Apr 1, 2018

The ART OF BELAYING

  After one of the most memorable winters, spring is getting closer even in the central Alps and Chamonix. Even though it was snowing down to 550mts this very morning and some 40cm fresh pow at Aiguille du Midi, again!
Pas de Chevre
But the warmth from the sun is getting reminded as soon it beats the clouds. And already we have had time to enjoy some afternoons of sports climbing in the valley l´Arve.
So its time to look over the dragging equipment and maybe repeat some of the technical stuff, like the belay devices and the way of belaying.
Couloir Spéciaux - Contamines
  Way to often I see people belaying their partner in such an uncontrolled and unemotional way. With just way to much rope out and never active in their belaying. Which in an event of a fall, its just unnecessary long and with a greater risk of injury.
An active belayer has many advantages while climbing.
A few;
#It makes the lead climber more safety
#The lead climber can relax and climb in a higher level and confidence
#Less stress on the equipment
#Less boring time for the belayer
#More professional and fun
One very bored belayer...this lead climber will in best case just get a long flight...
A very bored belayer, but at least he got a mail or SMS!?
The art of belaying is so much more then just feeding the rope trough a belay device. Sometimes a self-locking device like the traditional Gri Gri is the best solution. But sometimes it locks the rope to hard, like on a badly protected trad route. When you want a softer brake in the event of a fall.
Also it is sometimes a good idea to have the belayer secured for up-air pull if the leader falls, but there is also reasons not to. When you want more dynamic in the system.

All depending on the route, climbers weight and how the terrain below looks like.
So there is not just one single answer in this matter, put in details it is as complex as the climb almost! And with a "on his toes belayer" its a good source for staying safe.
Inspired belayer...
  The worst cases are the ones who just feed out the rope, and why not at the same time as they are talking to their long time seen friend of checking their Facebook.
Or just being bored on the ground, not engaged in the climb and achievement of the lead climber.
With a huge loop of rope around their feet´s and legs.



Proper technique
Always be alert with your leader. The rope connected between you is like a living wire which directly gives an induction of the living performance above. With some living slack in the rope, sometimes more, sometimes less. But always some free rope of movement. 


When its time to clip, feed out rope with your arm and take a step forward as well to reduce the friction.
The worst and shitty situation is when I pull up the rope just to be stucked some 10cm below the clip, cause the rope gets tight!
Feel and feed!!
Next, specially with a high clip, pull in the free rope when the leader climb/moves upwards towards the last pro placed. And be observant to start feeding abut again once the piece is passed.
All this make the whole experience more interesting for the belayer and so much more joy for the leader. At least if you like to avoid long unnecessary falls, hitting some rock on the way down...



 A couple of really good tests regarding belaying, anchors and forces done by Petzl and Black Diamond, which gives a good reminder of the value of good techniques and proper rope- and equipment handling.

BlackDiamond Equipment
Petzl Forces at work

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Climb safe, and watch your partner!


Dec 27, 2017

Roc de la Bissone

  Saint Guilhem le Désert, a much old and pittoresk village on the French countryside, far away from what you can call suburbs! In summer a very busy place full of tourist but in late fall and winter more or less the opposite, so a good time to go. And specially for the climbing and other adventures to be found there


I packed my Ford for a roundtrip in south of France / northern parts of Spain for a Road Trip combo parachuting/rock climbing seek and find.
On this very useful Internet I made some pre-searching for good places to visit but left most of it "for the road"

After a week of great parachuting in Empuria Brava it was time to start saving some money and head for the climbing part. Empuria doesn't have much of that part, but a most scenic ocean and beautiful town like a small Venedig.


My first destination on my detour via France towards Haute Savoie was Mont Pellier and then Puéchabon. A super nice part of France with a lot of small farmings and vineyards, many of the most famous wines are produced here.

But also a lot of good limestone, very steep limestone faces!
In Saint Guilheim there is a trail that takes you right out of the village entering a narrow valley surrounded by these limestone walls. One of the classic ones was to be Roc de la Bissone and the route Carmina Burana. A 180meter route, always overhanging and maximum 6b. If you stay on the right route that is...

With a few pictures in my phone I was able to navigate up to the base of the cliff, some 20min walking on a good track and then jungle terrain for 5minutes.
The start was quite obvious, and after rigging the gear up I could take on with the first pitch, a 5c warm up. The rock always looked a bit loose but despite from some smaller moving things it was much better then on first sight. Arriving at the first belay I find it best though to bring out the rope and continue rope soloing for the next ones.
The climbing is all the time really steep and super cool, mostly good holds but hard to see exactly where to go cause of the steep terrain.
But all the time good bolts and good belays.

Somewhere high up on Roc de la Bissone 
As always after a number of pitches a start to loose the counting of them. They are mostly quite short like 30 maximum 40 meters. And arriving on the upper parts the written topo gives me a bit hard time cause it says I should go right but the bolts heads left...I decide to stay with the bolts.
The climbing, very airy and and as it says in the topo "muscle et gazeux" well they can't be more right about that at least.
But the steep rock makes it almost harder to rappel back down to clean each pitch when going back up again. At least a fall will end up in the air!
Perfect hauling terrain!
Finally after a bunch of good climbing I arrive at a big cave, just some 20 meters below the top and the exit. A short leftward travers and then a small runout straight up, I can leave the north facing part and get some summit sun at top. But unfortunately the wind has picked up so there is jut one alternative to get back this time, by rappelling.
A few moments in the afternoon breeze and I head of to find the track down to the rappel anchors.
Summit!!
Area
Saint Guilhem le Désert - departement Hérault
Closest bigger town
Montpellier
Saint Guilhem le Désert
Equipment for Roc de la Bissone
2x40m rope minimum if you use the 2 rappels to get down
8-10 QD´s

Descent
Head up to the top of the pillar and then find a faint trail heading westwards, scramble down for some 100 meters and the you arrive to a fixe rope. Follow this to a bolt station.
And take care not to slide away rocks on the way...



Topo for la Carmina
After here the trips continue towards Milleu...

Dec 5, 2017

Plan Your Climb & Go Light

Going light on a climb vastly increases the enjoyment factor and usually results in faster and more successful climbs

There is a pack somewhere behind all this...crap!!
  Very often I see parties heading off into the mountains with their huge back packs, carrying way too much gear. A good rule of thumb is if you think you need something, you much likely don’t. If you know you need something, you much likely will. 
If you bring all that just in case equipment and in your head gear up for a night out. Well, it's already then almost already set up for that. 
Because you will be to heavy to start with.

The first and best way is just to keep the back pack small in liters. 
Your light 18l pack will probably be way to small. But the thing is, it's a big chance it's the same situation with your 30l. 
It is easy to get the "good to have" mood and we humans tend to like stuff and widgets.
Since " I have the space for this" 
And maybe it's not a big deal, a pair of extra gloves and a few more bars with that rescue blanket and some spare...well soon your in the trap and then a duvet goes in there as well. We like to collect things! 

Just leading with or without a pack makes difference. Every small gram just weights and every small gram adds to a bigger heavier kilo in the end. Therefore, the small pack is a good start. 

And to get there a good practice is to always think minimalistic. On every trip and every day out, skiing, hiking or climbing. Keep it small. think of it as a separate sport to always get along with the lightest pack and fewest pieces of equipment. Without taking steps that start making it dangerous!


Basic equipment

A single 8.9 or 9mm 50 or 60 meter rope makes a good base. I also keep a 6mm static tag line if the route is reversed via rappel or if I would need to haul my bag. I have found 60 meter ropes are rarely worth the extra weight. If the climb is easy I just use one single twin rope, with the option to use it as a double if needed...
the perfect minimalistic alpine back pack, Dragonfly 18
  A small pack, meaning; the smallest pack I can get that I wear while leading. I have found the Blue Ice Mono bag or the Dragon fly 18 as a super sound bag and aperfect partner for this purpose.
Depending on season and type of climb I of course bring different thinks. But the base is mostly the same, a warm jacket as a Crux Turbo Top or/and a windbreaker. 

  Together with 0.5-1.5l water bottle or a thermos.  For food fruit or nuts. I hardly ever bring modern Bars since they often are low on energy, demand a lot of water to be efficient and tend to freeze up during winer ascents. As well as expensive! And I'm just tired of finding the waste paper that people tend to "loose" once it's eaten!
I also make sure that I hydrate before the climb. Which means that for shorter climbs I can just leave the hydration pack behind.
Not so much fun really, but sometimes you just need to lead of in that bigger pack!
Minimalistic thinking, helmet and food
No real food since I rarely eat while climbing. If you are the sting kind, better then to make sure to get a really substantial breakfast. More sense carry most food and water in your stomach rather than on your back.

Shoes, boots and clothes

If I need to take my approach shoes on the climb I wear my Five Ten Tennies or even Five Fingers. In the former I can even climb up to a quite high grade. On a more moderate route. I then don’t even need any other shoes.

I prefer a lightweight weather resistant pullover that stuffs in it’s own pocket and easy to rack. 
And hardly ever brings a full on shell jacket on day tours. But a hood on the jacket is always nice. 
the Crux Turbo Top

Gear
Light cams like BD Ultralight Cams and light wires together makes a huge difference. But even more if you actually plan and schedule how many and what sizes that is useful. 
Keeping the amount of pro to a minimum. Specially if the rack includes bigger cams like #4 or #5´s

I use light spectra sewn alpine draws but always bringing several untied slings that I can use for replacing old slings and wrapping around chockstones etc.

  Carabiners
Here is a source to save a lot of weight. Only using modern lightweight biners as Camp Nano or DMM saves a lot of weight.
Just make sure that they still stay easy to clip into your lead rope. Specially if I climb with gloves the type of gate, opening and how wide it is, might change the whole experience. I bring only a couple of lightweight locking biner's, mostly D and 1 or 2 HMS. 

Harness

Here is an other one. Obviously I use different harnesses depending on season and goal. My alpine skiing harness demands a bit less than my sport cragging one. 
But it makes no sense to bring my super comfy harness for a relatively easy ice route. And fact is, many of the modern lightweight boudriers are just as nice to hang in as an older regular one. 



Light is right, right? Sure still might be...but better is - Just think positive!