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Accessory Cord for Rope Retrieval

Discussion in 'Tech Tips and Gear' started by townsend, Dec 4, 2016.

  1. townsend

    townsend

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    Winter is coming, both for Game of Thrones fans and for non-GoT fans. So it is time to practice knots, but hopefully, (k)not a hangman's knot.:wtf:

    It is also time to revisit old discussions, and hopefully broach subjects with a new prespective to warrant new consideration.

    I know the prevailing wisdom is that 6mm accessory cord is the standard (if one is using nylon cord), and for longer rappels, esp. when using retrievable anchor systems, 3/16" dyneema cord has its place.

    I want to restrict the discussion to retrieving a 300' (or thereabouts) rope.

    I have attached a picture (hopefully it will print out for inspection) of three different sizes of accessory cord: 3mm, 4mm, and 5mm, as one moves from left to right.

    I am not sure of the rope brand in each case, other than the 3mm is definitely Blue Water accessory cord (thrown in as an extra in an order).

    [​IMG]

    I don't understand why either 3mm, 4mm, or 5mm cords aren't also utilized as accessory cords for rope retrieval.

    The two basic considerations that come to my mind are 1) rope weight (& bulk); and 2) ease of handling. Let's consider each in order.

    1) rope weight -- always an issue with long approach hikes, and also with retrievalable anchor systems (to reduce the pull weight would exert on a fiddle stick, smooth operator, etc.).

    The accessory cords pictured above all weigh less than 6mm cord, so they would seem to win the weight battle. And of course, they would be less bulkly to carry throughout a canyon. At the same time, 3/16" dyneema is the clear winner, being lighter than all the nylon accessory cords and exerting miniscule weight on retrievable anchor systems.

    2) ease of handling -- larger cord is easier to handle, and less prone to becoming tangling into a rat's nest. This would favor 6mm accessory cord over the smaller sizes. This is where I think 3/16" dyneema may have a weakness (though I don't own any). I did see a youtube video once that made me concerned about dyneema cord becoming (hopelessly) tangled. I assume that the expert canyoneers/rope wrangers on this forum have developed advanced rope management techniques with dyneema, thereby neutralizing this criticism. But having to develop special rope techniques may tacitly confirm that small dyneema cord must be handled with extra care -- or else.

    I would think that 3mm thru 6mm nylon accessory cords is easier to handle, and one might prefer the smaller sizes to reduce weight (as compared to 6mm accessory cord). Please discuss.
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  2. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    A couple of points:

    A. Are you pulling through, or FiddleSticking? These are rather different discussions.

    B. "Accessory Cord" is a large and non-specific category, kinda like "backpack". Few accessory cords are built for a performance (as far as stretch, strength and toughness); many are built just to look pretty. You can minimize this by buying a specific brand name such as BlueWater, but still...

    C. The STANDARD in pull cords, I hope, is the Imlay 6mm static polyester pull cord, which is built for performance just like a rope. It is not accessory cord.

    I, of course, have a lot to say on this subject. Do you want me to go first?

    Tom :moses:
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  3. townsend

    townsend

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    Absolutely. Please share your viewpoint.

    As to fiddle-sticking vs. pull through, I would wish for one cord suitable for both tasks, meeting functional criteria (not too heavy, not too stretchy, easy to handle, etc.), so that the canyoneer can employ the method he feels is most suitable to the situation.

    I don't know the specs (which are important), but that Blue water 3mm accessory cord doesn't feel stretchy at all.
  4. Tom Collins

    Tom Collins

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    My first foray into pullcords was when I was brand new to canyoneering and I got 5mm cord, not sure what brand or the specs, but I did mystery canyon and when I tried to pull the last drop it was so stretchy that with each pull I had to reach high over my head and pull all the way down to my feet to get about a foot of movement on the rap line. I can't even imagine how bad it would have been on a drop of 200-300'.

    As for fiddling vs pull through obviously the less stretch the better for both, but a stretchy line isn't as big a deal for fiddling since you just pull once until the fiddle pops free and then you're done, not repeatedly with like a pull through. Also fiddling subjects the rope to less wear since you give it a tug, pop the fiddle free and then the tension is off. If you're pulling the rope through then depending on the geometry of the pull you could be subjecting a large section of the pull cord to wear as it rubs over a point under tension thus it needs to be beefier than a fiddle pull cord.
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  5. Bootboy

    Bootboy Atwood Gear

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    In my opinion, the main advantage gained by using anything but dyneema is that you could use 6mm (particularly imlay for lack of stretch) for rapping in an emergency, though I'm sure I might give it a go on dyneema if it meant life or death.

    Pound for pound, dyneema picks up more water weight than the Imlay cord due to its looser 12 strand braid, but 300' of wet dyneema still weighs less than than 200' of anything else.

    Also, if using something softer like nylon accessory cord, you have Prussik hitch cord handy. But you should already be carrying those. (I make dandy sewn technora hitch cords)

    Dyneema wins in every other category. The size and staticity (yes it's a word) cannot be beaten. It's remarkably durable as well. It can be a little harder to manage but it gets easier with practice, once you get accustomed to its proclivities. It is also spliceable which means no knots and no carabiners to attach it to a fiddlestick or even a rope, making it more streamlined and less likely to get hung up or wear at the knot.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2016
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  6. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Let's focus on pull-through applications first.

    There are several attributes to worry about including:
    A. Weight.
    B. Cost.
    C. Lack of Stretch.
    D. Durability when pulled across/over an edge.

    You could worry about strength, but I don't. There is also handleability, larger cords being better in this category.

    But let's go back to the original question - you want to pull-through a 300' rappel, what should you bring?

    First, you want to use the other ropes you brought along:
    - usually, when we bring a 300' rope for the BIG rappel, we bring shorter ropes for the other rappels. Both because shorter ropes are much more convenient to manage in the canyon, and because we don't want to bugger up the 300' rope on some nuisance rappel. Both because long ropes have extra value, and because we don't want to have to do some fancy stuff to get down the 300'er.
    - The best 'thing' to pull the rope with is real rope. They are more static and easier to pull on than pull cords. Also, this relieves you the chore of carrying the other ropes down the big rappel (every little bit helps).
    - this might not leave you with enough rope to pull the big rope, but you probably do not need to bring a 300' pull cord. This is why most of the pull cords I sell are the 200'er.

    (Example: Heaps: my preferred setup for Heaps is 1 x 300' rope (used for the 2nd rappel and the final rappel ONLY); and 2 x 150' ropes for using in the canyon. No pull cord needed.)

    We tried using nylon accessory cord BITD. 3mm and 4mm - scary small, seems like it would cut over an edge easily. Actually, I would say the cutting over an edge thing is high on my list of concerns. Many canyoneering rappel are not ideal, and some of them require quite a bit of force to retrieve. Pulling a small cord hard across an edge seems an obvious place for something to go wrong. What happens next? Ascend the rappel side, tie the pull cord together, maybe reposition things... and try again. Adds somewhat or a LOT to the risk, and eats up a lot of time. No thanks.

    Thus, call me paranoid, but I want something I can count on not cutting over an edge even on difficult pulls.

    tele08.
    (photo: a difficult pull? No, actually, an impossible pull. Rig carefully my friends, or at the very least, make sure another party is behind you to help out.)

    So after using Beal 6mm nylon accessory cord for awhile, I had my factory make up 6mm polyester accessory cord. The cord is large enough that Tiblocs with a fat biner will grip it. I have used this a few times when one-person's bodyweight was not enough - Person#1 climbs the pull cord a few feet, then Person#2 and Person#3 do a pull up on Person#1's harness. Works like a charm.

    Static is good. Using small cord, at 100', it generally takes 6' or so, at least, just to get the stretch out. Not a big problem when you have plenty of space to work with; but if you are pulling from a small ledge this could be a major pain. Also again to the cutting, every time you pull that stretch out you could be scraping it over an edge.

    200 foot Imlay 6mm pull cord = 4 lbs. Not a lot lot, but yeah, not exactly featherweight. Cost = $ 79.95 which I hope people find pretty reasonable. Good news is, it essentially lasts a really long time; kind of a one-time purchase.

    Hey. Canyoneering involves carrying some weight. Tough luck!

    There are a few instances where I would use something lighter. Heaps with two people, perhaps. 1 x 300' rope, 1 x 150' rope, and 1 x 150' small pullcord (dyneema). If I was going to go smaller pullcord, I'd probably go dyneema, and make sure it does not go over an edge.

    Tom
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  7. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    In Regard to a FiddleSticking cord:

    I like to use pull cords when FiddleSticking because I worry about the weight of a real rope on the pull side when doing Fiddles longer than 100'. My rule of thumb is that real rope is OK up to 100'; 6mm pull cord is OK up to 200'; past that I want to use the dyneema "Super Pull Cord". All to minimize the weight of the pull-side. You can avoid the problem of the pull cutting by using a "leader" up top... but, usually what we do is carefully choose where we tie the Stone Knot so that the pull is clean (and not over an edge).

    I like the Amsteel 1/8". 300 feet weighs 1 lb 7 oz, and costs from me $ 138.00. http://www.store.canyoneeringusa.co...el-1-8-x-300-feet/p/48720000/category=2490784

    It is kind of a pain to use as it is hard to stuff. I make a specific bag for it. Hopefully with the redesign, it is big enough to stuff reasonably easily, but the cord itself likes to tangle, a lot. I don't really see the point in carrying a shorter length (say 200') as it does not save much in either weight or bulk, and mostly I am looking to use it on longer raps. If I was carrying it, I might use it on short raps, but it sure is a pain to deal with, so maybe not.

    Of course, my views could be tagged as "The Orthodoxy". And I have propounded them more than a few times. Does other people's experience align with what I am saying here???

    Tom :moses:
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  8. Rapterman

    Rapterman

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    Sort of anecdotal as I have only occasionally used pull-cords.
    In order for a pull cord to NOT snag easily, it seems that stiffness is a plus-
    that and a tight, single pick weave.
    Some of the random nylon accessory cord I have tried stretches A LOT and seems to snag on EVERYTHING.
    Hence:
    Tom's 6mm static cord (poly) makes a lot of sense, though I prefer to use regular 8mm canyoneering rope for
    regular pulls (not fiddle-sticking).
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  9. townsend

    townsend

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    Thanks for all the contributions. This has really helped to clarify the issues for me.

    Tom, I would assume that if you had three 150' rappels (or close enough) in a canyon, you would not recommend taking a 300' rope for that (where 150' is for rappel, and the other 150' for pull), but rather, take two 150' ropes, use the second for a pull cord and as a backup (rappel) rope? Correctamundo?

    If the Amsteel dyneema cord is larger -- I think some like 3/16" (or what about even 1/4"?), is there worthwhile improvement in handling (for pulling, and perhaps less prone to tangle) to offset the increase in weight (marginal it would seem) and cost (stuff starts to get expensive quickly)?
  10. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Yes.

    But in the example, Heaps. There is one 290' rap, one 210' rap, one 150' rap, two 65' raps, and all the rest are less than 60 feet. So in the canyon, I find it easiest to use 2 x 120 foot ropes, maybe 130'. (first rappel is 65'; second rap is 210'; third rap is 65' if you don't jump the second part; many raps less than 60 feet; penultimate rap 150', last rap 290'). But I find it easier to bump those to 150 feet, so you can do the penultimate with less hassle, and save the 300'er for the end. (Also motivated by someone getting their rope stuck on a flake on the penultimate rap).

    I have not tried it.

    3/16" Amsteel is twice as big as 1/8" (since bigness is proportionate to area = the square of the diameter). You can also see that by the strength - 1/8" = 2500 lbs / 3/16" = 5400 lbs. The price is likely also proportionate, as is the weight.

    Here's the specs: http://www.westmarine.com/buy/--amsteel-blue-dyneema-as-78-single-braid--P014895700

    Yes, bigger would be easier to handle, but...

    Tom
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  11. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Let me take another stab.

    I would bring 2 x 150 foot ropes, and one 150 foot pull cord. That way I can stick one rope and still get out.

    Tom
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  12. Dave Melton

    Dave Melton

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    If you stick a 150' rope and the pull cord on the first rap, how are you doing the last 2 150' raps with one 150' rope ? Am I missing something ? I take 2 ropes and 2 pull cords for this scenario.

    Dave
  13. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    If I stick the rope before pulling it down, I can climb the rope, fix the problem and pull it next try. I have stuck a lot of ropes in my 18 years of canyoneering. Not so many lately. I suppose it is possible to stick both the rope and the pull cord (doing a conventional pull-through), but even *I* have not done that in my career.

    Tom
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2017
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  14. Dave Melton

    Dave Melton

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    Thanks. My pack just got a little lighter.
  15. townsend

    townsend

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    If you stick the rope AND the pull cord,:wtf: perhaps you should find another sport.
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  16. Dave Melton

    Dave Melton

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    Be nice. I've never actually stuck a rope or a pull cord. My willingness to carry extra stuff exceeds my desire to be stuck in a canyon needing a rescue!
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  17. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    I've seen you, Dave. What is this "I carry" thing. You bring a posse of young bucks with you... so it is THEM carrying the extra stuff.

    T
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  18. Yellow Dart

    Yellow Dart It's only hubris if I fail.

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    A perfectly legitimate stratagem; it's why I'll bring along the odd couchsurfer - language barrier be damned.
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