The guides at Mooney Mountain Guides are very pleased to be supported by Petzl. Over the years many of us have found favorites in Petzl’s line from the Nomic’s and Dart’s on ice to the Spirit Express draw and Gri Gri on sport climbs. One of the reasons the relationship between Petzl and MMG is so great is because both companies have a passion for sharing knowledge and spreading climbing education. At MMG it’s our job on many days to act as educators in the climbing realm, and it’s what we truly love to do. At Petzl, they go beyond making and selling some of the best gear on the market, they also produce and distribute educational literature in their catalogs and on their website, towards the end of a safer more knowledgable climbing community.
For that reason I was excited this week to pull Petzl’s latest catalog out of the mail and check out, not only the new gear, but the new tech tips they offered up. I was thrilled to see that they tackled a common safety hazard in cleaning sport routes, one we see almost turn dangerous at Rumney, far to often.
The scenario starts when the final climber leads an overhanging, or traversing sport route. On the way back down they have to clean the draws as they lower. A standard practice is to clip a spare quickdraw from your belay rope to the line of rope running through the draws. This way, as you lower, you can stay close to the rope line to mor easily clean the quick draws, as opposed to lowering straight down and away from the wall. This works well until the last draw. We see two dangerous scenarios here.
1.) Climber stays clipped into belay line and unclips last draw. In this scenario the climber swings out from under the overhang like a pendulum. Since they are clipped into the belay line, as they swing they drag belayer with them, possibly dragging them across the ground or into an object.
2.) Belayer lowers out away from the wall with the first draw off the ground still clipped in. This causes a lot of slack as the rope goes up through first bolt, out to climber, up to anchor, and finally back down to the climber. At this point the climber makes the poor decision to unclip themselves from the belay strand. As that extra slack is introduced into the system the climber drops, possibly decking.
Erik Thatcher on Social Outcast at Rumney. A prime sight for this type of accident.
In both of those scenarios there are several easy work arounds. The first, and safest of all, is to have the final person up a steep climb top rope the climb on the strand of rope running through the draws, cleaning as they go. For severely angled routes such as Peer Pressure at Bonsai, this is the best method. For scenario number 2, the climber can be lowered to the ground without unclipping, so long as there is enough rope (knot your rope end just in case!)
For a lot of climbs at Rumney, the best way around this accident involves clipping into the second to last draw above the ground. I have to do this frequently at Bonsai, and select other routes like the Crusher or Cereal killer. I’ll take the draw connected to my harness, unclip it from the rope and clip it into the rope end carabiner of the draw on the second to last bolt. My belayer then loses me until my weight is on these two draws. Then you unclip the rope from the second draw, and reach down to clean the first draw from the bolt and rope. At this point your belayer braces themselves and you check behind you for obstructions you might run into, before unclipping and taking what should be a safe and moderate swing.
Whitney Steiner on The Crusher, another possible location for this technique
Many climbers at Rumney are starting their progression at the gym and working up to climbing outside at sport crags. I see two primary groups coming out of this situation. Some are those who climb moderates, and cautiously transition into leading similar grades outside. Others are generally younger climbers who quickly progress to leading hard routes on plastic, and then jump outside to do the same, of course there are all sorts of people in between. Mooney Mountain Guides works with many people who would fall into that former group, giving them learn to lead instruction and facilitating their transition outside. The latter group, it seems, rarely seeks out qualified instruction, and frequently we see them struggling or dangerously making their way through the learning curve, where qualified instruction from guides coaches or mentors would have made that transition quicker and safer. This, and other small safety tricks are critical to a safe and enjoyable day out at the crags!
MMG Guide, Alexa Siegel on Social Outcast
If you’re curious about seeing Petzl’s tech tip on cleaning draws in its entirety you can go here:
If you wish to geek out as the weather gets to cold or wet for climbing, here is the whole database of tech tips: