Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Wall Basics

Recently I have developed an interest in Big Wall Climbing. A big wall, as considered by the climbing community, is a technical climb that takes the average paced team at least 2 days to climb. I'll clarify here: a technical climb means a vertical wall, not a several day hike up the side of a mountain. Sorry but I get this question all the time. This requires climbers to haul all of their climbing gear, water, and food with them for the duration of the climb and causes them to sleep on natural ledges like this one or on a portaledge. Don't worry we sleep with a harness on so it's pretty safe.

There are many different styles of climbing that are involved in climbing a big wall. It is a combination of traditional climbing, aid climbing, and sport climbing. All of these styles take a fair amount of time to master within themselves which is why climbing a big wall takes a combination of experience and time. One of the biggest appeals to climbing a wall for me is the amount of knowledge it takes to get yourself up the climb. It is the most involved type of climbing in rock climbing which creates scenarios of reasoning, improvisation, and recollection.

Depending on the length of the wall a team can be hauling anywhere from 80-200+ lbs of gear. This will consist of mainly water weight since there is no source of water on the route, food, sleeping bags, clothes, storm gear, emergency supplies, a small stove, a small radio and a few beers. The largest factor is water weight which is directly related to length of route and a team's pace (the more time spent up there the more water a team must take). Of course this extra weight really slows a team down so climbers will typically ration water and take as little reserve as possible with them. Sometimes going light and fast is safer than bringing all the extras along. On top of this a portaledge my also be brought on the climb if the route has no natural ledges to sleep on. This is decided by the team on the ground by studying a topo (a climber's map corresponding to this wall) and gathering information from other parties who have done the same route. A team will also carry a rack of gear (seen below) weighing up to 40 lbs and two two ropes with them: one to climb with and one to haul all of the gear with.

All of this gear is hauled on a separate line (rope) that is specifically chosen for such a job. The line is called a static line meaning it won't stretch. Now maybe I should claim that we do in-fact "carry" this massive amount of weight with us so we look like a group of Greek God but that just simply wouldn't be the truth. As mentioned above we actually haul these loads over a pulley. We clip this pulley into an anchor and run the static line through it, the bags on one side and our body weight on the other. This allows us to use our body weight + a little force to counterweight the bags and haul them to the high point. Just incase one was wondering, teams used static lines for hauling. This way after the pulley has been set up and the rope is weighted it won't stretch an extra 15%. This extra stretch just causes us to haul extra distance. Who wants to haul 3500 ft on a 3000ft climb?

I will add more as it becomes pertinent to the trip reports I add in the future...

No comments:

Post a Comment