Petzl has made an effort to educate users, but the bad habits of devotees are difficult to break, and with the release of the Grigri 2 in 2011, it's more important than ever to learn (and teach) proper techniques for this ubiquitous device.
Rock Climbing Techniques
The process of rappelling is simple in concept, but it can seem complicated in practice, especially at first. Mistakes are easy to make; accidents happen all the time—and they’re often fatal. Here’s the step-by-step process of rappelling plus some tips to prevent mistakes.
Climbers are used to having sore little piggies, whether it’s from jamming them into cracks or cramming them into tight, high-performance shoes. But toe pain is more serious when it doesn’t disappear after a few hours, and it happens to a lot of climbers because of the way we use and abuse our feet. Chronic stiffness and swelling in the big toe joint is an early sign of osteoarthritis that could permanently cramp your climbing style.
The death of 12-year-old Tito Traversa, an Italian who climbed multiple 5.14s, shocked the community in early July—not just because of the tragic loss of a young life, but also because of the almost unbelievable way it happened. While warming up at a crag in France, Traversa borrowed a set of quickdraws from another member of his group. Unbeknown to the young climber, the draws had been assembled incorrectly: On eight separate quickdraws, the biners had not been threaded through the sewn strength-rated loop in the end of the dogbone, but only through the rubber “string” used to keep clipping biners from flipping out of position. When Traversa weighted the rope, these draws failed, sending him into a ground fall that led to his death.
The Tyrol, short for Tyrolean traverse, involves using a fixed line to cross from one point to another, often over water. While wearing a harness, you clip onto the rope or cable to pull yourself across. Developed in the Dolomites of the former Tyrol region, this method was used to approach and descend from spires. Nowadays, it’s commonly used to negotiate rivers or reach a detached pillar. If the ropes or cables are already safely set up, these basic guidelines will make traversing a breeze.
As a full-time high school teacher, husband, pro climber, and father to two young boys, I don’t have a ton of time to devote to training for climbing. What matters most in a workout is getting the most bang for my buck—this means short but intense workouts that keep me strong.
Yosemite’s El Capitan claimed two climbers’ lives in a two-week span in late May and early June. Both incidents involved falling rock, but causes and effects in each scenario were quite different. Even if you’re the safest and smartest climber in the world, climbing is a dangerous sport, and it exposes you to a number of things out of your control, including rockfall. We talked to Yosemite climbing ranger Ben Doyle and Yosemite Valley District Ranger Jack Hoeflich about what we can do to mitigate rockfall and what to do in an emergency.
The Tricam is a puzzling piece: It’s delightfully simple, with no active—or moving—parts, yet it has more potential uses than either a spring-loaded camming device (SLCD) or a standard nut. They can be placed passively (like a nut) or actively (like a cam), depending on the orientation and features in the rock. While the original unit had two placements (one passive, one active), the newest generation has three: a cam, a nut, and a nut in broadside-out mode. The biggest benefit? The Tricam often fits where nothing else will.
Notoriously sandbagged routes are intimidating. They can cause anxiety and lead to disappointment if you don’t redpoint the grade you’re used to completing easily. Arno Ilgner, author of The Rock Warrior’s Way, says the first step to combatting anxiety when faced with a sandbag is to forget the grade. “Move your perspective to where the grade of the climb isn’t an issue,” he says. “When you do that, no problem or anxiety will exist.” Instead, focus on the route’s movement, protection and rest opportunities, and the consequence of the fall zones.
You’re lying if you say you’ve never dropped your belay device and watched it go “tink, tink, tink” all the way down to the base of a route. It can happen to anyone. But have no fear: If you have four carabiners of any shape or gate type, plus a locking belay biner, you can make it to the ground. The double carabiner brake rappel is the best way to descend without a traditional rappel device.
Simultaneously rappelling, or simul-rapping, is an advanced skill where two climbers descend one rope at the same time (or two ropes tied together: climbing.com/skill/rappel-knots), and one climber’s weight counterbalances the other. The margin for error is small, but it’s a good trick to know. It’s useful for bailing during a sudden, dangerous storm, or for rapping off opposite sides of a fin or spire where there are no anchor points, which is common in places like the Needles of South Dakota’s Black Hills.
Getting humbled in the art of cam-cleaning is a rite of passage for aspiring tradsters. You know the story: The second, a trad-climbing newbie, fiddles with a cam for what seems like eternity before declaring it totally stuck. Welded. Fixed. Beyond saving. The more experienced leader isn’t buying it (and doesn’t want to buy a new cam, either), so he raps down to investigate—and cleans it in three seconds flat. Here’s how to retrieve those stuck cams easily and quickly.