The routes to the top of the cliff were all three pitches
long. A pitch is about one rope length, limited by the
available ledges and places to build suitable anchors
to belay the followers from.
For a multi pitch climb, this means the first climber, also
known as the leader must climb before a rope is in
place. The leader brings the rope up with him, and protects
himself by placing protection such as cams and
stoppers about every 10 feet or so as he climbs.
These are to protect him in case he falls.
When the leader reaches the top of the pitch he sets up an
anchor then belays the next person up to whatever tiny
ledge he found. As you can imagine, the following climbers
are placing themselves at less risk, because the rope is
already in place. If a follower falls, the rope will catch
them immediately, so they won't fall very far. Contrast
this to a lead fall, where the leader will at a
minimum fall twice the distance from the last piece of
protection he placed. I say at a minimum, because if that
last piece of protection pops out of the rock, the leader
is in for a much longer fall.
Each following climber trails a rope for subsequent
climbers to secure themselves to. When a climber reaches a
piece of protection that the rope above them goes through, he
un-clips the top rope from the protection, and clips
the trailing rope in, then continues on up.
The last climber up doesn't trail a rope. He unclips the
top rope from the protection, then removes the protection
from whatever crack it is in, attaches it to his "gear
sling", and climbs up.
When he arrives at the top of the pitch, he gives the gear
to the climber which will be leading the next pitch. Mix,
Stir, and repeat, and before we knew it, we were at the
top of the climb. Of course, it would have been much
quicker to just walk around the backside and hike up, but
that takes all of the fun out of it!