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Guides’ Tech Tips

Second Coming: An Example of How to Manage Risk when Climbing

August 12, 2022 fmg-adminGuides' Tech Tips Guiding Rock Climbing Route Beta

A few weeks ago, myself and another guide were climbing with guests and witnessed an experienced climber fall and break his ankle at the crux section of Second Coming, a popular 5.7 multi-pitch climb at Looking Glass Rock in North Carolina. We managed to get the climber to the ground, splint the ankle, and help him walk down the trail to meet with the local rescue squad. While the injury was not life threatening, it resulted in surgery and an estimated six months of recovery for the climber involved. While climbing is an inherently risky activity, this particular accident could have been prevented. Read on to find out how.

The Route

Second Coming follows a beautiful crack system for roughly 300 feet up the south side of Looking Glass. The first pitch starts off easy as 4th class terrain, but around halfway up it begins to steepen gradually. The top of the first pitch is guarded by the technical crux of the route which has some polished foot and hand holds and is steeper than the terrain below. Depending on conditions and overall comfort level, this is where you’re most likely to fall, which is roughly 80 feet off the ground. In the case




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The Pre-rigged Rappel: What is it and Why Should You Use it?

June 13, 2022 fmg-adminGuides' Tech Tips Guiding

Most people know what rappelling is, but are you familiar with the pre-rigged rappel, what it is, and why you should use it? Essentially "pre-rigged rappel" means that everyone who will be rappelling from the top of a climb sets up their rappel device before anyone leaves the rappel station. For example, if you are in a party of three at the top of multi-pitch climb, all three of you would set up your rappel devices on the rope before the first person rappels. Why would you want to do this? We'll explore that below and also discuss how to set it up.

Rappelling Fundamentals

When I’m teaching newer climbers, one of the first questions I ask is, “what is our primary level of security when climbing a route?” Most times, people will answer “the rope.” Though the rope is certainly an integral part of climbing, it is only a backup to our movement. Our ability to climb is our first level of security, and then the fall protection system (rope, bolts, gear, belay, etc…) is in place to arrest a fall. While climbing up, the rope is just a component of the backup system we have in place. This totally changes however when it is time to desce




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Choosing Your First Multi-pitch Climb!

September 27, 2021 fmg-adminGuides' Tech Tips Rock Climbing Route Beta

We recently posted a photo of a party doing their first multi-pitch climb with us and had several calls from people wanting to do the same. While climbing your first multi-pitch climb with a guide is a great way to get started, not everyone wants to hire a guide; they would prefer to tackle their first mp climb on their own. With that in mind, we have some suggestions for how to choose your first multi-pitch climb because finding a route that is appropriate for a climber who is just starting to break into this terrain is a bit more complicated than finding a long, easy line: the YDS grade isn’t everything!

Following are some criteria to help you have a positive experience when you leave terra firma behind:

Easy Route Finding

Getting off route exposes the entire party to greater hazard. There may not be protection, the climbing could be much more difficult than anticipated, the consequence of a fall can increase significantly, and it wastes time (there are only so many hours of sunlight in a day).  Being able to easily follow a route saves time and frees up mental bandwidth to problem solve team protection and stance organization. It




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Unsponsored, Unaffiliated, Unbiased, and Unfiltered Gear (and Travel) Recommendations

September 14, 2021 fmg-adminGear Reviews Guides' Tech Tips Travel Recommendations and Tips

Climbing gear is great. FREE climbing gear is awesome! I mean, who doesn't love free gear? We all certainly do, but our guides also want to be able to make gear recommendations to you based on their personal favorites and not because they are sponsored by a particular company. With sponsorships and partnerships so ubiquitous in the climbing industry these days, it can be hard to know if someone making a recommendation "really" prefers a particular item or is perhaps making a decision that's influenced by their sponsorship. Sometimes you even see recommendations on a forum where the person answering says, "Even though I'm sponsored by ___________, I really do think their __________ (rope, shoes, helmet, etc) is the best." Really, I do. But how can you be sure?

Petey in his Misty Cadillac harness

Because of this dilemma, we as a company made a decision over a year ago to forgo sponsorships so we can allow our guides to recommend their favorite gear without bias. We give them a yearly gear allowance to purchase whatever climbing gear they want to try rather than requiring them to wear and promote a particular harness or brand of shoes or rope




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Simul-Rappelling: Is it Worth it?

May 18, 2021 fmg-adminGuides' Tech Tips Guiding Rock Climbing

Simul-rappelling is a technique that is touted as being a faster method of rappelling as a team of two. However, it comes with far more risk than the traditional rappel setup and requires several extra steps in order to mitigate that risk. A quick google search on simul-rappelling accidents will reveal several incidents that have occurred over the years including the more recent accident resulting in the tragic death of Brad Gobright. Read the accident report for Brad Gobright here. There is a way to simul-rappel safely which involves tying stopper knots into both ends of rope, using an autoblock backup below each climbers device, tethering each other together, and knowing without a doubt that both strands reach the next rappel station. So, is simul-rappelling worth doing for the sake of expediency?

After all the safety measures are in place, it can be argued that simul-rappelling is not any faster than a standard rappel and likely takes more time. Additionally, we’ve found that there are other methods of descent that are quicker and safer than simul-rappelling. One such method is the pre-rigged rappel, a method where everyone in t




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Train Locally, Climb Globally: The 5 C’s of Training

April 27, 2021 fmg-adminAlpine & Ice Climbing Guides' Tech Tips The Guides' Climbing Adventures

Training. It’s a critical portion of any adventure, whether around the corner or across the world. We train to get our bodies and minds accustomed to the stresses and pressures of our destination, and in an ideal world, I would want to train as globally as I climb. That being said, work and family responsibility often take priority. Otherwise, I'd be on a permanent vacation to train!

I’m guiding Denali this summer with International Mountain Guides after having guided Rainier the last few summers, and I’ve been training all spring down here in North Carolina while guiding for FMG. We have an incredible resource in forests and public lands, and I use them to their fullest extent!  Here’s how I train locally to climb globally. I have five “Cs” that I use to focus my training.

First, I work CARDIO.  I run closed forest roads. They are a happy medium between full-on trail running and pounding pavement. I’ve found I can keep my heart rate closer to the aerobic thresholds that I want on forest roads than on trails. I’ll still run trails, for sure, and especially when I’m going for a longer, distance




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Beginning Trad Rack: What to Buy and What to Skip-2.0

December 1, 2020 fmg-adminGear Reviews Guides' Tech Tips Rock Climbing

A lot has changed since our original “Beginning Trad Rack: What to Buy and What to Skip” blog post in 2017. Black Diamond discontinued the much-loved C3 Camalots, updated the C4, discontinued the short-lived X4 line, and replaced it with a new line called the Z4, which is supposed to take advantage of the best features of the X4 but eliminate the floppiness so many people found difficult to deal with. Our guides have been putting these new cams through their paces since they were introduced earlier this year and have some updated recommendations for you based on their findings. 

Standard Rack

Cams: BD Z4 0.2; doubles of C4 0.3-3

Nuts: BD Stopper set #4-13

Set of Tricam Evos, black through brown plus violet and blue regular tricams

Minimalist (cheapest) Rack

Cams: BD Z4 0.2 and C4 0.3-3

Nuts: BD Classic Stopper set (#5-11)

Set of Tricam Evos, black through brown

High-End Standard Rack

Cams: BD Z4 0.2, doubles; C4 doubles 0.3-3 plus a 4 and 5

Nuts: BD Stopper set #4-13

Tricam black-brown Evos plus violet and blue regular tricams

Rationale for These Choices

Z4 vs. C4 (




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Sport Draws vs. Alpine Draws

January 14, 2020 fmg-adminAlpine & Ice Climbing Guides' Tech Tips Rock Climbing

As a result of this video posted by Rock and Ice on their Weekend Whipper series, I have been getting lots of questions about what type of draws I use on sport climbs, sport draws or alpine draws.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdY1Ow0Q-Fo

Easy answer: sport draws. For the “why,” read below, but in the meantime, here is a list of the types of draws I carry for the different types of climbing I do:

Sport Climbing:

Petzl Spirit Draws (one extra from number of bolts on the pitch)

Trad Climbing:**

2-4 sport draws

2 over the shoulder slings (one carabiner)

2-4 alpine draws

**For a complete list of the gear I take trad climbing, see my post on trad racks.

Alpine Climbing:

1-2 sport draws

1-2 over the shoulder slings (one carabiner)

3-5 alpine draws 

Ice Climbing:

6-8 sport draws

2-3 alpine draws 

As with many aspects of climbing, the “why” choose one draw over another can be a bit confusing. Each has advantages and disadvantages, which I take into consideration when choosing what gear to carry. 

Let’s start with alpine draws. Most of us use dyneema slings and so




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Climbing Anchors by the Numbers

October 1, 2019 fmg-adminAlpine & Ice Climbing Guides' Tech Tips Rock Climbing

“Are three pieces necessary in all climbing anchors ? I only have two. What about that bomber bolt? Shouldn’t it be redundant?” 

Chances are you have come across a situation in your experiences building climbing anchors where some of these questions have come up. I know I have had a lot of questions on my instagram feed about when is it okay to have two pieces in an anchor. The answer as usual is, “It depends!” So let's analyze some of the variables involved and see if we can come up with some guidelines for creating anchors that are sufficiently strong. 

One consideration is how the anchor is going to take force. For instance, are we belaying someone up third class or super slabby terrain where most of the weight of a fall would be on the climber’s feet? Or is it higher angle with no friction created by rope running over terrain resulting in the entire amount of force being applied directly to the belay.

Force/Use of Anchor

Intended use can also determine the amount of force on a climbing anchor. If the anchor is for multi-pitch climbing and will be the attachment for the team before a lead piece of protection is place




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MOFT Knot Pass

September 25, 2018 fmg-adminGuides' Tech Tips Guiding Rock Climbing

If you find yourself needing to lower a climber more than one rope length, the MOFT knot pass is a fast, easy way to pass the knot created by joining two ropes together.  MOFT stands for munter overhand feed-through and is one of the easiest ways to get someone down quickly when time is of the essence.

AMGA Rock and Alpine Guide, Karsten Delap, demonstrates the technique in this video:

[embed]http://https://www.youtube.com/embed/ojJq-brkMZ8[/embed]

 

 




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LSD: It’s Not Just a Drug

August 6, 2018 fmg-adminGuides' Tech Tips Rock Climbing

The LSD (Load Strand Direct) lower is a safe and efficient way to lower an ambulant climber when using a plaquette or guide-plate style belay device.

When you clip the climber’s strand of rope you are defeating the plaquette device's braking properties. So now with no assisted braking feature, you have a normal style plate belay device. This type of lowering is similar to the redirected plate without having to change the system.

Remember when performing this technique a backup is recommended on the brake strand. You might also find the orientation of the loop on the plaquette to change the efficiency of this lowering method.

[embed]https://youtu.be/7vB7tMKLh-g[/embed]
Video: Austin Schmitz




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The Well-Dressed Figure Eight Knot: Start Hard, Finish Easy

July 17, 2018 fmg-adminAlpine & Ice Climbing Guides' Tech Tips Rock Climbing

Why is a well-dressed figure eight knot even important? A messy eight will hold just as well as a neat one, so what's the big deal?  In climbing, the main reason most people tie in with a figure eight (and why the vast majority of climbing gyms require it) is because it is easy to recognize and therefore verify that it is tied correctly and will perform as expected. So dressing the figure eight is an important step in tying it as it will make it even easier to identify.

To properly dress the knot we can use a technique called start hard, finish easy. We start by pushing the standing part of the rope over while poking the working end through the hole this forms.

 

 

 

Once this step is complete, the working end only passes through the knot two more times. Both of these passes should be "easy." The video below illustrates this simple process: 

[embed]https://youtu.be/D_Fmb8C_gqo[/embed]

Karsten Delap, AMGA Certified Rock and Alpine Guide

 




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