RCI Set Ups: The Bottom Rope

As an RCI, a Bottom Rope is probably what you will spend most of your time setting up.

The set up should be tidy, easily adjustable simple to understand and 100% bombproof.

Setting up your Bottom Rope

Two anchor setup for bottom rope

Below are the basic step by step instructions that RCI trainees might find useful. This blog is designed to jog your memory rather than teach this set up from scratch, so if you are not experienced in the skills required to build this setup, please don’t attempt it without additional guidance.


How many anchors should you put in a bottom rope set up? As many as it takes for the set up to be safe.

That said, in general, a good system can be set up with 2 or 3 gear placed anchors. Just make sure they are 100% bomber.

Anchors for bottom rope

If you are putting in a lot more anchors than that you either don’t trust your placements or are climbing at an area of questionable rock quality. Oughtdara or Murroughkilly for example.

Rope Selection for a Bottom Rope

You should use a static rope for the anchor and a dynamic rope for the climbing rope.

Rope Strands

However many anchors you use for a bottom rope, in my opinion, you should do everything to make sure you only have one bight of rope draped over the cliff edge.

Having two bights of rope uses a lot more rope and is much tougher and time-consuming to equalise. It also just looks wrong.

How much of a bight to leave over the edge will take some practice, you don’t want too much of your system over the edge as it shortens the climb, whereas too little compromises the system’s safety.

Isolation Knots

You should aim to include an isolation knot (Fig 8 on the bight) in your set up. It makes equalising easier, helps keep the rope protector in place and can be a handy clip in spot for personal safety if needed.

Isolation knot

Rope Protector

Use a rope protector. Its best practice and there is no reason not to.

Using a rope protector


Use two symmetrical pear-shaped crabs of the same size and design. Go back to back or gates on the same side, it really doesn’t matter as both are safe. Just make sure they are locked and orientated correctly.

Carabiners for bottom rope

Before Using your Bottom Rope

Once you have built your system and are happy with it, be sure to take all the stretch out of the system from the bottom of the route by pulling/weighting the dynamic rope as much as possible.

This will make for a more comfortable and safer lower off for the first climber to use it and could highlight any potential major mistakes before a client ties on.

Remember to always dress and stress your knots and tie a stopper knot.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss any aspect of this video or other skills.

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