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Releasable Fiddlestick Anchor

Discussion in 'Tech Tips and Gear' started by R. Freimanis, Aug 21, 2019.

  1. R. Freimanis

    R. Freimanis

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    Does anyone have good instruction or can give a link to good instruction on setting up a releasable Fiddlestick anchor?
    To clarify, releasable meaning if someone is on rappel and needs to be lowered from the top because they are unable to rappel any further.
    I would like to learn but am having trouble finding information on it. And I would very much like to be able to rig a Fiddlestick and set it up as releasable instead of setting up a different releasable anchor then re-rigging to use a Fiddlestick.
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2019
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  2. Sonny Lawrence

    Sonny Lawrence

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    Ha. Ha. I had to do this once with Ram in Sad Cow. I don't have a document or video. You can apply "cut and lower" techniques that the ACA teaches. Be careful. If it gets out of control you can drop the person.
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  3. John Diener

    John Diener

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    Assuming the pull/working zone is clean (i.e. unlikely for anything to get hung up), I would use a short rope to rig the fiddlestick, and tie an anchor knot on that, from which I'd use a second (presumably longer) rope to rig for contingency/lowering. The last would then just connect the ropes in their favorite manner before rapping, or could just leave it in locked-off contingency mode if there truly are no concerns about anything getting hung up. Pulling the toggle should bring everything down.
    -john
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  4. zul

    zul

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    R. Freimanis - I would suggest taking 5 or 6 canyoneering courses first. Then, you might realize that the fiddlestick is a very dangerous devise only used by the most advanced canyoneers.

    OR - Learn the 'upward stone knot' proficiently and upgrade to the Smooth Operator where most canyoneers enjoy the freedom of Ghost Anchoring and rope groove freedom. Cool and groovy, sorta thing.
  5. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Welcome to the Canyon Collective.

    I hope you will find your time here to be educational and entertaining.

    Asking questions here can result in honest though harsh responses, as you may have noticed. It is all meant with love - in this case a desire to keep people safe, to challenge their problem-solving skills, to provoke people to improve their canyoneering craft. At times, it certainly may seem like much of it is just meant to be mean or at least righteous. Please Assume Good Faith... and when that fails, assume the mean person had a very bad day and you provide them the opportunity to blow off some steam.

    And I say that as a prime offender.

    Tom
  6. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    If I was going to do that, I would set up my anchor with the end of the rope, make a stone knot and stick a carabiner in it. Then tie a loop knot (Fig 8 on a bight) a foot or two or more down, then set up a contingency anchor off of that. The way I envision it, this would be using two separate ropes. At the end, I would then drop the Fiddle side ropebag, and the contingency/rappelling rope would become the pull rope.

    Tom
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  7. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    And now the original snide answer I worked up:

    Do you want it to navigate to the canyon for you, diagnose that strange sound in your engine and do your taxes also? Clean your teeth and find you a girl and/or boyfriend?

    If you want to set up a contingency anchor, set up a contingency anchor. If you want to Fiddle at the end to leave nothing behind, then do that.

    Setting up either a contingency anchor or a Fiddle normally takes about 30 seconds. I personally do not see the point in setting up both at the same time, and there are downsides - mainly, a contingency anchor is a hands-on type of thing, and a Fiddle is a hands-off kind of thing. By trying to marry these disparate tasks, you are creating more possibilities for things to go wrong. I recommend against.

    Tom
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  8. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    And now for the best answer: What do you think?

    There are several different ways to do this that would more or less work. It is not something for which there is a standard answer, since the two tasks generally take place in different types of canyons, so there is no "right answer". Colorado Plateau canyoneering is as much about problem solving as anything else - it would maybe be better to take a crack at it and then ask for a critique, rather than ask for a solution right off the bat.

    Often the best way to learn the subtleties of rigging is to go canyoneering with people who know what they are doing, and ask questions. Canyoneers are generally a friendly and accepting bunch, though that may not be conspicuous on this and other forums.

    Tom
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  9. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    At the risk of being a lead hog...

    Generally, if we cannot see the bottom, the first thing we might do is set up a meat anchor and send someone down. A meat anchor is easy to set up as a lowerable anchor, though it does require a secure location to put the meat. Sometimes we start people down on meat while other people work on figuring out what we are going to use for an anchor.

    Tom
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2019
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  10. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    A stickman illustration would be helpful here. I got lost shortly after "to do that, I would..."

    Animated would even be more illustrative!
  11. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    I think you missed the point. I think it is a bad idea to lay out in exacting detail a simple problem like this. R. and other interested people should be able to figure it out from the hints provided. If they cannot, then they should recognize this is something they should not be doing in the field.

    Tom
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  12. R. Freimanis

    R. Freimanis

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    Thank you, I appreciate your responses. A little bit of background to my question, I was at a meet up and one of the hosts mentioned when discussing releasble anchors via MMO, Totem, etc., that there was also a way to rig a releasable when a fiddle is set up, it sparked the curiosity in me. However, I see the wisdom in your advice. Although looking back on the conversation now I may have misunderstood him. I took his words to mean the initial set up of the fiddle anchor as releasable when in actuality I bet he was referring to transforming the existing fiddle anchor into the ability to lower a rappeller.
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2019
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  13. R. Freimanis

    R. Freimanis

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    After posting my question last night I went out back and practiced working through how I could make it work and arrived at a similar plan but also realized with how simple it is to set up a contingency and then re-rig to fiddle, trying to make it initially releasable almost felt like a waste of time. And I couldn't see many benefits to doing it that way. What I really need to focus on/practice safely is the cut and lower technique (as well as other techniques if any) for when the anchor is already a fiddle and someone gets stuck on rap and I need to lower them.
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2019
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  14. NM Ben

    NM Ben

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    R is, as most do, using "Fiddlestick" in place of the more generic "Toggle" term - using a smooth operator (style) toggle, though. Also, "a very dangerous devise only used by the most advanced canyoneers. " might be a touch melodramatic, but maybe that's just my interpretation, or maybe I missed the "Tongue in cheek".

    Well articulated statement on forum dynamics, Tom.

    Regarding this scenario, I don't think there's really any way around having to re-rig aside from something like that suggested by John Diener. The nature of the fiddlestick 1. locks the rope down, and 2. benefits from having very little rope leftover at the anchor to minimize snagging/rope grooves. I'd say, if you know beforehand that you want a contingency anchor, rig it that way, and then re-rig for fiddlesticking.

    In the scenario where someone is rappelling on a rope that's anchored with a fiddlestick, and the rope ends up too short, you could use a prusik/ascender attached to the tensioned rope, and to a spare rope that's set up for lowering. You could try to yank the weighted fiddlestick out to transition the load from one rope to another (Making sure the rope being transitioned to is taught to avoid shock loading), but my experimentation shows that as pretty difficult. So, you may have to heave up and get some tension off of the stone knot - either via brute force or a mechanical advantage lift system.

    I'm interested to see other ideas.
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  15. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    Totally agree here. I was having a difficult time drawing up a realistic scenario when you would want to combine these two methods.

    To each his own, but for me a contingency anchor is not SOP with every rappel anymore than the releasable anchor is (fiddle-stick, smooth operator or whatever). Each has its own best-practice time and place. When one thinks a contingency is needed or has a high-use probability then save the releasable anchor for LPAR, if it's required/needed. It's a given that last-person is not going to benefit from a contingency anchor.

    In my head a releasable anchor and contingency anchor is a coin toss....it's heads or tails but not both.
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  16. R. Freimanis

    R. Freimanis

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    I suppose IF the anchor you've set up is just the rope and toggle device and there is no webbing anchor involved and IF brute force isn't working to yank the device out of the stone knot, you could simply cut your rope and preferably as close as possible to the tail end above the device. Sure you'll lose a few feet of rope (if you've retraced your knot to the tail side correctly) but it's setting up a mechanical advantage system for loosening the stone knot vs losing a few feet of rope. Just adding a thought.
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  17. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    This sounds like you should have set up a contingency in the first place. And saved the fiddle for the end.

    There is a secret to the "cut and lower" technique: cut the webbing, not the rope.

    The other secret is to not get into a situation where a cut and lower is necessary, but that is really the secret to ALL the rescue techniques. If you want to practice a useful technique, the most useful technique (IMO) is the "convert block to lower". My best time is 2 minutes 5 seconds, with a real person hanging 3 feet off the ground.

    Tom
  18. R. Freimanis

    R. Freimanis

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    To make sure I'm on the same page, IMO, or "convert block to lower" would be a term for initially setting up an MMO or Eight block or aTotem that are all releasable anchors, is that right?
    I've also not yet heard IMO. Is this synonymous with "releasable anchor" (not to be confused with retrievable ie toggle device anchors like fiddle or smooth operator)?
  19. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    IMO = In My Opinion. IMHO is often used, but seems inappropriate for me, since I can be humbled, but my opinion is rarely Humble.

    A conversion is from a static block to a lowering system. If you use a contingency block, the process is called activating the contingency. In non-flowing canyons, it is much more common to use static blocks (usually clove hitch* on a carabiner) rather than a contingency block. If you have beginners with long flowing un-controlled hair, it is a good idea to use contingency blocks.

    Tom
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  20. R. Freimanis

    R. Freimanis

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    Ah. Yes. Haha.

    Ok, I follow. The ACA likes the term "releasable anchors" on their skills lists, but as I read/watch and talk to people in canyons and on here I see "contingency" used in place of that.
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