/ Winter soloing - how much back-up gear do you take?
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)
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.
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.
my two pennys for ya. enjoy, don't slip.
Can I ask what grade you intend to solo and what you'd normally lead?
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.
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.
> 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.
> Can I ask what grade you intend to solo and what you'd normally lead?
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.
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.
'I could sort out a belay and wait for help' With that attitude, you shouldn't be out there.
> '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!
That's what I carry to solo up to III. Sometimes add a couple of pegs.
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! ;-)
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.
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!
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.
> 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.
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 ?
Why a harness if no rope? To stop the wind blowing up your whatsits?
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.
yep just to attach the lanyards to.
> yep just to attach the lanyards to.
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.
How about just lanyarding one axe to the other? After all, you're unlikely to drop both.
> 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!
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.
> 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!
> 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.
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!
> 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.
2 screws, threader and cord for a v-thread.
rope usually in pack as i tend to abseil back down routes.
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.
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?
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.
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?
Not if you tie it off, presumably...
It does makes sense, which is why a dynamic cows tail sounds more preferable!
with no profile filled in how do we know to trust you?
I prefer 50 mts x 6mm rope
2 slings (1 long/1 short)
2 ice screw (on icier routes)
2 friends (you have the same range as the nuts with an extra safety and similar weight)
> 2 friends (you have the same range as the nuts with an extra safety and similar weight)
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.
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
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.
Why do I do it? Cos its exciting and it feels unhindered.
Or to put it another way, would you abseil on a cam? I know what my answer is!
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