Author Topic: Teth?s First Aid Climb  (Read 4685 times)

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Offline Teth

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Teth?s First Aid Climb
« on: July 14, 2006, 04:30:26 am »
By way of introduction I am recycling a post I made on another forum. It is recent, relevant, and well written, so I hope you like it. Apologies to those who may have already seen this.

                                                          ***

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
I don?t trust fear, it lies to me!

Offline Teth

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« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2006, 04:39:24 am »
The events above took place on June 24th, 2006. After further research I realize that I should be using a clove hitch with a backup knot for belay. I have placed that order with Fish, and I have completed my Russian Aiders. I got a list of new stuff I want to buy, but I have a rule to discipline my spending which I am trying to stick to: ?For every day of climbing I may spend $100 on new gear.? This promotes doing rather than theorizing.

Teth
I don?t trust fear, it lies to me!

Offline deuce4

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« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2006, 06:29:59 am »
Nice going.  I guess it goes to show that aid climbing can still be useful, after all!

cheers
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Thanks for visiting the Big Walls Forum!!
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Offline Teth

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« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2006, 02:06:13 pm »
July15 2006, this morning I aid climbed a tree........Yes, I am getting desperate! All the inland crags are currently being guarded by all manner of bighting insect. It was a wet spring, and up until now it has been a wet summer. So, all the rain is extending the bug season and any sane climber is heading for the coast. Unfortunately I do not have a boat, which is a problem since the five coastal crags are all accessible only by boat.

Wanting to test out my system on some granite, and having few alternatives, I convinced my wife that we should go bouldering at Pollys Cove, an amphitheatre of highball boulder problems with the ocean lapping at its edge. The plan was for her to boulder while I aid soloed a 20 foot crack and a 25 foot well featured face. So we both took Friday off work and did the twenty minute hike into Pollys Cove with me carrying 60 pounds of aid gear, and my wife complaining about how heavy her bouldering pad was.

Unfortunately it was not meant to be. When we descended into the amphitheatre we found four adults and at least eight wild kits had invaded our secluded hideaway, sitting under the 25 foot face, with their cooler stashed at the bast of the 20 foot crack. When we stopped to consider the situation we were suddenly beset by a swarm of horse flies. These buggers are big! Big enough apparently to resist the light sea breeze. They are twice the size of your average house fly, and they BITE!, like being swarmed by flying parana. Now, my wife is one of those people who seems to attract every biting insect within a five mile radius, and gets big swelling lumps wherever she is bitten, so this was shaping up to be an untenable situation. Seeing the staging area for that sweet granite crack so annoyingly occupied, and my wife running around flailing her arms to fend off her fiendish attackers, I began to get the sinking feeling that there would be no climbing on this trip. Then my dog started to throw up and her legs went all wobbly. So, we did the twenty minute hike out, me carrying 60 ponds of aid gear and a 15 pound dog, and my wife complaining about how heavy her bouldering pad was.

This all brings us back to this morning and me aid climbing a tree in the back yard. It wasn?t granite, and would not give me any practice with my placement, but it was a way to workout and practice the rest of my system, including belaying with a clove hitch. I tied the rope to the base of the tree with a modified prussic, climbed up 25 feet (a whole lot of girth hitching), set an anchor, repelled down, switched to an ascending setup, untied the rope from the base of the tree (while still suspended), and cleaned while ascending. When I got back to the top I anchored in, pulled the rope up and looped it over a branch, switched back to repel on the rope, dismantled my anchor, repelled down, and haled down my rope. My wife said it took about three hours, but I felt it went fairly well, and I did not encounter any major flaws in my system. I do need to make myself a chest harness (big wall rack) as I was just using a long sling with a twist at the back and clipped in the front with a biner, and this was of course exceedingly uncomfortable.

Since I made it out to a crag (sort of) on Friday, and managed to climb today (although a tree barely counts), I have decided I am justified in spending another $100 on gear. This will include various lengths and sizes of webbing to make a big wall rack, some more biners, and two hooks to experiment with when the flies back off and let me get to a cliff.

Teth Cleveland


 [tangent] The weather in Nova Scotia has been really messed up this year. Winter never really took hold, so our three month ice climbing season was reduced to three days of climbable ice.  Then winter left a month early and spring started a month late, so that April and May were worm and dry (totally out of character). I whish I had gotten into Aid then, but I did get in a trad lead, and did my first sport lead, so it was not all wasted. When spring did hit, it hit hard and was determined to stick around. This is only the second sunny/dry weekend we have had since early May. [/tangent]
I don?t trust fear, it lies to me!

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« Reply #4 on: July 16, 2006, 12:03:00 pm »
Nice post and way to stick with it! I think I may have to adopt that $100.00 for gear per day of climbing.

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« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2006, 10:05:56 am »
July 20, 2006. I took another vacation day and managed to hookup with Ben Smith for a day at a local crag called Sorrows End. Ben is the kid that took over the President?s position at Climb Nova Scotia when my term was up in the spring. He is the oldest of the climbing Smiths, the best of the new generation of climbers in Nova Scotia. Ben?s younger bother Nathan also tagged along. At 13 Nathan would have been my first choice for a belayer, out of all the climbers I knew, even if he did have to be tied down. Now at 16 Nate has a little more weight for the belay, and still has that calm levelheaded assurance which has earned him the respect of climbers more than twice his age. They also have a sister who is no slouch when it comes to climbing either, but she did not accompany us this day.

It was hot and sunny with barely a breeze. On the hike to the crag Ben and Nate set a brisk pace and I tried to keep up, huffing and gasping allonge behind them. I tried to tell myself that it was not that I was getting old, I was having trouble keeping the pace because I had a full kit on my back including both rope and rack, while the Smiths had split their rope and rack between them. It was a good rationalization, but I was not quite sure if I believed it.

Sorrows End is a 60 foot cliff at the edge of a lake with a staging area formed from huge slices of the cliff which have peeled off and now lay on their side like a haphazard pile of sliced bread. There is little but lakes, swamp and exposed granite outcrops between Sorrows End and the sea, so it often has a sea breeze to discourage the bugs. We approached from the back and repelled in.

As we started to setup I got a closer look at the Smith brother?s rack. It was an eclectic collection of pieces given to the boys by several old timer trad climbers, with much of the gear being older than the boys themselves. I noted several forged friends, and two or three other models of cam which I could not identify. The fact that the double set of nuts the boys had found on sale at the local MEC were well warren enough not to stand out in this collection spoke well of the milage these boys had put in on the rock in the few years they had been climbing.

The plan had been for me to do some time as belay slave in exchange for the ride, but the brothers teamed up to tackle a 5.12c sport rout, so I got ready to tackle my first aid pitch. I chose See With Joy, a 5.8 route which had also been my first Trad climb several years earlier. I remembered it as having almost continuos quality placements all the way up. See With Joy is shown in the bottom photo at http://www.novascotiaclimb.com/ph_s_end.html .

I was psyched to climb my first aid pitch, as I felt that the 14 feet I had previously climbed in the rain, while maybe in the spirit of aid, was not long enough to count as my first pitch. I had brought extra cord to construct an upward pull anchor and a bungee cord to maintain upward tension so none of my pieces would fall out, but this did not tern out to be necessary. I ended up anchoring off of several slings tied around a large boulder at the base of the route. I felt kind of wiggy for the first few moves until I got used to it. It helped when I reminded myself that although it was not acceptable to pull on gear while trad climbing, there was nothing wrong with grabbing the rock to steady myself while aid climbing.

My Russian aiders worked great, although the loops on the aid trees I had made out of 6mm cord had a tendency to close up a bit or flip over in the wrong direction even with the plastic tubbing I had threaded onto them to keep them open. I was only able to hook the aiders into the loops unassisted about a third of the time. The rest of the time I had to reach down and reposition the loop to hook it, so I am really looking forward to getting my Fish aid trees. I would have described the route as vertical, but it may have been slightly less than vertical as I only bothered to clip myself in at the chest a few times when I was pulling slack through my backup clove hitch or taking a drink of water. The rest of the time I was only attached by the hooks just below my knees.

I decided I should try a high step, so I climbed up my aid tree and hooked my Russian aider directly into the biner clipped into the cam and stood up. Easy, even for a n00b starting his first aid pitch. I suppose I could have got two extra inches by hooking the webbing of the cam itself, but this was enough to make me happy. I probably should have done this more, but with so many good placements I was not really pressed to do so. I ended up back cleaning every second placement and still had the rope clipped to bomber pieces more frequently than was probably necessary.

At about 20 feet I was climbing out of my comfort zone and my fear of heights began to exert itself. I started getting the zoom in effect where the 6mm cord I was supported by began to look like 3mm and the bomber nut placement suddenly did not seem trustworthy. I stopped and ran through the tick list with the logical part of my mind until it was satisfied that each component of the system was safe, and then I pushed on through the fear. While a healthy respect for heights and the dangers of gravity are a good thing, irrational fear is just a pain in the ass. I find it exceedingly annoying, as it impacts on my enjoyment of the experience. After another five or ten feed of climbing I seemed to climb up out of the fear like an aeroplane rising out of the cloud layer. Ironically the piece I was on was not nearly so bomber as the one I had been on earlier, yet I felt way more comfortable. I took a moment to look around and enjoy the scenery.

I had saved a large hex specifically for where the crack ran up through a large flake near the top. Since the placements were getting a little sparse for the pieces I had left on my rack, I decided to do my signature dynamic hex placement. Once I got close enough, I clipped a long sling to the sling on the hex and then lobbed the hex at the point were the crack split the flake. I maintained a hold on the sling incase I missed. Although the first time I had tried this manoeuver on another 5.8 trad route I had got it on the second try, this time I was having trouble getting my range right. I then realized that I had to through the biner and the hex together to eliminate the drag of the biner. With this method I got the placement on the third toss. Unfortunately the stitched portion of the hex sling got stuck as I pulled the webbing down through the crack. Next time I will have to make sure the stitched portion is nearer to the end of the sling. I ended up  effectively weighting a webbing stopper rather than the hex. I climbed my aid tree as smoothly as possible as I would experience a very disconcerting 6 inch fall if the stitched portion of the sling slipped through. I knew my hex was bomber, but I was worried that I might not get its sling out if I weighted it too much.

Although I have climbed this route on trad lead three times I have never actually completed the last 5 feet of elevation to the top. At about 50 feet you get to these large in-cut flakes where I had placed my hex, right below a featureless bulge. This is a convenient place to do an arm jam and stop to rest. You get here and look to the right where the route traverses about six feet to avoid the featureless bulge and then ascends diagonally back left above it with questionable looking gear placements which you can?t really see due to the bulge. Then you look to your left and see an easy three foot travers to the shiny stainless steel rap anchors for the sport route which follows the face left of See With Joy. Usually when I get to this point I am pumped and the top-out looks like the hardest par to the route, so I have always just repelled off the rap anchors. This time being pumped did not seem to be an issue, although one of my tendons had swollen and would not fit through the sheath in my wrist so that my middle finger would not straighten. I guess I may have been a little too fervent about grasping the rock to steadying myself when I was climbing through the fear. The rest of my fingers were working fine though. I was a little wigged out that I could not discern from that angle how these flakes were attached to the rock, but they were not moving and thus were likely secure. In the end it came down to having very few biners left and probably not enough gear to finish the rout. I had not yet received the biners and hooks that I recently ordered from MEC. I probably could have gotten inventive, such as slinging the flake, but with those tempting rap rings so close I just was not motivated to do so.

As it turned out the brothers Smith had to get back to town by 2:00pm, so it was just as well that I chose the shortcut. By the time I had rapped down, cleaning my pieces on repel, and packed up my gear we were a little pressed for time. I took the lead on the hike out and set as brisk a pace as I could manage, to show that I was not really that old after all. Since most of the hike out was down hill, gravity was on my side this time. We were still a bit late getting to the city, and Ben had to return his mother?s van before she got off work, so rather than getting a lift home I had to hike across town, making for a day?s total of over an hour of brisk hiking with a 60 pound pack. If I do that a couple more times those young guys will have a hard time keeping up with me!

Teth Cleveland, Halifax, Nova Scotia
I don?t trust fear, it lies to me!

Offline caribouman

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« Reply #6 on: July 22, 2006, 08:08:13 am »
Teth,
just a thought here... in my first few pitches of aid, I blew a poorly set brass nut.  Given the arc of the flake it pulled from, it had as much outward speed as downward.  It put a dandy slash in my left ear on the way past.  At that moment I learned two things (which you may already know):  1) I don't look at the piece as test it, I lean my head down so my helmet will take the hit and 2) I wear safety glasses, just in case the piece pulls while I'm in the middle of setting the next one.  The helmet might pay as well if you take a ground fall, which, given the heights you have available, is a possibility.  I don't know exactly what NS sea cliffs are like, but the Southern Maine sea cliffs and boulders tend to have nasty landings.  I'll toss something else out there (again, WYMAK):  Be careful in quarries- dynamiting shatters rock meters below the surface.  This makes for all kinds of loose, expando flakes, which is great for learning but remember that loose expando stuff is all around you, and above you.
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« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2006, 12:41:12 pm »
Good points. I had read recently about the importance of looking away when bounce testing. There is a resent post on my area?s local forum providing an illustrative example of why it is important to ware safety glasses:

http://www.climbeasterncanada.com/viewtopic.php?t=1662

Also, a friend of mine just took a nasty ledge fall and fractured her skull, which suggests what might have happened if she had not been waring a helmet:

http://www.rockclimbing.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=116793&postdays=0&postorder=asc&topic_view=&start=0

I always ware a helmet when leading, belaying a leader, or climbing in any situation where rock or ice fall is likely. I was warring cheap sunglasses on the climb mentioned above, but I may look into getting something made for eye protection. I am not sure how effective cheap sunglasses are for this purpose?

Teth
I don?t trust fear, it lies to me!

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« Reply #8 on: August 08, 2006, 08:36:38 am »
New Stuff Arrives:

I finally received my Russian aid trees from Fish. Thanks Russ! I had not specified a colour preference so my trees turned out to be an army green with one tree having black webbing branches and the other having dark green branches. This drab colour arrangement looks very Soviet to me, which I find very appropriate for part of the Russian aid system.

I had to make some adjustments to my Russian Aiders now that I had a proper set of aid trees. The aid trees I had made out of cord had loops which tended to flare out horizontally so that I could often hook them from above. The titanium rings on the new trees hang vertically so that the hook has to be pushed through the ring before moving down to hook. So I had to straighten my hooks a bit so that they point slightly forward. I also filed them into more of a point to make it easier to slide the hook into the ring when the ring is partially blocked by hanging webbing and such. If I was designing hooks for Russian Aiders I would put a forward bent flare right at the tip of the hook so that it could easily be pushed through the vertically hanging loop, and once through, the climber would just have to press down to drive the hook home into the ring. This would make for much easier hands free operation.

I also received a bunch of stuff I had ordered from MEC. This included some biners, some hooks (BD Cliffhanger, and Leeper narrow cam hook), and various types of webbing and cord to make a bigwall rack with. When I aid climbed my first route I was using a Metolius Multi-Loop Gear Sling which had worked quite well for me when trad climbing, however when aiding I found that my nuts kept getting tangled in my belay knot and I could not really see what I was doing. I had to move everything off the centre two gear loops to keep the CF factor down. So with the new assorted bits and another week of sewing I made myself a big wall rack which should make things a whole lot easier.

Hooking Practice:

My wife wanted to go bouldering and I felt I needed to get some practice in with my new hooks, so I brought them along for some aid bouldering. We went to the bouldering area at Crystal Crescent, which is located just a little ways past an (illegal) nude beach. Now I am not sure what the French Riviera is like, but this beach attracts mostly gay men and fat people. Usually they confine themselves to the beach, but not always.

I started with my BD cliffhanger hook, which I had filed down so that the blunt point was only a quarter of its original blunt width. Three out of my first five placements blew out, but after that I started to get an idea of its limitations and only had a couple of blowouts after that. In one case I watched the micro cracks forming in a large feldspar crystal just before it blew apart. Since I was using a crash pad I had not thought a helmet would be necessary but I quickly decided that this had been a miscalculation. I had brought goggles, which I think was a very good idea.

After fooling around with the cliff hanger for a while I decided to experiment with the cam hook. There were no vertical cracks in the area, but I did get two good cam placements in a vertical seam. They felt very secure. I then discovered that a Leeper cam hook can be used just like a regular hook to hook ledges. I had never run across any mention of a cam hook being used in this manner, but it seemed to work quite well. I then put an aid tree on each hook and started moving around on a series of flakes and ledges on the side of a boulder. I am starting to think the Leeper cam hook will be more useful to me than the cliff hanger as I can use it to hook the bottom of horizontal finger cracks, where the cliff hanger won?t fit due to its high arched hook.  The next hook I get will likely be the Leeper wide cam hook, but after that maybe I will try the Leeper Logan hook, as it does not seem to have the high arch of the BD cliffhanger and might therefore be more versatile.

I did not get quite as much hooking practice as I would have liked, as the sounds of men cavorting in the forest was starting to get annoying, so my wife and I packed up and left a bit earlier than we otherwise would have. Still, it was a good day out. Now, I am looking for an opportunity to get out to a cliff again and try my new stuff on rope.

Teth
I don?t trust fear, it lies to me!

Offline caribouman

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« Reply #9 on: August 25, 2006, 09:06:30 pm »
Hey Teth,
  Been a while since I checked in... fun of you to notice the colors of the aiders.  About safety glasses:  I've always rather liked the polycarbonate lenses and nylon frames because they are light weight (inducing me to wear them more), they tend to deform without breaking when hit (I once popped a lens back in after it had been popped out), and not having any metal edges, don't cut but merely bruise.  Those were honest-to-God glacier glasses ($50 from REI), but if I'm at work or aid-bouldering:
  $6 US at the local welding supply shop and another dollar or two for what I call "idiot cords", those cords that clip onto the earbows that all mythical librarians seem to use.   I suggest a welding supply shop because they seem to have the broadest selection of frame styles and lense which gives the best chance of a decent fit.   I stress the idiot cords because I've found that I wear my glasses constantly if I can find them, and they're easy to find when they're tied to me.  Also, get a zippered eyeglass holder from some outdoor outfit (REI, MEI, Campmor) and stitch it about arm-pit height on one of the straps of your favorite crag pack.  It's rare that anyone steps on another person's pack and the holder makes for a constant "racking" location.  
  Final note  and subtle safety comment:  It's not "look away" when testing , unless by "look away" you mean look and tilt your head down.  If you turn your head to the side a bit you can still get hit in the eye from the side.  If you really crank your head to the side, your ear becomes the target. But if yer like me an' ya' tilt yer head down, makin' yer noggin' the target, why no harm can come to ya':  Yer helmet/ watchcap/ boilerplate skull makes up most of the target ,and the protruding Neanderthal-like brow ridge keeps sneaky bits of brass from coming in over 'top of yer safety glasses.  Hey, have fun, be safe & try to get home in one piece.
 Caribouman
when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

Offline Teth

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« Reply #10 on: September 06, 2006, 08:53:03 am »
I attended Doverfest over the August 26/27 weekend. Doverfest was a scaled down version of Boulderfest, with no BBQ, no keg, and thankfully no rain (which was the point really). You will see in my Boulderfest trip report above that the boulderers did not get much climbing in the first time around. For my part, I was back and better equipped with the intention of spending the whole weekend aid climbing. My goal was to climb a minimum of three routes and to get acclimatised to height again. So once my tent was setup I got to it with the comfort of knowing that my adjustable fifi hook was in the mail, and figuring that by the end of the day I would have a clear understanding of why I needed one.

My weekend was successful on all fronts. By the third climb of the day I was getting more concerned about decking and feeling much more comfortable as I got higher up and reduced decking potential. This indicated that my subconscious was starting to adjust to the realities of climbing again and that I would not have to fight through any more irrational fears and could really start enjoying the experience again. This was the first time I had been properly acclimatized to height since the ice climbing season of 2002. The consequence of spending too much time bouldering and not enough time on the sharp end of a rope. I also came to appreciate the importance of an adjustable fifi, namely due to the fact that I did not have one and climbed four routes using old fashion daisies and an assortment of quickdraws and other biners which of course proved to be slow, strenuous, and exhibited high CF potential.

I started the day with a 5.9 splitter crack on the coastal cliff as the tide seemed to be going down. My upwards pull anchor consisted of webbing rapped around a massive boulder (a technique I was able to employ on all the routes that weekend) and I flaked out the rope on a ledge to keep it from falling into the sea water which was still swishing in beneath the rocks at the base. I bouldered up to put in my first piece to keep my rope out of the water, then backed off to the ledge to get my belay knots setup. The climb was fairly straight forward taking mostly cams and hexes. At one point one of the titanium rings of my aid tree got into the crack, turned perpendicular to it, and preceded to become an upwards pull stopper. I had to climb back down and knock the side of the ring with my nut tool until it changed orientation enough to come loose. By the time I got to the top I was running out of larger gear so that instead of topping out I had to setup an anchor at my last piece just before the top in order to have three pieces in my anchor setup. After I had repelled down and ascended back up cleaning my gear I was able to use some of the recovered gear to setup a second anchor at the top in order to clean my main anchor. After cleaning on assent with one micro ascender and a prussic knot I have decided my next purchase should be either a grigri or another ascender.

The first climb had gone fairly well, and the tide had continued to go down, so I then hopped on a 5.7 a little closer to the sea. This climb took more of a variety of gear with everything from small nuts to my largest cam. It also offered enough placements down low to minimize ground fall potential, and helped a lot both to perfect my system and get used to the height, not that any of these climbs were very high. My aid tree became a stopper again when I topped out and tried to pull it up. This time I decided to clean on repel, but had to switch back to ascenders in order to get my aid tree loose. The ring was wedged in so far that I had to get in just the right position and then hold my nut tool with the tips of two fingers while shoving my arm into the crack past my elbow in order to hook it on the vagrant ring. Once I had it hooked I was able to pull one side of the ring with a sling attached to the nut tool until the ring came loose. I was starting to wish I had a cheater stick, just to get at the thing.

After lunch I offered to belay for a trad climbing friend who just got back from climbing for a year in France and Spain, but he felt it was too hot to climb and was enjoying a siesta. So I put on more sun screen and headed for a nice crack which had good placements down low and much sparser placements near the top. By this time I had my system a little more wired and made fairly good time up the first part of the route. When I got to the last easy placement I clipped a quickdraw from the piece to my belay loop so that I could sit back and ponder the situation. I had been clipping myself in via my rack as this was enough to keep me from falling over backwards and it was easier to see and control the CF factor of using standard daisies and quickdraws. However, once I clipped in at my harness I discovered it was much more comfortable. Sitting in relative comfort I was able to ponder the situation and discover a very nice #2 nut placement which pumped out trad climbers tend to overlook.  Moving up on that piece I discovered another placement just where I needed it, and began to think that this was what aid climbing was all about! Then when I was reaching up to clip my daisy into the piece I found I could not straighten one of my fingers. I have had this happen before. The first time was at the end of an all day bouldering competition while climbing a problem in the finals. On that occasion I hooked my finger on a hold and pulled until it straightened with a loud POP which apparently made the crowd feel rather queasy. In the end I was too pumped to hang the last hold for the required three seconds and came in second in the comp. (Later that night I broke my arm in a crazy dino accident, but that is another story which spirals off into love, intrigue, and real-estate, so lets get back to the aid climbing at Doverfest...) So there I am trying to clip my daisy and my finger won?t straighten, so I am starting to feel like a bit of a gimp. What was happening is that after several hours of strenuous use my tendons running from my arm to my fingers had swollen up so they would not fit through the sheaths in my wrist. So I had to get comfortable and wait a few minutes until the swelling went down enough for my finger to straighten. Unfortunately all my tendons seemed to be in bad shape, requiring me to rest multiple times with as many as three fingers at a time gimped up. It even started happening to my thumbs. While bending my arms to get something off my rack my fingers would gimp up and I would have to pass the item to my other hand to place, then wait for the tendons to relax and repeat. It took an hour to climb five feet to a ledge where I collapsed and rested for a good ten minutes before continuing with easy moves to the top. I then setup an anchor, cleaned the route on repel, and went to make supper. I later looked the route up in the guide book and discovered it was rated 5.11b, which makes it the first route I have aid climbed which was above my current free climbing ability.

Later that night, around 11:00pm, the current president of Climb Nova Scotia, Ben Smith, was climbing a crack called ?Chewy?, a 5.10 named for how it treats your hands. Although Ben can normally climb well above 5.10, this route spanked him and his trad lead quickly became a french free, and then he backed off when the cam he was placing became inverted and he was too pumped to fix it. After a rest he intended to go back up for the cam, so I suggested that since he was French freeing already, that he might as well aid it. I lent him my Russian aiders, which were a bit small for him, and explained some of the basic principles. I did not bother giving him any daisy chains, as I did not want to over complicate matters and he was a good strong lad. I know, that was cruel. Needless to say, it was epic, and he was thrashed by the end of it. He said after that he could not believe that I enjoyed that shit, so I explained that I cheat, but felt that trying to teach him all the tricks at once would have likely lead to an even larger cluster than he had managed without the use of daisies, and his CF had been impressive as it was.

The next morning I felt like I had been beaten with a stick, but I decided to see if I could climb ?Chewy? in a more elegant style than Ben had the night before. Ben was asleep by the camp fire, but woke up while I was racking and offered a belay, which I gladly accepted figuring it would make the climb go faster. I found that the thing which slowed me down the most on the climb was messing with the standard daisies, and I kept envisioning how much fast it would be with an adjustable fifi. After I had topped out and anchored in, Ben offered to second the route. My first thought was that he would have a tough time seconding an aid climb, but then I realized I had mostly used cams, so I said to go ahead. A great deal of hang-dogging ensued, calumniating in Ben finding that I had left my aid tree clipped to the last piece and it had once again worked its way into a crack and decided that it wanted to be a stopper rather than an aider. Those aid trees have a serious identity crisis. After much climbing up, lowering down, fiddling and cursing Ben finally got it loose and topped out.

After ?Chewy? I decided that I was too thrashed to climb any more. I packed my gear, broke camp, and sat back to wait for the boat. All in all it was a great weekend and I felt much more confident that I knew what I was doing, or at least what I was doing wrong.

After I got home I fashioned a long hook tool out of a coat hanger, which I stiffened by clamping on another piece of coat hanger wire, so that I could reach deep into cracks and snag those pesky aid tree rings. It is likely though that this would not be a problem when climbing thinner cracks, and it was just a coincidence of local geology that so many of the cracks on Dover Island are just the right size to snag those rings.

Teth Cleveland
I don?t trust fear, it lies to me!

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Teth?s First Aid Climb
« Reply #11 on: October 04, 2006, 01:17:09 pm »
Route Cleaning Day, Main Face, Paces Lake, Nova Scotia, September 30, 2006.

Main Face, although the largest cliff in the area, had seen little traffic in the last couple of years and some of the classic lines from the 80's and early 90's had accumulated a considerable amount of dirt and vegetation. The idea was to try to get a bunch of climbers out to devote a day to cleaning and make some of these classic lines fit for climbing again.

The day got off to an auspicious start as four grungy climbers met at the designated car pool area next to the old power plant, now a movie studio, in downtown Halifax. As the designated meeting time came and went it became obvious that the climbers with cars had all gone straight to the cliff. After some discussion Peter suggested that if we could make it to the North End we could use his car, once his wife returned from running some errands.

So we headed into town looking for a bus. While wondering around an urban centre dressed and packed for climbing, it was easy to realize where the term climbing bum came from. As if to dive this point home, a man stopped and gave us unsolicited directions to the nearest hostel.

After catching a bus across town, and hiking a couple blocks, we sat around on Peter?s back deck and waited for his wife to get home with the car. That did not take long, and we were soon on the road, having only lost about an hour and fifteen minutes. Sean K and Steve?s vehicles were at the parking spot, but I did not see them as I went straight to the South Buttress, and they were apparently already occupied elsewhere on the cliff. Rich headed off to the North Buttress to clean ?Directline? [5.8, FA in 1978]. Peter and Nate accompanied me to the South Buttress with Nate roping up to repel ?The Abyss? [5.10a, FA in 1992] and Peter setting up to clean ?Dr. Jekyl & Mr. Hyde? [5.8, FA in1982]. Peter got sidetracked though and ended up cleaning an alternative (probably superior) ending to Dr. J & Mr H which, with some more cleaning at the bottom, could develop into a completely new, and very promising, route.

While the guys worked on their anchors at the top I walked around the south side of the cliff to gain the base. It was my intention to clean ?Don?t Let Go? [5.10d, FA in1987] from the bottom up while on solo aid lead. Admittedly there were a few flaws with this plan. For one thing, the dirt I scrubbed off would tend to fall down on the section of the route I had already cleaned. The second problem was that the route shared a start with ?The Abyss? so that all the dirt Nate scrubbed off would also fall on the section I had already cleaned. These would not have been big issues on a vertical wall, but after a short overhanging section these routes crossed a slab before separating on the steeper face. Everything dropping from above tended to accumulate in the cracks running across the slab. I did manage to get the moss, grass, and shrubbery out of the cracks, before they got refilled with loose debris. Hopefully most of the loose dirt will wash away in the next rain.

I was working on my upwards pull anchor ? consisting of my pack filled with rocks for a dynamic belay, backed up with two cams and a piece of webbing run out to the nearest tree ? when I heard Nate?s frantic voice yel out ?rock!?. I quickly ducked under the overhanging start of the route. With a very emphatic ?thunk? the tennis ball sized rock landed about six inches from where I had been standing. I was surprised that I had so much time to react between the warning and the impact. I guess it takes a while for a rock to fall 88 feet. This brought to light another flaw in the plan, which I was continuously reminded of throughout the day by the pinging sound of small crystals bouncing off my helmet. Thankfully Nate managed to avoid knocking off any more rocks, and the few he did remove he was able to throw outwards clear of my position.

Early in the day, after much yelling to make sure the area was free of innocent bystanders, Peter cleared a tombstone sized death-trap rock perched precariously high on the cliff. The rock exploded when it hit the slab at the base and sprayed out into the forest at the base of the cliff. One piece of rock took a good sizes limb cleanly off a spruce tree. Another piece of rock hit a dead tree which exploded on impact. The sound of the impact was a little unnerving for someone who spends a lot of time around cliff faces. It was all very dramatic, particularly when some of the pieces seemed to come much closer to my position than I had expected.

All worries of rock fall aside, I had a great time grubbing my way up the rock. By noon I had my anchor setup and managed to get off the ground using a number 2 RP nut. I have had this tiny (4 mm) brass nut for five years and never used it, but had just bought the number 3, 4, and 5 RP nuts thinking that I might use them now that I was getting into aid climbing. This route seemed to just gobble these little nuts. I used each of these RP nuts two or three times as I repeatedly back cleaned and reused them. Many of the cracks appeared to be in the inch to two inch rang until I scrubbed the dirt out to discover a thin RP placement at the back of a sharply flaring well weathered crack. I used various other nuts and cams but most of these placements seeming a bit sketchy while most of my bomber placements involved the RP?s. I also found these little nuts to be easy to clean as well, as I would just place the nut tool at the base of the little brass head and give the tool a firm tap with the palm of my hand to pop the little nut loose. It might be a different story if someone took a wiper on one though.

At about three in the afternoon I setup an anchor using two RP nuts and a sketchy cam, and repelled down for a lunch break. After having a quick snack and cleaned the rocks and debris out of my shoes, I started to ascend the line back up to my high point, cleaning all the lower gear as I went. Some of the pieces on the slab were completely buried in loos dirt and I had to excavate around the pieces before I could use my nut tool to free them. When I reached my high point I switched back to solo lead configuration, clipping two of my anchor pieces and removing the third as I dismantled my anchor. While I was doing this Nate repelled to the base and left to walk around top where he had left his pack and his lunch. Before he left I asked him if I could use his rope to back off and clean my gear when I was done. I also said I might be able to clean the gear he had used to redirect his rope near the top. Shortly after Nate left Peter strolled by and said he was going to go have a dunk in the lake to wash off the dust. I got the feeling people were starting to rap things up, so at 4:30, after cleaning another six feet above my previous high point, I decided that I had better start packing up. I snagged Nate?s rope and switched to repel, then cleaned my gear on the way down.

It took a while to get the dirt off my equipment and get the rope put away. Peter came by and said he was going to go climb something unless I had to get home immediately. I said it would take me at least another hour to get things sorted out and ready to go, particularly since I still planned to clean Nate?s gear by ascending his rope, and I figured that might take a while. My plan was to ascend with all my heavy gear and then leave most of it at the top to make my pack lighter on the hike to the top later.

After Peter left I setup for ascending one end of Nate?s rope, after tying the other end to a tree. I was not certain, but I suspected that the rope was not fixed and simply slung around a tree at the top. This configuration would have allowed Nate to pull his rope from the ground if it was not for the nuts he had placed to redirect the rope along the route he was cleaning. It took three jugs of the line before I overcame rope stretch and actually got off the ground. It went smoothly until I reached about 50 feet and started to wig out a little. My fear of heights had kicked in big time by the time I got to 60 feet and came to a ledge big enough to sit down on. Now the idea of trying to clean Nate?s gear on ascent seemed quite intimidating. I sat down on the ledge and considered moving my backup prussic to the other line, but finely rejected that idea since I did not think the lines were independently fixed, so if the rope broke it would not matter which side I was attached to. At that moment I really wanted to just repel down, go home, and never climb again, but I knew that was just irrational fear talking, and I was loath to give in to it. I gave myself a firm talking to and made myself go on.

Soon I reached the first piece. It was a large nut and the ropes were redirected at the biner, while pulling flat against a sloping rail. The whole setup was under tension and there was going to be no way to unclip the rope while my weight was still on it. I could reach a horn well over my head but could not find any good footholds (I was not exactly in a free climbing state of mind). I was not able to get enough wight off the rope with one hand on the horn to unclip the biner, so I concluded that I would have to do it using proper aid cleaning procedures. This required removing the top ascender from the rope and then reattaching it to the rope above the piece so that I could transfer my weight to the top ascender leaving enough slack at the biner to unclip the rope. This proved to be a difficult task to perform with the Petzl Microcender I was using. A regular ascender is likely more suited to this task. I unclipped the microcender from its daisy so that I did not have to perform the whole operation with my knees held up to my chin. In retrospect I should have anchored it to my harness with another daisy incase I dropped it, but I guess I need to hone my ?always have everything attached at all times? instinct. I still very much wanted to be somewhere else, anywhere else, at that moment, but I think this mistake was due to inexperience rather than fear.

I had a bit of difficulty reattaching the microcender, and once it was attached I found it did not work. On closer examination I realized that I had managed to get the wire ? which keeps the cam attached to the body of the ascender ?  raped around behind the cam which prevented it from pinning the rope. I then attempted to disassemble the ascender again, but everything was torqued tight. As I continued to work at it I became increasingly more forceful as my fear of the height began to be replaced by frustration at the obstinate piece of equipment. Finally I applied enough pressure that the microcender popped open. Unfortunately it also popped off the rope and went sailing into space. From the sound of its decent it seemed to have hit the cliff below me only a glancing blow before sailing out to a soft landing on the forest floor, thankfully missing a solid impact on the slab below.

I probably should have continued in my attempt to clean the gear using a prussic, but the placements looked like they would be much easier to clean by repelling from above. Since I was no longer optimally equipped, and I clearly needed more practice before I would be proficient at cleaning on ascent, I could no longer come up with a strong enough argument for continuing, and finally succumb to my gnawing desirer to reduce my altitude. As I repelled down I was increasingly relived as I got closer to the ground, yet disappointed that I had not accomplished my objective. I consoled myself with the fact that I had faced my fear enough to get up off that ledge and ascended another ten feet to the first piece and actually attempted to do the job I was there for.

I have since decided that I need to go back and clean the rest of ?Don?t Let Go? on repel in order to face my fear and acclimatise to the greater height. Using two independently anchored ropes would give me a more secure feeling, and after spending three or four hours bouncing around rooting the dirt and vegetation out of those cracks I should feel much more comfortable with the height. I also think I should practice difficult cleaning scenarios low down where I am not so distracted by the height, so I can gain some experience and competence, before I try something like that again. I also might want to get a regular ascender so that I have the right tool for the job.

When I reached the base of the climb I packed up and went looking for Nate to let him know that he would have to clean his gear on repel. I encountered Nate and Steve coming the other way on the trail to the top. Nate had hopped to do some more climbing but it was now past 6:00, so it was decided that Steve would let Nate use his rope to repel in to the ledge where Nate?s rope was anchored, and then Steve would pull his rope up and go home. Meanwhile Nate would repel his rope, cleaning his gear, and then pull his rope from the base and walk back around to the top. We headed back to the top to implement this plan and I leant Nate my nut tool, as he had left his at the base of the route with some of his other gear.

By 7:00 Nate was back at the top of the cliff with his rope and all his gear. We then waited while Peter repelled back down to the same ledge using Nate?s rope to retrieve his own rope. Clearly this day was laced with bad planning, but everyone had fun and several classic routes got cleaned. We were back out to the parking area by 8:00 with a forty five minute drive back to town.

Teth Cleveland, October 3, 2006.
I don?t trust fear, it lies to me!