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I plan to visit a summit which involves a few hours of easy scrambling, with a slightly more technical part at the end, which is very short (2-3 m) but exposed. I expect no problems on the way up but it will be scary and/or dangerous on the way down.

I would like to use minimal equipment to save weight (because there is only one place where I would need any equipment). My idea is using 10 meters of 5 mm wide cord to belay myself (I'll most likely be alone).

What is the minimal (by weight) amount of additional equipment I can use to increase my safety? How to use it?

  • Can you provide more details of the scrambling and exposure. A traverse on vertical rock over a gaping chasm is very different than crossing a scree filled gully. – StrongBad Sep 9 at 21:21
  • I haven't been there, but the description says it's right at the top, so probably it's like a traverse over a chasm; I guess not vertical (or else it would mention climbing equipment). – anatolyg Sep 9 at 23:09
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Basically all answers boil down to the availability of anchors. If there is any fixed anchors like bolts, rapelling would be your best choice. You would have the weight of a harness and a carabiner for a munter hitch (probably 200-250 grams plus the rope). It is possible to rappel from accessory cord but this is likely out of specification. If there is no fixed gear to rappel from it may be possible to thread an hourglass with a sling or accessory cord. This may be easy on some types of rock and basically impossible on others such as downward oriented compact limestone.

As a basic guideline you should always adhere to the good old Paul Preuss

Das Maß der Schwierigkeiten, die ein Kletterer im Abstieg mit Sicherheit zu überwinden im Stande ist und sich auch mit ruhigem Gewissen zutraut, muss die oberste Grenze dessen darstellen, was er im Aufstieg begeht.

(The difficulty a climber can comfortably overcome on the descent must be the limit of what he is climbing on the ascent)

On the way up assess the difficulties and turn around if you think it is too dangerous. Especially when you are alone. While scambling alone is a great joy as the flow is never interrupted, one has always to keep in mind that being alone greatly limits the possibility to belay if it should become necessary. (And adding the requirement of being lightweight just complicates this further more.) And always keep in mind that nobody might be noticing a fall and call the rescue if you are alone

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2-3 m is a nice short distance.

A technique I've used only once is having two cams on two doubles (a double is a double-length runner that would normally go from the protection to the rope). Put first cam it at the top. Climb down until you can barely reach it, put second cam in, take first cam out, climb down some more. About three leapfrogs and you're past the dangerous part.

When carrying cams while not protected, clip them to the rear harness clips to avoid dangerous snagging.


This has been brought up in comments: this advice is only any good because the description suggests the technical part isn't actually vertical and I am rather old school and still use nylon runners. Modern Spectra or Kevlar runners should not be used in this way, because they are less stretchy, and falling on them will generate a greater shock load.

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    A meter fall onto a static sling is not a good idea. – StrongBad Sep 9 at 3:05
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    @StrongBad: I looked it up. For vertical stuff you're absolutely right but I'm having a hard time projecting this as vertical. – Joshua Sep 9 at 3:20
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    @StrongBad: I pulled out my gear and checked. My doubles aren't static. They're half as dynamic as the rope itself. – Joshua Sep 9 at 3:23
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    @Joshua, you can make it a little safer if you put in both cams at the top, and then shift them over on each step - like one would do on a via ferrata. This way, you are secured to both cams except in the moment of switching (at which you're still secured by one at least). – AnoE Sep 9 at 11:53
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    For aiding, but not protection, this seems valid. However stating nylon runners are not static is wrong and dangerous: Yes, noting is static, and Kevlar/Dyneema/... are even more static than nylon webbing, however that doesn't matter. For all intents and purposes in climbing nylon webbing is static and you must never fall onto it. – imsodin Sep 9 at 17:10

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