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Water Anchor: Trouble on the Fiddle

Discussion in 'Tech Tips and Gear' started by zul, Mar 25, 2020.

  1. zul

    zul

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    Location:
    Sedona, AZ
    I've owned and trained on the Water Pocket for many seasons. When you first learn this retrievable anchor, you learn to use the Fiddle Stick. You watch the setup a few times, then you get to rig it a few times and then you buy one :). With correct pot hole geometry, it's super solid and reliable.

    Last season, we ended up finding a 12 foot deep pot hole with mud and ankle deep water. The team fills the bag, it would be a hanging water trap with the fiddle on the downhill side of the rappel. With all the mud, this was a mean and difficult pot hole tho it did offer a 2-step climb up and out to the exit lip. The exit lip was about 2 feet wide and vertical on both sides (yikes!) to a 100 foot rap. Each person could straddle the exit lip, sorta like a pommel horse. This forced a very difficult rap start where you couldn't really weight the rope until you were 2-3 feet down the rap side. I was volunteered to go last, so I backed up the anchor for each person before me.

    Once everyone else is down, I complete setting up the pull line and inspect. In order for me to get on rappel, I have to hold the trap up, mind the pull line, fiddle is live, 2 steps up onto exit lip, rotate 180 deg, slide off the edge, can't see the fiddle (very nervous), lower myself over the edge, try to confirm the rigging and eventually weight the rope. I ended up needing to re-rig, swapped to my Smooth Operator and repeating this entire sequence twice. The process became physical and, well, terrifying. Eventually, I got things settled, got on rope, set the Smooth Operator to live (not easy under load), final inspection and down safely. :wacky: WHEW!! :wacky:

    So, that evening around the camp fire, this difficult pot hole and rap start was discussed. Maybe the fiddle should have been placed inside the pot hole? It wasn't until the next day that I began wondering if the fiddle could be eliminated in that case and use a 200 ft rope on the double strand?

    My thought is, if the pot hole geometry forces the fiddle into a difficult position and you have a rope long enough to double strand, eliminate the fiddle and double strand for safety. Down side, rope grove will be likely. For those with more experience, I wanted to share the story and detail the experience to see what yall' might comment or contribute?

    Stay safe, always learn.

    zul
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  2. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Sounds smart to me.

    Of course it is greatest to be smart at the moment of opportunity, but also great to be smart in the post-op. Had a similar one 2 weeks ago... but it was only like 10% spooky, rather than 90% spooky...

    Tom
  3. Bootboy

    Bootboy Atwood Gear

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    I think with the circumstances described, the toggle could justifiably be set inside the pothole, well up-rope of the rappeller at his comfortable loading point. In my experience, the lip of a pothole is a great place to put the toggle. It means you can keep an eye on it while loading the rope, and it provides additional security to the knot by smashing the knot under tension over the radius of the lip, thus making accidental pulling of the toggle even more difficult. Once unloaded, the waterpocket typically (and also in this case) recedes or somewhat settles back into the pothole, making the pull as easy as it otherwise would be on an unloaded rope.

    Obviously one wants to avoid complicating the pull anymore than necessary but you have to weigh that against the safety, comfort, and acceptable risk limit for the last man, who is ultimately responsible for ensuring proper, effective rigging.

    Good observations.

    Many pieces to this puzzle. It’s good to review these things to help establish “best practices”. Or, failing that, at least giving others an idea of the many variables one must consider when employing these “marginal” anchor techniques.
  4. Craig

    Craig Feeling My Way

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    Could you have added a sling to the waterpocket anchor point and clipped into that before attempting to weight the rope? Don't hang on the sling. Just use it as backup until you get the toggle and pull line sorted out and are hanging on the rappel rope.
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  5. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    I am pedantic. The Water Pocket is not "marginal" - it is "advanced" or "expert".

    The difference is that it requires expertise and judgment to set up effectively, but once it is set up, it has sufficient strength for the job... but perhaps with only small margins.

    As I said, I am pedantic.

    Tom
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  6. zul

    zul

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    Under normal situations, I believe that this will provide a great safety backup for last person, thanks for the idea Craig!

    Prior, I have added some hardware to my trap. The 'canvas' portion of the trap has a well done loop with lots of bar tacking (strong anchor point). I just didn't like the idea of pulling rope against the loop fabric, even though it is only done with the fiddle (3-4 ft of rub when pulling). So I added a quick link and a good Omega ring. This has eliminated the fabric on rope rub. With this setup, I can easily add the safety tether for the last person (when needed) without causing bunching or pinching on the original fabric anchor point.

    In the original example, the water trap was out of reach and inside the pot hole. Maybe 2 slings could have been used, biner to the harness main, unclip when ready to go and just leave the 2 slings attached to the trap (example shown in 2nd pic).

    Yellow = safety tether. Purple/Green = Rap line to fiddle...
    trap. trap 2.
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  7. Bootboy

    Bootboy Atwood Gear

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    Fair enough. It can be and frequently is indeed much better than “marginal”
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2020
  8. Tirrus

    Tirrus Rope rider.

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    One thing to consider with with all the extra hardware off the front of the waterpocket, is pull on the internal bag. I had a waterpocket failure due to a lot of small mistakes, but a dominant issue was the use of a large HMS carabiner at the main attachment point, and rolling the bag too many times. It pulled the internal bag when loaded, and thus unrolled and compressed most of the water out. Fortunately it failed 5 ft off the ground instead of at the start of the 100ft free hang.

    Some other contributing factors:

    Despite attempts to empty water from the pothole to make a larger lip, due to the pool being larger than a bathtub, (the general rule) we were unable to get the correct geometry. When I got on rappel as the last person, the waterpocket shifted from a 12inch lip to a 6in lip extending the internal bag and starting the water leakage.

    another factor was the free hang and toggle pull line. Due to poison ivy at the bottom of the rappel the pull line was very close to me as the LPAR, and with the free hang spins, I got tangled, causing me to stop less Than smoothly about 40ft off the ground. This accelerated the failure.

    there was also a weight difference between myself and the other people in the group, I went last because they weren’t as experienced on the use of the device.

    Back on topic. With the smooth operator, we use a dogbone(canyon QuickDraw) between the two holes, so the last person down can completely load the system prior to removing the protection. (Go live with the stick) This works really well on rappels where the stick is better extended beyond the edge.

    We also back up the waterpocket from the sewn pull loops on the bottom in the webbing, am I mistaken those are not load bearing?

    Another method with the Waterpocket being used is the flop over on vertical geometry potholes. Eliminating the toggle entirely, and flopping the internal bag neck over to the side, and tiring the rappel line in with a figure 8 to the main attachment point. (Much much caution and practice must be used when considering this technique)

    Also I’ve experimented with using the Beal escaper in place of a toggle or flop over in potholes with long narrow exit cracks where a toggle would not fit safely, and a second pull line On the back of the pocket would make the pull challenging. (Very limited use? Very experimental.)

    Also remembering, the waterpocket sitting in a pool of water doesn’t weigh much because buoyancy, it only gains weight as it leaves the water, or is suspended above it.

    Lots of rambling here, but to sum up. The waterpocket is a very advanced anchor tool, with a much narrower margin of safety than other ghosting tools. Practice practice practice, and always back these things up.

    Thoughts?
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  9. Canyonero

    Canyonero

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    That pothole sounds very familiar. I think I've been LAPAR there twice before.

    I don't think your proposed solution adds much other than a big rope groove. You can tie the fiddle very close to the rings on the water pocket. Doubling up the rope can't possibly get you more than about 6 inches (and a little more security). Admittedly there are times where 6 inches can make a big difference (and if it is the pothole I'm remembering, that is a place where it would make a big difference), but I don't see it being used very often.

    I would be more likely to rig up the fiddle very close to the waterpocket, clip in to rappel, climb over the edge, then slowly and carefully move the water pocket to exactly the best spot and rappel away.

    It's not that big of a deal to have the fiddle in the pothole in my experience. Yes it pulls easier outside, but pulling the fiddle is usually the easy part. When I hang them up it's usually the rap line that takes more of a yank.
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  10. Ram

    Ram

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    When this anchor is set correctly it has a HUGE sweet spot. Sweet spot defined as the strength of the anchor, compared with the ease of retrieval. A huge advancement in anchoring, filling a vital niche. My thanks and respect to first Jenny and then Taylor, for its conception, through its development, to the excellent tool it has become.
    ratagonia likes this.
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