Thursday, March 29, 2007

Gunks In 3 Days

With luck I will be climbing at the Gunks Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. The weather might actually agree...right now it looks like it won't rain but the temps are 1-3 degrees, kind of cold. It might warm up. If you are curious here are a couple of links to area websites. is a website about activities in the Gunks including rock climbing. It has a limited list of routes. It does list 'must do' routes and ones good for TR and etc. Also has some good trad advise.

NEClimbs is an extensive North Eastern States Climbing website. Lots of great links locally and globally.

Alpine Endeavors is the guiding company that I am going to take some lessons with if all works out.

Hopefully I will have some good trip reports.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Food for thought on the Gri-Gri

I posted an incident of how I was accidentally dropped a couple of weeks ago. This was secondary to improper use of the Gri-Gri. I posted a link to the Petzl website concerning the proper use of the Gri-Gri for lead belay.

Last night Leo told me that he was going give a free course on a standardized way of using the Gri-Gri for lead belay. It was not the way recommended by Petzl!!! I was initially concerned. I listened to his argument but I was not totally won over. I came across a different source concerning the use of a Gri-Gri for lead belay that supported Leo's argument. This is the page;

Regardless, I have been climbing on and off since 1995 (steady for the last 5 years) and I have never heard of a failed belay with the use of a tube belay device (ie ATC). My fall was the third failure of belay in St. John's using a Gri-Gri. I am not saying it is unsafe, but I will say it is a lot harder to lead belay. Be EXTREMELY cautious when learning to belay with the Gri-Gri and going to Leo's information session should be at the top of your 'to do' list.


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Yellow Fever

Yellow Fever 5.9 is a classic climb on Main Face. The movement is consistent and fun with a few high steps. There is one bolt about 10 meters up and 2 top bolts for anchors. It is about 25 meters in height.
This climb changed Main Face for me. Prior to climbing Yellow Fever, the only climbs I had done on Main Face were Hucuna Matata and Flaccid. I usually went to Spankies Playground.
Little did I know what I was missing. I spent the rest of the summer exploring Main Face and loving it. The rock is solid and for the most part friendly.
Newfoundland is a tricky place to learn trad climbing. Cracks here are not very consistent and vary greatly in width. You just don't get nice easy splitters. The other thing is that there are not a lot of developed 5.2 to 5.8 trad climbs, especially at Flat Rock.
New areas are opening up!!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Flacid Ledge

Flacid Ledge is a small face about 1/3 in on Main Face. The climbs are short but nice and it has an elevated belay ledge that is easy to scramble to.

1. Size Matters Not 5.11a. I have never climbed it but I am told it is nice. 3 bolts plus top anchor.

2. Flacid 5.10a. 3 bolts plus a piece of pro in the crack. Requires a small traverse above the first bolt which I have never liked. The anchors are above the top block and it is a little awkward to get to.

3. Homer Erectus 5.9. A good easily protected crack. Start on the arete below the roof and work up in to the crack. Two top anchors were place last summer by Jay.

The two climbers have a top rope placed on Flacid.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Four by Fours

I have entered the last phase of the training program, Power Endurance. This phase hurts a lot! When training for endurance, your goal is to climb a lot with out a burn. Training power, your strength fades before you get pumped. Power Endurance is the game of chasing the burn. You are seeking that deep down nasty fire in your arms and then push it as far as you can...Nasty!

Four by Fours is an exercise to reach the burn. Choose two climbs on one wall, the first should be an on site route, one you can lap a couple of times. The second should be a red point project (it should be hard for you to complete). Climb the on site, lower off and then the red point route to your high point, lower off. Start again with the on site and red point with no rest. If the arms aren't burning then the climbs are too easy.

Try to stay on through the burn because this is where the gains are made. It is also important to learn to hang on during a burn so you can get that desperate clip instead of falling.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Drop!

Last Tuesday night, I was dropped, to the horror of both Bob and me. What exactly happened I can't be sure because it happened so fast, but here are the facts as we remember them.

I was lead climbing a route on an overhanging route in the gym. Bob was belaying me using a Grigri. Both of us had begun using the Grigri for lead belay last summer. I was on the hold I use for clipping the third draw when I exhausted and dropped. I had not reached for the rope to clip nor did I give my belayer any warning. I fell and began to feel the rope take at the point I expected, about 6 feet. Just as my fall was beginning to arrest, I dropped to the ground, squarely on my back. I was not significantly hurt because my free fall to the ground was perhaps 6 feet. This is really bad because 6 feet could have been 60 feet and this could be accident report to be published in Rock and Ice and not my blog.

So what happened! Bob honestly couldn't remember what he had done to let me drop but I think we figured it out. Bob's left hand had rope burns from trying to arrest my free-fall with his non-brake hand above the belay device. In Bob's attempt to catch my fall, he re actively (and inappropriately) opened the cam on the Grigri with his left hand. This a similar motion that one would do to feed out slack when belaying a lead climber. This is easily done when the cam is partially or fully weighted...we tried it! I think the major fault comes the way Bob was taught to lead belay on a Grigri.

Bob was taught that when you feed rope to a climber, you wrap the rope as shown in the picture, place your right hand over the right side of the device with your thumb over the cam. To feed rope, you depress the cam with your thumb and pull out rope with your left hand, if the climber fall, your right hand has not left the rope (brake hand). Fine in theory but not in practice. My guess is that when I fell, Bob had his Grigri set like this and re actively grabbed the cam instead of just grabbing the rope with his brake hand. This is easy to do because it is familiar. What make this set up worse is the looping of the rope. The rope requires friction or a 'kink' for a belay device to work. With the rope looped and not kinked it feeds quite freely, great for feeding out rope but not so great when you are falling with the cam held open. The reason for teaching this belay technique is to follow the mantra of your break hand must never leave the rope. This is very true of a tube device but I don't think it holds true for an auto-locking device. I would have been safer with no hands on the rope. is a link to the Petzl web page explaining what technique they endorse for using the Grigri for lead belay. In short, the brake hand leaves the rope, holds the body and not the cam of the belay device while the left hand feeds out the rope and them the right hand immediately returns to the brake side of the rope. They also have a little cartoon of feeding out slack with a thumb on the cam and a skull and crossbones beside it. I guess I know why.

Regardless of all this, I am still concerned. I went to and searched the forum for drops with a Grigri. Quite the topic! There are two major camps: 1-grigri's encourage lazy belay habits, inattention and have a long learning curve to become proficient with lead belay while tube devices are simple and reliable. 2-Grigri's are safer because of the auto-lock feature. If the belayer is injured (rock fall etc) the climber is still safe. Valid points on both sides. The other point made was it is not the belay device's fault for the fall but he belayers inexperience.

I am very glad this happened at the gym where help was readily available and I am so lucky that the device partially caught or it would have been a 15 foot back slap. Out at Flat Rock the fall could have been a lot worse.

I can't blame it all on Bob, lack of communication on my part definitely contributed. I knew I was going to drop and I should have warned Bob by yelling 'falling' or something. That would have allowed Bob more time to prepare to catch me instead of instinctively trying to catch my fall.

This post was not to rag on Bob, I know he is very careful and knows the full impact of proper belay technique. The purpose was to highlight the pitfalls of one particular belay technique, what should be the proper technique and to explain what happened at the gym.

Remember..."A smart man learns from his mistake, a wise man learns from the mistakes of others."