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How Dr. Piton Dropped Tom's Pig
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passthepitonspete


Oct 3, 2002, 1:44 PM
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How Dr. Piton Dropped Tom's Pig
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By now, you've heard the rumours, the legend. Tales of haulbags hurtling earthward at terminal velocity, crashing through the canopy, and terrifying climbers a quarter-mile in each direction.

I wish to assure you that the preposterous myth is true.

So here's what happened, and how I blew it. I'm writing this here in the Aid Climbing Forum because this is relevant to all the systems that I teach here, and I want it on my "home turf" where everyone can read it again and again, so hopefully nobody else pulls such a boneheaded move!

We had just completed the "Poison Pill" pitch on Scorched Earth, a seldom-repeated hard aid route on the southeast face of El Cap between Native Son and the Trip. It is a variation on Aurora. We were probably only the fifth party to climb these aid pitches, so there was plenty of loose rock and suspect moves. I was relieved to find the climbing "reasonable" and didn't feel quite as terrified as I sometimes do. I would have graded the crux A5 pitch as NTB+/PDH-/DFU. I try to save the PDH ratings for when I'm really gripped.

The notation on the route topo concerning the Poison Pill was "A4 - big and loose" - it had my attention. It was one of those pitches where you stuff cams behind something so big you know that if it rips, then you, your partner, and all your gear will be swept off the wall in a massive and catastrophic disaster. Kinda like the aid pitch on Iron Hawk that climbs the loose apartment-building-sized block to the roof just left of El Cap Tree, only scarier because only four people had climbed it before me.

Was it A4, or was it A1? Hard to say - "it's all A1 til you fall!"

The Pill is an enormous left-facing flake - you get on top of it and make a few free moves rightward to gain a ledge perhaps a foot wide. Behind the ledge is a crack. Above the ledge two vertically-aligned bolts form part of the belay, but we were obliged to use the crack as well. I stuffed in a few 3" cams and hauled up the pigs while Tom cleaned.

I believe I mostly soloed the next pitch which was another A4 Funfest involving camming behind a loose and detached fragment of rock - we were leading in blocks to keep the ship moving - and I returned to the belay as it was getting dark. I had shouted down to Tom to ask him to get my ledge ready so I could just flop into it to drink my Olde English. So Tom stuck in a #4 Friend to hang my ledge from.

The next morning, Tom jugged one of the haul lines to reach the upper belay - he would haul while I cleaned. We cut the first pig free [my] and unloaded the belay partially. As I was getting ready to cut the second pig free, I discovered that the #4 Friend Tom had placed for my ledge was severely overcammed.

I'll delete the expletives here, and just say that I asked Tom to come down and see if he could remove it as I couldn't. [Not only does Tom manufacture the Valley Giant 9" and 12" cams, but he is the best person to remove a stuck cam you will ever meet. When it comes to stuck cams, Tom emphatically "gets it."]

Before Tom could return to my lower belay, I took the haul line that he was about to rappel, and tied it into the Power Point with an alpine butterfly knot. This was necessary since the pitch was both overhanging and traversing, and Tom was left dangling in space thirty feet out and forty feet across, a thousand feet off the deck[!]

Tom jugged horizontally into the belay, and got off the haul line. Since it was time to cut the bag free anyway, I figured I might as well do it then, since it was the next logical step, and Tom would be busy trying to extract the Friend.

So I put Tom's ledge onto the haul line above the butterfly knot as we always do to "flag the ledge" during hauling.

Now you must understand the situation, as it's important to understand how I blew it.

First of all, I was a bit pissed. A bit frustrated that the Friend was stuck, a bit annoyed that we were moving too slowly, a bit angry that our Wank Factor was running so high. I just wanted to fricking get moving!

The belay was also a bit crowded. I was hanging on top of the pig with the ledge flagged. This is not a particularly easy operation to perform, as Tom's homemade ledge is both big and heavy. So it was hard to see stuff.


[ This Message was edited by: passthepitonspete on 2002-10-03 14:40 ]


passthepitonspete


Oct 3, 2002, 1:45 PM
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I have been asked several times why the pig was not attached to the end of the haul line. "We would never have had the pig unattached to the haul line," were comments I heard a few times.

Look, if you have your pig attached to the end of the haul line, then you are doing things wrongly. You never tie the pig to the end! [Except on a full-length pitch]

Here's what you do:

When the leader reaches the upper station, you zip up the anchor cordalettes, power point lockers, and hauling devices to him, along with the tops of the two haul lines. He sets up two hauling Power Points [assuming you have two pigs like we did], attaches the hauling devices to them, and then says, "ready to haul!"

The partner beneath then attaches the pig to the haul line with a butterfly knot directly at that point on the haul line.

For example, if the pitch is 150' long and your haul line is 200', then you attach the pig with a butterfly knot right at the 150' point. This means that you have fifty feet of lower-out line remaining, since your excess haul line becomes your lower-out line.

It would be silly to attach the pig at the end of the haul line, wouldn't it? Not only would you have to use a separate lower-out line, which you would have to rig, recover, and restuff, but you would also have to empty out and restuff fifty feet of haul line.

So the plan is to tie the haul line to the pig with a butterfly knot, then take the free end of the haul line, pass it through a locker as a munter hitch, have your partner above take in the little bit of slack in the haul line to pull it tight, untie the load release knot to let the pig go, and lower off the pig using the excess haul line as lower-out line.

So that's what I did - or at least, that's what I thought I did.

I looked at the butterfly knot on the power point, the ledge flagged, took the free end of the haul line, put it through a munter, checked the knot, checked everything again, and then I untied the load release knot which secured the pig to the anchor using the docking tether cord.

I untied the knot, and had just enough time to think, gee - that cord sure seems to be sliding through the carabiner quickly, I didn't think I left that much slack in the lower-out line.......

...when to my horror and amazement I watched the pig plummet earthward!

Oh shit.

Tom heard it, but it all happened so fast he didn't even get to see the show!

Climbers all over screamed in horror and amazement, and I felt like a total tool.

So here's what I had done - I had attached the butterfly knot to the power point of the anchor [remember, so Tom could jug back in] and had neglected to untie and retie it to the suspension point of the PIG!

So the haul line was hooked to the anchor, not the pig! And when I untied the load release knot, the pig just fell to earth.

Please note: I do NOT under any circumstance "back up" the load release knot on the docking tether with a daisy. If you do this, sooner or later you will forget to unclip the daisy, and find your pig hanging from it, impossible to unclip.

I just said to Tom, "I need a hug."

Tom laughed at our predicament - bless his heart - and all I could think about was, how do we get down?

[ This Message was edited by: passthepitonspete on 2002-10-03 14:47 ]


passthepitonspete


Oct 3, 2002, 1:46 PM
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See, the wall is so overhanging at this point that retreat is virtually impossible without tons of downaiding, and leaving tons of gear behind.

Truly, on big walls that overhang so, the best retreat is to go up.

So that's what we did.

I did my best to put my stupidity behind me, tried not to "beat myself up" too much, and
decided to get on with things.

Turns out that the anchor was fully expando, meaning that it opens when you apply weight to it. Removing the weight of the two pigs had the effect of unloading the crack, causing it to hopelessly squeeze the Friend. Tom assured me that when he placed the cam the night before when the anchor had been loaded, the lobes were not anywhere near as compressed as they ended up.

So future parties note: the anchor is expanding, and there is a booty twenty-two-year-old #4 Friend waiting there for you!

At this point, I had been making coffee for us every morning using water from my pig, so I assumed I only had four or six litres of water in my pig, which was the only pig remaining. Tom had pulled out a day's supply of water, so at least we had that.

I was quite concerned, worried even, that we did not have enough water to finish. The
temperatures were quite hot, and we had been consuming a lot. The higher you get on the
wall, the cooler it becomes, so I was hoping that would help. But I could see an "epic in the making" - I was expecting things to get pretty desperate.

But I had also come too far, and invested too much time, energy, and money, to bail too
easily. I would rather suffer than quit.

Tom was of like mind, and we pushed on.

We both survived that scorching day on a single litre of water, and were totally parched and dehydrated when we finally opened my pig that night. Imagine our surprise and delight when I discovered ten litres in my pig!

So basically, we hung in there, we rationed our remaining water - we were OK on food, and
we eventually summitted. The "locals" were amazed to see me pick up the pace from my usual leisurely one pitch per day, to three or four. I could have climbed faster, too, if Tom could have cleaned and hauled faster. I can climb quickly when I choose to - it's just that I usually choose not to!

Unfortunately, all of Tom's Valley Giant cams were in the pig I dropped, so we had to skip the Leavittator pitch, the most infamous on the route, which climbs the right side of the Golden Finger of Fate via a crack that begins as KB size, and increases to 24" via every horrendous offwidth dimension you can imagine.

We reached the summit a few days later having consumed our last drop of water, but we
were able to find a few water bottles left by previous parties, so we were OK.

Here are a few notes:

Check your pig before you cut her free! Pigs can fly, and yours just might have
wings, too.

Check her again, just to be sure. That's what I should have done. My first and only check was wrong.

Never assume that you are more bitchin' than you really are - pride is a dangerous sin in the big wall arena.

DON'T BAIL! If you have read my writing, then you know that it is imperative that you steel your mind. This is what we did. We suffered a bit, but we made it.

"ka-CHING!"El Cap route #21 for the Tick List.

I am Dr. Piton

Don't do as I do, do as I say

[ This Message was edited by: passthepitonspete on 2002-10-03 14:54 ]


Partner rrrADAM


Oct 3, 2002, 1:59 PM
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Written well, but I fell asleep before I got to the part where you dropped the pig. Which page is it on so I can go there ???

No slam Pete, just want the nuts and bolts.


atg200


Oct 3, 2002, 2:03 PM
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thanks for the insightful comment adam.

here you go:

bag wasn't tied to haul line. undid load release knot. bag falls to deck.

how is that?


evanmfreeman


Oct 3, 2002, 2:06 PM
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damn dr piton, that sounded like an epic in the first few paragraphs, but it seems you guys survived okay.

here's a question i've been meaning to ask for a while and which your predicament brought to mind anew:

what happens to the stuff inside a pig when it is dropped? i've read of people tossing their pigs on purpose at the summit of remote climbs (baffin and such). i wonder, do they just explode after their 3000+ft falls, spreading gear everywhere? if so, do the climbers then wander about for days cleaning it all up?

what's up with the 'tossing the pig' thing, anyway?


Partner rrrADAM


Oct 3, 2002, 2:44 PM
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Thanx Andy. I really don't understand all the "technical nomenclature" of Big Wall climbing, so it's hard for me to follow.


Partner philbox
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Oct 3, 2002, 7:57 PM
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   So I gets back from four days of fishing out on the Great Barrier Reef and I thinks to meself I`ll go check out the aid climbing forum on rock climbing dot com.

To quote Gomer Pyle USMC, surprarze, surprarze, surprarze (60`s TV comedy). Pete, what can I say, I can`t say anything cos I know ya beat yerself up pretty bad and ya put it all here and hung yerself up for the world ta see but one thing I`ve gots ta ask, did Tom give yer a hug.

...Phil...


apollodorus


Oct 3, 2002, 11:24 PM
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The most crucial element of the Big Cratering was this: that morning we decided that our normal two pots of coffee was taking too much time, so we only drank one.

And the rest is history.

Luckily, the Amazing Flying Whale (a grade VII haul bag hung below the pig with lightweight stuff) earned the Wee-Wee Big Wall MVP Award that day by gettings its catch line caught in the trees, thus sparing the Valley Giant stash from total destruction.

- Tom


[ This Message was edited by: apollodorus on 2002-10-04 02:45 ]


taxexile


Oct 4, 2002, 12:39 AM
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Adam
The "technical nomenclature" in big wall climbing is pretty simple:

El Cap - big piece of rock
Pig - big bag full of stuff you try not to drop
Pete - somebody we like and you don't
W*nker - person who proclaims to have no interest in aid climbing but keeps posting snide comments about Pete in the aid forum and bores us all to death.

Simple enough for ya?


apollodorus


Oct 4, 2002, 1:23 AM
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OK. Enough antagonism. All that belongs here:

http://www.hbdub.com/
(click REFRESH to see more action clips)

evanmfreeman, to answer your question, it depends. The Pig and Blue Whale fell straight down through some oak trees, about 150 feet from the base of El Cap. The Pig hit hard, blowing out both bottom and side seams. Water bottles exploded, food cans exploded, but most of the stuff at the top was undamaged. Two flashlights and a headlamp worked fine, as did a watch I had in the top of the Pig.

The Blue Whale was on a catchline; the rope caught in some branches and suffered only minor damage: torn Whale, some dings and dents to my big cams. My sleeping bag was also on a catchline and didn't even get a tear in the stuffsack.

If it weren't for the trees, the damage would have been much worse.

Those guys that toss bags off Baffin normally use some sort of small parachute, which drastically reduces the impact. They probably also put the soft stuff at the bottom to cushion the blow. A trip report I read on the web talked about using empty water bottles with the lids lightly screwed on. They put them in the bottom of the bag, and the act like cushions.

For what it's worth, I recently talked to a Big Wall Legend who said that he doesn't toss bags anymore: too many blown out bags. But, he also admitted that he rarely climbs with haul bags anymore. The modern trend is to go light and fast. He's about 40 and still climbs hard 5.11 on big walls. He'll do a four-day wall in a 20+ hour push.




[ This Message was edited by: apollodorus on 2002-10-04 02:01 ]

[ This Message was edited by: apollodorus on 2002-10-04 02:51 ]


krustyklimber


Oct 4, 2002, 1:27 AM
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Pete,

I am so sorry to hear of your trouble, and I did indeed receive a phone call from the Valley today... detractors... Sheesh?

I do understand not only the nomenclacture of big walling but also the merits of "the better way", and have used the system myself enough to know it works. And to realize anyone could have done the same thing, as I read your wonderfully descriptive post I could see myself doing all of it like I was there with you! My hands are still sweating!?!

And I also know that nothing and nobody is perfect, and it is not called "the best way" for a reason.



I for one am not going to rub my good friends nose in this, as he does not deserve it. Pete has been hugely gracious to fess up the way he has and I admire him as much as ever.

But even more than anything I am glad it was just a haulbag of gear... Tragedies befall our friends out there in the climbing world all the time, and I am glad it was not so this time, and that Tom and Pete are alright.


And YES Pete, they were fully impressed with the push after the disaster, there was even speculation of you freeclimbing 5.10+ moves to make that kind of time... say you didn't come out of retirement!

Jeff

[ This Message was edited by: krustyklimber on 2002-10-04 01:30 ]


fishypete


Oct 4, 2002, 1:47 AM
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My congratulations to:

Taxeile: great post. You sum it all up - why does adam bother coming here??

Apollodorus and Krusty: for having the fortitude to skip over the incessent drivel that seems to pursue us into the aid forum.

Adam, you are always holding people to higher standards, why cant you just leave your feud with pete outside this forum?

We are honestly trying to have serious discussion, and your inputs are really detracting from the experience the rest of us are having.

Cant you just keep it constructive? The posts "I dont understand the nomenclature" are obvious child-like trolls - you have made 8 posts to the aid forum in the last 4 days! You know the system.

If for no other reason, just try to be constructive and thoughtful for the rest of us. Possible?

We will thank you for it.

Cheers

Fishy.

[ This Message was edited by: fishypete on 2002-10-04 01:48 ]


glockaroo


Oct 4, 2002, 6:56 AM
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Congrats to Tom and Pete for pressing on despite the unforeseen challenge of losing a haulbag. Those with no bigwall experience (a.k.a. "wankers" or BWTs) who would criticize these fellows should consider the following quote:

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points
out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds
could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who
is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and
sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes
up short again and again, because there is no effort
without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great
enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a
worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the
triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he
fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his
place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who
knew neither victory nor defeat." -- T. Roosevelt



krustyklimber


Oct 4, 2002, 11:32 AM
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Thanks Glockman,

That sums it all up so well!

Teddy woulda made a hella bigwaller, eh?

Jeff


rollingstone


Oct 4, 2002, 12:11 PM
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The thing about this that is so cool is that Pete and Tom have shared their mistake so that the rest of us can learn from their mistake and avoid doing the same thing ourselves. It takes cojones to admit a mistake, especially when one is known to be very proficient at the task involved. Kudos and thanks to you both for sharing and allowing the ones who want to to benefit from your error. Besides, you did not bail! You persevered, and Pete consistently says the difference between BWTs and BW climbers is the perseverance to keep on keepin' on, even in the face of adversity and despair.

[ This Message was edited by: rollingstone on 2002-10-04 12:12 ]


twrock


Oct 4, 2002, 4:41 PM
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As I read Pete's report, I couldn't help but wonder if the "traditional method" in this case doesn't have a little more merit than some have been giving it. Keeping the pig tied in all the time would quite simply have prevented this accident. With all the other "dedicated" gear being taken up, why not just take a dedicated lower-out line as well? It certainly doesn't have to be thick and heavy; some small diameter cord will do. There are a gillion uses for that kind of cord on a big wall anyway (cordelette, emergency rap anchor constrction, etc). Pulling up the slack before each haul is really not that hard either.

Regarding Pete's public confession, does anyone really think he could have avoided it? Guys like Pete and Adam have such a large "presence" here that there is no way they are going to avoid their flaws, faults and mistakes from "coming to light" anyway. Better to tell it in full than wait for someone else to leak it. If you present yourself as a "big name" then you have to be prepared to get shot at for your mistakes and even your apparent mistakes. If you present your way as the "better way" with the fervor that Pete does, then some who practice "another way" are going to have something to say about it.

I greatly appreciate Pete's willingness to share in detail the "how-to's" of some of his aid systems and methods. I have changed some of what I do because of his ideas. And I am very willing to accept the "style" with which he presents his information. Some simply are not that willing, and find Pete's "presentation" too pompous to accept. No matter what, you can't not feel something about the man.

Thanks Pete. However you present it, I appreciate the help.


dsafanda


Oct 4, 2002, 4:59 PM
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I didn't wade through all the details in the original post so forgive me if I've missed something but...if your pig for whatever reason has decided that is has wings do you really want it to be connected to your belay.

I've always climbed with the pig tied in to something at all times but after trying to imagine it falling...I wonder if indeed that is the safest technique.


apollodorus


Oct 4, 2002, 6:46 PM
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Twrock, if you keep the pig tied to the end of the haul line, you will have slack in it up until the moment the leader starts to haul. If the pig were to fly for whatever reason before that, it would seriously shockload the anchors. That is one of the main reasons to NOT have the pig tied to the haul line at all times, especially if you're using a static rope.

It's much better to depend on a separate tether for the pig, and attach the haul rope only after the leader has put it through the hauling device. Slack in a static haul line is a big no-no.

If you want some sort of back-up, 10 feet of dynamic rope tied to the straps and clipped to the anchor could be used. You could cut the back-up from an old lead rope. In fact, PTPP is retiring his lead rope, so he will have PLENTY for next season's back-up tethers. For our next wall together, I am going to make him have THREE back-ups on each pig. He can gradually work his way to one back-up over the course of many walls.



twrock


Oct 4, 2002, 7:14 PM
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Tom, I'm not trying to suggest that additional tethers shouldn't be used. That is a great idea. I'm just wondering if the "practice" of leaving the haul line connected isn't a good idea. "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link," and if the practice is to disconnect and reconnect a link every time between uses, you might eventually forget to do so. Obviously it can happen.

Concerning the possibility of the pig cutting loose unexpectedly and shock loading the system, there have been other suggestions made to protect the leader and the anchor. Tethering is one. For the leader, if your zip line is thin, that would probably break first. If you aren't using a zip line, you can attach the haul line to the leader with a short piece of thin cord that designed to "break away." In any case, having additional tethers would be a nice backup as well.

I don't care if it is Pete, Tom, or "newbie with a single post" proposing a different way of doing something. I want to understand it thoroughly before I decide to use it (or not). The "traditional way" became traditional because many very good climbers before us used it with success. In a few years some the the "better way" will become traditional as well. It will evolve and maybe someday some young guy will scoff at the "better way" ideas those old farts used back in the 2000's. In fact, I'm sure he will.


passthepitonspete


Oct 4, 2002, 7:30 PM
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How Dr. Piton Dropped Tom's Pig [In reply to]
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I stand behind the system that I have suggested above. To me, it is indeed the Better Way.

Please note that I never suggested it was the Best Way.

Dr. Piton technology is like a smorgassbord - put what you like onto your plate, and leave the rest in the bowl.

I am far too lazy to carry a separate lower-out line, and much more lazy to have to stuff extra haul line into a bag every haul, or stuff an extra lower-out line into a bag.

If you have spent any time on a big wall, you will realize how much time you spend stuffing ropes! It never fricking ends! When I get off a wall, the part of my body that hurts the most is my fingers from pulling and stuffing ropes, aiders, fifis, and every other piece of nylon you can imagine.

So any system that avoids unnecessary stuffing always wins, at least for me.

I do not use a separate backup any more. This is because too often I forget to detach it before hauling, and my pigs end up hanging off of a carabiner and I can't lift them off without either cutting a sling, or else constructing a mini-haul.

The systems I propose are both safe and functional.

So is your car.

If you know how to drive, you will be safe, and you will get where you are going.

But if you do something stupid, like pull into an intersection without checking in both directions, you will eventually suffer an accident.

This is what I did.

I didn't check, and I suffered an accident.

The best system in the world is no substitute for me doing something stupid!

I share my stupidity in the hopes that others will avoid it.

Hopefully.

What's lucky here is that nobody was hurt, and no gear was lost or damaged particularly.

And we made it to the summit - I am known for getting there.


I am Dr. Piton,

and I am an old fart.


Yet this question remains:

"how do I do it?"


Partner philbox
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Oct 6, 2002, 11:25 PM
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How Dr. Piton Dropped Tom's Pig [In reply to]
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   You do it because you have single minded perserverance.
...Phil...


danl


Oct 8, 2002, 11:19 AM
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How Dr. Piton Dropped Tom's Pig [In reply to]
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Pete,

Congrats on an awsome send a wild route under those conditions truly shows ones character. I don't know how many people know what a SICK SICK route scorched earth is. Put up by the head psychos robbie slater [think wyoming sheep ranch, and much desert tower sickness] and Leavitt. These two mental cases are truly masters of aid and extended trickery. Their mastery of the lovetron alone makes them worthy of worship.

And thank you for sharing the haul bag story. Truly informative as well as entertaining. May we all learn from your mistake and not have to repeat it ourselves.

PS stories like this make me want to get out and climb...this epitomises the adventure spirit. My mother could get on Realization but it takes big balls to pull off stuff like this

Pete you Rock!


danl


Oct 8, 2002, 11:48 AM
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How Dr. Piton Dropped Tom's Pig [In reply to]
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burren,

yeahr youre right she would have to stick clip the first bolt and after boinking to it she probably couldn't pull a move. Don't get me wrong I really respect the athleticism and hard work involved in sport climbing. But for me climbing also means adventure.


andy_lemon


Oct 8, 2002, 9:19 PM
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How Dr. Piton Dropped Tom's Pig [In reply to]
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Question here Pete!

Where was the poop bag when all this was going on? Attached to the same line I suppose???

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