There are a ton of great articles and resources dedicated to this subject already, yet I still see climbers fumbling at belays. Why? When climbing a big route, being able to move smoothly and quickly through technical terrain is just as important as a timely belay set-up and transition. The key to efficiency is maintaining momentum throughout the day. This efficiency starts from the parking lot.
Climbing a big wall route is a test of one’s ability to endure, so anything that can be done to maximize one’s efficiency will increase the comfort and enjoyment of the route. Additionally, small efficiency improvements spread across a big route can make a difference in hours of saved time/suffering. Hauling is likely the largest source of anxiety before the climb, challenges during, and exhaustion immediately afterwards (ascending likely takes second place). The good news? Hauling doesn’t have to be such a challenge. With some technique and correctly applied movements, hauling can actually be less of a chore than mowing the lawn!
At the end of October 2012 Hilary and I planned to enjoy a Halloween get-together with friends on the summit of Castleton Tower in Moab, Utah. Hilary and I were climbing the classic Kor-Ingalls route while other friends planned on climbing the North Chimney and North Face routes, meeting at the summit for snacks, dancing, and old-fashioned goofiness. As fate would have it though, a climber from a party below took a substantial ledge-fall resulting in a rescue 225 feet up Castleton Tower.
The weather has been warming in Salt Lake City and spring is definitely at our doorstep. We’ve had several days of warm sunshine, birds chirping, and tulips popping up in the garden amidst quick-changing weather involving wind, rain, and even snow. On March 31, Hilary took a much needed break from school work and we climbed Spring Fever on The Thumb in Little Cottonwood Canyon. The Thumb is one of the longest rock climbs in the canyon; our route was 9 full pitches and 3 shorter ones. Spring Fever is a great route on The Thumb that doesn’t see the ‘traffic’ that S-Direct or the Standard Thumb receive, leaving you with even more adventure. It’s also not as sustained as S-Direct though the crux moves are more challenging, going in at 5.10a/b.
As with many climbing techniques and skill sets, there are a multitude of different acceptable methods. Rappelling is one of those basic skills that as long as you arrive safely on the ground afterwards, you’ve succeeded. However, despite that rappelling is such an “entry-level” skill, it continues to be a leading cause of climbing accidents. There are several procedures to increase safety while rappelling, but many of them increase time and are all too often inconvenient. Rappelling safer and more efficiently don’t have to be contradictory tasks.
There is clearly a reason why labels on climbing equipment say “WARNING: Unsafe to use without expert instruction”. Sometimes technology improves at a faster rate than education, resulting in commonplace use of devices without proper training. In terms of climbing, this can potentially have serious consequences. While some techniques employed climbing may not be inherently dangerous, not being able to properly use equipment as designed makes the climbing inefficient, at best. A common example of climbing equipment designed for a specific purpose yet used incorrectly entirely or simply not used as designed is the plaquette style, a.k.a. auto-block, belay device (ex: Black Diamond ATC Guide, Petzl Reverso, or Kong GiGi). This tech tip will discuss properly using a plaquette belay device to belay a following climber and how to lower the climber when the device is loaded.
A few years ago I climbed the popular Chrimson Chrysallis route in Red Rocks, Nevada. This eight-pitch 5.8 is mostly bolted, offers moderate face climbing in the shade, and has a summit top-out so it’s no wonder why it’s so popular. My partner and I had been climbing behind several slow-moving parties the entire route and when I arrived at the summit I was greeted by a woman looking curiously at me, “Have you seen my ATC?” Not sure how to respond, I asked her to repeat the question. “My belay device, have you seen it? I dropped it.”
Darn Tough is a sock manufacturer in Northfield, Vermont that prides itself in creating a reliable and USA-made product. Since I’ve blown out the heels on most other socks that haven’t been lost to the laundry gnomes, it’s an important note that Darn Tough has a lifetime guarantee on all of their socks. Though I can’t speak for lifetime durability yet, I have a few pairs of 2 year old midweight hiking socks from Darn Tough that haven’t stretched out or blown holes in the toes/heel. Alpine Existence is excited to recently join the Darn Tough team and provide clients with premium quality socks from a company it’s proud to support.
The double figure 8 knot, aka dog eared or bunny ears, is not a commonly used climbing knot in the USA, but it’s not for a lack of usefulness. The double figure 8 is strong, quick, and has the benefit of not requiring any additional material to construct. This knot can be used to equalize any anchor, though it’s most efficient when used at a 2 bolt belay. Because the double 8 eight uses the climbing rope in the anchor system, it’s best to use when swapping pitches with your climbing partner.
You’re climbing a multipitch route and everything has been going smoothly throughout the day. Excited to be at the top of the route you and your partner high-five and start the first of 8 double-rope rappels. After the second abseil, you start to pull the ropes and the knot jams. You pull harder . . . nothing.