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First Aid Climb
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teth


Jun 26, 2006, 7:41 AM
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First Aid Climb
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I tried Guinness again for the first time in over a decade and found I had acquired a taste for it. Shortly thereafter I started to develop an inexplicable urge to start Aid climbing. I suspect a connection, but it is a bit of a chicken or the egg sort of dilemma.

Before sinking a bunch of coin into my new obsession I thought I should try some aid to see if the obsession would survive a dose of reality. I mocked up some Russian Aiders using webbing for the stirrup and knee cuff and a carabiner at the knee in lieu of a hook. For aid trees I intended to use some daisy chains. This is obviously a very inefficient system, but did function in a crude way and would give me a taste of what aiding was all about. Given this crude setup and my inexperience, I decided to make my first aid attempt at Boulderfest (an annual East Coast Bouldering festival) where there would be lots of people around incase I needed rescuing.

As we landed on Dover Island it started to rain, and boulderers scurried to get their stuff under tarps. The rain let up briefly and I got my tent erected, but then just as the rock was starting to dry out the rain returned. By mid day I was standing against the 40 foot cliff beside the camp site eying a finger crack which ran along the back of a roof starting at about 12 feet and angling up gradually to gain only two feet of elevation over an 8 foot span to where it exited the roof and continued around a bludge to link up with a 5.8 crack. I decided that if it did not stop raining by 2:00 pm I would climb it in the rain.

As my deadline approached the rain had slacked to a drizzle, so I started sorting out my gear and setting up an anchor under the relative shelter of the roof. Needless to say, I was getting a number of comments from the boulderers, particularly from the odd trad climber in their midst, regarding my likely fate and the speed of my progress. Considering that I was getting ready to climb, and they were huddling under a tarp, I felt it unnecessary to reply as the situation seemed to speak for itself.

With a good anchor designed for upward pull I started to climb using a Petzl Microcender Ascender with a prussic backup for my belay. After hanging off a dubious red tri cam placement for a bit I got a solid number four nut placement right at the beginning of the nearly horizontal crack under the roof. Then I started working my way along the finger crack using number 1 and 2 nuts placed with their curved side down to get a bit of a camming effect in the horizontal placement. At some point while I was under the roof it started to poor, as I discovered as I emerged at the other end and got a mini waterfall in my face. I placed another small nut past the roof and clipped my knee biners to the daisies I had attached to it. At this point I made the bonehead mistake of not also moving my chest attachment to the new placement, so as I moved to the new piece my chest attachment was pulling the previous piece back in the direction it had been slotted in from.

I was starting to think that I should probably call it a day as I was getting soaked and I was running out of small nuts. I was leaning a bit further out trying to see if there was a larger nut placement farther on, when my chest attachment pulled the nut out of the slot it was nestled in. My anchor and belay system worked beautifully and all my other placements held, however, if you have been reading carefully you will have noted that my knees were already clipped to the next piece, so as about twenty boulderers watched (they had nothing else to do) my piece blew and I flipped upside down in great dramatic fashion. My thoughts were “wow, that was cool... oh great the rest of my placements held” but I started getting a little winged out by the twenty boulders milling about below trying to spot me. I decided I had better come down before I upset them any further, so I flipped back upright, clipped the rope to the piece my knees were attached to, switched over into a repel and came down.

We then used my rope which was still running through gear about 14 feet up the cliff to rig a large tarp to shelter all the boulderers while we tapped the keg and got the BBQ going. The soggy boulderers were all very grateful for my help in erecting the shelter. For my part, I am hooked, and will soon be putting an order in with Fish for a set of Russian aid trees. I will also be working on putting together a proper set of Russian Aiders.

Teth Cleveland, Nova Scotia, Canada


Partner mr8615


Jun 26, 2006, 7:47 AM
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Outstanding!! What fun :D!

Mark


rockguide


Jun 26, 2006, 8:12 AM
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Great story Welcome to the community! TROPHY (you will learn what that means)

Brian


Partner cracklover


Jun 26, 2006, 8:48 AM
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Great fun - thanks for sharing! Good story, well told!

One technical note. You said you used the Petzl Microcender Ascender. I'm not familiar with this device, but I was suspicious of using it to belay yourself, because most ascenders use teeth, and have a good chance of damaging the sheath of your rope if used to catch a fall. So I looked it up. It's not clear to me whether you should be concerned about it or not. Mixed messages - this website said both: "Not intended for fall arresting" and "The cam is forgiving and will slip rather than damage or start shearing the rope".

Petzl's own documentation for the device says the following: "The rope between the rope clamp and the anchor must always be under tension." But then they ammend this by stating "The use of the device for self belaying is limited." They do give some good parameters to this limitation in the following: "For safety, whenever the risk of a fall exists, a rope of minimum 10 mm diameter must be used," and "Do not continue to use this product after a major fall : even though no visible signs are possible, internal damage may have occurred, thus reducing its strength and its margin of safety." So it sounds like, while it's not designed for the purpose, you can safely use it for self-belay, but only on a rope of 10mm or bigger, and if you do take a hard fall on it - it's a one use only situation.

When I started solo aiding I just used a clove hitch around a locking biner, with another clove around a second locker as backup. Seemed to work well. I switched to a gri-gri at some point.

Anyway, thanks again for the story - good luck, and keep the tales from the field coming!

GO


devils_advocate


Jun 26, 2006, 10:10 AM
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I was all set to make some smart ass comment about how, contrary to the title, this thread has nothing to do with First Aid... but, it was a good story, well written, and in the proper place; so I silenced my cynical self. Spectacular for a first post, Welcome.


teth


Jun 26, 2006, 10:11 AM
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Well, I am glad everyone is enjoying my adventure.

Cracklover, I agree with your assessment of the Petzl Microcender Ascender. I think it was made for another purpose and Petzl probably did not see any reason for taking on the liability of recommending it for solo beley as well. After all, the Gri-Gri is not officially recommended by the manufacturer for soloing either. The Petzl Microcender Ascender seems to work fairly well for soloing though. I bought it to solo top rope on a fixed rope when I moved to California in 1997 and did not know anyone. After three days of climbing solo at Castle Rock I knew enough people that I did not have to climb solo again for the rest of my three year stay on the west coast.

Rather than “teeth” the Microcender has groves about every 4 mm which provide enough friction to grip the rope without having any sharp edges which could damage it. Under extreme force the rope would likely slide through the Microcender a bit rather than catching and ripping. I use a 10.5 mm rope. I would not recommend using smaller than 10mm either. I don’t think my Microcender has taken any major falls yet. Since my last fall was on a travers my pieces were very close together and also part of my wight was taken by the biners at my knees. There is a possibility with this device that the arm will be pinned in the open position by some piece of gear or the rock, but with the prussic backup I feel fairly safe with it. The last time I tried the clove hitch on a biner for belay was 1995 while trying to learn various rope tricks. I should take another look at it. There are a number of other aid items I will likely want to spend my money on before I get a Gri-Gri.

Teth


Partner cracklover


Jun 26, 2006, 10:57 AM
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Well, I'm such an aid noob, I hesitate to say anything more on the subject, but I'll just mention the following:

In reply to:
After all, the Gri-Gri is not officially recommended by the manufacturer for soloing either.

No, but it *is* designed and recommended for catching a lead fall.

In reply to:
The last time I tried the clove hitch on a biner for belay was 1995 while trying to learn various rope tricks. I should take another look at it.

If you were considering it for roped-solo free climbing, I can see how you may have quickly discarded it. But for aid climbing, it's really not bad at all.

In reply to:
There are a number of other aid items I will likely want to spend my money on before I get a Gri-Gri.

No doubt. I actually invested in my first grigri specifically *for* aid climbing (partnered, not solo) - but that's neither here nor there.

Okay, I'm going to bow out now before I show my ignorance and say anything (else?) embarassing.

GO


teth


Jul 3, 2006, 3:22 AM
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That is a good point cracklover about the Petzl Microcender Ascender not being designed for lead falls. Although it seems like it would work, it might not be good to use for repeated falls and it is a little expensive for a one off thing.

After reading through more to the Doctor’s notes I see that the more serious problem with my setup was the prussic backup. Apparently it can heat up and melt the rope during a lead fall.

So I am going to go with the clove hitch until I get around to buying a gri-gri, which will probably be a while. Now, although I have seen the clove hitch mentioned in many places as a method of self belay for aid climbing, I have not yet run across a good description of method. Having started using self belay techniques on fixed top ropes I sort of had it in my head that a self belay involved moving a device or knot along your rope while you climbed. After some experimenting with the clove hitch it became evident that this method must involve untying and retying the knot as you move along the rope. Is this right?

What is the best way to use the clove hitch for self belay? I was thinking of taking a piece of 7mm cord and attaching it to by harness at the middle with a figure 8, then tying each end to a biner which I would attache to the rope with a clove hitch. I would have one tied fairly tight on the lead line and the other one I would tie farther along the slack end. When I am ready to move I would untie the tight one, and retie it on the slack end of the rope past my other clove hitch. Then when I move the slack clove hitch becomes the tight one and the new clove hitch is the slack one for the next move. Do I have it about right? How long should the cords/slings be which connect my clove hitch biners to my harness? I am thinking that I would probably want to be tying the knot far enough away from me so that it is not getting tangled up in the gear on my harness, but not too far away as the length of the cord would be adding to my fall length. This is all theory, as I have not found a good explanation yet, so I would appreciate any feedback.

Hopefully it will not be raining the next time I head out and I can actually get up a couple of climbs. I got all the pieces cut out and stitched in place for my KungFu Russian Aiders. I will be going out today to find someone, possibly a cobbler, with an industrial sewing machine to reinforce the key points.

Teth Cleveland


kman


Jul 3, 2006, 5:57 AM
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In reply to:
but I started getting a little winged out by the twenty boulders milling about below trying to spot me.

:lol:


Partner euroford


Jul 3, 2006, 6:42 AM
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congrats on the first aid attempt. keep learning, if you search around you'll find enough good advice to get your systems sorted out.

learning to aid is a wonderfull thing, its nice to look up at damn near any terrain and know you can figure out some way to get up it.

you do have lots of disposable income right? if not, stop now while you can.


Partner cracklover


Jul 3, 2006, 6:53 AM
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In reply to:
What is the best way to use the clove hitch for self belay?

I have no idea what the best way is. Hopefully somone with more experience will post. In the meantime, I'll tell you how I've done it.

Before I start, I have to say, I don't think I'd want that extra 7 mm line all over the place, as you say you're doing. And it lengthens the fall for no good reason I can think of.

Two locking biners directly on belay loop. Rope runs from fixed anchor up through running protection to the first locker, which it is cloved to. Then there is like ten or fifteen feet of slack in the rope, and it's then cloved to the other locker.

As I start the pitch and I'm concerned about groundfall, I shift the first biner along - loosening the clove, moving rope through it, and then tightening it (a little, no need to lock it down) until I've shifted it down so far that I've run into the backup. I then reset that biner another ten or fifteen feet down and repeat.

Later in the pitch, I dispense with all this shifting of the rope through the clove. I simply climb until the lead rope is taught to the first clove hitch, undo it completely, set it eight or ten feet behind the second clove hitch, which is now the primary clove hitch, climb until I get to that one, and repeat. Just leapfrog along like this to the end.

I just kind of made this up on my own, and shifted to the gri-gri at some point, so I'm sure others have superior methods. But I found that it worked well enough. For example, I know that some keep a very loose clove hitch that they simply shift along as they go. I'm sure this would work, but I'd be nervous about just where on the biner it would lock down (could easily catch on the gate) when you fall and it tightens.

GO


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