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Tech Tip: Question Pothole Escaping for Dummies?

Discussion in 'Tech Tips and Gear' started by lostlandscapes, Feb 26, 2013.

  1. Bootboy

    Bootboy Atwood Gear

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    Dredging this back up.

    This subject has been on my mind recently. Having been through several pothole canyons recently and seeing some BAD rope grooves developing on both sides of potholes.

    To augment Tom's list of options above:

    It is very useful and expeditious to know which options to skip entirely and go right to the first one that has a chance of succeeding. An obvious example for the purpose of explaining the principle would be skipping steps A-D and going straight to F when a pothole is a likely swimmer -8' from the DC lip. A ton of time and energy can be wasted by employing one unsuccessful method after another, pushing your successful method even further down the list.

    Back to the rope grooves...

    If you are going to throw stuff, its better to do it right the first time and get enough weight over to ensure your success and better yet, avoid pulling sandbags back toward you from inside the hole while creating rope grooves.

    Try to find the sweet spot for that sandbag before entering. You can often see it from above, certainly better than you can from in the pothole. Your angle is also much better to avoid grooves.

    On a recent trip, we came across a very large pothole that was at least 8' from the lip. We couldn't see what the DC geometry was like from UC. The toss was pretty far (30') but the stance was good. As the Tosser and escaper, I called for 5 full bags. We had plenty of rope so why not do it right the first time? Better to go big on attempt 1 than go in on inadequate bags, groove the rock, and have them pull, only to have to reset and do it all over again. Square one, less energy, more rope grooves. Lose/Lose.

    I threw all 5 bags, pulled them back until I felt a noticeable increase in resistance, went on rappel in to the hole, had the UC crew manage the ropes so the bags didnt slip. I had a tether attached to all the climbing lines so they were never out of reach and the UC crew would feed slack as necessary to keep the bags in place. I attached my friction hitches and etrier once against the far wall and slid them as High as I could (Iknew it was high enough based on the length of my etriers and the height of the lip) Once I had the bags weighted, I unclipped from the rap rope and took 3 steps up my etrier and I was out. Zero slippage of the bags, no rope grooves, one shot and we were out.

    No extra energy expended on my part or the part of the other crew members. The only possible extra energy expended was on the tossing of perhaps one or two unnecessary sand bags. Better too many than too few.

    The point here being that to be an effective and efficient pothole escaper is more than to simply be able to climb or throw or boost, it means to know how to employ the correct method appropriately and effectively, the first time.
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2015
    Anna, Stevee B, Chris Grove and 6 others like this.
  2. Bootboy

    Bootboy Atwood Gear

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    One more point on bag tosses. The importance of the job of "rope tender" for the tosser cannot be overstated. Not only do you increase the longevity of the toss, you also play an important role in preventing rope grooves and energy conservation by grabbing to rope and stopping the bag once it has just passed it target. To let the bag fall DC and take up all that extra rope means you have to spend extra energy to drag it back up to its sweet spot and increase the odds of completely unnecessary rope groves over involved and uninvolved features of the canyon. let the bags get just beyond their mark, stop them from going too far beyond.
  3. Ram

    Ram

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    On a different note that may seem contrary to Bootboy's approach of using overwhelming force immediately aimed at what the group thinks is most likely approach to work. It isn't contrary. It just should be used parallel to the other plan. I got to sit back watching a group of 5-7 folks solve problem after problem, in canyons that I was the only one that visited prior to this trip. I kept my mouth shut and just observed almost all the time. Great bunch of folks and quite talented. The one underutilized factor for the whole week was the lack of using what we call "the probe."

    The group would see a pothole problem and go after the solution they thought most likely and fail to send someone down to see if they could stand at what looked like swimmers or to find that hidden underwater ledge or hold that would make partner assist the fastest and easiest solution at that particular problem. The probe can be worked while the primary and likely solution is prepared. If it fails, you just have to get your probe out of the water quickly. But the "probe" solves the problem or redirects the effort far more often than an initial analysis of the problem would indicate likely. Perhaps a quarter to a third of the time. Very worth the effort.

    To shift the discussion slightly to captures, a very important tool in the 4 ghosting techniques. The "probe" is even more important and should almost always be used. Send someone down with a good eye, off of meat. MANY more captures become apparent from below than can be gleamed from above. Again, a huge time saver.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2015
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  4. Bootboy

    Bootboy Atwood Gear

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    Admittedly, this is something I should do more often. I feel like I'm pretty adept at selecting and executing pothole escape techniques when they involve hardware and getting it set from up canyon. I can think of a few from this last trip where a prober would have perhaps saved us the trouble of bags and ropes.

    But it also comes back to balancing the chance of having to retrieve your prober vs going with the sure bet first.

    I guess assessing the difficulty of having to retrieve an unsuccessful investigator should also become part of the whole scene size-up. Asking "how easily could we pull someone back out if he finds no option for escape from the pothole?".

    If fetching a probe is fairly easy, agreed, send him right in.
    Ram likes this.
  5. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    That was nice of you not to use any names Ram. :)

    I'm fairly new to pothole canyons, but had some particularly excellent experience recently.

    Here's a few tips for beginners:

    1) These aren't canyons to do with a team of 2 or 3. Bring 6 or 8. There is an immense amount of safety provided by being able to drop 2-4 people into a pot hole and still having 2-4 there to pull them back out if something goes wrong. Plus, you need a ton of ropes. If you need one 80 footer for each pot shot, you might be hauling 5 or 6 ropes. You want to carry 4 ropes yourself?

    2) Throw from above. It's really hard to throw packs and potshots OUT of the pothole. Sometimes rappelling down and throwing from halfway down is easier than from the top.

    3) If you need to ascend multiple ropes together, you can't use a mechanical ascender, so bring something you can make prussiks around multiple ropes with.

    4) Energy conservation is important in a long, physical canyon. If you have enough people, you can spend some time on "cruiser mode" while other people are solving the problems ahead of you. Then you can take your turn with the fun stuff. But each time you hit a pothole, consider not only the fastest and safest way across/out, but also that which requires the least amount of energy. Teamwork is key. So don't plan your hardest canyon on day one of the trip while the team is still gelling.
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  6. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    That's awesome. The tip of the spear.

    An old climbing partner used to say, "probing", to mean when he was on lead looking for a solution to a problem but not quite ready to commit or go for it. Funny.

    After a couple of liters of Movieprep...yeah...I think I'm ready for the "probe". Ha ha.

    Never underestimate the value of a person who's got some talent in the heat of battle. "I'll check it out." Ok, your lead...! Not something taught or learned necessarily. Some folks just got it.

    Good stuff.
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  7. Mike Zampino

    Mike Zampino Canyon season never ends.

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    I disagree. I think 8 is too many in a long hard canyon, even a pothole canyon, and significantly increases the amount of time it takes to get through. I love a group size of 4 (2+2) where each 2 person team keeps leap frogging each other until you get to a more difficult obstacle that requires all 4 to defeat. Depending on the canyon I can see where a 5th or 6th could be helpful, but I fail to see a situation that would require a 7th or 8th person. YMMV

    On a side note, as long as your friend Hilti comes along you have nothing to worry about. <*said tongue in cheek*>
  8. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    More people are helpful in captures, carrying ropes, giving you a break, hauling people up out of potholes etc.

    I was surprised how many times 6 people were working at a time. 1 person excavating a hole for a sandtrap, 2 people ferrying sand from another location, another person probing the pothole, maybe another down there boosting him out, another functioning as meat for the people going into the pothole, heck, I'm up to 5 and I haven't even mentioned the guys bagging the ropes from the last drops, the guy managing the ropes attached the potshots, and the guys eating, drinking, and messing with their packs. And we're still talking about a single problem at a time. Ghosting canyons with lots of potholes is VERY labor intensive. Obviously, there is a number that is too many, but I think that number is definitely higher than 6.

    Even in a "bolt" canyon like Heaps, 6 people can be very fast as seen in my TR here:

    http://canyoncollective.com/threads/how-to-descend-heaps-in-9-hours.19671/

    The only thing that takes longer with more people is rappelling. And if everyone is darn fast at that.....that won't be the rate limiting step. If you're in a canyon where how fast you rappel is the rate limiting step, such as Imlay with its 45+ rappels, then more people means more ropes and more people rappelling at a time.
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  9. Mike Zampino

    Mike Zampino Canyon season never ends.

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    Like I said, YMMV. I prefer less people most of the time. Some of the things I enjoy: the solitude, the problem solving, the physical challenges, going at my pace...all are diminished/effected as the group size grows. Some of my most memorable trips are when it is just me and my GF. With that said, I have done several trips in larger groups and they can be fun too from time to time. Imlay in keeper mode we had 4 and it was fantastic.
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  10. Mike Zampino

    Mike Zampino Canyon season never ends.

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    Back on topic: There are many ways to practice. Practice tossing potshots/packs in canyons without potholes. Practice tossing: while stemming, around corners, off balance, for distance, for accuracy, full potshot, half full, etc, etc. Practice ascending multiple ropes. Practice partner assits even if they are not requried or try going up a canyon like East Blarney. Do a buddy boost in a swimmer just to know what it will feel like to get submerged. These are just a few things off the top of my head...
    Kuenn likes this.
  11. Ram

    Ram

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    True dat!!! If you can't be good....bring people who are.
    You have any idea what it is like to put your son in harms way because you are...what?....under qualified? Out of your league? Scared poo-less?
    Great for your self esteem!:sorry:
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  12. Ram

    Ram

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    I agree that 8 is too many in a long hard canyon. I disagree that 8 is too many in a long hard POTHOLE canyon. Canyonero has done a great job reviewing the many reasons why. In most explorations, we have had a minimum of 6. When I went on my first exploration with 8, I voiced concerns to the leader, Big John. I thought we needed one more brawny person and 2 less "escape artists." You know the bouldering guys that do V99? Four were on trip. I was wrong. I would come forward after the umteeth bagging of rope and look at the next pothole. The escape crew was passed it. It looked fearsome. I think. "Oh must be able to stand there at the exit lip." Wrong. Deep swimmer after deep swimmer. One of these pots after another. So at the end of this particular canyon that took 16 hours over two days, I still HAVE NO IDEA how a dozen of many dozens of potholes were solved, except to be in awe of my partners who used teamwork and likely a healthy bit of competition to bring this sport to a higher plane than I thought possible. I mean I could hear them giggling and laughing ahead of me. Since then, I have become comfortable with size going from 6 to 8. One has to experience it to buy in. Sort of like it is with the ghosting tools and techniques. Skeptics till they are used first person, then embraced after watching that first sandtrap pull and follow you down the canyon.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2015
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  13. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    The other issue with only taking a few people is there are more people you have to hide the trip from. I think I've canyoneered with 40 or 50 different people in the last year and nearly all of them say "Call me when you're going again." Well, you can't call them all, but taking 6 instead of 4 does let you bring two more!

    Also, "baggage people" don't add much to the team. When I say 6 or 8 people, those are 6 or 8 people all of whom know how to set up a sand trap, throw pot shots, ascend a rope, stuff a bag, climb 5.9, carry a 300 footer all day, do high stemming, capture and be captured etc. If they're not contributing, they're baggage and don't add anything to a team. It's fun to take baggage down a canyon from time to time (girlfriend/Scout type trips) but that's not what I'm talking about.
  14. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    Not to mention testers. I mean, if you're rapping off water pockets, sandtraps, some manky chockstone etc and there's only 3 of you....what happens when it fails on dude # 1 AND dude # 2? Have fun being dude # 3.
  15. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    I am so glad that I NEVER do canyons with "baggage people", ie people who's company I do not value.

    Tom
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  16. Mike Zampino

    Mike Zampino Canyon season never ends.

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    Ahhh - the dreaded "list" that everyone wants to be on and feels slighted when left off. Easily solved by only bringing my girlfriend, which btw is NOT baggage. No one is going to give me crap for wanting to share some alone time... :smuggrin:
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  17. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    Oh come on Tom, stop busting my balls. You know what I mean. You value their company (or you wouldn't have brought them) but they may not be contributing much to the team's passage through the canyon.

    That said, it's pretty easy to teach some very helpful stuff to a willing learner.
  18. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    No no Canyonero. You mis-read my comment. I am so happy you so generously take all those parasites like Ram and I (who are unlikely to carry 300' ropes all day, or solo 5.11 on crumbly rock) on trips. That clearly keeps all these parasites occupied because they NEVER seem to show up in my circle. Then again, my standards may be a bit lower than yours...

    Tom
  19. Bootboy

    Bootboy Atwood Gear

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    C'mon you guys.

    I understand what you are both saying. You are both making valid points but choosing not to build on the topic in a constructive way.

    Not everyone's role is a purely technical one. Some people add so much more than simply technical knowledge. They bring wisdom, experience, good humor, and cohesion to the group that simply can't be quantified. That said, in certain canyons, the must have a minimum baseline of ability. Some canyons, regardless of condition, and even condition dependent ones, require a minimum skill set for all involved.

    Attributes of good canyon partners are both qualitative AND quantitative.
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  20. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Ah c'mon Taylor. Don't say it OUT LOUD.

    But you missed my point. My point is that whether someone is "baggage" is in the mind of the "baggage handler". I don't have baggage on my trips because I decline to view ANYONE from that point of view. And I am usually the leader on trips I am on. One of my canyon leadership koans is this:

    Everyone on the trip is entitled to a FANTASTIC trip, except one, the leader.

    :moses:
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