UKC

/ Labelling abseil stakes for sea cliff crags

NigelHurst - on 04 Sep 2018

I was at swanage last weekend, trying to find the correct stakes to abseil off into a crag I knew I would be able to climb back out of. The guide books give some maps, not detailed enough and great pics/topos of the crags . . . from the sea . . . but not much use from the cliff top really so it was a conundrum to figure out the correct place to abseil from. Advice from other climbers was key in the end but without that it would have been a lot more difficult.

This has probably been raised before but search showed up nothing I could find so I thought I would raise the discussion again. If you do have a link to a thread, fine, post it.

So why not label the abseil stakes with some sort of code that indicated what the crag below was? Not a bloody great notice board but a subtle 2 or 3 letter marking on the stake?

Pros:
 - Easy to find crag
 - Less likely to ab down and not easily climb back up

Cons:
 - incorrectly labelled (mistake/malicious) stakes

As I said, I'm sure it has been discussed before but I wasn't around then so am interested in what thoughts are

CurlyStevo - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to NigelHurst:

Which routes and  which crags were giving you problems at swanage? (also which guidebook were you using)

Post edited at 10:15
Jon Greengrass on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to NigelHurst:

Local stakes for local people

alanblyth - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to NigelHurst:

Knowing someone who recently made a mistake of abseiling into the wrong crag, I strongly feel if you don't know how to prussik up a rope, you should find out before committing to any sea cliff.

Marking Stakes with a dull paint seems reasonable.

GrahamD - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to alanblyth:

> I strongly feel if you don't know how to prussik up a rope, you should find out before committing to any sea cliff.

Alternatively, it is a great way to learn !

 

GrahamD - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to NigelHurst:

I guess there is no real harm with what you suggest.  Maybe get yourself on the next voluntary Swanage stake bashing working party and just do it ?

CurlyStevo - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to GrahamD:

Anything complex will wear away and possibly be misleading.

Personally I've climbed a lot a swanage and using the old guide it could take quite a while to identify areas the first time. That said I never actually abed in to the wrong point. The newer guides with photos can certainly help a lot (the latest rockfax is good in this regard)

I think at most colour coding the main areas though with a single colour of paint. Possibly a second colour of paint that isn't used for anything else could be used on stakes that are normally used to ab in.

Post edited at 11:32
Luke90 on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to GrahamD:

Though it's only really of any use if guides include information about whatever codes/colours/symbols are used as markers. I guess that info could be publicised on UKC logbooks.

NigelHurst - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to alanblyth:

I agree, it's best practice, with being able to prussic up and I always take a petzl ascender if I ab down but I would rather climb up on an enjoyable route and some id would make this easier to achieve

NigelHurst - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to Luke90:

Yes, I was thinking a note in the UKC crag description

Jon Greengrass on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to Jon Greengrass:

But seriously, if I was going to place a stake at somewhere like Swanage where the top of the crag is quite featureless I would attach a stainless steel dog tag, which ought to remain legible. Painted colour coded stakes would be confusing, there are only so many colours, paint rubs off, can be overpainted etc. .

Post edited at 11:54
CurlyStevo - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to Jon Greengrass:

Sounds like more effort than its worth.

Just listing the GPS coords for the main areas in the guide book should be more than sufficient IMO. Most the climbing areas are pretty easy to work out once you get to the right area. The majority of them are from non tidal ledges or beaches.

Post edited at 12:03
scott titt - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to NigelHurst:

The Swanage definitive guide (CC) has 10 fig NG refs, QR codes of the same (opening a map) of all normal ab points; and  land based pics of the harder to identify important abseil points. There are also written descriptions of the locations, sometimes even describing the physical attributes of the stake.

A 10 fig NGR locates the SW corner of an 1 metre X 1 metre square, good enough to locate a stake. 

Which area was giving you trouble?

Post edited at 12:36
GrahamD - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to Luke90:

> Though it's only really of any use if guides include information about whatever codes/colours/symbols are used as markers. I guess that info could be publicised on UKC logbooks.

At places like Swanage, there are relatively few abseil access points, so all that is really needed is to identify which of the stakes are abseil stations.  Even a casual reading of the guidebook and the maps will identify which one is which.

 

For the more tech savvy GPS owners/users, as Scott says, the guidebook does have GPS coordinates.

purplemonkeyelephant - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to NigelHurst:

Why not cut some superficial notches into the stake/tubing? So you know X pole at Y crag has 6 horizontal notches. Youd have to carry a powertool to vandalize it and it would be weatherproof and unnickable. 

NigelHurst - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to scott titt:

I had the rockfax guide, no references, no stake pics, there are some schematic maps but not ideal I found, I was in subliminal and cattle troughs.


We did find what we were looking for eventually but would be easier with some other help.

althesin on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to Jon Greengrass:

Maybe consult the stakeholders?

CurlyStevo - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to NigelHurst:

I don't own the rockfax guide (I borrowed a friends for several months and also have the old CC guide which is a lot harder to work with), but IIRC there are pictures of the stakes for subliminal in Rockfax which are more than clear IMO.

For cattle troughs I thought the Rockfax guide was very clear regarding descent. There is a good photo diagram.

Don't venture further along the cliffs as things are a lot harder to identify and a lot more adventurous! 

Post edited at 14:21
Jon Greengrass on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to CurlyStevo:

> Sounds like more effort than its worth.

> Just listing the GPS coords for the main areas in the guide book should be more than sufficient IMO. Most the climbing areas are pretty easy to work out once you get to the right area. The majority of them are from non tidal ledges or beaches.

relying on the multi billion dollar GPS system instead of a stamped metal tag is less effort?

 

CurlyStevo - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to Jon Greengrass:

yup as its on most people phone!

as mentioned I never needed it.

GrahamD - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to CurlyStevo:

> yup as its on most people phone!

But not everyone's.

 

CurlyStevo - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to NigelHurst:

Cons letters wear off and get misinterpreted.

The subliminal topo shows many of the Stakes and there is a great picture of the cattle troughs desent which is easily interpreted correctly from above.

GrahamD - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to CurlyStevo:

To be honest, Subluminal must be about the easiest bit of Swanage to find (follow the crowds ) and as far as I can remember, Cattle Troughs is a walk in rather than an abseil.

A dab of paint on abseil stations on more obscure sections of the cliff just to differentiate them from normal belay stakes wouldn't do any harm but at the end of the day its down the volunteers who place and renew the stakes.

CurlyStevo - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to GrahamD:

Yeah Agreed. Cattle troughs is mostly down climbing iirc

 

Post edited at 17:15
Bulls Crack - on 04 Sep 2018
In reply to Jon Greengrass:

Don't overdo the stakes

GrahamD - on 05 Sep 2018
In reply to Bulls Crack:

Maybe they could be done blue ?

bpmclimb on 05 Sep 2018
In reply to NigelHurst:

Yes, it would make navigation a little easier on a first visit, but it's not that hard; there's a recent, up-to-date guidebook in which the authors have done a really thorough job with the approaches. I don't believe the need is great enough at Swanage to justify the effort and expense. 

The question often missing from these "improvement/helpful suggestion" threads is: who's going to take the trouble to do it, and what's their incentive?