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What do you think of this - Tying off rescue coils and rope for glaciers


Original Post
North Col · · Toronto · Joined Jan 2018 · Points: 0


Guys - I know its much more complex and technical. But I have a question about a component of roping up for glacier travel that I want to ask, regarding rope management on the body and load management through the rope in case of a fall.

Is there a lot of issue roping up this way assuming a 2-person rope team? I'm showing a basic underlying system, figure 8 re-thread w/stopper knot, extra coils taken, coils tied off with clove hitch on the carabineer attached to the harness to create tied off point for coils and other climber (not showing prussik system, personal anchor chain, would wear a sling chest harness etc.).

Is the clove that reliable and suitable for both lead and follower? Do I need to add to this clove to make this clove redundant? I'd use a chest harness and clip to the rope to keep upright if I was the faller. 

Do you see any issues transferring the load to an anchor and setting up your preferred rescue system from this setup? Do you use the kiwi or mountaineers coil instead and if so, why? 


Thanks, North Col

Gunkiemike · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 2,800

What advantage does it have over the typical kiwi coil? The kiwi also holds the coil together; does your setup do that?

Ryan Huetter · · Mammoth Lakes, CA · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 255

While in glacier travel mode, it is actually easier to tie off with a standard Kiwi coil, and use a large bight knot to secure the coils to your belay loop. The large bight allows you to easily transfer the load to an anchor in event of crevasse fall. The clove requires using a prussik to transfer the load, and isnt as smooth.

Kiwi coil plus clove to finish it is many climbers preferred method on rock, just not on glaciers. 

Travis Senor · · Mailing Address in NC · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 60

I'd second what Ryan said in that the Kiwi Coil will be much more efficient. You would have to perform some sort of load transfer on the clove setup as he said. The Kiwi is much simpler in that regard. Additionally, with a Kiwi Coil tie-off, it acts as something of an improvised chest harness and if you keep the tie-off high enough it will go a long way to keeping you from inverting if you fall in a hole. Personally, I'm a fan of it. (http://rockandice.com/wp-content/uploads/Article-Images/News-Photos/2017/Feb-2017/RI-240-accident-prevention-kiwi-coil.jpg)

Other small things: Tie and dress your figure eight properlly (about a fist-length of tail), and there's no need for a stopper knot. And without getting into the crevasse rescue sequence, I'm not sure what you'll be using a personal anchor chain for (by which I'm assuming you mean is a PAS or something similar), but it's really not needed. In a rescue situation you're anchored to the rope with your prusiks. (This video demonstrates it well...for being in a parking lot in the rain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6gz6WaO1_0)

Lastly, I don't know your experience, but to err on the side of caution I'd suggest against travelling on a two-person rope team if you're very new unless the terrain is pretty benign, or you and your partner are absolutely dialed in. Not for nothing, but arresting a fall and then hauling someone out by yourself is pretty difficult. Just something to consider if you're new (just basing this on the forum it's in).

Hopefully that information is useful. And if it's already known or apparent then my apologies.

Kyle Tarry · · Portland, OR · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 226
North Col wrote:

Is there a lot of issue roping up this way assuming a 2-person rope team? I'm showing a basic underlying system, figure 8 re-thread w/stopper knot, extra coils taken, coils tied off with clove hitch on the carabineer attached to the harness to create tied off point for coils and other climber (not showing prussik system, personal anchor chain, would wear a sling chest harness etc.).

It is very common to tie a knot and clip it to the belay loop with a locker as a way to finish off the coils and connect yourself to your partner(s).  I (and many others I climb with) use an alpine butterfly for this instead of a clove.  It really doesn't matter that much though, as long as you understand the implications.  You still need to encircle the coils and tie them to the belay loop to keep them under control, which it doesn't look like you've done here, the standard kiwi coil method works fine for that.

Some posters here have mentioned that it's easier to transfer load to the rope with a knot on a bight than with a prusik.  This is true, but you also need to be wary of transferring load directly into a knot on the rope because that becomes a non-releasable system (unless it's connected to the anchor with a munter mule).  It's quite common to connect the prusik loop to the anchor with a munter mule, which makes everything releasable.  This isn't always necessary, but it's something to be aware of.

While I applaud you thinking about this, it sounds like you have limited experience, and are very focused on the equipment (you specifically mention a PAS, prusiks, chest harness, etc.).  In a glacier rescue scenario it's FAR more important that you have a wide range of self-rescue skills than a bunch of danging cord while you're walking, so I would focus on that.  I almost never travel on a glacier with pre-tied prusiks and a chest harness; that stuff all stays neatly racked on my harness where I can get to it if I need to.

FosterK · · Edmonton, AB · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 43

I would concur that if you are tied into the end of the rope anyways, kiwi coils will be more efficient, especially if you expect to transition between glacier travel, short-roping or belayed climbing on snow/rock, and back etc.

If you are only using the rope for glacier travel, the clove (or alpine butterfly, or overhand bight) tie-in with the coils in a pack is much more comfortable.

 In a glacier rescue scenario it's FAR more important that you have a wide range of self-rescue skills than a bunch of danging cord while you're walking, so I would focus on that.  I almost never travel on a glacier with pre-tied prusiks and a chest harness; that stuff all stays neatly racked on my harness where I can get to it if I need to.

This.

Kyle Tarry · · Portland, OR · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 226

Also, note that every one of those Petzl diagrams show 2 carabiners connecting the rope to your harness.  It's fairly easy for a locking carabiner to become unscrewed while jangling around on your harness, and also to get cross-loaded in a fall.  They show opposed lockers, but a lot of folks I climb with (myself included) do one locker with an opposed non-locker and feel good enough about it.  Whether or not I do this is situational, but it's something else to be aware of.

Derek DeBruin · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2010 · Points: 585

If going the single locker route, I'd recommend at least a three-action auto-locker. Otherwise, I'd echo pretty much all of the above. In short:

1) Self-rescue knowledge is crucial.

2) Avoid cluster with unnecessary rigging (prussiks, chest harness, etc.)

3) Avoid any load to your chest. If you fall in the hole, this might help. If your partner does, it's much harder to arrest their fall.

4) Bight knot or a clove on the belay loop will close the coils and keep the load on your waist instead of chest.

5) Bight knot instead of clove on the belay loop makes the load transfer to an anchor easy when rescuing (but is not releasable as noted above).

6) If using a bight knot/clove to the belay loop, extra rope can be stashed in the pack if transitions will be infrequent. If transitions will be frequent, use chest/kiwi coils.

7) If traveling in a team of two, strongly consider stopper knots in the rope.

8) If using stopper knots, you'll need to know a drop-loop rescue system (and you probably should regardless); see #1.

Turner · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2011 · Points: 267

Your setup works just fine. 

Pros: Simple and quick, load is predictable and low (not on your chest), don't need a second biner as the clove will hold it in the right orientation, you can adjust your spacing without removing your tie in. 

Cons: Clove could get welded, don't have a bight knot to quickly clip into an anchor to transfer load.

FosterK · · Edmonton, AB · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 43
North Col wrote:

Is there a lot of issue roping up this way assuming a 2-person rope team?

I neglected to touch on this, but since this is in the Beginner forum: two-person glacier travel is not a beginner skill. You need significant experience to stay out of a hole; knowledge of advanced rope work and snow anchors; ability to by-pass knots; and, be well practiced in self-arrest. 

Kyle Tarry · · Portland, OR · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 226

Derek, great post, and I'm basically in complete agreement.  Just one extra point on #8 to muddy the waters even more:

Derek DeBruin wrote:

8) If using stopper knots, you'll need to know a drop-loop rescue system (and you probably should regardless); see #1.

Works great in all situations where you have enough rope, and is a great skill to have even if you're not tying knots in the rope, because it's way easier to haul on a rope that isn't cut into the lip.

However, for routes that don't require long pitches of technical climbing, it's very common to carry something like a 30m rope (ski mountaineering too).  A 30m rope with 2 people, and about 10m between them, only leaves each person with 10m of extra, which isn't enough for a drop loop.  This adds risk, so it's another decision the team has to make and know how to manage.

So, it goes back (again) to have a diverse toolbox of self-rescue skills, and the knowledge and practice to know which skill to roll out for the unique situation you may find yourself in.  For most beginners, "crevasse rescue" is synonomous with "hauling" but I would argue that hauling, especially on your main rope, should be a last resort.  Before that there are a bunch of other things you should try; climb out on belay, ascend the rope, lower to the bottom and walk out, haul out on another party's rope, etc.

Derek DeBruin · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2010 · Points: 585
Kyle Tarry wrote:

Derek, great post, and I'm basically in complete agreement.  Just one extra point on #8 to muddy the waters even more:

Works great in all situations where you have enough rope, and is a great skill to have even if you're not tying knots in the rope, because it's way easier to haul on a rope that isn't cut into the lip.

However, for routes that don't require long pitches of technical climbing, it's very common to carry something like a 30m rope (ski mountaineering too).  A 30m rope with 2 people, and about 10m between them, only leaves each person with 10m of extra, which isn't enough for a drop loop.  This adds risk, so it's another decision the team has to make and know how to manage.

So, it goes back (again) to have a diverse toolbox of self-rescue skills, and the knowledge and practice to know which skill to roll out for the unique situation you may find yourself in.  For most beginners, "crevasse rescue" is synonomous with "hauling" but I would argue that hauling, especially on your main rope, should be a last resort.  Before that there are a bunch of other things you should try; climb out on belay, ascend the rope, lower to the bottom and walk out, haul out on another party's rope, etc.

Kyle, I'm all about getting in the weeds ;)

I agree--it does all go back to having a good toolbox of skills. I appreciate the irony that for glacier travel the more people on the rope team, the less rope you need. And that's a solid list of things to try first. I might also add that it can be worth carrying a second screw on your harness for ascending out of the crevasse--this effectively allows the climber in the hole to leapfrog a backup as they ascend in case something isn't going so well on the surface. Of course, then you have to carry two screws...

North Col · · Toronto · Joined Jan 2018 · Points: 0

Guys thanks so much for the feedback. Yes I am a beginner with rock climbing and backpacking experience but nothing to technical yet and no alpine (my dream) but am very interested in the systems climbers use in hopes I will use them one day. I hope to study and learn as much as I can until I can make it out to BC (hopefully next winter) and take a beginners mountaineering course. 

For the record I'm fully aware of the dangers of climbing and the technical knowledge required and experience needed to attempt anything further than a scramble or in my case a top rope setup, but you guys have been really kind and I value the chance to learn from your experience on what's actually used out in the field so I can practise accordingly when I do start my mountaineering journey.

I have a lot more questions and look forward to hearing your opinions and feedback on them

Thanks! North Col. 

Derek DeBruin · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2010 · Points: 585

@North Col:
Cool that you're receptive--keep asking questions. 

Worth noting that much of what has been said in this thread is what I'd consider to be "best practice" or close to it, but it's not necessarily "common practice." Things like party of 2, stopper knots, drop loop hauls, and short ropes could be met with vehement opposition from some who will insist on long ropes, 3+ person rope teams, pre-rigged prussiks, and chest harnesses. Consequently, it might be worth your while to do a bit more reading to flesh out the argument a bit. While both have their quirks, I'd recommend:

Alpine Climbing: Techniques to Take You Higher by Houston and Cosley

https://www.amazon.com/Alpine-Climbing-Techniques-Mountaineers-Outdoor/dp/0898867495

The Mountain Guide Manual by Chauvin and Coppolillo

https://www.amazon.com/Mountain-Guide-Manual-Comprehensive-Reference/dp/1493025147

You might also check out videos from ENSA (École Nationale des Ski et d'Alpinisme), the French mountain guide academy. They some are in French, some are in English, but they're pretty well done and should give you an overview of many methods/options:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z93_oX7fjM8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qhw9AM7ahlA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZqGO3JyztQ

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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