climber

Category Archives: Rock Climbing Advice

Kelly Cordes: Head-Bashing 101

Kelly's Bloody Face

Kelly Cordes after his fall.

We all love Kelly Cordes. After all, he’s one of the few climbers out there who can keep up with me in the coveted “Tough To Kill” category. He’s also about as badass as you can get in the highly competitive “Alpine Badass” category. We all got a wake-up call when he and Josh Wharton dropped their rack on the third pitch of a 7,400′ route they were attempting on Great Trango Tower and decided to keep going! Brief story here, and a great write up you can download from the American Alpine Journal, here.

In the meantime, Kelly was climbing a sport route a few days ago, fell, flipped over and whacked his head a good one. Check out the pics below (NSFW). I heard about it when he emailed me with the attached photos and asked if I could hook him up with one of our helmets. I couldn’t resist, so Kelly now sports a shiny new Skull Cap.

Here’s his email:

————————————————————-

hey mal, how are ya? hope all’s great there.

leave it to me to make the safest climbing possible — overhanging
sport climbing — as dangerous as possible. was at wizard’s gate
yesterday, feeling good, just onsighted a super steep 12a without
getting pumped (that stuff normally pumps me out), and then jumped on
a 13a — knowing we’d tag-team it, flail up it, work on it. anyway, at
the steepest part i pitched off, and my body was fairly horizontal but
i think my foot stayed on the hold just a little longer, thus
launching me into a back flip, and somehow along the way the rope spun
me and i swung back into the wall head-first. smashed my head and
face, blood dripping into space, gnarly. fortunately my neck is fine
and i didn’t fracture my skull. really, i felt fine. lowered, put a
sweatshirt on my head, and walked out, freaking people out on the
trail, and thought about just going to the bar — fuck it. went to the
ER first, good thing — 13 staples in my head and 14 stitches in my
face and mouth. just what i need — i just got uglier.

has me reconsidering wearing a helmet even on good rock on steep sport
climbs. granted, it’s super random and rare for this to happen, but a
super light helmet might be worth my wearing. it probably wouldn’t
have saved my face, but…

anyway, blake says he loves the Skull Cap, and it looks as light and
low-profile as they come. wondering if i might be able to score a pro
deal on one? probably color blue — anything but black, i guess (too
hot). seems i have a lot of gray/silver things already, too. but
whatever. if it might work out, color would be the least of my
worries. lemme know if ya get a chance.

—————————————

Kelly, post up some pics when you get them and, uh, climb safe.

Mal

This is what 13 head-staples look like.

On the way to the bar... via the ER

CB BLAK: A Mnemonic to Save Your Ass

About 20 years ago my partner and I were inspecting the route “Sequential” in the Kloof Alcove in Eldo. I rapped off first and, just when I had gone into free-hanging mode about 5′ below the edge of the roof, one end of the rappel ropes ran through my brake hand.There I was hanging free in space, 40′ off the deck with most of the rope on the ground but only 5″ of tail of one of the strands in my hand. Holy SH*T! My partner, who unlike me, still had his sh*t together, grabbed both ropes up at the anchor and squeezed like hell to keep them from sliding around and I was able to quickly rapped down on the single line.
So here’s what I do now, EVERY TIME I go on the rope, either to climb or to rappel. I repeat a mnemonic (like SEReNE but actually useful. See my post here.) I made up: CB BLAK. I say it every time. It’s my mantra and I repeat it to myself before I climb up, lower off, rappel or anytime I make any transition move. CB BLAK. Every time.
Stands for Check Buckles, Belay, Landing, Anchors, Knots
Buckles
Duh. Make sure they are buckled correctly and that your harness is snug.
Belay
Confirm that I’m on belay. I do this, not just when I’m about to lead or TR a pitch, but also when I’m about to take and lower at the top of a sport or gym route. Eye contact with your belayer is good.
Landing
Good one for starting a rappel. Can you see BOTH ENDS of the rope ON THE GROUND? If not, tie knots.
Anchors
Check all that are appropriate. Keeps me attentive at the top of a sport route and makes me check one last time before I start to rap. If you’re starting to lead a route high up on a multi-pitch route, is the belay secure for an upward pull? Based on what I see at the crags, I’d say usually not.
Knots
Check all of them all the time.
Climb safe,
Mal

Why I Hate Cordalettes

Malcolm Daly, Trango founder, trying to figure out why he would ever use a cordalette.

Last summer when I was belaying my partner on the Bastille,  another climber came in from the side a began to set up a belay about 15′ away. I was at the big ramp on the top of the long first pitch of the Bastille Crack and he came in from Wide Country/XM and was headed up and right to finish with Outer Space. The belay there is a splitter crack in great rock with plenty of cam and nut placements available. He quickly sank in two cams and a nut, whipped out his cordalette and, in 60 seconds, knotted up a perfect SERENE Anchor, clipped in and yelled “off belay”!

Not too bad, I though, he didn’t even waste much time. But things went down from there. His partner arrived, they re-racked the gear and then led off right to the hanging dihedral that is the first pitch of Outer Space. The problem instantly became obvious. Like EVERY cordalette anchor I’ve ever witnessed, this one was perfectly oriented to equalize the load of the hanging (or standing and leaning back) belayer. As soon as the leader put in her first piece it was clear to me that if she fell, the anchor would get loaded, not in the 6 o’clock direction in which it was oriented to equalize, but at 2 o’clock. Sure enough, when she boomed off at the top of the pitch, the belayer was first yanked to the right (2 o’clock) then, when the directional nut (where the leader changed from traversing to climbing up) blew, yanked further up and right. The lowest piece in the cordalette troika popped out and, fortunately, the other two held and that was where the epic ended. I asked the dude if he was okay and he responded with, “Yeah, I sure am glad I had a SERENE anchor set up.”

So, not only was this dude clueless as to what had happened, he was glad that he had done the wrong thing.

My bottom line is that I think climbers are over-thinking anchor
systems with all this talk. Blown belay anchors are extremely rare yet
we lose sleep over them like they were killing people right and left.
They’re not. Maiming and death come from bad belaying, not wearing
helmets, having running protection pull out, rappelling accidents and
getting lost or benighted. I’m aware of 3 anchor failures in the US in the last 30
years: one was from clipping into an
American triangle that had decomposed webbing. The other 2 were both
from the total failure of perfectly set up SERENE anchors that weren’t
multi-directional.

Again, I urge you consider where you are spending your energy. The
single most important skill you need to have in your tool box is to be
able place and recognize bomber protection, whether on lead or while
setting up an anchor. If you get to the end of a pitch and you don’t
have the right size piece, or if the rock is all choss, your first
instinct must be to move to a more suitable location. Only if that is
completely out of the question should you worry about equalization or
load distribution.  Choss is choss and a SERENE anchor will only go so
far.

The Best Way to Rig the Lower/Rappel off of a Sport Route

Here’s a cool method for topping out on a sport route that eliminates the need for daisies or chicken slings. Better still, the climber re-threading the anchors will always be secured through at least 2 points.

The leader climbs normally until they reach the anchors.

The leader then clips each anchor with a 24″ runner rather than a draw. Check that you’re still on belay and that your belayer is paying attention and lower.

When the second gets to the last draw before the anchors, she unclips the draw and clips it to the other strand of rope.

At the anchors she unclips one of the runners from the rope and clips it directly to her belay loop. Then the other.

Now, still on belay through the last bolt, plus being clipped in directly to the two anchors, she unties and re-threads the lead rope, or even better, pulls up 6′ of slack, pushes a bight of rope through the anchors, ties a F8 on a bight and clips in with a locker or two.

Now the leader “takes” to check the system then unclips and cleans the runners to lower off.

During this transition the leader is never off belay and is always clipped into at least two pieces.

The two runners at the top are nice because if gives the climber room to make the transition without having to have extra gear.

This system works well regardless of whether the climber lowers or raps.

Climb safe,
Mal
@maldaly

The Best Sleeping Rig for Pickup Trucks

Hidden in the back of my 2003 Toyota Tacoma is super-simple, super cheap and comfy sleeping rig. It goes in and out in less than a minute, and I can get two bikes and 3 full-height ActionPackers and a cooler inside. I can hang out and cook inside if the weather blows and can hide all my gear underneath the full-width bed. Read on…

Sleeping deck in "half" mode

Sleeping deck in “half” mode

Check out the split deck configuration. You can see how it’s made in this photo. A ¾” plywood (don’t try to use ½” ply. It sags.) bed is supported by two sections of 2”X4” that are diagonally braced. The other part of the bed simply rests on top of the shell lip. The bed is held in place by 2 cam straps that pull the wood diagonally down and into the corners of the truck bed. Suck up the front one really tight, then the back one just snug enough to hold it down. I built up small ledges on the middle side of the posts on which to rest the other half of the bed. This is how I set it up if the weather is crappy. I have a low beach chair which I can slide in and then I cook and read from inside.

Full bed mode. Sleeps 2

Full bed mode. Sleeps 2

Here you can see the double bed rig set up. The second half of the bed is simply a flat ¾” plywood board cut the same size as the main deck. When it’s stored on top of the main deck, as in the previous picture, there is room for a lawnmower or two bikes. Just slide it over and you have a double bed. On this bed I stapled some scrap carpet so it’s more comfortable. In some previous beds I glued a foam layer between the carpet and boards thinking that I wouldn’t need a ThermaRest. Nope… Still needed that. I’ve talked to a lot of people who set their bed level at the top of the wheel wells, thinking that they wanted the extra headroom. BS I say. That completely cripples your under-bed storage space and—what do you need headroom for? I’m only on the bed when I’m sleeping and I usually sleep lying down.

Built-in bottle opener with cap catcher.

Built-in bottle opener with cap catcher.

Here’s a nice detail: notice the bottle opener on the center post. The old chalkbag is to catch the bottle caps. To fool the cops in Utah I bought one that says Coke rather than Budweiser. The blacked ribbed tailgate cover sucked. It was so slippery that even when flat, things would slide off of it. Sooooo.

tailgate cutting board

I took off that slippery black plastic tailgate cover and screwed on a plywood one. It’s a cutting board, knife holder and cupholder. The cutout perfectly fits a JetBoil for no-spill tailgate coffee.

side loaders

Here’s another good trick. The picture on the left shows a Yakima Side Loaders I’ve bolted through the shell. I put them on to support a safari rack I use when the Yakima cross bars aren’t enough. On the right, you can see that, inside, I hung bolt hangers from which I can hang water bladders, trash bags, clotheslines or whatever else I feel like.

General Hints:

  • If you’re buying… get a shell that is raised up above the top of the cab. It’s not so much about the headroom inside, it’s about the height of the door. It’s much easier to get in and out as well as fitting in road bikes easily, etc.
  • Again, if you’re buying be sure to get a shell with a liner. You can see it in the bolt-hanger picture. Not only does it prevent the shell from getting loaded up with condensation while you’re sleeping inside, it’s a perfect mate to hook-side Velcro. You can stick stuff all over the place, including…
  • Get a battery powered LED light bar. Glue hook-side Velcro to the back and then you can stick it anywhere inside the shell. Glue a couple of pieces of soft side Velcro to the back window (You can see Velcro circles in my half-shell picture) and you have a perfect kitchen light.
  • The side window on the front right side of the shell folds up. This is HUGE when loading the back. Be sure to get this feature if it’s an option. It’s usually called a contractor’s window.
  • You NEED a boat hook to grab stuff that’s way up underneath and pull it out. Some people have rigged long sliding drawers to make access easy but I think that’s overkill. I use my cheater clip stick and screw on a painter’s hook that costs 79 cents at McGukin’s. A broomstick works great if you’re a trad climber.
  • It’s not a bad idea to augment the cheeseball twisty latches and lock that came on your shell with a gate hasp and padlock.

Parawing

I travel with a MSR (formerly Moss) Parawing. This is an amazing piece of nylon which will keep rain and sun off, even when it’s blowing 50 mph. It’s by far the best piece of nylon I own. If I set it up carefully, I can back the truck underneath and have a beautiful and welcoming “porch” under which to hang out and drink afternoon margaritas. It’s insanely expensive and worth every penny. Get the 19’ version and buy 4, 24” pieces of rebar to use as stakes. Be sure to get the rebar “caps” or you’ll chew up your shins when you get up to pee in the night. I replaced all the guy lines with at least 30’ feet each of that cool reflective tent cord. I think they call it “Nightline”. Don’t forget to bring a BIG hammer for the rebar. I carry a 3lb sledge just for this purpose.

So if you’re out in the desert or camping at a crag somewhere stop on by for a first hand look. More than likely I’ll have a cool beer or a margarita available.

See you soon,

Mal

got stump?

I continue to be amazed at the support that the ice climbing community shows for the Ouray Ice Park. Sure, it’s a unique resource that draws ice climbers from world-over, but I think there’s more going on than that. Maybe it’s a community that knows they have created something cool, or maybe it’s just a warm place for ice climbers to gather. Whatever, last Sunday night in the Main Street Theater I, once again, was staggered by the generosity that ice climbers can show when they see a direct benefit.

The got stump? auction raised right around $8,000 this year bringing the total raised by a dirty t-shirt to over $44,000. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

Read the got stump? chronicles here.

The vision for the Trango athlete team is to find climbers who embody our brand’s values and support them in their climbing endeavors. We focus on the character of the climber, their passion for the sport, and their desire to contribute to the community.

Meet the Team

Featured Events

There are currently no upcoming events.

All Events

Partners

The American Alpine Club American Mountain Guides Association Access Fund Leave No Trace - lnt.org

Archives

Authors

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmail
eGrips Tenaya Fast Rope Descender

© Trango - All Rights Reserved