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PeteF


Dec 12, 2012, 6:34 PM
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Solo Climbing
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Hi guys, I have only asked one question here before* but lurk a lot so please excuse me if my question is stupid.

I'm just beginning climbing but work in a job that involves VERY unusual hours and a lot of travelling. As such it makes committing to courses or even regular partners difficult, to say the least. I indoor climb now, but hope to sign up for an outdoor course early next year, as work schedule allows.

After acquiring a basic skill-set, I would like to be able to climb by myself. I've watched some excellent videos by Aron Stock on solo lead climbing but clearly it would take some time to get to that level of proficiency. Instead I wanted to know if it is likely I'll be able to acquire the skills reasonably early in my climbing "career" to be able to solo top rope, I imagined a scenario where I began at the top of the climb, rappelled down and climbed back up, maybe even doing laps.

Hopefully that makes sense. The reason I ask is that I see little point in pursuing courses etc only to find out that for the first xx years I will probably need to always climb with a parter(s). My work schedule will make that virtually impossible on any long-term basis.

Thanks,
Pete

*My other question I asked almost a year ago related to using climbing gear as a safety device to work on my roof. It was very kindly answered by members here. So ... I had a rope and harness (and a fixed roof), now what to do with it? One thing led to another and next thing I know I'm on a flight to Nepal to climb a 6500m peak, mumbling the mantra "you ID-I-OT!" the whole way there; after all, 2 story house, 6500 m peak, same thing right? Well surprisingly enough I made the summit and I'm now looking to go back in 2013, hopefully to climb a slightly more technical 7000m peak, still on fixed ropes, but want to acquire better skills. A simple side-note just to show that even the most seemingly idiotic noob question can lead to unexpected paths. Acorns, Oak Trees, and all that stuff.


(This post was edited by PeteF on Dec 12, 2012, 6:35 PM)


camhead


Dec 12, 2012, 7:03 PM
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Re: [PeteF] Solo Climbing [In reply to]
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Toprope soloing is not too complicated. You can use a gri gri or a minitrax. There's a lot of info on this; here's a good place to start:

http://www.highinfatuation.com/blog/rope-solo-system/


Partner oldsalt


Dec 12, 2012, 7:04 PM
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Re: [PeteF] Solo Climbing [In reply to]
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I hear you. Top roping solo as you describe is a large part of my climbing experience. I do both, but I don't lead solo for relaxation like I do TR solo. The limiting factor is accessing the top of a pitch. I like a place like Currahee Mountain, near Toccoa, GA. You drive up the mountain and park near the top. The hike to the top of the wall is easy. You come out on a terrific outlook that is about 110' above the base of that wall. I rap in and then TR back up.

I'm old and slow, so I do solo leads on 5.5/5.6 only. What a difference! I am never more concentrated than on a solo lead. I've led routes on bolts and on gear. Life on the edge: more than skydiving, SCUBA, and surfing anything less than 8'. Oddly enough, it's a different type of "thrill." Quiet, intense every minute off of the ground. I really prefer being the only one on the mountain, but that doesn't happen all that often.

Happy days!


dan2see


Dec 12, 2012, 9:13 PM
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Re: [oldsalt] Solo Climbing [In reply to]
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oldsalt wrote:
I hear you. Top roping solo as you describe is a large part of my climbing experience. I do both, but I don't lead solo for relaxation like I do TR solo. The limiting factor is accessing the top of a pitch. I like a place like Currahee Mountain, near Toccoa, GA. You drive up the mountain and park near the top. The hike to the top of the wall is easy. You come out on a terrific outlook that is about 110' above the base of that wall. I rap in and then TR back up.

I'm old and slow, so I do solo leads on 5.5/5.6 only. What a difference! I am never more concentrated than on a solo lead. I've led routes on bolts and on gear. Life on the edge: more than skydiving, SCUBA, and surfing anything less than 8'. Oddly enough, it's a different type of "thrill." Quiet, intense every minute off of the ground. I really prefer being the only one on the mountain, but that doesn't happen all that often.

Happy days!

I agree with OldSalt. Like him, I am slow. So my motto is "Don't go very fast, but I get pretty far" from the Bicycle Song. Although thankfully, I'm not old.

I love being up there. It's really hard to stop and smell the flowers, when my belayer is expecting me to keep moving up.

A lot depends on the location. We have a couple of crags you can hike up, and drop a top-rope. But most of our crags are too high, or the top is scarier than the face. It's sometimes possible to find a way to lead up on rope-solo. Just be extra observant.

Also there's a couple of routes easier than 5.4 with nice ledges, so you can even free-solo and set-up a TR anchor on other routes.

Besides being extra observant, you gotta be extra objective. That is, watch your safety. And always practice your methods on the ground, or at home, before you commit to a new knot or gadget.

Like OldSalt, I enjoy the quiet intensity. I feel good about being responsible and accountable for everything. The attitude itself is very satisfying.

On the other hand, I'll never turn down an offer to join somebody.


bearbreeder


Dec 12, 2012, 10:32 PM
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Re: [PeteF] Solo Climbing [In reply to]
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http://www.petzl.com/...limbing/introduction

read this over and over and over again ... and get a real person who knows how to check your setup ...

and the buy this book, read it over and over and over again .... and practice some of the applicable scenarios ...

http://www.amazon.com/...ineers/dp/089886772X
because when your alone on the wall ... you need to be able to get yourself out of trouble ...

its that simple Wink


(This post was edited by bearbreeder on Dec 12, 2012, 10:32 PM)


PeteF


Dec 13, 2012, 12:23 AM
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Excellent, that's terrific news. I very much doubt I'll be doing anything outside until I've done some form of course, but at least I now know that it will be realistically possible to continue further before being tied to somebody else. Excuse the pun Tongue

Thanks also for the specific links. I have some other books from the same publisher and have found them excellent.

OldSalt, as mentioned above, that scenario was precisely what I had in mind. In my case leading isn't necessarily something I'd want to do at the current time, but in future ... well never say never.

Pete


markc


Dec 13, 2012, 6:49 AM
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If you follow bearbreeder's link, I basically use the "Solution with a single ascender on two ropes" method. I use one of the popular locking-assist belay devices on the market, which allows me to easily lower down and do laps on a route, redo an interesting section, etc. It does help to have a bit of weight on the rope.

It looks like the images are no longer available, but I've referred people to the old Climbing Tech Tip:

http://www.climbing.com/...t-of-solo-toproping/

As others have said, you need to be entirely self-reliant. I take my time and double-check systems, anchor before approaching the cliff edge, etc. I also tell someone where I'm going and when I'm due back. Being all by yourself at a crag can be lovely, but no one else is there to catch potential errors or help you if things go wrong. Be safe and have fun.


potreroed


Dec 13, 2012, 7:45 AM
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Yeah, you don't want to do what I did when I found myself in the position of having a lot more free time than my partners. I purchased a Soloist and went right out to a remote area and led a fairly difficult route onsight, without really having figured out how it all worked. Scared the crap out of myself. Looking back, though, I consider that day to be one of the high points of my life.


dan2see


Dec 13, 2012, 8:24 AM
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Re: [bearbreeder] Solo Climbing [In reply to]
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bearbreeder wrote:
http://www.petzl.com/...limbing/introduction

That's Petzl's "Self-belay for solo climbing with a fixed belay rope"

http://www.amazon.com/...ineers/dp/089886772X

That's "Climbing Self Rescue: Improvising Solutions for Serious Situations"

Both excellent reads. I read these and re-read them frequently. They are complete and practical guides to your safe planning and practicing. These techniques will keep you alive.

I warn everybody though: You can't just read the advice, get your gear, and get out there. You've got to practice everything. Over and over. Get it right.

And you've got to practice on the ground, because right from the start, you are risking a fall.

My house has an un-finished basement, with a supporting wall made of bare studs. I've set a two-bolt anchor at the top, so I can climb on boards. This isn't rock climbing, this is rope-work practice.

I use this wall to simulate building an anchor on lead, and then breaking it down. I've tried different rappel techniques along with rappel back-ups. So I'm telling you plain, it's too easy to make lots of mistakes.

The "Climbing Self Rescue" book goes 'way beyond the belay. It shows you how to use the rope and biners you carry, to help you get out of trouble, and back to the ground. Get it wired.

These techniques are logical and practical, but also complicated and difficult to master. You need patience and determination, and the objectivity to know you are doing it right or wrong. But the methods are progressive, so what you learn today, you can extend and build on it tomorrow.

The pay-off is efficiency and safety on the rocks. I'm still living.


PeteF


Dec 13, 2012, 2:14 PM
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Thanks guys! I can appreciate the emphasis on safety and checking. As an aside, the travel and shift work I mentioned in the OP is because I work as an international airline pilot. It's a world of tripple and sometimes even quadruple redundancies, where we're literally almost constantly thinking "what would happen if xxx failed?". The job may not help with rope work, but hopefully develops the right mindset for this type of interest.

I didn't want to get into the specifics of "how" to do this, more it was a case of if it was going to be realistically possible. I figured if I needed to ask on a forum I probably shouldn't be doing it, and "how" would emerge in the fullness of time. However since it's now been discussed I do have a question.

I'd not realised the solution would be as simple as an ascender, as I used a Petzl ascender in Nepal. However it seemed to me the solutions offered by Petzl seemed independent of the rock face itself. That is to say, they used (typically) a second rope for safety redundancy. Have I missed something, as it seems there is then no protection used on the rock face itself? I was expecting a solution that still used the bolts on the rock, with protection being set on the way down. An independent safety system would seem to me to have significant advantages, but it just wasn't what I was expecting. Could anyone clarify that for me?

Pete


Partner cracklover


Dec 13, 2012, 3:25 PM
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First - a comment for your general situation:

You should be able to locate a climbing gym near pretty much any destination city big enough to have an international airport. Once you learn the basics, you'll find that you can get a lot out of climbing gyms. Now I'm not saying that climbing gyms are the be all end all, but they are a great way to:

- build strength and technique
- meet partners
- learn the lay of the land
- get some mileage under your belt

If you have a limited time in some city, it's easier to get in a quick workout at the local climbing gym than go poking around on your own trying to find a crag you've never been to before, set up a toprope, set up all your systems, double check them, run a couple laps on one climb, break everything down, etc.

Then, next time you go to that city, you can look up some of your new friends who you met the previous time at the climbing gym, and maybe get one of them to give you a little climbing tour of the area.

Now to your question:

PeteF wrote:
However since it's now been discussed I do have a question.

I'd not realised the solution would be as simple as an ascender, as I used a Petzl ascender in Nepal. However it seemed to me the solutions offered by Petzl seemed independent of the rock face itself. That is to say, they used (typically) a second rope for safety redundancy. Have I missed something, as it seems there is then no protection used on the rock face itself? I was expecting a solution that still used the bolts on the rock, with protection being set on the way down. An independent safety system would seem to me to have significant advantages, but it just wasn't what I was expecting. Could anyone clarify that for me?

Pete

Except for a few limited cases*, using any protection on the rock (aside from your toprope anchors) will only complicate things, and won't add anything to your security.

GO

* The only times intermediate protection is worthwhile is for severely overhanging climbs, or climbs with significant traverses.


rocknice2


Dec 13, 2012, 3:42 PM
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Pete
TR solo is not that difficult like mentioned above.

You mentioned taking an outdoor coarse. A guide will take a few of you out and show how to set up a basic TR, but that's about it. My advise is to take a private lesson and be specific about what you want to get out of it. Yes it will cost more, probably double but it will be money well spent.


healyje


Dec 13, 2012, 5:10 PM
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Re: [PeteF] Solo Climbing [In reply to]
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Pete, I've lead rope-soloed on multipitch routes for thousands of pitches over the past 36 years so I hope you'll be receptive to what I have to say here.

First, as always to the moderators - this just isn't a beginners' topic and should be moved to a more appropriate forum.

And that's part of the deal here, there is way, way more involved with rope-soloing - even TR soloing - then just the technical setup that make it a highly unsuitable activity for beginning climbers. There is lots to learn in climbing beyond gear and moves - there's situational awareness, experience working at height and around edges, rope-handling skills, and knowing how best to react and compensate when things don't go as anticipated or something unforeseen happens.

Bottom line is you need to have substantial yardage under your belt before you develop the above in any 'holistic' manner that can be accessed almost without thinking. It's about developing the requisite experience, knowledge, skills, judgment, and awareness. There really are no shortcuts in that nor should there be.

And while TR soloing can be reasonably approached by an intermediate climber with significant experience, no beginner should entertain the activity. Lead rope-soloing requires yet far more from a climber to do successfully and is the province of experienced climbers only and definitely not something beginner or intermediate level climbers should be attempting or engaging in. And, with due respect to Aron, watching his videos leaves me of the opinion he is being premature in adopting the practice and needs way more leading experience before doing much roped soloing and certainly before posting any videos.

So again, despite what anyone else may post or say here, I would very much encourage you to take a pass on this activity and either boulder or simply suffer the waiting for partner opportunities until you have way more experience and yardage under your belt.


(This post was edited by healyje on Dec 13, 2012, 5:17 PM)


6pacfershur


Dec 13, 2012, 7:00 PM
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thats the nicest 12 replies to a beginners question ive read here in months....


bearbreeder


Dec 13, 2012, 8:39 PM
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its a slow day Wink

that said of all the forums RC lately has been the most "climbing" related and the least like a bloodfest IMO ...

sad when that happens Tongue


citysummitstaff


Dec 13, 2012, 10:19 PM
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Hi Pete
Seeing as Perth has a lot of FIFO workers, there are other people in similar situations. I have found that putting yourself out there in facebook groups tends to work the best.

If you are willing to top rope by yourself, City Summit has self locking belays that you can solo climb with. Hope that helps.

Janelle


PeteF


Dec 14, 2012, 1:47 AM
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Firstly thanks to all for taking the time to reply, I appreciate everyone making the effort to help.

I'll try to cover a few things that have come up in the answers. First Janelle, your reply was very timely and much appreciated. While I live in Sydney, I typically spend at least one day a week in Perth and have indeed just arrived back here now. I stay in East Perth and was intending to visit a gym in the city this trip. Without a car getting out to you may be a little tricky, but I've been looking for gyms with auto-belays so I'm very grateful for you telling me you have some. Unfortunately lobbing up to a small gym alone (especially if it's quiet, as it typically is at the times I climb) provides no guarantee whatsoever that I'll actually be able to climb, and it's been a source of some frustration until now. Yes I can, and do, boulder in those cases. However it needs to be considered exactly why I'm going down this path; it's in order to climb big MF mountains, not to boulder per se.

The course I'm hoping to attend is run by the Australian School of Mountaineering and is a 4 day course. Hopefully this link works, if not it is listed as "Rock III" http://climbingadventures.com.au/...climbing-courses#rc3 It's simply a question of trying to arrange time off work that coincides with the course dates. So far that hasn't been easy, so will now just have to hope for February.

I very much doubt I'd take rope and all the equipment required to TR at a crag while away. I have my shoes, harness, and chalk bag with me, and that's about the extent I'll go to, so gym it is while away and that's just fine. It's when I'm back home that I'm thinking of, eg realising I have an afternoon free for example and going out at short notice. I live in Sydney's north, so it's not far to go, maybe 10 minutes by car.

Healyje, yes I am very receptive to your comments and appreciate you taking the time to pass them on. Reading through the replies it's clear there are different opinions on this and I would be more concerned if I received casual advice to "go for it, what could possibly go wrong!" Compared to the well considered opinions thus far. Without being dismissive of the dangers, much (of the little) I've learnt so far seems to come down to reasonable common sense, mechanical aptitude, a strong sense of awareness of true redundancy. Two of those points I've already covered, and while not a tertiary qualified engineer, I have a very well equipped machine shop at home and a strong interest in mechanical engineering. It seems it's now a process of joining the dots up with some good climbing tuition, listening to advice, occasionally asking questions, and of course simply experience. Hopefully that experience will come from being with experienced climbers, but I'd also like the opportunity to be able to do things again by myself, rehashing what I've learnt until it becomes second nature. At this stage I honestly have no great interest in "learning moves", and it all comes back to my end goal and why I'm trying to go down this path in the first place. I'm not about to do some funky dyno move at 22,000 ft in mountaineering boots, crampons, a down suit, and a 15 kg pack on my back! On the other hand I would like to be 100% comfortable, to the point it's second nature, changing ropes, clipping safetys, etc etc. Not at all difficult stuff at sea level, but even I've now learnt that it's a whole different matter when there's 1/3rd the oxygen and my brain capacity is reduced to that of a 3 year old. Even the crappy "climb" I just did would have resulted in a fall of ... pick a number, 3, 4, 5 thousand feet? I tried to post a picture it didn't seem to work. Anyway, I have no idea how far, certainly many thousands of feet down the West Face. Before I get any more technical in my ambitions I really want to spend time rigging and "hanging from" ropes and equipment. Even if it's just for peace of mind that what somebody has rigged for me is indeed safe.

Hopefully that gives a better idea of where I'm coming from, and what I'm hoping to achieve. While bouldering, climbing etc are great activities I enjoy, they're also a means to a further goal.

Pete

Edit: Yay, the picture worked! Even though we didn't climb this face, indeed the actual rope assisted climb we did was quite short, it was over the top of this face. Any equipment failure or bad f/up would have seen me at the bottom of it. It was an eye opening experience, and when I returned to Australia had me convinced that, even on guided climbs, I wanted to be more knowledgeable and comfortable with climbing equipment and skills.



(This post was edited by PeteF on Dec 14, 2012, 2:31 PM)


healyje


Dec 14, 2012, 8:56 AM
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Man, if I was in Perth one day a week I'd learn to wind and kite surf. If I lived in Sydney I would ssoooo be learning to sail open 18 skiffs. And if I lived in either and didn't have partners I'd surf - but then that's the essence of soloing - to each his own.





There is also just endless bouldering around Sydney as well.





(This post was edited by healyje on Dec 14, 2012, 8:58 AM)


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