This weeks “Guide Tech Tip” highlights what appears to be an underutilized tool. Many climbers are using tethers, P.A.S., or daisy-chains to connect them selves to anchors. This is especialy true when cleaning anchors and rappelling. All these tools have their place in climbing and can be indispensable; however, over the last few years I have been using the back side of my clove hitch to complete many different tasks while managing transitions at anchors. Not only does this save time, I also remain attached to the anchor with my climbing rope, and not some kind of less trustworthy static material. To me that’s a win, win.
*Keep in mind there are many uses for the back side of the clove hitch, this blog illustrates only one of possible scenarios.
**The following scenario assumes that the climber performing this transition has attached them selves to the master point of the anchor with a clove hitch.
A scenario that I find my self in a lot, especially in New England, is at the top of a long double rope rappel to reach the ground. Venues that I climb at a lot where this technique seems useful are (1) Thin Air face at Cathedral, (2) Cragging on Cannon and not going to the top, (3) Eagle Cliff and The Flat Iron as well as the Eaglet (4) cragging at White Horse (5) many ice climbs around the region. While climbing at these venues I am most often climbing with one guest and using twin ropes or two guests and using double ropes. This means that at the top of the route I have both ends of rope with me, which I will thread through the anchor in order to rappel.
One of the uses for the back side of your clove hitch is to use it to “attach” your self to the anchor without using a tether and while freeing up the ends of your ropes to thread through the anchor creating a double rope rappel. Below is a step-by-step, including photos. I hope this inspires you to go out and try new things with your rope craft. Enjoy!
Step 1: Clove hitch into the anchor.
Step 2: Take rope from the back side of your anchor clove, and create a new clove hitch on your belay loop using a locking carabiner.
Step 3: Free the ends of your ropes.
Step 4: Thread the anchor and tie ropes together (I am using an overhand with tails to tie my ropes together).
Step 5: Load your device for a rappel. To extend my device from my harness I am using a quickdraw with two locking carabiners.
Step 5 1/2: Make sure to back up your rappel.
Step 6: Once on your backed up rappel device, you can remove all clove hitches and anchor material and rappel.
*** Maybe this is more complicated; however, I find it simplifies the process in few ways: (1) I am not threading a tether through my harness and (2) tying knots in it, just to untie them once on the ground. (3) I am never worried about dropping my ropes because they are always attached to the anchor with a clove hitch.
Part #1 What and Why
Ground anchors can be defined as rig (climbing materials) used to connect a climber to the ground to ensure the belayers position remain intact. Many climbers, myself included, do not utilize this tool even when its employment may be prudent.
When are ground anchors prudent?
* Ground anchors are not just for belayers smaller than the climbers they are belaying. In fact, just this season I have witnessed two small accidents and heard of 4 other more serious accidents that could possibly have been prevented if the team climbing together where using a ground anchor. The kicker is, the climbers in these incidents were all of similar size.
Ground Anchors are prudent any time a belayer’s stance may become compromised due to any innumerable events that could occur during a belay. ( i.e. falling backwards down a hill or cliff; getting pulled up, right or left; getting pulled forward, etc) These examples may seem elementary, but not all circumstances are easily identified, and the next two anecdotes will hopefully help illustrate such cases.
Anecdote #1: (sorry not photos to go along with this story)
While climbing in Western Mass in late April, a group of climbers descended on one of the only dry + moderate sections of cliff. The center of the cliff had a flat dry area to stand, stage, and belay from. The flanks of the cliff had muddy, slippery, steep approaches. From the flat spot to the cliff edge up the slipperiness was about 12 – 18 feet depending on exact location. About 50% of the group were wearing footwear that included; flip-flops, Crocks, chaco’s, and a threadbare pair of Chucks. Two of the team members decided to climb the right most route, a moderate clip up, with a mid way crux. The team preceded to crawl the 15 feet up the hill only to stand on top of one another while the rope was flaked and climbing shoes were put on. “On belay?” “Belay on.” “Climbing.” “…” Three or four bolts up the belayer slips and begins to slide down the hill pulling the leader off the route. The rope was pulled tight on the climber unexpectedly and rapidly, creating a forceful swing into the wall. The climber hit her knee cap and twisted her ankle, but was otherwise okay. No evac. or medical attention was needed.
After the incident was over and they had cleared the area, my partner and I climbed the route, and with a tri-cam we where easily able to create a ground anchor preventing this incident from occurring.
While climbing at Rumney, at Jimmy Cliff, on the far right hand side is a route called “Lonesome Dove”. A beautiful 5.10a thin slabby route with lots of interesting climbing. The base of the route can be characterized as a short, steep, and rugged gully. At the base of the gully exists a beautiful place to stand. The only unfortunate part of this is that in the event of a leader fall, the belayer can be dragged forward into the gully, loosing his/her footing and compromising the belay. Thats exactly what happened one week ago, when a belayer was pulled forward into the gully and was left with some cuts, scrapes, and bruises. The climber wasn’t to happy to have fallen so big on a slab route ether. Good thing that the belay was using an assisted breaking device which held the lead fall, because when everything came to a stop, the break hand was not maintained. If a tubular device was being used, this would have resulted in a ground fall from about 40 feet.
The two solutions to this problem are to (A) belay in the gully, which may present some issues of its own, but I have seen successful catches made from here. (B) use a ground anchor to prevent the dramatic pull caused be a leader fall.
A successful catch of a leader fall from a stance in the gully. No ground anchor was used.
The gully the injured belayer was pulled into.
A simple ground anchor made in seconds that could have helped prevent the belayers injuries.
Part #2 How
There are many ways to create a ground anchor. The following pictures will hopefully provide some ideas. In many of the pictures a post in my car port will be used as an anchor point; however, these systems can include almost any natural or artificial anchor points.
1. Using the end of the rope tie it off to the anchor point using your favorite method and clove hitch your self to the rope on your belay loop. This simple and highly efficient method also closes the system.
2. Using a rig material connect that to the anchor point then clip your self in directly to the material using a carabiner.
3. Clip yourself to someone else (meat anchor) using any of the methods above.
4. Use some other material to connect to your anchor point. Tie into rope. Clove hitch to the anchor point.
5. Tie into rope and connect to anchor point using a Connecticut Tree Hitch.
All the above photos where being used to protect against and upward pull. The same prickles can be applied to protect against falling backwards away from the cliff as well.
*** Seek qualified instruction when learning to climb or pushing your limits.
Through out the last couple years MMG’s blog has been quiet. With the increased use of social media powerhouses like Facebook, Instagram, among others, it seemed as though blogs were being reserved for posts with higher amounts content and less basic trip reports. After many discussions with MMG guides and professionals from other industries I have formulated a small summer project to breath some life back into our blog. Once a week I will be posting a Guides Tech Tip on the social media engines (if thats what we call them). The plan is for the social media posts to direct interested individuals to MMG’s blog where more information on the technique can be found. If all goes well the project will be continued throughout the 2017/18 winter.
So, here it goes. Big thanks to all who contributed their ideas and time into making this Blog a living thing. Thank you to MMG Guide Andrew Maver for providing the video to make kick this thing off.
Each season the MMG team assembles for a training session with the intention of covering business related topics, the previous season in review, and to brush up on best practices for the upcoming season. Not only are these things accomplished it is also a great way to spend time with friends that we otherwise only see in a professional role.
Personally speaking I am honored to work with these gentleman. Each one of the MMG team in addition to being professional guides, husbands, and fathers, they are also professionals in other fields. Engineers, educators, tradesmen, nurses, Search and Rescue, the list goes on. Each one of their talents as individuals along with impressive climbing/guiding resumes makes one very strong team. Its during these trainings, when we are all assembled, that I truly see just how strong we all are together. I guess thats the point of gathering for a common purpose. To share what we have with the collective in an effort to, in MMG’s case, deliver a better service to the guests we guide through the mountains.
This season we owe a special thanks to the other companies that have supported MMG and guides around the globe in an effort to say thank you for the jobs guides do. To Mammut for supplying and awesome jacket, Petzl for the carabiner and text books, and to Julbo for the glasses. Each one of these items not only makes us look a little cooler, but they also help MMG’s professional appearance. (Look for an individual blog on all the items from our supporters.)
This years topics included business updates, an analysis on recent accidents that have occurred to the general public, how MMG can set a positive example to recreational climbers on avoiding these accidents, backcountry communication, AMGA programs, station management, up to down transitions, and the physics of a fall. All together an action packed day that has the entire team psyched for the rock season ahead.
Again, a big thanks to all.
Mammut Ridge Low GTX
Mooney Mountain Guides has been a long time user of Mammut equipment and clothing. In my opinion what Mammut produces matches very well with the rigors of guiding year round. Year after year I reach for the same gear with confidence that it is going to work every time. Although ropes and clothing have been my primary focus, I began using their footwear as well. The running shoes have been one of my favorite pair in years.
When in the field I enjoy talking about gear with guests and other climbers I meet at the crag, and I feel great about promoting Mammut. Earlier this November while climbing with a long time guest, I noticed he was wearing a pair of Mammut approach/hiking shoes (Mammut Ridge Low GTX). I asked him how he liked them, which produced a long conversation on how he wore them for the majority of his recent Appalachian Trail through-hike. He also said, “I’m never going back to any other shoe.” With such awesome feedback I asked George if he would mind writing a short review on the shoe for me to post on the blog. He obliged. Below is real, unsolicited, unedited, customer feedback on a quality product. Thank you to George and Mammut!
My new favorites: MTR 201-11 Low
(Words of George Brenckle)
In 2015, my son Ian and I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. We went southbound, starting at Katahdin on Memorial Day and reaching Springer Mountain in early December. I went through 4 pairs of boots in the process. My first pair, traditional hiking boots, did not make it our of Maine before they literally fell apart on me. To be fair it was a wet and cold traverse of Maine. I don’t think my feet were dry for a month. The uppers literally rotted away.
As a side note. I’ve done some winter hiking and have “post-holed” in snow before. However, I has never experience post-holing in mud. Unlike snow, the mud literally tries to pull your show right off your foot. Extricating yourself and you shoe is a slow and careful process.
I switched to a pair of trail runners in Rangely, ME and wore them until Massachusetts. They were not the best, but convinced me that a lower, lighter shoe had a lot of value. Another pair of trail runners got me to Pennsylvania.
While taking a zero day in Hamburg, PA, we bumped into a fellow hiker, trail name “OneStep”, who had been waiting 4 days for a pair of Mamuts to be delivered. He swore that they were the most comfortable hiking shoes he had ever worn and were well worth the wait. He let me try them on, and I was sold.
I ordered a pair and had them delivered by the time we hit southern PA. I wore them to the next 1,100 miles to Springer. I’ve decided I’ll stick with them for all of the future. I’m not sure I would wear them in the dead of winter, but for all other seasons they are wonderful.
“Dos Equis” Maine to Georgia 2015
For years I have been in search of a garment that fills a specific niche in my layering system. How many times can you recall being too cold in you base layer, and too hot with your shell on? You are forced to battle with yourself between sweating and shivering. On nearly a day-to-day basis for the last 15 years I have been out in the hills playing. From morning trail runs with the dog, guiding in Franconia Notch, or skiing off the summit of Mt. Washington; no matter what the objective a light weight hoody that blocks the wind without adding insulation is essential.
Me in the SO Hoody on the right. Andrew in the Ultimate Hoody on the left.
My criteria for this hoody is rather straight forward:
1) Must be light and compressible enough to fit in my pocket, or bullet pack.
2) Must be thin enough to allow perspiration to pass through without becoming soggy.
3) Must provide protection from the wind to prevent too much evaporative cooling.
4) Must have a hood that fits over my helmet while at belays.
Seems simple? Well a quick internet search will show you that, finding that simple hoody that fills the 4 requirements listed above, is a tall order. That is until I picked up the “Wall SO Hoody” by Mammut. https://www.mammut.ch/US/en_US/B2C-Kategorie/Men/Wall-SO-Hoody-Men/p/1010-19840-4075
MMG guide Erik and I in our SO Hoodies, Sundance Wall Estes Park, CO.
Until I was acquainted with the Wall SO Hoody I would have given my other choices in wind-shirt hoodies a C for a grade. They always did the job I required, but with some undesirable side effects. They blocked the wind. They were compressible. However, I always struggled to zip the zipper when I had a hood on over my helmet. These hoodies did an okay job of allowing sweat to pass through, except for under my arms; where after a long day of work they would often leave my underarms damp and raw. I never thought I had a choice. I wasn’t going to carry a soft shell in July, and I wasn’t going to skin up Mt. Washington in my Gore-Tex. So, all things considered I had it pretty good.
MMG guide Todd, Guiding in his SO Hoody, Franconia Notch, NH.
This spring the Wall SO Hoody entered my quiver of layers. Since then it has been with me almost every day. I just cant help it, its perfect for everything. It excels at all 4 of my requirements, even adding a few benefits that I never knew I wanted.
First, It is made with Mammut Soft Tech Windstopper fabric for the maid body of the garment. This not only blocks the wind, but when climbing the garment can stretch providing full range of motion, all while staying tucked into my harness.
Second, the underarms are comprised of a breathable stretch fabric allowing the high moister areas to dry even more quickly than the main body. No more damp raw underarms!
Third, The hood fits over my helmet, and I can even climb with it on. This increases comfort drastically on windy pitches at the top of a wall.
Fourth, it’s compressible. Weighing in at only 305 grams it doesn’t slow me down.
The best part is its durability. I’ve put this thing through the ringer and it still looks good enough to wear to the pub or the coffee shop. It’s not showing any signs of slowing down ether.
The perfectly chilly canyons of Red Rocks, NV.
So far the Wall SO Hoody has been the perfect companion. If working sport pitches at Rumney, NH; Guiding on Cannon, NH; Exploring the Front Range, CO; or climbing a shady route in Black Velvet Canyon, NV it has proven its worth. The Mammut team deserves kudos on this one. I think I’m going to take my SO Hoody and go climbing now.
I am reminded about how essential this type of training is for any climber leading groups, guiding, or just taking friends climbing.
Keep playing and keep learning!
An older post, saved from a while back. It seemed applicable to post it today as we enter rock season. Follow Steve’s lead, and get the whole family outdoors and rock climbing!
I have had the pleasure of climbing with Steve twice over the past few weeks. Once with a his son and two friends, and a second time with his son a daughter. Both days were spent on the beautiful granite slabs of Whitehorse in North Conway, NH. Whitehorse seems to be the superior area for a family rock climbing outing. The slabs offering a host of routes that everyone can enjoy together.
This inclusiveness is important to Steve. As a climber himself, learning the craft on the granite big walls of Yosemite Vally, he wants to pass on the joy he received from climbing on to his two children. Moving to New England less than a year ago and not knowing the terrain prompted Steve to seek out Mooney Mountain Guides. Together we decided that Whitehorse would be the proper venue for his goals.
In two days, more than ten pitches had been climbed from the Echo roof to Beginners Route. Lots of rappels, lowers, and funny pictures later everyone was happy to have shared the experience together. I was happy to have helped introduce the next generation of climbers to the sport.
Thank you Steve, family and friends for two great days on the rock.
To me, above all, climbing is a pursuit, a lifestyle that is best shard with others. For generations of climbers, skills have been passed down through mentorship. The 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s did not have a lot of climbers. Climbing was not apart of the main stream media. Gear was primitive and hard to come by. Climbing was better referred to as an art-form, than a sport. The equipment of the day closer to a hammer and chisel, than to the space age equipment of today. The 80’s brought on the popularity of sport climbing, and as a result climbing became slightly more accessible to the average joe. The 90’s and 00’s made this even more true with the increased popularity of climbing gym’s, ABS, and mainstream media.
It is awesome, especially for a working mountain guide, to have the pursuit of climbing be more popular than ever. However, a part of me feels that the most special part of this life, the mentorship, has been, at least a little, diluted down by the main stream. The main-streamness of climbing has led many young/new climbers into believing that you can learn all you need to know from the gym, that, if you are strong you can go anywhere, and its every climber for his or her self.
There is an individual who I met this ice climbing season that has defied the trend. A relatively new climber, but a lifetime lover of wild places. A passionate people person, Stephanie has created her own climbing community by combining the powers of the mainstream with the magic of mentorship.
Nature Girls is a “Meet Up” group with over 600 followers! Just one example of how modern times are changing the climbing world. Stefanie is the boss and she has done some amazing work this year. On top of her own busy life and climbing goals, she has taken the time to run two ice climbing trips with Mooney Mountain Guides. I’m not sure why the guiding gods were so good to MMG by allowing us to work with such a great group, but I am grateful for the opportunity.
I can’t say enough positive things about this group. Women from all walks of life, getting together to climb frozen waterfalls. So cool! The most inspiring aspect of the Nature Girls is their drive to learn more about the sport, and not in a rapid way, but how they enjoy the process. Through Stefanie the Nature Girls are seeking guidance to help push their limits. I can’t say the MMG is sensei to this great group of gals, but I am honored to have helped provide a little guidance along their way. My hope is that MMG can help Stef provide amazing climbing experiences to her followers, and push them in the direction of seeking a climbing mentor.
I so look forward to many climbing trips with the Nature Girls on the ice and rock. I think there are many great experience to come. I must send out a big Thank You to Stefanie, for being the driving force behind Nature Girls and all the have accomplished.
If your interested in learning more, or joining a trip please check out:
David, an endurance athlete and mountaineer has had years of experience climbing in mountain ranges around the world. Coming from Great Britten, David cut his teeth in the Scottish Highlands and with frequent trips to the Swiss and French Alps he has built an impressive resume. Imagine my excitement when David called looking for a guide.
Recently relocating to the U.S. David was left missing his easy access to the Alps, and craving the alpine. Although our little White Mountains don’t quite size up to the Alps, they do offer many adventures that are well worthwhile. David and I had the perfect day to experience one of these great adventures “Pinnacle Gully”.
Mt. Washington and the Presidential range is the East Coast’s largest alpine expanse. Traversing the ridge from north to south or south no north can immerse the mountaineer in a world unlike the surrounding valleys and hills of the northeast. The crags, ravines, cirqus, and wind whipped landscape let you know you are in the mountains, and the 4,000 feet of elevation gain make you earn it. Our trip into this landscape didn’t disappoint.
This past weekend in the Whites felt more like late April than early March. An epidemic of warm temperatures, rain, and lack of snow has plagued the region all winter season. Despite this, many of our ice climbs remained in great shape, including Pinnacle Gully. In fact the first pitch was in the best shape I have ever seen. Warm hands and light layers, were just another added benefit to our climbing adventure.
David and I started up the Tuckerman’s Ravine Trail at 7:15am; the first day of Daylight savings time, the sun was much lower in the sky than the previous day. The ground still frozen from the overnight temperatures’, we used micro spikes right from the start. We motored up the trail reaching the base of Pinnacle just before 9:00am ready to send. Did I mention David was a marathon runner?
Winds were still whipping up high, funneling down the gully with a vengeance. Fast enough that all climbing had to stop during the gusts. Somehow the Blue Bird skies and mild temperatures made the wind, not so bad… only adding to the joy of the experience.
The climbing brought us 4 pitches of perfect ice and neve’, only passing a few open holes in the ice. The final pitch, perfect 40 degree snow slope put us back in the sun. From there a fast paced traversing ascent of the east snowfields deposited us on the summit at noontime, just in time to meet another MMG team.
The weather was so perfect, David and I decided to head down the other side of the mountain with the other MMG team. Once down we would get a ride back over to the other side of the mountain. Down we went passing the great gulf, and down the ridge with beautiful views of the southern presi’s and Burt’s Ravine. Taking our time to enjoy with alpine, we were down by 3pm, and back to our cars by 4pm.
Thinking back, David’s training as an endurance athlete helped us experience the mountain in its entirety. I get tremendous joy out of covering a lot of mountain terrain quickly. There is something about the freedom of movement that provides this joy. Maybe it’s the alignment of so many factors; fitness, skill, weather, gear, conditions, partners. I think trying to describe it will never do it justice. I am glad to have shard this day with such a willing partner, and I look forward to next time.
Thank you David for a great day in the hills.