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Backup knots for jugging
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Oct 6, 2010
Sorry if this has been covered before; I wasn't able to find it via searching.

When ascending a line that's fixed only at the top, for example when cleaning an aid pitch, my understanding is that it's a good idea to tie backup knots in the rope every 10-15' and attach them to your belay loop via a locking biner. This makes sense to me.

What's confusing me is the logistics of having multiple backup knots. Chris Macnamara implies that one of the advantages of the backup knots is that you keep the rope from dangling far below you, which only seems true if you never untie any of the knots. Wouldn't this lead to a huge mess of knots at your harness?

If you are only keeping some set number of knots tied at once, how many? And do you have a separate biner for each? If they're all clipped into the same biner, how do you add a knot to the mix without briefly obviating your backup as you open the biner to add the new knot and remove the oldest one? Or is this just not an issue since you only do this when your jumars are engaged and therefore trustworthy, and the rope is only meant to back you up during the periods where you're moving?
Toby Butterfield
From Portland, OR
Joined Aug 30, 2010
110 points
Oct 6, 2010
When jugging w/ 2 ascenders on plumb-line terrain where I'm not taking the jugs off the rope, I'll backup once or twice on the pitch. If it's traversing for just a part where I'll need to repeatedly leap-frog the upper jug over tensioned pieces, then I'll backup right at the start of the section. If the majority of the pitch requires removing/replacing the upper ascender (traverses or extended overhanging pitches), then I switch to an ascender + grigri method and backup midway through the pitch (and possibly again if there are some funky sections). If there are rope munching flakes, I'll backup as needed specifically to keep the ropes free.

Since I'm not backing up super often, I don't have issues with a huge mess of knots hanging from my harness. As for how I clip them to the harness, again it depends on the terrain. If plumb-line, I'll use one locker and clip all backups in there - my weight is directly on the anchor, so as long as I am certain that my jugs are secure, I don't mind the split second that locker is open while I clip the next knot. If, however, the terrain is such that a lot of weight is on tensioned pieces (traverse, overhanging), then I'll alternate biners - I've cleaned pitches and unexpectedly had gear zipper and drop/swing me, so in those instances it's definitely good to alternate (in my opinion anyway).

Backup spacing isn't so much a rule as it is a feel and judgment based on the terrain you're on. Adding the grigri to my setup for traverses and overhangs has definitely increased my feeling of security, and as I trust the grigri for holding dynamic lead falls as well as rappels, my need to back it up isn't as high as when I was using 2 jugs on similar terrain. Anyway, that's my experience.
Erik W
From Boulder, CO
Joined Mar 8, 2007
115 points
Oct 6, 2010
Eric W is spot on.

I just wanted to add that if you can't quite picture the ascender + grigri technique you should check out Pass the Piton Pete's Post, The Better Way to Clean and Aid Pitch for an excellent description with pictures.
From Cape Ann
Joined Apr 22, 2007
365 points
Oct 6, 2010
A better way to back yourself up while jugging is to use a minitraxion on your belay loop. Multiple loops can become an issue as I find several small loops tend to get caught more than one big one. Also whenever you back yourself up with a knot you take away the rope weight that helps keep your jumars sliding up the rope easily. The minitraxion also comes in handy setting up far side hauling when standard hauling is going to be a problem. Kevin Stricker
From Evergreen, CO
Joined Oct 20, 2002
325 points
Oct 22, 2010
Emphatically concur with above - Mini-Trax is the way to back yourself up when cleaning * a more or less plumb * pitch. I clean plumb pitches with a froggy jugging system, and the Mini-Trax is the bomb.

Caveat: if you leave the entire lead line dangling below you, so you don't have to carry the weight of it on your harness as backup knots, make double-damn sure it's not windy, and there aren't any flakes that 60m of rope dangling beneath you can hang up on.
"Pass the Pitons" Pete Zabrok
From Oakville, Ontario
Joined Dec 8, 2007
0 points

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