/ Winter soloing - how much back-up gear do you take?

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FrankBooth - on 03 Dec 2012

If you're soloing in winter, and assuming you're on a route well within your comfort zone, how much gear do you carry (as in technical winter gear as opposed to food/clothing)?

I did my first proper winter solo recently (ie by myself as opposed to soloing easy stuff with mates), but wanted to make sure that if it all went wrong, I wouldn't find myself completely stuck and so took:
Harness (BD Bod)
Short rope (20m x 7.8mm)
2 slings (1 long/1 short)
2 screwgate
half set of nuts (I guess if it had been an icier route I hight have added a screw)

The idea being that it was just enough to back off a move, or in the worst case scenario, I could sort out a belay and wait for help.
Tim Chappell - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to FrankBooth:


I suppose ab-off kit is the bare minimum. But while people differ, of course, for my own part I wouldn't even start soloing a winter route if I thought having to ab off was a serious possibility.

I find deep-end winter soloing too worrying to be fun. And the thing is, with a partner and a rope, you can relax and enjoy yourself.
jimjimjim on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to FrankBooth: sounds alright....what do you want to know though? some people are going to take other stuff some nothing at all. If you've been climbing long enough to go out winter soloing you should be sure enough in the decisions you've made without asking faceless people on forums...
my two pennys for ya. enjoy, don't slip.
CurlyStevo - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to FrankBooth:
Can I ask what grade you intend to solo and what you'd normally lead?
Milesy - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to CurlyStevo:

I was going to say the same. 20m rope is unlikely to be helpful except on the lowest grades with very short cruxes. The fact he is asking the question leads me to believe it would be in the lower grades.

My reckoning is if you are on an easier grade route and you need to abseil then likely you have passed the crux (not including cornice issues) and continuing up would be better than going back down.
Andy Nisbet - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to FrankBooth:

I think it depends on your attitude. I take nothing because I expect to get up the route without using a rope. That's a large part of my fun, going light. If it's harder than I think, then I might get a bit anxious but that's part of the fun also. I rarely go on a route where I expect to need a rope, but when I do then it's not soloing (apart from literally), it's roped climbing but without a partner.
Robert Durran - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Tim Chappell:
> (In reply to FrankBooth)
> I find deep-end winter soloing too worrying to be fun. And the thing is, with a partner and a rope, you can relax and enjoy yourself.

But one of the good things about soloing (within reason) is that you can relax and enjoy yourself because their is no standing about geting cold, stressing that your partner is going to fall off, rip the belay and kill both of you (But then, of course, I don't have God on my side)

Unless it is trivial, I carry a 50m 6mm (I think) rope and a limited rack and wear a harness.

FrankBooth - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to CurlyStevo:
> (In reply to FrankBooth)
> Can I ask what grade you intend to solo and what you'd normally lead?
It was only a grade I/II gully (Central on Trinity) so nothing the remost bit 'out-there'! Normally climb around III/IV

Solaris - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to FrankBooth:

Some of the pleasures I get from soloing are the heightened state of vigilance and making decisions as I go, including about whether I could down-climb what I've just done if I found a tricky section I wanted to back off further up the route. Central Trinity could be a case in point here: in lean conditions, there are a couple of tricky rock moves higher up, but retreat wouldn't be difficult.

I don't carry anything more than normal emergency gear.
CurlyStevo - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to FrankBooth:
Personally at grade II and under I rarely worry about taking a rope, it's highly unlikely I'd climb in to a situation I wouldn't be able to climb back out of.
grippet - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to FrankBooth:

'I could sort out a belay and wait for help' With that attitude, you shouldn't be out there.
pamph - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to FrankBooth: Probably won't happen with modern gear, but back in the early nineties I was soloing to the left of Hell's Lum and broke the pick of my axe which was a bit worrying.....There was enough left (about half of the pick) for me to top out but I started carrying a spare axe (a Terror) for while until I had enough confidence in my new axes to ditch it. Things have moved on now I hope!
FrankBooth - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to grippet:
> (In reply to FrankBooth)
> 'I could sort out a belay and wait for help' With that attitude, you shouldn't be out there.

Really? So in the event of a broken leg, punctured lung or whatever, you'd recommend the Simon Yates approach would you? Jeez!
Exile - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to FrankBooth:

That's what I carry to solo up to III. Sometimes add a couple of pegs.
xplorer on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to FrankBooth:

I'd pretty much take the same as you have described.

Soloing doesn't have to mean you have to die if your in trouble! ;-)

FrankBooth - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to xplorer:
> Soloing doesn't have to mean you have to die if your in trouble! ;-)
well put! That was my view. (Like almost everything else outdoors) it's a question of balancing extra weight and speed.
Minneconjou Sioux - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to FrankBooth:

The problem with winter soloing isn't that you get into trouble and have time to work it out, it's that the medium you are climbing on is very unpredictable. This means that even when you are climbing within your skill range the stuff can still let go.

So I have one friend who no longer climbs because the ice let go on him and he took over 12 months to recover from his injuries and I have one everlasting memory of the young man who was winter soloing when the snow gave way as he was exiting the top of the gulley he was in. He didn't make it and I had to deal with his body. His rope was neatly coiled on the top of his pack btw.

I'm not judging anyone, have done lots of soloing myself, but please, please take care.
Michael Gordon - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to FrankBooth:

Apart from harness, helmet and lanyards for the axes I wouldn't usually take any gear. I'd rely firstly on having made a good choice of route and therefore not running into problems; failing that on being able to carry on and top out, or downclimb.

My thinking is a 20m rope doubled isn't going to get you very far so you really need a 50m minimum. If it gets tricky you're probably more likely to fall off carrying a sack with a rope inside than without. Sure you could tie onto the end of the rope and drag it up but it all becomes a bit of a faff in the end when the chances are you wont need the gear anyway. One of the great things about soloing is not having to carry much gear!
In reply to FrankBooth: The one thing I would suggest is always being attached to your axes somehow. I solo ice climbs, probably about Scottish IV but only single pitch English crag height, and I will normally use my Vipers with wrist loops. Occasionally I climb leashless but then use a springer leash either to a harness, or if I'm not wearing one to a 60 cm sling worn over the shoulder. When I have soloed winter routes in Wales in recent years I've used my old straight tools that have old school wrist loops on them so that's covered. I suppose my idea is the common, don't go up something you can't climb back down, but dropping a tool would mean not being able to do that - so make sure it's as good as impossible to drop them!

Jamie B - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to FrankBooth:

Confidence in your movement is your best protection, plus some knowledge of what is involved. Are there cruxy sections? True at the grade? Cornices?

Even a 50m rope isn't a massive amount of help for abseiling anything big, but if you knew that you mostly down-climb and more difficult bits are short, the rope could be critical. Again, this is where research is critical.

There's a guy still in the Belford after a fall rope-soloing Castle Ridge last week, which makes it hard for me to be enthusiastic about soloing anywhere close to one's limit.
Robert Durran - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to FrankBooth:
> (In reply to grippet)
>
> Really? So in the event of a broken leg, punctured lung or whatever, you'd recommend the Simon Yates approach would you? Jeez!

I think he was probably, and quite rightly, referring to being stuck or scared.

davegs - on 03 Dec 2012
If one was in trouble and could ab off. A 50m rope would give a 49m ab length. Bollocks to the rope. Just a thought.
Rick Graham on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Jamie Bankhead:


> There's a guy still in the Belford after a fall rope-soloing Castle Ridge last week, ...

Better than in the morg, I would presume.

His back up obviously worked.

Soloing is only part of the climbing game but not for the fainthearted and therefore more rewarding.

Using back up systems is still a black art. Anybody still got the (brilliant ) article by Al Rouse on Alpine soloing ? Early 70's Mountain Mag ?

Andy Nisbet - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Michael Gordon:

Why a harness if no rope? To stop the wind blowing up your whatsits?
Andrew Wilson - on 04 Dec 2012
In reply to Andy Nisbet:
The harness could be useful to attach lanyards to although not essential. I've fallen onto my lanyards before on ice and they held me ( not soloing thankfully!). It was a little unnerving pulling back up to my axes though as the fear was that an axe may rip out and crack me in the face.

Andy
Michael Gordon - on 04 Dec 2012
In reply to Andy Nisbet:

yep just to attach the lanyards to.
Andy Nisbet - on 04 Dec 2012
In reply to Michael Gordon:
> (In reply to Andy Nisbet)
>
> yep just to attach the lanyards to.

Fair point.

Somerset swede basher - on 04 Dec 2012
In reply to FrankBooth:

I usually take half a set of the lightweight rocks that WC do, 3 hexs (sizes: 4,6,8), one 240cm sling, a warthog, an ice screw and a 30m 8.1mm rope. Its not that heavy and I go with that attitide that the extra weight will make me stronger and my wife will be happier if i can retreat. I dont bother with a harness but I do take a sling that I can make one out of. I am happy soloing grade III with this and go with a partner if I want to climb harder. If you are concerned about weight then I think a helmet (which I also take) would be more essential than some retreat gear.
Jamie B - on 04 Dec 2012
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> yep just to attach the lanyards to.

How about just lanyarding one axe to the other? After all, you're unlikely to drop both.
Rick Graham on 04 Dec 2012
In reply to Michael Gordon:
>
> yep just to attach the lanyards to.

I like them clipped to shoulder straps of a rucksack or if not wearing a sac onto a bandolier.

I did once, however, after a roped fall when the axe was left hooked above me, end up hanging by the bandolier stuck on the helmet !
I managed to rip the helmet off before I choked.
I now prefer the rucksack straps method or link the bandolier to the belay loop.

A harness is quite nice in winter for soloing as it seems to keep all your clothes neat.
A trailing rope also feels comforting as it reminds you of lead climbing!

Dugg - on 04 Dec 2012
Euge - on 05 Dec 2012
In reply to FrankBooth: I don't think there is anything wrong with bringing some back up gear when soloing... It can help you retreat a bad step. I know someone on here mentioned that if it is an easy climb then the bad step is probably the crux, but what if the cornice is massive!!!

last year I solo'd Raeburns Easy Route and I wouldn't have liked to reverse climb the small ice wall leading to the snow field, so I was quite relieved when the cornice was OK...

Better to be safe than sorry.
Euge
Michael Gordon - on 05 Dec 2012
In reply to Jamie Bankhead:
> (In reply to Michael Gordon)
>
> [...]
>
> How about just lanyarding one axe to the other? After all, you're unlikely to drop both.

Dunno, think that would be a bit of a pest.

Using a harness also has the big advantage that your axes offer some mobile protection as you climb! The lanyards are obviously not meant to be fallen on but having done so (not while soloing) I can confirm that they can hold. You obviously can't rely on them but it does feel quite comforting, to me anyway!
Michael Gordon - on 05 Dec 2012
In reply to Rick Graham:
> (In reply to Michael Gordon)
> [...]
>
>
> A harness is quite nice in winter for soloing as it seems to keep all your clothes neat.

Yeah, it does make you a bit warmer.

> A trailing rope also feels comforting as it reminds you of lead climbing!

Can't agree with that. Looking down at a rope with no gear on it and no belayer doesn't make me feel any happier!
Rick Graham on 05 Dec 2012
In reply to Michael Gordon:

>
> Can't agree with that. Looking down at a rope with no gear on it and no belayer doesn't make me feel any happier!

Depends if you are as short sighted as me.
ice.solo - on 06 Dec 2012
In reply to FrankBooth:

2 screws, threader and cord for a v-thread.

rope usually in pack as i tend to abseil back down routes.
Ron Walker - on 06 Dec 2012
In reply to FrankBooth:

Recently a lightweight helmet, lightweight BD Couloir harness with my spring leashes attached and a couple long slings, tat and crabs.
I like the idea of moving light and free on bomber neve as long as there is nobody above me. I'll normally only solo in perfect conditions, without gusty winds, fresh snow and with everything well and truly frozen.
I've occasionally taken 30 metres of 7mm rope, a small selection of nuts and an icescrew, if I've been uncertain of the snow or ice buildup.
Despite what some folk have said 30 metres of abseil cord is more than enough to retreat from a tricky step or chokestone as long as you never solo climb long sections that you can't reverse.
andy kirkpatrick - on 07 Dec 2012
Ron Walker - on 07 Dec 2012
In reply to andy kirkpatrick:

A good and interesting wee article... :-)
I've never thought of leading using a rope loop on a single bit of gear such as a wire or hex, though have experimented with a bollard below a cornice and a rope loop.
In desperation I've used a sling clipped to a bit of gear when getting past a hard move. I've since thought about using a Via Ferata lanyard or dynamic cows tail, to minimise the shock load!!!
In theory it sort of makes sense apart from leaving the gear behind but does it all actually work in real life?
More-On - on 07 Dec 2012
In reply to Ron Walker: A short i.e. arms length 10mm rope cows tail and gear above the move has 'worked' for me. I should add that is only as a mental prop on grade I/II - I've never fallen on it!
ads.ukclimbing.com
Wee Davie - on 07 Dec 2012
In reply to FrankBooth:

Any solo'ing I've done has been with the attitude that 'if I screw up and fall I've had it'. I wouldn't set off up a Winter solo with any doubt I'd be solid on it. Last route I solo'd was Dorsal Arete- I had a harness on, but only for the lanyards. It went fine, but I had done it a couple of times before so I knew the fin was ok.
Michael Gordon - on 07 Dec 2012
In reply to andy kirkpatrick:

Am I right that with a 30m rope loop as protection, if you come off 1m above the gear you still end up falling 16m?
Tim Chappell - on 07 Dec 2012
In reply to Michael Gordon:

Not if you tie it off, presumably...
boots - on 07 Dec 2012
Harness with axes tied to it, kicked a crampon off once whilst soloing some steep ice had to rely on my axes and lanyards to hold me while I put it back on........SCARY!
Ron Walker - on 07 Dec 2012
In reply to Michael Gordon:

It does makes sense, which is why a dynamic cows tail sounds more preferable!
ice.solo - on 07 Dec 2012
In reply to andy kirkpatrick:

with no profile filled in how do we know to trust you?
Matt Reed on 08 Dec 2012
In reply to ice.solo: but even with his profile filled in would you trust him?!? He's a full-on mentalist.
fcy5 on 27 Dec 2012 - 247.Red-83-52-31.dynamicIP.rima-tde.net
In reply to FrankBooth:
My choice:
Harness
I prefer 50 mts x 6mm rope
2 slings (1 long/1 short)
2 screwgate
2 ice screw (on icier routes)
2 friends (you have the same range as the nuts with an extra safety and similar weight)

AlH - on 27 Dec 2012
In reply to fcy5:
> (In reply to FrankBooth)
> 2 friends (you have the same range as the nuts with an extra safety and similar weight)
Except when there is any chance of the slightest ice in cracks...
fcy5 on 27 Dec 2012 - 247.Red-83-52-31.dynamicIP.rima-tde.net
In reply to AlH:
Yes, but in this case you can use them as nuts. I know, You have only two but I think the friends are more versatile.
AlH - on 27 Dec 2012
In reply to fcy5: I understand your point about placing cams passively but I'd struggle to hammer a cam into and awkward icey crack on Ben Nevis or in Glencoe the way I might be able to place a cam passivley on nice even granite. Think it depends a little on the rock type?
Simon Wells - on 27 Dec 2012
In reply to FrankBooth:

Grade 1, nothing

Grade II 50m 6mm, 3m 6mm.

Grade III and above
50m 6mm static, two screws, set of WC superlite rocks and 3m 6mm tate
Michael Gordon - on 28 Dec 2012
In reply to fcy5:

Surely several nuts would equate to the weight and bulk of 1 cam? And they cost a fifth of the price. And they still work in icy cracks.

I can't imagine anyone would take cams over nuts in case of retreat in Scottish winter.
Mountain Llama on 28 Dec 2012
In reply to FrankBooth: no real difference to approach taken in soloing a rock route. Usually, I ve climbed the route before or I know the grade & can see enough to make me feel all will be ok, plus I can down climb ok. My take on soloing is that if you cock it up there's a good chance it's going to hurt a lot so you have some left in reserve. Gear - axes + lanyard & crampons.

Why do I do it? Cos its exciting and it feels unhindered.

Davey
Jamie B - on 28 Dec 2012
In reply to AlH:

Or to put it another way, would you abseil on a cam? I know what my answer is!

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