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Using Ropes on 14ers

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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Using Ropes on 14ers

Postby ClarkNunnelly » Fri Mar 09, 2012 7:12 am

Hi all,

Setting up a sport route while rock climbing is familiar to me, but using ropes on 14ers is extremely foreign.

I am not sure what the use of ropes is on some of these mountains. Have people set bolts in high class/exposure areas, or is most of it left for trad gear?

Also, what type of ropes would you use?

Thanks..

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Re: Using Ropes on 14ers

Postby MtHurd » Fri Mar 09, 2012 7:30 am

All depends. If you climb all of the 14ers by the "standard" routes, you won't need rope at all. Some may use rope on the Bells Traverse or the Crestone's traverse but only for a rappel. For technical routes like Ellingwood Ledges on Crestone Needle or The Prow on Kit Carson you will use trad with a standard 60 meter rope. I've seen a few old pitons here and there but I haven't seen any bolts. Not to say there aren't though as I haven't done many technical routes on 14ers.
Last edited by MtHurd on Fri Mar 09, 2012 7:49 am, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Using Ropes on 14ers

Postby benners » Fri Mar 09, 2012 7:37 am

Clark,

As Barry said, ropes on 14ers will be nearly 100% trad with the exception of a few spots where climbers have built rap anchors (using slings), and a few spots where there are very old pitons/bolts in place from past climbing eras. Little Bear and Crestone Needle both have rap anchors above their crux sections, and Longs has bolts on the North Face left over from the old fixed cables route. Other than that (someone help me if I'm missing anything else), you're pretty much looking at all trad. In terms of using rope, with regards to standard routes the mentality is generally that they aren't worth the effort as they increase the amount of time you're on a peak, create rockfall hazard for other climbers, and are not all that necessary for a competent scrambler on class 3/4 terrain. Which peaks/routes are you thinking about using rope for?

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Re: Using Ropes on 14ers

Postby ClarkNunnelly » Fri Mar 09, 2012 7:40 am

None in the near future am I planning on having ropes.

I have a guidebook that says "You will need a rope for this peak" -- but have never experienced the need. I just did not want to get up somewhere and not know what I was doing or be prepared--

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Re: Using Ropes on 14ers

Postby MtHurd » Fri Mar 09, 2012 7:47 am

ClarkNunnelly wrote:I have a guidebook that says "You will need a rope for this peak" -- but have never experienced the need. I just did not want to get up somewhere and not know what I was doing or be prepared--


For example, Dawson says to bring a rope and a small selection of pro for the South Ridge on Eolus. This is not the standard route on Eolus, but pretty fun. I did it without rope, but I can see why you would want to bring one as the exposure is high. It's possible a guidebook or two says something about a rope on Capitol's Knife Edge, but it's certainly not needed for any competant climber.

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Re: Using Ropes on 14ers

Postby climbing_rob » Fri Mar 09, 2012 7:52 am

Adding to what has been said: I've used an 8x30M rope for the North to South Bells traverse rappels a few times. On a few semi-technical peaks (including a couple 14ers) I carry a little kit; a 7mm x 25 meter rope, an "alp 95" harness (3 ounces), 2 biners and a 20', 9/16" sling for "just in case" belays when someone is nervous about a move or two. The total kit is 2 pounds. I actually pulled it out to belay my petite GF on the Sunlight summit block move. I think it was MY suggestion, not hers...

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Re: Using Ropes on 14ers

Postby ClarkNunnelly » Fri Mar 09, 2012 8:26 am

Rob,

With that kit are you anchoring yourself to blocks or just self arresting "just in case"?

Thanks again

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Re: Using Ropes on 14ers

Postby climbing_rob » Fri Mar 09, 2012 12:48 pm

ClarkNunnelly wrote:Rob,

With that kit are you anchoring yourself to blocks or just self arresting "just in case"?

Thanks again
that's what the 20' sling is for, on these types of routes you can almost always find a rock horn, boulder, whatever to tie into and belay someone with less exposure tolerance up past a tough move. Or even from below for a short stretch if there's significant exposure and you just want to make sure no one is going all the way down somewhere. I meant to say I also carry a simple ATC belay device, though a munter on a biner works too.

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Re: Using Ropes on 14ers

Postby Monster5 » Fri Mar 09, 2012 1:02 pm

I've seen a number of different answers on this, but I haven't figured out the consensus - does it matter if you belay them either directly off the anchor with a munter or off of your harness while anchored in?


climbing_rob wrote:that's what the 20' sling is for, on these types of routes you can almost always find a rock horn, boulder... I meant to say I also carry a simple ATC belay device, though a munter on a biner works too.
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Re: Using Ropes on 14ers

Postby TomPierce » Fri Mar 09, 2012 3:58 pm

Monster5 wrote:I've seen a number of different answers on this, but I haven't figured out the consensus - does it matter if you belay them either directly off the anchor with a munter or off of your harness while anchored in?


Monster: Like most things related to tech climbing, there are many opinions and preferences. I've noticed over the last, hmm...5-8 years a swing toward belaying off the anchor. I think this trend has been boosted, in part, by BD's Guide ATC, which allows a belayer to set up a locking belay system off the anchors. But that's just speculation on my part.

As for my preference, I don't belay off the anchor anymore, just the harness. Why?

1) Lower force transmission to the anchor. I've seen various numbers; my recollection is that over on Eli Helmuth's site he has a few pics on one of his Tech Tips where he says that force transmission when belaying off the anchor is 1:1, while the force transmission off the harness is .85:1. Every little bit helps, I suppose.
2) I don't use a munter (but certainly know how to), I use an ATC. That said, I just don't like all the fiddling with my ATC when rigging an anchor belay. I know you do the same (but on a smaller scale) when you harness belay, but removing if off the harness makes me think I'd eventually fumble it and drop the thing. Just me.
3) I think there's probably better belayer "feel" when belaying off the harness, although because I just don't do the anchor thing that's a guess on my part; never did any testing of that, but I just like the ability to guess what's going on below when harness belaying. I can feel a belayed climber's "Elvis shake" when I belay off the harness, and I doubt I could if belaying off the anchor.

Just my preferences and opinions.
-Tom

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Re: Using Ropes on 14ers

Postby climbing_rob » Fri Mar 09, 2012 5:27 pm

TomPierce wrote:
Monster5 wrote:I've seen a number of different answers on this, but I haven't figured out the consensus - does it matter if you belay them either directly off the anchor with a munter or off of your harness while anchored in?


Monster: Like most things related to tech climbing, there are many opinions and preferences. I've noticed over the last, hmm...5-8 years a swing toward belaying off the anchor. I think this trend has been boosted, in part, by BD's Guide ATC, which allows a belayer to set up a locking belay system off the anchors. But that's just speculation on my part.

As for my preference, I don't belay off the anchor anymore, just the harness. Why?

1) Lower force transmission to the anchor. I've seen various numbers; my recollection is that over on Eli Helmuth's site he has a few pics on one of his Tech Tips where he says that force transmission when belaying off the anchor is 1:1, while the force transmission off the harness is .85:1. Every little bit helps, I suppose.
2) I don't use a munter (but certainly know how to), I use an ATC. That said, I just don't like all the fiddling with my ATC when rigging an anchor belay. I know you do the same (but on a smaller scale) when you harness belay, but removing if off the harness makes me think I'd eventually fumble it and drop the thing. Just me.
3) I think there's probably better belayer "feel" when belaying off the harness, although because I just don't do the anchor thing that's a guess on my part; never did any testing of that, but I just like the ability to guess what's going on below when harness belaying. I can feel a belayed climber's "Elvis shake" when I belay off the harness, and I doubt I could if belaying off the anchor.

Just my preferences and opinions.
-Tom
Yep, all excellent reasons, especially the lower anchor forces (our bodies, just big bag of mostly water) suck up some of that energy. And belayer feel thing.

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Re: Using Ropes on 14ers

Postby crossfitter » Fri Mar 09, 2012 6:02 pm

I don't have nearly the level of experience as Tom or Rob, but I'll throw my hat into the ring for another viewpoint. The anchor strength argument is valid, but I question how important it really is in most cases. I try my hardest to avoid sketchy belays, so I consider slightly higher forces to be irrelevant as long as you place good gear in solid rock. If a questionable anchor is unavoidable, I belay directly off my harness with no redirect through the anchor and brace myself so that ideally the anchor is never loaded. The ATC guide autoblock is not without it's downsides, but it has a couple huge advantages which make me use it as my primary method to belay a second:

1) When set up correctly, you can safely multitask (eat, drink, layer up, take pictures, etc) and still maintain a belay while your partner is following. All you have to do is pull in the slack regularly. This is probably the biggest reason, as it keeps you comfortable and saves overall time.

2) Again, when set up correctly, it's all but impossible to drop your second. If you get distracted or are otherwise incapacitated, they are still safe.

3) If for some reason your partner needs assistance, you are already set up to self-rescue. It is trivial to convert the autoblock setup into a 3:1 pully. If you need to descend to your partner, you are already escaped from the belay and don't need to concern yourself with that step. Of course, these self rescue techniques are more than possible without the ATC guide, it just saves you a step.

The downsides of the ATC guide autoblock:

1) Large diameter ropes do not always easily feed through the device, and may require coaxing with your second hand. I could see this becoming more problematic if the rope was icy as well.

2) As Tom noted, there is an increased risk of dropping the device while moving it around

3) There are subtle ways to setup the device wrong where it will not auto-lock. Namely, putting the rope in backwards or setting the device up where it cannot freely hang and allow the rope to bind on itself. While potentially serious, I consider this downside to be small as it is quick and easy to verify that the device functions by pulling on the climber end of the rope.

4) In order to pull in slack efficiently, the device needs to be able to hang above you. Sometimes this is not possible at certain belays.
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