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The building of a rock route - II (ropes)


So if you decide to become a route builder, there are a few things you need to get started. I am assuming that you already know what you need to know as far as rigging goes. Rigging refers to the stuff you need to do to keep yourself from getting killed while you work your project.


You can check out the video below of Paul and Sean working a new mixed ice route. This stuff is not for the faint of heart. Many are the time I tried prying away a microwave size block and dam if the fridge, two bar stools, and all the dishes didn't go with the thing unexpectedly.



The gear involved for a gig like this you should have hanging around your gear room.

Rope: You are going to need an extra rope. You certainly don't want to be using your ultra-skinny, ultralight redpointing shoelace for this gig. Swinging around on a skinny rope is just asking for trouble. Swinging around on any rope hundreds or thousands of feet in the air is asking for trouble no matter what, don't go slapping fate in the face. Another use for old ropes is to cut it up into lengths for anchors.

Cleaning a route with a partner belaying

Rarely on multi-pitch routes do you start banging in your permanent anchors. Not to say you don't, but often as not, your moving those things. Sometimes more than once. I will usually place bolt hangers and a big old chunk of 8mm rope and equalize that. Most times I will leave a mammalian or a couple locking carabiners. If you're leaving your stuff at a popular crag beware that it will likely get stolen.

Some people have no problem leaving ropes out to the elements for extended periods. I may do this, but it depends on the circumstances. Critters are my main personal concern. Those things will get curious and taste your rope. So be sure to check your line thoroughly before you start climbing on it.

You can only leave the rope out in the sun for so long. If you are leaving a rope out for such an extended period that it is damaged by the sun, you should ask yourself if you have time for this project. One thing folks don't like to see is an old rope hanging for weeks at their favorite climbing area. (So be sure to getter done!!).

The other thing that will damage your rope to the point of failure is rockfall. While this may be site specific if you are on a long multi-pitch, it is a possibility worth considering. this is one of the main reasons I hate jugging up a single fixed line that has been exposed to the elements for a length of time ( other being critters as I mentioned earlier).

Never underestimate how quickly a loaded rope will cut

Limestone and quartzite are notorious for producing extremely sharp edges that can cut a rope with minimal effort. If your cord is running over any edge, you have the choice of taking your hammer and smashing that edge to smithereens. Not near as common is laying out a pad of some sort for your rope to run over. If I am jugging the line and coming back to the top station, I might use my pack or old jacket. Don't underestimate the wear factor here. Many didn't and a few of those folks who didn't are dead now.

For now, let us stick to a single pitch route. Sometimes you may have to rap into the section you want to start top-roping. In most cases, this can often be from trees or some other natural piece of protection. ( You really shouldn't place more bolts than you need to, if you do have to be sure to over-drill the holes so that you can erase any evidence of them being there.) This is quite a common practice on newly discovered cragging area.

Let's talk about static ropes for a minute. Most developers will never know the pleasure of jugging up a solid cable. Static lines are so SWEEET! Plus they handle edge wear a lot better than your typical dynamic climbing line. Don't know the difference between the two types, get out of my face. You are so many years from touching a drill they will likely popping hole with lasers when you get around to it.


They are expensive and specialized. However, if the price is no object, buy a spool. I scored about 300 meters of it one time doing an Environment Canada gig up on the Columbia Icefields. ( Here is a little known fact. Paul Valiulis and I carried up about 60 pounds of the static line so that Greg Golavach, Andrew Shepard and Peter Dean could drop a line the Grand Sentinal's, Cardiac Arete 5.10d. This tatic saved them weeks of work. After they were done, I had to go back to pack the gear out. Nobody mentions that in the first ascent guidebook)


The Grand Sentinel, shot the day we carried static lines in for the boys


If you can get your hands on a static line, it is nothing short of exceptional when it comes to safety and the ease of jugging up a line that doesn't bounce or stretch with every movement. Those ropes have long ago departed to rope heaven. I still think of them fondly. These days I am only using old climbing ropes. Single lines for jugging and 1/2 ropes cut up for anchors.



This is the Enviroment Canada gig I worked on where I scored the static lines.

To cap it off:


1 - Make sure you have the time to finish what you started. Mark Dube's rope is still hanging off the backside of Sleeping Buffalo for over 20 years now. Sure he has plans of returning one day jug up that rope and finish that wicked overhang.


2 - Don't leave your ropes out longer then you have to. This sounds like # 1, but I am talking at a popular climbing area. You are dealing with a real variety of personalities. Some take offense to the fact that you are creating something. I have lost several pieces of crap ropes over the last 25 years.


3 - If you are leaving ropes out to jug up at a later date, be aware of critters and rockfall. I often place an intermediate bolt every once in a while (15 meters). This reduces rope stretch and hopefully if the rope is damaged hopefully it is above the bolt. (you never know what is going to save your bacon in this game)


4 - If you are new to the game, stick to shorter one pitch routes. You will learn a lot and finish a route. Taking something on that is too big is going to require a lot of commitment. If you screw up an anchor or bolting pattern you don't have to rap six pitches to fix it.


5 - Pad any sharp edges. A weighted rope rubbing in the same spot day after day is not a good idea. Don't add yourself to the number of dead climbers who made this mistake


6 - Buy a static line if you plan on doing this a lot. There are folks like myself who do very little climbing but spend countless hours dropping rock, chipping holds, and hanging off the end of a line





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