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/ Tips and advice on climbing over water

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Allterraindude - on 12 May 2018

Hi,

1st post on the forum, brilliant discussions and topics from what I've read but I can't  find any information for the subject im looking for.

Before I start i will say I'm not talking about DWS. I dont think much of that exists in the Midlands but there is a few places i would like to climb over water without taking an early bath if a climb could not be completed!

Routes I am talking about require a start from water level In most cases there is no access to the bottom of the climb.

Can someone point out what the options are for setting up the climber and belayer for climbing this type of route... 

I'm thinking something very simply along the lines of the belayer abs down and sets up a belay, then the lead then abs down to the anchor, both climbers get set up from the anchor and climb as you would start any trad pitch??

Questions would be -

escape plan, would ascenders be a must? Are other safties are needed if the climb can't be completed? As there is no lowering back to the anchor to take easier routes.

Could the belayer stay on the abseil rope and belay from that using it as his anchor? 

How not to get the rope wet when leading a few metres from the water?

Thanks

I'm hoping this is second nature to some!

 

 

jcw on 12 May 2018
In reply to Allterraindude:

From your title, it's easier than walking on it

1
Jon Stewart - on 12 May 2018
In reply to Allterraindude:

What you're describing is just the normal situation for climbing on many sea cliffs. You ab down to sea level, you set up a belay, get splashed by the odd wave, and climb back out.

If the abseil line is goes straight down to the belay, and you've used a dedicated ab rope (maybe you're even equipped with a static rope specially for this purpose) then great! You've got a plan B if it all goes pear-shaped: you can climb back up the ab rope, using the prusiks you always carry on your harness and know how to use. As you point out, the ab rope can also serve as a bit of the belay (albeit a slightly bouncy bit). If there is f*ck all in sight to build a belay, then yes, the ab rope just is the belay. This is not ideal, given how much it will move in the event of catching a lead fall.

When it gets multipitch, or your ab line doesn't go straight down to the belay, it might be a bit more committing. It's quite common to traverse into a route after abbing in, and to start your route from a position from which retreat could be very difficult if it all goes tits up. 

The key points are: think about how you might get out of the situation if it's all going wrong. And if you think, 'this is really committing, if we f*ck it up, then we're f*cked' - your only option is to not f*ck it up. Personally, as someone who doesn't think they can swim in a lively, freezing cold sea with a rack on, I never look upon "taking an early bath" as anything other than certain death. It's on these routes that trad climbing gets really exciting and demands that you make good judgements.

A few tips:

- take prusiks and know what to do with them

- if you don't need to have all your gear clipped to you in a way that will quickly speed up the process of drowning, then don't, use a bandolier/sling

- know what the tide is doing

- know what you and your partner are capable of, even if it's wet, even if it rains, even if you're knackered, even if it's much harder than expected, etc, etc.

- if you ever find yourself thinking "f*ck it, it'll be alright", then don't carry on. Stop, retreat, and think again about what you've got yourself into. Either you've got well justified confidence in what you're doing, or you've got massively out of your depth and you need to get the hell out of there before someone dies and many lives are ruined forever. It does happen.

 

 

Allterraindude - on 12 May 2018
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Thanks for the detailed advice. The sea cliffs are well out of reach for the time being so i won't be worried to much about tide! But still the dark eery stillness of some of the pits we climb are just as intimidating. It seams from what youve described, the techniques will apply to the single pitch routes we will be doing over water.

To your point about traversing to start a route I suppose depends on availabiliy of anchors above to whether or not you have the luxury on abbing straight down to the start but then you would not want to climb too close to the belayer rope hence needing To traverse maybe. Having a bandolier sounds like a good idea rather see the kit go down without me attached to it if it means getting out alive.

So a good start would be 2 Prussiks to use as ascenders, one for foot one for hand and a static rope sounds minimum as a get out, along with dedicated independent belay anchor if poss if only dynamic rope is available...

I think of course starting on routes a few grades below might be a good idea to minimise any 'f*ck ups' and get is concentratng  on the set up rather than route.

This situation sounds like the norm then which is good i will be coming across it more and more which is where the experience will start to build 

FactorXXX - on 13 May 2018
In reply to Allterraindude:

Are these existing venues?
Or, ones that you are looking to develop?

SenzuBean - on 13 May 2018
In reply to Allterraindude:

> escape plan, would ascenders be a must? Are other safties are needed if the climb can't be completed? As there is no lowering back to the anchor to take easier routes.

Knowing how, and ideally having practiced - aid climbing, is ideal for escaping situations that you can't free climb out of. I must admit I've not practiced improvised aid climbing (e.g. using slings instead of aiders and daisies), but have done a bit with the real kit. It gives you confidence to know you can escape when things get a bit too hard. The rock you'll be climbing will dictate what you'll need to bring. Heavily featured with cracks that take trad gear - nothing extra need be brought. Long sections of compact rock - you may need either sky hooks, or cam hooks, to be able to escape those bits.

> How not to get the rope wet when leading a few metres from the water?

One common technique is to coil the abseil rope around the first abseiler, who then lets it out as they descend. Once they have made an anchor, they can tie off the rest of the abseil rope, and attach it to the anchor. Similarly the lead rope can be flaked over the anchor, or into a sling - so that it avoids falling into the water.

 

Pay Attention - on 13 May 2018
In reply to Allterraindude:

Somewhere ... there is a classic picture of a climber being belayed from an inflatable dinghy. Is this applicable to your situation?

Allterraindude - on 13 May 2018
In reply to FactorXXX:

Existing venues that may or may not have seen any climbing action for quite some time (not form any logbook entries in here any way! ) which in itself brings its own set of potential problems when it comes to the state they will be in...

Maybe an abseil just to get the routes tidied up before even attempting a climb is needed...this obviously increases the risk you might have to escape using aids

Allterraindude - on 13 May 2018
In reply to Pay Attention:

I have seen this and similar with rowing boats etc, in an ideal world this would be preferable for ease but using the skill and technique of doing like JS said sounds more appealing.  In particular there is one venue that you can can make use of a punt but others there is no practical access down to the waters edge to get anything down there to belay out of of 

Offwidth - on 13 May 2018
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Is that "don't" use a bandolier a typo?  Many use it as it's a quick way of dumping a rack if you end up in the water.

Oceanrower - on 13 May 2018
In reply to Offwidth:

There's a comma after don't.

Jon Stewart - on 13 May 2018
In reply to Oceanrower:

Indeed.

Offwidth - on 13 May 2018
In reply to Jon Stewart:

You are right...my fading eyesight is to blame.. it's still a pretty of contorted way of saying: always use a bandolier for racking gear on a seacliff climb when there is a risk you might end up in the sea, as it is easy to dump and could save you from drowning.

Trangia on 13 May 2018
In reply to Jon Stewart:

 

> - if you don't need to have all your gear clipped to you in a way that will quickly speed up the process of drowning, then don't, use a bandolier/sling

This is very good advice, and often overlooked. Particularly important in sea cliff climbing where if there is a heavy swell or rip tide running you need to quickly off load anything that might drag you down. Swimming with a load of gear clipped to your gear loops is very difficult, if not impossible.

A friend of mine once witnessed a leader who had survived a fall into the sea at Swanage drown in front of him as the guy was initially talking to him and frantically trying to unclip the weight from his gear loops before weakening and going under.

 

henwardian - on 13 May 2018
In reply to Allterraindude:

There are many little tricks and certainly more than one method but this is what I do (assuming there isn;t a big comfortable ledge right above the water).

Equipment: Abseil rope (preferrably static), 2 half-ropes (dynamic). Grigri, Jumar.

1) Set up the ab, if possible only throw enough rope off to get to where you want to belay and not land a load in the water but sometimes you can't see or its too far to judge accurately, etc.

2) Leader racks up, second flakes both half ropes at the same time into a bag of some kind, leaving the bottom ends out and top ends out.

3) Leader abs down to where they want to belay from and sets up an anchor while on abseil then when happy attaches himself to the anchor, detaches from abseil rope, clips bag to belay anchor and ties into the top ends of the half-rope.

4) second abs down to where leader is, clips into anchor, detaches from ab rope and ties into the bottom ends of the half ropes.

5) second puts leader on belay and when confirmed all is ready, leader unclips from the anchor and starts climbing.

6) Leader reaches the top of the route, off-belay, make anchor, take slack, on-belay (so standard). Second ties bag and any other stuff to ab rope, shouts "climbing" and then, with rock shoes on, goes about dismantling the anchor and climbing the route.

7) Repeat.

Further to the above

a) If the climb is overhanging, the leader may put bits of gear in on the ab rope on the way down to keep himself in contact with the rock. If so, he ties the end of the ab rope to the anchor so it doesnt end up hanging in space. When the second abs down, he retrieves the gear as he goes so the leader can use it on the lead. With the ab rope end tied off, the second can pull himself in hand-over-hand to take gear out or reach the anchor where the leader is.

b) Depending on how awkward the hanging belay is likely to be and how much you dislike dropping shoes in the water and how painful your shoes are, you can put rock boots on when ready to climb or before the start of the abseil.

c) I've used the ab rope as a backup for the anchor before but only where there is a nice comfortable ledge to belay from so the leader doesn't have to hang off the dodgy anchor while the second is abseiling down. A true hanging belay with a crap anchor and the ab rope as backup is, for me, just a bit beyond what I'm interested in doing, there are always other routes where I don't have to take this level of risk.

d) You can flake ropes over the anchor in coils but this has never worked well for me.

e) If you need to gtfo and can't climb out, put the grigri on the ab rope, put the jumar above it, clip a carabiner to the jumar, clip the rope from the bottom of the grigri through this carabiner (the rope now goes down from the cliff-top, through the gri-gri, up to the carabiner in the jumar and then down to the cliff base/water). Pull simultaneously on the jumar with one hand and the rope doing down towards the water with the other hand, you will rise up a bit, then side down on the gri-gri, slide the jumar up a bit and repeat till you get to the clifftop. You can clip a loop or rope or sling into the jumar to stand on to make things easier, especially if totally free-hanging.

 

Personally I hate hanging belays and do my best to avoid them. I've been doing a lot of new-routing above the sea in N Scotland these last months and frankly, if the wall in question doesn't have a nice ledge (tidal or non) at the base of it then I either solo it or ignore it and move onto the next line, though I guess in the Midlands you might not be able to be quite that fussy!

Post edited at 16:22
henwardian - on 13 May 2018
In reply to Allterraindude:

After reading the other replies, I'd add a couple more things:

1) When I'm trying to put up a new line, I clean on abseil with a claw hammer, nut key and wire brush. If you are going back to chossy crap that was put up decades ago, I'd suggest doing exactly the same thing. If the first route is solid enough you can always try and on-sight others in the same area but if you try and on-sight the first route and pull a big block off, it might be game over for you and/or your partner. I've had various incidents with loose rock over the years, and in the two worst (one my fault, one my partners fault) someone was seriously injured and could easily have been killed. You can't guarantee that nothing is going to come off but you can certainly take steps to try to minimise the risk.

2) If there are no anchors where you need them, make some stakes of your own and bang them in. 20x20x3mm steel angle is about £3 per metre and 80cm stakes are easily long enough unless the clifftop is some sort of sandpit. Put them well appart and a fair way back and you can use the same stakes for many different lines.

3) If there is a raging sea and any real risk of falling into it then personally I would make sure you are either a) on an ab line or b) being belayed from an anchor at all times, even if that means wasting time doing a 4b traverse pitch putting in gear every 2 metres, rather than wearing a bandolier and hoping you can get out of the surf alive and in one piece.

4) Prussicing is a NIGHTMARE, it is just purgatory to, in reality, prussic a rope length. If you fall off on second and have to prussic 5m to the next gear, then, yeah, ok, go for it. If you are considering prussicing up a 30/50/80+m ab line as a way out, I would strongly recommend a grigri and jumar (or even just a Tibloc instead of a jumar to save money and weight).

SenzuBean - on 13 May 2018
In reply to henwardian:

> 4) Prussicing is a NIGHTMARE, it is just purgatory to, in reality, prussic a rope length. If you fall off on second and have to prussic 5m to the next gear, then, yeah, ok, go for it. If you are considering prussicing up a 30/50/80+m ab line as a way out, I would strongly recommend a grigri and jumar (or even just a Tibloc instead of a jumar to save money and weight).

You can use a belay device in guide mode as well. This plus a foot prusik (attached to the rope above the belay device) is miles better than using two prusik knots.

trouserburp - on 14 May 2018
In reply to Trangia:

That's horrible and an eye-opener. I've never bothered with a bandolier assuming the belayer would be able to help you up on the rope - but I guess it was caught in the rocks or just too much swell? 

I met someone who pulled his brother out of the sea on a loop of rope and said the flesh had been cut down to the bone

Allterraindude - on 18 May 2018
In reply to SenzuBean:

I think I can visualise what this looks like using the belay device...if it's not what I'm thinking of then I might just have come up with something that will work 

You mention the Prussik for the foot loop being above the belay device, is this so you are able to have It positioned on the rope so as to move it up within arms reach?

SenzuBean - on 18 May 2018
In reply to Allterraindude:

> You mention the Prussik for the foot loop being above the belay device, is this so you are able to have It positioned on the rope so as to move it up within arms reach?

I think it’s just so you can move up the rope with bigger steps, than if you attached the foot prusik below. It’s the system I was taught in Canada on a rock rescue course.

GrahamD - on 18 May 2018
In reply to Allterraindude:

One thing I've found from bitter experience - don't stand in rope prussik loops in rock shoes directly - It'll practically cut for foot in half ! Stand in a sling connected to the ropep loop.

deepsoup - on 18 May 2018
In reply to Allterraindude:

> You mention the Prussik for the foot loop being above the belay device, is this so you are able to have It positioned on the rope so as to move it up within arms reach?

If you put a foot loop on a prusik underneath a belay device it loads the dead rope and you can't move it.

Post edited at 16:02
Paz - on 18 May 2018
In reply to Pay Attention:

On the cover of FAX03 the belayer is in a rubber ring below Water-cum-Jolly

Paz - on 18 May 2018
In reply to Allterraindude:

 

> How not to get the rope wet when leading a few metres from the water?

I don't know if this has been addressed already - even just on tidal crags at low tide the sea will come back in and can wrap the slack around boulders etc., so you can't retrieve the ab rope until you free it, ideally at the next low. 

The best 'pro' / SAS solution is to buy a heavy duty caving bag and coil the rope into that, and clip it to the first person to abseil down, so you only pay out enough slack as you need, then clip that bag to a loop of rope at the bottom. 

What I do as a much cheaper option is, to coil up the slack (into rucksack hanks not mountaineering coils) leaving a couple of meters to tie up the hanks with only one end, wrapping it round the hanks a few times and back through the gap once is all it needs.  That 1m end is then holding all the weight of the coiled rope.  Make a loop in the ab rope and take the end out of the loop, round the tree and back in the hole, to secure the hanks to a point further up the ab rope.  you cna easily adjust the height of the hanks of slack.  Make sure they're high enough that they're out of reach of high tide, but low enough such that subsequent abseilers can reach the bottom, and take themselves off the rope, the stretch might not be enough for everyone. 

Otherwise on popular seacliffs, if someone abs straight into the knot, they'll probably mess it all up when they free themselves.  But I give people the benefit of the doubt.  I leave my croll and shunt clipped to a loop tied on to a bite of the ab rope too if I've remembered them, in case anyone needs to skidaddle out of the cliff- the second usually doesn't need to carry them, retreating off the route and going back up the ab rope is usually the escape route anyway.

This also works nicely to weight the rope at the start to shunt upwards on.

The downside is that the big coils of rope may snag, so before pulling it back up, you might have to ab down a bit yourself and lean out over the cliff, to pull the rope with the hanks on the end without them catching on anything.  Alternatively if you are the last person using the ab and you know you'll be done and pulling the rope up long before the tide comes back in, it can be best to take all the knots out and flake the rope into a nice dry pile, in a spot away from rock pools. 

Post edited at 19:15
1
Allterraindude - on 21 May 2018
In reply to henwardian:

Thanks for the info! I have been away and not had chance to reply, 

I think without a lot of experience of hanging belays, I would definitely not look to start above water.

Just looking for a place to start really,

It's kind of like using prussiks as an escape plan. How many people have actually practiced this technique incase the worse should happen and you need to gtfo....or do you take the knowledge and apply when needed? Its a bit chicken and egg if you know what I mean.

I'm comfortable placing gear so I think for the mean time i will carry on making trad anchors as in points 1-7, investing in kit and learning to trust the gear more but ive never had 2 people bearing on 1 anchor with full body weight (1 anchor not one pieces of gear) , 

To your point is it worth It, Is there other lines... too me, as time is a big restraint, if i can travel, get set up and be climbing locally within half hour I definitely see this a worth it. It opens up a lots of spots and route to me round where I live! 

If it really seams too dodgy and past the point of getting enjoyment out of it then yes its probably not worth it.

 

Post edited at 21:50
Allterraindude - on 21 May 2018
In reply to GrahamD:

A small sling in a larks foot on the loop of the Prussik would solve this?

GrahamD - on 21 May 2018
In reply to Allterraindude:

> A small sling in a larks foot on the loop of the Prussik would solve this?

It certainly helps

oaktree - on 21 May 2018
daWalt on 21 May 2018
In reply to Allterraindude:

not much to say other than add this to the don't column:

https://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.php?id=114505

 

Post edited at 22:40

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