Learn This: Efficient Hauling

Master hauling for your first big wall
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Master hauling for your first big wall

Many factors affect the chances of success on a big wall, and hauling can be the biggest crux for beginners. The best techniques combined with lots of pre-climb practice can transform the daunting task of getting you, your partner, and a few hundred pounds of gear up a 3,000-foot wall into a straightforward and manageable routine. Whether the team is two large men or two petite women, this guide to hauling will help first-time big wallers complete a successful ascent.

Gear List

  • Progress-capture device: E.g., Petzl Pro Traxion or Mini Traxion
  • Haul line: 9.8mm static 60-meter rope
  • Lower-out line: 7mm or 8mm tag line, 40 to 50 feet long
  • Knot protector: Cut-off top of a plastic soda bottle
  • Swivel: E.g., Black Diamond Rotor Swivel
  • Ascending device: Grigri or ascender (personal preference)
  • Locking carabiners: At least 12
  • Two daisy chains: Adjustable or standard (personal preference)
  • Two etriers: E.g., Yates Big Wall Ladders

Step One

Attach haulbag to the haul line

  • Before leaving the ground, make sure the haul line and haulbag attach correctly. Clip the swivel, which prevents the bag from spinning and turning the haul line into a kinked mess, with a locking carabiner to the main straps on the haulbag. Attach the haul line on the other side of the swivel using a figure eight on a bight and locking carabiner.
  • Protect this knot with the bottle top by placing it on the line around the knot. This prevents the knot from getting damaged when dragged over sharp edges and rough rock.
  • Using another locking carabiner, clip the lower-out line to the carabiner that attaches the haulbag to the swivel. Clip the lower-out line below the swivel to prevent entanglement.

Style Points: There are two main straps on a haulbag that should clip into the haul line. Leave one strap clipped to the swivel with the locking carabiner. Clip the other strap to the locking carabiner with a separate non-locker. When needing a snack, water, or more gear, unclip the non-locker for easy access.

Step Two

Leader sets up anchor and prepares to haul

learn this efficient hauling 1 final
  • Have a plan to keep everything organized. Many teams spend hours untangling ropes and adjusting the anchor because they did not set it up systematically. When there are 30 pitches on a route, wasted time adds up. If possible, separate your anchor so the follower ascends on one side and the haulbag raises on the other. If the leader comes up to a three-bolt anchor, she can create a master point with the middle and left bolt, and another master point with middle and right bolt. One master point can be for the follower to jug on, and the other master point can be for hauling. This keeps ropes separated, allows space for both partners, and saves time organizing at the anchor.
  • Clip the end of the haul line to the anchor with a locking carabiner. If there is a failure in the system, the weight of the bag will drop onto the anchor instead of the hauling climber.
  • Clip the hauling (progress-capture) device to the master point with a locking carabiner and thread the haul line through. (Follow the individual device’s directions to set it up. Engage the teeth for progress capture. Some devices need to be locked by clipping a non-locking carabiner through the lower connection point, which prevents the pulley from opening.)
  • Attach an ascending device to your belay loop and the unweighted side of the rope (Grigri or ascender). This sets you up to haul the bag with the ascending device, using your body as a counterweight.
  • To back up your progress-capture device, clip a sling or quickdraw to the master point and to the haul line directly behind your device. This acts as a safety in case your progress-capture device malfunctions.
  • Yell “Ready to haul!” to your partner.

Style Points: While hauling, flake the rope on a foot or knee, then wrap a sling around it, and clip it out of the way on the anchor.

Step Three

Leader hauls the bag

  • Extend the daisies (or whatever the climber is clipped into the anchor with) to gain as much slack as possible (4 to 5 feet).
  • Have your ladders clipped to the anchor in front of you to get in a sturdy position.
  • Using your body as a counterweight, squat abruptly to jolt the bags and haul them up (try to let gravity do the work).
  • Stand up and pull in slack so the ascending device on your belay loop is close to the progress-capture pulley on the anchor.
  • Yell glorious words of strength and rage!
  • Repeat.

Style Points: Get into a rhythm and stay efficient by making big movements each time. Set up the hauling device at eye level and stand so your feet are at similar heights. If the bag gets stuck, pull up on the weighted side of the rope as you also squat down (an upside-down ascender assists with this) to help initiate movement.

Step Four

Follower lowers out the haulbag

  • Once the leader shouts, “Ready to haul,” the follower lowers out the haulbag, which prevents it from swinging across the rock and damaging the rope and the haulbag’s contents.
  • The bags should be attached to the anchor with a Munter-mule knot (see Step 5: Dock the Bag) in the lower-out line. After the leader has removed all slack in the haul line, release the mule hitch in the lower-out line, so the bag is held by the Munter. Be sure to hold the lower-out line so the bag doesn’t lose control.
  • Lower out the bag by releasing rope through the Munter until the bag is below the next anchor and there is clearly slack in the lower-out line.
  • Detach the lower-out line from the anchor and drop it. It will hang off of the haulbag out of the way and ready for the next use. Yell up to the leader, “Haul away!”

Style Points: If there are roofs or other features that can snag the bag, keep the lower-out line within reach (clip it through a carabiner on your harness so it runs through) as you jug. If the bag gets stuck, tug on the rope to unbind it from obstacles.

Step Five

Leader docks the bag

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  • Dock the bag using a Munter-mule knot in the lower-out line. This eliminates heavy lifting and allows for control when lowering out the bag later.
  • Using a locking carabiner, tie a Munter-mule knot to the master point. Tighten the Munter before fastening the mule so there is minimum slack between the knot and the haulbag. Back up the system by clipping the bight in the knot to the anchor.
  • Release the teeth on the hauling device and let the lower-out line take the weight. Use the ascending device still clipped to the rope to lower the bag slowly onto the lower-out line.
  • Now the haul line has slack and can be unclipped from the hauling device. Also remove the ascender from the haul line and prepare for the next pitch.

Style Points: Dock the bag with the least amount of slack in the lower-out line as possible. This way the haulbag is hanging at foot level, and the climber can reach into the bag for snacks or water. The bag can also be a perch at a hanging belay.

Mechanical Advantage

For big walls that take more than three days or groups larger than two people, the bag may be too heavy for body hauling alone. If the haulbag weighs more than the climber, mechanical advantage will make hauling much easier. Bring a pre-rigged 2:1 hauling system. As intimidating as they sound, these systems are helpful and user-friendly. For further guidance and instruction, check out Tech Tip: Aid - 2:1 Hauling Ratchet.

Alexa Flower ski patrols in the winter and works on YOSAR during the summer. She's climbed a half dozen El Cap routes including Zodiac, the Shield, and the Nose in a day.