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Rope solo for beginners

Original Post
MyFeetHurt · · Glenwood, CO · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 25

I'd like to try rope soloing some single pitch ice. Yes I know it can be dangerous and I don't know all the caveats yet. I am talking about top rope, not lead. I have a micro traxion, grigri, and ascender. Are these devices sufficient to get started and if so, what does that setup look like. I do know the grigri doesn't like frozen ropes. Am I gonna die?

Andy Novak · · Bailey, CO · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 370

Yer Gunna Die

Ryan Dresser · · Ft Collins, CO · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 40

Iv used the same equipment to rope solo ice before and it was less than optimal, but totally doable. It felt a little clumsy at times. I could have probably done it a bit smoother... Good luck, and YGD.

Travis Madsen · · Denver, CO · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 10

I found this helpful: petzl.com/US/en/Sport/Gener…

Jonathan Awerbuch · · Boulder, Colorado · Joined Nov 2013 · Points: 41

I did this a few years ago and I wish I hadn't. I really think it's pushing your luck. The words "rope solo" and "beginners" sound like a really dangerous combo.

Tie a bunch of backup loops, i.e. overhand on a bight, as you climb. You could fold the rope in half so you have two strands and clip into the backup loops as you climb. I think that's ideal. You can also just tie loops below you on a single strand to stop the micro trax if it doesn't engage. Solo TR on ice is really pushing it -- the toothed devices should work (not the grigri), but even with redundancy they could still both freeze up.

Edit to add: for god's sake, get your TR solo systems dialed on rock before you try it on ice.

MyFeetHurt · · Glenwood, CO · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 25

To be clear, I'm not a beginner on ice, just a beginner rope soloing. What specifically is the problem with ice? Usually freezing rope can be foreseen so I'm not too worried about that. I can unweight the rope easily in most cases if needed, the topout is easy and set back from the edge. I need to anticipate specifics if I am going to learn...

Ma Ja · · Red River Gorge · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 104

Things to think about:
-If you tie backup knots, they could freeze, which means you cant get back down very easily. I'd recommend bringing two ropes, or double one over if it's long enough, and only tie knots in one of the lines.
-If the grigri freezes, you need something to unthaw it to free yourself, so maybe hand warmers, or a small can of defrost spray of some sort. This would also mean you should have an ATC with you in case that happens.
-Youd better know how to safely transition from one icy rope to another, in case of a situation. Always have a redundant connection to the rope,  which means youd need at least 4 rope grab devices. Grigri, microtraxion, ascender, prusik, etc., and ways to connect them to your harness.
-Probably more stuff, just think it through, like everything could go wrong.

Mark Dalen · · Albuquerque, NM · Joined Dec 2011 · Points: 952

Roped soloing takes twice as long as with a partner - how much time do you want to spend hanging off ice srews ... ?

Ma Ja · · Red River Gorge · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 104
Mark Dalen wrote: Roped soloing takes twice as long as with a partner - how much time do you want to spend hanging off ice srews ... ?

Surely there's a tree above on a single pitch crag.

MyFeetHurt · · Glenwood, CO · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 25
Ma Ja wrote:

Surely there's a tree above on a single pitch crag.

Yup, trees or bolts, all stuff I have lead. Just looking for easy milage. I figure two anchored strands, a device on each. 

Gunkiemike · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 2,931
MyFeetHurt wrote:

Yup, trees or bolts, all stuff I have lead. Just looking for easy milage. I figure two anchored strands, a device on each. 

A device on each is the way to go. Put the Grigri on "the backup" line, since you'll be pulling the slack through periodically. Your primary device should feed smoothly enough to keep slack to as close to zero as possible.  

In the summer I run one device on the main line and clip into loops on the second line. But that's not such a good idea on ice b/c as you climb, you're bringing a bight of rope up below you. And Murphy's Law says it'll get caught on a fat icicle at the worst possible moment. And when that happens, it's taut so you can't easily unclip it from your harness. And b/c your primary device is zero slack, you can't downclimb enough to free the other rope from the %$@#* icicle.

Slushy ropes are a big NOPE for this whole idea. Only solo TR on dry ice. (No, not the CO2 type)
Mikey Schaefer · · Reno, NV · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 261

It’s not too different on ice than rock.  Biggest issue is slushy frozen ropes.  A mini traction will get jammed up with snow/ice fairly easily and stop working.   The Camp Lyft does a way better job of clearing ice/snow and catching in those conditions.  I’ve used this system in Scotland, the Rockies and Montana.

Nick Goldsmith · · Pomfret VT · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 440

ice climbing lends itself to free soloing so well that I only tried rope soloing once on ice. looked down and my jumar had slid down the the frozen rope and I was free soloing anyways..  that was sometime in the eightys.. these days I solo a ton of ice but wear a harness carry 3 or sometimes 4 screws and have a rope in the pack for rapping. I did rope solo one pitch of an ice climb about 15 years ago when I very nearly got barn doored off 300ft off the deck by a 60mph gust.  fired in a screw and rope soloed the last 20m. PINTA but better than dying. 

Russ Keane · · Asheville, NC · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 175

Incredibly easy.  Just need a Gri-Gri  --- and one of those lockers where the small end is closed off (if that makes sense).  Keeps the device from orienting wrong.   Hang a single strand down the route, and jump on. 

Glen Prior · · Truckee, Ca · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 0

Tie two separate bites at the midpoint, so that each strand has its own. Otherwise the midpoint is not redundant.

Glen Prior · · Truckee, Ca · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 0

I use a Cinch at chest-height, backed up by a Micro-Traction on my belay loop. 

RandyLee · · On the road · Joined May 2016 · Points: 5

I haven’t TR soloed any ice yet, I’ve always had partners for that, but the Trango Vergo has been amazing for TR soloing rock. With very little weight it feeds smoothly, unlike the grigri. 

Max R · · Bend, OR · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 235
RandyLee wrote: I haven’t TR soloed any ice yet, I’ve always had partners for that, but the Trango Vergo has been amazing for TR soloing rock. With very little weight it feeds smoothly, unlike the grigri. 

Question- with your vergo, which direction is it oriented, and do you elevate it with a chest sling/bungee?

RandyLee · · On the road · Joined May 2016 · Points: 5

Oriented the same as it would be to rappel. Elevated. I bought ~4ft of bungee off the spool at a REI. I tied an overhand on a bight large enough to fit around my neck, then on each tail I tied another small overhand on a bight. The bungee goes around my neck, then one small loop goes on the Vergo’s locker. The Vergo goes on, then the other loop goes on. The device is held up evenly and isn’t always trying to fall sideways like other solutions I’ve tried. Obviously it takes a couple of tries to get correct lengths. Test all of your systems at home, and use backups. Ygd. 

Max R · · Bend, OR · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 235
RandyLee wrote: Oriented the same as it would be to rappel. Elevated. I bought ~4ft of bungee off the spool at a REI. I tied an overhand on a bight large enough to fit around my neck, then on each tail I tied another small overhand on a bight. The bungee goes around my neck, then one small loop goes on the Vergo’s locker. The Vergo goes on, then the other loop goes on. The device is held up evenly and isn’t always trying to fall sideways like other solutions I’ve tried. Obviously it takes a couple of tries to get correct lengths. Test all of your systems at home, and use backups. Ygd. 

What i do. For working a hard route. 

I use the Roll n Lock setup when i’m moving fast, (Rope solo’ing an easy multipitch after leading it solo)
JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 95
Max R wrote:

What i do. For working a hard route. 

I use the Roll n Lock setup when i’m moving fast, (Rope solo’ing an easy multipitch after leading it solo)

This is a great pair of setups. I have in the past used basically the exact same thing for the same situations: Vergo + Trax for working a hard route and trying a crux repeatedly; RollnLock + Trax for mileage and quickness. For a while (after refunding my Vergo during the recall) I  tried using the RollnLock + Trax for everything, but using this system for working a hard route kind of sucked. Just bought a replacement Vergo; glad to go back to having that as an option.

The one difference I have is I do not usually elevate the upper device with a neck loop. Instead, it trails on of belay loop, and the lower device trails even lower on a short quickdraw (often a locker draw). Doesn't offer the immediate-catch of an elevated device, but avoids the nuisance of a neck loop or chest harness. Either way is totally fine though.

Reagarding the orientation of the Vergo; I orient it the same way you have pictured.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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