Work in progress but all good stuff, just waiting for illustrations and proof reading.
I’ve been excited to write down my system for a while now. My aim with this write up is not to give you a broad coverage of all the available options for gear and technique but simply to show my favored way to perform each operation on the wall. By using this system you should have a good base to make improvements and adjustments as you hear more interesting tips and tricks. The soloists technique choice is after all a wonderful smorgasbord of nerdy technical delights!
Obviously all of the gear that you need for a partnered wall will be required while you’re solo. There are a few additions however that are jolly useful!
Belay Device: Gri-Gri
My assumption here is that you are on a mostly aid wall, with free climbing well below your limit (5.8 with a wall rack and approach shoes is where I draw the solo line in most conditions). You’ll always have a Gri-Gri on your rack so why carry anything extra? Obviously the Gri-Gri doesn’t self feed very well but after a few goes you get into the action of squeezing the handle as you move up.
I recommend drilling a small hole in the front of the device and adding a tiny loop of 2mm cord. This can be used to tie a keeper cord onto the biner you use for it. On a 30 pitch route you’ll unclip your Gri-Gri about 120 times and this cord will prevent a lot of sadness should you suffer a bout of Dropsy. The loop can also be used to run the device upside down, death mod style should you have to do some harder free climbing. More on that further on.
I like to use a DMM Belay Master as it keeps the Gri-Gri nicely oriented and removes any fear of cross loading the device. You may well have heard of a british soloist breaking this biner in a fall on El Cap which must have been terrifying! To try and prevent this twisting motion wrap a thin strip of duck tape round the top corner of the biner to stop the Gri-Gri sliding onto the spine. Also use some duck tape to ensure you don’t loose the black clip by covering the gap on the back.
Backup biner: ISC Mongoose Twislok
This biner is crucial for the soloist. You must always tie backup knots as the Gri-Gri is not infallible. I like the ISC as it is huge and the locking system is only 2 stage which is easy to operate one handed which can be crucial! DMM do the Boa with a twistlok mechanism which would probably be just as effective but I’m yet to try it.
You’ll need 2 or 3 standard length prussic for the occasional rebelaying of the lead line. This prevents the weight of the lead line self feeding through the Gri-Gri which at best is unnerving when you arrive at the bottom station and at worst could give you an extra 50 feet of flight time! Prussic rebelays also allow you to hang the rope so that you don’t have to jug over sharp edges or ledges, this is great for your rope and your sanity, more on how later.
Far end hauler: Petal Mini-Traxion.
Although a slight luxury item this small addition to your hauling rig can make a massive difference. It will only really appear useful when its required.
The mini-traxion replaces the knot at the top of the swivel on the hauling rig. This makes the length of the haul line adjustable when you are at the bottom station but also allows you to haul from the bags if you have to, technique follows. It is always best to tie a backup knot tied snug to the mini-traxion and clipped into the top of the swivel as well. This means your lower out won’t be on the teeth of the mini-traxion and that the bags are clipped in redundantly.
Rope bags: Big and Cordura!
The prefect solo rope bag is, in my opinion, hard to come by. I have a couple of Bluewater ones which are pretty close. I bought them in 2005 and now they are showing signs of wear but still work fine. On partnered walls they make great food bags too. You are looking for a tough but lightweight Cordura bag with a strong clip in loop, a reasonably stiff collar and a drawstring.
Personal Bag: Hollow chalk bag
This is a very important addition to a soloists equipment. Anything can happen while you’re out on lead and you alone have to deal with it. A chalk bag with most of its insides removed (ones with a zip on the front work extremely well for this) or some other small pouch is crucial. In here there should be at least: spare topo, some food, gel, sterri strips, duct tape, ibuprofen, small headtorch,
So thats all the extra toys you’ll need as far as I can think. How to use them and in what order will follow shortly!