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Leading questions

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Postby rhyang » Wed Dec 30, 2009 3:23 pm

Downclimbing comes in really handy in backcountry / alpine climbs too. One example is the Matthes Crest traverse. I strongly suggest regular downclimbing practice.
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Postby SpiderSavage » Wed Dec 30, 2009 3:48 pm

Been there done that. Here's what you do:

1. On a bolted route you leave your least favorite biner at the highest bolt and lower off. Otherwise place a piece of solid pro that you will loose. Lower carefully as far as you can. If that piece fails you're in for an extra long ride (done that too).

2. When you've lowered below half-rope, stop and build a good anchor. Tie in direct and pull your line from above.

3. Rap from there and clean what you can. You're going to loose gear but WTF it's only money. If you can rappel from above to retrieve your gear later then there is no problem at all.

You've got to think like a spider. :wink:
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Postby ksolem » Wed Dec 30, 2009 5:38 pm

phlipdascrip wrote: ...I have never heard of anyone having to down-climb who wasn't soloing.


My experience is the opposite. I have downclimbed while leading many times as have my partners. Often the retreat is followed by a successful attempt with the knowledge gained from the first go.

I do not recall ever downclimbing on a solo, or seeing a soloist take a step back. I did, once, stop in my tracks while soloing and go through a serious "get my sh*t together" episode but that's another story...
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Postby phlipdascrip » Wed Dec 30, 2009 6:31 pm

ksolem wrote:
phlipdascrip wrote: ...I have never heard of anyone having to down-climb who wasn't soloing.


My experience is the opposite. I have downclimbed while leading many times as have my partners. Often the retreat is followed by a successful attempt with the knowledge gained from the first go.

I do not recall ever downclimbing on a solo, or seeing a soloist take a step back. I did, once, stop in my tracks while soloing and go through a serious "get my sh*t together" episode but that's another story...


Guess it's more common than I thought! Getting off track is a logical reason to climb back down, the other reasons mentioned here sound more like opting for it over rapping though.

As for soloing, Alex Huber soloed a route on the Grand Capucin (Mt Blanc massif) in 2008 I think it was which doesn't have an easy descent, so he down-climbed the entire route he came up on (UIAA VII or so). I've also read more than once about soloers who got stuck and had to climb backwards.

//EDIT: What I meant is you're basically always choosing to down-climb over leaving gear behind (to rap from), as I doubt there's ever no alternative to down-climbing - except for when you're soloing. Or isn't it?
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Postby ksolem » Wed Dec 30, 2009 6:50 pm

phlipdascrip wrote: the other reasons mentioned here sound more like opting for it over rapping though.

As for soloing, Alex Huber soloed a route on the Grand Capucin (Mt Blanc massif) in 2008 I think it was which doesn't have an easy descent, so he down-climbed the entire route he came up on (UIAA VII or so). I've also read more than once about soloers who got stock and had to climb backwards.

//EDIT: What I meant is you're basically always choosing to down-climb over leaving gear behind (to rap from), as I doubt there's never an alternative to down-climbing - except for when you're soloing. Or isn't it?


Actually the thing I am thinking of is the desire to do the ascent free. One climbs up into a cruxy section, learns things like where the best holds are, perhaps a sequence of moves etc., becomes too tired to proceed but has not yet used aid. In this situation I will try to downclimb to avoid using aid. Then if I get through the section on a second go I can claim a free ascent. Lowering, hanging or rapelling means defeat. Downclimbing without aid and then climbing through free means success.

Yes I have seen a soloist downclimb but it was, as you describe, not to retreat. Just the chosen way down. And I’ve seen soloists back off big wall aid climbs.

Never saw a free soloist do a forced retreat yet. I’d probably walk away from that scene.
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Postby Tom Fralich » Wed Dec 30, 2009 6:58 pm

In my opinion, the best solution for the problem in the OP's question is:

1) Build a bomber anchor wherever you can
2) Belay the second up to that anchor
3) Begin a rappel retreat from the route

No one has stated this explicitly. Sure, the lead climber could rig a rappel from the bail point without bringing the second up. But if the leader is more than half a ropelength out, the second would need to untie from the rope and the leader would have to arrange another rappel anchor before reaching the second. In my opinion, no one should ever be out of contact with the rope on a multi-pitch climb...leaving the second stranded at the lower anchor while the leader arranges the rappel is a bad idea.
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Postby ShortTimer » Wed Dec 30, 2009 7:54 pm

Like Kris, I have downclimbed on lead many times. On one route I downclimbed about 25 feet to the last bolt 3 times before I finally figured out how to get past the crux. Downclimbing 25 feet beats the hell out of falling 50+ and is one of the best skills to learn. There is no risk of injury if you can downclimb, where as falling always has that risk.
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Postby ksolem » Wed Dec 30, 2009 8:29 pm

On one memorable occasion I downclimbed from the crux to the belay on P2 of Turbo Flange on Tahquitz Rock. Anyone familiar with that route will know what I am talknig about.

Tom Fralich wrote:...leaving the second stranded at the lower anchor while the leader arranges the rappel is a bad idea.


Yeah I've been goin' off topic. Tom's point is a good one. When the leader of a party of two with one rope passes the middle mark a few pitches up the commitment gets real. When I climb at a place like The Needles where the routes are mostly multi pitch with long pitches I prefer using double ropes, usually two 8.5mm x 60M.
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Postby dan2see » Thu Dec 31, 2009 3:12 am

I've been in that sort of situation a number of times, on sport crags, and on ice. We usually both carry more than one rope to the route, so it's a simple matter for the leader to drag two ropes.
Then we can both rappel from the top. That eliminates a lot of solo/downclimb/backclean extras, which can all be pretty risky.
I know that rappel can be risky too, but it's simple and routine.
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Postby gregorpatsch » Thu Dec 31, 2009 7:05 pm

Tom Fralich wrote:In my opinion, the best solution for the problem in the OP's question is:

1) Build a bomber anchor wherever you can
2) Belay the second up to that anchor
3) Begin a rappel retreat from the route

No one has stated this explicitly. Sure, the lead climber could rig a rappel from the bail point without bringing the second up. But if the leader is more than half a ropelength out, the second would need to untie from the rope and the leader would have to arrange another rappel anchor before reaching the second. In my opinion, no one should ever be out of contact with the rope on a multi-pitch climb...leaving the second stranded at the lower anchor while the leader arranges the rappel is a bad idea.


Another good option, thanks!
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