Saturday, 12 March 2011

SOLOING TECHNIQUE.(Fixed Rope Solo-Simulation.)

If your determined to climb solo,best do it in the safest possible way,and adopt a good ongoing standard of improvement and best-practice!?Climbers are generaly a fairly responsible lot if only because we dont want to end up as strawberry jam at the foot of a mountain.Or end up being labeled a complete muppet,cragfast and whimpering,being lowered off your great adventure by a cheesed-off Mountain Rescue Team!?
As i live in Sussex,UK and only have summer sandstone and chalk to play on?I developed the following "Solo Aid System" to practice with new gear alone and in moderate safety.Used properly,its a great way to (a) gain confidence at higher grades or on unfamiliar problems,unencumbered by loads of gear.(b)climb safely with equipment on a fully simulated solo climb.I have no doupt that there are better ways to do this?But this has worked for me for many years and never failed me yet.As with all my technique,what you see is the latest of the evolutions in my soloing-practice system.It is the way i do things at present,and i am not suggesting that anybody else should use it!
I allways choose an unfrequented climbing area with ungraded routes or crags of little importance,so as not to bug the local natives.Climbers justifiably get a bit bitter and twisted if your dragging fixed-ropes all over their favourite crags?!As usual let someone know where you are climbing(see Route Plans blog)its good practice and common sense.
Make sure the top of your crag is easily reached from ground level,and easy to walk down from when you top-out.Make sure there are plenty of good "bomber" anchor points for your fixed-rope.If the ground at the top is soft,you may consider using a "Ground Pin" anchor system?These are available from Peter Gwilliam of "Specialist Training Consultants"  a great company that i can thoroughly reccomend,who will even train you how to use this kit?!You would allso do well to visit Tom Gwilliam,s blog for further info and a great range of useful gear.

Rig a bomber anchor-system as you would for a Group Abseil,with good safe access and egress points,making sure the system is secure from tampering!If you have a partner along ,take turns guarding the anchors if there is human traffic around.

Allthough i allways use a 9.5mil Mammut,Static-Rope for this procedure.I like to "dynamise"the system a little with a "Energy Dissipator" device as an added safety measure.These are brilliant little,inexpensive items of gear that may well save your life!And are allso available from Peter and Tom!I dont know of anyone outside the Rescue and Rope-Access Industry that uses these,apart from myself?But i would not now be without one,especialy for this system!

Energy Dissipator.

Having rigged the anchors,i then abseil down the route to get a good close look at it.I feed the rope from a Rope-Bag as i go and where possible i use the "Australian Abseil" to get a better perspective of the route overall! Done correctly the Aussie-Abseil is safer than the standard-abseil and far more controlable.The instructors who claim this is "less" safe than the standard technique are talking "total bollocks",and probably dont know how to do it properly!
This abseil allso enables one to move more slowly under better control,so that you can stop at will to  kneel and locate fragile mountain plant micro-systems you wouldnt want to damage.

You allso get a much better view of "holds, rugosities,and points of protection" for use on ascent?!At the foot of the route i weigh the Rope Bag with a few pounds of rocks,and tie it to the end of the rope.This keeps the rope from following you up when ascending and allows you to traverse many metres either side of the route,should you feel inclined?It is in effect a simple counterweight that wont hinder you whilst climbing.

The personal ascent rig consists of a good Alpine Harness connected to a Petzyl-Shoulder Harness ,with a Petzyl-Croll in between fixed by maillons(a BASIC can be used for Left handed people).An ASAP on a Lanyard can allso be considered?But only for this static system.For a "Free Climb"ascent no other kit  need be carried other than a Helmet,an ATC belay device,4xScrewgate Krabs,Prussics,and a couple of slings to effect a mid-route reverse should it be needed?!This is allso a great rig to practice "Dry Tooling" with axes and crampons,and rigging Hanging-Belays or Bivvies .

Peggy demonstrating full rig.

Clip the fixed-rope into the Croll,ensuring to place a screw-gate karabiner through the safety holes of the Croll to lock the rope securely behind the cam!Ascent can then commence making sure the rope is free-flowing through the device.Stop climbing a few feet off the stance,and check that the "Cam-Anti reverse" is locking firmly on the rope before proceeding.Check this action periodicaly from a protected position during the climb.

Cease climbing and fix a Klemheist-Prusik on the rope "above" the Croll at about eye-level.Larksfoot a 2metre sling to this to make a etrier-step for the foot.(adjust as required for an easy step up.)
Pull up a foot of slack rope below the Croll and fit into the Belay-Device on the harness Belay-Loop.Run the dead-rope below the belay device through a French-Prusik brake on the(left or right)harness leg-loop.Shunt the Prusik brake upwards to remove as much slack between Belay-Device and Croll as possible!
Then remove the rope locking krab from the Croll and clip it on the harness gear loop.Reach up above the Klemheist and gripping the rope firmly?Step up on the sling and disengage the Croll from the rope!Lower your weight on to the belay-device(ensuring the leg prusik is locked),remove your foot from the sling and dismantle the Klemheist prusik and return it allso to your harness gear loops.You are now in a standard abseil position,and can descend by easing the Leg-Prusik Brake!
This process should be practiced several times just off the stance before proceeding further,to fully familiarise oneself?!Dont make an idiot of yourself by getting stuck halfway up your own rope!!:-)

Any questions on the above blog?Please comment or email me personaly!

Good climbing,