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Tech Tip: Question Thoughts on my rope walker system? (Beginner)

Discussion in 'Tech Tips and Gear' started by chconnor, May 17, 2018.

  1. chconnor

    chconnor

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    Howdy -- I'm a beginner with plans to do some canyoneering-style rappelling this summer: a single static rope, descent followed by ascent, repeat. I've done basic prusik ascending and descending, but the summer adventures will have some very long rappels (300+ feet) so I've been researching options for a rope-walker system.

    Current plan:

    descents:
    - some kind of rack style device for descents in conjunction with an autoblock of some type
    - ATC or petzl reverso on-hand as a backup device (as well as prusiks, etc.)

    ascents:
    - CT quick step foot ascender
    - petzl basic as a DIY SAKA (shock cord to harness)
    - petzl croll 'chest' ascender (see below)

    Seem sane? (Don't worry, I have friends that have various experience in this area who I'll be learning with, and will be practicing a lot; I'm not just going to throw a rope over a cliff and go for it. I just wanted to solicit the internet's advice on the gear selection before I spend a bunch of cash.)

    Besides gear choice, the remaining questions:

    - I know it's common to use a chest harness for a chest ascender. i was hoping to just attach the croll with a maillon to my harness as I've seen some do. Seems OK, yeah? A little less stable maybe but with two hands more or less free it doesn't seem like it'll be hard to stabilize.

    - while ascending with three points of safety or quasi-safety (foot, knee, and chest) is it typical to use a backup friction knot? At first glance I thought not, but neither of the lower two ascenders seem like a wise way to fall, so having a spare hand on a prusik up high makes a lot of sense?

    - the rappels are likely going to be a combination of free-air and steep brushy slopes. So I've been trying to think about a system that doesn't tangle easily in that kind of stuff. If you have any cautions about my proposed system in that context, I'd appreciate hearing them.

    Thanks for your time!

    -Casey
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  2. Sonny Lawrence

    Sonny Lawrence

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    Ah Casey, there are a few cavers on this website. But these are mostly canyoneers. The system you propose is a conglomeration of caving technique and gear. You might make it work. It will be inefficient. You will learn a lot in the process! First, ask yourself what it is you will do. Ascend routinely a mile or rarely to free a stuck rope? Ascend in dry conditions or moving water? How far will you be hiking? Does gear weight matter? Do you weigh a lot with a lot of body mass up high? Once you know better what your goal is, you can choose between the canyoneering style or caving style of technique and gear.
  3. chconnor

    chconnor

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    Thanks Sonny -- some additional info:

    - I'm light (6 feet, 150lbs / 1.83m, 68kg), with more weight in legs than upper body
    - hikes will be on the order of several hours with moderate elevation gain/loss; so weight matters (will have some photo equipment as well, etc) but isn't totally crucial; I'd prefer safe and easier for a beginner over ultra-light options.
    - mostly dry conditions, but some water possible (i.e. I'd like to be able to handle that). Probably not "in" water, per se, but misty/wet conditions possible
    - anticipating long rappels followed by ascents back up the rope, reposition, repeat.

    I'm interested in the inefficiency you mentioned, as my research was primarily guided by efficiency and this seemed like the most efficient method. I admit ignorance, but was surprised to hear you say that. :) I'm not super strong, and wanted most work done by my legs, hence the rope-walker idea.
  4. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    This guy knows of what he speaks...:thumbsup:

    If you're going to be routinely ascending, I recommend going with a tried-and-true rope ascending system and not cobbling one together. I've seen something similar to what you are describing....and it wasn't efficient. There's a big jump between ascending for those rare and unplanned occasions compared to planned ascents. Typically the systems/methods are vastly different.

    Most of my vertical-ascending-friends (self included) that are doing lots of planned ascending will incorporate a chest harness. Not a chest ascender, unless your confusing that with a frog system. The primary reason of a "chest harness" is to conserve energy by making the ascending step as close to vertical as possible, whereas without it the step is typically at an acute angle.

    Arborists may use methods similar to what you are describing, although they're not ascending 300 foot trees either.
  5. chconnor

    chconnor

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    Shoot, I thought that's what I was doing. :) What are the tried and true systems of which you speak? Are you referring to mechanical prusiks or something with hand ascenders, or just a more proper type of rope walker system?

    Are you describing a chest roller, here?

    I'm just unclear if you're saying that a rope walker system is a bad idea, or just that my version of it is confused.

    Thanks!
  6. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    Well, it depends.

    The first clue of cobbling (for me at least) was you asking about rope walker ascending techniques on this forum...;) The second was your statement, "petzl basic as a DIY SAKA (shock cord to harness)" the shock cord (bungie) to harness. Assuming you mean, seat harness, that distance on a SAKA is not going to get you much action out of the bungie...poor design, IMO.

    I'll use pictures for the rest of my "opinions". Keep in mind, we're discussing systems for long "planned" ascents, not short impromptu.

    download1.
    This image is fairly close to what I think you are describing. The SAKA is the main difference. This setup (which doesn't include a Self Advancing Knee Ascender) is and example of "Tried and True". That said, it wouldn't be my top choice, just using it for illustrative puposes.

    download3.
    This image is a great example of one lacking efficiency. It would work, but you're going to be ready for the hot-tub after doing this for 300+ feet. Lot of upper body strength wasted, one leg isn't engaged, not a smooth fluid motion, acute angle, etc, etc, etc.

    download2.
    This is a true rope walker system, and the one I use on anything planned over 100'. Trust me, I can vouch for it.

    For "steep brushy slopes" I wouldn't use a climbing system at all. Two separate tethered ascenders are usually more than enough. And you aren't hassling with snags - as much.

    The last point.
    I would incorporate a handle ascender tethered to the seat harness for most all, "uncobbled", ascending systems. What cavers call a QAS. (Similar to what I believe canyoneers refer to as a PAS, but it might or might not include a handle ascender attached and/or used as part of an ascending rig.)

    Refer back to the first image above. On a long ascent, when fatigue sets in, that mechanical grip adds much needed relief for the climber. Plus, (especially true if you're ascending skinny rope) your gripping strength is going to play out. Again, the mechanical ascender adds some relief...you'll be proud you have it.

    Best way to know if you've got a good system, setup a rope ascending treadmill in a tree and knock yourself out on ascending 1000 feet. Guaranteed to help you figure out the needed tweaks.

    Happy ascending...and as John Kay would say, "fire all of your guns at once and explode into space!"
    download4.
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  7. Southern Canyoneer

    Southern Canyoneer Desert Hiker

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  8. hank moon

    hank moon lovely ligatures

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    X2 to ^^^ and the rest of Kuenn's excellent post. More important than any gear discussion is knowing how to use the gear, which takes time for practice and in-field experience. If you're gonna become a rope monkey, you need to know how to go up/down/sideways, and to efficiently reverse your direction of travel at any time, etc. I'm sure you've heard the same from your friends, right ?

    If you want more feedback, (perhaps TMF), Facebook is a good place for caving* discussion these days. Here's a few links to get your started:

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/VerticalCavers/?ref=group_header
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/VerticalCavers/permalink/1677421422307174/

    Good luck on your trip - it sounds quite adventurous for a beginner!

    * what you propose to do (bouncing drops, in short) is rarely done by canyoneers, and commonly done by cavers, in case that didn't come through from Sonny and Kuenn.
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  9. chconnor

    chconnor

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    I was planning to not use a seat harness type... it had been recommended to me to look at seat harnesses for comfort, but I don't find sport harnesses particularly uncomfortable (and have gone up/down a couple hundred feet with them and not suffered too much.) But if that's preposterous for what I'm describing then maybe I should change my plan. :)

    Thanks very much for the detailed post -- do you happen to have links to larger images? The true rope walker image especially -- kinda hard to read and pick out details in it.

    Yeah, I plan to simulate the length of the climb to test my system (whatever I end up with). The bright side seems to be that much of the gear I was planning to get carries over to the system(s) you're suggesting (e.g. looks like a petzl croll and basic in the "true rope walker" image), so I can move from one to the other as I experiment without having wasted a lot of money.
  10. chconnor

    chconnor

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    Indeed. And my own common sense. :) Also studying up on setting anchors, passing a knot on rappel, etc. I'm already competent in prusik rappelling and will also be learning with a tubular device as a backup.

    Thanks. I'm very excited. :)

    Good to know, thanks. I spent a lot of time figuring out which of the common climbing patterns matched what I was doing and canyoneering seemed the closest, but I didn't realize that they don't usually come back up the rope.

    Un/fortunately I'm not a facebook user, but maybe I can find a non-FB caving forum somewhere to get more input.
  11. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    Whoa Nelly @chconnor ....not so fast!

    I'm not suggesting anything, let's get that clear! I'm only providing information.

    You seem to be on a fast track here, especially for a self-declared beginner. Maybe you should slow down and get some hands on experience before going any further. You mentioned that your "friends have various experience in this area". What are THEY using and why aren't you going with THEIR recommendations?

    Don't go latching on to the first person (me in this case) that shares real world experience, cause our worlds may be very different. My systems are developed for my particular interests. Doesn't necessarily mean it's a good fit for you...doesn't meant that it isn't, either.

    Here's a recommendation: Go to your local gear shop, tell them what you are wanting to do and see what recommendations they have. Many outdoor shops (local owned, not franchise) may offer some hands on training. Talk to a lot of people that have done this stuff. Do more leg work and then you can make an informed decision. If you want to learn vertical skills with a caving slant, go to caves.org and find a local grotto. Show up at one of their meetings and get to know some folks...they're usually friendly....at least the ones that aren't bat #*&@! crazy.

    Friendly advise that's going to sound snarky. Google well help you find answers to some of these questions you're asking. And you will find many more answers to what you're asking on this site, if you'll take the time to search before asking.

    Hank's advise, "you need to know how to go up/down/sideways, and to efficiently reverse your direction of travel at any time" should be taken very very seriously. May just save your ass too!
    Last edited: May 19, 2018
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  12. chconnor

    chconnor

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    Thanks, duly noted. I'm not going to rush into anything unsafe. My friends have experience along the lines of arborist work, sport climbing, alpine climbing, and the like. Some of them have opinions on the best ascending systems (their input helped form my proposed method) but none of them have experience in the multi-hundred-foot type rappel/ascent scenario. I.e. no cavers, no canyoneers. I plan to get some gear and start practicing and learning in a responsible way. I just want to make sure I'm pointing in a good direction before spending lots of money. I have a date monday to talk to a guy at a local gear shop reputed to be a no-B.S. very experienced person in this area, so I'll factor his perspective in as well.
  13. Chasetharp

    Chasetharp

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    Sorry if this is unhelpful, but I'm confused by your goal here. Rappel, ascend, repeat? If not caving, are you just going out for the fun of rappelling and ascending? If so, it seems you wouldn't have to be super concerned about weight, size of your ascending setup, etc.

    In canyoneering, a lot of us carry lightweight and rarely used ascending systems. The micro traxion is popular for us because you can also use it to haul. Yet it isn't the most efficient for long ascending IMO. Cavers tend to carry full handled ascenders from what I have seen, for comfort and efficiency. But your needs seem to apply to neither sport so it's hard to say.

    We also use different descending devices than cavers, such as the canyonwerks critr2, rock exotica totem, petzl piranha, etc. The critr2 seems to be the majority, I love mine. We prefer these over atcs because you can add friction and lockoff on rappel while weighting the rope and without carabiners on your leg loop.

    Whatever your purpose, I hope you get your setup dialed in and have fun! Wish you luck on finding forums that cover the type of adventures you're after.
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  14. chconnor

    chconnor

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    Thanks for the perspective, Chasetharp. The reason for the rappel/ascend/repeat pattern is to get into deep ravine/canyons that are otherwise inaccessible. Exploration, I suppose, is the goal.

    And yeah, weight is not a big concern. There may be some hikes, and they'll be in mountainous areas, but nothing multi-day, and we're not summiting peaks or anything serious in terms of elevation. So the focus is indeed on efficiency and comfort, with a secondary goal of light and cheap.

    I've heard good things about the critr2... will be evaluating that as well.

    Thanks for the well wishes!
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  15. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    @chconnor for educational purposes.

    Stumbled across this video going through the archives today. A commercial-like video of a trip I was part of a few years back where you can see the rope-walker in action....all caver friends, many of which have been in the canyons too. The proprietor of Pangea Gear is a local friend.

    The blue-ish rope seen is Imlay Canyonero (9.2mm see quote below). The other ropes are 10mm and 11mm to round out a variety. This was a recreational/training combo trip.

    Interesting quote from one of the trip reports filed for that day:
    Last edited: May 31, 2018
  16. chconnor

    chconnor

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    Thanks! -- looks like chest harnesses with rollers, combined with foot ascender and SAKA, and a handled ascender up top as backup?
    Kuenn likes this.
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