A Gumby's Guide to Three Person Big Wall Technique
by John Shultz
The following is not a treatise on advanced big wall mechanics. Rather, it is a basic system to simplify and speed up a three-person team's efforts. It includes updates of techniques metioned by Walling and Tuan. This system enables you to easily lead in blocks without requiring the leader to haul the bags.
You will need the following:
- 2 lead lines
- 1 9-11 mm. static line
- 1 5-8 mm. zip line
- 3 12ft. Web-o-lettes (longer if anchors are not bolted)
- 4 rope hooks
- 2 Gri-gri's (can substitute a Petzl Reverso for one)
- 1-2 haul devices
- 2X as many carabiners as normal
- 1/3 more protection than the list calls for
***Note*** To simplify this description these climbers will be refered to in the order they ascend the pitch, hereafter: Gumby One (the leader of the pitch), Gumby Two (the person who jugs a free line), and Gumby Three (the person who cleans the pitch).
The Gumby's are making their way up the Big Stone with Gumby One in the lead. Gumby One is climbing with a lead line and trailing the zip line. She has also brought with her a Gri-gri or Reverso, a Web-o-lette, two rope hooks, and a haul device (if one is available). After her bold lead, she establishes the next anchor with a Web-o-lette and immediately ties off with a Fig.8 on-a-bight to the equalized point of the Web-o-lette, which has been tied with a generous sized loop. All of the Gumby's purposely tie in with some slack so that they may move around and so that they don't crowd the center of the anchor. Gumby One clips a daisy to an anchor bolt to hold her bodyweight at this hanging belay. She then attaches a rope hook in an out of the way place and she pulls up and neatly stacks the zip line. Tied near the end of the zip line is the other lead line, which is tied to Gumby Two, and the static line. Gumby One then secures the static line to the equalized point of the Web-o-lette, about five feet from its end. She then rigs a Gri-gri or Reverso to the free lead line that she has just pulled up and clips this belay device to the equalized point of the Web-o-lette and calls "On Belay" to Gumby Two.
Gumby Two ascends the static line while being belayed by the lead line. This is the same type of belay a person would use to belay a free climber directly from the anchors. He has brought with him: any extra pro. needed for the next pitch, a Web-o-lette, a Gri-gri, and a haul device. Knowing that he is the safest Gumby on the wall, he smokes up to the belay in five minutes flat. Gumby One casually reels in slack and cleanly stacks the rope on a second rope hook. When Gumby Two reaches the belay, he ties into the Web-o-lette and hangs opposite from Gumby One.
After exchanging expressions of friendship and camaraderie, they rig the haul device to a seperate hauling anchor system, which is independent of the Web-o-lette. Together, they haul up enough slack so that Gumby Three can unclip the bags from the lower belay station.
Gumby Three is now dismissed to begin cleaning the pitch. As he does so, he meticulously re-racks the cleaned gear in a manner that the trio has previously agreed upon. Gumby One is going to receive some or all of this gear mid-pitch and she will have a conniption if it is a mess. Gumby Three also moves with break-neck speed to insure that he can reach the anchors before Gumby One completes the first half of her pitch. If she is farther than halfway out, gear cannot be tagged to her unless some more cord is available (hint lower-out line).
Gumby One quickly readies herself to continue her block of leading. First, she racks up any gear that she requires that Gumby Two has brought (including a Web-o-lette). Second, she rotates the lead line, which is attached to Gumby Two, on the rope hook. This allows the rope to easily feed out towards the free end while placing Gumby Two's end towards the wall. Gumby One then ties into the free end of this lead line. Gumby Two places her on belay with the Gri-gri and she unties from the previous lead line. Gumby One effortlessly begins leading the next pitch.
Since Gumby Two is a stout lad with A.D.D. and a Gri-gri, he hauls the bags while belaying Gumby One. Otherwise, he would wait for Gumby Three and the two could double-team the pigs while quoting lines from the movie "Deliverance." Gumby Two carefully secures the bags and with a deep voice chants the "Perfection of Wisdom-Heart Sutra" in Sanskrit (not Sand-script!!!). Once Gumby Two and Three are together at the anchor, Gumby Three stacks the rope that he has been jugging on a rope hook. The two then prepare the zip line by attaching to it: the lead line used on the last pitch and the static line.
When Gumby One attains the next anchor, she establishes a belay exactly as she did on the previous pitch. She knows that the main key to three-person technique is just completing the system the same way every pitch so that everyone gets the rythm. Gumby Three on the previous pitch miraculously becomes Gumby Two and vice-vera. The cosmic ballet continues...
**Note** An even greater margin of safety can be acheived by bringing an additional dynamic rope which Gumby Two trails while jugging the static line. After securing this to the above anchor, Gumby Three has a safety line to tie off to periodically while cleaning the pitch.