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Rapping into a Volcano

Original Post
Chuck Manburger · · Denver,CO · Joined Apr 2009 · Points: 130

HI MP community!!!

This is going to sound like a troll but I assure you it is not. This is also a long post so bewareÂ…you could be sucked in.

I have the opportunity to rappel into a volcanic fissure in Hawaii. This project is part of scientific study for a doctoral program at the University of Hawaii, in conjunction with the USGS-Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) and the NPS at Volcano NP. I will be assisting one scientist in mapping and measuring this fissure. The approximate depth is 300 ft or more, no one knows, as I will be the first person down there. I think I will be the only one descending with the possibility of one other scientist with me. ( I would be training her a little on the ups and downs if she does come) Observers will be on-site from all agencies involved as well.

Anyway, I think I know how I am going to rig all of this, but I figure more brains thinking on this canÂ’t hurt. So I would welcome lots of thoughts and input on this.

So here are the issues:

1. The volcanic rock I believe is very sharp and glassy. Here is a couple of quotes from the scientists on rock condition:

“The rock is basalt (solidified lava flows) and most texts books put the density between 2.7 and 3 grams per cubic centimeter... but this area has a lot of vesicles in it. Some parts are dense and sturdy, and some parts are less dense, and surprisingly weak.”

"Climbing into the fissure is particularly tricky because of the glassy surfaces... they slice through rope under tension like it was hot butter!

So edge/rope protection is paramount!!!!! Here are some thoughts on the solutions. Obvious solutions could be duck tape or carpet pieces. In SAR we used edge rollers and these wrap around Velcro tubes with little prussic on the end to keep them in place (maybe CMI or Yates). My other thought was using old fire hose. Anyone got any old fire hose or any of those Velcro tubes I could borrow???? Other thoughts?

2. Anchors. SEE Quote from above

Top anchor(s)---- I think I will run rope or webbing around trees and or boulders to save gear for below

Bellow the rim------I am doubled on cams and have lots of trickery from my aid rack, so I am hoping I can build safe and “clean” anchors with all those tools.
I got a big NO on drilling so that is right out. I havenÂ’t got the word on Pitons but I think they will be ok as long as I remove them /funk them out and minimize damage to rock. I have a small amount of Iron, but maybe need more. I have KBÂ’s, bugaboos, a few angles, the two smallest peckers, mosses tomahawks and a long dong LA. I think I should have some more LAÂ’s, angles and maybe sawed offsÂ….anyone got some I could use?.... If I fix themÂ…Â… I will replace it!!

3. Ropes.

I have a 11mm 255ft static line. One 60m dynamic and one 50m dynamicÂ….and maybe I could borrow moreÂ…..

MANY different thoughts hereÂ….here are two.

OneÂ….I could rap the static with a dynamic belay from the surface. Go down till I can build a bomb anchor stationÂ…. About 70-150ft down. Ascend-->Two people Rap on one of the dynamics to the new anchor station. Set up the static line again to rap. Have a dynamic belay from that anchor station. Go as far as I can and then jug back up. I have even had the thought of jugging all the way out then, set up a 3:1 hauling system to get the scientist out with out teaching her how to jug a fixed lineÂ…..I donÂ’t knowÂ…lots of friction moving over sharp rockÂ…maybe need edge rollers for that type of junk showÂ….

NextÂ…just me aloneÂ…...rap the static line as far as I can go. Set an anchor, rap a dynamic to the endÂ…..then jug my dumb-ass out.

Any other thoughts yaÂ’ll? More static line???

4. Logistics and strategy.

I have time to do this….like a week. So I am thinking the first day…. rig some anchor points and clean some of the chossy death blocks that you can see from the pictures, and create a safe entrance and exit as well as set up a “safe zone” for other observers (so no death blocks get kicked onto my head).

The next few days will be descending slowly, cleaning, taking measurements and assessing possible harmful gasses ( I will have a gas mask).

I am hoping communication can be done by voice and maybe rope signals. But I will also take a couple of small Motorola radiosÂ…but I have a feeling they wonÂ’t work to well with all that rock.

Ok well.....Check out the pictures below and then send me or post up your thoughts and Ideas. One is a LiDAR image they did in Feb. One is of the entranceÂ…Â….Note the rock, its conditions and last is the surrounding area.

Thanks Mountain Project,

Chip S.

LiDAR Image.


Surrounding area. · · Mesa AZ · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 1,135

Im thinking the radios are useless with the Gas Mask on :)
As far as the rock ... Make sure you tape off (duct tape) or tarp the entrance point of the rock to minimize damage to rope.
You could place cams in the rock to keep the rope steady and not rub back and forth.
This obviously is not an active volcano... are there heat vents below that you may come in contact with? Obviously that would play hell with your rope as well.
Are you going to haul yourself out with an ascender? Setting up a hauling system might be useful - like you stated...

Woodchuck ATC · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 3,110

Very cool....nice to be selected to take part in this research. I'd be sure to have plenty of 12-18" sections of split open garden hose. It easily wraps over the rope and stays in place well on edges without need for duct tape. Pretty dam tough stuff too, if you cut up a good thick hose for the segments.

YDPL8S · · Santa Monica, Ca. · Joined Aug 2003 · Points: 540

Where is this exactly, is it located somewhere near the Chain of Craters road? I spent 2 months in the summer of 1980 doing geophysical surveys (passive EM surveys) all over the park, our work eventually helped locate the present geothermal facility.

We were out for a week at a time, chopping through jungle with machete's, sleeping in hammocks next to rifts and sulpur belching cinder cones that were less than 6 months old. That is a magical place!

Mitch Hoffman · · Fonda NY · Joined Feb 2010 · Points: 220
Woodchuck ATC wrote: I'd be sure to have plenty of 12-18" sections of split open garden hose.

I've used split garden hose a few times to protect anchor lines, and it worked well. It's east to slip over the rope and easy to handle. Having a way to attach the sections of hose to the rap line would be nice , too.
JPVallone · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2004 · Points: 195

Hauling someone 300 ft via 3:1 is gonna be about as much fun as spending time on mountain project, LOL

You better teach her to jug. You can back her up as the guide by belaying her out while she jugs a fixed line

Maybe just jug out 1 pitch at a time or whatever. So she can rest, 300ft of straigh jugging to someone new is gonna be miles

But way better than a 300ft 3:1 haul. You will need to pull on 900ft of rope to get her out, Maybe you have a bunch of people up top and you can all just hand haul her out if she can't do the Jugging thing and is light enough . Come out in short pitches so your with her and can assist. 2:1 drop loop assisted hoist is way better than 3:1

Tom Grummon · · Salt Lake City, UT · Joined Oct 2009 · Points: 30

You might be able to just skip trying to build anchors midway and just pass a knot.

M Sprague · · New England · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 4,966

How about getting lowered on a steel cable? Slicing your rope while dangling in a 300 foot fissure would be rather unpleasant. And what is th reason for not being able to put some bolts in for safe anchors, especially if you remove them? It sounds like they are being rather callous with your life and those of the scientists. Personally, I think having an inexperienced person rapping into a 300 foot hole with all the objective hazards you mention, and maybe getting them selves out by their own power is nuts. You could very easily have a panic situation, particularly with a gas mask on and everything.

At least pick up a 600 foot spool of fat static rope for the job

Crisco Jackass · · Grand Junction, CO · Joined May 2008 · Points: 0

Not to cork your fissure or anything, but given the cooperative State and Federal agencies involved, you might be limited by just what you can do within OSHA. I understand the idea that asking for forgiveness >> than asking for permission (I've been there, trust me), but I also know how seriously innocent and well-meaning parties can get into DEEP Sh!t when something like this goes awry (or without a hitch and then the wrong person finds out about it). Ok, enough of that.

Can you drive to the site? Is an industrial winch an option? I'd think some sturdy cable and an electric motor would take away much of the faffing about that would go with a human-powered/rope setup and leave more time for the inevitable SNAFUs associated with scientific fieldwork. There are many options for manual haulers (for example,… have a 300 footer with a 25 mechanical advantage).

Either way, this is Big Science, good on ya!

Brent Apgar · · Out of the Loop · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 75
M Sprague wrote: At least pick up a 600 foot spool of fat static rope for the job
+1, I would assume that the hassle/safety to cost ratio would make buying a few hundred feet of burly static line more than worth it.
Good luck on the proj
Chuck Manburger · · Denver,CO · Joined Apr 2009 · Points: 130


Thank you all for your responses!! This is when MP is just RAD!! Keep it coming!!!!!!

Garden Hose= Brilliant!! Thanks!!!

Â…Â… If anyone has a firefighter friend near DenverÂ….. I would still take some old fire hose too!!!!

The A-frame Idea is good. IÂ’ve built those beforeÂ…. but I donÂ’t know if the ground would be stable/flat/suitable enough. From the LiDAR image I am thinking this is more at a 45-55 degree angle with only a little vertical work. Also I would need to get some big posts/treesÂ…Â…IÂ’m not saying noÂ…. but this might be an onsite callÂ…

as far as the 3:1 haul goesÂ….. I just put that down as an exampleÂ…Â… I was also thinking of just a single pitch haul of scientist. Anyway, you are probably right with the 2:1 drop loop rig or something else insteadÂ….maybe a 1:1 with enough people standing around. I mean she is like a normal sized if not slim girlÂ…I feel like my pig, fully loaded, weighs more than a six pack of cheerleaders!!!! I haul that chubo with a 1:1 and I will have more people to do my dirty work this time right? She is actually eager to learn how to jug and rap. However, those of us that have jugged lines know it is awkward at first and a ton of work! I hear thatÂ…Â…so I am weighing all options.

I think the NSP stuff is all getting worked out now. Lets keep the industrial talk to a min. until it comes up. Also, I got the “no” on the drill from the lead scientist…not the NPS ……YET. Even if they do allow it, I want to make a solid long lasting anchor that could be used by other scientists and have the drilling skills in the “Magic” bag as a last resort.

Anyone want to teach me how to drill on some far away unusable rock????????????? I
Kind of want to just learn anyway. I have NO INTENTION of bolting any routesÂ…..Maybe for belay stations and emergency-life-threatening-snail eye-bail me out situations.

I could order a 600 ft spool but it would take a while to get here and then I got to take it to Hawaii from DenverÂ….kind of a hassle and big hit on the pocketbook. But it would provide two full length linesÂ….I get thatÂ….hmmmmmmÂ….. brain is spinning on that one

More pictures below for your viewing pleasureÂ…Â…Â….Check out the 1969 eruption and an aerial view from 1970. Think its one of the black dots in the top centerÂ…

More laterÂ…Â…

1969 eruption.
M Sprague · · New England · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 4,966

As for the 600 foot spool, there has got to be an REI out there. I am sure if you called ahead they could have one waiting for you. I usually get my 250 ft bluewater static lines, that I use for cleaning new routes, cut off a spool at a local REI

JPVallone · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2004 · Points: 195

Make these guys pay for the static line if that is what your gonna run with and have it shipped to them in Hawaii, sounds like scientists wanting to go into a big hole like that have some funding.

Good Luck with the project

Woodchuck ATC · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 3,110

Gearexpress in Utah should be able to do the static spool for you. As for the possible low angle chute, maybe she could ride out on your back as you 'walk'/jumar up much of the slope.
Eruption shot looks awesome! Keep that in mind when you are down in the throat of the beast.

Ryan A. · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Jul 2010 · Points: 5

If you're up in the Fort Collins area anytime soon, I've could give you some fire hose (got about 10 ft. I could spare).

Pat C · · Honolulu · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 45

Bro, talk with climb aloha.
I bet those guys would have enough line to help you out, you probably wouldn't have to wait for anything at all. BTW when and where is this, probably down south side of the big island, ya?

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

One thing you could do is stop in to PMI in Dvr and ask what they can for you; they've got all kinds of stuff for something like this.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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