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ergophobe


Jul 19, 2002, 1:24 AM
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Squeeze chimney logistics for beginners
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Note 1: In the interest of not getting this post banned by "Family Filters", some words have been replaced with alternative terminology in [brackets].



Note 2: If you don't like long-winded stories, cut straight to #3, Squeeze chimney logistics.



Note 3: squeeze chimneys are not offwidths. Some techniques described here are useful on offwidths too, but some of them will create considerable problems for you if you are climbing an off-fist crack. These techniques are most useful for squeeze chimneys and flares beginning about with those cracks large enough to get at least half your body stuck in there, but not wide enough to get a nice comfy, classic chimney stance.


1. Yes, squeeze chimneys and offwidths [vigorously], but so what?

It was recently asserted in a rockclimbing.com forum that offwidths [vigorously]. We may presume that the poster in question must therefore believe that squeeze chimneys [vigorously] [fecal]. As anyone who has tried to climb one knows, they do not [vigorously], and in fact it takes considerable effort to wriggle your body into them.



It is possible that this person was referring not to the physical properties of offwidths, but was instead was making a personal judgement and using an alternative sense of this particular expression. In that case, I must point out that:



  • climbing outdoors in the freezing cold with sharp implements all over you must surely [vigorously][fecal] as well.

  • popping tendons on overhanging pocketed walls must surely [vigorously][fecal] as well.

  • imbibing beverages that destroy brain and liver cells must surely [vigorously][fecal] as well.

  • humping mammoth loads to the base of distant walls must surely [vigorously][fecal] as well.



However, members of this site engage in all of those activities, so there are no doubt a few sorry [persons for whom the identity of the father is uncertain] who still want to test their mettle on monster cracks.


2. Why are they so unpleasant?

You read John Long's How to Rockclimb and devoured all the Tech Tips from Climbing and then went out, eager to try Leavitation and all the other rad techniques you read about. Somehow, however, what you ended up doing was thrashing, thrutching, sweating and scraping before collapsing. If it was hot out and it was a difficult squeeze chimney, you may have even thrown up. A friend of mine saw a guide and a client both do just that on Ahab (5.10b), which is probably the most strenuous 5.10b that I've lead.



Strangely, I actually got lucky on my first hard wide crack, onsighting Low Exposure a 5.10 in the Gunks in 1981, when I had only led a handful of 5.10s of any sort. By the time I got around to trying some more wide crack nastiness, I had lost my youthful energy and had not yet gained my senile guile. Indeed, I had to be rescued off Midterm in Yosemite by my wife who went up and took the sharp end and topped out for me. I was too beat to even second the thing. I thrashed up Chingando (5.10a) without needing my wife's rescue skills, but came closer to throwing up than I ever had on a climb. I decided to call in help from a friend known to many as Brutus of Wyde, a certified master of wide cracks. Brutus came to the crags with me and yelled up instructions, mostly in the form of insults, as I thrashed my way up. Between his instruction and my trial and error, I finally learned that before working on hand stacks and Leavitation, it's important to get the basics logistics down.






3. Squeeze chimney logistics
A. Rigging your harness and rack

  • Do not rack anything on your harness. This is essential to your success, so I will restate it: nothing goes on your harness except possibly a daisy chain (see below). Remove your quickdraws, nut tool, belay device, everything. In fact, if you are going for a really difficult squeeze, you may even want to tie in with a simple swami made from 2" tubular webbing with no gear loops or anything. By preference, don't wear one of those sport harnesses with plastic gear loops that stick up. Standard gear loops are enough of a cluster[know someone in the Biblical sense]. Anything you leave on your harness, be it ever so small, will get caught and will prevent upward progress. Forgetting to remove your nut tool could pull you off the crux.



  • Rack everything on one or, better, two gear slings. The slings do not necessarily need to be padded since, on the business part of the pitch, you aren't going to carry them over your shoulder anyway. The gear on the sling includes:
    • protection. Rack your cams with a small stick to keep the cams compressed so they take up less room. If you are using Camalots, this is especially important because the Camalot trigger wires [inhale] and are prone to breakage; this will protect them somewhat. Remember, you may not have many pieces, but several of them may be huge, like the Valley Giant, so it's better to keep them streamlined if possible. In addition to large cams, do not forget to bring a selection of stoppers and smaller cams. Often you will find small interior cracks and you will want to protect these with stoppers and save your precious big gear for when you really need it.
    • quickdraws can go on a second sling.
    • water bottle. Yes, unless it is comfortably cool out (like your belayer is wearing a heavy jacket and hat and is still shivering), you will want water during your lead. This bottle goes on one of the two slings. A half liter should be enough. This is essential if you wish to avoid puking while on your route. If you actually wish to puke on the route, then you are indeed a sick [person for whom the identity of the father is uncertain].
    • nut tool, belay device, favorite rubber duck all go on the gear sling.



  • Chalk bag. If you are one of those people who attaches your chalk bag to your harness with a carabiner, don't! It's much better to use a runner strength chalk bag belt anyway, since that means you always have a tieable runner to leave behind at rap anchors, but that's another story. The key thing here is you must be able to easily position your chalkbag at your side or in front of you. The chalk bag must move freely around your waist.



  • Girth hitch one or two long runners to the side of your harness. This is ultimately going to hold your rack. If you do not know which side will face into the chimney, put a runner on each side. If you know which side will be in, put a runner just on the opposite side. Do not attach this runner to your harness gear loop unless you want to lose your rack. Girth hitch it around the entire swami belt.



  • Let's assume that you have guessed which side will face in. Now you don your rack and attach it to the sling with a locking biner placed at the rear of the rack. There will be a lot of thrashing and thrutching, so a locking biner is essential to avoid losing your rack.



  • Optionally, you may choose to girth hitch a daisy chain through your belay loop, but I think there is a better way (see below on placing gear).







To see what all of this looks like, check out the photo of a rack rigged for squeeze chimneys (This is up somewhere).






B. Dressing for success

  • It should be clear that long pants are greatly preferred.



  • Wear knee padsunder your pants or, as some prefer, ace bandages around your knees. The advantage of the latter is that they don't move around on you. You can also tape your knee pads in place, but for people who don't shave their legs, the pain of removing this is worse than the pain of climbing the squeeze chimney. Personally, I always use knee pads. You want the soft foam type that people use for volleyball, not the hardshell type that people use for rollerblading. Without knee pads, resting in a squeeze can be extremely uncomfortable and probably damaging to your knees, not to mention that an extremely uncomfortable rest is not really a rest at all. Knee pads may be inappropriate for some offwidths since they may prevent you from getting your leg inside for a knee lock. If your squeeze starts out as an offwidth, you may wish to wear the knee pads down around your calves until you get to the squeeze part. If the hard part of your pitch is an offwidth, you will likely want some sleeker protection than thick volleyball pads, but you'll be happy to have something or other.



  • Elbow pads. You don't need actual padding, just the elastic things that wrap around your arm. If you are wearing a long-sleeve shirt, you might forego these entirely. If you have a short-sleeve shirt, however, put one on the arm that will be on the inside. If you don't know in advance, you can wear two. Do not wear this on your elbow, but push it higher so that it runs from your elbow up to your upper arm, protecting the meaty (or less so) tricep. Normally, you can guess which side goes in and you can split a pair between you and the poor [person for whom the identity of the father is uncertain] who will be following you.






C. Tieing in

  • Of course, you already know how to tie in, but you could really [engage in the reproductive act with] yourself here. Don't tie your knot close to your harness as you typically would. Instead, tie your figure-eight a good body length away from the end. When you follow through, you should have a loop that is long enough that the figure-eight can be positioned off to the side, totally out of the way. If it's a tight squeeze and you don't do this, you could break out in tears as the knot catches on that tiny lip and you can't move up, but you can't place gear either.


D. Getting started.

  • Try to determine which side will go in. This is often difficult and takes some guesswork and experience.

    • Commonly, if the crack is offset and one side sticks out more than the other, you will want your back on the side that sticks out.

    • If the crack flares, you often want your back on the part that is more in the plane of the crack and your feet on the less even, flary part.

    • If the squeeze is formed in a dihedral, you will typically want to be facing out (that is, with your back against the main wall).

    • All things being equal, claustrophobic people like me prefer to face out.


    WARNING: the last two squeezes I did violated one or all of these rules of thumb



  • Now, put your gear sling on the opposite side (that much should be obvious).



  • You have a sling girth-hitched to that side of your harness. Now clip the sling into your rack with a locking biner. The rack is over your shoulder as usual. Now, if you were to drop your rack, it would be attached by a locking biner to a sling which is in turn girth-hitched to your harness (not your harness gear loops). There is nothing on your harness gear loops.



  • Start climbing. Knock off the face climbing and beautiful handcrack and the bit of off fist and enjoy yourself climbing. Swear at me when you realize that your draws are not on your harness but on your rack. In fact, if you know you are going to place some gear before getting to the squeeze, go ahead and rack with a few draws on your harness. Just make sure you use them up before you get to the squeeze.



  • Arrive at the squeeze. Now comes the sneaky part. First, drop your rack and let it hang from the girth-hitched sling. It should be slightly below your feet when your body is fully extended. Get your body in there. Sometimes you'll want to stay near the outside and sometimes more inside. Just make sure that you don't keep going deeper out or fear, but because it's genuinely easier in there (it usually isn't!)






E. Moving up.

  • Be patient.

  • Be patient.

  • Be very patient.

  • In case you missed that, be patient. Don't try to go fast. Take it a millimeter at a time.

  • Rest every chance you get. If you get a nice knee lock or even a chest lock, just rest until your breathing returns to normal (er.. except in the case of a chest lock). A chest lock, by the way, occurs in narrow squeezes where you can inhale and then let go with both your arms and legs and not fall. Sounds great, except that you are fighting that same friction when you try to move up. Anyway, remember: you can hurry even in offwidths, but never hurry in a squeeze chimney.

  • To place gear, pull up on the sling holding the rack, hold it in your mouth, and so on, until you can reach the piece you need. Put the gear in above you and clip it with a double sling. Why a double sling? Simple. You will probably be pushing this cam ahead of you for a while. If you clip with a short sling, every time you push the cam you will be bringing rope up at a 1:2 mechanical disadvantage. This can be a lot of effort, and squeeze chimneys are enough effort without creating more work for yourself. This way, even at full extension, the biner should hang down around your harness. Sure, you might take a little fall, but unless you feel really shaky, the extra security isn't worth it. Some people prefer to clip directly to the cam with a daisy chain, but you will then run the risk of taking a static daisy fall on what may be your only piece of gear for a long ways.

  • Whenever you pull up your gear sling, take a swig off your water bottle. This is the one thing that really changed squeeze chimneys in summer weather for me. You're working so damn hard and you're huffing and puffing and dehydrating like crazy. A little sip every few minutes helps dramatically. This can be the difference between throwing up and enjoying yourself.

  • Push the piece as long as you dare. If you can see way ahead and you're certain you won't need the piece anymore, then and only then should you drop. And, you should drop it then. Let your second carry the extra weight and bulk whenever possible.

  • If possible, leave passive gear and push cams. Don't part with your cams unless you have brought a giant warchest of them.



Above all, enjoy yourself. If this helps you, let me know. If you have additions or modifications to suggest, let me know that too.



Tom



[ This Message was edited by: ergophobe on 2002-07-18 18:54 ]


clmbnski


Jul 19, 2002, 1:54 AM
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Just got back from Vedauwoo. Let me tell you they have some really bad chimneys there. And I am also really bad at climbing squeeze chimneys.
I climbed 5.5's that felt like the hardest thing I have ever done. People are always telling me "Oh I love climbing chimneys, they feel so secure, you cant fall."-Hah Im just glad I didnt lead the pitch because I took a fall down one seconding and it hurt. What happens is I get so worked that no muscle in my body can push any more and I just start to slide down like water flowing down twisted pipes. oh yea and they are always runout.

But here I think is the key to squeezes that my partner had and I didnt: Flexability.
He was able to attain a magical frog position by having great hip turnout ability.
I think I need to try the patience technique though I may have tried to go too fast. You can also turn your body to face out of the crack and this will wedge you it for a slight rest.
Chimneys are more fun to think about then to actually do.
Chris


ergophobe


Jul 19, 2002, 1:59 AM
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Yeah, flexibility and the frog and all that is good, but I wanted the post to be more about *logistics*, that is, how to approach it more than how to do it. I guess you could say that I wanted to tell about the stuff that you needed to know not to top rope it, but to lead it.

There's a photo (or will be) of the setup I describe at
http://www.rockclimbing.com/photos.php?Action=ListPhoto&PhotoID=5855

There's also a thread on kneepads

http://www.rockclimbing.com/forums/viewtopic.php?topic=12684&forum=20&10


Partner philbox
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Jul 19, 2002, 3:02 AM
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Yeah, great post Tom. This should be on permanent display in the Articles section of this website.

Umm do you have any experience protecting a 2 foot wide continuous chimney. I was muchly afeared to tackle this beasty when we eventually got up to it. I was facing a possible full rope length of this form of climbing. I worried about rattling all the way down from the top to end up at the bottom like a shredded lump of hamburger meat.

There was no opportunity for any other form of pro. The chimney was formed when a great pillar seperated from the rest of the cliff and was quite parallel. It was about 20 metres deep and indeed went right through so that one could exit from the other side and do a walk down.

I did have a thought that perhaps a couple of carjacks would have sufficed but then they may not have been quite wide enough. Sounds like a job for superbigbro or a couple of lumps of timber and a saw along for the ride.

...Phil...


arsenalcrater


Jul 19, 2002, 4:02 AM
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Holy mother of Fornication!!! You just let me revisit my ascent of the Lotus Flower Tower....just by reading your post!!! THX


karlbaba


Jul 19, 2002, 5:09 AM
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Great Post on Squeeze Chimneys! Nothing like a total body workout to let you know you've been climbing!

I encourage people to be creative about their wiggling in ways that are impossible in other forms of climbing. In squeeze chimneys I sometimes find myself sideways with my feet moving up level with my shoulders and then wiggling my head and shoulders back up above my feet.

This might be hard to visualize from the comfort of an internet workstation but when you can't move directly up because of the confines of the space, you might remember this!

Ahab is a grevious sandbag but at least you can toprope it.

Peace

karl


ergophobe


Jul 19, 2002, 7:27 PM
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Ahab is a sandbag? Nah, just a good workout. Actually, with a #5 Camalot (and more hand-sized stuff than you would expect for the top), Ahab is a great lead. I can say this though. The one and only time I led Ahab,I did nothing else that day and my legs were more tired than the day after skiing Shasta in a day or the day after Snake Dike. I had blisters on my palms. My finger tendons, however, were utterly spared any abuse whatsoever.


natec


Jul 19, 2002, 7:35 PM
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Is it possible that we have a new PTPP.
That was a killer long post, one to rival any of Pete's, AWESOME dude.

Thank you for posting. There is a dearth of valuable info on squeezes, chimneys, and offwidth climbing out there.


superdiamonddave


Jul 19, 2002, 9:15 PM
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Nice job on that post. I'm sure that will help some of our newer climbers out there and I even picked up on a couple of helpful tips as well. I'm glad I'm not the only one who enjoys the occasional squeeze.

Cheers! And climb on!


ergophobe


Jul 19, 2002, 10:14 PM
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Quote:
Umm do you have any experience protecting a 2 foot wide continuous chimney.


Yikes! I don't want to portray myself as being particularly *good* at squeeze chimneys or having such vast experience. I just had such awful experiences on my early climbs, that I put some thought into making it more enjoyable.

As for large chimneys - if it's two feet wide and not leaning and flary, you'll mostly be able to just wedge yourself in with your knees on the opposite wall, so it's not that scary to run it out. You just have to keep your eyes open for anything from micro RP placements to big stuff.

I can't wait to try those nasty squeezes at Mount Buffalo (am I right?)

Tom

P.S. I find it ironic that my classification is "boulderer" and my first thread on this site is on squeeze chimneys

[ This Message was edited by: ergophobe on 2002-07-19 15:17 ]


Partner philbox
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Jul 21, 2002, 4:52 AM
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   Maaate have I got a couple of awesome chimneys for you when you come out here. Satans Smokestack at Frog Buttress is a four sided chimney with lotsa options for pro. To get to it one must first ascend an offwidth that some try to do as a squeeze chimney but in reality one simply climbs the outside as a face which can be protected with wide gear.

I saw a girl once who spent the better part of an hour working her way up that 8 to 10 metres of off width. The best part of Satans is exitting out on to the top of the pillar after the four sided chimney, on could sense the feeling of claustrophobia changing to agoraphobia.

Almost a dizzy feeling of exposure after the constricture of the closed in womb of rock. Then comes the step across the maw of the four sided chimney fo a couple of thin face moves with little pro. I love that climb.

...Phil...


ergophobe


Jul 23, 2002, 1:12 AM
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RE Satan's Smokestack, I had to check it out. I found a rating (16) and a photo:
http://www.pbase.com/image/191625

Look's pretty good and, if I understand Aussi ratings, reasonable enough. I got my butt kicked on some climbs that I thought would be casual... flailed up a toprope of Galen's Crack, a 5.10c offwidth in Tuolumne. That's an Aussie 20, or A0 as we like to call it around here!

I hate it when my wife kicks my butt at wide cracks - I climb them more, she climbs them better. arrrrrrrrr.

Tom


Partner philbox
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That pic is one and the same of Satans Smokestack. Do you see the climber making her way up in the offwidth squeezy bit, well she`s totally ignoring all the awesome handholds on the outside. She`s got perhaps 6 or 8 feet to go before she will actually disappear inside the four sided chimney. The four sided bit is about 20 or so metres high.
...Phil...


rock_climbin_06


Jul 31, 2002, 3:18 PM
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I don't know about those chimneys. The Satan pic looks a little tough for me. Great post though! Gave alot of info. Thanks!


karlbaba


Jul 31, 2002, 3:35 PM
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Tom

I feel your pain! I did Ahab once with a petite woman who just sailed up it! (As much as sailing is possible in those waters) I could see by watching here that the same moves wouldn't be possible with my proportions. I can barely squeeze through the Narrow on Steck Salathe and it's a good thing I'm not in shape for Astroman!

As for not being a sandbag at 10b, how many other one pitch 10b destroy you for the day?!

Peace

karl


tylerphillips


Jul 31, 2002, 3:38 PM
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  Forget all that long winded blathering and just attack it like a angry racoon after the last orange peel in the dumpster. Chances are you WILL slither your way up it. And as a added bonus the feeling of elation after exiting a hard chimminey/offwitdh is hard to beat. I like em' because it brings me back to my earliest childhood memories of being in the womb.


sparky


Aug 1, 2002, 12:41 AM
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it is really funny when yer partner gets really wedged in, throw some webbing on his feet and you'll have a bomber piece


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