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FAQ Newbie Questions

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Nuss, Aug 30, 2021.

  1. Nuss

    Nuss

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    So I just did my first canyon on Saturday. I’ve been kinda obsessed with canyoneering for the past 4 months. I’ve been practicing with a Critr, a Hoodoo and a rappel rack. Ascending, knots of all sorts. Setting up good anchors which I’ve been doing on my backyard tree and on the pull-up rack in my basement where I installed some anchor bolts. I’ve studied the ACA checklists. Mainly checklist 1: https://www.canyoneering.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Skills-Checklists-1-4.pdf

    So getting a first canyon down was pretty great and I’m even more hooked than I was the last few months. I have a few questions though:

    1. What’s the best way to pack a bag? I ended up with a rodcle as I like the drainage more(and Imlays are a hot commodity). It doesn’t have a great spot to coil and secure a rope like the Imlays.

    I was carrying my 200 with me. It was the exit that killed. My wetsuit and rope were in my bag, digging into my shoulders vs being in the canyon with the wetsuit on and carrying the rope bag in hand.

    I also made the mistake of leaving things like webbing and slings outside a dry bag in my pack to get wet. So when we hiked out that added weight.

    2. What am I looking for when checking webbing and anchors?
    - What is the best way to check anchors before the rap? A good tug?

    To me there are obvious ones like the webbing being torn and bolts being loose which we looked for. I’d guess brittle webbing should be replaced. I’m less sure about that. I also thought if there were any anchors near the entry that get more sun that we should look for UV exposure. Once again not sure how I’d check that it’s UV damaged. Discoloration?

    3. Water filtration. I didn’t drink much water till the exit and yet had a 3 liter camelback with me. Seems a better usage of space and weight to carry like 30-50 oz in a bottle (which won’t pop) and also bring filtration.
    - Is there a good set of guidelines for when to filter vs not?
    - is there a recommended water filter for canyons?

    I recognize these are all pretty newbie questions. And my googling and searching of the forum wasn’t getting me where I would’ve liked.

    Shoot me any old posts and I’ll dig in to get some answers as I’m sure these have all been asked prior.

    Thanks!


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  2. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    Try tightening the waist belt and adjusting the top of the shoulder straps. I carry a Rodcle mostly and yeah, they're not near as comfy for weight as Tom's Imlay packs (by a large, large margin).

    I coil the rope like climbers do and drape it over the top of the pack, under the lid. Kinda works ok. Or, just stuff it in the bottom so, if wet, it'll drain.

    2. What am I looking for when checking webbing and anchors?

    Rotate and inspect for abraded spots and tears. Faded webbing (UV damage) would be not great. Back up, weight, then remove and replace old sling or remove backup.

    3. Water filtration. I didn’t drink much water till the exit and yet had a 3 liter camelback with me. Seems a better usage of space and weight to carry like 30-50 oz in a bottle (which won’t pop) and also bring filtration.
    - Is there a good set of guidelines for when to filter vs not?
    - is there a recommended water filter for canyons?


    Hydrate before you get thirsty. I rarely carry a filter. Prefer iodine tablets, but, that's just me. I usually fill and wait an hour so I plan for that.

    I drink at least a liter at the car prior to launch (more if its hot).

    Cheers!
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  3. Nuss

    Nuss

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    Thanks for the insight.

    I’m having kind of a duh moment on checking the anchors. I settled for putting weight on them while still standing on safe ground prior to rappel. Better than nothing and not putting myself at risk. But I will do the safety going forward in addition.
  4. Nuss

    Nuss

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    I should clarify. We were on PAS’s while connecting to the rappel. I’m referring to testing the anchor prior to going on rappel with the PAS connected. I did not actually hang on the rappel with a backup in place or put significant weight on them while also backed up. Typically I connected PAS tied into the rappel with the Hoodoo, removed backup then untied the hoodoo and defended. So I suppose it was ultimately the same thing. But not purposefully looking for a failure in the anchor. I will do that going forward.


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  5. Sutitan

    Sutitan

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    1. For managing rope (or really just in general), id recommend highly recommend looking into a rope bags. While I hate recommending more gear, a rope bag really helps you move through a canyon a lot more efficiently and safely. I usually hike in and out of canyons with the rope bag in my bag, and just carry/throw them throughout the canyon.

    2. In addition to Brian's suggestions, id also take a close look at the anchor material. I dont typically mind rappelling of a hardware store quicklink as long as its adequately sized and the gate is secure. I have seen some less than ideal anchor materials used like non climbing rated webbing or even loops of what appeared to be paracord. 1" tubular webbing and a rated quick link is ideal.

    3. Depending on the water situation, ill carry 1-2 liters. there are a few rivers that can be tricky to filter (Escalante comes to mind), but I filter plenty in canyons. Id just take a look at the water and see how silty it is. If necessary, you could always grab some water, let it settle, and then filter. I use a somewhat large platypus gravity filter. Ive seen some slick and very compact sawyer setups which I think would be really nice.
  6. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Good answers above... sorta.

    Putting a tug, or even body weight, on anchor webbing is 100% INeffective. A good inspection includes A. inspecting the anchor and B. inspecting the rigging.

    Inspecting the anchor is usually straightforward, but I have seen some jingus thing rigged up that surprised my by holding for previous rappels.

    The entire length of the webbing needs to be inspected for cuts, abrasion and UV damage. If it is not 1" tubular webbing it is unlikely to be safe. Get rid of it. Branded rapides are preferred, but there are plenty of non-branded rapides that are 'good enough'. Having a rating stamped on the rapid link is completely meaningless without a BRAND. Who you gonna sue - China?

    Webbing gets crinkly when UV'd out, and the color fades. Faded webbing can be just fine (as the color UVs out first), but if it is really bleached, it is likely gone. Cuts in webbing and serious abrasion are also outs. If you are not replacing the webbing on one or two anchors in each canyon you are doing, then you are not being sufficiently picky.

    What canyon did you do? Who did you do it with?

    The questions you asked are ones that should be asked of a mentor. Don't have a mentor? You ought to get one. Seriously. There is a lot to canyoneering craft that is very challenging to relay in any situation other than being in a canyon with someone who knows what they are doing. Tom's Number Rule for Stayin' Alive is "Don't be a beginner being led by a beginner", with the corollary "Don't be a beginner leading other beginners." Don't, just don't!

    Thanks. And welcome to the addiction!

    Tom
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2021
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  7. joeb

    joeb middle aged guy who lies around alot

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    "3. Water filtration. I didn’t drink much water till the exit"
    I am a firm believer in being extra prepared in the water department particularly in summer conditions or anytime doing Grand Canyon routes. On one trip out to Grand Canyon, I made the mistake of relying on a large sized camelback - it had a defective nozzle and leaked out completely. So now I use multiple smaller containers. It is waay better to end up with excess water at end of trip than suffering from dehydration, throw in an extra liter than you think necessary - you won't be sorry.

    Side Note: learn to ascend your ropes. you won't need it till you need it! I keep a pair of tibloc micro ascenders with me at all times.
    Cheers!
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  8. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Using bottles also allows you to manage your water consumption better. People with a drinking tube next to them often drink their water too fast. Sometimes I get too involved in the canyon, and do not drink enough - so it is good to have the bottles to know exactly how much you have drunk and how much you have left. (Water is more easily absorbed if there are carbohydrates around. So half-strength electrolyte drinks, and/or a bit of food are very helpful.)

    Tom
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2021
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  9. Nuss

    Nuss

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    We did pine creek. Loved the cathedral and also loved how much water there was. It’s kind of what I envisioned for canyoneering. Swimming between 5 foot-wide canyon walls.

    Couldn’t agree more. I’ve spent a lot of time ascending in the cottonwoods with my wife. In fact it’s one of the things I’ve practiced most as I feel that inevitably I’ll need it. Wether on the next trip or a year from now it’ll happen. Haven’t had to do it on a wet, gritty rope. However I do keep a few VT prusiks on hand just for that. And my backyard tree has helped me keep it sharp.

    To answer other questions and comments, I did actually pick up some rope bags prior to beginning the sport. Bootboy and Tom’s to be specific(Atwood rope bag for the big ropes and a baguette for the working rope). Big fan of both and the Atwood did make life a lot easier in the canyon. I’m half tempted to use one to store my climbing rope they are so convenient. I think I’ll just have to acknowledge the downsides of a rodcle and do better keeping everything dry that need stay dry until needed and figuring out the proper amount of gear. That would have saved me some weight.

    As for water I do agree with erring on caution. I have a Sawyer and some good iodine tabs. So perhaps a combo of those if I’m worried about a long day. Plus I have several plastic bottles that I’ll probably carry along going forward in place of the bladder. I like what you said Tom about multiple bottles and knowing how much I’ve had. Probably some wisdom in that.

    And mentoring..... we probably were bordering on blind leading the blind. The leader has done this canyon and has led two prior to this. But only has like 6 under his belt. Another member has 10 or more, including pine creek, but I get the feeling she’s always been more of a passenger on all of those.

    If anyone has a few open spots and has patience for a newbie, let me know. I already wish I was headed back down this week to do another. Hoping to get a few more in this year.

    Thanks.


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  10. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    I think, for me and mine, best practice prior to launch on any rappel is to weight the system. Better to have a back up anchor. Ask John Sherman (!).

    As it becomes more common for folks to trust in pre-built deadman anchors, just inspecting the sling may not be enough. Especially given that some folks have become minimalist when constructing and leaving deadman anchors. You know, the ones with a single (not doubled) sling ending in a loop/rapide...

    In other words...yeah, find a mentor...!

    Cheers and be safe out there!

    Some light reading:

    FALL ON ROCK, INADEQUATE ANCHOR ON TOP ROPE SET UP
    COLORADO, BOULDER CANYON, HAPPY HOUR CRAG

    Climb Year: N/A. Publication Year: 2001.
    On April 20, a climber fell to his death while being lowered, due to the webbing on one of the anchor’s parting and not being properly clipped in to the equalizing anchor. In the case of the webbing, it was only masking tape that connected (and hid!) the ends of one of two webbing anchor slings. This accident was particularly noteworthy because the climber had purchased the webbing the day before and did not realize that masking tape joined two pieces of webbing. The webbing came off the spool that did not have one continuous length. (Source: Bill May)

    https://publications.americanalpineclub.org/articles/13200603200

    https://publications.americanalpineclub.org/articles/13200605700

    https://publications.americanalpineclub.org/articles/13200006302

    https://publications.americanalpineclub.org/articles/13201214408

    Good advice from Molly:

    http://publications.americanalpineclub.org/articles/13201214391
  11. Scott Patterson

    Scott Patterson

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    Why would it be ineffective (of course other inspection should be done too)? I have yanked on plenty of deadman and chockstone anchors and had them move or blow.
  12. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Languaging point taken. Philosophically, to be 100% effective, tugging would have to identify all anchors likely to fail. It is unlikely to do this as: the load while rappelling CAN be 3X bodyweight; and the failure could be a progressive failure. In a life-safety situation, I consider something that is not very close to 100% effective to be 100% ineffective. Such as pulling on a piece of webbing coming out of the dirt.

    However, I have rappelled off an anchor or two which I tested by pulling on the webbing coming out of the dirt. I'd like to say that I had knowledge of what was under the dirt (or in the pool, as the case may be)... and maybe I did. I am more cautious these days.

    We human beings are often reluctant to dig out the thing because "it will take too long", "I pulled on it and it seems good", "I think people rappelled on it last week", "the webbing looks new". The counter argument is "I want to continue to live".

    Sometimes people back up for the first person down, or hopefully for all but the last person down. This does not protect against progressive failure. But those are less common than simple failure.

    Tom
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  13. Nuss

    Nuss

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    Makes sense. I’ll make sure to get diligent with anchor inspection. Almost seems like a waterproof checklist wouldn’t hurt to read before the rap. Especially at the beginning while things continue to become second nature.

    I shall search for a mentor.

    Thanks.
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  14. Moab Kevin

    Moab Kevin

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    As others have said or implied.

    Canyoneering is great, but can get you into interesting situations which is why a lot of us like it.
    Get yourself some in person training if you can. Look on meetup; I'm partial to what Tom and Jeremy offer but there's a lot of great training there. Often times there's free partial day events but even a $400 or $500 investment to learn things that will save your or your buddies/honeys bacon is a bargain. Bonus you get to meet the salty canyon dogs running the training who have much knowledge and stories.

    Don't go buying lots of kit before the experience, else you'll have lots of things used once. You'll get to ask people at training what's worked for them, what's not, can you try their ABC?, etc. Then when you buy, you'll have something that will work for you.
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