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Help Dr Piton - It's Eating Me Alive!
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Jul 10, 2002, 4:19 AM
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Help Dr Piton - It's Eating Me Alive!
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Dear Doctor Piton, you are my only remaining hope.

I am afflicted with a serious condition that threatens my very existence on this rock upon which we live. Several second opinion Roc Docs have confirmed that clinically, they have never seen such an advanced case as mine.

I am told that the road to recovery is long and tortuous, and that few people have ever recovered from such late-stage conditions.

Please help Dr Piton, my


It is growing like a rampant, invasive tumour, permeating every system in my climbing soul.

This malignant presence now exists in every move I make, insidiously dissolving the very foundation I have devoted years of my life and half of my savings to build!

But that is not all, it gets worse! Not only does this malevolent force multiply with every new style I add to my repertoire, it is CONTAGIOUS! Terrified at the thought of subliminal absorption of agonisingly frustrating, hair tearingly inefficient small wall systems - people now fear to climb with me!

Dr Piton, I will soon be an outcast, unable to secure a belay as my legendary ability for UNBRIDLED CLUSTERF*CKAGE precedes me to every corner of the climbing community.

Like an obsessive squirrel, recently I have been collecting and hoarding all the requisite new toys in preparation for a foray onto the big wall. But now I find my BOLLOCKS SHRIVELLED IN TERROR as I contemplate the rate at which my coefficient of wank will EXPLODE once exposed to the immense complexities of the big stone.

Please help me Dr Piton! What are the rules you have developed for optimal assembly of your belays?? What is the pathway to a 'Vell organicized bivvy'?? What tricks of the trade are out there to bring me back from the brink??

Dr Piton, you are my only remaining hope.


[ This Message was edited by: fishypete on 2002-07-10 04:38 ]


Jul 10, 2002, 7:25 AM
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Help Dr Piton - It's Eating Me Alive! [In reply to]
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  Fishy, we feel your pain. Especially in the bollocks.

Sigh. Oh, to have a singular forum devoted to The Better Way, operated by its chief proponent...

[ This Message was edited by: glockaroo on 2002-07-10 07:26 ]


Jul 10, 2002, 7:37 AM
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Help Dr Piton - It's Eating Me Alive! [In reply to]
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and the cool trick of the day award goes to...

Glockaroo's dancing man! I wanna be able to do that!

[ This Message was edited by: fishypete on 2002-07-10 07:58 ]

Partner jammer

Jul 10, 2002, 7:41 AM
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Help Dr Piton - It's Eating Me Alive! [In reply to]
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you can take lesdsons by going to

sorry ... that's lessons, not lesdeons

[ This Message was edited by: handjammer48 on 2002-07-10 07:41 ]


Aug 20, 2002, 3:51 PM
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Just reserving my place here in the interests of clusterf*ck management, and in keeping the co-efficient of wank minimized.

I PROMISE to complete this in the next week before I go to Yosemite!


Aug 21, 2002, 12:40 AM
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Great news!

We all need something to tide us over next months "info drought"!

We shall all have to work hard to "fill the gap"!



Aug 27, 2002, 1:27 AM
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{Dr. Piton lowers his stethoscope from Fishypete's chest, purses his lips, shakes his head sadly, and slowly removes his glasses to speak in earnest as he renders his diagnosis}

Dear Fishy Pete,

It would appear that you are indeed correct - your wank factor is spiralling out of control. As entropy is defined in the Second Law of Thermodynamics as "a spontaneous tendency towards disorder," each movement that you make on the rock further scatters the molecules of your big wall system. There is a synergistic effect whereby additional pieces of gear added to your arsenal actually enhance, rather than reduce, the unparalleled and utter chaos in which you now find yourself immersed. The harder you try, the behinder you get. [Aside: This is frequently the case in Dr. Piton's relationships with women.] Your co-efficient of wank is approaching 1.0, and all indications are that you may indeed BE a Big Wall Theorist. Furthermore, the possibility exists that you may also be a wanker!

This, in Dr. Piton parlance, is not a Very Good Thing to be.

But I am Dr. Piton, and I offer hope to the lonely, the brokenhearted, the unloved, and yes - even the stupid.

And here is the hope that I bring to you, Pete:

I - Dr. Piton - was once a Big Wall Gumby! And for a period of about a week and a half in 1988, I was also a B.W.T due to two consecutive failures on Grade VI attempts, though fortunately I progressed fairly quickly through this stage with a successful ascent of El Cap. [By definition, there are no B.W.T.'s on the summit]

Some years later after having climbed the Vest Face and the Salathe Vall with Thomas ["yes, I haf climbed ze Valker Spur in a day - vee bivid one pitch from ze summit, it vas the coldest night I haf ever spent...."] I next embarked on an attempt to climb Zodiac with another partner of similar [in]experience. While we managed to reach the summit on Day 7 of our four-day ascent with no food, water nor light remaining, it was the most clusterf*cked ascent of my life.

Which just goes to show you, that if you simply keep on keepin' on, you will eventually reach the summit. [Being stubborn rather than talented is
of paramount importance in this regard]

While your prognosis may appear to be terminal, FishyPete, there is indeed the possibility of a full recovery if you are prepared to pay attention attention to a few key areas which I outline below.


Let's get something straight here, OK?

Climbing big walls is just a different kind of suffering. This is going to hurt, and it is going to hurt big time.

Expect pain, and you will be less surprised. If you are to be a big wall climber, then you must be a man or woman of passion. If you are "plain vanilla", chances are you will not succeed. You must be bitchin', and you must know it. [Or at least you must suspect it before you begin. Once you reach the top, then you will know it.] You heart must burn for the summit - your goal must be focused. You cannot be distracted.

I am possibly the most easily distracted person you will ever meet! Especially if she's a twenty-one-year-old hardbody. Or even nineteen. But somehow I manage to set these thoughts aside for the time being in order to focus on climbing the wall. It is amazing how focused you can become when your very life is in

You should be an accomplished outdoorsman, familiar with camping in the wild in all kinds of weather. If you are not, then you probably do not belong on a big wall, and should go home now and save us all the bother saving your sorry ass when you get in over your head.

You must understand that climbing big walls is a problem solving experience. You must activate your brain cells to the max - it is a thinking man's game. You must become a problem solver - it helps if you are a left-handed right-brained engineering type. If you are not, you had best learn to become one, at least while you are on the wall.

Expect stuff to go wrong - nowhere is there more opportunity for clusterf*ckage than two thousand feet off the deck.

And when stuff goes wrong, YOU are the person who must solve the problem. Unless you're really stuck, in which case you can telephone me at the phone number on my profile - if I'm home, I can offer suggestions. And if you're going to die, we can pray together.

Problem solving requires four steps:

Gather the data
Identify the problem
Determine alternative solutions to the problem
Implement the best solution

It should come as no surprise that the most commonly missed step is Step #2.

Make darn sure you have figured out what is actually wrong! There is no point in trying to solve the wrong problem.

[Note: This advice about Step #2 applies to all of life's problems, especially relationships.]

Becoming a proficient problem solver is key to reducing your wank factor. So be good at it.

Climbing this wall may be the most difficult undertaking of your life. Understand and accept this.

And tell the whole world what you are going to do - this will make it that much harder to bail. [Or at least it should....]


You choice of partner is even more critical than your choice of route! I will paraphrase Chongo here and say that climbing a big wall is like being marooned at sea. Imagine yourself in a tiny lifeboat with your partner, and that you must live with this partner for the next week through stormy seas and unknown turbulence. Can you do it? Can you love and respect and accept your partner unconditionally, even when he or she does something really stupid to clusterf*ck your system?

There is no worse place for a clash of personality than on a big wall!

You MUST, above all else, respect your partner, even when you did not have the good sense to choose the right partner in the first place!

There must be no yelling or screaming at each other on the wall. Voices travel. I have been told this on more than one occasion. Don't do as I do - do as I say.

Besides being able to get along with your partner, you must be confident that your partner is competent. If you have doubts, then you must be prepared to do everything yourself anyway. It is always a good idea to know that you are capable of leading every pitch on your route - partners have a way of chickening out when the going gets tough and scary. Which it frequently does.


It is not a good thing to discover that you do not know how to hook when you are a thousand feet up and facing several hook moves!

You had best make sure you know what you are doing ahead of time.

Have you practised setting up your ledge while hanging from your aiders in a tree in the dark while it's raining? It's easy when you're setting it up standing in your garage - try it while hanging in space!

Do you think I'm kidding? I sure as hell am not. You will have to set up your ledge in the dark while standing in aiders, so you had best make this second nature before you find out how incredibly difficult it can be. Get out your aiders and ledge and headlamp, and start practising.

[Note: Dr. Piton usually "flags" his ledge on his haul line - this is a way of leaving your ledge permanently set up and on routes that overhang is clearly the Better Way.]

Do you know get your rain fly onto your ledge after your ledge has been set up?

Do you know how to place heads? Do you know how to operate your systems?

Have you practised your 2:1 Hauling Ratchet by hauling an enormous bag of rocks for a couple hundred feet? Your Hauling Ratchet should positively "SING" - you should have that little bastard so dialled that you can whiz up those rocks in a heartbeat.

Do you think I'm kidding? I'm not. Go haul some rocks.

Do you know how to clean a traverse? If there is any climbing operation on the wall that will mess you up, it's this one! Make sure you know how to do this! Make sure you have adjustable daisies and an adjustable fifi, and that you are cleaning with a Grigri and a jug.

Knowing how to clean an aid pitch is FUNDAMENTAL. How to do this correctly is a frequently-asked question of Dr. Piton.

THINK about the myriad of operations that you need to know to climb a big wall, and make sure you know how to do them!

If this sounds fundamental to you, it bloody IS!

But you would be surprised how many Big Wall Theorists begin a wall without knowing how to do stuff. Thinking that you know how to do stuff is entirely different from knowing it because you have practised.

One other thing: Be sure you know how to climb aid!



Halfway up the wall is no place to be doing needed repairs that you could have done ahead of time!

Does your rain fly leak? You think it doesn't, but are you sure? Do you want to find out the hard way? I hope not. That would not be cool. Instead, set up your ledge against your house and hand the garden hose to a friend with a good sense of humour. You should find out quickly enough - diagnose the problem and solve it.

Have you collected all your water bottles ahead of time? I travel to Yosemite with a bunch of comprimed two-litre pop bottles, so I don't have to hunt around the well-scrounged Camp 4, or hit the recycle station behind the Village Store. I have my clip-in loops for the necks of the bottles pre-tied and ready.

Do you have a clip-in loop on EVERYTHING?

You'd better,

"cuz if it ain't clipped, it's gone!"

This is not Big Wall Theory - this is Big Wall Fact.

You should have assembled a veritable army of big wall bags. I particularly like the ones that Fish makes - they come in various sizes and are indispensable. You can make big wall bags from any robust and dependable drawstring bag - get your local shoe repairman to sew on a clip-in loop for you.

Pay attention to all the little details - you can find a complete list of everything you would ever even think of bringing by clicking here to read my

This checklist is meant to be a template for you! So use it as such. It is already a four-thousand hit article! Even more interestingly is that one "hit" is generated not per page view but merely by article view. These pages have been read over ten thousand times!

Do you have your knot protectors and wall flower sussed? Do you have the right kind of clothes? A synthetic sleeping bag and bivi sack? The right rain gear? Have you determined what spare gear you will be bringing?

Have you made the modifications to your lead rack and cleaner's rack? Do you have the suspension system on your pig sussed? Do you know precisely how it will be attached to your haul line? This is fundamental! Do you know how to dock your pig? Have you made up an internal daisy for your pig? How about your catch lines?

Look - this isn't the stuff you do at the base of the wall for cryin' out loud! Do it at home!

Is all your gear marked? More importantly, make damn sure your PARTNER'S gear is marked! You do not want the booty you find to become your partner's by default! How about your racking labels on your wires and hooks? Have you made up your tie-offs and keeper loops for your pitons?

Camera, film, lighting, first aid kit? Check my ULTIMATE BIG WALL CHECKLIST.

The key point here is to do EVERYTHING you can ahead of time!

Don't wait til you're at the wall!


I have already written how to do virtually everything mentioned above and below. You know, stuff like how to rack your rack, or how to organicize your Catch Lines.

If you need to find something, or you don't understand what I'm talking about, please consult the Index to Dr. Piton Stuff.

One day, I will link all these posts directly from here, but this is not that day. You will have to use the Index for now.


Is it crystal clear to you and your partner EXACTLY what you will be doing together? Will you lead in blocks, or swap leads? Do you have your racking system organicized? You must know how to rack your rack.

If there is any SINGLE Big Wall Tip that I can give you to minimize your wank factor, it is this:

Rack your gear on your cleaner's rack AS YOU CLEAN, and rack it in exactly the same way as you rack it on your leader's rack. This is a one-step operation that you do as you put the stuff on your rack.

This way, when you get to the belay station, you are ready to go. If you wait until you reach the belay station to rack, then racking becomes a three-step operation, and you will waste ten minutes or more.

Racking as you clean, along with using rope bags, are the keys to efficient changeovers.


After you have climbed many many big walls, you will be able to look at a belay system and immediately visualize what goes where, and what needs to be moved or changed. You will even be able to do it without untying any ropes!

It used to be a goal for me to try to manage a changeover or bivi without untying ropes - like this was supposed to be some mystical rarely-achieved nirvana.

Nothing could be further from the truth - you should NEVER have to untie ropes!


It is emphatically NOT the Better Way to flake your ropes on a sling. This is totally not cool, and is just plain stupid.

If you are climbing with a partner, you will need one rope bag for each lead rope. After the leader has led and the rope bag is more or less emptied, the seconder will bring the lead rope bag up as he cleans. He will be tying backup knots beneath his Grigri, and when he gets to the upper station, the first operation he will perform is to stuff the lead rope back in the lead rope bag.

This is something that takes practise, too! You should always run the rope through a carabiner directly above the bag, and pull the rope down into the bag, untying the backup knots as you stuff.

The photo above is a link to itself, so be sure to click on it.

As you stuff, put your hands inside the bag and pull the rope into it in a smooth hand-over-hand
You should not require more than a minute or two to do this! Practise this, damn it! Become good at stuffing ropes into bags, not only after finish cleaning, but as you haul, too.

If you are climbing with a partner, you will need two rope bags for each haul line. After the leader puts the top of the haul line through the hauling system, and after you tie the pig in short with an alpine butterfly knot, or if soloing after you have tightened up on your inverted compound pulley that comprises part of your Far End Hauler, then you have no further use for the haul line bag. You might as well clip it to the top of the pig so you don't have to jug with it when you clean the pitch.

Incidentally, you should send everything you can up with the pig(s) so you don't have to carry them when you jug and clean! Duh. You should begin jugging and cleaning with little more than the cordalettes and carabiners from the belay station you just dismantled, and perhaps a few slings.

The reason you need two rope bags per haul line when climbing with a partner is because your leader must stack the haul line in the other [upper] haul line bag as he hauls. You do NOT want to flake the haul line on a sling and then restack it when the pig comes up for two reasons:

Firstly, you are having to manage the rope twice, and secondly, when you stack as you haul, the bottom of the haul line goes to the top, and you can switch ends of the haul line every time you haul, thus depreciating each end of your haul line similarly.

If you are soloing, then you only need one rope bag per lead rope AND per haul line.

Do not, under any circumstance, allow your ropes to escape from your control! NEVER trail a rope while cleaning - tie backup knots to keep it under control.

ALWAYS make sure that when you cut the pig free, the excess haul line that has become your lower-out line is hanging free beneath the pig with no knots in it to catch.

If it is very windy, then you should consider using a second designated lower-out line that you use to lower out the pig on a 2:1 - put a carabiner on the haul line above the pig so that as the pig rotates across the wall as you lower it out, the lower-out line doesn't twist around the pig. After the pig is plumb with the upper station, you can release one end of the lower-out line [remove the knots, eh?] and then recover your lower-out line.

NEVER allow your ropes to dangle beneath the pig! This is a recipe for disaster! The ropes will tangle in your wall flower and in your catch lines. This is not Big Wall Theory - you know the rest.

Tom allowed this to happen one miserable night on Excalibur - I was freaking furious and clearly violated the "respect your partner rule" cited above! [But at least he didn't let it happen again....]

And never allow your ropes to hang free ever - they will be blown horizontally, catch on a flake, and then you will have to spend the next day bolting horizontally across the wall to retrieve the rope you need to reach the summit or the ground.

By using rope bags at your belay, your ropes are neat and tidy, your visible clusterf*ckage is minimized, and your belay is hugely easier to manage.


Always leave yourself a choice. This means that you never clip something into something else, and you never share carabiners.

If you do not have scores of free carabiners, then you have no business being on a big wall. Without free carabiners, the wank factor in your belay and your bivi will grow exponentially as you clip two things into the same carabiner, then realize that you need to unclip the first thing, but can't, because the second thing has weighted it!

This is especially important on your Power Point. Once you have set up your cordalettes and constructed your Power Point, you should never open that carabiner! This is because you never clip anything directly into that carabiner - you have used Transient Carabiners on your Power Point. Your Power Point may have three or four transients on it.

This goes double for the carabiners going into your anchor bolts, or you anchor gear. The carabiner that attaches the cordalette to the bolt should have the cordalette, and nothing else, through it. If you want to attach anything else to that bolt, do not open the carabiner that holds the cordalette. [This may be difficult anyway since it will be under considerable load.] Instead, clip a transient carabiner to the anchor crab.

BRING LOTS OF SLINGS! You should have at least twenty shoulder-length slings, or better still thirty, and at least six double-length slings. Your bivi will eat nylon, and by the time you get everything organicized, you will be glad that you brought plenty of nylon.

Never EVER use your ropes as part of the belay! This is just plain dumb! This is why you bought cordalettes, for cryin' out loud! Don't be frickin' tying your rope into the anchor bolts with clove hitches! What the heck are you thinking?! Whatcha gonna do when it's time to climb and use those ropes that are irretrievably part of your belay, and have everything hanging from them?


If you want to construct a clothes line to hang stuff from during your bivi, then use some of your double length slings, and NOT a rope!

Using ropes as part of your belay system is the quickest route to irreversible clusterf*ckage I can imagine. Having plenty of slings will substantially reduce your wank factor.

[ This Message was edited by: passthepitonspete on 2003-01-14 10:46 ]

(This post was edited by cliffhanger9 on Mar 25, 2013, 5:54 PM)


Aug 27, 2002, 1:42 AM
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This is a huge topic, almost as big as your pig.

First of all, make sure you know and have sussed your catch lines, and have set up a haul bag strap load release knot cord.

You will ordinarily pack your pig at the base of the wall.

You should have pre-rigged the foamy liner and the cardboard bottom protector. Take off the carrying straps from your pig and put them in the bottom of the pig where they will be safe, and you cannot possibly drop them. [I once dropped a backpack strap, and had to wrestle my pig down the East Ledges with one strap like a bandolier! If you are unfamiliar with the East Ledges Descent of El Cap, and plan on using it, I highly recommend you print off a copy of the post that is linked here.]

When you pack your pig, begin by filling the bottom with a layer of two-litre water bottles with the tops pointing straight up. You should be able to get about twelve to fourteen bottles tightly fit into the bottom of the standard Grade VI pig. Be sure to leave out twenty-four hours' worth of water.

What you do from there is more or less a matter of personal preference. It is a familiar maxim that your pig is never big enough, and that you will always pack to the available space.


This is where your many many wall bags come into play. Everything has its place, and your wall bags will be colour-coded and designated for a specific purpose, and you will remember what goes where.

If you cannot remember, write it down!


Have a map of the inside of your pig. If this idea sounds like overkill, remember that I told you so when you are hanging from the wall on the first night, your pig crushed under pressure and difficult to access, and you can't remember where you put tonight's supper or your headlamp, and end up digging through the whole freaking pig and wasting a half hour when if you had written it down you'd know exactly where to look!

If you have used your catch lines properly, then your pig should not be too overstuffed. You should be able to find stuff easily.

Stuff you should leave near the top, or else have accessible on your catch lines, includes the following. Note that this stuff may need to be accessible during the day, too.

Water and/or drink for the first day, and the first night [hint: beer], and the next morning
Lunch, supper and breakfast for you and your partner(s)
Headlamp(s) and spare batteries
Rain gear
Warm clothes for when the wind picks up later
Sleeping gear
Cooking gear, cups and big wall spoon
Camera gear and film
Ghetto blaster and CD's
Inflatable Helga doll
Personal toilettries

Note: Helga never says no, but she prefers your teeth be brushed first.

Be sure to click here to read Dr. Piton, my pig's not fat enough! Here you will read about preparing your sow, about preparing gear for the wall, as well as some further thoughts about packin' that porker.


You must alvays have a vell-organicized belay and a vell-organicized bivi.

The way you do this is as follows, assuming you are climbing in a two- or three-man team [not counting Helga], and that you have two pigs on two haul lines.

Note: While you could haul two pigs on one haul line using a 2:1, it is much more efficient to split the loads and use two 1:1 hauling

First of all, you want to get the biggest possible horizontal "spread" that you can when you set up your bivi. Ideally, this is no less than about twelve feet, and hopefully much more. If you do not have enough spread, then you may wish to consider drilling a bolt or rivet to beef up the belay. Obviously, don't drill if there are natural anchor options. Duh.

From left to right you want:

your ledge
your Power Point and pig
your partner's Power Point and pig
your partner's ledge

The two Power Points should be positioned about one-and-a-half to two feet apart, so the pigs hang together side by side. You can achieve this off of only three anchors if you tie your cordalettes sort of lop-sided. The two Power Points will be at the same horizontal level, and the pigs will also be positioned side by side and will end up docked about two or three feet beneath your Power Points.

The level of the tops of your pigs is the starting point for building your bivi, and everything is measured from this point.

Your two ledges should also be at the same horizontal level - the level of your ledge itself, that is the part you sleep on and not its suspension point, should be about one foot below the top of your pig. This way you can easily see into the pig, and easily reach to the bottom of the pig. If the level of the ledge is higher or lower than this relative to the top of the pig, then you will not be able to access stuff easily.

To hang your ledge, you cannot do so off of the Power Point because the ledge must necessarily be to either side. Ideally, this will be about four to six feet to one side of the Power Point. You may consider bringing an extra cordalette for this purpose, but it's not necessary. Usually I just hang my ledge off of one or two anchors that sit well to the side, and then I attach a long backup sling from the suspension point of the ledge to the Power Point, in case one of the ledge anchors blows.

Hopefully your ledge will rest against the wall - it's tricky when it hangs free. Generally speaking, you will attach the inside corner of your ledge to the pig using one of those many slings I told you about. This will pull the ledge towards the centre. You may also want to find an anchor way to one side, and attach the outside corner of the ledge to this anchor to pull the ledge away from the pig. This way you create some stability in your ledge, so that when you move to one end of the ledge to access the stuff in the top of your pig, your ledge doesn't tip and send you on the Big

yet to fall off my ledge, incidentally.....ask Tom sometime about something he once did while crawling across my ledge to reach the belay ....]


First of all, you should practise vertical camping! Set up your ledge in your garage, a tree in your backyard, or your local crag. Spend the night up there just like you would on a big wall. Not only is it fun, but you will learn stuff the easy way.

If you drop something, do NOT pick it up. Learn to live without it for sufficient punishment. You will not have this opportunity on the wall!

Practise cooking on your Big Wall Stove. You really should - flames and nylon a thousand feet off the deck need to learn to co-exist peacefully.

When you are on the wall and it is time to camp, the first thing to do is scarf every free carabiner you can! I call these free carabiners "bivi biners", and each of you should have at least two "footballs" of seven carabiners. Ideally, you might want about fifteen or twenty bivi biners.

I would really love to get my hands on some of those little nicely-coloured "Not For Climbing Use" Mini-biners. Most of the time they're too darn expensive, but Yvette told me she could buy them for 99 cents at her pharmacy. Man, if I could get twenty of those little suckers in different colours, they would make GREAT bivi biners!

Next, you need to have a designated clip-in spot on your ledge or clothes line or belay for all your stuff.

The IMPORTANT KEY HERE is that in the morning when it is time to climb, everything you need is within reach without having to leave your ledge. It would be really stupid, for instance, to leave your belay device clipped into the anchors six feet above your ledge! You would have to climb up in the morning to get it in order to belay your partner, when you really should just be able to reach out of your sleeping bag and grab it. [Note: Real Big Wall Pros can reach their belay device without leaving their sleeping bags, and have already figured out a way to manipulate their partner into taking the first lead of the day. It is OK to fall asleep while belaying since you are using a Grigri.]

Here is what I do to set up a hanging big wall bivi:

After hauling and docking the pigs, and after sussing the location of my ledge, and rigging everything so it sits at the levels I have described above, I climb down into my ledge. Note that I have tied a coloured sling on the inside centre strap of my ledge so that I can tell easily at a glance which side of the ledge rests against the wall.

Chances are I am still tied into the end of the rope, at least if I am climbing with a partner. If I am soloing, then I am not tied into the end of the rope. You have no reason to do so when you solo.

Now that I am at my ledge, the first thing I do is to use my adjustable fifi to hang from the suspension point of my ledge, thus unweighting it. As I hang there, I can easily adjust the ledge to properly level it. You can't properly level your ledge while standing on it, and this is a tremendous Big Wall Tip for levelling your ledge!

Now that your ledge is level, you can begin to unpack stuff.

Since you have managed to get your partner to lead the first pitch the next day, then the lead rack has been racked and sorted and is ready to go, within reach of his ledge. You have the now-empty cleaner's rack within reach of your ledge.

There are two categories of stuff you unpack - that which you unpack while you stand on your ledge, and that which you unpack while you sit on your ledge.

The stuff you unpack while standing you also leave up high - this is stuff you do not need until you actually start climbing or cleaning. This would include your nut tool, funkness, ascenders, helmet, and aiders. Keep them clipped up high where they are out of your way. You will bring down your hammer for compriming your candy food cans, and you will bring down your gloves and knee pads because they are easier to take off and put on while you are sitting in your ledge. Anything you don't need for vertical camping you leave up above and out of the way.

Next, you sit down in the ledge and take off your shoes. Clip them securely to the clip-in loops of your ledge, using the corner that is against the wall and opposite the pig. When clipping through these loops, make sure you clip through the strap and not just the loop in case the loop fails. In this same area, you will put your shoes, gloves, and your knee pads. I usually velcro my kneepads right around the haul bag strap, thus saving a crab.

Take your hammer holster, and girth hitch it around the centre inside strap of the ledge [the one with the coloured sling on it] in order to save a carabiner, and put the hammer down the hole at the side of the ledge so it dangles beneath you. It won't fall and whack you on the head, and when you need it to comprime stuff, you just pull it up.

As for body position, it's worth mentioning that I sleep with my head towards the pig, just so you can visualize my setup.

After stripping down all my gear and getting rid of anything that's still clipped to my harness like say my camera, I next girth hitch my daisies around my waist as my safety tie-off for the night. I do not wear my harness when bivid in my ledge. Never. Haven't fallen out yet, either. I have saved a few extra slings for this purpose, and connect them from the suspension point of the ledge, which in turn is backed up to the Power Point. I take off my harness and clip it out of the way in the same place as my shoes and other stuff.

Next, I'll probably pull up my sleeping bag, Thermarest and bivi sack [which are on the catch lines] and get comfortable. This is usually the time I grab a beer, too. I have fashioned a beer can holder out of the bottom half of a Gatorade bottle which has been equipped with tie-off loops. Since my warm clothes have been left on top of the pig, I grab a couple jackets. One I put on to keep warm, the other I take and tie the sleeve of the jacket tightly around the outside ledge strap closest to the pig. This jacket becomes my pillow.

[In Iguana parlance, it is pronounced "pee-low" .... ooooooohhhhh......]

Next I'll pull out my ghetto blaster and CD's, which I always keep together [duh] and set up my entertainment system, which I place on the outside corner of my ledge, away from the wall and away from the pigs. This is down by my feet on the outside of the ledge - the stuff by my feet on the inside is the shoes and harness and stuff. If there happens to be a rock ledge upon which I can set up the ghetto, so much the better.

When you hear some idiot shouting up on the wall, followed by the opening riff of AC-DC's You Shook Me All Night Long at triple-forte volume, and punctuated by a coyote howl during the pause, then you will know that Dr. Piton has set up shop and is ready to take your requests for the next musical selection.

Hmm, what's next?

Lemme think a sec....

OK, time to start unpacking the pig and grabbing food, water and dinner. I usually don't bother cooking in the evening, though sometimes I like to heat up my can of chili or ravioli. Sometimes, though, I'm just too lazy to bother.

But the stove is fundamental in the morning at Coffee Time.

[Note: If you are Dr. Piton, then Coffee Time generally lasts til around noon.]

The food, water and camping gear, I keep clipped at the end of the ledge nearest the bag, which is where my head is. Sometimes I clip the stuff to a clothes line I have constructed from horizontally-stretched slings. If there are two people on a ledge, then you will likely have to hang most everything from slings, and not on the ledge as it will be too crowded.

The KEY to vertical camping is this:

Everything has a place, and everything is in its place.

If you use the same system over and over again, then you will easily and quickly be able to find your stuff, thus minimizing clusterf*ckage, and keeping your wank factor under control.

I am Dr. Piton,

and I am a survivor of my own wankedness.

P.S. The fact that nobody would want to climb with you, Pete, is not necessarily a bad thing, and can in fact be a Very Good Thing.

Equipped with your extensive repertoire of Dr. Piton Big Wall Tips, you now have the ability to choose yourself to be your partner! ["On a toujours la choix."]

But do be warned - this could be one of those occasions when having two fools on the wall is worse than having one.

[ This Message was edited by: passthepitonspete on 2002-12-18 21:11 ]

(This post was edited by cliffhanger9 on Mar 26, 2013, 5:58 PM)


Aug 27, 2002, 8:11 AM
Post #9 of 16 (8122 views)

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There can be no turning back now!

I feel like Moses at the burning bush, where God leans over and says
Mate, I have now provided you with the distilled essence of all that is important. Go forth my disciple, take this information, master it, improve on it, and spread the word!"

Or something like that anyway!

As a devotee of our good doctor for some time, this post is another brilliant addition to my ever growing aid reference library!

When I posed this question to the Chief Pastor of the Church of the Better Way, I never expected such a response!

(although the delay was somewhat hard to endure! No doubt this was in fact engineered by our Pastor, as a test of his followers mettle and devotion to the better way!)

I have always thought that setting up the perfect bivvy was a top priority. After all it is well documented throughout the animal kingdom that the fellas who build the best houses always attract the nicest mates!

So in summary, sincerest thanks to the Good Doc for putting us out of miseries by pulling an all-nighter to get the tome published (just before his imminent departure for the Centre of the Universe!)

Pete, you invested a lot of yourself and your time in this post (and all the others!) - and I would just like you to know that this incredible resource is a tool that just keeps on giving. This compilation is now my most referenced source for info.

Know that whenever I reach another milestone in my aid climbing evolution or the top of another peak, I get a great buzz, and I have you to thank for providing the initial trigger and much of the info that got me there.

Thanks for an incredible gift. I have already had some great moments (great enough to even drown out the horrors!), and this is just the beginning!

To a long and enriching aid career!



[ This Message was edited by: fishypete on 2002-08-27 08:13 ]


Aug 27, 2002, 6:03 PM
Post #10 of 16 (8122 views)

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This is a very useful thread and I am not done reading the post by PTPP.

Just wanted to say thanks!!!


Partner philbox

Aug 27, 2002, 7:40 PM
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   Walks into reception and head straight for the hard bodied young receptionist. She looks up from typing out invoices and gives me a querying look. "Can I help you" she croons. I shift around uncomfortably under her wistful gaze. "Yeah sweetness, um er, is the doctor in".

"Nah, he`s gone bigwalling or something" she says as she blows some gum. Doh, that`s right he`s going to the valley and will more than likely be incommunicado. "Oh, well could you give him a message, tell him I think he`s written a very good piece which should perhaps be sent to the articles section for permanent display"



Aug 27, 2002, 8:15 PM
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            That is pretty good.


Oct 30, 2002, 12:10 PM
Post #13 of 16 (8122 views)

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You can click here to read about the use of transient crabs to minimize clusterf*ckage, as well as some ideas on cordalette selection, including a hierarchical list for selecting belay anchor crabs.


Oct 30, 2002, 4:07 PM
Post #14 of 16 (8122 views)

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Hi Pete,
Another GREAT post !!!
Everytime I read one of your posts I find information that will help me on my next wall. Like I do need 2 rope bags for the haul line !!!
Everytime I do a wall I write up a RECAP.
1. What worked.
2. What didn't work.
3. What broke or was dropped/lost.
4. If I had to do it over again, what would I do different.
5. What additional gear do I need (another rope bag).
Richard / SPIKE


Jan 14, 2003, 7:13 PM
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I burped this post to the top for two reasons. The first being that I inserted Richard's cool photo, and the second being that this may be some of the best stuff I've ever written here.

For sure nothing like this has ever been published anywhere. Studying this post can help you eliminate hours and hours of clusterf*ckage!

[Since I've already made all the mistakes, perhaps you can now avoid them]


The Doc


Feb 15, 2003, 7:07 PM
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Forums : Climbing Disciplines : Big Wall and Aid Climbing


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