Sunday, February 22, 2009

Camelbak cleaning tip and climbing safety tip

Not that anyone reads this blog for random outdoor activity-related info, but I feel like writing about it anyway.

The Camelbak is a great way to take a lot of water with you, and a lousy pain in the neck to keep clean. I could never figure out a way to dry the bladder out completely, and the tiny film of water in the crevices eventually creates a film of slime.

The solution? Wash the bladder out, empty it, and then store it in the freezer. The only slime-growth time is when you're using it, so the frequency that you have to put the poison bleach pill in the bladder should get cut down tremendously. I've been doing this for two months without having to do a major clean or any sign that I'm harming the bladder.


My other, virtually unrelated tip is for multi-pitch rock climbing. There's a safety problem for every pitch after the first one - if the lead climber starts a new pitch and is going directly above the belayer at any point until the leader puts in the first piece of protection, then a fall at the wrong moment means the leader falls onto the belayer. The belayer should be anchored in so there shouldn't be a danger of knocking the belayer off the cliff, but the belayer's also supposed to control the rope that limits the fall length for the leader. If the leader's fall has knocked out the belayer or just tore the belayer's hand off the rope and belay device, then the leader could be in for a dangerous, long fall.

Several years ago as part of a party of three, I watched from below as the leader fell off and whacked his belayer in the face while the leader fell past him. The belayer got a bloody nose but held on to the rope, and the leader only took a 20-foot fall. A year later I was the leader, fifteen feet directly above my belayer, not feeling confident at all about my climb and worried about this scenario. Didn't fall, fortunately.

So, solutions. One is to use a Grigri or similar belay device that will hold even if the belayer lets go. This solution has its own problems - Grigris are heavy and don't work for double-rope climbing, which is safer than single-rope climbing.

Then there's my little solution. Before the leader starts the new pitch, the belayer ties a loose overhand knot in a bight of rope maybe twenty feet down the rope from the leader, whatever distance down the rope that is certain to be further than the distance the leader will climb before placing the first protection. If the leader falls and the disabled belayer fails to stop the fall, the knot hits the belay device and stops the fall at that point. If the leader doesn't fall and places that first protection, then the belayer undoes the knot with one hand only, while the other hand controls the belay device and rope.

The secret and problem with this solution is that the knot has to be loose but not too loose. If it's too tight, then the belayer will need two hands to undo it and won't be ready to catch the leader's fall during the time that the belayer's working the knot. If it's too loose, the knot may undo itself when an uncontrolled fall slams the knot into the belay device.

This solution can't be made foolproof and requires judgment, so it's unlikely to make it into the climbing books, but I still think it can help.

Glad to get that all off of my chest.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.