Send us a suggestion!

Tech Tip: Question FiddleStick frequency?

Discussion in 'Tech Tips and Gear' started by Tricam, Aug 28, 2020.

  1. Tricam

    Tricam

    Messages:
    63
    Likes:
    25
    How often do you use fiddlestick anchors? Besides minimizing unnecessary risk, what other factors would make you not use them?

    --

    Over the weekend I got a chance to experiment with some of the canyoneering techniques that aren't used in climbing, and releasable anchors was one of them. I tried the macrame, CEM, and fiddlestick techniques (all backed up several times before going "live"). While they were all interesting, the fiddlestick seemed the most applicable outside of an emergency situation and has quite a few benefits:
    • incredibly quick: stone knot, throw
    • simple design: easy to inspect, which inspires confidence
    • lowest likelyhood of getting stuck: your rope pull is a short, unknotted single strand
    • saves weight: pull cord can be lighter material
    While I don't have any current plans to use this in the wild, I could see how this technique could become addictive due to its benefits, despite the rather significant increased risk over a fixed anchor.

    [​IMG]
    Looking back up at my ghetto fiddlestick testing rig after going "live" the first time: some 6mm accessory cord tied to the end of a 4' aluminum painters pole

    [​IMG]
    Keeping the hell away from that pullcord (6mm tied to the tail of the rope) after dropping over the lip
  2. townsend

    townsend

    Messages:
    471
    Likes:
    447
    Location:
    Plano, TX
    I assume this is just an experimental rig -- that you are going to buy a real fiddlestick? (see Tom's website.)

    Because that 4' aluminum pole would fall at 32' per second (ok, I'm not a physics major) and spear someone below in the head, neck, or torso.
    Dan H, Tricam and ratagonia like this.
  3. Tricam

    Tricam

    Messages:
    63
    Likes:
    25
    Yeah, that was just to play with the concept with material on hand to see how it worked outside - a slight step up from a 2x4 in the basement. :)

    If I ever had plans to use it in action, I'd definitely get a real one.
  4. Canyonero

    Canyonero

    Messages:
    1,014
    Likes:
    1,065
    I use it a lot. Often by itself around a rock or tree. Sometimes just to prevent rope grooves when rapping from bolts/chains. And it is part of the water pocket anchor. I dunno, maybe 50% of rappels, and most of the rest are sandtraps.

    What are bad times to use it?

    Well, if the geometry is going to cause it to fall out, that's less than ideal. Also, it's bad to fiddle a crap anchor when you have a good sandtrap or something else to use. It's also less than ideal when the anchor it is attached to is below your feet. Climbing down one handed while trying to hold the unweighted stone knot together with the fiddle in it may be one of the riskiest parts of canyoneering.

    There's also little point in using it for anyone but LAPAR aside from a slight increase in speed. The stone knot is fine, but leave a biner in it (clipped also to one side of the loop above the knot) until LAPAR.

    Another bad aspect of a fiddlestick is that you are often fiddling something that is very hard to back up. Think a little arch on the side of the canyon or something. LAPAR can't get up behind it to back it up for everyone else to really test it. That's not so much a fiddlestick issue as it is an anchor issue though.

    Using a fiddlestick also doesn't exempt you from the need to occasionally extend the anchor with webbing so that you can actually pull the stone knot. There is at least one canyon on the planet where the typical fiddlestick pull requires about 150 horsepower to get it out.

    Another issue is that the stone knot may not pull after you get the fiddlestick out. There are a lot of chockstones that you can fiddle, and you can get the fiddle out after rappelling, but the rope won't come out. You'll still have to leave sling (or your rope, your choice) and thus won't "ghost" the canyon.
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2020
    Tricam likes this.
  5. Canyonero

    Canyonero

    Messages:
    1,014
    Likes:
    1,065
    And once you become fiddlestick proficient, you're never going to screw with those other two anchor systems. If you lose your fiddle, you'll just ask one of the other five people with you for theirs.
    Yellow Dart, ratagonia and Bootboy like this.
  6. townsend

    townsend

    Messages:
    471
    Likes:
    447
    Location:
    Plano, TX
    You and me both have the black "tactical" version of the pirana. For all those occasions where we dabble in stealthy special operations. :greyalien:
    Tricam likes this.
  7. ratagonia

    ratagonia

    Messages:
    5,269
    Likes:
    6,478
    Location:
    Mount Carmel, Utah
    An additional place where using the Fiddle is contraindicated is where the rappel is messy - bushes, chockstones, etc. Basically places where the Fiddlestick could get stuck. Just do a regular pull through - and perhaps even rappel double strand so you do not have the biner block to catch on stuff. And even then, the end of the rope can decide to tie itself around something in the process of falling to the ground.

    Tom
    Tricam likes this.
  8. NevadaSlots

    NevadaSlots

    Messages:
    69
    Likes:
    60
    Brief intermission from fiddles, but in regards to picture #2 of Tricams original post, with the locked off Pirana. Obviously I dunno if that lock off was intended to be a "hard" "hands-free" lock-off but methinks it looks sorta unsafe. It is the correct way to lock off a Pirana version #2 though, but for version #1 I'm thinking better stick with the original's users manual, https://www.canyoneeringusa.com/techtips/how-to-use-a-petzl-pirana, or various other noose or wraps+mule knot variations. Opinions?
    Tricam likes this.
  9. ratagonia

    ratagonia

    Messages:
    5,269
    Likes:
    6,478
    Location:
    Mount Carmel, Utah
    Hard to say. If it is secure around the KNOB, then it is secure. If not, then a more-thorough cleating off would be a good idea.

    The thick rope does not help.

    Tom
    Tricam and NevadaSlots like this.
  10. Tricam

    Tricam

    Messages:
    63
    Likes:
    25
    Yeah - this definitely isn't an endorsed lockoff position for the the original Pirana and requires some judgement as to whether the half hitch is secure on the fin. It does secure rather well with the ropes I've used, and it looks much more reasonable with normal diameter ropes. I trust it for most real wold tasks where I briefly go hands free (ex: take a photo, untangle some rope). I would use a mule-overhand through the head if I thought it might be banging around (ex: rescue).

    With anything other than this stiff old fat 11mm rope, I also would add a second wrap on the right as well, but with this this setup a single wrap already has it in a soft lockoff.
  11. Canyonero

    Canyonero

    Messages:
    1,014
    Likes:
    1,065
    One good reason to prefer the toggles without a 2 foot string to get wrapped around stuff...hint hint.
  12. Fat Canyoner

    Fat Canyoner T2

    Messages:
    48
    Likes:
    65
    I use my fiddlestick (actually Smooth Operator) really extensively. I almost never do a trip where I don't take it with me.

    For exploratory trips, where I'm trying to ghost, it gets used for almost every drop. In less remote canyons, where slings are usually in place, I probably still use it about half the time, primarily to make pulldowns easier.

    The only trips where I wouldn't use it are when there is flowing water (so you want to set the rope length and be able to quickly release the rope if someone needs help) or beginner trips (again, where rigging a contingency anchor is more important for helping people who may get into trouble).

    I did have a laugh at your comment about "Keeping the hell away from that pullcord". It is a common misconception that it's easy to accidentally release. When the rope is loaded, it's almost impossible to release the fiddle. When you release it, the stone knot is twisted 90 degrees. When the rope is loaded, this twist can't happen. One of the things I do when teaching people how to use them is get someone to hang on rappel just off the ground. I then get people to tug on the pullcord to try and release it. It's amazing how much force is required to make it pull loose!
    Yellow Dart, ratagonia and Tricam like this.
  13. Tricam

    Tricam

    Messages:
    63
    Likes:
    25
    Despite having tested it rather thoroughly, I was still sketched out the first time using it... but not enough that I don't have a Smooth Operator currently en route :)

    I was convinced enough by this tech that I'll likely carry it on some alpine climbs for emergency bail situations, even if I don't use in canyons anytime soon.
  14. ratagonia

    ratagonia

    Messages:
    5,269
    Likes:
    6,478
    Location:
    Mount Carmel, Utah
    It has proven to be a poor choice on alpine climbs. There are places where it would work well, but often alpine rappels are too messy, and the fiddle gets stuck. Over and over again.

    Tom
    Tricam likes this.
  15. Canyonero

    Canyonero

    Messages:
    1,014
    Likes:
    1,065
    I don't think it is as useful in alpine climbing. First, most alpine climbs involve very few rappels. If you go up the Grand Teton, you might ascend 7000 feet and might do 20 pitches of climbing. But you probably only rap twice on the way down.

    Second, it's another piece of gear to carry. I'm already carrying special lightweight biners, cams, belay devices, sling etc. I don't take a single extra piece of gear if I can help it (aside from "emergency gear".)

    Third, if you do have many rappels, they're usually one after another. So as you're pulling the rope, you're feeding it into the next anchor. The fiddle just isn't as helpful in that situation. Although if it allowed you to bring a pull cord instead of a second rope then it could save some time and weight. But if you think a fiddlestick gets messy, try a little 3 mm dyneema pull cord. Ugh. Milking the kitty in the wind 800 feet up a face would really suck.
    Jolly Green, Tricam and ratagonia like this.
  16. Tricam

    Tricam

    Messages:
    63
    Likes:
    25
    Good to know. Do you know what the specific failure mode was most common? Specifically, is it more prone to jam like a chock, or is there more of an issue with the string/pullcord whipping around things? I guess I'll need to practice a good bit to see if there are conditions where it is worth the weight :)
  17. Tricam

    Tricam

    Messages:
    63
    Likes:
    25
    Actually, I was looking at this as a piece of emergency gear, not a primary means of descent. Primarily I was considering it for the situations of having lost trail on descent and cliffing out, or to avoid a sketchy loose scree couloir. I was reasoning that for the weight of a micro cam, it might save cutting up a sling or leaving other gear to bail. It could also give more anchor options further from the edge where rope pull would have been prohibitive, although given Tom's experience, the situations where it would actually pull clean may be rare. I'll need to get some time in testing it to see if there are situations it may be applicable, although it sounds like it probably won't be worth it from both of your experiences.

    I completely agree that for non-emergency descents, it would completely unnecessary and just add a mess. :)
  18. ratagonia

    ratagonia

    Messages:
    5,269
    Likes:
    6,478
    Location:
    Mount Carmel, Utah
    Fiddle works well when there is nothing to catch on anywhere on the rappel. On alpine climbs/rappels, there are little things for it to catch on all over the place. Where I WOULD expect it to work is on snow.

    A clean plain end of rope sticks on a lot less stuff.

    Tom
    Tricam likes this.
  19. Tricam

    Tricam

    Messages:
    63
    Likes:
    25
    Over the past week, I ended up getting to put a couple of these techniques to use :)

    Last Sunday I was climbing a "block" that has several routes up, but only one set of rap rings for descent. A storm was rolling in by the time we got to the top, but there was a group of college kids top roping off the rap rings. Instead of waiting who knows how long, I rigged a quick macrame off a tree, which allowed us to get down and nearly back to the car before the downpour. I chose the macrame over the CEM because it pulled better during testing, and I wasn't sure how a dynamic climbing rope would impact things, but it pulled without issue.

    Later in the week after work one day, we were climbing on a wall that has no descent anchors and a ~10 minute walk off. The top is kind of loose, and there are trees are about 20' from the lip. I had brought my newly arrived Smooth Operator to test out after we finished climbing, but I realized it could save us the walk off, so I took it up the climb. Found a tree with a solid Y in the trunk a few feet off the ground, which allowed the stone knot to hang comfortably in free space. I was surprised how confidence inspiring a real toggle is. The rap went fine, and it pulled clean - I was quite impressed :)

    Thanks for all of the help answering my beginner questions. It has been incredibly helpful, and I'm excited to get out west in a few weeks and try some of this out!
    ratagonia likes this.
  20. Canyonero

    Canyonero

    Messages:
    1,014
    Likes:
    1,065
    You'll never go back.
    Yellow Dart, Tricam and ratagonia like this.
Similar Threads: FiddleStick frequency
Forum Title Date
Tech Tips and Gear FiddleStick string - break? Nov 24, 2019
Tech Tips and Gear Releasable Fiddlestick Anchor Aug 21, 2019
General Discussion Found: FiddleStick, etc in Shinumo Wash Jun 24, 2019
Tech Tips and Gear Backing up a FiddleStick Jun 7, 2019
Tech Tips and Gear Fiddlestick ID Mar 22, 2019
Tech Tips and Gear Stone Knot, Fiddlesticks, and the Angles Jan 25, 2019