How to cut / chop a climbing rope

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After some mileage indoors or sport climbing, your rope may become fluffy, frayed and worn.  Generally about a meter infront of the tying in section of rope.  Look for signs on the outer sheath, and also test the core (bobbins strands) by feeling and bending the rope… it’s very unlikely any of these will have snapped, but they do become stretched/worn/twisted inside the sheath (mantle).

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Fluffy section above

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Tired core on the left

This kind of wear is very unlikely to happen on a trad climbing rope, because its caused by the repetitve resting or falling on to the quickdraws.  Though it is very possible to get a nick or cut in a trad rope, and the same process of cutting or chopping the rope may be necessary.

I start by feeling the rope and getting the section where it becomes ‘good’ again.  It’s not fluffy, bendy, and holds a nice loop as you pinch it together.  This is the safe part you’re looking for.

I then tape with good quality duct tape as tightly as possible around the section I am going to cut.

Heat up a sharp knife with either a few candles or lighters, or on a gas hob… take care not to burn yourself and do it either outside or near a few open windows, as this is smelly and gives off fumes.

Cut straight through the duct tape.  Then use a lighter to melt the duct tape into the shealth and into the core, so that it all welds together and won’t fray.  I then roll the still hot edges on some newspaper to round them off a bit and avoid any sharpness.

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Be sure to clean all the black gunk off the knife before you put it back in the draw and your non-climber wife/girlfriend/mum finds it.

After chopping the rope 3 or 4 times, take a moment to consider the state or the middle section, the rope is probably quite tired, and could do with being retired.  For £150 the price per usage is negliable… check out V12 Outdoor shop in Llanberis for some great deal, and you get 15% off, if you are or have been on one of my Rock Climbing courses.

5 best “First E1s” in North Wales

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Rock climbs that anyone would be proud of ticking, and that are particularly suitable for your first step into the grade.

For the ease: Bella Lugosi is Dead

I have coached many people through this route as their first E1 on my climbing courses.  It’s steady enough, with some small fiddly gear required, but your weight is always on your feet and the holds are obvious.  Run up the crack, placing tonnes of gear until it gets thin, then place some bomber micro wires or Brass Offsets, and do a couple of moves trusting smaller foot holds. At the top, the gear is very good again for some longer reaches. Job done.  Not the easiest here, but almost!

For the borderline HVS: Looning the Tube

This route is in my opinion at the very bottom of the E1 grade.  If you’re not very confident, maybe tie your belayer to something.  After a couple of very thin moves above the pipe, mostly protected by a good bolt, you clip a mega chain. Then fire in some cams and finish up the slightly awkward off balance split in the slab.  It might feel tricky, but it’s not.

For the technically footed: Precious Metal

Probably the most obvious section of rock to climb at this area of the Great Orme. Visibly from way off, it’s the diagonal ramp that entices you in.  Quite small feet and smears are required, but the gear is good. Maybe wear some newer shoes.

For the marathon climbers: Cemetary Gates

An absolute classic from Brown and Whillans.  Not the easiest here, but a proud E1 for anybodys first.  The gear is great and take loads, because you will place it. 35m of broken crack climbing and looking after your arms to avoid over pump.  It’s an incredible climb in an even better position.  One of my all time favourites.

For the jammers: The Grooves

Another outstanding climb from the Llanberis Pass.  This time a bit more hard work and slightly more bicep action… but it’s a safe as houses, plugging in cams and bomber nuts all the way.  If you’re up there, the E2 finish up the Overhanging Arete is unbelievable terrain at that grade.

Good Luck, and give me a shout if you need any help or check out my climbing courses page.

Rock Climbing belay

Just clip everything

 

Multi-pitch Rock Training Course

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Last week I was out climbing with Graham and John, working for the Joint Services Mountain Training Centre at Indefatigable, Anglesey (JSTMC).

Day 1: Single Pitch Award Training, (SPA) at Holyhead mountain.

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Graham acsending a rope, and self belaying back down.

Day 2: SPA training and an introduction to more advanced rescues, sport climbing and stripping out routes, at Dinorwig Slate quarries.

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Me on a cold, windy day up on the Cromlech

Day 3: Multipitch Training, climbing uber-classic routes on Dinas Cromlech “Flying Buttress” and “Spiral Stairs” in the Llanberis Pass.

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John and Graham about to second Pitch 4 off “Flying Buttress”

Day 4: Rock Lead Climbing training at Craig y Tonnau in the Moelwyns, to escape the weather. More advanced rescues and improvised solutions to multipitch problems.

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Me coaching Graham a little on “Diane’s Approval”

Day 5: Little Tryfan for multipitch leading of routes.

 

Concentration and Writing Complicated Articles

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Just tried to finish Part 2 of my hoisting articles for my website, reasonably complicated and would normally take me 20 minutes to get it right, then bang out the HTML.  But with Jacqui knocking around the house, incoming emails, new North Wales Limestone book at my side, new BASI manual in front of me, French homework for tomorrow and food, I have found the maths slightly tricky to get right first time.  So if there are any mistake in the article, I apologise.  But generally it takes people about 10 minutes to get back to me after first publishing to pick up any bugs.

So, with that done, now need to start thinking about Winter articles with a Ski/Snow/Season type subject.

Hoisting

Trying to bang out an article in 30 minutes.

New Bolt in Belay of Solstice and Equinox

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Last night I attended a Bolting Workshop at Bus Stop Quarry, delivered by Chris Parkin.  As part of remaining current and striving to improve our knowledge technically and professionally, us members of the Association of Mountaineering Instructors (AMI), register a certain number of days CPD (continual professional development) per year.  Last nights workshop will count towards 0.5 of a point towards those CPD required.

AMI Bolting Workshop

Chris demonstrating the placement of a stainless steel expansion bolt and hanger

Firstly we talked through the professional ethics and law to do with having a good understanding of bolts and their quality… If a bad one were to fail and an instructor’s client injured, there may be a case for negligence.

Then Chris drilled and put in a 10mm stainless steel expansion bolt, nut and petzl hanger.  Rated to about 25kn, we tested it to 10kn (1 tonne), and it held totally fine.  Should a bolt like this receive excessive use over 5 years in a softish rock like the Slate Quarries, then it may start to wobble and move around.  Recent testing by Mark Reeves showed bolts in this category still hold to about 1kn outward pull.  Which isn’t in my opinion overly dangerous as was reported by BMC etc, but I certainly wouldn’t be top roping groups of clients on those bolts.

He then placed an alternative which is a 6mm rod hanger, held in by resin.  It was a hot day, and after less than 1 hour, the bolt tested to 5kn of outward force (6-7 climbers all hanging directly outwards from it, and it would hold)  These bolts are believed to be slightly more suited to the slate, as long as they are not constantly being loaded sideways to create twisting.  The correct placement by the person doing the drilling and glueing is therefore extremely important.

Bolting Slate

Old bolt circled, New bolt with arrow.

I then asked Chris’ opinion of the single bolt belay that exists above Solstice and Equinox (used last weekend).  It is an 8mm bolt with hanger, the bolt sits inside a barrel in the rock… Both the bolt and barrel looked to be heavily corroded.  There is a sling placement around a big bolder to the right that forms the main part of my belay, but it would be tragic for the bolt to not be backed up by a climber and failure to happen.

So, Liam and Konrad were properly keen to get the drill going and resin in a new bolt for practise and to work the new skills we’d just seen.

There is now a new 6mm resin bolt directed towards the climb which should be good for 20 years at least, and would probably hold 30kn directionally (2 ford fiestas).  Considering the traffic these routes get, I think this new bolt is a good thing.  Shame about some of the old bolts which are there, I think the hangers were taken from them for no good reason (that I know of).

Think I’ll go and have a look at the ‘Gnat Attack’ belay next.  Safe Climbing people.  T

2 day Trad Climbing skills for Alpine Trips

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This weekend, I had the joy of working with Ashok, whom like Geoff from the week before, also has a trip up Mont Blanc planned for August.

The Aims of the course were to take an indoor climber and teach all the necessary skills to be a competent trad climber, skills that will definitely help in the Alpine climbing.

Day one saw some of the worst weather of the whole summer so far, so we immediately retreated to the Beacon climbing centre.  Teaching people indoors, although not as pleasant, is far better set up for understanding the systems.  I’ve never seen an introductory Rope Access course taking place on an oil rig in the North sea!  Yet we strive as hard as possible to teach climbing techniques and skills outdoors where the gear placements and the belays are often awkward.  Well, it is definitely easier to teach some stuff indoors, such as abseiling and all the different methods of attaching oneself to a belay:

2 bits of gear, sling clipped to both, big overhand knot in the sling, clove hitch rope from harness to carabiner on the sling.

2 bits of gear, clove hitch the 2 ropes from harness to each individually

2 bits, run each rope through a carabiner on those bits of gear, then back to a clove hitch on HMS carabiner on harness.

These methods obviously all work for 3 pieces of gear in the rock (or trees etc), with slings, single rope or half ropes.

Beacon Climbing Centre

A keen young audience watching on whilst I was teaching

After talking through and then practising all of these methods, and looking at each of the nuts, hexes, cams and sling placements (The Beacon centre has holds that are designed to take nuts/cams and show this), we did a bit of abseiling in prep for the next day.

Come 3 o’clock the weather had dried up for about 30 minutes. The wind was blowing a breeze from the SW, so with a bit of local knowledge, I thought we could try Bus Stop quarry for a quick hit, and put into practise some of the things we’d seen indoors all day.

Bus Stop Quarry Climbing

Equinox or Solstice at Bus Stop, I can never remember which?

After a route and a half, the rain came again to call an end to a intense learning day.

Sunday, we visited V12 Outdoor shop, where I gave Ashok a 15% off voucher as my client, because I am a member of the Association of Mountaineering Instructors (AMI), so he bought a few sets of nuts and a rope.  Then we headed straight to Cwm Idwal Slabs.

I’ve never really seen the slabs that busy, there were a large contingent from the Peak Climbing Club, two groups from the Aylesbury Climbing Club, another MIA and her two clients and a group in front of me climbing as a 4 (very inefficiently and dangerously too).

We shot up the slabs on the right of the Charity crack, to sort of devise our own route and stay out of everyone’s way.  I placed about 15 runners on each pitch to show as many combinations of trad gear placement as possible, and get some of the shine off Ashok’s new kit for him 😉

Idwal Slabs Rock Climbing

Belay #3 on Charity, Idwal Slabs

After a few pitches, and letting Ashok build belays when he arrived below my belays, I was confident in his ability to determine the difference between a 2/5 marginal placement and a bomber 5/5, and also knew he is a very switched on guy.  Above is the photo of us switching gear and alternating the Lead for Ashok’s first go on the ‘sharp end’ of the rope.  The weather started to come in, with thick cloud rolling over the Glyders onto the slabs.

Lead Climbing Course

Ashok Leading up the final pitch

Once at the top, I thought we’d try a quick 2 pitch route on the Holly Tree Wall… “Original Route“, first done in 1918 which was a massive massive effort back then… The foot hold that you have to use to do the hard moves has been used by just about every person to ever do the route… it is very very polished and slippery!  The rain from the previous days didn’t help either.  Once Ashok arrived at the belay, having done the hardest move of the weekend, we left a bit of gear behind and abseiled down so as not to miss his train.  I then short roped us off the slabs and down the scramble back to the bags.

After a very fast pint of cider in the Fat Cat, I dropped Ashok off at the station, and will hopefully see him again later in the Summer and possibly in the Alps for some skiing.  T

Mont Blanc Preparation Course

Tryfan East Face
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A few weeks ago I was contacted by a company that run Mont Blanc trips out of Chamonix.  They generally run a 7 day alpine climbing introduction, which ends in the summiting of Mont Blanc.  One of their potential clients was unsure whether he was fit enough and skilled enough to make the most of the trip in late August or whether to wait a year and put some more time in.  I agreed to take him out and assess his skills and fitness against that required to climb a 4000m European peak, on the basis and experience I have from this Alpine Climbing Course.

After a few phone calls to Geoff, to organise kit and accommodation, we met up in the Bryn Trych the night before to plan a big day out.  As Geoff had not visited Snowdonia before, I wanted to link up a big day involving Llechog or Clogwyn y Person Arete to try and get a summit of Snowdon involved, maybe with Lliwedd etc.  As hard as I tried I couldn’t think of anything on the Snowdon Massif that could compete with a scrambling day in the Glyderau.  (Let me know if you can think of anything)

East Face Tryfan

Nor Nor Buttress grade 2/3, East Face Tryfan

So we met 8.45 in the Siabod Cafe for a quick panad, before embarking on the day.  Starting from Gwern Gof ….. (the one below Tryfan) … we smashed it up to the Heather Terrace on the East Face in about 45 minutes.  Geoff keen to show his fitness, and me keen not to lag behind!  But it showed it’s toll when Geoff ran out of water before we started the first scramble…!  Nor Nor Buttress variant.

I led each pitch with a focus on fast movement and efficiency rather than education of the rope systems I was using.  With a 50m rope, I body coiled all but about 12m, and made short fast pitches mixed with short roping the less serious sections.  We reached the top junction with the North Ridge at about 11 am.  Went over Tryfan summit, then to the south summit, and down along to the start of Bristly Ridge.

I wanted to find the most challenging route up the ridge, so stayed true to the line straight up and found some very challenging steps.  More than grade 1 for sure.

Bristly Ridge Glyder Fach

Steep sustained gully up Bristly Ridge to Glyder Fach

We topped out from the ridge as the clouds were rolling up and over the plateau of Glyder Fach.  It was like arriving at a 1970’s film set of the Moon landing with a trigger happy dry ice operator.

Glyder Fach

The Moon, I’m mean Glyder Fach

With a quick and irresistible photo on the Cantilever Stone:

Cantilever Stone Glyder Fach

Geology Rocks dude!

We then headed with very little visibility over the top of Glyder Fawr, which is a shame because the views of the Carneddau and Snowdon hills are utterly stunning.  Down the horror show scree slope towards Y Garn, then into Cwm Idwal.

We hit the Idwal cafe for an ice cream at about 4.30pm, a lot of terrain covered and the aim of the course (a bit of rope work and generally walking a long way over mountains fast) was accomplished.

Thanks Geoff for the wonderful day out and great chat along the way.  Don’t go back to work too soon, there are many adventures awaiting you.  Good luck on Monte Bianco. T