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Thread: Roping up?

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    Moderator LuJon's Avatar
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    Default Roping up?

    I have read and watched vids about roping up for glacier travel. I get the principals of that. What about roping up for a steep slippery ascent of a wet grass or scree chute or a long steep sidehill. Is it advisable? If so what methods or equipment?

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    key criteria for roping up being effective in reducing injury during a fall is the ability for somebody, or a fixed anchor, to arrest the fall.

    do not see self-arrest as an option on a steep scree slope, so the rope becomes a liability if there is no fixed anchor, turning an individual's fall into a team fall, and I would advise against it. if you have a solid anchor then perhaps, but why not ascend/descend one by one instead? same thinking for a grassy slope. seems more likely that a one person fall will turn into a team fall. Better for all to be able to self-arrest and climb individually, I think.


    When I'm on a rope I want either a fixed anchor IN PLACE, or to KNOW that someone on the team is capable of arresting a fall quickly. If one of these conditions isn't present then the rope is useless.


    The advantage to the rope in a situation as you describe would be if you are confident self-arresting on the terrain, but another member of the party is not. Still, better to practice self arrest several times before the real climb, and get them comfortable with it, and then all parties can arrest their own falls without being liabilities to the rest of the group.

    On an exposed section where a fall means lots of vertical loss, sure a rope can be nice for that short bit, but better have a fixed anchor.

    Scree is hell on ropes. i keep the rope off it when possible.

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    Member woodman6437's Avatar
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    If a single person can self-arrest then I ditch the rope. If it is exposed to the point that self arrest would be impossible or difficult, I rope up but use anchors. Of course I am always roped up on glaciers, with at least a rope team of 3, or a 2nd rope team of 2. If you want to learn about using protection in mountainous terrain, I recommend reading "Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills 7th ed." or "The Mountaineering Handbook" by Craig Connally. Both have a lot about roped travel with slightly differing philosophies.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LuJon View Post
    I have read and watched vids about roping up for glacier travel. I get the principals of that. What about roping up for a steep slippery ascent of a wet grass or scree chute or a long steep sidehill. Is it advisable? If so what methods or equipment?
    Like said before, it would be difficult for someone in the roped team to anchor on such unstable terrain. Practicing the effects of a human body pulling down on a team of five with the fourth hanging in a crevasse, all our weight was resting on our ice axes, you had to immediately fall on your ice ax to dig it into the ice, this type of solid anchor simply wouldn't be possible in the terrain you describe. If in the event of unstable grounds, choose another route due to loose rocks that could become bouncing projectiles. If there is no way around it, choose the best climber to anchor ropes in places to assist those who are lacking climbing ability.

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    Moderator LuJon's Avatar
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    Thanks for the replies!

    Next question:
    I have been perusing some mountain climbing mags since hearing of my buddies fall and subsequent broken leg on Kodiak. I primarily look at the gear like tents and jackets as I am afraid of heights so won't be scaling any sheer cliffs anytime soon. The mountaineering gear rocks though! Despite my fear of heights (really a fear of falling!) I do hike and hunt the mountains a lot and have been turned around at questionable obstacles on numerous occasions. Likely most of these I could have crossed but the risk was too much, especially in the back country with no radio or sat phone. I have to think that there would be a few light weight items that I could carry that would be good "universal" tools for getting through these areas.

    Here is a common scenario. You and a buddy have a 18 mile hike planned into the head of a drainage. You get up high to stay above the alders and are ridge walking and side hilling your way along making good time and enjoying the scenery. Finally you come to a rocky spine that runs from the top of the mountain way down low and would require you to lose 2500' of elevation to go around. You can see that the walking is clear the other side and crossing would be do-able but a fall would be catastrophic.

    What would work to make crossing safe and only add a few total pounds to the pack load? Are there super light weight anchors that could be carried and would work in "most" scenarios? What about a harness? 8mil rope? I have to think a couple guys could work their way through something like this safely with minimum gear.

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    Member cdubbin's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=LuJon;820835]

    Here is a common scenario. You and a buddy have a 18 mile hike planned into the head of a drainage. You get up high to stay above the alders and are ridge walking and side hilling your way along making good time and enjoying the scenery. Finally you come to a rocky spine that runs from the top of the mountain way down low and would require you to lose 2500' of elevation to go around. You can see that the walking is clear the other side and crossing would be do-able but a fall would be catastrophic.


    QUOTE]


    Lose the elevation. All too easy to climb into a corner ("can't go forward, can't go back" situation) without critical route-finding skills. Climbers rely on skill and instinct first, protection second.
    " Gas boats are bad enough, autos are an invention of the devil, and airplanes are worse." ~Allen Hasselborg

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    you could rappel down and find a way back up but roping up would cause more danger.....

    that sheep will still be there if you just walk around

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    Original Question:
    ...roping up for a steep slippery ascent of a wet grass or scree chute or a long steep sidehill. Is it advisable?

    Yes & No.

    Yes in terms of.... (andweav's comment) "key criteria for roping up being effective in reducing injury during a fall is the ability for somebody, or a fixed anchor, to arrest the fall." is more than generally the correct response.

    No - not advisable.... were there are no good anchors present, iffy training on how to apply single point or multiple anchor systems, lacking skills to properly manipulate rope, inexperience using advantages of friction means/devices, lacking proper communication, and without life-linking trust.

    Here is some really bad advice given earlier... Climbers rely on skill and instinct first, protection second." This is dead wrong, poor practice, & one of the leading causes for more significant fall force accident statistics. This is not a safe climber or a rope team player --- these are the types to avoid climbing with!!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Richardson View Post
    Original Question:

    Here is some really bad advice given earlier... Climbers rely on skill and instinct first, protection second." This is dead wrong, poor practice, & one of the leading causes for more significant fall force accident statistics. This is not a safe climber or a rope team player --- these are the types to avoid climbing with!!!
    Spoken like a true sport climber...

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    Not sure what "spoken like a true sport climber..." even means.

    Your statement could use a little more clarification

    Nevertheless - it is from the years of experience and prudence from this team leader and facilitator (outdoors and indoors)... that is highly familiar with differences between truly risky habits (perceived vs. real risk factors), rock jock attitude vs. skilled yet conservative and communicative in a wilderness environment, gear heads reliance on gear vs. knowing where you are - who you are with - conditions - what you have on hand (or foot or around waist) - over-extension on excursion (physically & mentally) - comfort zones - and what your doing... etc.

    In my post followup 'sport' is neither where I'm coming from... nor the original poster's very good inquiry relating to safety and fear of falling.

    I second getting a copy of Freedom of the Hills as a great source on mountaineering and tradition

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    Sport climbers tend to overy rely on protection above their skill and ability (which is what you emphasized in your previous post) - I'm sure you've seen these guys hang dog their way up some 5.xx, falling countless times, but eventually "climbing" it.
    In your second post you contradicted your prior post and eventually agreed with cdubbin's point, so I guess we all agree after all.

    However, it appears you are coming from an educational background and in those settings you are correct that you need to overly rely on protection as you can't "trust" the clients not to fall.

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    More Clarification:

    Sport climbers tend to overy rely on protection above their skill and ability (which is what you emphasized in your previous post) NO - this is not what I emphasized... and not to be "read into" - I'm sure you've seen these guys hang dog their way up some 5.xx, falling countless times, but eventually "climbing" it. Yes - I have seen this... nevertheless, no matter the struggle or how time consuming --- when a safe and sound ascent with decent is accomplished it still makes the grade.

    In your second post you contradicted your prior post and eventually agreed with cdubbin's point, so I guess we all agree after all.
    NO - there is not contradiction in my posts. I do not agree with the instinct and lesser emphasis on protection when good practices/habits come into play or even if perceiving the need.

    Yet, in getting more gist of what you are trying to relate - I get it... all good here.


    However, it appears you are coming from an educational background and in those settings you are correct that you need to overly rely on protection as you can't "trust" the clients not to fall.
    From original poster's inquiry... YES - relative to this poster's questions and concerns (also based on some of the feedback he was given here) education was my angle; coming from both instructor and responsible experienced leadership roles.

    Good 'sport' climbers that use sound judgment and practices do not over-rely on Protection --- they use it properly and gainfully to achieve the highest probabilities for safe results should they fall.

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    Thanks for all the feedback. I guess after reading through some of these magazines I figured there would be 6 or 7 pretty universal lightweight anchors that could be used in conjunction with a light rope and harness to let 2 guys traverse somewhat sketchy terrain more safely. My thought was maybe 50' of rope and the first guy starts climbing and setting anchors till he gets to a safe stopping point. The second guy then climbs and removes the anchors till he catches up to the first where he passes the anchors back to the lead guy and they set out again. Inchworming their way along till they are past the obstacle. I guess that makes sense in my non-mountain climber brain. <grin>

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    Quote Originally Posted by LuJon View Post
    Thanks for all the feedback. I guess after reading through some of these magazines I figured there would be 6 or 7 pretty universal lightweight anchors that could be used in conjunction with a light rope and harness to let 2 guys traverse somewhat sketchy terrain more safely. My thought was maybe 50' of rope and the first guy starts climbing and setting anchors till he gets to a safe stopping point. The second guy then climbs and removes the anchors till he catches up to the first where he passes the anchors back to the lead guy and they set out again. Inchworming their way along till they are past the obstacle. I guess that makes sense in my non-mountain climber brain. <grin>
    This is where traditional Alpine instruction and good technical practices or habits come into the picture.

    Couple things to keep in mind for scenarios you've related and for your strategy of if "inchworming":

    Assessing risk factors, fall forces, conditions, sequencing movement, as well as your (or team) comfort zone and skill level.
    Addressing communication, coordination, cooperation, complication and trust.
    What gear you may have with you or others, familiarity with uses, etc.
    Establishing sequence of travel, conservation of motion (efficiency/practicality), positioning of anchors or setting anchor systems, and Belaying stations.
    Having contingencies.

    To start out:

    I'd go a get a new Rope of UIAA Standards/Certifications
    This way you know its history from get-go and what it is designed to handle.

    Having a few commonplace quality passive anchors would be good primer to get you out and about practicing some nice solid/trustworthy placements.

    Get yourself some webbing.

    Become familiar with knots for rope and webbing.

    All things to consider that you may find helpful. Some of this stuff can be more common sense while there are things somewhat counter intuitive and not second nature under stress or fear.

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    Member Bighorse's Avatar
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    Whats the webbing for Brian?

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    Brian, I really can't see where your problem is with my post; we're talking about two inexperienced (sorry, Lujon, but I have to assume) guys doing a traverse across unknown terrain miles from help, when there's an easy alternate route. THAT'S where skill and instinct come into play. Of course I would encourage the use of protection where applicable, but throwing a rope out there and thinking that will keep you safe is asking for trouble.
    " Gas boats are bad enough, autos are an invention of the devil, and airplanes are worse." ~Allen Hasselborg

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Richardson View Post
    I second getting a copy of Freedom of the Hills as a great source on mountaineering and tradition
    Just found out there is an 8th edition of Freedom of the Hills now.

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    webbing is an ever-adaptable material for climbers. In it's manufactured process, it would be a complete cylinder, and sewed into a flat "ribbon". It's much more stout than the single thickness of the webbing of a ratchet strap. You can use it to tie around boulders for making anchors, you can tie a harness with the stuff, and many other things. I have a role of it, and it's pretty useful stuff for making anchors mostly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bighorse View Post
    Whats the webbing for Brian?

    Hello Bighorse,

    How's life in treatin' ya in Sitka? Snow in the mountains here, but still above freezing temps in Anchorage today.

    The webbing is for slings, runners, quick-draws w/ carabiner, anchoring, extensions from anchors, anchor equalization, etriers, inexpensive rope protection, and makeshift tied harnesses.

    Much of the traditional nylon tubular webbing for climbing is 1", sold by the foot, available in assorted colors, and comes in Mil-spec or Climb-spec. This stuff can often spec. out between 15-20 kilonewtons (around 3500-4500 pounds) for fall force protection.

    There are other more modern forms/fibers of webbing, yet this Nylon 1" stuff is relatively inexpensive, durable, reliable and strong with proper knots, as well as fairly lightweight and simple.

    Versatility is a high card --- a use rarely mentioned - It can be used to protect a rope by threading it inside the tubular web. For example: I use this on my CataRafts and Raft lines to make them supper strong, more abrasion proof and UV resistant, plus easy on the hands. Other practical uses include daisy chains, accession systems, aid climbing, load bearing, z-dragging, and re-settable pull points or anchoring positions.

    Again.... Freedom of the Hills is a good resource.

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    Member Bighorse's Avatar
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    Thanks for the info on webbing Brian.

    Life is good here in Sitka. We've had a series of hurricane force lows blow through this fall. I'm just working more often than traveling the hills. I'm trying to learn more about mountaineering tactics and when to use protection. I'll look for that book for some winter time reading.

    The mountains on Baranof are a delight with plenty of obsitcals to keep an adventerous soul busy.

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