/ Via Ferrata - Moving together on short-rope and QDs?

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BruceM - on 10 Nov 2017

For experienced climbers only of course:

Haven’t seen this mentioned much in the last 10 years but have used it myself a bit on the very few VFs we’ve done since we retired our old VF kits a few years ago. I’m talking about moving together on VF sections with about 6-8m of rope between climbers, and placing (and the second removing) quickdraws as you go. Keeping at least 2 QDs connected at all times (so you end up about 3-4 QDs apart).

This technique seems ideal for VF terrain, where -- like with a VF kit -- you MUST not fall, but if you do (by having a medical emergency or getting hit by rocks…) you should hopefully not die.

I’m wondering what people out there know or have thoughts about using this method?

I can see at least 3 potential risks you have to be aware of and try to manage:

1. Have to ensure direction of travel is correct wrt QD gate directions so as not to end up in a backclip situation -- especially on traverses which are most common in VF.

2. Unlike VF carabiners you can’t cross load QD crabs, so need to ensure you can clip them on ladder rungs or eyelets where they can freely rotate, not the cable above a stanchion on a vertical cable-run, where a fall could torque the clipping crab. (Better suited to French/Spanish VF than Dolomiti, due to the ladders and more modern installations.)

3. If climbing a vertical section and the second falls, they will pull the leader off. There is a possibility that instead of both climbers falling outwards and the rope being caught by the QDS, the second drags the leader down to last (top) QD, whereupon instead of the rope from the leader “folding” over the top QD (pulley-style like in a conventional leader fall), the lead climber is dragged into the QD and effectively “hooks” it, so you end up with the falling energy of the entire top climber (plus the rope absorbed energy of the second) shock-loading the top QD sling statically and creating massive impact forces. (This seems the worst potential problem.)

However, aside from these issues, the technique seems to offer about as much comfort -- or sometimes more! -- as using a personal VF kit, especially on long vertical sections where the cable stanchions are about 5m+ above each other, and a fall there on a conventional VF kit looks as scary as hell to ever contemplate! QDs every 1-2m on the ladder rungs seems far less scary, even with the potential probs listed above.

And this techniques is very common in the big mountains where the risk of falling or being hit is about the same (ie. very low, else you wouldn’t do it), although usually in the mountains the anchors aren’t quite as reliable as VF ones.

Is there something I haven’t thought of, or some well known issues I haven’t heard about? Interested to hear.

Thanks.
Post edited at 15:28
Neil Williams - on 10 Nov 2017
In reply to BruceM:
Having done a number of VFs I can't see why I would do that. Falling when moving together is bad (=best avoided) as well, particularly on VFs where there's lots of stuff to clout, so if I think I am likely to fall it's time to pitch it, if I don't the VF kit is fine.
Post edited at 15:43
Jim 1003 - on 10 Nov 2017
In reply to BruceM:

The carabiner gates will be too small for some ladder rungs. It's not a good idea anyway because nobody does it!
jon on 10 Nov 2017
In reply to BruceM:

On the few via ferratas I've done, maybe about a dozen, I've always short roped my partner - in addition to using leashes. It doesn't take any longer, if you're slick, and it gives me control if they manage to mess up. Depending on the VF there are often pigstails and the like so you don't even have to use quickdraws.
tjin - on 10 Nov 2017
In reply to BruceM:

how many QD's do you plan on carrying? VF are relatively long. So you need get be able to get those back to the leader a lot of times...
oldie - on 10 Nov 2017
In reply to BruceM:

> 2. Unlike VF carabiners you can’t cross load QD crabs, so need to ensure you can clip them on ladder rungs or eyelets where they can freely rotate, not the cable above a stanchion on a vertical cable-run, where a fall could torque the clipping crab. <

I have no experience of VF techniques but surely you could have a few open sling QDs which could be basket hitched (or other) round a rung: no torque.

> 3. If climbing a vertical section and the second falls, they will pull the leader off. There is a possibility that instead of both climbers falling outwards and the rope being caught by the QDS, the second drags the leader down to last (top) QD, whereupon instead of the rope from the leader “folding” over the top QD (pulley-style like in a conventional leader fall), the lead climber is dragged into the QD and effectively “hooks” it, so you end up with the falling energy of the entire top climber (plus the rope absorbed energy of the second) shock-loading the top QD sling statically and creating massive impact forces. (This seems the worst potential problem.) <

Would not the leader be pulled off well before the rope stretched much? Probably enough stretch/energy absorbtion present along the intervening rope (the longer between climbers means lower FF) to protect both people? I know little about mechanics though.

> And this techniques is very common in the big mountains where the risk of falling or being hit is about the same (ie. very low, else you wouldn’t do it), although usually in the mountains the anchors aren’t quite as reliable as VF ones. <

The VF anchors are probably actually much more reliable than a quickly placed sling (or ice screw as I believe the technique is used on long ice routes sometimes). Also if there was any obviously dangerous section it would be quick and easy for the leader to stop a couple of anchors further on and belay the second over the hard bit.
The mantra here is "the second must not fall."




john arran - on 10 Nov 2017
In reply to BruceM:

What is the problem that this is a good solution to?
BruceM - on 10 Nov 2017
In reply to tjin:

Yes, since these have been during sport climbing trips, we have had about 15 draws so need to quick belay/spike etc. every 40m or so and swap leaders. Like normal multipitch mountain stuff, gives you an excuse to turn around and suck up the views. And in between, the moving together bits are probably faster than using VF kit. Just click, click, click, click....And no you wouldn't do this on crowded routes. But we usually are only the only ones on our mountain routes anyway...ever.

But I'm more interested in safety issues, I might have missed. Otherwise it seems very practical and good fun.
BruceM - on 10 Nov 2017
In reply to john arran:

> What is the problem that this is a good solution to?

Say you were at Costa B with a rope and bunch of QDs, no VF kit,and wanted to have a crack at Ponoch VF.
john arran - on 10 Nov 2017
In reply to BruceM:

In which case, as long as you're clipping gear in such a way as the krabs won't break if you fall, it sounds liike a workable plan.
purplemonkeyelephant - on 10 Nov 2017
In reply to BruceM:

Just imagining the top climber falling off and in turn pulling the second hard into the wall/metal rungs. Messy.

As Mr Arran said, what is this trying to fix? For speed? Just go solo with lanyards. For safety? Just pitch the difficult sections. This is neither safe nor fast.
BruceM - on 10 Nov 2017
In reply to purplemonkeyelephant:

Falling on a VF kit is messy too. Point is, you don't fall on either. No, as said above, it is for when you don't have any VF kit with you but want to try the Ponoch VF or something.
GrahamD - on 10 Nov 2017
In reply to BruceM:

I'm not sure what you are intending clipping the QDs to ? if its onto the cable then almost certainly a bad idea because the krab would tend to lever open as it hit the cable anchor. If its to the cable anchors themselves, that depends on whether you can clip in such a way that the krab hangs properly.
purplemonkeyelephant - on 10 Nov 2017
In reply to BruceM:

Surely all this thought and debate is simplified by getting a VF kit and sticking it in your bag. Simul-VF'ing because you didn't plan your trip properly is just silly. A bit like getting to the sport crag and saying "well we didn't bring any sport gear, but we can probably wangle it just by using some via ferrata kit we have in our bags". Yes you probably could, but it's needlessly dangerous and unnecessary if you know you might do some VF on your trip.
BruceM - on 15 Nov 2017
In reply to BruceM:

Thanks all. Doesn't seem to be any additional established issues identified other than the ones I came up with. So all is good. Bonne escalade!
Chris the Tall - on 15 Nov 2017
In reply to BruceM:

I can imagine doing this when you come upon a VF section during a climb or descent, and therefore you'd use the ironwork in much the same as you would do with any in-situ gear. So you could do it in pitches or move together. If you were to do the latter then make sure there is plenty of rope between you, to reduce the fall factor and the risk of pulling the other off.

I certainly wouldn't set off to do a VF in this way just to save on taking VF kit, but it's probably safer than bodging a VF kit using slings.

I'm assuming you understand fall factors but if not then I'd look it up - very important in relation to VFs
trouserburp - on 15 Nov 2017
In reply to BruceM:

Off topic except your improv solves it
What are you supposed to do to get home after you've fallen mid-VF and the energy absorber is now spent?
oldie - on 15 Nov 2017
In reply to trouserburp:

There was some discussion recently under: Via Ferrata Gear , towards the end of the posts. I think one option was to use the lanyards with rope running through holes on metal plate which can be reset after a fall.
purplemonkeyelephant - on 15 Nov 2017
In reply to trouserburp:

You shouldn't really be taking big falls, if it's hard then pitch it with a rope. If you slip on easy stuff then you hopefully won't fall far and you'll have some stitching left. If you somehow fall far enough that you deploy the entire stitching (not easy) I guess you could always have someone pitch you on the rest of the moves if you're actually not dead. If you're climbing solo and deploy all your stitching then either 1. Have a spare shock absorber in your pack 2. Continue the climb and don't fall or 3. Call for backup.
tingle - on 16 Nov 2017
In reply to BruceM:

never been there but rental shops have kits for about 7 euros a day in the alps.
tjin - on 16 Nov 2017
In reply to oldie:

Rope brakes are old and with the new VF kit standards, you can't buy new stock VF with those. Only left over old stuff. All stitched shock absorbers now.

If you fall hard enough, you might just call rescue. It's hard to get back on a horizontal bit and on a vertical bit, you flew pass by the lots of (steel) holds/steps...

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