In climbing, a pitch is the unit of measure used to describe the steepness and height of a rock face or wall. The distance between two belays, anchor points or other fixed points, such as gear placements, is called a pitch. Climbers use the word “pitch” to describe the inclination and height of a section of rock, as well as the length of rope needed to complete that section.
What is a Pitch?
In rock climbing, a pitch is the name used for a section of a climb. It’s generally considered to be anywhere from 20 to 60 feet, but it can be shorter or longer depending on the route and the climber.
Pitches are important because they help climbers break up long routes into manageable sections. Each pitch typically has its own challenges, which can include difficult moves, strenuous climbing, and exposed ledges.
Pitches can also be used to measure the difficulty of a climb. For example, if a route is rated as 5.10a, that means it has five pitches of difficulty level 10, with the first pitch being the easiest.
How to Measure a Pitch
In rock climbing, a pitch is a portion of the route between anchors. You can belay from one anchor to the next, or you can rappel down. A pitch can be as short as a few feet, or as long as several hundred feet.
The length of a pitch is typically measured in terms of rope lengths. For example, if you have a 60-meter rope and you need 30 meters of rope to reach the next anchor, then that pitch is considered to be two pitches (2 x 30m = 60m).
Keep in mind that the actual length of the pitch will vary depending on the size and shape of the rock face. If the rock is sloping, you may not need the full length of rope to reach the next anchor. Conversely, if the rock is very sheer, you may need more than one rope length to get to the next anchor.
In general, most climbers will use double ropes (60m) when climbing pitches that are longer than half a rope length (30m). This ensures that there is always enough rope to reach the next anchor, even if there are some tricky sections along the way.
The Different Types of Pitches
In climbing, a pitch is the portion of a route between two belay anchors. In lead climbing, pitches are typically divided between the leader and the belayer, with the leader completing one or more full pitches before being brought to the anchor by the belayer. In multi-pitch climbing, multiple pitches are climbed one after another without returning to the ground in between.
Pitches can be further divided into sub-types based on their length, difficulty, and other factors. Here are some of the most common types of pitches you’ll encounter while climbing:
- Short pitch: A pitch that can be climbed in a single rope length (60 meters). These are typically easy to moderate in difficulty.
- Long pitch: A pitch that requires more than one rope length to climb. These can range from moderate to very difficult in difficulty.
- Traverse pitch: A pitch that traverses horizontally across a wall or cliff face. These can be either short or long, and range from easy to extremely difficult in difficulty.
- Aid pitch: A pitch that requires the use of gear (e.g., cams, nuts, pitons) for protection and/or ascent. These are typically more difficult than free pitches (pitches that do not require gear for protection), but can vary greatly in difficulty depending on the amount of gear required and the overall difficulty of the route.
Pitches on multi-pitch climbs are usually between 60 and 150 feet, with the average being somewhere between 90 and 120 feet. The record for the longest pitch is held by the route Forever War, which has a single pitch that is 1,500 feet long!