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Slinging chickenheads...any Cochise climbers out there?
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By J. Albers
From Colorado
Nov 22, 2010
Bucky
Hey folks,

I've got a question for those of you who spend a lot of time climbing in areas where slung natural protection is common. I'd like to hear from anyone, but in particular, it would be nice to hear from folks who have a lot of experience....for example, hearing from some Cochise climbers would be nice (Geir Hundal, you out there?)

I have always used a girth hitch to sling chickenheads, but in the past few years, I have been spending an increasing amount of time in the Southern Sierra where there are a lot of routes that rely solely on chickenheads for gear and belays. Thus, I began wondering whether girth hitching was the brain dead amateur method of slinging. I know resources such as Freedom of the Hills suggest using either a slipknot or a clove hitch, but I guess I have not spent an adequate amount of time slinging to develop a strong opinion on the situations where each is most useful.

Questions that I have include:
-Do you use different slinging methods for different situations, or do you use the same method no matter what?
-Does one method or another stay put on less than ideal chickenhead placements (i.e. smaller heads without a good lip)?
-I'm aware that sometimes folks will clip something with weight to help keep the sling from being lifted off the head by rope movement, but are there other tricks that you find especially useful?
-Feel free to add answers to questions that are relevant, but that I didn't ask...

Thanks in advance.
Cheers.

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By wren raming
From s.l.c., ut
Nov 22, 2010
cerro castillo
Hey Albers, I dont know much about this subject but something i would be interested to know, is whether it matters what time of sling or runner you use? I heard that some material have a low melting point and a knot like a girth hitch might heat the material up enough to weaken it. Does anybody know if this is true?

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By J. Albers
From Colorado
Nov 22, 2010
Bucky
Yeah, I'm aware of the melting point discussion. That discussion has at least one very large thread on MP. However, I spent some time searching through old forum posts on slinging and couldn't find anything.

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By Daryl Allan
From Sierra Vista, AZ
Nov 22, 2010
Me and my Fetish I guess.. ;)
I lean towards girth hitches and slipknots. Girth hitches are probably stronger (too lazy to look it up - anyone know for sure?). Thin slings work best; especially on rounded plates. And for those pesky, so-so heads that just don't have the lip or sides to hold the slings in place, weighting the sling with something [preferably, that you won't need later] is a useful trick. In this case, a girth hitch with passthrough up high (around the 4 or 8 o'clock position so the 'tail' is pulling down on the loop) would probably transfer the weight/tension around the neck better than a slipknot.

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By kBobby
From Spokane, WA
Nov 22, 2010
I use the slip knot (technically it is a slip hitch), girth hitch, or drape.

The girth hitch does a better job of "choking" the chickenhead than the slip hitch. But the slip hitch only has one strand go around the chickenhead instead of two. This is an advantage when either: (1) the chickenhead is not very deep; or (2) when the circumference is large. I think I usually use the slip hitch when I am placing it one-handed, because that one is easier for me than the girth hitch.

When using either of these, as Daryl mentioned, place the slip point up high so as to get the mechanical advantage causing the hitch to choke.

I occasionally will drape a sling over a horn, but only when it seems more secure to do so than to hitch it. It is in these instances that I will sometimes hang weight off of the sling to help keep it in place.

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By Monty
From Golden, CO
Nov 22, 2010
Just a teaser
what about a clove hitch? Easier to do on lead than a slip knot.

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By Stu Ritchie
From Denver
Nov 22, 2010
Desert Tortoise
Slip knot and girth hitches work well. I rely on my judgement for which is best given the particular situation.
This is a belay on Moby Dick using Slip Knots.
This is a belay on Moby Dick using Slip Knots.

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By kBobby
From Spokane, WA
Nov 22, 2010
Monty wrote:
what about a clove hitch? Easier to do on lead than a slip knot.

For me it isn't. I can do a slip hitch one-handed, I have never mastered the one-handed clove hitch.

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By fubar
From Babylon
Nov 22, 2010
Like any piece of protection, you have to consider the direction of pull on a possible fall. I typically use a slip-knot since it's easy to tie one-handed, and if possible, leave the knot high on the side of the route's direction, so a fall will tighten the sling around the horn. My all time favorite horn placement is Windjammer at the Needles--you have to keep throwing the rope above you to protect the cruxes!

My question is, has anyone taken a fall on one of these placements?

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By J. Albers
From Colorado
Nov 22, 2010
Bucky
fubar wrote:
I typically use a slip-knot since it's easy to tie one-handed. My all time favorite horn placement is Windjammer at the Needles--you have to keep throwing the rope above you to protect the cruxes!


Yeah, being able to tie and place the knot one-handed is a definite plus....and yes, Windjammer and other classics at Dome Rock are fricking great, huh?


fubar wrote:
My question is, has anyone taken a fall on one of these placements?


That's another question I have. If the head has a good lip, I'm not so worried, but I was poking around in the Sierra's at one point this year evaluating some slung head placements on a classic climb where I had read that you needed to know how to sling to make it safe....well, I was looking at the heads and I remember thinking, "sure, you could hang a sling on that, but its more or less ornamental, because if you fell, the sling would just role off". In that sense, a bad slung head is just like evaluating a flared cam placement....maybe its okay.

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By Clay Mansfield
Nov 22, 2010
Although I guess it will lower the slings strength, I have used a slipknot, and after tightening it, tying another overhand. If the slipknot wants to loosen up, the overhand (close to the slipknot) will prevent it from doing so.

Clay

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By J. Albers
From Colorado
Nov 22, 2010
Bucky
Stu Ritchie wrote:
Slip knot and girth hitches work well. I rely on my judgement for which is best given the particular situation.


Stu, since you use both, I will ask you. What are the variables that go into determining which is best for a particular situation. Your personal judgement as you state, is exactly what I am trying to get out of this discussion. I'd love to hear some examples.
Cheers.

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By Stu Ritchie
From Denver
Nov 22, 2010
Desert Tortoise
I guess I was trying to say that I don’t think there’s a hard-fast rule. Some heads have very large lips which render a girth hitch very secure. However, when the lip is smallish or I am worried about a directional fall, I prefer a slip knot. I recall a long vertically aligned chicken head with a large upper lip on the first pitch of Days of Future Past on End Pinnacle that I simply draped a runner over. It seemed bomber, but had it ripped in a fall, I would have been screwed! J, I think you captured the essence of this thread when you observed, “a bad slung head is just like evaluating a flared cam placement....maybe its okay.” Finally, I would caution about using self-tightening knots on chicken heads that don’t have uniform lips, as they have a tendency to “tighten” right off when loaded.

PS: I hope I have added sufficient confusion to this thread!

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By J. Albers
From Colorado
Nov 22, 2010
Bucky
Stu Ritchie wrote:
Finally, I would caution about using self-tightening knots on chicken heads that don’t have uniform lips, as they have a tendency to “tighten” right off when loaded. PS: I hope I have added sufficient confusion to this thread!


Stu, you haven't added confusion, actually to the contrary, you addressed one of the concerns that I most wanted addressed, i.e. a sling "tightening" off the head in a fall. Both a girth hitch and a slipknot tighten under a load, thus in the circumstance where you have a small head without a good lip, do you just drape the sling over the head and hope for the best? ...or??

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By Brian in SLC
Nov 22, 2010
Climbing in Smuggler's Notch
Bobby Hanson wrote:
I can do a slip hitch one-handed, I have never mastered the one-handed clove hitch.


Fairly easy to do, with practise. Good to know not just for tying stuff off, but, for anchoring in one-handed too.

Need a long sling for any chickenhead of size.

Whole sling over the chickenhead. Reach behind the sling, thumb down, grab far side of loop, bring around in front, thumb up and onto chickenhead. Done. Fast, easy, and stronger than a girth hitch or slip knot.

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By Stu Ritchie
From Denver
Nov 22, 2010
Desert Tortoise
J. Albers wrote:
Stu, you haven't added confusion, actually to the contrary, you addressed one of the concerns that I most wanted addressed, i.e. a sling "tightening" off the head in a fall. Both a girth hitch and a slipknot tighten under a load, thus in the circumstance where you have a small head without a good lip, do you just drape the sling over the head and hope for the best? ...or??

J, I think you have arrived at the intersection of judgment and advice. I can tell you that on one 1st ascent in Colorado many years ago, I draped a tie-off over a very small knob and weighted it while drilling a bolt. I recall being very frustrated and somewhat banged up after taking repeated 10 foot falls as the loop slipped off the knob. In all seriousness, we all must be the judge of the quality of our protection and make the risk/reward calculation.

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By Mike
From Phoenix
Dec 2, 2010
Doing the jump-across off The Mace.  I never get t...
Good info above. I personally prefer the slip hitch, then girth hitch, then clove. I would also add that as stated above, the shoe-lace dyneema slings generally work best, but are unfortunately more slippery. If you are having trouble getting one to stay fast on a not-so-positive knob, you can sometimes hang a cam/water bottle/something hefty to help keep it in place. You can sometimes even alter the direction of pull this way.

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By NickMartel
From Tucson, Arizona
Sep 11, 2011
If you are worried about it tightening off but also worried about it lifing off if you just drape it do this: first you drape it over the chickenhead, then you tie an overhand knot so that the loop around the chickenhead is nice and snug keeping it from lifting off but becaus of the overhand knot it wont tighten any more if fallen on.

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By Kent Pease
From Littleton, Colorado
Sep 11, 2011
+ 1 each for Stu (re - the situation), The Bobby (re - choking), and Mike (re - hanging something heavy).

The width and shape of the head and the lip will usually dictate which of the knots is best. Note that a slip knot has a single loop of sling around/over the head, a girth hitch has two, and a clove hitch three. Usually a single loop nestles down better, but sometimes multiple loops can be used like Chinese handcuffs and the sling is less likely to slide off.

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By Pete Spri
Sep 11, 2011
In the Wasatch slinging chickenheads comes up periodically.

If you have the 11mm slings, I think it is much easier to secure chickenheads than the fat nylon ones.

For me, clovehitch is my knot of choice since it remains more secure when it is wiggled.

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By Pete Spri
Sep 11, 2011
Stu Ritchie wrote:
Slip knot and girth hitches work well. I rely on my judgement for which is best given the particular situation.


That picture is a nice one.





Are you sure you couldn't have fit a cam under one of those flaked out chickenheads??!! :P

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By Rik
From Tucson, AZ
Sep 11, 2011
Skull
That was a great description of how to tie a one handed clove hitch Brian in SLC. I was able to figure it out first try. Can't wait to use it. Now this is a useful thread.

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By Jay F. Weekly
Sep 18, 2011
Tasting @ New Belgium Brewing
Brian in SLC wrote:
Fairly easy to do, with practise. Good to know not just for tying stuff off, but, for anchoring in one-handed too. Need a long sling for any chickenhead of size. Whole sling over the chickenhead. Reach behind the sling, thumb down, grab far side of loop, bring around in front, thumb up and onto chickenhead. Done. Fast, easy, and stronger than a girth hitch or slip knot.


Okay, every time I try this, I end up with a girth hitch...what am I doing wrong?

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By brenta
From Boulder, CO
Sep 18, 2011
Cima Margherita and Cima Tosa in the Dolomiti di B...
Twist in the opposite direction once you've reached behind the sling. Chances are that you need to rotate your (right) wrist clockwise 360 degrees relative to how you do it now. That is, from a neutral position with your right thumb up, rotate clockwise 180 degrees to bring your thumb down instead of counterclockwise. For the left hand, turn 180 degrees counterclockwise from the thumb-up position.

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By bajaandy
From Escondido, CA
Oct 13, 2011
Bouldering in my backyard
Supper easy solution to the loose sling is a rubber band. Works really well. When I'm doing routes that I know have chickenheads, I carry a couple of rubber bands either over my wrist or in my pocket. Sling the head and then loop the band over the head, around the sling and back over the head. Locks the sling to the head. No need for weighting with extra gear, etc. Oh, and plus 1 for the thin dyneema slings.

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