Friday, May 29, 2009

Wet Weekend

It is suppose to rain all weekend. I have no intentions of trying to get outside. Just received my MEC order of 30 bolts and 10 rap anchors. The way I am going this year, it may last 1 month;).

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

End of an Era

Well I found out some pretty interesting news today.  Jay is planning on leaving.  For those of you who don't know who Jay is, it is your loss.
Jay has had a huge impact on the Avalon Climbing scene.  He moved here from Ontario a number of years ago and totally fell in love with climbing.  Over the last several years, Jay has managed to work just enough to allow himself to climb full time.  He is the author of some of the hardest routes in Flat Rock and has done tremendous things to improve climbing in Flat Rock and the Avalon.
He has climbed the world over, including Squamish, Mexico, California, Thailand to name a few.  He has also had a big impact on various climber including myself.  He took me under his wing for a week once upon a time.  I learned more in that one week than the previous three years.  Leo has said that climbing with Jay was always intense.  He knew just how to push you into doing your best.
Last year while traveling, Jay discovered surfing.  Just like climbing, he took to it with rapture.  It is his new love.  As he described to me tonight, "surfing in Newfoundland is a suffer-fest".  He has decided to launch a new career in remote access work.  He will be away training for the next month.  The next step will be to start working with a view to move out of the country.  The intent is to go somewhere where the weather and surfing are better.  To quote Jay, he is retiring from climbing.
So we are loosing one of our strongest climbers and one of our most dedicated developers. Good luck and happy travels!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Kim's First Day of the Season

Kim was very happy to be finally climbing outside.

Tak Topping Out

Tak is topping out at the new face.  He is ascending the fixed line.

Jan Mari

German Engineered

This is the anchor I was razzing Jan about.  The left bolt has a large pear shaped biner on it.  2 biners are clipped onto it plus Jan belay device (he is bringing up Bob on top belay).  The first biner is Jan's safety going to his harness (orange).  The second biner is a quickdraw going to the second bolt, backing it up!  So his anchor is essentially a biner and a quickdraw.  GERMAN ENGINEERING!

The red sling is a release for Jan's reverso and the second biner on the right bolt is my safety.

German Engineered 5.8

Jan, Bob, Kim, Tak (Mori) and myself were climbing at our new face on Saturday.  We ascended the fixed line and set up two top ropes on the anchors we put up last time.  We top roped for a bit and then Jan and I decided to start bolting. 

We tied a figure 8 on a bite in the middle of one rope and clipped this into the anchor.  This allowed us to rap on a single strand each.  I lowered first drilling the bolt holes.  Jan came after me cleaning the holes and then placed the bolts.  11 of them over 80 feet.

The climb starts in the left hand corner and follows a series of laybacks and face climbing for the first 35 feet as it trends left.  Then it starts coming back to the right up some ledgy face moves.  The last 8 feet are the crux.  It is a mantle onto a foot wide ledge with poor hands and then a high reach to the belay ledge where you smear your feet to gain the ledge.  The last moves are what gives it a 5.8, the rest of the climb is more like 5.6 to 5.7 climbing.  It is called German Engineered because earlier in the morning, I was razzing Jan about his belay anchor.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"5 Climbers"-More Information

A bit more information concerning the 5 climbers who needed to be rescued on the weekend.

These people were NOT rock climbers.  One of these fellas had just learned how to rappel via the military.  Him and a couple of buddies thought they would try it out at Flat Rock.  2 of them became stranded when they could not ascend the cliff.  These guys were not prepare for any sort of self rescue.  They did not have any significant rope management skills.  They were WAY out of there depth.

Every year people with varying degrees of outdoor experience, think rock climbing would be fun and try it with little or no preparation.  These people need to be rescued by the High Angle Team and are regarded as 'rock climbers' when referred to on the news.  This reflects badly on our rock climbing community.  We appear to be a burden on city resources as each rescue costs several thousand dollars.  

Try to be good ambassadors of our sport.  Educate people if they ask, be polite and keeps our area's clean of litter and unsightly messes.  Hopefully people will remember the positive and not the negative.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

High Angle Rescue

There was a high angle rescue last night to get 2 rock climbers off a face out in Flat Rock.  They started as a party of 5, then half way up they ran into 'problems'.  Only 3 managed to make it out and they called for help.  There were very few details on the news.  They said they were 'rock climbers' and they didn't have enough rope.

I would love to have more details about this.  If you have anymore information please either email me or post it under comments.

Monday, May 18, 2009

New Top Anchors

Bob, Jan and myself went climbing  Saturday morning.  We did several things at the new face.  We placed a fixed line up the easy line we climbed last time.  This will allow us to just grab an ascender device, clip it on the fixed line and go.  This is apposed to lead climbing it then following. 
 Once on top, we placed 2 sets of top anchors over lines that Jan and I were looking at the last time we were up.  Then we set top ropes over each line.  I had done some cleaning on my line previously, so Bob was eager to try it out while Jan belayed him.

I went over to Jan's line and began cleaning.  The top half was quite clean but about 1/2 way down I ran into a couple of loose blocks that had to come off.  There was one really big one that is definitely hollow but I couldn't budge.  Two of us will have to get at it with crow bars.
  In the last picture, you can see a block that I have just pulled off.  It is about 10 feet below me and picking up speed as it whistles towards Jan (he was actually no where near where it landed).  The next time we're out, we are going to start bolting.  My line is a little stiffer than I thought, probably about 5.9.  Jan's line has a couple of potential routes in the 5.7 range.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Cleaning a Face

There was a loose block on a proposed line.  It had to go!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Route Development: Bolting

Now you have this stellar line. It is clean and it is ready for bolts. SO you take out your hand drill and place a 1/2 inch bolt every 3 feet, measured on a grid...done. Not only will it take you forever to bolt but it won't flow and you just destroyed your line. On top of that, most people will believe that most the routes you put up suck.

Bolting is a very important skill for developers. You can learn a lot off the Internet but choose your sources wisely. One of my favorite site is the American Safe Climbing Association ( It has very good discussions about the art of bolting safely. Make sure that you buy top quality gear. No one wants to fall onto a bolt out of the local hardware store.

Glue-in bolts are used on sea side cliffs such as Flat Rock. The salt water can significantly increase the corrosion of mechanical bolt. The glue creates a chemical bond between the bolt and the rock so salt water has no effect. These bolts are the strongest and longest lasting hardware available. Unfortunately they are difficult to place. The hole has to be the exact size and depth. You need the right amount of glue and they have to be place without introducing air into the hole. It takes practice and best learned from someone else. You  also have to wait 24 hours for the glue to cure before you can climb on it. That usually means the next time you get out there.

Mechanical bolts are great. Not as strong as glue-ins but still totally solid with 26kN shear force or about 4000 psi.  To put this into perspective, your spine will snap at 2000 psi and the hardest lead fall may approach 1000 psi.  They are fairly simple to place and they can be climbed on immediately.  How they age is dependent on the type of rock they are in and the environment.  Note: the bolts I am talking about are the Hilt KB3 3/8".  These are a beast of a bolt and have a great reputation and well...the only compression bolt currently supplied by MEC.  Chances are that these are the only mechanical bolt you may come across in the Avalon.

If you intend on placing bolts, research them carefully.  Yours and anyone who climbs your route lives will depend on it.  I learned by drilling by hand and placing glue-in in boulders.  It took about an hour per hole.  It didn't take long for me to get a hammer drill to cut that time down to 5 minutes.  I started placing mechanical bolts 3 seasons ago.  Please go with myself or any other person who places bolts to see how it is done first hand.

Now choose where your bolts are going to go.  Gyms keep the spacing about 3 feet apart.  This is very close for outdoors.  On average they are placed every 5 to 10 feet.  Try to keep them uniformly spaced so it predictable when the next bolt is going come.  If there is a place for pro, think of it as another bolt and keep the spacing uniform.  The first bolt should not be higher than what would be safe if you were bouldering (ie less than 10 to 12 feet).  The next bolt should be quite close (3-5 feet) to avoid decking should the second clip be fumbled.  Then get into the regular spacing.  I prefer spacing of about 5 to 7 feet.  10 feet feels runout to me.  I have taken a 25 foot whipper and it wasn't fun. 

Several thing have to be taken into account when placing a bolt.  Try to place the bolt on a flat solid bit of face.  If the surface is irregular, the hanger will not sit flush.  DO NOT place a bolts in hollow sounding rock or in large blocks (they do come down).  DO NOT place a bolt with in 6 inches of a crack/fracture in the face.  Take into account where the biner will hang off the bolt.  It should not be levered over an edge.  Also think of how the draw will hang off the bolt; will it be in the way of a important hold.

Keeping all those things in mind, climb your route with the intent of finding the spots to put your bolts.  Try to place them where there is a good clipping hold.  You should be able to reach the bolt with your elbow to make sure all climber can reach the bolt off the clipping hold.  Mark the spot with chalk from your hand.  Climb to the next spot for a bolt.  Also mark any spots where pro is to be used.  Once this is done,  step back from the face to examine the spacing and the line.  Make changes to get the line straight and uniform.  Once you are happy, it is time to drill and place bolts.  But that is for another day.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Route Development: Cleaning the Face

A clean face is truly under appreciated until you have climbed on loose terrain. Flat Rock is very clean, mostly because of winter wave action. At Manuels, we had to work to get the established lines clean.

We all know that "climbing is inherently dangerous and may cause injury or death!". It is written on any and every piece of gear we get. When your climbing, it is assumed that you are checking for loose rocks and being careful. Despite your vigilance, there may be a block waiting to kill you. People who develop area's and put up FA's are under NO obligation to assure the line is clean or even safe. Just look at the number of 'R' rated and 'X' rated climbs there are at various areas. The FA author deliberately made it dangerous. But it is his right to do so. There are a breed of climber who don't feel alive unless they are risking it all. Regardless, don't assume a line is safe just because it is established.

Every developer has a different style or set of priorities. I want to develop safe moderate climbs so making sure they are clean is important to me. The importance of cleaning struck me very loudly last summer. I had established a short trad line called the Arborist. Several weeks later, Jan was climbing the same route when he pull out a large block. Some how he managed to grab the block in his arms as he was falling onto his cam, which was less than an inch from where the block used to be. He managed to pitch the block away from his belayer, Kim, so she would not be pummelled to death. I was not happy to hear about this close call on a route I had established. Jan went slightly more right up the crack system and got into terrain I had not realized was loose. Never again!

In the previous post, I had mentioned TRing your proposed line. Before doing that, do an initial cleaning. Set up your rappel and make sure you have a prussic back-up on your slack side. This acts as an autoblock while on rappel. Your rope needs to be managed carefully to avoid dropping blocks on it. On your first rappel, bring a small crow bar and/or a hammer and wear a set of safety goggles. Look for loose blocks and rocks. Anything that is loose should be pried off. Use the hammer to check for hollow sounding flakes. If possible, these should also come off. Many ledge are cover in moss and dirt. Rip as much of that stuff off as possible. Anything big needs to come down in this initial pass. Make sure to look to the sides of your line because you may not come directly up your rappel line. And to state the obvious, MAKE SURE NO ONE IS BELOW! I also kick off as muck liken as I can while I descend.

Now comes the TRing. Assure the belayer is not in the fall line and is wearing a helmet. Climb your anticipated line with a wire or nylon brush and a nut tool. The brush is to clean off ledges and moss/liken. The nut tool is to dig out cracks and other features. Wearing safety goggles would be smart. Keep in mind where your belayer is and direct debris away from them. A pebble from 80 feet really hurts. Do this several times taking slightly different lines so a fairly wide area is cleaned. Once the route is decided upon and it is clean, it is time to bolt.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Route Development: Finding the Line

OK so you have found a face you want to develop.  It has great features, it is steep and clean, has a great view of a hot girls backyard.  Now what! 

Generally speaking, you look for that first classic line and then the first easy way up.  Betty (5.3) is a classic line at the Gunks.  It stares at you from a distance.  It is an obvious classic.

Once you have found your classic line, get to the top place an anchor for top rope.  I personally place 2 bolts at the top of the face.  I use these for a TR anchor but once I have bolted the route, they are also used to safely gain the top bolts of the bolted route. 

Begin top roping, climbing several variations of the line until you find one that works the best.  Begin looking for key holds and places for protection unless you want it entirely sport.

Frequently you find features while climbing that you can't see from the ground.  This may alter your intended route.  Be open to these features because they are what makes the route good.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Route Development: Choosing Your Choss

I have done a lot of reading concerning route development, cleaning and bolting.  Some people have asked me how I go about putting up new routes and such.  If you go on line to places such as Rock, you get many opinions and a lot of 'if you have to ask you shouldn't be doing it'.  I personally think that is a load of shit.  There are many things I have taught myself from the pages of a book that would have never happened if I waited for someone to show me.

The first thing is to choose your choss.  Most people put up routes in an area that is already developed.  If you do this, be sure to respect the style of route already existing in the area.  Don't put up a sport route in a trad area but don't feel bad about bolting near a crack if that is an established style for the area.

The Gunks in NY is a hard care trad area.  Only the park rangers are allowed to places bolts and these are usually only rap anchors.  In Europe, everything is bolted, including cracks.  A typical European rack is a set of draws.  

Newfoundland has a pleasant mix.  We have trad routes with just top bolts.  There are sport routes with rap anchors and then there are the mixed routes.  Mixed routes are the obvious combination of sport and trad.  A mixed route is bolted accept when there is a good place for pro.  It can also be a trad route with a couple of bolts in run out or difficult to protect places.  This is classic of Flat Rock.  There are not many spaces left in Flat Rock for new routes unless you want to develop over water.  If so, there is a shit load of potential.

An ideal place for development should have reasonable access to both the top and bottom.  This allow one to set up top anchors easily and you can walk away form the bottom.  Faces over water up the ante significantly.  You can't bail and walk away.  If you get injured, you have to climb out.  If it is multi-pitch over water... have fun!

The ideal face should be fairly clean with no or few ledges.  Vegetation is vary hard to clean off and it can always grow back.  The ledges where it grows can harbor loose rocks and debris. These ledges can also break bones if you land on them.  Liken can be difficult to clean off so the less the better.  If there is liken, wait until it is very dry, then it comes off pretty easy.  Avoid faces that have a run off.  They are always wet or stay wet longer than other faces.  They also tend to be heavily vegetated. 

Faces for sport climbing should be 100 feet or less.  A 60 meter climbing rope is 200 feet long so a route less than 100 feet allows for a direct lower.  Above 100 feet, you need to set up a rappel anchor somewhere in the middle to allow for lowering off.  Many sport route are set on the first 100 feet of huge mountains.  This is common in Red Rock, Nevada.

The face that we have recently found meets all of the above desirable characteristics.  I can't wait to get at it.

Future topics will likely include, picking a route, cleaning the face, choosing bolt placements, types of bolts, how to bolt and FA edicate.