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Topics - Tito

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Big Wall Forum / Daily Needs/Spare Rack Bag suggestions
« on: March 17, 2013, 01:01:20 pm »
Howdy all,
Getting ready to be in Yosemite for all of this coming June.  Most of my aid climbing has been done in the SE on routes that require at most an overnight bivy, so I haven't had to deal with the amount of water necessary to do an el cap route.  I did a quick pack the other day and realized it is probably cutting it pretty close to use just one haul bag.  I do have a second haul bag and have studied Hudon's system.  I have a couple of questions that I hope you all can help with.

1)  Recommended Daily Needs/Spare Rack Bag to be tethered?  (Is a Fish beef bag sufficient if it is on a tether?)
2)  Is it better to just use a second haul bag rather than a tethered daily needs/spare rack bag(s)?

My other question is in regards to the cord choice in Hudon's multiple haul bag system.  Hudon's system used double thin cord for docking and short side bag release/closure.

3)  Is there any real disadvantage to using a thicker single length of cord with a munter/mule?

Big Wall Forum / Touchstone Wall mandatory free climbing beta request.
« on: December 14, 2012, 08:31:18 am »
Howdy all,
I'm heading out to Zion between Xmas and New Years and I'm hoping to get on something weather permitting.  I was wondering if anyone might have insight into mandatory free climbing on Touchstone.  I'll be rope soloing with a SP and I'd just like to get my head around what free climbing is necessary versus what most folks do when climbing as a team.  I tend to be very cautious free climbing when soloing (ie. I'd rather avoid it if possible and stick to 5.7 and under if necessary).
Thanks in advance

Aid, though not in vogue, is an attractive style of climbing for me.  I started my climbing pretty late at age 33 and alpinism is my passion.   A couple of years into my obsession with climbing I found myself over a bulge with only two slings left, a few pieces on the rack, and another full traversing pitch to go to a ledge.  At the time I was filled with magazine ideas of style which require no weight to be placed on a piece.  I started down climbing and back-cleaning to a ledge I had climbed past.  Down-climbing the bulge I couldn?t find any decent feet and eventually my forearms pumped out and my hands slid off the quartzite horizontal that I had just cleaned a bomber green C4 from.   The fall was a long one since Dave, my belayer, couldn?t see me and there was slack in the line.  I ended upside down cracking my BD Tracer helmet in the process.   My definition of style changed that day.  I could have easily lowered and then tension traversed back over to a ledge.  Now my personal version of style primarily has connotations of self sufficiency, calm focused upward motion, and leave as little trace as possible ethics.  

Then there was my fist visit to Yosemite.  The basis of the trip was backpacking with my wife, brother, and sister in-law into Conness with a quick trip down to the Valley.  I only had time to climb one pitch on the last morning I was there, so I did Pine Line.  I felt pretty ridiculous when I looked up and thought to myself ?70? down only 2,930? to go?.   I?m not a gifted free climber, never have been able to free 10c, something about my lack of flexibility and having my foot shoulder high without jugs to yard on.   So I figured the only way up that giant stone for me was with aid.  Aid climbing has since served me well in the alpine, like when a buddy and I were off route and had to surmount a short overhanging section to tie into the middle of the Blackface on the Lower Exum in a snow storm. I?m lost a lot, but it is always in interesting places.  

I didn?t even get off the ground on my first trip to attempt Glass Menagaerie (GM).  It was February and raining.  Although the North Face of Looking Glass is overhanging, rain was undercutting the ice on top.  My wife, Ang, and I camped on the ancient moraine just downhill from the face and we listened to the ice crashing down all night right where you would have to belay from.  We went on a waterfall tour of Pisgah National Forest.

On my second attempt I ran into some fellow Big Wall Forum guys on GM.  Ang belayed me up the first pitch and I rope soloed the second pitch roof variation only to be stymied by the lack of a rope bag for belay management for a hanging belay, and to be honest a little insufficient psych.

On my third attempt in December 09 Dave was once again back with me in hopes of freeing the first .11c pitch on toprope and having a go at the .13 pitch too.  Little did he know how cold he would be belaying a north face in winter and the pain associated with trying to free climb in cold and shade.  At least this time I didn?t scare the hell out of him (he also belayed me when I took my first leader fall and hit the ground years ago).  I did let him struggle leading on the Nose Area eyebrows though in retribution and to shut him up about sport 11s.

It was November before I could attempt GM again.  This time I had a Fish Snake Charmer, more time, and better weather.  My plan was only haul the rope bag and to use just one rope until two were necessary.  The goal was to make it out through the roof and rap to the ground from there.  There are two more pitches above the roof but I?m not really hip on rope-solo free climbing entire pitches. Finding an aid climbing partner has been problematic.  Most people I know are inexperienced, incompatible, or not interested.  So I have resigned myself to rope soloing, which has its appeals.  

Ang and I drove in from FL arrived mid-afternoon and humped loads into the moraine at the base of the north face.  I don?t know how much my haul bag weighed but it was way more than I have ever carried on a five day alpine trip.  Next time I?ll carry the ropes and rack in a separate load.  Ang humped in another load and setup camp while I fixed the first pitch (she is afraid of heights).  

This was the first time that I had rope-soloed this pitch.   Although it was familiar terrain, the free climbing mantel after the 5.7R opening slab in approach shoes with tree detritus covering it put me in one of those positions where you say to yourself ?hopefully this works out okay?.  The other section that gave me pause is a second step hook move where you flag one leg way out and toe hook.  I?ve taken whips here previously and started to barndoor again but managed to down-climb, regroup and get the toe hook/body position right.   From there it?s a ladder over a bulge to three really rusty 60-70?s Leeper ?bolts? from which you transition up and right onto a ledge.  I groveled up this but forgot to use a hook on the last ?bolt? and found myself in a less than desirable position still attached to the bolt below.  Luckily there was a crack in the back base of the ledge that I could sink a few cams in and unscrew myself.  The cleaning and preparation for day two went smoothly after that.

That evening was the daylight saving time change, and although I set two alarms to get an alpine start I slept through both of them.  When I woke up it was full light.  I really don?t believe in doing a damn thing until after I have had my coffee, so it was 10:30 before I was set to lead out the second pitch.  Not exactly the alpine start I had planned on.   At this point all I wanted to do was cover some new terrain.

Last year there were three ?fixed? pieces on the roof traverse variation, these are all gone now.  Medium cam hooks and a talon help to get through this section, rate it what you feel like.   The sideways rap back to the first pitch belay went smoothly and it was noonish when I was ready for pitch 3.

Two times before I had looked at the opening moves to this pitch and couldn?t quite figure it out.   A high step on an anchor bolt into a high step on a cam hook, gently tapped to seat it, was the trick to clip the sling hanging off the bolt above.   Ah-hah! That is why the sling is there.  Up the bolts with a few TCU placements intermingled took me to point where I had to bust out the topo.  The route goes left from the top of the open-book to a small roof with jugs and plenty of placements to help the transition to the belay.   After rapping, cleaning, and reorganizing I let myself eat and enjoy the view of the surroundings in fall color.

The next pitch is up an overhanging, arching, chimney, water-groove, crack thing and it is awkward.  I started to free the first couple of moves only to find myself jammed up and not being able to reach the pro that I needed.  So I had to down-climb a few moves and then aid/thrash my way up, plugging away with HB?s, nuts, cam hooks, and TCU?s.  A good cam just before the belay ledge and one just above it help the mantle up onto the poster child belay of GM.  

4 PM, two hours of daylight left.  If I rap, clean, and haul I won?t be able to do the roof today.  It is pretty much fixed from here through the roof and I can see a quick- link out on the edge of the roof, the belay must be there.  When is the next time I?m going to be here?  Do I really want to do a 60 meter free hanging jug back up to this spot tomorrow?  I can make it before dark.

I set off through the roof scavenging every biner left on the rack to link the pitches.  I placed a couple of TCU?s between a lower out sling and the next real bolt.  There are a lot more of the Leeper ?bolts? with rusty spinning hangers and rivets partially pulled out between decent bolts.  I got to the quick-link and realized, oh, the route traverses waaayyyyy left to a water groove. At least it?s not overhanging anymore, better get moving.  More rusty Leepers leaving only a single biner every once in awhile since A; I don?t have many more and B; the fixed gear doesn?t look like it will take much of a fall anyway.  A piton with a lower out sling is the first decent piece in awhile but it?s followed by a RURP with a fraying cable hanger.  This looked terrible and you have to tension off of this to the left.  I carefully eased onto it and peaked around the corner.   Good there is a small horizontal crack. Buts it?s weird and the TCU I need is below me.  I get a too small TCU to stick and carefully ease on to it making certain not to shift around to the angle it won?t hold and blindly slam a #1 into the crack that was out of reach before.  Ahhhhhhhhh, feels good. I get a look at the cam and its bomber.  If I had known about this spot I would have brought a RURP with me, there is already one dead one there.

I rig the ropes, lose the rack, and slide down to the lower anchors out in space.  I?m not wasting any time being neat since I can sort it all out on the ground.  Things are going fine until I get to the second TCU I placed in the roof section.  I had girth hitched a sling to the TCU, to save the extra biner, and extended it making it very difficult to clean.  I thrashed around here for a bit half upside down, and then clipped into the nasty Leeper next to it so I could clean my pro.  In retrospect I should have just back cleaned this section, but it seems a long way down into free-hanging space if you fall.  After that everything goes smooth and dusk is settling in when I get to the anchors.  I throw the remains of the rack that I left at the station over my yard-sale rats nest and start my rap to the ground.  I tied a 70 m and a 60 m rope together because although it says 60 m on the guidebook topo I heard this gets you to trees.  My plan was to tie a knot in the 60 m side let it jam in my belay device and let the 70 feed through the chains to reach the ground.  Unfortunately, in my rush I rigged my autoblock on the below my belay device and I let this jam.  I could have self-rescued using a prusik to get the weight off my the autoblock but Ang showed up and just swung me into the trees letting me fix my snafu and finish the rap in the dark.

My hands were nearly useless that evening and I didn?t even have to really haul.  My hat is off to you cats that can do this stuff multiple days in a row.  

Am I fast enough?  I don?t think I can move faster than 1.75 hours per pitch to lead, rap, clean, haul, and rerack. What?s next?  I don?t know. My alpine climbing partner will be in France this summer.  Am I ready to try something in the big ditch?  I?m leery of the tyranny of success, GM is after all a C1/C2 route.  What I do know is that I had been pretty stressed out and this short solo helped put my headspace back together.

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