside of tree climbing with the short system is that it requires more skill to prevent the overloading (breaking) of the branch when walking back in. There are a few slack management techniques that can help with this.
3-1 mechanical advantage for limb walking
One of these techniques is to place a sling with a carabiner on a branch and to insert the rope tail before the limb walk. The climber carries the rope tail with him out to the tip of the branch. When the climber wants to return, he/ she can pull on the rope tail creating a 3-1 mechanical advantage to manage the slack in the system, making the return from the limb very easy.
The Hitch Climber O-Rig
If your harness does not have a d-ring or ring that is suitable for running ropes through (e.g. sharp edges, low bend ratio) then you will not be able to use this technique safely. Do not replace your d-ring on your harness with a carabiner. The carabiner is very likely to cross load in this situation.
The o-rig setup with the Hitch Climber combines the advantages of the long and the short climbing systems. You can use a short climbing system when walking out on limbs and change to a long climbing system without taking your weight out of the rope when walking back in or while ascending.
Simply feed the termination end of your rope through the main attachment ring on your climbing harness and tie it to the base of your climbing system carabiner. It is best to use a long eye splice or a fisherman’s knot. If you have a short eye splice we would recommend using the fisherman’s knot. The soft rope will allow the climbing system to slide all the way back to the attachment ring of your harness as well as smoothly slide away when using it long. The second carabiner is then attached to a second friction hitch (six coil prussic) above the termination knot (long splice).
The Hitch Climber V-Rig
The v-rig is a simple technique for using the short Hitch Climber configuration with two anchor points. By placing your termination end of the rope through a second cambium saver and attaching it back to your top carabiner you can create a large triangle. When loaded by the climber this triangle would increase the force on both anchor points. To reduce the forces on the anchor point we place a third carabiner into the top hole of the Hitch Climber and clip this carabiner onto the rope between the two anchor points.
The v-rig can be made directional by adding a second friction hitch to the system.
Hitch Climbers Guide to The Canopy (Treemagineers)