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General question about Fixed lines
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Partner pianomahnn


Dec 25, 2001, 9:14 AM
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General question about Fixed lines
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Are these similar to a fixed anchors? Just set, and left alone for all to use? Except, I would assume, replaced much more often?

I ask, because I was crusing through the photos section, and came across an image which said the person was jugging up a fixed line somewhere on El Cap, a very overhung area I believe.

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[ This Message was edited by: pianomahnn on 2001-12-25 09:16 ]


graniteboy


Dec 25, 2001, 11:24 AM
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General question about Fixed lines [In reply to]
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Pianno;
Fixed can be either way; you can have your personal line fixed temporarily so you can lead the first few pitches and then bust back to the mountain room and drink stout, OR you can have a line which is fixed as a free for all, like on the half dome slabs or (often) the lines to mammoth terraces on the mother stone.
There's ANOTHER kind of fixed line that you'll run into if you do the big range alpinism thing; Abandoned fixed lines. Very dangerous.

They're left by lazy asses who probably shouldn't be on the route in the first place.
This guy I know cleaned up hundreds of pounds of fixed lines in the infamous japanese gully on the Cassin ridge, Denali.


wigglestick


Dec 25, 2001, 7:38 PM
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In most areas leaving fixed ropes for an extended period of time is not allowed. In the new Climbing magazine there is an article about how the Park Service took "Chongo" to court because he left his fixed ropes for months on end. The rule in Yosemite is that they are not allowed to be unattended for more than 24 hours. "Chongo" was acquitted because the park service could not prove this crucial fact.
Leaving ropes fixed for extended periods of time is way scary. Even leaving them overnight makes you think about how the wind was blowing and possibly sawing the rope back and forth across an edge. Not a very comforting thought when you are jugging that second pitch. If that rope goes, it will ruin your whole day.


Partner pianomahnn


Dec 25, 2001, 8:08 PM
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Thanks guys.


graniteboy


Dec 25, 2001, 8:22 PM
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Hey; as you can see, there's a difference between what the Park svc "allows", and what is done in practice. Scotty Burke had lines fixed for months and months (and more months)on the Nose while he was working on trying to get the second free ascent. Probably the most interesting fixed line I've seen or used is the "headwall" fixed line on the west buttress of denali. It's put up by guide services at the beginning of the season, and left there for people (especially their commercial clients) to step on it with their crampons for the whole season. But, in a howling 100mph storm, it sure is a handy way offa that headwall...just gotta be ready to switch from rappel to self arrest at any moment...
Hey Wiggle; it says in your profile you'd like to try some bigwall climbing sometime.....good luck with that.


passthepitonspete


Dec 27, 2001, 10:42 AM
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A few comments about the notes above:

I was present at the trial of Chongo when his charge of Abandonment of Gear was thrown out of court. The reporting in the Climbing Mag was both excellent and accurate. I was to appear as one of his witnesses along with Dean Potter, Jose Pereyra and three others, but I ended up never having to testify. There were about forty other citizens of the Chongo Nation who cheered when the trial was stopped for lack of evidence, since no ranger had actually witnessed the gear being untouched for a 24 hour period!

I later had an opportunity to speak at length with Lincoln Else, the Yosemite Climbing Ranger who along with one other ranger, Steve, busted Chuck. I confessed to Linc that I break the law all the time, along with everyone else who fixes ropes on big walls prior to blasting off! I was worried that there might be a crackdown on what previously had been allowable behaviour. Lincoln assured me it is the rangers' intent to enforce the spirit of the law, and not the letter. It will still be OK to leave ropes fixed for a "reasonable" period of time - it's just that Chuck shall we say "bent" the rules just a bit when he left his ropes fixed for a year and a half!

Even Chongo knew he had overdone it, and while it was certainly time to get his ropes off the cliff, it's good that he never got convicted. Just don't think you can get away with it for as long as Chuck did!

You'll find fixed ropes in a lot of places in Yosemite, most frequently up to the base of the Heart on the Southwest Face of El Cap, and sometimes on the East Ledges descent. You may also find them on the Death Slabs approach to Half Dome.

Whenever you encounter fixed ropes, treat them with respect, fear and trepidation! If one of these fixed ropes fails with you attached to it, it'll ruin more than just your day. As pointed out, fixed ropes are very adversely affected in the long term by sunlight, especially at altitude, and by abrasion caused by your fixed ropes blowing in the wind.

All of this pales in comparison, however, to the abrasion caused in the short term by people jugging and rapping fixed lines. NEVER ASSUME THESE LINES ARE SAFE! Your partner will have a difficult time explaining to your mother that you "thought" the lines were OK - this is not the kind of thing moms like to hear.

When you rig a fixed rope, take great care to rig it perfectly. Dig into the cavers' cavepack of tricks and use rebelays and deviations to keep your fixed rope free of rub points. Avoid rope pads whenever possible, because someone else will NOT put it back! This is not a possibility - this is a certainty. The only time you should use a rope pad is when you believe that everyone else using the fixed rope values his or her life as much as you value yours. Do not make the mistake of assuming this is true! It rarely is.

The kind of ropepad that goes around the rope is the kind most likely to be improperly rigged or improperly replaced. Better to use a rope pad like a piece of carpet that lies against the rock and hangs from the rope's anchor by a point of attachment on the carpet that is independent of the rope itself, like say a little piece of string. This type of pad doesn't need to be taken off and put back on each time it is crossed.

A very viable short-term solution to abrasion of fixed ropes, at least on dry rock and not in caves, is to put duct tape on the rock where the rope touches, or where you think it may touch. This will work if the point where the rope touches does not cause a big bend in the rope. If the rope is running over a lip and makes a very sharp bend, you should either rebelay below the lip (best), or else use a rope pad.

I carry a roll of duct tape on my harness at all times - you should not even think of going aid climbing or rope fixing without a roll of duct tape. A roll of duct tape on your person at all times is fundamental.

When I fix ropes on El Cap prior to blasting off, I use duct tape stuck to the rock almost exclusively. I usually have a rope pad or two with me, however, for the worst bits. I normally trust my partner to properly replace my rope pads - this is because I frequently climb solo.

Static ropes used for caving are hugely more abrasion resistant than dynamic climbing ropes, and are therefore better to leave as fixed ropes. Because they don't stretch nearly as much, they are also much easier to jug.

Sometimes this "short term" can be very short indeed! I have nearly DIED twice by jugging ropes that I myself fixed in caves and rappeled during the descent, only to find them completely shot to the core after only one ascent! In both cases these were retired 9 mm dynamic climbing ropes that I had cut into convenient lengths for the multi-drop vertical caves of TAG.

In my experience, when I nearly get the chop, it is not due so much to a single big mistake as it is to a combination of smaller mistakes that produce a "synergistic effect" whereby the whole of the stupidity is greater than the sum of the parts.

In the case of near-death on fixed ropes, it was due to my believing:

- the 9 mm climbing rope was more abrasion resistant than it actually was

- the rub point was not as bad as it actually was

- that only two people using it would not be enough to abrade it very much

While none of these single problems was enough to kill me, the combination of them very nearly was.

The way that you end up not dying, which is a good thing for both you and your mother, is to learn by your mistakes, or better yet, learn from someone else's mistakes as you have the opportunity to do here.

The wise will maximize this present oppportunity.

The time I was most scared while on a fixed rope was not so much when I stared at the half-abraded core fibres rubbing against a chert ledge beneath a hundred-foot waterfall in the dark, while I hung from my jugs a foot below the core shot and eighty feet above a watery grave. It actually happened in brilliant sunshine on the side of El Cap while jugging Chongo's fixed lines.

In the fall of 1999, I made the eighth ascent of Jolly Roger, one of those A5 horror shows where you need to use every trick in the book, and then some. This was the first time I had gotten my hands on some Hybrid Aliens which are really the $#!& in pinscars. I made the mistake of loaning these things to Chongo in September, with the rather silly idea that Chuck would actually be finished his climb by May.

So up I jugged on Chongo's fixed ropes, that had been fixed all winter long, in order to retrieve my beloved cams. The good news was that Chuck had two if not three ropes fixed over each pitch, and I used some rather innovative jugging technique like by jugging with one jug on one rope, one jug on another, and a Gri-gri as backup on the third! I also rappeled on two ropes using two devices, and had my jug as backup on the third rope when available.

Chongo's ropes were so bad then when the toothed cam of my ascender bit into the rope, it squeaked! The ropes were so stiff from being there all winter that I had to pull the rope through my lower ascender - my Petzl frog system wouldn't work!

I'll tell ya, man, I was sh*tting myself the whole way up and down. You can read more about how I later put these ropes to good use in my trip report from my ascent of Sea of Dreams.

If you would like to learn a bit more about the Via Ferrata, which is a very unusual (to North Americans!) fixed "line" used in the Alps, then please click here for a different kind of fixed line.

Cheers,

Dr. Pee'd On

P.S. Please understand that I know of what I speak. It is likely I have jugged and rappeled at least TEN VERTICAL MILES of fixed lines in my day, both on in the sunshine of big walls and the darkness of caves. Occasionally I have even been known to travel on fixed lines in the dark on big walls, when I would really rather be sitting in my portaledge drinking a beer.

You can click here if you would like to read about a real big wall EPIC jugging a "fixed" line in the dark which turned out not to be fixed!
Cheers,

Dr. Piton

[ This Message was edited by: passthepitonspete on 2002-12-14 09:31 ]


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