/ Essentially skills for a second (trad morocco)
What are essential skills for a second?
Every belay will be indirect as I'm leading every pitch. So that makes escaping the system/rescue/retreat very easy. I'll also be using a atc guide so can do a bit of hauling if they get stuck. I'll also buy some two way radios so communication won't be a problem. I'll be climbing on doubles, so worst case I can just tie them off and do a mega 100 meter bail. For that scenario would need to learn - passing a knot on abseil. Is it worth them learning how to Prussick up the rope? I've also taught them the rough theory of belay building, just to give my actions context. Any essential other essential skills?
I would have said essential skills for a second going into any multipitch mountain environment would be to be able to lead, place gear, have a good head for common sense and be generally be your equal... unless you are heading to small single pitch outcrops.
Teach them to lead all the way through, then your actions will become more and more self explanatory. There are loads of routes that you could send them up for their first lead once you've shown them gear and belays.
As for seconding stuff, the more they can do, the more the risk is reduced. If you were knocked out leading, they'd have to tie off the belay, escape the system, prussic, put you in a chest harness and abseil safely, go get help (only other climbers in the area if you are talking about Tafraoute, so make sure they have a powerful whistle, torch (we walked off in the dark most days,) and know the emergency signals...) etc, etc... Half the problems with inexperienced seconds is that they are scared of making a mistake, so do nothing.
Things you'll want them to learn fairly quickly:*
- How to abseil (teaching this when stuck half way up a multi-pitch is a bit late).
- How to use (and not drop) a nutkey.
- The difference between left and right (if they are carrying the guide!)
- Some common terms for rock features (see previous).
- How to prussik. Unless you want to get good at hauling :-)
* Mostly but not all based on previous personal screw-ups.
I totally understand your position but is it something you actually stick to? I suspect that only a fairly small percentage of the multi-pitch or sea cliff routes I have done have been as part of a fully competent party: A sizeable proportion of those routes have been with a partner who doesn't lead trad at all.
That said I avoid loose stuff and anything I can't reverse when I'm not climbing with an experienced partner.
True - and to be fair, I have done the same. But then again, this has mostly been climbing in the company of other groups (i.e. club meet) who can see where you are or know where you have gone and are therefore able to assist or call for help. It has also been in the UK or Alps where rescue services are experienced and quick to respond.
I am not sure I would take the same level of risk if I were climbing with someone who didn't know the ropes in a country like Morocco, especially if it was just the two of us. But perhaps that isn't the situation?
Nope unfortunately that's exactly the situation :(
We're going in March. The thought of trusting them to build a belay terrifies me a little. I guess we've got time to learn but I think getting them up to scratch as a competent leader is a touch ambitious. Though ultimately it's kind of my safety that's at risk. I feel confident I could rescue both of us, but if I was incompacitated in someway.... We'd both be screwed.
How popular are the areas around tarafoute? Is there a possibility of someone throwing a rope or should we fully expect to be alone most of the time.
This has definitely got the ingredients for a disaster at the moment.
Give it a go, they should learn sometime. I know people that have been leading since the first day of climbing. Drop the grade until you can solo it and they are happy, focus on the technical issues of gear placement, belay building and rope management instead of the climbing challenge, score all their gear out of ten and show them how it could be better.
Ksar Rock should have people about in March, it is near a couple of other crags as well so help would be available. It's also possible to stay single pitch for the trip.
All this ^^
I've been involved in getting some people climbing this year and some have gone from never touching a climbing wall to leading grit diffs in a relatively short time - and this isn't gung-ho youngsters, more the nervous and mature types.
Getting them leading in a safe environment as soon as possible means they'll understand the whole system better. Very easy routes, stuff they can walk up, or even leading with a top rope (although that needs an extra person) are perfect for initially learning the technicalities without the distraction of the climbing. And not being afraid to spend time doing and redoing stuff (especially belays) until they're comfortable will pay dividends, rather than relying on picking it up as they go along.
I think my instruction before seconding on multi-pitch stuff amounted to "You tie a prusik like this, and don't touch the fig-8 after abbing - it'll be bloody hot" ;-)
If they get some basic leading skills (even if they don't use them on this trip) the stuff they do need to know will make more sense.. belays (and escaping them), prusiking, abseiling (including anchors and joining knots).
Is it too late to get them a good rope techniques book for Christmas? ;-)
A lot of the interesting stuff in building a belay you can go over at home, though - surely I'm not the only person who's built belays off krabs round chair legs, banisters etc?
And learning various ways of building a belay (ropes to clove hitches at the anchors, ropes doubled back to a krab on your harness, big sling / cordelette etc) and why you're doing what you're doing also teaches a lot of the general stuff that you need to know to improvise safely in other situations - a few useful knots, how and why you equalize things, how and why you avoid shock-loading stuff...
I have done a lot of climbing in the Tafaroute area and would say unless you are going with a group of other climbers (potential rescuers) then going with an in experienced second might not be the greatest idea. The area is massive, there is no moutain resuce, a lot of the routes have not had many/ if any repeats so loads of potential for route finding epics and loose rock. Many of the crags are in big country with lots of exposure this could and can easily freak out an in experienced second.
Having said all that if you stick to the roadside single/two pitch stuff you could have a great trip, I would just say be prepared to do most of the leading and make sure you are both competant at setting up and taking down abseils.
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