My Kind of Cleaning

In answer to my previous puzzler—that was a real cliffhanger—here's the walkthrough for cleaning my route. Recall that this was my first time, so I'm describing what it was like, not giving instructions. Learn to climb from a qualified guide. I mean it.

First, think through the whole scenario and collect the gear you will need. Realizing you are one biner short when you are up in the air is too darn late. I needed two slings of webbing, each with its own locking-gate carabiner, plus an extra biner. For each sling, I used a girth hitch to attach one end to the front of my harness, then clipped the loose end with a biner into a gear loop at my hip. I hung the spare biner in a gear loop, too.

Next, you climb on top-rope back up to the anchor, and ask your belayer to "take" (take your weight; hold your rope locked off). You clip each sling into a hanger, to set up your personal safety system, and screw shut the locking gates of the carabiners. At this point, you should be held to the rock by your slings and not depending on the rope. Test this by asking for some slack, and noting that, as the rope goes slack, your slings become taut and bear your weight. Then you can ask your belayer to take you "off belay."

Now that you're set to hang out here all day, tie a backup knot to make sure you don't lose that dang rope: Grab a bight of rope and tie a quick knot and clip it into the spare carabiner. Because you're about to do the exact opposite of what your frightened little monkey brain would want you to do—you're going to untie the rope from your harness. And if you drop it, you will get to hang out here all day.

So, yes, untie the knot. The umbilical figure 8 from which you so often hang your precious hide. Untie it.

Remove the rope from the quickdraws and run it through the bottom links of the chains. We use the chains for lowering from the final climb out of necessity, but avoid using them all the time in order to minimize the erosion we subject them to. Retie your figure 8, untie the keeper knot, and retrieve your quickdraws.

Hoist yourself up a bit and ask your belayer to take, so that you can confirm that you are back on belay and the rope will hold your weight. Unhook your personal safety slings and clip them back to your gear loops to keep them out of the way. You are ready to be lowered to terra firma.

In addition to being a MYST-like brain teaser, I found route cleaning to be a good barometer of my mental state. Late in the afternoon, I'm hanging from the slings, and I think, "Okay, I have no idea what to do next... Must be time for dinner."

And it was. So we three girls drove back into town and ate three cheeseburgers, and they were very, very good.


David said...

I'm going to make a quick comment on this technique, not because it is in anyway wrong, but because there are several points of risk involved.

Risk Points:

1) You could drop your rope. Not necessarily a deadly failure. But you can guess what will happen if you and your belayer are the only people at the crag...

2) You actually come off belay. ie, you are no longer attached to the rope. From my perspective, this is bad for a multitude of reasons. The biggest of which is if you don't communicate properly with your belayer you could (and it has happened) find yourself leaning back to get back on belay while your belayer goes to take a piss behind a tree.

Now, obviously proper communication will alleviate #2. However, I have seen somebody slide within a foot of a 50 foot fall because of poor communication. The key of course is to make sure that your partner knows exactly what you are going to do before you leave the ground (rappel/lower).

A good belayer will not remove the rope from their belay device until the point that you are actually on the ground. So ensure that your belayer NEVER removes the rope from his/her belay device until you are safely on Terra Firma. In my mind, the command "Off Belay" implies that I have completed my climb, therefore you can go take a piss. Since you don't actually mean that when you are lowering, I don't like saying it.

So my alternative suggestion:

After you have secured yourself to the anchor, yell to your belayer "SLACK" and make them give you 4 - 5 feet of slack. Make a bite on the rope and feed the bite through the chains. Tie a figure 8 on the bite and clip that with 1 or 2 locking biners into your belay loop. Now, untie your original figure 8. Notice how you never become disconnected from your belay system. Pull the now loose end through the quickdraws (or just remove the quickdraws) and through the chains. Now, Yell at your belayer "TAKE". This is the critical step, ALWAYS check your system before you release your tether. Whether lowering or rappelling weight your system, then remove your tether.

Climb On!


Sharon said...

I believe that is the first life-saving comment on this blog. Many, many thanks.

Also, hi!

David said...

Well you didn't allow comments in your most recent post, otherwise I would have made a life saving post there. ;-)