Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cragmont Park Climbing

After my anchoring class, my friend and I tried out some climbing at Cragmont Park. The wall is relatively small and is practically in someone's backyard. If you turned around there is someone's yard right there and there isn't even a fence. We tried two climbs there.

When you arrive at the park the left path is to the base and the right path is to the anchors.

To get to the anchors you just hop over this short wall.

It looks like there are at least 3 sets of anchors here. Someone showed us where one set of the anchors were and told us the route was called "Farewell to Arms." From a Google search, it's a 5.10a route. Just to be safe I tied myself off to a tree to reach the anchors. I just used a double bowline with a backup on the tree and a figure eight on a bight on my harness. Now that I look back, maybe a clove hitch would have been better since I could adjust it better but I've seen somewhere that people use the Prussik but I didn't have a small cordelette for that.

This is my first anchor without help so I decided to use the standard figure 8 with a runner. It probably wasn't equalized very well because I didn't really know where the climb was so I just kind of picked a middle point. It worked great except the carabiner kept rubbing against the rock and it's now all scratched up.

That red line is supposed to be the path but it looks kind of weird. But this climb was harder than I thought. I actually couldn't even finish it and this is supposed to be a 5.10a, which is pretty easy in indoor gyms. I got stuck at that hole near the top but everything up to that point was pretty easy. Outdoor climbing feels way different than indoor climbing. 

We found another bolt by looking up near the top of the wall. This time I used the sliding X as the anchor and used two slings for redundancy. I really like the sliding X because it's just so easy to make and it's self equalizing. The only con is the shock loading if one anchor fails but it sounds like bolted routes are usually very bomber.

This route was much easier maybe a 5.7 but it seems like outdoor climbing is harder than indoors so maybe it's a 5.6 or lower. There was one point near that big crack near the top where I had a hard time finding a hand hold but other than that it was easy. I also tried picking a path along the right side but I couldn't find a hold and it was getting pretty far from the anchor so I would have swung really far if I fell so I gave up on that attempt. I saw another set of bolts after this but we ran out of time.

There were actually a lot of mosquitoes there, so lesson learned, bring bug repellent when climbing outdoors. We only climbed for two hours and then we had to stop because the sun was setting. But we had this amazing view to look at as we watched the sun set. Overall it was a good first time anchoring and hopefully there will be more to come.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Anchoring Class

I just finished my anchoring class yesterday with Greg and Nick from Outback Adventures and it was a really great class. The class was at Cragmont Park in Berkeley which actually has a wall you can climb on considering it's such a small park. The class was about six hours but most of it was spent practicing different anchors. This is what we went through.

Webbing is strong and lightweight but not as versatile as rope. It looks like a good length to have is 20-30 feet. We were only taught two knots to use with webbing, water knot and overhand on a bight.

Water Knot
This knot is good for making a loop around an object or even a large loop for a girth hitch. It's basically an overhand knot and a retrace with the tail. First you need to determine how large of a loop you want and create the knot there then you use the tail and retrace the knot. The only tricky part is which end to retrace from. If you're making a loop with part of the webbing, retract from side of the tail. If you're making a loop with the entire webbing retrace from the other tail. I don't have a picture of what the bad water knot looks like but it's bad when the tails of the knot are touching. In this picture, the tails are on opposite sides.

Overhand on a bight
I couldn't find a picture of an overhand on a bight knot and I have no webbing to demonstrate. I'll need to get some eventually. A bight is simply just when you fold the rope or webbing in over itself. Then you take the whole thing and just make an overhand knot. Then that creates a loop at the end you can clip into.

It seems like the cordelette is best used by tying it into a loop with two fisherman's knot and then using that loop to make a figure 8 knot as an anchoring point.
I think that was the only thing we learned for the cordelette. This picture shows three anchors but you can also do the same thing with two. They also showed us a quick look at friction knots with a short, small diameter (4mm) cordelette, prussik and autoblock, but we never got a chance to practice those.

Static Rope
The instructors recommended getting a 40-45 feet static rope. It's good for tying around boulders, large trees, and generally any strong anchor points. The knots we learned were the tensionless hitch, double bowline with backup and BHK/BFK (Big Honkin' Knot/Big F***ing Knot).

Tensionless Hitch
This is basically a figure 8 on a bight wrapped around a tree three times and clipped into itself. It depends completely on friction and clipping into itself is just in case it slips. This knot is good to maintain the full strength of the rope because there are no sharp bends in the rope but it requires a lot of rope to use.

Double Bowline
This was the trickiest knot to tie. It makes a nice solid loop and is easy to untie after it's been loaded. Since it's so easy to untie it has a chance to slip so it's usually backed up with a fisherman's knot. The way we were taught was to do two loops around the left hand, up the back up of the hand, around the back of the long end and back down the same hole.

This knot is a nice strong knot for an anchor point. It also has a nice property of setting the carabiner perpendicular to the wall so the rope doesn't rub against the wall. To tie it, you pretty much do a bight twice in the middle of the rope, wherever you want your anchor to be, then tie an overhand in the middle of that last bight. You end up with two loops and an extra loop in the opposite direction that can all be clipped into one spot. This is very good as a top rope anchor with lots of redundancy.

These are usually made of nylon, but there are light weight material called Dyneema or Spectra. They told us that Dyneema and Spectra loses a lot of strength when tied so I'm not sure when those are good to use, I'm guessing when used in a girth hitch. One surprising thing is that these slings are rated for 22kN, which is about 4945 lbs, so one of those little things can hold up a car?

Girth Hitch
A girth hitch is just a loop around itself. Very simple and good around small diameter objects. This photo I found shows a bend though which is not ideal. Ideally you would want to keep it straight since bends weaken the material.

Slings can also be hooked to anchors and tied in a figure 8 just like the cordelette. 

Sliding X or Magic X
One cool thing you can do with slings is to tie a sliding X which is a self equalizing anchor since it lets the master point slide around. The problem with the sliding X is that if an anchor fails, the system will extend which will cause shock loading. This can be minimized by tying limiter knots (just use an overhand knot) near the master point. Another problem is that there is no redundancy in the material. If the sling gets cut the whole anchor fails so using two slings would add some redundancy. The sliding X is super easy to make and requires no tying, but it looks like it can be easily done wrong which can be deadly, so it's probably a good idea to double check that.

Oval Shaped: These are the original carabiners which aren't as strong as D shaped carabiners but has more area for holding gear. 
D Shaped: These are shaped so that it directs the material towards the spine which increases the amount of weight these can hold. One thing the instructor mentioned was that if you hook two carabiners to one D carabiner, they'll kind of fight each other for that corner.
Pear Shaped: I'm not sure what these are good for but it looks like you can hang a lot of gear on the wide side and supposedly it's good for a belay device.

They showed us two ways the gates hook to the carabiner. One way they called it a key hook where the hooks are to the side. They say this is better because the rope doesn't get caught in the hooks like the other type which I think they called a fish hook where the hook faces in toward the carabiner. Other things to keep in mind are straight, bent, and wire gates. Straight gates are for standard applications, bent gates are good for clipping, and wire gates are good for its weight. Then for locking, you have screw locks and twist locks.

Anchoring Principles
A: Angle, make sure the angles between the legs of the anchors are small to reduce the force on each anchor point
S: Sound, Stable, Secure, make sure the anchor points are good
E: Equalized, make sure all the legs are holding equal weight
RE: Redundant, make sure there is redundancy in the system so if one point fails the whole system doesn't fail
NE: No elongation, make sure the system doesn't move when one point fails and cause shock loading to the system

ERNEST is the same thing but they added a T for time.

At the end of the lesson they showed us some trad gear, chocks and cams, and how each works but it was very brief just so we know what they were.

So that's what I learned from anchoring class. There was a lot of other information but these were the important stuff. Greg and Nick were really awesome and I would highly recommend them for a class if you're in the Bay Area. Here's the website for their classes: http://www.outbackadventures.com/trips_classes/rock_climbing/
I might take the lead climbing and self rescue class some time in the future. But first, I'll need to do some more outdoor rock climbing. I did do some climbing at Cragmont Park after the class but I'll save that for another post.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Rock Climbing and Weight Loss

After I started working, I gained 15 pounds very quickly from eating out a lot, so one of the reasons I started rock climbing was to lose weight. I weigh myself almost daily and in the morning, because I think we're lightest in mornings, but after one and half years of climbing my weight has actually not changed at all. I thought going from no exercise to some exercise would make a difference but it only stopped the weight gain. I'm hoping some of that fat was replaced with muscle though. I admit I still eat out a lot, which is probably why I'm not losing any weight so it's true that diet plays a huge part in weight loss.

At the gym, I see people of all sizes climb. Even some of the regulars are on the heftier side, so it makes me wonder if rock climbing is good for weight loss. But then there's always those climbers that are super ripped. I bet they supplement climbing with other exercises, which is something I don't do. I know running is a good way to increase recovery and also aids in weight loss, but I find it monotonous. If I ever get serious about losing weight, my best bet is to eat better but for now, I'm content with just maintaining weight.

Monday, March 4, 2013

My Starter Anchoring Set

I wanted to get a starter set for anchoring before going to the class on Saturday so I went to REI to get some. My local REI has a very limited selection but it seems to have the basics. Assuming I want to anchor to a basic two bolt anchor, all I need is one runner and four carabiners: one on each bolt and two on the master point for redundancy.

This is what I picked up at REI:
2 18mm 120cm(48") Runners ($9 each)
1 7mm 30' Polyester Cordelette ($12.50)
4 Locking Carabiners ($8 each)

The instructor advised me to get a cordelette and an extra runner. I'm also thinking of picking up some webbing but maybe later on when I know what it's used for. I read that I could use two non-locking carabiners facing opposite directions for the master point but I saw on a post somewhere it's possible for the two carabiners to open each other so I just went for the safer router and got all locking since I don't know what I'm doing. They only had polyester cordellete at REI but nylon seems more common. I also bought a helmet and already had rope and an ATC from leading in the gym. Hopefully this is enough to create a basic top rope so I can do some outdoor climbing after the class.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

First Post

I'm starting this blog because I've never made a blog before and I wanted to keep a journal of my rock climbing experience so I can look back and see how I've grown. My first rock climbing experience was in Davis when I was going to school at UC Davis. They had this simple wall set up for an event and I remember how fun it was but never really thought too much of it. A few years after that I went to Rocknasium in Davis with some friends and we learned how to belay but we had no idea what we were doing. I never even noticed that there were colors on the holds that we could follow and just climbed blindly.  However, being the poor college student, I thought climbing was too expensive and didn't want to spend the money on it. Apparently, Rocknasium is one of the oldest rock climbing gyms in America and they recently moved to a new location a few doors down from their old one and redesigned the gym. I've been meaning to go check it out but it's a bit far away.

Years later I got a job in Fremont and moved there and my roommate in college just happen to get a job in Fremont also. I found out there was a climbing gym right in Fremont and asked him if he wanted to join it with me, now that I could afford it ($40/month) and I needed a hobby. So we joined City Beach on September 19, 2011; I remember the date because payments are always on the 20th and we joined one day before. We've been climbing there 2-3 times a week ever since. We started out pretty well, moving up to 5.9 in the first week and started 5.10s within two months. But then we plateaued and have been inching up the difficulties slowly for the past year. We're now at around 5.11a/b level with the highest we've done at 5.11d but not without rest. We don't really boulder much, maybe because I like the safety of having a rope and bouldering just seems so hard for me. We're at about V3 right now which isn't very good. Bouldering seems to take a lot of strength, which I'm lacking in, but which also means I should boulder more. I've read in books that bouldering is fastest way to get better but I just like top rope and lead more.

Lately I've been wanting to start climbing outdoors. We did one guided outdoor rock climb at Castle Rock and I'm not even sure where we were, but outdoor climbing is so different than indoor climbing. I ripped off a chunk of the skin on my right ring finger which left a scar but I guess it's a souvenir to remember my first time climbing outdoors. I'm not sure if it's an outdoor climbing mentality but our guide seemed to look down on all gym climbers which kind of irked me. But regardless, it was fun and I want to find some more outdoor climbs to do. I signed up for an anchoring class ($110) with Outback Adventures in Fremont on March 9th in Cragmont Park in Berkeley, which is about a week from now. I'm pretty excited about learning how to anchor so I can set up my own outdoor top ropes and I even bought a Kindle book on anchors, Rock Climbing Anchors: A Comprehensive Guide by Craig Luebben, to give myself some background before I go. Hopefully, I'll know enough after the class to start going out on my own.