Treat everything here very carefully, only for experts
It is very messy to find information on solo climb techniques. Just trying to compile some good stuff, any help welcomed !
aka “Pass the Pitons” Pete, aka Dr Piton… The guy is a living encyclopedia ! click here for the Rock Climbing Index of Pete’s techniques. I wish that one day I’ll climb El-Cap with him.
Dr. Piton writes cutting-edge big wall technology which has never been published elsewhere. There is a big vacuum in big wall and aid climbing information and Dr. Piton’s fundamentals help more people get to the summit than ever before. When I got to Camp 5 this spring, there were five people waiting with empty bags to carry my stuff to the base. I used to have to pay people to do that.
The continuous loop System of Solo Climbing (original thread is here).
OK, this drawing is somewhat correct, but there are a few changes that need to be made.
First of all, forget the Double Tagging bit – that’s where you hang a half-body-weight load off of a fifi, and when you rap the pitch to clean it, you pull this load up. I don’t use that with the Solo Tag Rack, because it is too terrifying to have another load hanging off a fifi! I tried Double Tagging on my solo of Native Son, but stopped doing it about halfway up, and haven’t bothered since.
I do use the Solo Tag Rack when soloing. It lets me solo wearing as little rack as I like, and pull up stuff when I need it. It is tricky and dangerous, and a DFU practice – definitely not for everyone.
The beginning of the Continuous Loop is the end of the lead rope. I do it a bit differently now. I connect the end of the lead rope into the Power Point, then I run it down to the pig, and then up. It’s good to use Yates Screamers on the first few pieces when soloing. The key is to have the lead rope connected into the pig, so that gives you a bit of dynamicism in your belay system. It is a REAL disadvantage to aid solo without having a pig as your “belayer”.
It is partly for this reason I recommend people practise soloing by hauling a bag of rocks. Not only does it make constructing your anchors hugely easier because you don’t have to struggle with upside-down gear to take an upward pull, but it lets you practise hauling a big-ass pig. If you can confidently haul a large load during you practice sessions, then what is to stop you from soloing a big wall?
You might add a Screamer between your lead rope and the pig. You have to be careful with the rigging to eliminate any possibility of a Factor 2 fall. This is why I run the rope starting at the anchor, then down to the pig, then back up again, to get that extra lead rope into the system to reduce the Fall Factor.
The Solo Tag Rack contains the Lead Rope Bag, and all your spare gear. When you need more gear, you pull up the Solo Tag Rack which hangs from a fifi. I usually put a series of “slippery overhand knots” into the lead rope above the Solo Tag Rack to hopefully prevent the rack from being bounced off in the event of a fall. Whipping past your Tag Rack is never a good idea.
You will also notice I put LONG “prusik” [really Klemheist] loops into the lead rope every thirty feet or so to take the weight of the lead rope so it doesn’t slide back through your Grigri. You need to make these prusiks long so that if you fall, the rope stretch doesn’t pull upward on the piece it’s clipped to. This isn’t really a problem, though, since the Klemheist is a one-way knot, and the lead rope slips through. This I *have* tested in falls!
The other benefit of periodically rebelaying your lead rope is when you clean the pitch – each prusik takes your weight as you are jugging, so instead of the lead rope rubbing against an edge a two hundred feet above you as you jug and clean, instead your weight is held by the prusik as you clean. This way, if you do it right, your lead rope WILL NOT RUB and you can actually solo a big wall without putting ANY nicks and abrasion into your lead rope!
Think about it – there’s a nasty sharp edge halfway up the pitch. You hate to jug the rope when cleaning, because the rope is rubbing against this edge. Or is it? No it isn’t! Because you put a long Klemheist rebelay just below this edge, and your weight is taken by the Klemheist, so the rope is SLACK across the sharp edge!
Note that there is a real art and science to putting these Klemheists on the rope, and getting the tensions in the thing just so.
Other things from Pete…
Recent interview of Pete (Apr 2016):
Mark Hudon is an accomplished rock climber, having done many early ascents of long free and aid climbs in Yosemite and other places. Of special note are Mark’s early (1979) free attempts of The Salathe’ Wall, his 5th free ascent of Astroman (5.11c, 1977), his 2nd ascent of Tales of Power (5.12b, 1977), his 2nd ascent of The Phoenix (5.13a, 1978) and his 15.5 hour Nose in a Day at age 53, where he led every pitch. Mark is also a prolific contributor to supertopo and has written extensively about how to aid climb (interview here)
His website is full of big wall tips / TR and I also found another interesting TR of his solo ascent on El Cap:
Clothes and other miscellaneous
And videos from his youtube channel.
Andy is a British mountaineer best known as a big wall climber, having scaled Yosemite’s El Capitan 29 times, including three solo ascents, and two one day ascents, as well as climbing in Patagonia, Alaska, Antarctica and the Alps. He has also crossed Greenland by ski.
He wrote as well a book on soloing:
Some pants filler photo from Andy and his solo ascent of “Sea of dreams” on ElCapitan
another Solo climbing system, not continuous (tag line is free)
Be careful with your backups on the lead rope so as not to create an upward pull on the piece in the event of a fall – this would shorten the length of rope that catches your fall, and increases the Fall Factor
Good point. If possible, I try to place a secondary “Low” piece to my “Back-up” and clip it low which tightens the knot so as to reduce this from happening.
The author at Dairy Farm Singapore taking a fall using the Silent Partner 😉
One thought on “Pass The Pitons Pete and Solo Techniques”
I would like to apologize if I sound dumb, but I have a few questions about soloing. First, when using bolted anchors, do you set a piece for an upward pull? Or do you just let the weight of your haulbag counter the weight of a fall? What about when you get near the top of the wall when the bag is light or when you have no haul bag at all, like on a short multipitch or one day ascent?
And I saw on your diagram, the one with the green lead line, that you actually tie in to the end of the rope. So does that mean you untie when you get to the top of your pitch so you can rap back down to clean and release the bags, and then you tie back in when preparing to lead the next pitch? When I have been soloing on lead, I am only ever connected to the rope by my grigri and a back up knot. It seems like an extra step to me, which could add up valuable time, but should I still tie in to the end?
I have been practicing everything over and over again on my little 30′ bolt ladder I put up under an highway overpass so that I have my system down for when I get out to Yosemite in May, but there are still a few things I am trying to work out. You have been a huge help with your site and your videos and I can’t thank you enough! Maybe I’ll see you at the bridge some time.