Tuesday, November 22, 2011

All In A Dither Over Daisy

If you Google "daisy chain climbing" likely as not, you'll hit one of these sites that would have you believe that using a daisy chain when climbing is equal to certain and imminent death. Which is odd, because if you hang out at any climbing area, you'll see a lot of healthy looking climbers using daisy chains.

Recently, I did an eight pitch climb with a group of other climbers, one of whom was strongly and unwaveringly condemnatory of daisy chains. Without giving any reasons, he simply kept repeating "daisy chains are dangerous, daisy chains are dangerous" much like the alarm on my truck that annoyingly keeps pinging if I leave the headlights on and remove the keys. For purposes of clarity, I'd like to call this climber "Daisy."

This eight pitch climb ended a few feet below the summit of a little peak, and, required a series of rappels, two of which were from hanging belays to descend. We all scrambled the few feet from the top most bolt anchors to the real summit before descending. But, the descent back down to the rappel anchors from the summit was exposed fourth class. To descend back down to the rappel anchors, Daisy opted to girth hitch a couple of double length dyneema runners together which he then threaded through the one bolt on top and clipped to his harness. In essence, using a static dyneema sling for a climbing belay. Now this procedure is, of course, exactly the situation in which daisy chains (or any static sling) are dangerous as shown by numerous laboratory tests.

Luckily, another astute climber pulled Daisy up and corrected this procedure. But, shortly thereafter, we all arrived at the belay before the Tyrolean traverse which ended at a hanging belay. Now, 7 out of 8 of us had some kind of daisy chain/PAS on our harnesses and the transition from Tyrolean to hanging belay to rappel was smooth and quick. We simply Tyroloeaned across, clipped into the rappel station with our daisy/PAS, got onto the next rappel rope, unclipped and were gone in under a minute.

Not so for Daisy, who, Tyroleaned over, discovered he had nothing to anchor himself to the hanging belay with, so, while hanging uncomfortably in his harness, fussed about on his gear slings to find a cordellette, eventually managed to unclip one without dropping it, shortened it up with three loops, clipped it in, discovered it was too short, unclipped the whole thing, reshortened with two loops, clipped it in, with much straining, then, finally, got onto the rappel rope, found that with only two loops and his extended (don't get me started) system for his rappel device unclipping from the rappel anchor was virtually impossible, struggled, sweated, strained, had someone else unclip him, and, eventually rappelled down, presumably only to repeat the entire palaver all over again.

If ever there was a case for a daisy/PAS that was it. At the end of the day, if you are rappeling multi-pitch routes you are gonna need either a daisy, a PAS, or a couple of slings to anchor yourself to the rappel anchors as you transition from one rappel to another. Of course, none of these (daisy, PAS, sling) should be used in a situation where a fall can occur directly onto any one of these essentially static pieces of equipment, and, if you are using a traditional daisy (not a PAS) you should make sure you aren't just clipped into the stitching. But it ain't rocket science. 

Not a good use of a daisy chain

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