Route Guide - iPhone / Android - Partners - Forum - Photos - Deals - What's New - School of Rock
Login with Facebook
 ADVANCED
Rules / standards in the alpine?
View Latest Posts in This Forum or All Forums
   Page 1 of 3.  1  2  3   Next>   Last>>
Follow replies to this topic? Notify me at the top of web site.
1

Email me.
 
 
By Josh Wood
From Oneonta, NY
Jul 21, 2013
hotlum / bolum route on Shasta

I have a few questions for MP, but would like to start by stating that I'm not trolling and I'm not trying to call-out the other dudes in the story below. I've always climbed with folks that are about as experienced as I am. I've never had a partner who felt differently than I do regarding safety. My experience left me wondering if you must climb with a higher risk tolerance if you want to be an accomplished climber. This is the reason for my post.

So, I went to AK this summer with a couple guys that I didn't really know. We came together through a mutual friend for the purpose of climbing Mount Hunter via the West Ridge. These guys are super-experienced, where I am not. One dude has been on the top of Everest and the like. The other guy climbed the nose in pretty short order along with a list of other accomplishments. I've been around, but not on their level.

A lot of things happened on this trip that were questionable in my mind, but I would like to present a few and ask if this is the standard that a lot of folks follow in the alpine. Maybe it's just the standard for those who climb fast and hard; I don't know.

At one point, the leader climbed some very steep (near verticle), loose and rotten snow above very questionable pro. It was so questionable that the guy standing next to me at the belay told me that if the leader fell, I should pull the rope in hand-over-hand as fast as possible and brace myself because he would be falling / sliding past where we were standing (with one shitty picket for an anchor). So the leader makes it to the ledge at the top and I follow. When I arrive at the ledge, I find the leader totally smoked from the climbing that he did. He was belaying me from his harness, but he wasn't attached to anything. He had not dug a slot for a butt-bollard. I asked where the anchor was and he said "this is a body belay". I proceeded to kneel next to him and hammer my ice tool into the very firm snow, thus building a pretty strong single point anchor. He clipped into the "anchor". Is this type of thing common among experienced and accomplished mountaineers? To skip making a secure anchor when it is possible seems silly.

At our highest point on the mountain, I followed the leader to his "belay" where I found him standing on very steep snow (maybe 70 degrees)with his two ice tool picks in the loose snow as the anchor. He was attached to this anchor by the spinner leashes and I was being belayed from his harness. When I got to the belay, I said "your anchor makes me nervous". His reply was "it should make you nervous". It was steep enough that if anyone fell, we were all going down. His picks wouldn't have held and if by some miracle they did, then the spinner leashes would be weighted. Is that how everyone else does this? Do you guys anchor with spinner leashes?

One more question. Do you guys rap off of single nuts when in the alpine? Like this nut?

rap anchor
rap anchor


FLAG
By Taylor-B.
From CO & AK
Jul 21, 2013
Mt. Churchill, University Range

Alpine climbing is a whole other beast in Alaska as you well know and as far as safety goes it may not always be there in text book form. But, when the opportunity is there the climbing systems should be redundant and taken advantage of.

Did the leader have a shovel on the rack to dig down to alpine ice or make belay stances(holes)?


FLAG
By LawHous
From Colorado Springs, CO
Jul 21, 2013
Post climb celebration drinks with a sweet line in the background

As far as the leader placing on weak piece of pro, I think that is sometimes a necessary risk when in the alpine. Pro isn't always bomber and you have to make do. As far as the guy belays though kinda sounds like he was being lazy. I don't think an anchor should ever be that shotty, nor should you have to body belay unless absolutely necessary. And same rules apply in the alpine as everywhere else, never rappel off one piece, even a solid piton, unless in an emergency.


FLAG
By Jeff Thilking
From Lynchburg, VA
Jul 21, 2013
Rap

Sounds like you got dragged onto a team of russian roulette climbers.


FLAG
By Mark Pilate
Jul 21, 2013

Seems to me if you are only doing belays "in theory" rather than actuality, then you are better off soloing as a team. You'll move faster and actually increase the overall safety (your team will be 1/3 less dead with a mistake). Can't see much value in what you described. This said, my standard for a "Belay" does fluctuate with route and conditions, but I like to have at least one rock solid piece to call it a belay. Having multiple crap pieces just adds time, and complication for little/no benefit.

The rappel question is different. Depends on if you need to save/distribute gear on a multi-rap bail, or if you are just trying to save a buck. Just last month I sacrificed a couple cams and a nut to rap. One of the guy's we were assisting (probably felt bad) suggested I just leave the nut. What would my wife and daughters think if I killed myself and possibly others over the price of a few cams? Its a no brainer to me. Just the cost of doing business in the alpine.


FLAG
By David Appelhans
From Lafayette
Jul 21, 2013
Imaginate

Top of everest doesn't mean much in my book. And the nose means something, but mostly that the guy knows how to ROCK climb. Sounds to me that you get the lower standard for safety in the mountains to me, but that these guys were unnecessarily taking risks. Maybe they didn't know better about snow/ice safety.

I've rapped off single nuts before, now I think it is cheap and stupid unless you are going to need your whole rack to get down.


FLAG
By Jon Zucco
From Denver, CO
Jul 21, 2013
yaak crack Red Rock Canyon, NV

"it should make you nervous."

Yep. It should. That all sounds like more of a gamble than is necessary. If it were me, I would've felt pretty sketched too.


FLAG
By jmeizis
From Colorado Springs, CO
Jul 21, 2013
The Beginning of Mr. Clean (5.8) at the Barkeater Cliffs in Adirondack Park NY.

Do they just have those two climbs on their resumes or do they have a lot of alpine climbs under their belt? A breadth of experience is more important in my mind than one or two really high end ascents.

I think you do have to have a higher risk tolerance for alpine climbing because the terrain is so variable. Often times you are trying to balance speed with risk so that can mean using different techniques. Protection isn't always available or necessarily very good.

That said they may have felt more comfortable on the terrain and didn't see more substantial belays as being necessary but when you say things like the "leader was smoked" and "if they fell". Those suggest a lack of comfort. Maybe they were so worked they couldn't think straight. It's hard to say because all we have are the situations you're describing which are a bit vague. We can't be in their head to know what they were thinking.

For example I generally solo 70 degree snow or ice. If I fell I wouldn't be able to arrest but falling on alpine terrain is pretty much a bad scene anyways. If we weren't soloing or simul-climbing though then yes I'd try to build an anchor. Especially if one was so readily available like you suggest.

I've rapped off single nuts, single pitons. A good way to test it is to back it up loosely with another piece or two, send the heaviest person down and have them bounce around on it. Last person pulls the other pieces. Not as good as several pieces in the anchor but it gives you more information and can increase the margin of safety.

The standards are different because the level of risk and variability of risk tolerances are different.


FLAG
 
By Josh Wood
From Oneonta, NY
Jul 21, 2013
hotlum / bolum route on Shasta

The leader didn't have a shovel to dig holes, but it was steep enough that he couldn't have taken his pack off if he did. Maybe my estimation of the angle was off. He did have ice tools though.

These guys have been around. Multiple 8000M peaks and a ton of climbing out west. This is why I've been confused. These are accomplished climbers who I looked forward to learning from.

I think that jmeizis may be right on regarding their risk tolerance being much greater. They didn't see it as I did. They were in better shape and are much stronger climbers. When the dude got "smoked", he was climbing /digging his way through some really crappy snow. I don't think anyone would have found it to be easy. It was hard for me and I was following.

I also recognize that sometimes in the alpine a good piece of pro may not be available, but my thought was to try to make the best piece possible.

Do you guys treat your leases as anchoring points. What I mean is, will you stick your ice tools in the snow (hooked to leashes) and belay? I realize that equalizing these or using slings would take more time, but the leashes are not rated for holding falls. What is common practice?

Thanks for the input.


FLAG
By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Jul 21, 2013
El Chorro

I would have just asked the guy flat out: Are you sure you would've been able to hold me if I fell? Whatever the answer you should be very clear about your abilities to follow and how you felt on that terrain. Maybe you were, I dunno. Only way to get a better answer than you've got here is to ask them. They'd probably be interested in how you feel.


FLAG
By Josh Wood
From Oneonta, NY
Jul 21, 2013
hotlum / bolum route on Shasta

I felt comfy
On the terrain and they knew how I felt. They just felt differently. We spoke about it out there, but I wanted to hear what everyone else does.


FLAG
By Garret Nuzzo-Jones
From Salt Lake City, UT
Jul 21, 2013
Cleaning up in Jenny Lake.

I've belayed a second directly off my harness being attached only to a single chockstone. It was a little different though since the rope was going up and over a giant ridgeline.

It sounds like your leader was basically free soloing and setting up an anchor for you to free solo up to you. If that's the case I say you're carrying a lot of pointless rope and harnesses.


FLAG
By Jon Zucco
From Denver, CO
Jul 21, 2013
yaak crack Red Rock Canyon, NV

Ryan Williams wrote:
I would have just asked the guy flat out: Are you sure you would've been able to hold me if I fell? Whatever the answer you should be very clear about your abilities to follow and how you felt on that terrain. Maybe you were, I dunno. Only way to get a better answer than you've got here is to ask them. They'd probably be interested in how you feel.


That's actually a great point. I'm no alpine climber, so what you described would definitely sketch me out (especially if I felt like I was likely to fall at any given point during the pitches in question). But maybe to them it is safe and reasonable to belay and rap how they did. Or maybe they assumed you were comfortable because they were, and didn't see any reason to assume that you were afraid for your safety, other than the "your anchor makes me nervous". Maybe you could've followed up with, "...so if I had fallen, would you and I both be toast now...?" If the answer is yes, he should be every bit as nervous, if not more.


FLAG
By Ben Beckerich
From saint helens, oregon
Jul 21, 2013
About half way up the East Arete on Illumination Rock

This is why I solo. I'd rather have no protection and know it, than think I do and not.


FLAG
By saltlick
From gym
Jul 21, 2013
Tree-bouldering near Mt. Tam

Considering the conditions and slopes you described, Josh, your team should have at least been establishing solid belay anchors, even if pro placed on lead was sparse and marginal. It's a terrible feeling to belay from an un-anchored stance, knowing that a your whole team could buy it if the leader makes a mistake; it's even worse to have to follow a tough pitch not knowing whether you're getting a proper belay or not.

Obviously our armchair should-a/would-a/could-a's can easily be rendered inapplicable, inconvenient or totally unavailable in the alpine. Many time-honored mountain techniques (ie: a single bomber nut rap anchor) would be considered overly risky in most other venues, but it's a different world up there. That said, incorporating spinner leashes into an "anchor" is a pretty bad idea - mine are designed to fail at around 3 kN. I often anchor off two solid tools backed up with a screw, but I would never use my leashes as part of a human-weight-bearing system.


FLAG
By FrankPS
From Atascadero, CA
Jul 21, 2013

Josh, did these guys build some/mostly solid anchors? Were the sketchy anchors the exception?


FLAG
 
By Ellenore Zimmerman
Jul 21, 2013
me

You gotto trust those guys or you are not ready for stuff like that (obviously) . You are lucky they dragged you up. I met a seasoned soloist in Tetons with the same type of mindset as those guys. You just gotto go with it man. It's like the 6th sence.


FLAG
By Keenan Waeschle
From Bozeman, MT
Jul 21, 2013
on top of the RNWF <br />June 2012

I weight 200 stones and regularly throw people on a sitting hip belay. I prop myself so that I can hold their weight, but wouldn't want to do so for longer than a few seconds. I would feel very comfortable doing this on moderate ground where a fall is very unlikely. Alpine is a whole new ballgame, sometimes 'sketchy' things like that can save lots of time and make a climb much safer, less time exposed to objective danger, storms, you name it.


FLAG
By Josh Wood
From Oneonta, NY
Jul 21, 2013
hotlum / bolum route on Shasta

"Josh, did these guys build some/mostly solid anchors? Were the sketchy anchors the exception?"

I'm not trying to put these guys on trial. I gave a couple examples that I felt were easy to explain, but that had me confused. It didn't seem to make sense to me, being that these are much more accomplished climbers, I figured that I must be missing something. I just wanted to see what climbers generally do in the alpine. I was beginning to wonder if I had been lucky with my relatively inexperienced climbing partners who where on the same page as me regarding safety. That is slow, but safe climbing. Slow may not be safe in AK. Maybe fast isn't safe in AK either.

I'll never climb at their level and at this point, I think I will back off of the real alpine stuff. Alpine rock and some shorter stuff like Rainier is where I will be more comfy.

Thanks for all the input.

Ellenore Zimmerman - Thanks for the super-wise words.


FLAG
By FrankPS
From Atascadero, CA
Jul 21, 2013

Josh Wood wrote:
Ellenore Zimmerman - Thanks for the super-wise words.


That's something you won't hear too often around these parts!


FLAG
By Allen Sanderson
From Oootah
Jul 21, 2013

Single nut for a rappel - yup. As said, back it up for all but the last. When the last rappels have the end tied into anchor below so that if it does blow the person hopefully does not the big ride while taking the rope with them.

Belays after a hard pitch - given what the OP noted about being able to set their tool I would call BS on the leader as being careless. It sounds like the OP found an anchor fairly quickly the leader should have been able to do the same.

However, sometimes the belay is nothing but crap and all you get a body-bucket belay. As for being on the other end and being on a ridge line when a fall occurs, pulling line in hand over hand is hardly going to help. You might get a feet reeled in but not many. You are better off getting ready for the fall and jumping the opposite side. I speak from experience with that. My partner took a 150' fall, I got maybe 10 feet in, and instead got ready for the fall, I jumped off the opposite side and was able to catch his fall.



Ellenore Zimmerman wrote:
You gotto trust those guys or you are not ready for stuff like that (obviously) . You are lucky they dragged you up. I met a seasoned soloist in Tetons with the same type of mindset as those guys. You just gotto go with it man. It's like the 6th sence.


I call BS on this statement. No you do not have to trust them. Blind trust might just get you dead. Not trusting them does not mean you are not ready for such climbs. There are plenty of reckless climbers out there. They get away with lots of bad antics - someday they might not and then they are dead. I trusted a partner's judgement once and it damn near got us killed in an avalanche. After that I decided I'd rather go home alive sans partner than go home dead with my partner. And if they did not like it - tough shit.

What needs to happen is lots of chats - which might call into question someone's judge. And the OP sounds like they were doing that.


FLAG
By Ellenore Zimmerman
Jul 21, 2013
me

It's clear to me that those guys took you with them after they made their judgement that you could handle it. They had trust in you. It looks like they made the right decision too.
Develop your own skills, work with your mentors and be a sponge. Check out a movie "Cold" by Cory Richards too. Inspiring.


FLAG
By Ellenore Zimmerman
Jul 21, 2013
me

Questioning your mentor constantly will mean two things:you need another mentor or he needs another mentee.


FLAG
By Allen Sanderson
From Oootah
Jul 21, 2013

Ellenore Zimmerman wrote:
Questioning your mentor constantly will mean two things:you need another mentor or he needs another mentee.


Disagree, questioning a mentor typically means the person is trying to learn. If as a mentor you do not like all the questions you probably should not be a mentor. However, this topic is OT as it does not sounds this was a mentor partnership.


FLAG
 
By David Appelhans
From Lafayette
Jul 21, 2013
Imaginate

Ellenore Zimmerman wrote:
You gotto trust those guys or you are not ready for stuff like that (obviously) . You are lucky they dragged you up. I met a seasoned soloist in Tetons with the same type of mindset as those guys. You just gotto go with it man. It's like the 6th sence.


^ is a troll that doesn't have a clue what she is talking about. You would be best served to ignore her advice. Don't blindly trust someone that is supposedly more experienced than you, or that has climbed harder things than you. Like someone else said there are people that manage to keep alive, until someday they don't. And not because they are "really pushing the edge", but because they aren't being safe about climbing.

A lot of people have heard that alpine climbing is dangerous, so it seems they try to make it so by having crappy anchors when good ones are quickly achievable.


FLAG
By s.price
From PS,CO
Jul 21, 2013
 Morning Dew ,self portrait

Ellenore Zimmerman wrote:
Questioning your mentor constantly will mean two things:you need another mentor or he needs another mentee.

And your about as sharp as a mentos.
To the OP, I have rapped off of single nuts like that before but only if necessary. In the long run sounds like a positive learning experience. Choose your partners wisely.


FLAG


Follow replies to this topic? Notify me at the top of web site.
1

Email me.
Page 1 of 3.  1  2  3   Next>   Last>>