Tech Tip - Trad - Packless and proud

By Jonathan Copp ,

Figure 1. The rack pack is an easy-to-arrange advent that makes descending safer. Snug it up!

The Prow in a day: You’ve been dreaming about it all week, and now you stand atop Washington Column in the fading light, having pulled it off ... almost. Across the valley Half Dome is lit up vibrant red, but all you can think about is the infamous North Dome gully descent and the treacherous “death slabs” that await below. The concept of a crux mutates from ascent to descent. Before heading off entangled in a mess of knots, coils, and loosely dangling hardware, take a few steps to streamline for your journey. Whether climbing into and out of deep canyons or scaling alpine walls where the approach and descent are far apart, you’ll face extended periods of time when you have to travel with your rope and rack on your back. Furthermore, you might need to quickly access the gear and rope for rappels and anchor building. Just like racking for a route, there is an art to going packless. The rack pack. Consolidating and keeping gear out of the way while using an over-the-shoulder single or double gear sling is simple. Take a spare carabiner and clip it to the forward-most racking loop of your harness. Now clip this carabiner to your gear sling in front of all the gear, thus holding the hardware to your side (figure 1). (You can further eradicate the “swinging- cam” phenomenon by clipping your cams in at the trigger bar, and not by their slings.) Repeat the process on the other side of your body for a double gear sling; in either case, you can add length with supplemental biners. The rack pack also holds your harness up like a pair of suspenders — especially useful when shoes and water are weighing it down. The rope pack. For comfort and accessibility, the rope pack should always be put on after and over the rack pack. Start by butterfly-coiling the rope, then seat it on your back. The two ends of the rope should exit the coil (cinch it down!) at neck height. String the strands over your shoulders and under your armpits, then loop them around your back and the coiled rope until both ends are in front of you again, at waist level. If there is too much loose rope in the system, run both ends around your body and the rope coil another time. Finally, making sure the whole system is snug, tie a square knot at your waist with the two ends. You’re now locked and loaded (figure 2). Clip n’ go. Carry a small, low-profile ditty bag that you can clip to your harness to provide easy access to your headlamp and food. Another simple detail that can save you a lot of grief is clipping your shoes to your harness with a locking carabiner. Due to the shape and stiffness of footwear, your shoes are otherwise highly likely to come unclipped while grovelling up chimneys, sliding down slabs, or fighting through manzanita bushes.

Figure 2. Keep it neat and keep on truckin’.

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