The Sorcerer, Ghost Valley

The Sorcerer, Ghost Valley

Friday, 26 April 2013

Short Roping

Some of my thoughts on ‘Short Roping' - moving over more broken ground safely & efficiently.

Short roping is only designed to prevent a slip from turning into a fall.

These thoughts are a guideline to ‘dynamic short roping’ – a technique used to short rope a mixed ability team efficiently and safely over moderate broken ground in summer conditions.

With a clear initial briefing & good communication you’re able to manage the rope, keeping the second person ‘lightly felt’ on the end of the rope at all times & so in a position to arrest a slip if necessary.

Consolidating this style of short roping as your main short roping technique for the summer UK rock environment, will give you a solid platform and skill base to successfully introduce other short roping techniques appropriate for both the Scottish winter and Alpine environments at a later stage e.g. using locked off coils on a uniform snow slope.

Short roping is one of the most difficult skills to learn, it’s also when you’re at most risk and exposed from a second person slipping or even worse falling.

Decisions on where and when to move together depend upon your ability, the weather and the terrain/conditions you find yourself on.
You must have confidence in each other, if either person feels anxious then that will transmit through the rope to each other.

In judging the terrain ahead against the abilities of each other, you can make the decision of whether to move together on not.

Give thought to –
How many people you have on a rope and the size of the second compared to yourself leading the rope.

How good is the team on their feet and their ability and overall experience?
Your route choice, the weather, conditions under foot, time of day.

The bottom line is - can you hold that person if they slip? If there is any doubt then run it out!

Drop your hand coils and move up to a spike or some other feature. If the terrain continues to be steep then drop the body coils and run the rope out even further, use a sling and belay the second up.

Keep things fluid and dynamic, trying to work one step ahead looking forward all the time.

 Tie the third person off to the end of the rope, using a figure of 8

If managing 2 people, take one and a half arm spans of rope from the end and then tie an overhand knot in the rope creating a large loop
Tie another overhand Knot right next to the first
Now with the loop pass it through the second persons harness and follow it back on itself creating a re threaded overhand knot
The first overhand knot can now be adjusted allowing the second a small amount of movement and comfort while moving over small steps

The rope from the second to you, depends very much on how much you can comfortably carry plus one arm span
The more coils you can carry the more flexibility in running the rope out over spikes
So take one arm span and from that point see how much you can comfortably carry in that hand

Taking coils and tying them off –

Tie onto the end of the rope with a figure of 8
The rope goes straight up the chest and around the back of the neck
With your left palm facing down the rope goes across the palm and then lifted back around the neck to make the coils.
Keep them reasonably snug as if they are too long they fall apart and get in the way and to short become uncomfortable if worn for any length of time.
Throw the coils now over your right shoulder
With your right hand grab the rope going to the second and pull it through the coils
You should now have a bite of rope that you can tie off around the rope going to the second with a stopper knot
Keep the loop small and tight, now clip it to the belay loop

Dynamic short roping (using two hands)

This is without doubt the strongest way to short rope, using two hands so that the arms are bent to absorb shocks.

Hold the coils in one hand and control the rope in the other.
Moving uphill, the rope to the second must come out of the bottom of the controlling downhill hand - a firm grip is created by kinking the rope with that hand

On easy broken ground you the leader, through good communication to the second & third climber and a clear initial briefing can, move back and forth keeping tension in the rope at all times, safe guarding the team by –
Allowing the rope to ‘pay’ out from the coils in his/her hand and controlled by the controlling downhill hand as you move uphill over small steps
The rope can then be shortened again by the controlling hand keeping tension at all times placing coils back into the hand holding them and then sliding the hand back down the rope keeping the rope snug and taking in rope again as required.

Increased security is also gained through a good solid stance with bent legs looking ahead and reading the terrain
Security can be increased again by using the terrain around you eg spikes and looping the rope around these features

As the ground steepens get the second to hold the rope around the spike safe guarding themselves and you can then run the rope out to the next feature and so on.

If in doubt run it out!

Remember you have all the coils around you chest to use if you need them

Having said that, try to keep the steps short to allow a good flow to your movement and purpose to the day

The less rope out the safer it is – less dynamic stretch in the rope making a slip easier to hold.
Running more than 4 arm spans out on a single person is when you should then be looking at the terrain around you, to work the rope around a spike or something – If the second or third person slips with too much rope out? then you have much more dynamic stretch introduced into the system & a slip is much harder to hold.

Other factors that you need to give thought to –
Is there 2 people on the rope and if so I may need to run it out on ground that I could move together on if I only had one person.
Even if I just have the 1 person – how heavy are they or how competent are they on their feet, the weather or conditions of the terrain I’m moving over?

All factors that you need to take into consideration when ‘short roping’

On descent –

On moderate broken ground where you can move together –

Keep the rope snug against the second with the controlling downhill hand – you can also use the snug rope to support yourself, giving you extra security and balance while you also move downhill.
Keep communicating to the second as to where he/she needs to go.
Don’t be afraid to work them one way and go another, working the terrain and creating natural features as security, also allowing you to see the way on and sometimes giving you an easier and safer passage down.
Any small steps wait for the second to step down by keeping a solid stance and letting the rope to run slowly through the controlling hand
Get the team to wait while you step down or to go slowly if the way on from there is just easy walking and it’s unlikely the team will slip and hence pull you off while you’re stepping down.
On steeper ground, get the team to be proactive and look for rock spikes etc to safeguard themselves while they wait and you down climb to them.
On longer sections where more rope is paid out or on steeper short sections, you will need to start working the rope around rock features as simple belays.
With a team of 2 you will need to start using simple belays a lot earlier.
As the ground steepens, the team becomes more tired, the ground becomes more exposed or/and difficult to judge & you the leader will need to protect each other more with belays, the second belaying you the leader down, lowering the team, you the leader abseiling.....

Remember -

Short roping has serious limitations and risks

You cannot manage the risk! – By the laws of physics..............You can only minimise the risk!

Account of the 1st ascent of the Matterhorn,

Only one man was moving at a time; when he was firmly planted the next man advanced..…Michael Croz stood below Hadow, placing the young climber's feet into the toeholds afforded by the sheer rock wall. Then, Hadow slipped and fell against Croz, knocking him off the cliff.

In another moment Hudson was dragged from his steps, and Lord F. Douglas immediately after him. All this was the work of a moment......

Scrambles Among the Alps. Edward Whymper. 1871.

Franz Rasp on the Watzman East Face

‘’.....Both climbers were found dead, hanging on a rock outcrop, the rope correctly tied for short-roping“...........One climber must have pulled the other one off.....Watzmann East Face....had climbed it almost 300 times.....was well known as a very careful guide.....If anyone was familiar with guiding techniques, including short-roping, then it was.....Franz Rasp, the president of the IFMGA”

January 1988

Stay safe this summer


Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Pavey Ark

Training hard most days down the Fly Cave & with the better weather as well, I've started running again & getting out on the bike which has been great. 

But today I headed up onto Pavey Ark which was also a good bit of exercise! 

The crags still very wet in places though & many of the routes will still take some time to dry out, due to the high amount of vegetation all over the crag. The vegetation above many of the corners, crack lines & grooves is still very saturated. But it's south east facing & catches plenty of sun which is great, so can see routes like Golden Slipper, which takes a line up the clean open wall above Jacks Rake drying out very quickly.

 Great views down to Stickle Tarn below Pavey Ark today, with Lake Windermere visible in the distance.

Nigel on 'Crescent Climb' on Pavey Ark, Langdale.

We headed up the easier Crescent Climb today, which is a great mountaineering style route. You climb the initial broken arete just right of Crescent Gully, which then leads to an exposed traverse above Crescent Slabs & then up to Jack's Rake & the base of Gwynne's Chimney, which was great fun.

Apart from an enjoyable climb, it gave us a chance to scope out some of the other routes & lines above Jack's Rake.

Pavey Ark today & some of the more Classic routes on Pavey Ark

1 Roundabout Direct VS
2 Golden Slipper HVS 
3 Gwynee's Chimney D
4 Aardvark E1
5 Stoats Crack HS
6 Mother Courage E4
7 Sixpence E6
8 Astra E2
9 Cascade Direct E3 
10 Easy Gully
11Crescent Slabs S
12 Capella E1
13 Cruel Sister E3
14 Arcturus E1

It's a great crag, the highest in Langdale & one of the biggest in the Lakes. It catches plenty of sun & has plenty of single/multi-pitch routes at all grades............Looking forward to getting back there when it dries out a little more.

PS sent the Black route in the Fly Cave yesterday.....7b+, so pretty stoked about that! 
The routes very fingery & about 22m long.......I went during the day yesterday but fell off it close to the end, so pretty fired up, I went back in the evening after I'd taken Monty to Beavers!! climbed it & then picked him up afterwards!

You've gotta love climbing!

Stay strong



Saturday, 13 April 2013

Fit to Rock!

Enjoying some time at home this last week, but stilling enjoying that warm glow you have after having been on a great trip - the Rockies never ceases to inspire me.

Weather here in the Lakes has been amazing, as up until last week we’ve had some great snow & ice conditions in many of the high mountain gulley’s, giving some great late season winter climbing. 
It feels very warm now though & much snow has now been stripped back, although it wouldn’t surprise me if there weren’t a few high gully routes still in condition!

I’ve been trying to keep up some finger strength throughout the winter & have tried to boulder at least once a week wherever I’ve been.

 Jacky's bouldering cave in Morzine

Jacky a good friend of mine who lives over in Morzine, has a great bouldering cave beneath his house……………a few friends helped him set it up & now it’s running like a co-operative & mates come & go when they like. There’s a great scene with everyone super keen throughout the winter working hard on the problems, inspired to get out when the weather warms. I tapped into it many times when I was working over that way, as the scene was really friendly, welcoming & relaxed…………I think they enjoyed sand bagging the British Guide over there working! Just wait till they come over to the UK!

There’s also a good small cave over in Leysin which I could do circuits on, keeping both some endurance & finger strength. 

You know what it’s like if you completely loose the specific muscle groups, it takes so much more time to get back to where you were before you took the time out. It’s a difficult & can be frustrating thing when guiding, keeping the specific muscle strength up in all the different disciplines eg staying rock climbing fit throughout the summer when your climbing big mountains each week – the wrong muscle groups are getting stronger & heavier!!
Mustn’t grumble though, I’ve had a fantastic winter icefall climbing this year.

The Fly Cave

So back down the Fly Cave all last week, shocking the body into remembering what its like rock climbing again & god I felt stiff, I’ve done more stretching this week than I think I ever done! or is that just my age now!
Ticking over throughout the winter has really helped though, as I’ve felt changes & results every day which is great. Not back 'on it' by a long stretch, but progress none the least & not as punished as I was on day 1 last week!
Very inspired with the change of weather & getting out rock climbing again………..already thinking about new rock routes here in the Lakes I’d like to climb.

Woody last summer enjoying 'Eulogy', Raven Crag, Langdale

Woody high on Eulogy last summer, Raven Crag, Langdale

Me on our new route last summer - 'The Firing Line', Raven Crag, Langdale 
 Inspired to get strong, especially if team Morzine come over for a week Trad climbing!!

Ps check out Adam Beyer at ..........& hook into one of his podcasts - 56mins of a great Techno sounds to train hard to!
Stay safe