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Rope Solo Systems for Free and Aid?


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For solo aid, I use the tried and true simple clove hitch method. I also stay tied in to the lead end of the rope as a habit (that also helps the trailing end from blowing and getting stuck on a flake, etc.). I haven't tried solo lead free climbing but Colin Haley's backrope system sounds reasonable if you are descending the same way you are going up (in order to retrieve your gear). Bags to stack ropes in belays for easy feed out; ones like duffle or canvas shopping bags with handles so they stay open work well, no need to pay premium for specialized rope buckets, etc.

Edited by bargainhunter
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  • 1 month later...

For solo aid I also use clove hitches. Always have two so you're backed up as you feed slack on one (I entrain them on the same rope). I've taken a fairly large whipper on this system and it was fine. 

For free climbing there is a fairly good community here https://www.facebook.com/groups/LeadRopeSolo/ where people share their systems. Seems like most folks these days are trending toward a gri-gri with a microtrax or similar, to hold the rope allowing easy pulling of slack and the weight of the rope not causing problems feeding in the gri-gri. I haven't tried the method myself but I've watched someone with it dialed run a quick lap on Lost in Space at Smith (10c 4p). Looked pretty slick. 

@bargainhunter where did you learn the deets for the back loop system? I've heard of it before and the name gives me some idea of what's going on but I'd love specifics.

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I've done a fair bit of free and aid rope soloing with the grigri+microtrax setup and really like it. I actually wrote a TR about soloing Beyond Redlining on here a little while back which sorta shows my system and I explain it in the comments. Re: backup knots, I personally only tie releasable slipknots on pitches I think I might fall on, otherwise the rope is either stacked in a bag at the anchor, on a ledge or dangling free below me.

My standard protocol for long free routes is below. Aid is pretty similar but usually involves hauling. 

1.)Build ground anchor using the rope

2.)Climb the pitch. Try not to fall

3.)Build anchor and fix line with enough slack to rap the pitch

4.)Pull up remaining tail and stack it at the anchor

5.)Rap pitch while cleaning all but necessary directionals.

6.)Clean bottom anchor.

7.)TR solo (or jug) back up the pitch.

8.)Reset system and start at #1

Happy to answer any more specific questions!



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Buy the book “Hooking Up” by PTPP, Pass the Pitons Pete, Pete Zabrok. It’s an absolute masterpiece with more useful aid climbing  information than any normal person could possibly assimilate. There’s a whole section on solo climbing. Pete has climbed El Cap by 65 different routes and has spent 850 nights on the wall. Yes, 850. Hard to fathom (he likes to take his time).

I’ve been aid climbing for over 50 years and there are things in the book that blew my mind: soloing, hauling, how to jug traverses, lowering out bags, haulbag management, head placement, belay management, rapelling with bags etc. The list goes on. 

Here’s his email: passthepitonspete@hotmail.com

He’s in Yosemite right now and has 300 copies of his book with him. He may not respond right away as he’s working on another El Cap project in his usual shit-show manner but I don’t think he’s heading up for good for 3 or 4 days so he may get back to you. 

Tell him Don sent you his way  

BTW-the book is 670 pages with lots of pictures and illustrations  



Edited by stillcrankin
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On 5/28/2022 at 7:00 PM, bedellympian said:

@bargainhunter where did you learn the deets for the back loop system? I've heard of it before and the name gives me some idea of what's going on but I'd love specifics.

I heard Colin Haley talk about it in an interview. Basically you put in an anchor that can hold upward and downward forces and put yourself on rappel, but climb up, feeding the rope through as you ascend, placing pro as needed. When you run out of rope, pull one end through just like rappelling. Unless you want to abandon your pro, you need to descend the same way to retrieve it. Colin may log on here occasionally and maybe he could chime in or correct me, but I think I got the gist. 

I think Strassman or Middendorf talk about the clove hitch method in their books. It's simple and bombproof. 

Edited by bargainhunter
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