Monday 28 May 2012

Improvised Rescue skills for climbers. Lake District based courses. Sunday May 20th, 2012.

Alastair Dunbar contacted Iain at Kendal Mountaineering Services at short notice whilst visiting the Lake District on a UK road trip.

Alastair has recently returned to the UK after having spent a number of years working abroad. During his time abroad he had done a considerable amount of climbing with locals but had no experience of learning techniques from a qualified climbing instructor. Alastair came to Iain specifically interested in learning improvised  rescue techniques ie what to do when things go wrong whilst rock climbing.

The programme for the day changed somewhat upon Iains inital meeting with Alastair. It turned out that he also wanted to revisit the selection of good anchor placements and equalising anchors at climbing stances. Photo one shows Alastair attached to three independent anchors using the rope to tie in with. You can bring anchors to a central attachment point using either rope  (if you are alternately sharing the leads on a multi-pitch climb) or slings if you are going to be the one leading all of the pitches. Reading the captions on the photographs associated with this improvised rescue skills training session will give you a clearer idea of what Iain is talking about.

After looking at anchor selection and attaching to anchors we discussed belaying techniques.

In photo two, Iain is demonstrating correct practice for belaying at a stance whilst climbing. Firstly, the belay plate should always be attached to the belayers rope tie in loop and not (as people often seem to think) to the harness abseil loop. There are a number of reasons for this, firstly, by attaching the belay plate to the rope tie in loop - any load taken on the live rope (in Iains left hand) is transmitted directly to the anchors via the rope attachment and secondly, should it all have gone wrong for the climber, the belayer can easily escape the system to investigate and offer assistance; or go and get help.

We also discussed belay plate orientation. In photo two the belay plate is set up for a downward pull. The live rope to the second is in Iains left hand and the dead rope is locked off in his right hand. Note also how the plate is correctly orientated so that the locking grooves on the belay plate are on the dead rope side  of the plate.

Finally - which side of the rope tie in loop should be used and when? Basically - if the belayer is expecting a downward pull then the karabiner attaching the belay plate to the rope tie in loop should be attached to the lower side of the tie in loop (as in photo two). If the belayer was expecting an upward pull  ie lead climber has fallen off above their last runner, then the belay plate would be attached into the upward side of the tie in loop and orientated so that the live rope side of the belay plate was uppermost and that the dead rope and locking grooves on the plate were facing downwards.

Looking at anchor selection, tying into anchors and belaying techniques took us through half of the day, but already, Alastair had learned a lot of new stuff. During the afternoon, we discussed escaping the system and then went on to practise abseiling past a knot (photo three) and converting from an abseil descent to ascending the rope (photo four).

In photo three, Alastair has abseiled to within a few feet of the knot before tying a backup clove hitch well below the knot - just in case it all goes wrong!

Following this he attached a prussik knot to the rope above everything else and then attached this to himself  - weighting it so that he could release, remove and then replace his abseil rig below the knot. Once he had acheived this, it was a simple case of pulling down on the prussik until his weight was once more on his abseil rig. He could then remove the prussik & sling and backup clove hitch and then continue his descent.

In photo four Alastair had already completed the changeover  from abseil descent to ascent of the rope. This is done by firstly adding that backup clove hitch to ones harness with the rope - below everything else and then getting a prussik (a klemhiest this time) on the rope above everything else.

A footloop is then attached to the abseil backup prussik allowing one to "stand up" on the rope and attach the klemheist to the abseil loop. Once this is loaded, the belay plate can be unwieghted and removed. Upward ascent of the climbing rope is then carried out by standing in the footloop and sliding the klemheist up the rope and then loading the klemhiest which releases the weight on the footloop which can then be slid further up the rope and reweighted. The process is repeated with the rope being fed through the backup clove hitch every few cycles.

Following practising these techniques, Iain demonstrated both an assisted & unassisted hoist to Alastair before allowing him to hoist Iain. A belayer would use an assisted hoist if a second was unable to climb a pitch without support but able to pull upwards on a rope and an unassisted hoist would be used if a second were unable to offer any assistance to the belayer.

All of the photographs relating to this improvised rescue skills training course in The Lake District can be viewed here. To book your improvised rescue skills training course or rock climbing skills training course with Kendal Mountaineering services contact Iain here. We look forward to working with you.

1 comment:

Alastair said...

Thanks so much for sending through the blog post. It looks great! A great review of what we covered, with just the right amount of technical information to be clear without over complication.
I really enjoyed the day with you, learned a lot and look forward to putting it all to practice on the crags.I would definitely recommend a day with yourself practicing these essential skills to anyone interested.
Cheers and all the best.