Sunday, March 30, 2014

Equipment checklist - climbing gear

With only six more days until I depart, I am starting to pack.  There are plenty of days and time to pick up anything missing plus I can always grab some last-second things in Kathmandu.  The point of this post and many that follow is to document what I intend to pack.  I have pictures and explanations of all the equipment.  Today's post or at least this post covers my climbing gear.  

Crampons - close-up view
1.  Crampons with anti-bailing plates (orange things) and tip covers (black/grey things on the pointy ends).  These puppies go on my climbing boots and keep me from slipping on firm snow/ice.  Crampons are the most important pieces of equipment for safety - at least as far as the lower body is concerned.  I also have the tip covers on my crampons and use these throughout the expedition because they protect my pack from getting pierced and they weight much less than an crampon bag.  Highly recommended.

Ice axe
2.  Ice axe (piolet) with leash and tip covers:  The ice axe is to the upper body as crampons are to the lower body.  I use the ice axe for upper body purchase and for self-arrest (stop yourself from sliding down the mountain).  The tip protectors are used for transit and get left in the expedition bag once I am on the hill.  They add unnecessary weight but they sure do save bags.  

3.  Climbing harness:  I use a standard alpine bod harness because it is relatively light, easy to put on and take off, and I can use it with mittens without having to take them off.  This harness has four accessory loops that I find particularly useful - especially when I am a little light-headed and cannot locate a carabiner with ease.  

4.  Ascender (jumar) with two locking carabiners:  The ascender is for ... you guessed it .... ascending (going up) the fixed ropes.  A cam mechanism with sharp pointy teeth clamp down on the rope and only allow the device to slide up the rope.  Think of shark teeth.  If you pet these teeth one directly they are merely bumpy - petting them in the wrong direction causes some slight pain.  Any pressure in the downward direction causes the teeth to bite into the rope and for the device to stop (along with you).  The two locking carabiners keep you attached to the 

5.  Figure Eight (8) with locking carabiner:  This device enables the climber to clip into a rope and abseil (rappel) down without a huge hassle.  Many times high up on mountains, fixed ropes are frozen and cannot pass through the usual rappel device.  A figure 8 makes the rappel easier to setup.  I have mine clipped into the short end of my cow's tail.

Cow's Tail
6.  Cow's Tail:  There are many renditions of this setup but the one I found most useful was depicted by the simple diagram below.  As you will see, the two tails have locking carabiners that connect to the ascender.  The short tail connects to the bottom of the ascender (and to you) and the long tail gets connected to the top of the ascender and holds the fixed rope in place.  As you see from the diagram to the right, I have my figure 8 connected to my abseiling loop already.  I would not climb with that complete setup - too heavy.  Instead, I would either use only the carabiners if there were little chance of a fall or I would use the two carabiners with the ascender for steeper ascents.  For easier descents, I would merely clip in with the carabiners for safety and abseil with the fixed rope wrapped around my arm.  On steeper, less safe descents, I would use the figure 8.  For a really thorough discussion, I recommend you visit this page. <----click font="" left.="" text="" the="" to="">

7.  "Double" Dynex runner:  This cord is for attaching my ascender under some conditions that do not warrant the cow's tail.  Actually, I bring this along regardless of it's intended use.  These runners are almost always useful at some point in some situation.  They weight next to nothing and offer backup for my cow's tail.

8.  Wire (non-locking) carabiners:  Now is a good time to introduce the difference between locking and non-locking carabiners.  Locking carabiners have various mechanisms that "lock" the device from opening.  Under conditions where you life depends upon the carabiner to hold you, locking it makes the most sense.  Non-lockers are good when speed is the most pressing issue and safety - although unimportant - becomes less relevant in terms of the carabiner than the safety that comes from descending quickly.

9.  Trekking poles:  I usually find these helpful when I am carrying a heavy pack.  The trek into the south base camp may require some hefting, I decided to take these along.  The sharp points can be saved by tip-savers (i.e., rubber cups that fit snugly onto the sharp ends).  

10.  Climbing gear bag:  A very light mesh bag is useful to keep all these elements - save for the sharp objects - together in one nice neat location.  Scattered gear gets beaten up and that beating can shorten the life of these critical, safety tools.  I love this mesh bag because it weighs nothing (maybe an ounce) and stores a ton of gear without holding water/ice/snow.  

A final note.  Just for accounting purposes after the trip,  I included a picture of my 10 toes - partly by accident.  Note that I will come back with all of them because of the equipment I packed for my feet.  Expect that in my next post.   

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