Saturday, August 4, 2012

From The Gym To The Real World

Recently, we climbed a beautiful new route on Guides Rock near Banff called Aftonroe. This superb nine pitch 5.7 route climbs very clean rock and is fully bolt protected with bolted belays/rappel stations every 30 metres. Due to ease, fun, and safety, the route has become instantly popular and multiple parties can be found on the route on any sunny day. Much of the climbing is on relatively low angle, grippy limestone slabs. To descend you rappel the route. If you add together the busy nature of the climb, the low angle terrain on much of the route and the grippy rock, you have a perfect situation for using saddlebags to rappel.

Surprisingly, few climbers, particularly those schooled on short one pitch climbs or coming from an indoor climbing background know how to make and use saddlebags. I find the easiest method is to take a 30 cm draw, clip one end to my climbing harness (belay loop) and clip the other end to the anchor, then simply lap coil the rope as you normally would on a multi-pitch route but lay the lap coils over the 30 cm draw. Start, if you can, from the end of the rope, as you will be paying out from the middle first.

Once you have finished lap coiling the rope, take both ends of the 30 cm draw and clip them to one of your gear loops. You should have a "saddle bag" of rope on one side of your harness. If you are rappelling on two ropes, the added bulk makes it much easier to put one rope on your right side gear loops and one rope on your left side gear ropes both, of course, lap coiled on separate 30 cm draws. As you rappel, simply feed coils out from your saddlebags as you descend. Any length of draw would work, but, after experimentation, I concluded that a 30 cm draw keeps the coils tidy, yet allows me to quickly drop coils as I descend. The lap coils have a tendency to fall out of longer draws.

This technique works well anywhere, but is particularly useful on busy climbs (so you don't drop the rope on people climbing/rappelling below you), on low angle terrain, in windy conditions, or anywhere the rope might get hung up on descent (descents with big cracks and chicken heads, for example).

We simul-rappelled Aftonroe using saddlebags and garnered many positive comments from the other parties on the route as we passed by them. Not only did they appreciate knowing that a rope was not about to fall on their heads, but the efficiency of the set-up quickly convinced them of the utility of saddlebags.

Enjoying the climbing on Aftonroe

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