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Kit for self rescue, sports climbing, beginner Trad on a shoestring


Original Post
Spidey Rocks · · San Francisco · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 15

Hi everyone! In the next few weeks I want to have all intermediate and advanced self-rescue skills dialed. Think escaping belay, getting yourself off the cliffs safely with unconscious climber or leader, 6:1 hauling system, what to do when you dropped critical gears, etc.

I would like to get some advice on how many, of what length and material of cordelettes, runners, biners, etc I should get on a shoestring. After reading lots of blogs and doing research, it is still hard to gauge how many of each item I should purchase. I want  enough to set up complex hauling systems, practice rescue exercises, tying more advanced knots, etc. Though I have some basic Trad gear, I intend to focus on sports climbing until I have rescue skills dialed.

Could experienced climbers with hands-on rescue experience and knowledge please advise? I am willing to spend money on gear that lasts but am also trying to conserve funds and be practical. Thanks!

mountainhick · · Black Hawk, CO · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 122

I've been climbing for 40 years, I was a climbing guide for 20 and caver for 10 and cumulatively have spent thousands of hours in vertical terrain. I practiced rescue systems up the wazoo. I have used a few pulley systems to set up tyroleans, for pulling my vehicles out when stuck, and to raise beams to build my post and beam house.

How many times have I used rescue skills for people in climbing other than practice rescue scenarios?

Zero.

While I appreciate your enthusiasm for the subject, to me it is much more important to learn to climb within your capabilities and to develop the sense to assess your partners behaviors in terms of being safe. Much better to rely on good judgement rather than getting in the kind of trouble where you actually need the rescue skills.

I am not discouraging you in terms of learning the skills, that's excellent, and shit does happen, so you may really need them someday. But it's not about buying or carrying a bunch of dedicated rescue gear. It is about learning the fundamentals and how to use them with the gear you already have.

A few single and a couple double runners and prussiks or cordellete and a couple big HMS locking biners can be useful for practice, but keep it real. What are you actually going to carry in real world, not practice rescue scenarios?

James Bull · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2017 · Points: 1
Spidey Rocks wrote: Though I have some basic Trad gear, I intend to focus on sports climbing until I have rescue skills dialed.

Its actually probably easier if you start out from a trad perspective. If you have 6 alpine draws with you, you have instantly 12 free bieners (or 6 "lockers" by doing opposite and opposed) and 6 slings for making klemhiests with - thats a pretty good start. Add maybe a single 20 ft cordalette and a knife and you're good to go - remember if you're rescuing your partner you get to pull stuff of their harness as well. If shit has really hit the fan start chopping the ends off your rope for extra cord.

Dakota R · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 0

Kind of a difficult question to answer, here is climbing gear to be familiar with, that can be used in climbing and also for self rescue.

  • 15-20 feet of 7mm cordelette
  • Double Length Nylon Sling
  • Sterling Hollowblock (or other looped friction hitch sized material)
  • Carabiners (lockers and non-lockers)
Beyond that, familiarizing yourself with your preferred belay device.

 There is a lot of  things you can learn out there.   I would start with scenarios that I believe are most likely to happen, and as you learn how to manage those scenarios efficiently, then I would start to learn the more advanced/less commonly used skills.  This will take time, the learning always continues. And no amount of practice in a controlled setting replaces the valuable learning that takes place while out climbing and doing.

Hope this helps!

Happy training/climbing!
Christian Black · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 290

My Oh-Shit-Kit consists of:

(All on a single small locker):
-tiny Trango Piranha knife
-Sterling 13in hollowblock (for rappel third-hand as well)
-Tiblok (sometimes carry, not always)
-Petzl microtraxion
-Reverso (I use a Grigri for everything except rapping so it lives here)

And
-InReach mini (in pocket of of my chalk bag)
-chalk bag belt made with 6mil cord

You should already be carrying a few lengths of slings and everything else can be improvised

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 523

First of all, don't waste you're time learning a bunch of different haul systems. 95% of the time going down is going to be a better option than going up. For other hauling needs the block and tackle and/or the 2:1 described here will cover pretty much all other self-rescue hauling needs. For gear:

The bare bones minimum:

  • First aid kit
  • Means of communication with rescue services (because a real rescue may be better than self-rescue in some situations)
  • A few lockers including at least 1 HMS biner. This excludes the belay biner.
  • 2 x prusik loops tied from 5mm accessory cord. 5 feet should be plenty.
These can usually be improvised if need be but will be very nice to have in some situations:
  • A double length runner, although quad length may be nicer to have, or cordalette for constructing a rescue spider
  • Some extra cord or webbing to form a foot loop to be used with your prusik loops
  • Grigri or other cam style assisted braking device
  • Shock cord or extra webbing to construct a makeshift chest harness
  • A micro ascender like the tibloc, ropeman, duck, etc.
  • Some kind of pulley, better yet a microtraxion or CT roll'n'lock
  • Extra cheap cord or webbing to use for bail anchors (will hurt your wallet less than using sewn slings or even having to use a section of your climbing rope)
  • Extra cheap rap rings, quicklinks, or bail biner for bail anchors
  • A third person
Finally, don't expect to go from zero to having all your self-rescue skills dialed in a few weeks. Unless you're out there practicing every single day, it's gonna take longer than a few weeks.
Marc H · · Longmont, CO · Joined May 2007 · Points: 255

There’s no need to read any posts after mountainhick’s. This one included. 

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

A cell phone or satellite messenger is a great rescue tool, as much as basic self-rescue skills.

bkozak · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 85

Don't forget the whistle for when the amateurs show up and you have to check your safety.

Curt Haire · · leavenworth, wa · Joined Jun 2011 · Points: 1

from 1986 to 1991 I taught self-rescue workshops  for the AMGA to aspirant guides preparing for certification.  In addition to their usual belay kit and trad rack appropriate to the climb they're on,, participants were required to carry 2 x 5+-mil cordelletes of 5 meters each (about 18 feet -- I round up to 20 for myself) and three or four locking carabiners.  nothing more.  pulleys were optional -- they make hauling rigs more efficient, but the rigs can be built with only carabiners.  For those of us who typically carry a cordelette or two for anchor building, and who equip a number of our alpine-draws with lightweight locking carabiners on the rope end of the draw, this amounts to carrying ZERO "extra" gear for self-rescue.

Spidey Rocks · · San Francisco · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 15

Thanks so much, everyone for your input. I didn't mean to suggest that I wanted to buy lots of extra stuff just for rescue. In fact, quite the contrary was my intent. But since I didn't have enough cordelettes, runners, etc, I figured I would seek advice on how much I actually need to buy so that I would have enough for basic trad, sports, and rescue.

I guess different people accept different levels of risk. Even crusty old timers often don't have the skillset needed to handle emergencies. Since i have no control over my partners' abilities (and even capable climbers could freak out when shit hits the fan, partly because they have not practiced or learned self-rescue skills), I could only mitigate risks by being as self-sufficient as possible to handle different situations, and potentially even compensate for what my partner does not know or can't do in order to get us out safely.

I think the fact that these situations don't come up often is all the more reason I need to review and practice these skills ahead of doing longer multi-pitch climbs (e.g. Lost Arrow Spire). I have taken these classes several times before but because I don't use these skills often, I forget. And I want to get to the point where when shit does hit the fan, I would not be trying to solve problems for the first time but executing what I have practiced many times over. If I could stop a bumpy ride from turning epic, it would be time well spent. 

The Hudson River pilot must have practiced many, many skills and prepared for so many situations over the course of his career that he never ended up using. But because he did, 155 people lived.

Thanks again for your input!

David K · · New Paltz, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 145
Spidey Rocks wrote: I guess different people accept different levels of risk. Even crusty old timers often don't have the skillset needed to handle emergencies. Since i have no control over my partners' abilities (and even capable climbers could freak out when shit hits the fan, partly because they have not practiced or learned self-rescue skills), I could only mitigate risks by being as self-sufficient as possible to handle different situations, and potentially even compensate for what my partner does not know or can't do in order to get us out safely.

Yes you do have control over your partners' abilities. You don't have to climb with people who don't have the abilities you want in a partner. You can communicate to your partners how you want things done. And you can choose climbs that are suited to you and your partners' abilities.

Don't be afraid to assess your partners' abilities and choose climbs conservatively until you have partners whose abilities you trust. It's your life at stake!
Spidey Rocks · · San Francisco · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 15

I only meant that I don't have control over how they would respond to different situations. I have met many "experienced" climbers with habits I think are less than safe, but I have never met a climber who said he was an unsafe climber with dicey techniques.

I have also seen situations where easy climbs within our climbing abilities turn south quickly. On this and other sites and campgrounds, I meet people who seem legit but honestly you can't fully anticipate how they handle emergencies until shit hits the fan. So I work on the one variable I can control more directly: my prep and knowledge.

Bootz Ylectric · · Chicago IL · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 165

My chalk bag belt is a piece of webbing with a quick-link for a "buckle."  I carry a personal locker with a double shoulder length nylon sling, a Prusik and a Tibloc on it.  I always have a knife on me in the outdoors.  

Combine that with a rope, a trad rack, and some skills learned (and practiced) from this book:
 https://www.amazon.com/Climbing-Self-Rescue-Improvising-Mountaineers/dp/089886772X/ref=asc_df_089886772X/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=312149988622&hvpos=1o2&hvnetw=g&hvrand=4252941838147122491&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9021750&hvtargid=pla-524124883426&psc=1

Spidey Rocks · · San Francisco · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 15
Bootz Ylectric wrote:   I carry a personal locker with a double shoulder length nylon sling, a Prusik and a Tibloc on it.  I always have a knife on me in the outdoors.  

I have the same book and the one from FalconGuides. How has the Tibloc been working for you? Someone else says he uses Petzl traxion, which seems pricey. 


Bootz Ylectric · · Chicago IL · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 165
Spidey Rocks wrote:


I have the same book and the one from FalconGuides. How has the Tibloc been working for you? Someone else says he uses Petzl traxion, which seems pricey.
Another great book. That more than anything special you carry is what is important.  Always keep learning new things, and you'll have a big tool bag to get yourself out of trouble.

Tibloc has worked great any time I've used it for a haul, ascending a short section of rope, etc. Small, light and simple.
eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 523

The tibloc and other micro ascenders (personally I prefer the ropeman over the tibloc but that's just personal preference) are a great tool to have and really don't weigh a whole lot. However, they are a supplement and not a replacement for prusik loops as they can only ascend single strand. If you find out you need to ascender back up the rappel you just did, you're gonna be SOL if you brought a tibloc instead of prusik loops.

I learned this lesson the hard way one time and had to ascend about 70' of free hanging rappel to rescue a buddy we took on a rope swing with only one prusik loop and a foot loop. Not a lot of fun to say the least.

Luc-514 · · Montreal, QC · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 9,804

Like previously mentioned, take a self-rescue course that doesn't need you to have special equipment beyond prussics and locking carabiners.
Stuff I usually carry on multi-pitch route:
Sterling Hollow block (used to be a 6-7mm prussic).
Spiderco knife with a tether.
Fox Whistle (on the Spiderco knife biner).
6mm rescue prussic (3m long?).
Always have a couple lockers on me on top of the one I'm using for belaying.
7mm x 3m cord used for my chalk bag.
Headlamp.

And additionally all the gear I have left on me at the belay or on lead.
No point in carrying bail quick-link for lowering off bolts, they're a scourge to remove or don't leave much room for the next climber to clip in to that bolt, use a locker or bail biner with duct tape on the gate.  You should also be skeptical of lowering off a single bolt, a few people have made that fatal mistake.

Spidey Rocks · · San Francisco · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 15
eli poss wrote:
I learned this lesson the hard way one time and had to ascend about 70' of free hanging rappel to rescue a buddy we took on a rope swing with only one prusik loop and a foot loop. Not a lot of fun to say the least.

Yikes! I am glad your buddy appreciated it (and he/she owes you dinner!)

Tim Stich · · Colorado Springs, Colorado · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 1,477
mountainhick wrote: I've been climbing for 40 years, I was a climbing guide for 20 and caver for 10 and cumulatively have spent thousands of hours in vertical terrain. I practiced rescue systems up the wazoo. I have used a few pulley systems to set up tyroleans, for pulling my vehicles out when stuck, and to raise beams to build my post and beam house.

How many times have I used rescue skills for people in climbing other than practice rescue scenarios?

Zero.

But mountainhick? What about the time you were climbing that multipitch route with a really hard overhang pitch and your leader fell off, hit his head and was unconscious? You tried to simply lower him back to you, but no, he was forty feet out in space and there was no way to reach him! OMG!  

Oh, right. That never happened anywhere to anyone.

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 523
Spidey Rocks wrote:

Yikes! I am glad your buddy appreciated it (and he/she owes you dinner!)

Actually it was partly my fault, partly his that he got stuck in the first place. It was a rope swing on rappel at looking glass arch and I told him to tie a catastrophe knot in the brake strand, which ended up jamming in his belay device. I should have made sure he left more space between the device and the knot and he should have gripped the brake strand better. 

He certainly appreciated it, but also appreciates the opportunity to give me shit over it any time the topic comes up. Moral of the story, make sure you have at least 2 prusik loops on you at all times. And more importantly, make sure you know how to use them!

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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