How did Honnold+Caldwell do like 40 raps without leaving gear?


Original Post
bricepollock · · on the road · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 652

I just watched "A Line Across the Sky" where Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell complete the Patagonian Traverse.

Link: redbull.tv/video/AP-1MQQXTP...

They do this with minimal gear and as a first ascent. I know those peaks have already been climbed, but I'm pretty sure not the direction of their route. It isn't possible that they brought enough gear to leave behind for each of their 100+ rappels. Their equipment is listed here:
http://www.alpinist.com/doc/web14w/newswire-fitz-traverse-caldwell-honnold

So how are they able to do like 40 alpine raps off the larger towers? Is there some technique to rap off your rope and recover it without leaving gear?

Erik Kloeker · · Cincinnati, Ohio · Joined Jan 2014 · Points: 40

Don't they say their rope kept getting shorter and shorter because they were having to leave part of ithe for raps? Probably also fixed gear up there on a lot of it. It wasnt uncharted territory just had never been climbed all the way across at one time. Also I think they were probably rapping off rock threads and horns. Sketchy! Tommy and Alex ate bold!

Cor · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 1,455

Leaving a single stopper tapped in by an ice tool is a great rap anchor.
Been there - done that. Even if you are off route rapping with a double rack you gotta be careful to have enough gear to get down. Dark thoughts enter the mind!

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 478

I've thrown the rope directly around horns when running low on tat a few times. If it's the right shape block you can whip it off instead of wearing sheath pulling. Just like a bollard

Craig Childre · · Lubbock, Texas · Joined Aug 2006 · Points: 4,950

I believe much of that trip, they used established descent routes that would have bolted anchors for the most part. It was a FA, but only in the sense of that ridge, I believe the entire route has been climbed in sections. Either way. Great question, and I'm interested to learn the actual answer. Hope someone can give a definitive answer, instead of my conjecture.

blakeherrington · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2006 · Points: 1,020

-They wouldn't have needed to do more than a few rappels until after summiting Fitz Roy, about halfway through the entire climb.

-They rapped a popular and standard ascent/descent route off Fitz Roy. Likely leaving no new gear and likely scavenging and cleaning some gear to re-purpose later.

-For more adventurous or unestablished rapping (just Poincenot & St. Exupery) they would have left some tat or stoppers or cams, and probably encountered an occasional in-situ anchor.

Bruce Hildenbrand · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2003 · Points: 945

The late Charlie Fowler told me of how he and his partner, Mike Munger, rapped the Super Caneletta on Fitzroy years ago. Charlie had something like 50' of 1" tubular webbing rapped around his neck. He would cut off a chunk, set up a rappel and head down.

Eric Thompson · · Mountlake Terrace wa · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 125
blakeherrington wrote:-They wouldn't have needed to do more than a few rappels until after summiting Fitz Roy, about halfway through the entire climb. -They rapped a popular and standard ascent/descent route off Fitz Roy. Likely leaving no new gear and likely scavenging and cleaning some gear to re-purpose later. -For more adventurous or unestablished rapping (off Poincenot or St. Exupery) they would have left some tat or stoppers or cams, and probably encountered an occasional in-situ anchor.
I bet Tommy rapped and Alex tossed the rope and free solo down climbed....like a bossssssss...
Mark Ra · · Frange, CO · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65
Eric Thompson wrote: I bet Tommy rapped and Alex tossed the rope and free solo down climbed....like a bossssssss...
Tommy rapped off Alex's belay loop.

They also had an 80m 6mm tag line that could have been cut, their rope was only 60m starting out.
Addem Bursh · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2012 · Points: 845

I want to be angry about this somehow

rgold · · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 525

I've done a large number of raps in the back country without leaving any metal gear. Slings around horns, flakes and chockstones and jammed knots work in many places. You might cut a rap short if you pass a good opportunity for some kind of sling shenanigans---i.e. always be on the lookout for natural anchors. Often, it is possible to pick up rocks and set them as chockstones (the way the Brits used to protect their climbs before they started using knots scoured from the cog railway at Cloggy). If you have a hammer, sometimes you can hammer in a chockstone when just trying to wedge one is too unstable.

If there is some solid ice, V-threads are available, and snow bollards will work if the snow is right.

I have no idea whether Alex and Tommy used any of these tricks of course.

We usually tossed a few old nuts into the back for bailing as well.

Degaine · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2007 · Points: 0

A macrame hitch (dufour knot in the Alps) works well in an alpine situations, especially short rappels, where there are plenty of horns to choose from.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVozin1dL-w

Less chances of your rope getting stuck around a big boulder or uneven horn when trying to pull it.

I've personally used it a couple of times (first person is usually lowered and only the second person rappels).

Erik Sloan · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 125

What Tommy and Alex did there was amazing!....I think I asked Tommy about this once, when he was hanging in Yosemite. He said they used mostly in-situ slings and nuts, and did a lot of down climbing.

'You mean, like 5.6 ridge down climbing?'

'uh no, like we would rap down to where you could get a good jam or hold, near the end of the rope, and then just down climb until we found the next anchor/fixed piece'

'whoa, that sounds pretty epic, like how hard down climbing?'

'oh, like never harder than 5.10 I think'

WoWoot!

Nathan Hui · · San Diego, CA · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 0

I don't know if Honnold and Caldwell used any of these techniques, but in canyoneering, there are many techniques that are used for "ghosting", i.e. setting up raps without leaving any or minimal trace. These techniques consist of using macrame to provide releasable anchors, retrievable slings, deadman anchors, rock cairns, etc. In most cases, this reqires only the regular climbing gear, and a tag line/pull cord that is the same length of the rap, and possibly a bit of webbing to leave behind. Some climbers do take one look at canyoneering anchors and run the other way in sheer terror, though.

bricepollock · · on the road · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 652

Thanks for the response all, its been great to hear everyone's experience with the route and different techniques. I typically just bring a lot of bail webbing, but I looked into the canyoneering retrievable anchors too. Here is some info in case others are interested in those:

http://www.canyoneeringusa.com/techtips/ghosting-techniques-in-canyoneering-an-introduction/
http://www.canyoneeringusa.com/techtips/tworingretrievableanchor/
http://rope-work-101.wikidot.com/ghosting-techniques

Russ Keane · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 140

re. canyoneering techniques (tag line in particular):

This is not applicable to alpine climbs. You have to have smooth, un-interrupted pulls to get your rope back. The knot you have to tie (and back it up with a locking biner) is pretty huge. In most rapelling situaions you will get that thing stuck. Especially alpine!

Derek DeBruin · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2010 · Points: 585
Russ Keane wrote:re. canyoneering techniques (tag line in particular): This is not applicable to alpine climbs. You have to have smooth, un-interrupted pulls to get your rope back. The knot you have to tie (and back it up with a locking biner) is pretty huge. In most rapelling situaions you will get that thing stuck. Especially alpine!
This is highly dependent on the type of alpine terrain you are in, or perhaps simply how you define "alpine." I use the equivocation hitch (aka macrame or death daisy) frequently in alpine terrain for relatively short rappels. It's convenient, quick, uses no gear, and works well.

Tag lines can be rigged to minimize bulk in climbing contexts, but employing them would require more situational awareness than might typically be needed in a smooth-pulling slot canyon scenario. Certainly for long pulls a typical one- or two- rope rappel system common in climbing is the best strategy, but for shorter rappels, there are many options. There's also always the option of rappelling shorter distances in general, to help minimize the risk of get the rope stuck on a longer pull.
Scoop · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 45

I think how Honnold and Tommy climb, ascending or descending, is not really relative to us mortals.

Just Solo · · Colorado Springs · Joined Nov 2003 · Points: 80

I've never rappelled off a knotted sling slotted between rocks... A-hem. Metal only if absolutely necessary. That stuff gets $$$$. On the other hand, what is life worth?

Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65
Just Solo wrote:I've never rappelled off a knotted sling slotted between rocks... A-hem. Metal only if absolutely necessary.
You realize there are climbing areas where knotted slings and cord are the only allowed lead protection, yes? They're more secure than you think.
Russ Keane · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 140

"for shorter rappels, there are many options."

I applaud your whole post. You're right, I shouldn't have blanketly ruled out tag line rappels for any/all alpine situations. I like what you said about shorter rappels being a good idea in general, for keeping the rope from getting stuck. Kinda like, bite off less than you can chew, to avoid choking.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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