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Jugging The Froggy Way

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"Pass the Pitons" Pete Zabrok · · Oakville, Ontario · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 645

Jugging The Froggy Way

by Pete Zabrok

You’re back at the base of El Cap, ready to jug the ropes you fixed on the radically overhanging Tangerine Trip. Nothing to do but clip on your ascenders and start jugging, right? But ten minutes later, however, you’ve ground to a halt not even fifty feet up. Your biceps are toast, but you’ve still got over three hundred feet to go! Your “Yosemite Jugging System” worked fine on low-angle rock, but it’s debilitating on this free-hanging rope. Holy frig, you're gonna be dead by the time you reach the top of the rope.

Isn't there a Better Way? [Like, you knew I was going to say that, eh?]

Take a lesson from the cavers — pale, anemic offspring of the underworld with wiener arms and low self-esteem who have nothing better to do than perfect their jugging systems — and convert your rig to the Frog System. This highly efficient “sit-stand” method moves your lower ascender up the rope “automatically” as you climb. You stand up on your upper ascender, and you sit on your lower ascender.

The first step is to take one of your ascenders [a Croll is best, but any ascender will suffice, the smaller the better] and mount it as low as possible on your harness. Use the smallest locker you have [or even a Quick Link] to get the jug low — otherwise it won’t work — and orient it so the ascender sits flat against your abdomen. It's absolutely critical this ascender be as low as possible, so you will have to experiment to find the best setup.

You’ll need to keep this lower ascender upright as you move up the rope during jugging. It's not like the Yosemite System where you have one hand on each jug. With the Frog, you have no hands on the bottom jug, and two hands on the top one. Chest harnesses usually don’t work very well, so many cavers use a loop of shock cord round their necks to hold the lower ascender in place. Keep this loop small — just big enough to squeeze your head through — so when you’re standing on the ground you feel “hunched over” by the elastic. Pad the elastic with an old t-shirt and some duct tape. In a pinch, you can substitute a slightly shortened shoulder-length sling.

Truly the Better Way is to get yourself a Petzl C26 Torse chest harness made specifically for the Frog System - it'll be the best twenty bucks you'll ever spend. Most likely you'll have to ask your Petzl retailer to special order it for you, unless they happen to deal with cavers. The Torse will improve your efficiency substantially over the shock cord, but there is an even greater benefit, and that is comfort. The adjustment buckle lets you crank it tight to “hunch” you over when you are on the free-hanging bits, and you can loosen it up if the angle lessens and you are up against the rock. Most importantly, the buckle lets you back off the harness as soon as you reach the belay.

While it's possible to rig your upper ascender - which is the one you stand on - using your jugs and daisy, it's a lot more efficient to do what the cavers do and tie yourself a dedicated rig like you see below from 1" tubular webbing. This way when you want to jug a free-hanging rope, you can just clip on this pre-made webbing rig.

Initial Setup for the Frog Ascending System
Illustration by Mike! Clelland

While it's possible to use your daisy and a pair of aiders in the Frog System, you probably can't get it working as efficiently as you'd like. It's absolutely critical that your sling lengths be exactly as above - if your feet are an inch or two too high or low, you will lose a lot of efficiency. That's why it's best to tie up your own footloop and "safety cord" - the extra piece of sling that attaches your upper ascender directly to your harness.

Another problem with using your daisies is that each foot is in a separate loop. As I'm about to explain, it's best to have both feet in a single footloop as shown.

The easiest way to get started on a free-hanging rope is to clip on both jugs, and then crank your Torse chest harness tight as you sit on your lower ascender. The degree of tightness that makes you feel "hunched over" when standing on the ground actually keeps you upright and comfortable when sitting on the rope. Remember how pumped your stomach muscles used to get when jugging using the Yosemite System - you had to put so much work into just keeping yourself upright? Well, the Torse does that for you, so it's much less strenuous!

Once you're cranked tight, ask your partner to hold the free end of the rope tight, so as you stand up, the rope slides easily through the lower ascender. It's important the rope hang completely free beneath your lower ascender - it can't hang up on slings, or wrap around your foot, or be in any way clustered. As you climb higher, more weight of the rope hangs beneath your lower ascender, and the ascender will more easily slide up the rope "automatically" as you stand up. It takes about thirty feet of rope hanging beneath you before it flows easily, so at the beginning it's hugely easier if you have a partner to hold the rope tight beneath you.

If you don't have a partner to hold the rope, or you're the last man up, you will need to hold the free end of the rope yourself with your feet - this is where the need for the single two-foot footloop becomes apparent. Put the rope between your toes, and separate your feet as you lift your legs so as not to bind the rope. When you stand, the single foot loop squeezes the rope between your toes, and the trick is to use your feet to pull the rope through your lower ascender. This is something you need to practise, but it is easy to learn.

Assume the Frog Position and Prepare to Blast!
Illustration by Mike! Clelland

To operate the system, turn the upper ascender away from your body, and put both hands on top as shown above. This is counter-intuitive at first, especially if you have been used to holding each jug with one hand. But putting your hands on top will hold you closer to the rope and keep you more in balance when you're out in space, thus greatly improving your efficiency. You can try grabbing the handle with one hand, but you really need to keep at least one hand over the top.

The other thing you need to remember is to push down, not out, with your feet. Point your toes, and think about actually pushing your feet backwards - what this will do is make you push straight down. Try it, and you'll see what I mean.

Another little trick is at the top of each stroke, arch your back and thrust your hips upward to get a few extra precious inches. Each step - short or long - takes the same amount of work, so really "udge" yourself up to get the most height you can out of each and every stroke. It really adds up over the long haul.

As mentioned above, if you're hanging free in space, you will want to put both feet in the footloop. Once you're up a ways and there is plenty of rope weight beneath you, you will no longer need to pinch the rope between your toes to make the lower ascender operate. But keeping the weight of the rope between your toes helps push your feet back underneath you, and helps you push down with your feet, not out.

When the angle lessens and you’re up against the rock, take one foot out of the loop and use it for balance against the wall. When you get the feel for it, you can put your foot on little bumps and ledges to help you better climb.

You won't be able to run a Grigri beneath the Frog as a backup, but you don't need to. You require only two points of attachment at all times, and you have this with both jugs. Just remember that if you unclip an ascender for passing a knot, or getting off the rope, you MUST clip in someplace else so you are always attached in at least two places!

If you feel you need a backup as you jug [you don't, but maybe it'll make you feel better] try running a Gibbs-type ascender like a Petzl Microscender, or perhaps even a Mini-Traxion. Actually, somebody'd better try that Mini-Traxion thing for me - it might well bend the rope too much to work.

Nice jugs! Beautiful Brenda shows us how to Frog it on her
first trip up the Big Stone as Fishy Pete looks on

So there you have it - the Better Way to ascend a free-hanging fixed rope using the Frog System. If an old fart like me can get up off the couch and jug two hundred feet in under three minutes [at least when I'm fit] then so can you.

"Dr. Piton"


The Frog is a very versatile system for short drops, and passing knots and rebelays. It is quick to rig, and quick to get on and off the rope. It offers the best advantage on free-hanging drops.

It also works pretty well when your rope touches the wall, when you put one foot in the footloop, and the other on the rock. But on low-angle stuff, the standard Yosemite System will always be faster.

On single long drops, like what big pit cavers do, a Ropewalker is best, but generally a hassle on shorter drops like what climbers rig.
Steve "Crusher" Bartlett · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 2,765

Sorry to disagree Pete, but I had a partner almost die using this technique.

He jumared 150 feet in--as promised--super fast record time, then, to his horror, found that the rope was nearly cut through, over a dull innocent rounded edge, just below the anchor. His jumars started slipping as the sheath parted and slid down the core, and I recall he had to batman the last few feet, up the fuzzy strands that remained, or something equally desperate. I was watching, as was his girlfriend.

On the very same Tangerine Trip jumar mentioned above, someone did jumar and die, back around 1980, because of the rope rubbing and cutting over a nondescript rounded edge. The bolts were moved several feet lower, to just below this edge, where they are today, as a direct result of this accident.

The frog technique (or at least the versions of it I've seen) creates extreme bouncing, and consequent sawing of rope over rock.

It does work well in some situations, but bear in mind:

1. It's best to use a static rope, to prevent too much bouncing and abrasion.

2. It works best with an anchor set up such that the rope does not touch the rock, anywhere. This is far easier in a cave, where the typically concave nature of the rock surface lends itself to putting the power point of the anchor away from the rock surface. Cavers go to a lot of trouble to set up their anchors this way. That way, they know they can jumar and bounce in perfect safety, over and over, in the dark, on wet, gritty ropes, etc, etc.

3. More abrasive rock types make the problem worse; desert sandstone can be deadly for this technique, water-worn granite much more forgiving

Be careful out there. If in doubt, jumar as smoothly as you can. Your burning biceps will recover soon enough, but if you cut your rope, your pleasantly relaxed biceps will be of little help.

"Pass the Pitons" Pete Zabrok · · Oakville, Ontario · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 645

Hell, yeah - be careful jugging out there! Pad any edges carefully, or better yet, rebelay below the edge for a free hang.

Moof · · Portland, OR · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 25

I'll get flamed for the extra weight, but I had great success with a PMI chest box. It's got 2 pulleys to work with. I've used it 2 ways.

1. Rope through one pulley, 7mm cord from right foot to upper jug through the second. Second jug attached below the box to the left foot. I had trouble getting the backup third ascender to work well without interference on this setup.

2. Both jugs above the box, with 7mm cord from foot to jugs through the pulleys. Gri-gri, tibloc, or mini-traxion as backup below the box. Backup knots are a BAD idea to rely on. If the chestbox fails you are left dangling by your feet and the backup knots do NOTHING. Resting is best done by cinching up your third backup ascender and sitting in your harness.

2b. I have also used 2 cords on the upper jug, with the second going to my harness. When resting with this variation the tension on the extra cord ehlps hold you more upright (one foot gets sort of sucked up, but I found it more restful than just sitting on my gri-gri.

I found this rope walker rig to be the LEAST strenuous of any I have tried, as you hands only have to move the weight of the jugs, and your legs just pump. The chestbox and extra cord is a good pound, and you'll likely not dig it out after you blast (unless you fix a pitch at the end of the day). There is VERY LITTLE bouncing and it is easy to have a smooth technique.

Adam Wilson · · Provo, UT · Joined May 2006 · Points: 60

I agree the ropewalker is system is the most efficient, but it seems like it's fucntion is single rope ascending on long (~1000') ropes with no knots to pass. Otherwise, it's not worth the extra rigging and a system that can't be used for other things (i.e., cleaning). Just my Opinion.

Tim Stich · · Colorado Springs, Colorado · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 1,470

Yeah, you have to use edge protectors when the rope rubs on the rock. I like the velcro kind you can slip on and off easily. You also need a keeper cord to keep the thing in place where it is rubbing.

I have a super primo rope walker system and a Frog and I would go with the Frog in most cases with off vertical pitches and traverses. The gear is more compact, too. The rope walker chest plate and roller is pretty huge.

"Pass the Pitons" Pete Zabrok · · Oakville, Ontario · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 645

Ropewalkers are really only worth the bother on L-O-N-G drops with no rebelays - I would say 300' or more. It's hard passing rebelays with ankle cams and chest rollers. And since wall climbers typically use ropes no longer than 70m, it's unlikely you'll ever want a ropewalker system as a wall climber.

I've seen ropewalkers on El Cap - but only with the cavers doing the 2650' drop off the Diving Board down the Wall of Early Morning Light and Mescalito area.

Moof · · Portland, OR · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 25
"Pass the Pitons" Pete Zabrok wrote:Ropewalkers are really only worth the bother on L-O-N-G drops with no rebelays - I would say 300' or more. It's hard passing rebelays with ankle cams and chest rollers. And since wall climbers typically use ropes no longer than 70m, it's unlikely you'll ever want a ropewalker system as a wall climber. I've seen ropewalkers on El Cap - but only with the cavers doing the 2650' drop off the Diving Board down the Wall of Early Morning Light and Mescalito area.
Knot passing with my second version is easy. The rope does not pass through a pulley, so you can simply move one jug at a time over the knot, and finally move the backup device over. Double bungy system or a mitchell system would not work well at all, but I've passed knots easy as pie. Cavers would cringe at my system, as it's all climbing crap except the chest box and two pieces of cord.
"Pass the Pitons" Pete Zabrok · · Oakville, Ontario · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 645

So let's see a photo or drawing of your system. There must be a decent comprimise between the full-on Ropewalker and other quick-on-quick-off systems like the Frog and Yosemite.

Moof · · Portland, OR · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 25

It's an adaptation from a system my caver buddies showed me. There system used gibbs (cuz ALL cavers seem to get wet for gibbs...) with 1" webbing running through a home brew chest box down to foot stirrups. I simply changed out the bits to use the stirrups off my russian aiders, and the petzel ascenders I already would be dragging along anyway.

We used their system with a crew of about 10 to rather illegally cross a river near DC in the middle of the night. We have 50' lines up to the trees to get to the main 600' lines from Virginia to Maryland and back, all setup and executed by headlamp. What a blast!

I digress...

The point is that their/my system only uses ascenders to touch the rope, but the chestbox still keeps you upright. In those ways it has the same advantage for knot passing as the froggy, and the chestbox keeps you upright and non-bouncy like a double bungy, or mitchell system (I'm sure there are more rope walker systems out there, but those are the two other I know).

A pic will be worth a dozen words, I'll assemble the bits and snap a pic.

Buff Johnson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2005 · Points: 1,145

Is there a problem with tieing in short?

"Pass the Pitons" Pete Zabrok · · Oakville, Ontario · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 645

Yes, there is a problem tying in short with the Froggy. You absolutely need the weight of the rope hanging beneath you so that the rope will auto-feed through the lower ascender while you jug.

However there is NO NEED to tie in short when jugging, as long as you are always attached to the rope with at least two points of contact.

Ways to blow it jugging:

- not having a proper point of attachment to your harness from your upper jug

- assuming that an improper non-harness point of attachment [like say a floating knee cam or an ankel cam on a Ropewalker system] is legit

- when crossing a rebelay or knot or even upon reaching the anchor at the top of the pitch, not first clipping in a point of contact [daisy, cow's tail or tying a backup knot] before unclipping one jug

Cleaning aid pitches is a whole different ballgame than jugging a fixed rope - you need to be tied in for sure because of often diagonal tensions on jugs, which cause them to pop off the rope and kill you. You can avoid the backup knot by running a Grigri beneath your jugs, however as I will show you on an upcoming post [which I am waiting for John to figure out how to post here for me] a backup knot is preferred when cleaning for clusterfuck management.

Moof · · Portland, OR · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 25
Mark Nelson wrote:Is there a problem with tieing in short?
My chestbox widget also should not be used while tying in short. If the chest box were to fail you'd end up dangling by your feet and then you'r kind of SOL. Tying in short will keep you from decking, but your much better off trailing a third ascender as a backup (gri-gri if the rope is not tied in tight at the bottom, or a tibloc, or a mini-traxion, etc).
John McNamee · · Littleton, CO · Joined Jul 2002 · Points: 1,690
"Pass the Pitons" Pete Zabrok wrote: You can avoid the backup knot by running a Grigri beneath your jugs, however as I will show you on an upcoming post [which I am waiting for John to figure out how to post here for me] a backup knot is preferred when cleaning for clusterfuck management.
Not sure what you're referring to here as I've been waiting on you for the photos! :-)
Andrew Gram · · Salt Lake City, UT · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 3,580

Or you could just jug normally and smoothly after practicing awhile and not need to carry a bunch of extra crap up. You'll spend more time rebelaying the rope and padding edges over edges then you will on lead if you climb in a place like the Fishers or other adventurous areas of the desert.

"Pass the Pitons" Pete Zabrok · · Oakville, Ontario · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 645

Sorry John, I'm busy working on stuff, and will get the rest to you asap.

Andrew's right - it's rare to pad edges on the wall because the ropes don't get jugged anywhere near as frequently as they can in a much-used cave.

I hesitate to write this, but it is sometimes wise to duct-tape sharp edges on the wall. Please remove your duct tape when finished, however. Unfortunately the over-use of duct tape on some popular routes renders the edges sticky with glue. Tough call whether to tape or not to tape.

Moof · · Portland, OR · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 25

Finally got around to taking a picture of the Worse Way (tm) to jug a fixed line:

Third device (gri-gri or mini-traxion) rides on the belay loop. Not that there is no harness involvement in this rig, except for the backup system. So my point before was that you can't allow significant slack between the jugs and the backup device. If you do, and the chestbox were to fail, that slack would mean you would be allowed to hang by your jugs instead of the backup, which means hanging by your feet int he event of a chestbox failure.

I keep small quick links (but still with ample ratings for live loads) on the jugs in the stupid holes petzel puts there that are too stupidly small for a biner. I can easily convert back to vanilla jugging mode simply by clipping my adjustable daisies into the quick links and popping the foot cords out of the check box. Basically if the top of the fixed rope goes over a slabby finish I can easily revert to normal jugging where it makes more sense.
Tim Stich · · Colorado Springs, Colorado · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 1,470

Pete, my rope walker doesn't have any ankle ascenders. It only has two stirrups connected to two handled ascenders that have bungie chord attached and run through a smaller pulley on the chest harness bar. It's the super deluxe rope walker setup. You need a Gibbs above the chest pulley to push up and rest on, so three ascenders all told. I can cross rebelays OK, but it's still not as nice as a Frog.

Buff Johnson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2005 · Points: 1,145

Jugging & pulling sharp-edge bulges.

The jugging was great on the clean rope sections.

With an edge, I pad the rope edge w/ canvas. I found using the padding that wraps the rope is difficult to work with, but is effective in protecting the rope if the rope moves side to side & doesn't gum up the edge with tape glue. So I dunno, a sharp edge is scary, I guess I'd rather have some canvas. It was difficult to surmount a given bulge/overhang edge. I had to take my lead point of contact off to try and work over the edge protection & rock edge. I couldn't tie-in short, I was basically fighting the whole system. So I just slapped a friction hitch on the rope to keep my two points and just groveled my way over it.

Didn't feel too comfy with the potential load on the cord as my safety. Any idears?? (maybe I coulda just slapped the mini-trax on)

Tim Stich · · Colorado Springs, Colorado · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 1,470

Edge negotiation is seldom graceful. Sometime you can kick out and slip your top ascender over the lip to keep two points of attachment.

"Pass the Pitons" Pete Zabrok · · Oakville, Ontario · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 645

The most important thing to remember with all of these jugging systems, is that you must have TWO POINTS OF CHEST OR HARNESS ATTACHMENT AT ALL TIMES! If you do not, sooner or later you will end up dead, which is never a good thing.

Accordingly, the system you see in Moof's photo above will quite likely cause you to end up dead, because there is not even ONE point of attachment! Also, the cords going to the Russkie stirrups are not even on lockers, which they should be. I suppose you could use Mexican lockers, or you could attach with a half-a-double-fisherman's knot that would cinch down on the crab and make it less likely for the cord to slip off.

However the Best Way [I did not say Better in this context because this modification is mandatory] is to attach a safety cord to each of the ascenders which runs to your harness. This is quick, easy, effective, and non-cluster-fucked.

As for fixed ropes that cross edges, you have to be REALLY careful! I have almost died twice from this, in both cases using skinny 9mm ropes that touched the rock.

If you use skinny rope, it CANNOT touch the rock AT ALL.

Using fatter rope, you have to examine the edge and see if it requires padding or not. A quick solution on the wall - which doesn't work in a cave because the rock is usually wet - is to put some duct tape on the rock at the rub point. This is quite effective for places where the rubbing isn't too extreme, and the edge not too sharp. Just remember to remove your duct tape when you're finished. Unfortunately on busy pitches, you can end up leaving sticky rock.

It's always best to use a piece of carpet between the rope and the rock, so that people jugging over it can't forget to replace the pad, which often happens with the wrap-around type of rope pad. But wrap-arounds are effective if you know and trust your partners.

Tim's right - crossing edges can be tough. If the edge is sharp or awkward or incut, it is always best to rig a rebelay immediately below the edge, making it virtually impossible to damage the rope. Just remember when crossing rebelays that you must always be attached to the rope or anchors in TWO places at ALL times! Don't get lazy - clip in somewhere or tie a backup knot or whatever. Ascenders can and do pop off the rope all the time!

Tim, how about some photos of your ropewalker system? Maybe in a separate post?

Moof - I have emailed you [again] with questions about your Russkies.


Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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