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Rules / standards in the alpine?
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By mark felber
From Wheat Ridge, CO
Jul 21, 2013
To the OP: you've expressed a fair bit of respect for your partner's Himalayan and big wall experience, but a few questions come to my mind: did the gentleman who summited "Everest and the like" do so as a climber who contributed to the technical and decision making aspects of the expedition, or did he hire a guide to drag him up and do all the thinking for him? There's a big difference between the two. Likewise, did the guy who climbed the Nose swing leads or did he jug up behind a stronger leader?

I am NOT an alpinist, big wall expert or Himalayan climber. However, I am inclined to agree with the chorus on this thread that your partners on this venture seem to be long on strength and raw climbing ability, and quite short on common sense and judgment.

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By Buff Johnson
Jul 21, 2013
smiley face
A large part of me reads this topic with the thought that if I'm not ready to accept the fact that any falling equals death, then I'm not up the level of the mountain itself. But, if I get the chance to make a decent anchor, then I'll do it.

It could very well be that two guys climbing on the same page, but skipping out on anchors is correct because speed is safety. Whereas two guys unsure of the partnership, but making bombproof anchors, stay exposed for a longer period of time and they get pummeled.


What sticks out with me -- the climbing team/3-partners weren't on the same page even though they thought they might be.

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By Jon Zucco
From Denver, CO
Jul 21, 2013
yaak crack Red Rock Canyon, NV
Buff Johnson wrote:
A large part of me reads this topic with the thought that if I'm not ready to accept the fact that any falling equals death, then I'm not up the level of the mountain itself. But, if I get the chance to make a decent anchor, then I'll do it. It could very well be that two guys climbing on the same page, but skipping out on anchors is correct because speed is safety. Whereas two guys unsure of the partnership, but making bombproof anchors, stay exposed for a longer period of time and they get pummeled.


good point

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By climber pat
From Las Cruces, NM
Jul 21, 2013
There are a lot of issues tied up in this question.

The easy one, repelling off a single nut is perfectly acceptable and common practice. As someone else stated: 1) place a solid multipiece(if possible) anchor with all the load on the piece you plan to leave and a slighty long runner to the rope in case the one piece fails 2) send the heaviest person and pack down first 3) watch the anchor carefully as he descends 4) if the piece is solid remove the back up and descend else rework the anchor leaving as much as necessary and descend.

Look at it this way, if you can place a nut while leading a trad rock climb and feel that falling on the nut is ok then you should be able to repel on the same nut. If you cannot place a nut you have confidence in then you need more practice in a more controlled environment. Also learn to repel smoothly keeping constant pressure on the rope and not stopping and jerking on the anchor.

As far as the non-existent anchors. I find that disturbing too. Someone can hold quite a lot of weight from a stance if you are prepared for it but from the description and the steepness of the slope it sounds questionable. From his comment that you should be nervous it sounds like he was aware of the situation. If so he should have been informing the followers the the anchor is bad/non-existant (if possible to communicate). Nevertheless bad and non-existent achors are part of the game. If the ledge he was on was good sized then a body belay is resonable. You should try to find a ledge with a good anchor. Sit down and and try to brace your legs on something. Have a frind on the ground try to pull you off. You will be surprised how much you can hold with a good stance.

One rule of alpine climbing is do not fall. Really if at all possible do not fall, falling is for sport climbing.

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By mark felber
From Wheat Ridge, CO
Jul 21, 2013
Buff Johnson wrote:
A large part of me reads this topic with the thought that if I'm not ready to accept the fact that any falling equals death, then I'm not up the level of the mountain itself. But, if I get the chance to make a decent anchor, then I'll do it. It could very well be that two guys climbing on the same page, but skipping out on anchors is correct because speed is safety. Whereas two guys unsure of the partnership, but making bombproof anchors, stay exposed for a longer period of time and they get pummeled. What sticks out with me -- the climbing team/3-partners weren't on the same page even though they thought they might be.


If "any falling equals death", and "skipping out on anchors is correct because speed is safety" then wouldn't soloing be just as safe, or safer? And why bring an unknown 3rd party into this situation?

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By Mark E Dixon
From Sprezzatura, Someday
Jul 21, 2013
At the BRC
mark felber wrote:
And why bring an unknown 3rd party into this situation?


He wanted to go?

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By Buff Johnson
Jul 21, 2013
smiley face
No real good answer. The leader falls and they all go down. If nobody is using anchors, then I'd rather not rope up as well and just climb it. Ask someone from another part of the country and they'll probably rope up for everything like it's all low angle glacier travel.


And, yes, there is a difference between the unknown 3rd climber and the unknowing 3rd climber. Seems to me that they were all making big boy decisions before going, but maybe assuming too much between each other.

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By Ellenore Zimmerman
Jul 21, 2013
me
A lot of sport climbers and wannabes blabbering here....hey go thank the dudes, delete this thread, buy them beer and hope they will drag yer arse up some more hills!

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By Mark E Dixon
From Sprezzatura, Someday
Jul 21, 2013
At the BRC
Ellenore Zimmerman wrote:
A lot of sport climbers and wannabes blabbering here....hey go thank the dudes, delete this thread, buy them beer and hope they will drag yer arse up some more hills!


Would you mind refresing my memory? Sorry, but I can't seem to recall your alpine and greater range accomplishments?

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By Jon Zucco
From Denver, CO
Jul 21, 2013
yaak crack Red Rock Canyon, NV
mark felber wrote:
If "any falling equals death", and "skipping out on anchors is correct because speed is safety" then wouldn't soloing be just as safe, or safer? And why bring an unknown 3rd party into this situation?


As others have pointed out, it's probably hard to judge whether the body belay was useless or not. Could've held, but there's really only one way to find out; ask Ellenore.

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By Ellenore Zimmerman
Jul 21, 2013
me
I lead the Aprons, swung leads on Halets and followed The Grand Teton to a summit via Upper Exum ....that's my lowly resume.

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By Ellenore Zimmerman
Jul 21, 2013
me
Many trad leads and follows on sand stone , granite and congloms....simul climbs, stuck ropes, weather epics and sketchy raps many successes many opportunities left out there waiting for me!

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By Ellenore Zimmerman
Jul 21, 2013
me
No dead partners. Hope to keep it that way.

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By Ellenore Zimmerman
Jul 22, 2013
me
Sergio don't go there. If you climb it' s because you cannot not climb. Different breed. Some will never understand.

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By Patrick Vernon
From Albuquerque, NM
Jul 22, 2013
mexico
I would not rappel off of THAT nut.

Having climbed Everest says about as much about an alpine climbers experience as having climbed the Nose says about a big wall climbers experience. Basically nothing.

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By rgold
From Poughkeepsie, NY
Jul 22, 2013
The traverse out to the Yellow Ridge on the Dogsti...
Alpine climbing is not safe. That's the first thing to understand clearly. You can't replicate the security of short routes on waterfalls and crags, and you have to move fast or you're screwed.

That said, the one thing to strive for is adequate belays. The whole party is attached to them. It is the one place where one might put in some extra time to try to make sure the party is safe. If the leader has run out of rope and there is no real belay available, it probably makes more sense for the party to simul-climb until the leader can get a better belay. At least that way everyone knows the score, and the team is progressing towards a more secure situation.

At the very least, if simuling is not an option, the leader ought to alert the party that they really don't have a belay. You shouldn't have to discover this when you arrive at the stance, you should know about it from the moment you start to follow the pitch if communication is possible.

The comments below are about situations as you described them. Whether what you said accurately reflects the actual situation is something we can't know.

Your first example sounds like a secure belay point was readily available but was skipped in favor of a worthless stance. That constitutes a breakdown of technique by any standards. Doesn't matter what the leader's resume says.

As for umbilicals for the belay connection, they seem to be rated to 2 kN or 450 lbf. That's the breaking strength of 3mm accessory cord (according to the Sterling Rope site). 'Nuff said, I think.

A number of people have already commented on the fact that rappelling off single pieces is a fact of alpine life. The one you show in your picture is scary looking, because it isn't in a placement that can take much if any outward load. Presumably the team did what they could to start well below it, and backed it up for all but the last person if possible. But sometimes that's all ya got.

At the end of the day, you have to decide what you are comfortable with. Personally, if the situations were really as you described them, that would be my last trip with those folks, because it sounds like they made things worse than they had to be, even in the reduced safety context of alpine climbing, and they didn't communicate about how bad things were.

As a matter of full disclosure, I should say that I gave up real alpine climbing a long time ago, after a season in the alps convinced me that I wasn't comfortable with choices that really were necessary.

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By Allen Sanderson
From Oootah
Jul 22, 2013
Stairway To Heaven - all the way to the Pearly Gat...
Mark E Dixon wrote:
Would you mind refresing my memory? Sorry, but I can't seem to recall your alpine and greater range accomplishments?


Ellenore Zimmerman wrote:
I lead the Aprons, swung leads on Halets and followed The Grand Teton to a summit via Upper Exum ....that's my lowly resume.



Ellenore Zimmerman wrote:
A lot of sport climbers and wannabes blabbering here...


As said by the lead mouth masturbator ...

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By J. Albers
From Colorado
Jul 22, 2013
Bucky
rgold wrote:
Alpine climbing is not safe. That's the first thing to understand clearly. You can't replicate the security of short routes on waterfalls and crags, and you have to move fast or you're screwed. That said, the one thing to strive for is adequate belays. The whole party is attached to them. It is the one place where one might put in some extra time to try to make sure the party is safe. ...


What Mr. Gold is writing is sage and accurate advice.

That said Josh, go get yourself a copy of Twight's book "Extreme Alpinism". The dude may not be on the current cutting edge, but he and his partners did some serious, hard, and unsafe climbing in the big ranges of the world. Guess what he stresses? Bomb proof anchors and protecting the belay whenever humanly possible (go read some Alpinist articles and you will read about folks like Steve House taking the time to pound in 5 pins just to make sure that the anchor is truck...and he clearly ain't no puss climber). Is there a time and place for "non" anchors because of speed constraints? Yup, but as I think Buff pointed out, you are best to solo at that point because at least when you fall you don't take the whole crew to the deck with you. Garbage anchors and roped climbing make zero sense under most circumstances (though obviously what constitutes a garbage anchor is totally situational dependent...e.g. boot axe is fine in some situations, but stupid and pointless in others.)

When you go alpine climbing (especially with new partners) you need to make damn sure you are on the same page as far as what constitutes acceptable risk. If you and your partners have vastly different tolerances and needs in this department, then it best not to leave the ground together. There isn't a safety standard that is necessarily "right" or "wrong", just different, and you need to be on the same page before leaving the ground.

....and to specifically answer one of your questions. If I got to a belay and my partner didn't have anything in for an anchor and in under a minute I was able to sink a couple tools shaft deep, tie them off and in the process secure the party....wooo, you're damn right I would be pissed. That is some caviler bullsh*t for no purpose other than laziness.

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By Taylor-B.
From CO & AK
Jul 22, 2013
Mountain Bandito
+1 for "Extreme Alpinism"

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By DannyUncanny
From Vancouver
Jul 22, 2013
I am not an extreme alpinist, but among my group of partners, I generally climb harder and will take on bigger objectives. I also tend to have higher risk tolerance.

I think part of it is that being more risk tolerant to start with means that you are more likely to tackle objectives that a timid climber might not, which also makes you better. And being a better climber also helps you feel more comfortable with exposure and your ability to not fall.

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By wfscot
From Boulder, CO
Jul 22, 2013
I don't think there's a right or wrong answer in terms of the level of risk to take. Certainly climbing at the cutting edge of alpinism requires some serious risks, but that doesn't mean that every alpine outing needs to be a near-death experience.

The most important thing in my mind is that everyone on the team is on the same page. This basically involves two things. The starting point is having similar risk tolerances (or at least be willing to climb at the lower common denominator). After that, it's important to communicate so that everyone understands the decisions being made in terms of risk.

In the body belay example, the fact that you were surprised by the lack of an anchor means you weren't on the same page. Maybe it was just a matter of poor communication. If the leader had told you "I expect this is easy climbing for all of us so I'm not going to take the time to build anchors", would that have made it ok by you? If not, that would indicate a more fundamental difference in risk tolerance.

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By Christian
From Casa do Cacete
Jul 22, 2013
Caveat lector, the only thing Elleanor is qualified to give advice on is escaping a straitjacket...

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By Crag Dweller
From New York, NY
Jul 22, 2013
My navigator keeps me from getting lost
Everything you describe may be the only good option available depending on the alpine terrain you're in. But, it does seem as though the choices weren't being dictated by the terrain.

Perhaps, these dudes were unnecessarily extending the comfort level they've developed with sketchy situations into situations that didn't need to be sketchy. But, I think many of us do that within a range of our ability/comfort level.

I've become more comfortable with a two-point anchor after having to rely on them in a few alpine situations. And, I'm sometimes satisfied with a two-point anchor even when I could build a three-point anchor.

I probably wouldn't be comfortable in the situations you describe. But, I'm not climbing with the experience your partners apparently have and I can imagine how they could be comfortable.

Is it an acceptable level of risk tolerance? We all climb big chunks of rock, snow, and ice unnecessarily, knowing that we could die. That's a silly question.

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By Josh Wood
From Oneonta, NY
Jul 22, 2013
hotlum / bolum route on Shasta
I appreciate the input. Most of it makes complete sense to me and is along the lines of what I was thinking. I needed confirmation and you guys helped me out.

I was shocked about rapping one nut being common though. I bought a bunch of used nuts for $3 each on here. Those are my rap nuts. I guess I shouldn't have given them such a hard time about the one nut bit.

I've read Twight's books, Long's anchors, etc and they were good. I have no intention o trying to climb like Twight's though. Running it out and barely having enough gear, food, and so on.

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By Merlin
From Grand Junction
Jul 22, 2013
Scuba diving is a much more fun way to vacation.

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