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Self Rescue when using the climbing rope as your anchor


Original Post
Liam Hoefer · · San Jose · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 0

Alright, I’ve built my anchor out of bomber pieces and used the climbing rope to connect them, let’s say two cams equalized on each other and a third separate, all connected with a bunny eared figure-eight for the sake of a specific situation. Now my leader gets domed by a big rock and is unconscious and probably having a bad time. What do?

Or, my follower gets into the same situation because I dropped my heavy jar of unhomogenized milk on them whilst belaying them from above. It seems like any solution would involve tying them off separately from the anchor, disassembling the anchor and lowering myself to them.

Thoughts? Clever solutions? First hand experiences?

Robert Hall · · North Conway, NH · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 16,716

Other than the small amount of rope used up, I'm not sure why you think there's a difference between whether the climbing rope, that's tied to you, connects you to the 3 pieces or whether you are connected to them with a sling or PAS.

Also, in the 2nd parag.  "tying them off separately from the anchor, disassembling the anchor and lowering myself to them" Why would you disassemble the anchor?  and if the anchor is disassembled, what are they "tied off separately to" ?....another anchor?  

There are good books on this subject, and I'm sure there are other forum-threads that have covered it.  But if you are planning on doing multi-pitch trad climbing it's best to know the answers.

Zacks · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 65

Couldn't you just escape the belay the way you normally would tie off the climber and prussik up/down to them just like you would with an anchor using cord?

Now after you rescue your partner if you have to bail off the route leaving gear and tat I sure hope you have some tat.  And if you are carrying tat for an emergency why not just have cord to build an anchor and use the cord as tat...

I sometimes use the rope for the anchor at bolted anchors but for gear anchor climbs I bring cord for self rescue and convenience.  Might as well use it.  Unless I forget it in the car lol then rope anchor.

Tammy Gueterman · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2019 · Points: 0

The main question I'm hearing is "How do I get the weighted main rope out of the anchor since I need this to get down, with a climber that can't help you at all?" 

  1. Equalize the same points the rope is currently attached to with a sling create a separate anchor
  2. Wrap a prusik (can also be a sling) to the main rope past the belay device and attach this to the new anchor
  3. Lower the rope through the belay device to transfer load to the prusik and new anchor
  4. Untie the slack climbing rope anchor and collect the belay device
  5. The rope is going to be slack on the side of the prusik towards you, thread this through the anchor as if you are going rappel on double ropes, attach belay device to rope and yourself
  6. Take up all slack on the belay device, tie it off, then cut the prusik** (don't fuck this up)
  7. Lower yourself or your climber so you are level with each other, start a series of counterweighted self-lowers and rappels to get yourself down.
**My alternative to cutting the prusik is rigging it "releasable" which means you attach it in a way that is initially short but can be extended in a controlled manner so the load can be transferred back to the belay device. Basically you need to make something that can do this with whatever you have.

The actual hard part:
At the end of the day, you need to do multipitch rappels or self lowers with 100-200 lbs of dead weight that can't go scraping down the mountain and needs to be kept upright. You need to manage your rock pro so that you have enough of the right pieces to bail on however many pitches you are up the route that don't have fixed gear. If there's truly no way you'd have enough gear and you don't have any comm with the outside world, you'll need to go through several cycles of tying off your casualty, then aid climbing up and down to recover your gear.
Em Cos · · Boulder, CO · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 5

If it helps you to wrap your head around it, imagine cutting the rope off just past the section you built an anchor with. You have an anchor, and a slightly shorter rope. (Actually cutting the rope is not necessary). What do you have to gain from building a new anchor, and transferring your partner to it, then breaking down the old anchor? You still have an anchor with a rope attached to it ... 

Fran M · · Germany · Joined Feb 2019 · Points: 0
Liam Hoefer wrote: Alright, I’ve built my anchor out of bomber pieces and used the climbing rope to connect them, let’s say two cams equalized on each other and a third separate, all connected with a bunny eared figure-eight for the sake of a specific situation. Now my leader gets domed by a big rock and is unconscious and probably having a bad time. What do?
Less than half rope out: Lower her, stabilize, call for help.
More than half rope out: Why!? Lock her off, call for help.

Or, my follower gets into the same situation because I dropped my heavy jar of unhomogenized milk on them whilst belaying them from above.
Why!?
Ledge below, enough tope in: Lower him, call for help, rappel to him, call for help.
ledge below, not enough rope in: Lower him, call for help.
no legde, enough rope in: Lock them off, self lower, stabilize, call for help.
no ledge, not enough rope in: Why!? Lock them off, call for help.
Tammy Gueterman · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2019 · Points: 0
Fran M wrote: Less than half rope out: Lower her, stabilize, call for help.
More than half rope out: Why!? Lock her off, call for help.

Why!?
Ledge below, enough tope in: Lower him, call for help, rappel to him, call for help.
ledge below, not enough rope in: Lower him, call for help.
no legde, enough rope in: Lock them off, self lower, stabilize, call for help.
no ledge, not enough rope in: Why!? Lock them off, call for help.

"Call for help" is not a rescue plan

Fran M · · Germany · Joined Feb 2019 · Points: 0
Tammy Gueterman wrote:

"Call for help" is not a rescue plan

why not? Sounds like a great plan to me. Specially for the OP given their question (or for myself given my skills and desire to live).
Derek Doucet · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 64
Tammy Gueterman wrote:

"Call for help" is not a rescue plan

In many circumstances, it might be the only feasible rescue plan. 

Christian Mason · · Westminster CO · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 156
Tammy Gueterman wrote: The main question I'm hearing is "How do I get the weighted main rope out of the anchor since I need this to get down, with a climber that can't help you at all?" 

  1. Equalize the same points the rope is currently attached to with a sling create a separate anchor
  2. Wrap a prusik (can also be a sling) to the main rope past the belay device and attach this to the new anchor
  3. Lower the rope through the belay device to transfer load to the prusik and new anchor
  4. Untie the slack climbing rope anchor and collect the belay device
  5. The rope is going to be slack on the side of the prusik towards you, thread this through the anchor as if you are going rappel on double ropes, attach belay device to rope and yourself
  6. Take up all slack on the belay device, tie it off, then cut the prusik** (don't fuck this up)
  7. Lower yourself or your climber so you are level with each other, start a series of counterweighted self-lowers and rappels to get yourself down.
**My alternative to cutting the prusik is rigging it "releasable" which means you attach it in a way that is initially short but can be extended in a controlled manner so the load can be transferred back to the belay device. Basically you need to make something that can do this with whatever you have.

The actual hard part:
At the end of the day, you need to do multipitch rappels or self lowers with 100-200 lbs of dead weight that can't go scraping down the mountain and needs to be kept upright. You need to manage your rock pro so that you have enough of the right pieces to bail on however many pitches you are up the route that don't have fixed gear. If there's truly no way you'd have enough gear and you don't have any comm with the outside world, you'll need to go through several cycles of tying off your casualty, then aid climbing up and down to recover your gear.

You should back the friction hitch (prussic) with a knot thought.  A munter-mule-overhand is ideal, since it's releasable under load, but in a bunch a figure-8 or overhand on a bight will work for the process you described. Having the injured leader rely solely on a friction hitch to keep them alive isn't ideal.


I'd also be very reluctant to cut the prussic off.  You can still release a prussic under load - just allow the weight to transfer to the (tied off) device or knot. 

Tammy Gueterman · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2019 · Points: 0
Derek Doucet wrote:

In many circumstances, it might be the only feasible rescue plan. 

If you're in contact, you should definitely call for help early if you think there is even a tiny chance you need it.  But you should  also strive to develop the skills to get yourself and your partner out of any situation you choose to get into. You should be able to aid climb, rappel, and haul, to get yourself and a completely incapacitated partner down or up an arbitrary number of pitches. You should be limited by your physical endurance, not a lack of skill or failure to plan ahead. Now realistically, this would be a last resort or done in conjunction with an outside rescue, but a pair of climbers should not be stranded on the wall indefinitely just because 1 climber is unconscious.

Fran M · · Germany · Joined Feb 2019 · Points: 0
Tammy Gueterman wrote:

If you're in contact, you should definitely call for help early if you think there is even a tiny chance you need it.

agree, its a great plan. Make sure to hsve a phone or radio, know the rescue channels and let domeone know your detsiled itinerary.

  But you should  also strive to develop the skills to get yourself and your partner out of any situation you choose to get into.

unrealistic.

You should be able to aid climb, rappel, and haul, to get yourself and a completely incapacitated partner down or up an arbitrary number of pitches.

down with unconcious partner? Extremely difficult, he will probably die in the process. STsbilize, let the experts do their job.
up with unconcious psrtner? Impossible

You should be limited by your physical endurance, not a lack of skill or failure to plan ahead.

big no, call for help!

Now realistically, this would be a last resort or done in conjunction with an outside rescue, but a pair of climbers should not be stranded on the wall indefinitely just because 1 climber is unconscious.

just call, seriously


Fran M · · Germany · Joined Feb 2019 · Points: 0
Em Cos wrote: If it helps you to wrap your head around it, imagine cutting the rope off just past the section you built an anchor with. You have an anchor, and a slightly shorter rope. (Actually cutting the rope is not necessary). What do you have to gain from building a new anchor, and transferring your partner to it, then breaking down the old anchor? You still have an anchor with a rope attached to it ... 

if i climb a 30m pitch with a 60m rope:

rope anchor: I take in shy of 30m before putting my second on belay. If i want to self lower i have 15m available because one end is coming off the anchor and the other into the belay device.

non-rope anchor: I have 30m of rope available (or as much as is left over after leading the pitch) for lowering or a u drop, etc.
Harumpfster Boondoggle · · Between yesterday and today. · Joined Apr 2018 · Points: 148
Tammy Gueterman wrote:

You should be able to aid climb, rappel, and haul, to get yourself and a completely incapacitated partner down or up an arbitrary number of pitches. You should be limited by your physical endurance, not a lack of skill or failure to plan ahead. Now realistically, this would be a last resort or done in conjunction with an outside rescue, but a pair of climbers should not be stranded on the wall indefinitely just because 1 climber is unconscious.

This is complete bullshit. 

This idea that you can manage a completely rag doll 200# climber safely up or down off of anything by yourself is simply not in the realm of possibility for virtually any actual rock climber by themselves.

There is a reason it takes about 10 trained SAR members to accomplish lowering a litter.

Have you assessed spinal cord injury? How are you maintaining an airway? etc etc etc etc etc etc.

Stop spreading this garbage and take responsibility for being well and truly fucked and call for help. IF you can get them lowered to any anchor and protect their airway and maintain some level of stabilization that is all that can be expected.
NegativeK · · Nevada · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 40
Fran M wrote: down with unconcious partner? Extremely difficult, he will probably die in the process. STsbilize, let the experts do their job.


That's so overly black and white so as to be useless.

I agree with the "just call". Always the first step, as part of making a plan of what the fuck you're going to do. Sometimes that's stabilize; sometimes that's go down. Sometimes it might be cry uncontrollably and do what SAR tells you to.
Harumpfster Boondoggle · · Between yesterday and today. · Joined Apr 2018 · Points: 148
NegativeK wrote:

That's so overly black and white so as to be useless.

I agree with the "just call". Always the first step, as part of making a plan of what the fuck you're going to do. Sometimes that's stabilize; sometimes that's go down. Sometimes it might be cry uncontrollably and do what SAR tells you to.

Tell me more about the completely unconscious people you have managed on a cliff face.

NegativeK · · Nevada · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 40
Harumpfster Boondoggle wrote:

Tell me more about the completely unconscious people you have managed on a cliff face.

I just escaped the belay and it was easy.

Harumpfster Boondoggle · · Between yesterday and today. · Joined Apr 2018 · Points: 148
Liam Hoefer wrote: Alright, I’ve built my anchor out of bomber pieces and used the climbing rope to connect them, let’s say two cams equalized on each other and a third separate, all connected with a bunny eared figure-eight for the sake of a specific situation. Now my leader gets domed by a big rock and is unconscious and probably having a bad time. What do?

Or, my follower gets into the same situation because I dropped my heavy jar of unhomogenized milk on them whilst belaying them from above. It seems like any solution would involve tying them off separately from the anchor, disassembling the anchor and lowering myself to them.

Thoughts? Clever solutions? First hand experiences?

This is the sort of thing you easily figure out while hanging at a belay for 4 hours while your partner leads some long gnar pitch. All of your options are in front of you, figure it out. Or not.

Not when you are wanking at a keyboard trying to imagine a solution. Every anchor is different. Every tool kit you have on hand is gonna be a little different.
Tammy Gueterman · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2019 · Points: 0
Harumpfster Boondoggle wrote:

This is complete bullshit. 

This idea that you can manage a completely rag doll 200# climber safely up or down off of anything by yourself is simply not in the realm of possibility for virtually any actual rock climber by themselves.

There is a reason it takes about 10 trained SAR members to accomplish lowering a litter.

Have you assessed spinal cord injury? How are you maintaining an airway? etc etc etc etc etc etc.

Stop spreading this garbage and take responsibility for being well and truly fucked and call for help. IF you can get them lowered to any anchor and protect their airway and maintain some level of stabilization that is all that can be expected.

The fact that it is rarely needed and practiced does not imply it is impossible, but I admit the level to which I am speaking towards is an ideal and not anywhere close to where the community is generally expected to be. Still, I don't think people should be satisfied with a rescue plan that quickly ends in "call for help" , or the notion that a self rescue is complete once you and your partner are back at the belay. There are often feasible next steps that aren't rocket science. The skills you gain contemplating how to bail on a truly fucked situation are the same skills that help you avoid them. I don't understand why you would so staunchly defend a "good enough" attitude other than ego.

To address some of these side points:

I weigh, 140 pounds and have descended down 3 pitches tandem with a 200 pound rescue manikin maintained in an upright position. I did this with standard climbing gear, 10 mm rope, some cord, prusiks, and a bunch of lockers. I made a chest harness for randy with a sling to maintain upright and cradled it (him?) between my legs as I self lowered tandem down to each anchor with a super-munter. I rotated carabiners at each pitch to manage heat. I have not personally ascend-hauled a randy up more than 1 pitch of mildly wandering terrain, but I get the basic concepts and challenges for multiple (although it would suck). If you are willing to bail on your entire rack (who wouldn't), you can easily make it down 3 pitches tandem if the terrain is favorable. Some factors that will quickly complicate things are: navigating an overhang or severely wandering route, absolutely having to go up instead of down, being up so many pitches you need to retrieve your gear between to make it all the way down. If the route is vertical and straight, it is very doable.

A standard SAR litter pick-off can be done by 3 people. 1 basket attendant to manage wall friction and medical, 1 person on capstan winch main with a right angle drill and petzl asap belay, 1 person free to run comms and have a free set of hands to address anything unforeseen. Essential functions can be accomplished by 3, you want 7 more for muscle. As someone who understands why SAR brings 10+ people, this point is irrelevant and unconvincing.

Medical management is fair point, its hard to manage while moving and there is risk that you could cause more damage, I'll give you that. But in many areas there is a huge difference in time to definitive care if you are on the wall versus on the ground. The awesome helo rescue infrastructure we have along the West coast and SW is far from universal. I would definitely consider spinal injury, but its more of a huge gray area in competing concerns rather than show-stopping red flag for all blunt trauma. To get off topic, standard spinal precautions have been modified (relaxed) in recent years. Progressive evidence-based systems have done away with spineboards and are actively questioning the benefit of c-collars. I do agree this is something to think about, but a tandem rappel can be pretty smooth.
Harumpfster Boondoggle · · Between yesterday and today. · Joined Apr 2018 · Points: 148

Bullshit.

Any unconscious victim of blunt trauma needs full c--spine precautions and airway management. It is foolish to suggest that those are immaterial concerns and that a simple chest harness to maintain an upright posture is adequate.

Lack of consciousness post blunt trauma is diagnostic of brain injury and cervical spine injury cannot be ruled out. The idea that management of such a patient is an ideal that any climber should aspire to is #woofuckery run amok.

Spend your time (literally every waking moment thinking about climbing) about how to avoid such situations. Yet we can't get people to avoid common and avoidable pitfalls. Save the advanced management of a blunt trauma patient to the professionals. Only consider lowering your partner multiple pitches to the ground if it is essential to save YOUR OWN life ie approaching storm or his life if hypothermia is a legitimate concern.

FosterK · · Edmonton, AB · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 60
Harumpfster Boondoggle wrote: Bullshit.

Any unconscious victim of blunt trauma needs full c--spine precautions and airway management. It is foolish to suggest that those are immaterial concerns and a simple chest harness to maintain an upright posture is adequate.

Lack of consciousness post blunt trauma is diagnostic of brain injury and cervical spine injury cannot be ruled out. The idea that management of such a patient is an ideal that anyone should aspire to is #woofuckery run amok.

Except it's never ideal. There is nothing about improvised rescue that is ideal and it would not be realistic to assume that it is achieved even in a professional wilderness context. Leaving your partner to hang in the rope or sit on a ledge while you wait for SAR is also not ideal - so which risks are relevant to manage to support life?

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Trad Climbing
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