NH Rock Climbing
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.
Widely used by climbers and bikers for years, Julbo performance eyewear is starting to make its presence more widely known in the suburbs of Boston where I teach full-time.
Over the past few months, it seems as though I have had the same interaction four or five times with different people. I would be standing, wearing my Apple Green Julbo Stunt glasses with the Blue Spectron 3+ lens, and waiting for my kids’ bus to arrive. A friend or colleague would stop to say hello and then comment on my glasses.
“Whoa, that’s quite a color,” he or she would say.
“Try them on,” I would reply. After hesitating for a moment, he or she would comply.
“Wow! These lenses are awesome! They don’t make it too dark. What kind of glasses are these?”
For almost two years now, the Julbo Stunt has been my go-to glasses for numerous outdoor activities – climbing, biking, hiking – or for simply walking around town (or bus-stop). These lightweight glasses wrap around your eyes, leaving no large gaps so that no matter which way you move the lenses protect your eyes. The GripNose and slim GripTech temples wrap around snugly, but not too snugly, to enable the glasses to stay on your face when climbing or biking. In addition, the Stunt fits comfortably under a helmet for a long day of climbing or biking without hurting behind the ears.
The lenses are fantastic! When climbing on the slabs in the full sun, I barely notice them but remain thankful that I am not squinting from the glare off the rock. While fighting the reflection from White Mountains, the blue Spectra 3+ lenses, never making it too dark. In fact, on a recent trip to Tennessee, even though it was slightly overcast, I put my Stunts on to keep the small gnats out of my eyes and could still see small footholds just fine.
Alex rapping down in style
While I try to be careful and take care of my sunglasses, because I am using them for activities like climbing, my Stunts have endured their fair share of mileage. Nonetheless, these glasses have taken quite the abuse and have held up through it all. If you are looking for a pair of performance glasses for the upcoming spring and summer, I would highly recommend the Stunts.
Every year, each season takes its own shape and form. This past ice season started earlier than I had expected, and I got in more ice days than I had in previous years. As the season nears its end, I was psyched to get in a few more enjoyable days with solid people.
I had the pleasure of working with an REI group on President’s Weekend. This course is listed as an introductory to ice climbing, but most of the individuals had rock climbing experience, so we were able to hit the ground running.
Tori picking a good route
On day one, they pushed themselves on the shorter but stout routes in Franconia Notch in sunny, 40-degree weather. We left the puffies in the bag, shed the layers, and took out our sunglasses for the day.
Henry starting up
Sehrish getting into the steeper stuff
They climbed so hard on the first day, I wondered how much they would have for day two at Kinsman Notch. They kept going. They applied and refined some technique we showed them and they made it up the harder climbs.
Nav and Meg at the top of their respective climbs
Every group has its own personality and bonds together in its own way. The individuals connected quickly, and their instant comradery was impressive. They offered belays without hesitation, took pictures of each other, and offered verbal support the entire weekend. The purpose of these weekend excursions is two-fold: to introduce/develop the ice climbing skills and knowledge and to have fun. This group accomplished both.
The next day, I took my two children ice climbing for the first time. We decided to get an early start at Kinsman to ensure that we would beat the crowds and get the route we wanted. Unlike the previous two days, the colder Monday temps resulted an icier approach. Instead of moving quickly up the trail with few layers on, as I did the day before, I moved more deliberately and spotted the kids at the many sections that had become slippery.
Watching my two young children battle both their fear and the ice, I marveled at their persistence and tenacity. Some of their struggles, like kicking their feet in or pulling the tool from the ice, are different than older climbers, but task of managing of fear remains present in us all. Seeing the juxtaposition between the two groups and the way each managed his or her own fear and excitement was quite insightful for me as climber, a guide, and a parent.
This recent warm stretch is melting most of the ice, resulting in a canceled trip this weekend and marking the end of my ice season. Fortunately, the rock season is around the corner. With more of these warm days, it might arrive early this year as well.
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
With the fall sports season coming to a close, the Milton Academy Outdoor Program brought a group of students to Whitehorse Ledge to sample some of the finest slab climbing in Northeast. The initial colder autumn temperatures and wind did not discourage the crew from testing their skills on climbs like Standard Route, Wavelength, and Sliding Board.
Thanks to our friends at Mammut, the guides, outfitted in The Ultimate Hoody, stayed warm and comfortable. The Ultimate Hoody was perfect for such a day: the Gore Windstopper material blocked the wind; it breathed well, particularly as the temperatures changed throughout the day; and it enabled us to move freely for climbing, belaying, and rappelling.
Some students, who were trying multi-pitch climbing for the first time, focused on the basics and took their climbing experience to new heights (both literally and figuratively). Going higher off the ground than usual can be intimidating for newer climbers, but the students trusted the systems and relied on their technique, reinforcing the skills they had worked on for the past few months.
The veteran climbers, on routes like Wavelength, reached new heights, executing moves further from the ground than usual. After completing their initial route in fine fashion, they headed over to Echo Roof to climb some more.
At the end of the day, the group stopped in town for a quick bite. Physically tired but mentally recharged for the coming week, the group headed home. Thanks to all the students for their energy and enthusiasm and to Kendall for organizing all the logistics and making the day happen.
For whatever reasons, I am harder on my harnesses than other types of climbing gear. After a few seasons of regular use with my Mammut Togir 3 Slide, I decided to purchase a new harness even though the Togir seemed to withstand more abuse than other harnesses I have used in the past.
The tie-in protector, a small piece of plastic connected to the lower webbing, helped minimize the damage from regular use, and the belay loop was only slightly frayed. Since it still had some life left, I figured I would ease the old harness into retirement while breaking in a new one.
The Togir 3 Slide in its new color: Pine Green
Pleased with the fit and the adjustable leg loops of the Togir 3 Slide, which made it easier to use with the wide range of clothes for both rock and ice climbing, I purchased the same model. The same functions that I enjoyed of the original version remained: the buckles made for simple and fast adjustments, the downturned plastic gear loops made it easy to clip and unclip gear, and the padding provided enough comfort without feeling too bulky. In addition, the harness has loops so that the climber can clip on four ice screw carabiners for the winter months.
A few subtle enhancements, however, left me even more impressed. Mammut added just a little more padding on the waist belt near the enclosure, making it more comfortable. At first I thought that it felt better because it was a new harness, but when I compared the waist belt to my previous one, I realized the slight difference. The belay loop is a little longer and rotates more easily so that the climber can spread out the wear and tear from the carabiners rather than using the same section of the loop. Like the other Mammut harnesses, the Togir contains the indicator technology to alert the climber if the belay loop is too worn down. In addition, the gear loops are shaped differently so that the carabiners do not stack together down at a certain point. This improvement has made it easier to unclip gear.
The Togir 3 Slide is a solid all around harness that has endured a good deal of mileage over the years. It’s a true workhorse and one that I am looking forward to using more and more in the coming year.
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!