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Tech Tip: Answered The FiddleStick - an advanced anchor tool for canyoneering

Discussion in 'Tech Tips and Gear' started by ratagonia, Mar 12, 2013.

  1. ratagonia


    Mount Carmel, Utah
    But the biner makes the toggle much more likely to catch on something.

    Most of the regular Togglers I have been with girth hitch the amsteel either directly to the stick or to the end of the leader (on the official genuine FiddleStick (TM) ).

    The "leader" is basically a relic from the ones that Brendan made, and I have chosen to keep it. Having a carabiner hole would require me to make the stick wider, which I would rather not do. I personally think that Luke's 'biner safety' scheme is clever, but counter-productive, as I have preached on many occasions - and also because it is clever I decline to copy it. People I see using the smoothie mostly girth hitch their amsteel to the hole, rather than using the carabiner.

    Jus' Sayin'...

  2. Canyonero


    Most are using a biner at the end of the string anyway. But you can minimize that effect with a small biner or even a rapide if you want. Or you could tie the rope directly into the toggle I suppose if you made the toggle and hole big enough. Even then you still have a knot to catch on stuff.

    But in my limited experience, this is a non-issue. I don't know how many rappels, but I have yet to have the biner get caught. When toggles get stuck it isn't because of a biner. It's because ropes and pull cords and leaders all get tangled together. And many toggles have you ever stuck? It's pretty darn rare. It must be the least likely anchor to ever stick. The rope perhaps if you fiddled something dumb like a chockstone with a narrow pinch. But the toggle still comes down no problem.

    Luke's invention is the SECOND hole. I'm not advocating for a second hole. I'm just saying run the biner through the first one and clip the rope to it. Taylor started putting a short bit of webbing on his due to this concern about the leader getting tangled up. I told him not to bother for the ones he made me as I was just going to cut it off anyway and clip a biner straight in.

    I agree if you're always using a pull cord it is slick to just girth hitch it straight into the hole. But I find I often do not want to pull with a pull cord (especially a water pocket) so I tend to carry mine on the harness with a biner. Or have one of both.
    ratagonia likes this.
  3. jsb4g


    Washington, UT
    First of all, I love this part of your comment.

    Second, when I first got a toggle, I used a biner to connect the pull to the toggle. The toggle/biner fell straight down onto a ledge with pinch point below it. Got my rope, but had to go back the following morning to retrieve the pull cord/toggle as the biner and toggle got stuck. After further evaluation, I concluded it would not have happened without the weight of the attached biner. Based on that experience, my very personal preference here: I don't like any extra nonsense on the end of the toggle. Therefore, I just use a buried locked brummel splice with the fixed loop through the hole of the toggle. I also taper the buried strands. If that has not been covered in this very long thread, for anyone that does not know how to do this and wants to kill time:

    Nothing but toggle and pull cord, and when it is pulled it flies out better, catches less ledges, and seems easier to whip off of the ledges it does catch to avoid pinch points. A minor benefit over hitch/tied options (but not likely a benefit at all when used for the intended purpose of pulling a toggle) is it does not lower the safe WL of the Amsteel since the WL spec of Amsteel is WITH a splice. Disadvantage: you cannot remove the pull cord from the toggle easily on the fly and use it for another purpose..... BUT..... you can still use it as a pull cord with the toggle attached and it is particularly clean if you have a two hole toggle. AND IF I wanted a toggle without a pull attached, I'd just take my spare toggle that has nothing attached.
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2022
  4. TCarlisle


  5. Eroni


    Escalante, UT
    Adding this incident to the discussion for everyone's edification!

    A couple weeks ago in Cove (Grand Canyon) our group of 4 stuck our fiddle on an rappel of 80'. The anchor was on a chockstone about 10' back from the lip of a trickling waterfall that ends in an overhang. We chose to tie the stone hitch about 4' from the rapide to a nice place for it to float straight down the middle. After the first two members went down, we reset the toggle, then I went down last. I carried the pullcord to the edge where I tossed it down-canyon right for my party members to hold it out of the way. I was also rappelling using a munter- you can probably guess where this is going!
    Fast forward 30 minutes and we're still struggling to get the fiddle to pop. We tried several angles with body weight and multiple people with no progress. We figured it had twisted when I unweighted it because of the munter, so we tried flicking and "unwrapping" what we thought were twists. Then, finally it popped and down came the pullcord still girth-hitched to the yellow imlay cord- no fiddle. Fortunately, we had two ropes with us and were able to complete the canyon.
    After the trip I reached out through social media and was able to talk to someone planning to go in the following weekend. He snapped a couple photos and carried out the rope. I am grateful to his group for cleaning up our mess! Here are the photos:
    The fiddle was not pushed through like this before I went down, so this is likely from us flicking the rope. The hitch is also very tight as you can see from how folded it is.

    This is likely our problem. Read Tom's response below.

    After I got these photos I sent a note to Tom to see if he'd seen this before. I'll copy/paste his response below:


    In order to pull, the stick needs leverage in order to turn the stick to pointing down. The stick shown is unpullable... of course the question remains how did it get into that position, when you presumably had the stick centered when you went over the edge.

    If the stick will not pull, shaking it will not make it better. Pulling harder, with more people, or from other angles, is the way to go.

    I had thought that having the leader cord on the stick weak enough to break if the stick was stuck might be a good idea. It is useful to get the pull cord back.

    Having a long run of doubled rope in the air before getting to the knot & Stick can be counter productive. A long run like that can and will spin when rappelled upon. Looks like putting the stick right next to the anchor would have worked just fine on this occasion, as would just doing a pull through. Limestone not so susceptible to rope grooves.

    I would like to point out that in this canyon there ARE rope grooves in the limestone at an earlier rappel- a two-stager where the rope rubs along the wall at the beginning of the second stage. I watched as the rope elongated and sawed back and forth for each rappeler. This is an easy place to pad, and brings up another topic of how accessible this route is for Grand Canyon- thus requiring a bit more thoughtfulness regarding LNT. All that being said, I would agree that we could have used both ropes for this rappel with no need for the fiddle.
    Yellow Dart and ratagonia like this.
  6. Craig

    Craig Feeling My Way

    I've had similar problems with a fiddle stick. If ever I'm forced to place the fiddle far from the anchor, I try to weight the rope so that it does its spinning, then I can unwrap the pull cord from the twisted rope and continue down. Observing how the fiddle spins for the first person helps you to know how bad the problem is going to be.
    ratagonia likes this.
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