Sunday, 6 March 2011

CHECK YOUR SACK SIR? (A few sack tips and ideas.)

 Have you ever been hit in the eye with a pack-strap on a windy route? Hurts like hell dont it? Hurts even more if its one of your own straps.People have actually lost their sight or taken a terminal screamer from this nonsense! some mountaineers are dumber than a bag of hammers when it comes to the simple stuff? Ive even seen International Mountain Guides wearing sacks that resemble their mums weekly washing load,so nobodies imune from plain ignorance?!
Ime not going to to dwell on good pack-brands or bad,because if you read this blog regularly and understand its content?You will have been in the sport long enough to make up your own minds.And youle know that basicaly one good simple,hardwearing 55litre job will cover most of your alpine-exped requirements.(You can make a big pack smaller,but you cant make a small one larger!)Its gotta take around 15kilos of kit that is more than enough to keep you alive,fed,and comfortable for a 3day trip in good alpine summer conditions! That includes rope,harness,rack,and crampons,etc,etc,"inside the sack"! If there is anything hanging foul outside and its above 20kilos,your carrying too much!? As much as i love winter mountaineering,i would not do a planned overnight bivvy by choice.I simply dont do enough of it to feel confident at it anymore.Its important for me to point out that this is the way "i do things"!
My trusty Mammut 55 litre.A great sturdy sack.
I am not saying that my way of soloing is better than anothers,or that anyone should copy what i do!? Far from it!! This is just the way i like to climb,and it works well for me.I would encourage any would-be soloists reading this,to study every climbing method they can read up on,to develop their own style and techniques!? There is allways someone out there with good knowledge to pass-on,and a wise man never stops learning!
The less stuff outside the sack,the less there is to get hung-up on.To keep the sack as streamlined as possible i shorten the straps by folding and tapeing them with electrical-tape (see upper pic!)Best to do it of course with a nice bright colour for better visibility(unlike my crappy effort?).Fill your pack to capacity before tapeing,them leave about 10cm of strap spare.Dont cut them down,"you will regret it"! It doesnt save weight worth a damn,and you ruin a good pack. The next most important addition is the "Drybag Inner".Pick a sturdy waterproof yellow one,at least 5litres larger than your sack capacity.

I use these more as a mid-route storage sack.

As you see,the liner is "identity-marked" (on one side in Deutch,and the other in French.).The message loosely says-"Please leave alone! Climber is returning to collect".
The liner is used more as a bivvy-kit storage sack than a weatherproof inner? When i plan to return down a route i am ascending,it gives me the option of leaving excess gear not nescessary for a fast summit push.I leave it in a protected area like my last bivvy site and collect it on the way down.Obviously i cant do this on every route,but it gives a useful added dimension to a soloists independance.On a european 4000er,you can be pretty sure your kit is safe for a few hours at 3000metres,but i would not be dumb enough to try this in the UK!? I do believe in carrying a good "Bladder hydration System" on bigger bergs with a one-litre bottle as backup.The Bladder tube can ice-up over night,and a bit of Gaffer-Tape is usually all thats needed to stop this in summer.
Weight Distribution:-Working out a simple "Pack-Plan" is a good idea?It doesnt have to be complicated! Just make sure all stuff-sacks and containers are numbered as to which goes in first!

Multiple marked waterproof stuffsacks compartment and protect gear for ease of access.

The centre of gravity on a climbing pack should be about midway in the pack,as against waist level for a Hiking-Pack,then you cant go wrong! This saves a great deal of time and energy when your tired and not thinking clearly.Coloured stuff-sacks with the contents allso saves loads of agro!
Sack Hauling:-As a general rule i try to avoid sack-hauling,but sometimes its unavoidable?!Try to develop simple stratedgies for this,like folding the shoulder-straps out of the way so they dont hang-up.Even sewing in a custom "Haul-Loop" can be of imense help,and save the loss of your sack.

Pascal-Haul & Hanging strap.Secures pack on anchors or protection whilst climbing.

The latest generation of Grivel Alpine sacks have these built in,so you can clip your pack on placed protection and drop your pack to complete a tough move or begin hauling.Its a great safety feature and ive sewn them into most of my sacks,having made them from old slings and a wiregate Krab!?
Ideally your sack should allso be able to fit a small "Tubular Rope-Bag" on its right hand side,that can hold 50metres of alpine climbing rope?! I will explain the use of this in later blogs.Its an important requirement for "Self-Belaying and Abseiling".


Good climbing,


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