Top Rope Set Up Assistant


Blue tape indicates that a member is able to competently and safely prepare an anchor system and top rope at Kangaroo Point. This allows you to help the club set up the top ropes from the top of the wall during our Kangaroo Point events, though every rope that you set up will have to be checked by an executive member for safety inspection.


  •  Be a member

Instruction and Progression

You can seek instruction for the skills in the blue competency from members who have already obtained it. The best way to learn is to come to the top of Kangaroo Point at 5pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays to help set up under the guidance of an executive. You will also get to climb first when you help set up! To obtain the blue competency you must be assessed by an executive or approved instructor.

Practical Requirements

Member must have read through and understood the required theoretical material below.

Member must be able to attach and use a fall restraint.

Member must be able to work in a manner that does not endanger themselves or others.

Member must use appropriate communication when setting up an anchor system near a cliff edge.

Member needs to have the ability to set up a top rope anchor that meets UQMC standards.

Theoretical Material

This section will go over the theoretical background necessary for this level. You will need to practice with someone who has this level of competency to understand the process fully. How to perform the skills required for this competency is covered in the practical assessment, while the reasons why we use those skills are covered here.

Fall Restraint Device

When working by a cliff edge, falling is an obvious and real danger. While setting up with the club you will be exposed to this danger
often, so to ensure no one falls we require members to use a fall restraint. The fall restraint used during club activities is a length of cord connected to the member’s harness by a carabiner and to the rope by a prusik knot (this whole system is referred to as a prusik).
We require this knot to be used whenever you are on the cliff side of the wall at Kangaroo Point and it is to be tied in immediately after setting up your first anchor point and before further work on your anchor system.

The ability to hold a load and to still be adjustable is what makes the prusik knot useful. This characteristic means that you can use the prusik to hold your weight when you are close to the cliff edge to prevent you from falling in the event that you lose your balance. While the prusik can be used to restrain you it should not be used to take the shock of a fall. To ensure that this does not occur, make sure that your prusik knot is far enough away from you to be taut or close to taut. Optimum grab under cyclic loading conditions is in the range of 45% – 75% of the diameter rope, so use between 5mm to 8mm diameter accessory cord on 11mm diameter rope.

Cliff edge communication

The safety of yourself and those around you on the cliff edge is important. Of equal importance, but often forgotten, is the safety of those below you, at the bottom of the cliff. The final step in setting up an anchor system with the club is throwing the dynamic rope to the ground. Before doing this, always try to see if there is anyone below you by leaning over the cliff edge a bit while restrained by your prusik. If clear, prepare to throw your rope down. Regardless of whether or not you saw anyone you must yell “ROPE! ROPE BELOW!” loudly and clearly before throwing down the dynamic rope. DO NOT throw a rope down a route if you are not certain it is clear of climbers, as hitting unaware climbers in the head with coils of rope is not only dangerous but could earn the club a bad reputation in the climbing community.

Rope wear

When setting up an anchor system you will use one or more rope protectors. These protectors are wrapped around the static rope to prevent abrasion caused by edges. Note that we refer to edges, not the cliff edge specifically. When preparing an anchor system, take the time to examine any possible edges that your static rope will lie upon and place rope protectors where needed.

Another possible cause of rope abrasion is the point at which two moving ropes make contact. This is not too much of a concern for the static rope, but when setting up a top rope system, ensure that the two halves of your dynamic rope are separated and are not entwined (this can be tricky to do if your view of the dynamic rope attachment point is obstructed). DO NOT climb on a top rope where you are unsure as to whether the ropes are entwined, as you would be suprised (at least we hope you never are) at how quickly ropes can be cut when running over each other under tension.


Central to setting up a rope anchor is equalisation and redundancy. Redundancy refers to the presence of multiple points of safety within a system. Points in a rope system which prevent the climber from falling to the ground are known as “points of safety”. By having multiple points of safety, we know that if one point were to fail, the climber would still be safe. From this position the climber could be rescued or could back off from the climb. As a rule of thumb when building or using any kind of rope system you should always have two points of safety.

This concept applies to every point in the top rope system. If you have a look at the image to the right you can see that each point in the system highlighted (coloured circles) there are two points of safety: two anchors, two figure-eights and two carabiners. This means that the system can fail at any of these points and still be able to function.


A system that is redundant, that has two points of safety throughout, still may not be safe. Imagine that you have a system with two anchor points, where one anchor point is taking all of the load. If this anchor were too fail then the weight would be transferred quickly to the second anchor point. This transition from being unloaded to loaded is known as “shock loading”, and puts your second anchor point under enormous stress, stress that it would not have been assessed to take when setting up the system.

To avoid this scenario in our anchor systems we must always ensure that load is distributed equally within the system, that both anchor points are taking an equal share of the weight. To do this, we position our figure-eight knots and carabiners in ways that put tension equally on both our anchor points. We will not go into detail here as this is something that is easier to learn practically.

Angle of separation

The angle of separation is the angle from the focal point of your anchor system to the anchor points. It is important to the integrity of the anchor system because it predominantly determines the portion of the load that the anchor points will take when loaded.

At an angle of 0° to 60° the anchor points take 50% of the load. As the angle of seperation increases, so does the portion of the load each anchor point takes, until at the critical angle of 120° the anchorpoints are taking 100% of the load. From this angle onward the load taken by the anchor points is amplified and increases exponentially.

Your anchor systems should optimally sit at ~60° where the ropes will not shift and where each anchor point is taking about half the load, though this is not strict and the angle will vary with you situation. DO NOT ever exceed an angle of 120°.

Reiteration of some of the important safety considerations

  1. Remember to check for people below and yell before throwing down your rope
  2. Ensure you always have at least two points safety thoughout your system
  3. Make sure that your prussik knot is in a position to restrain you before moving near the edge of the cliff
  4. DO NOT move out from your anchor point without your prussik attached; As soon as the first anchor point has been attached, tie your prusik before moving on.
  5. Your anchor system should NEVER have an angle of separation that exceeds 120°

Test Questions

During the practical assessment for this level, your assessor will ask you a minimum of two questions from the following to test your understanding of the theoretical material:

Q1: At what timepoint in the anchor setup process should you be attaching your prusik?

Q2: What needs to be checked before you throw your rope over the cliff (assuming your anchor system is setup perfectly)?

Q3: What is the critical angle of separation that your anchor system must not exceed and why should it not?

Q4: Why does there need to be redundancy in your anchor system?

Q5: How large a fall can you take on your prusik?

Q6: Why does your anchor system need to be equalised?

If you do not understand any of the questions or you are unsure of an answer, discuss it with one of the executives before you do your test for the competency!