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The Portaledge
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Nov 30, 2001, 11:18 PM
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Registered: Nov 5, 2001
Posts: 37

The Portaledge
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Dec 1, 2001, 3:58 AM
Post #2 of 3 (3691 views)

Registered: Oct 10, 2001
Posts: 2183

The Portaledge [In reply to]
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Dear Robin,

I am sorry to tell you that in a technical question such as this, I will not rant. At least not much.

It is my mandate as Dr. Piton to bring you descriptions, information and explanations of cutting-edge Big Wall and Aid Climbing Technology that I have personally tested and originally written for This is part of my desire to make the bitchin'est El Cap and Big Wall Website on the whole damn www!

Portaledges are things with which I am well acquainted. Although Dr. Piton's portaledge has yet to join the Half-Mile High Club, I have spent at latest count some 136 nights in the thing, so I know of what I speak.

The most fundamental thing to know about buying a portaledge is to buy a DOUBLE ledge. A double ledge costs so little more than a single, weighs so little more, and provides so much more comfort that I cannot see any reason whatsoever to buy a single ledge!

There may be the rare person who is so concerned about saving weight that he or she buys a single ledge, but I still believe this is an unwise move.

The other benefit of having a double ledge is that it makes you attractive to other wall partners who might not have one of their own.

Now, if you are a girl, then you may not ever have to buy a ledge because there will almost always be guys willing to share their ledge with you.

Note to guys: Shark Fins can be lowered only upon securing permission of the girl. Failure to secure permission may result in her using her belay knife on you the next day. Dr. Piton carries a belay knife next to his henway at all times. If you do not know what a belay knife or a henway is, please Ask Dr. Piton.

Now Robin, if you happen to be a very bitchin' babe, you may never have to buy a ledge because there will ALWAYS be guys lined up to invite you onto theirs.

If you happen to be an angry politically correct woman, which never for a moment did I suggest you are, although you might be, then I suggest that for the sake of all Mankind, you please buy your own ledge!.

You may also wish to buy your own ledge in the event you wish to solo climb, or you wish to climb with another girl or another guy who doesn't own his or her own ledge. This gives you greater options, and may allow you to attract a worthy wall partner, someone like me for instance, though never once did I suggest that I wanted to be attracted by you. This would be politically incorrect, as you well know, and I wish to avoid political correctness whenever possible.

[Aside: I hope to avoid politically correct angry women even more]

I do not recommend you make your own ledge, because I have only two experiences with homemade ledges, and both were bad. The first bad experience was on my first attempt to climb Mescalito when I dropped an essential component of the ledge, and the second bad experience was on Zodiac when the ledge broke while I was standing on it! Talk about a heart attack, eh?

I have used a Fish Double Ledge for all of my ascents. I bought the Five-Season Fly for it, but have never yet been hammered by a bad storm. I've been lucky, but I've also chosen a friendly place (El Cap) at friendly times of the year. I spent about eight hours and six tubes of Seam Grip (the only good stuff) to seal every freakin' seam of the fly, inside and out. I also gave it an extra waterproof coating. I will tell you that Russ Walling at Fish stands behind his product and will help you out whenever possible.

The only problem with the Fish Ledge that I don't like is the adjustment straps should have steel buckles instead of the nylon fastex buckles which can deform under load and slip. I have to tie slip-knots to back them up every night, especially the straps that bear more of my weight.

I have told this to Russ on countless occasions - a perusal of his website may tell you if he has yet taken my advice.

I have also worked with A5 singles and doubles that my partners have had. The clinking jingle of the tubes of an A5 ledge being set up are music to my ears, and can be heard echoing across the Captain as nightfall approaches. It is my aural clue to head for home (I no longer climb at night). These ledges are a bit more robust than Fish's, and offer the added feature of a tension adjuster.

A5 ledges also cost more than Fish ledges, and I don't think the extra amount of money you pay is worth it. The Fish is better value, I believe.

Both models are b*ggers to set up, and you should practise doing so while hanging in your aiders blindfolded at night in a howling gale and rainstorm to simulate the worst possible scenario. A friend with a garden hose and a sense of humour may be required here.

Note: If you find yourself in a dicey situation on a wall and are unfamiliar with setting your ledge up in less-than-ideal conditions, you may wish that you had listened to me and practised as I suggested. I really do mean to practise while hanging in your aiders!

Except on really nasty terrain, Dr. Piton sets up his ledge at the base, and keeps it set up for the duration of the climb. Dr. Piton does not take it apart in the morning and set it up again in the evening.

Dr. Piton "flags his ledge" so that he doesn't have to fight the damn thing all the time. This is consistent with Dr. Piton doing the ABSOLUTE MINIMUM amount of work possible (scroll to bottom)

These are the only two ledges with which I am personally familiar

Black Diamond makes a ledge that I have heard sets up very easily. This is not important to portaledge "flaggers".

Pika may have a ledge, too, but I'm not sure.

I believe that A5 and Fish have the lion's share of the portaledge market, but it is quite possible that Black Diamond may be making substantial inroads.

I now invite other climbers who either have own a ledge or have actually slept in a ledge to add their comments.

Plastic Warriors need not apply.


Dr. Piton (not Dr_Piton)

You can click here to see a properly 'flagged' portaledge in flight.

[ This Message was edited by: passthepitonspete on 2002-04-21 17:15 ]


Dec 2, 2001, 9:53 PM
Post #3 of 3 (3691 views)

Registered: Jul 27, 2001
Posts: 4317

The Portaledge [In reply to]
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I have a Pika ledge, which I bought because Russ couldn't get a ledge done in time for a trip to Yosemite(though I gave him two months advance warning). Call Fish way in advance for ledges-he has been great about filling my orders for everything else, but I got hosed on the ledge.

The Pika ledge is attractive because its cheap and because Josh is a really nice guy who makes some very interesting gear. I'm not a fan of it though-it is the smallest ledge on the market. I'm 6 feet tall and I feel very cramped on the ledge.

Go with a Fish or A5 ledge, preferably Fish because Russ is a good guy and it is cheaper. Just give him plenty of warning.

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