Managing ropes and packs
On steep alpine free routes, where you need to have extra clothing and food along, but can’t be burdened by climbing with a heavy pack, there’s an easy albeit time-consuming solution: hauling. With this, however, comes the extra clutter of the haul line and the pack at each belay ledge. I can’t count how many times my haul line has become tangled in the lead line, causing endless frustration and rearranging when I should have been climbing. But I’ve finally learned that streamlining the pack-hauling process and maintaining an orderly belay will help you save precious minutes, if not hours. Here are a few ways to go about it.
Use a Tibloc or two. While strenuous, hand-over-hand hauling is often the quickest way to get the pack up to the belay, you can rest between tugs by running the haul line through a carabiner rigged with a Petzl Tibloc. The Tibloc is a featherweight ascender that lets the rope feed smoothly in one direction, while clamping it firmly in the other. Rig a pulley by running the rope through the biner and Tibloc (oriented properly for the direction of pull) high on the anchor. Now you can let go of the haul line anytime you want, without fear of dropping the pack into an anchor-stressing freefall. If you want to save your arm strength for the climbing, you can let your legs do the hauling by bringing another Tibloc. Simply attach the second Tibloc to your side of the haul line with a long sling, then step down on the sling to pull the rope through the carabiner-pulley. While the first Tibloc holds the load, you can slide the second Tibloc and sling back up the rope, and repeat. This technique is not as fast as hand-over-hand hauling, but the heavier the pack, the more useful it becomes.
Tame your ropes. Left to their own devices, ropes will get crossed, stuck, and knotted at belays. Avoid the inconvenient lap or leg coil by using long slings to stack your ropes. Use separate slings for your climbing and haul lines, and coil each rope butterfly-style as it comes in, draping arm-length bights of rope over alternating sides of the sling. Don’t even think of pulling in the climbing rope until your haul pack is clipped into the anchor and the haul line is stacked neatly out of the way. You can prevent the climbing and haul ropes from crossing by keeping them on separate sides of the anchor.
Before hauling, make a burrito. If you are forced to bring two packs up the route, combine them into one before you begin. An empty pack can be compressed into a small wad and stuffed into the bottom of the other pack, reducing drag while hauling and halving your risk of snagging a pack under a roof.
Pack wisely. Poor packing is another cause of belay-ledge snafus. To avoid unnecessary rummaging, keep high-use items like food, warm hat, and gloves in the top lid, and put water and rain jackets right at the top of the main compartment. As I learned in a deluged rappel during my attempt on the Diamond last summer, the bottom of the pack is probably the worst place to stash your rain gear.