Saturday, October 17, 2009

Cool Product Pick of the Week

Unlike most, this week's cool product pick really is cool! I finally had a chance to try out the Petzl Pirana rappel device that the UPS guy brought me. It's made to fit tightly on the Attache model carabiner also from Petzl which I already had. Unlike a traditional figure-of-eight, you can load the rope onto the Pirana without removing it from that carabiner, making it much harder to accidentally drop it. You can also vary the friction by routing one or both of the rope strands behind the two little ears on the bottom. In the photo, I'm using what Petzl calls "Fat-ass Mode" to get the maximum friction.

Minimalist Ascension Rig

All you need to ascend a rope is a pair of locking carabiners and a prusik loop. They stow pretty easily on your harness:

I had the best luck with asymmetrical "D" carabiners. I also used 6mm prusik cord which worked nicely on my 9mm rope. Getting the length just right took a bit of experimenting. It ended up reaching just above my shoulder when I stepped on it:

With a three-wrap prusik hitch and a girth hitch around my foot, it is just long enough to give me room to grab the rope above the rappel device and below the prusik hitch.

Instead of a second chest prusik, you can use two carabiners with a garda hitch. It will act like a ratchet. This is what the garda hitch looks like loose:

When you pull the slack through with your brake hand, the hitch walks up until the load strand wraps around the spines of the two carabiners causing them to clamp down on the brake strand. Try it sometime. It is rock solid!

It's a bit hard to photograph yourself ascending with a garda hitch so you'll have to trust me that it works. The key is to take big bites with the foot prusik. Wrap the brake strand around your hand so it doesn't slip and haul the slack through powerfully as you stand up in the foot loop. It takes practice. After a few trips, I rappelled halfway down the huge 20-foot cliff I found, tied myself off, set up my minimalist ascension rig, and ascended back up. You need to tie the garda hitch below your descender, obviously:

This can all be done with gloves on. From here, you have to stand in the foot loop while you remove the rope from the descender. This is a busy task so no photos. Once your snug against the garda hitch, you can take a break and shoot a photo of yourself hanging five feet from certain death.

I wouldn't want to haul myself up El Capitan using this rig just because of the friction pulling the slack through the garda hitch, but as a self-rescue device, you really can't beat it. It's cheap and it doesn't tear up your rope.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Healing Waters of Lee Creek

My friend John and I floated Lee Creek from the usual ACC takeout down about ten miles to what they call Natural Dam. Because of water levels and some other reasons, this section that didn't get cleaned during the 2nd Annual Lee Creek Cleanup Day in September that drew about 200 volunteers. I don't know how much two guys in one canoe can do to clean ten miles of river bank, but we did our best to get the really ugly stuff. We met a landowner about half way down who was kind enough to dispose of the used tire and other trash we collected. That lightened up our load so we could pick up more stuff. It was my first time ever in a canoe and the third time for John's 2 1/2 month-old border collie who has no idea how incredibly lucky she is. At the end of the day, it was much less about picking up trash and much more about two friends and a dog enjoying a beautiful stretch of river that doesn't get paddled very often. We we're the only ones on it because no one else wanted to "waste" a day of great whitewater somewhere else just to paddle ten miles of Class I. It hardly felt like a wasted day.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Recondite Quips and Hockey Fight Clips

"Pneumothorax: If you don't know what it is, don't carry the 16 gauge needle to treat it."
--Canyoneering Adventure Blog

Monday, October 05, 2009

A Fact:

If you're a liberal, Japo-Hungarian Muslim with vegitarian leanings, it doesn't pay to open your mouth in Arkansas on game days.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Cool Product Pick of the Week

Aside from the obvious use for this product, it can also be used to keep a banana from getting crushed in your backpack.

Real Arkansas Kayaking Blog!

My friend Matt has started a blog with some really great kayaking trip reports from Arkansas and other places. Unlike me, Matt is not a complete fraud. He actually does go kayaking occasionally. You can check him out here.

Matt doing an ender at Fisher's Ford. Photo by Jeremy Meyer.

Rappelling on a Munter

I haven't done anything worth blogging about in months and I certainly haven't done anything worth blogging about today, but I did go rapelling. My kayking friend Tom, swiftwater rescue expert and guru to all things roped, said the hot ticket for low-speed cliff jumping was 9mm NFPA static rope on a Pirana descender from Petzl. I found the rope and the special carabiner that works with the Pirana in town but I couldn't find the Pirana. I ordered one but it hadn't come in yet and I didn't want to waste a perfect day off waiting for it. Fortunately, I have internet and the internet says you can rappel on Munter hitch:

It doesn't look like much but it does work! It also twists the rope (just like the internet said it would). After a few rappels, I had the confidence to leap past the overhanging lip without choking up on the rope allowing me to recontact the rock with my feet instead of my knees. Much more comfortable! On my fourth trip, I stopped mid-abseil to try locking off the Munter with a mule hitch like I saw on the internet. The internet was right again! It's important to hold your tongue just right when you're suspended five feet from certain death aiming a camera:

My rope was already developing a pronounced twist after that descent so I decided to call it a day. I'm approaching this rappelling thing the same way I approach all my adventures: I'm using such extreme caution that it is virtually impossible that I will suffer any injury worse than a sprained pinky, and probably not even that. Yes, my adventures are so unadventurous that they are almost not adventures at all, but they sure are fun! Here I placed the backpack far beyond my rope and used a wide-angle lens to give the illusion that the cliff I selected was taller than it really was. It was actually about five feet tall:

Nothing too exciting, but I did get to build an anchor for the first time and prove out my gear under fairly non-lethal conditions. My project for next time is to ascend using prusiks. If that goes well, maybe I'll have the guts to tackle a ten-foot-tall cliff!