Back cleaning advice with partner and solo

Original Post
druss uk · · Bracknell, Berkshire · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 0

Hello all

I'm working through the various walling techniques and generally comfortable with most of the systems, except back cleaning. What is the recommended sequence and advice for back cleaning straight, diagonal and overhanging pitches if the gear needed is several meter below? Do you have your partner lower you and then pull on the rope to ascend to high point?


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

Plan ahead. Back clean as you go, having to get lowered is an atrocious waste fo time.

Generally you don't back clean on traverses, just be judicious with gear and know the topo so that you don't screw yourself. If you do back clean you have 2 options. Either you make sure it is something your partner will already have on them (i.e make sure you already left one of that kind of piece behind) so your partner can re-place it themselves, or you keep taking it with you and send it down a zip line to them. Generally these are bad options compared to bringing the right rack. Bring enough gear and don't screw the follower.

On the Planck's Constant variation of Mideast Crisis there is leap frogging of #5 and #6 pieces under a roof, it would be stupid to bring a hald dozen monster cams for just the second pitch of the route. It is all C1 placements, so I just kept the pieces I back cleaned with me and sent them down to the follower who re-aided that section with essentially a top-rope. It works, but should be avoided in most cases, as it slows the progress a ton.

Later on P11 there are about 8 #1 placements in a row under a horizontal roof if you had them. I carefully used every #0.75 and #2 placement I could to stretch the #1's, and made as long of reaches as I could and was able to not back clean.

Mark Hudon · · Lives on the road · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 415

Good advice from Moof.
Are you back cleaning to save weight on the rack or avoid drag or what?
Gear is far lighter than the extra food and water it will take to finance the extra time to spent dicking around with lowering off to retreave gear or to get your second up the section.

will ar · · San Antonio, TX · Joined Jan 2010 · Points: 250

I think when most people say they are back cleaning they aren't actually lowering to retrieve gear, they are merely taking out the last piece they stood on. On a lot of easier aid pitches, particularly a uniform crack, most people keep a few cams on each daisy and just leapfrog those up and leave a piece of gear every once in a while.

Like Moof said, be cautious about back cleaning on traversing or steep terrain (unless there are good spots to lower out off fixed gear). The one thing I wished I had practiced more before getting on my first wall was cleaning traversing and overhanging pitches. If you've cleaned a few you will be much more cognizant of how much gear to leave in for your second.

Mark Hudon · · Lives on the road · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 415

Go get a 40 foot chunk of 5 mil. Clip the cord to your harness and run it through the eye of the last fixed piece (bolt, wire, pin, etc) and to a Munter on your harness. Put your weight on the cord, lower yourself out, let go of the cord, take the little swing, pull the cord through and continue on. You won't need to leave any tat and it's fast and easy.
Obviously, you won't use this technique to clean anything big but if you are creative, you can use it to clean all sorts of awkward traverses or overhangs.
And, the 5 mil ain't gonna wear out quickly and just break. If you use it a lot, you'll use it 8 times on one route. Use the other end if one end gets worn.

druss uk · · Bracknell, Berkshire · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 0

Thanks All

It was more in the situation if I ran out of gear in a specific size. Comfortable with the practice of leap-frogging gear and looking and planning ahead as much as possible. Didn't realize that was considered back-cleaning in most cases.

As not done any real big walls yet, I really don't know how often the situation would occur if you are well prepared and not skimping on gear. Practiced it a couple of time and it was such a waste of time and a lot of effort that we thought there must be a better way.

Glad to have the feedback that it doesn't occur that much in practice!

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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