silent partner

6:04 p.m. on April 16, 2002 (EDT)
(Guest)

HI, Looking for advice about use of the Silent Partner for top roping. I just got it and am having a hard time getting it to feed consistently. I am positive I am rigging it correctly, but am not sure about how much tension or weight I should be putting on the bottom of the rope. It seems to work okay when I start out, but I am having a terrible time getting it to start back up again after taking a (planned) fall or resting. Manual says to pull on free end of rope or loosen the clove hitch by hand. Even after doing these things, cant get it to feed. Also, the manual indicates that you can use it to rap by wrapping the rope around your hip to provide friction. How is this possible if the bottom of the rope is weighted? Seems to lower really fast-much too fast for my liking. Any ideas on how to slow the rappel? I feel that I must be doing something wrong, as I have heard all good things about the Silent partner in magazine reviews, but so far am very disappointed using it for top roping.Thanks for any advice. Also, how do you feel about the Petzl Basic Ascender for top rope soloing?

7:19 p.m. on April 16, 2002 (EDT)
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Patrick -

I hate to say this, but I suspect you aren't really ready to be using a SP. Hopefully, you are practicing with a backup belay (2nd independent rope on independent set of anchors, use a clove hitch on a biner and move it up at frequent good stances).

Your problem in getting the SP to start feeding after a fall is in unlocking the centrifugal clutch. You have to feed enough rope through to allow the clutch to release, roughly 3 or 4 inches. The drum should rotate a short distance backward. You can actually hear the release under the right conditions. This is easy to figure out _if_ you know the principle of operation. The SP is a centrifugal clutch device that locks when the speed of drum rotation is sufficiently high. If you are controlling the speed (by grabbing with your hands when you fall or when descending), the drum will not lock. When you first start using it, it is hard to avoid grabbing at the rope when you fall, but that will keep it from locking, and you will just slide rapidly down the rope, leaving burned flesh behind - rapidly enough to get seriously hurt, but not fast enough to lock the clutch. This is also a problem if you fall on broken rock, since you may bounce along, never getting enough speed to lock the clutch, or unlocking it at each bounce. The SP is best on almost vertical, smooth faces, and problematic for off-widths or chimneys. And, of course, as Wren says, do not ever use it in wet or icey conditions - the rope will just slide around the drum.

If you are hanging free, unlocking the brake is possible, but somewhat hard. You basically have to pull yourself bodily up the rope. Now, if you have read and memorized Self Rescue, you are prepared for this situation, have the needed gear, and can easily do it. Main thing to unlock the brake is unweighting the rope. If you are on a sloping face or can get a foot on a nubbin, unlocking is easy.

If you are having trouble with the rope self-feeding, it is probably because the clove hitch is too tight. Pulling it backward will generally loosen the knot sufficiently. It doesn't take much weight from below when TR. By 20-30 feet from the bottom, the rope's weight is sufficient, if the clove hitch on the drum is properly adjusted.

As for descending, if you have the clove hitch around the drum properly tied (and tight enough), it is just like a descender of the Jaws or ATC type in terms of speed and controllability. Be sure you are using the proper diameter of rope - thin ropes do not work well with the SP.

You ask about the Petzl Basic. I presume you have read Petzl's web site discussion on using the Basic for TR. Main thing to make sure of is that you do not take a long fall, more than a couple feet. Otherwise, the teeth will shred the mantle (sheath) of the rope. Sometimes, even a 2 foot fall will do it. Yes, it works. I've tried that, as well. It works fairly well for TR on a wet or icey rope, where the SP won't.

There are a number of other methods. Look at Robbins' Advanced Rockcraft for a very brief discussion of the clove hitch method. Use of grigris has been on this board in the past (I personally do not like grigris under the vast majority of conditions, although they have a place on big walls).

Mainly, soloing and self-belaying is very dangerous. I would strongly advise against it. If you are really intent on taking serious risks, with their attendant high probability of serious injury or death, get a lot of personal, hands-on mentoring from someone with lots of experience doing it. And at least have someone near at hand who can summon help and who can administer first aid. Because sooner or later you _will_ need it.

10:27 a.m. on April 17, 2002 (EDT)
(Guest)

Quote:

Mainly, soloing and self-belaying is very dangerous. I would strongly advise against it. If you are really intent on taking serious risks, with their attendant high probability of serious injury or death, get a lot of personal, hands-on mentoring from someone with lots of experience doing it. And at least have someone near at hand who can summon help and who can administer first aid. Because sooner or later you _will_ need it.


You might consider lightening up on the melodrama. Even as perceptive as you are, I don't think you can predict the future.

12:11 p.m. on April 17, 2002 (EDT)
(Guest)

Thanks for both perspectives. I do appreciate the words of caution. Bottom line for me is that I want to climb outdoors more frequently than my belay partners, so I am looking to find the best way to top rope solo while staying safe. I am trusting that my judgement skills and knowledge of climbing techniques (while not the most experienced, I have tried to educate myself by taking several rock and ice lead/anchor lessons from respectable guides) are sufficient to keep me safe while trying to learn a new technique (ie, the Silent Partner). Just FYI, here is my set up: I have a backup rope hanging down with figure 8 on bight knots (I could use butterflys) placed every 2 feet or so. I am wearing 2 slings girth hitched to my harness, so that I can clip into the backup rope with lockers as I progress upward. This technique is suggested in the SP manual. (For emergencies, I also carry prussik slings and the Petzl Basic ascender just in case. However, I do not plan to solo belay routes that could leave me stranded off the rock.) Although I have dedicated this second rope as the backup rope and just leave the knots in place after each climb, I would be curious how you (Bill)set up the clove hitch method so that I dont have to have fixed knots in my second rope. Please elaborate. Also, I feel that I am doing exactly what you are suggesting to get the SP to feed after weighting it, but I just cant seem to get it to work. So after weighting it, I get back on the rock, unweight the device, and loosen the clove hitch off the drum so that it is no longer tight. I move the device up and down the rope a little to see if it is unlocked. Everything looks exactly like it does when I start the climb, but for some reason, it wont feed when I start again. In frustration I just end up lowering from there. I am wondering if I have the bottom of the rope weighted too little, cause it seems that there is now more slack in the rope with it stretching and the line is not taught enough to feed properly. Can you tell me what you use to weight the rope? Is the weight hanging on the end of rope up off the ground, or resting on the ground just enough to keep the rope straight? Do you think this is the problem? I may call Wren to ask for advice as well, but would appreciate any more input you can offer. One more question. Any opinion about the Ushba Basic Ascender for self belay? Does it have teeth in the cam like the Petzl Basic or does it use a different mechanism? Thanks

1:42 p.m. on April 17, 2002 (EDT)
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clove hitch

Comment to stubby - my disclaimer/caution is just the standard one you find attached to all climbing gear and in all climbing catalogs these days. As Wren says in their website and manuals, climbing is dangerous, and soloing, whether top rope or lead, is even more risky. If my "melodrama" gets someone to stop and think hard about what they are doing, then it is fully justified. To add one thing to the disclaimer, I do not advise you do anything that I do or describe, and actually advise against it. But if you do, it is your own risk and responsibility.

Ok, back to the clove hitch. It is very simple, but a bit time consuming and can be difficult or impossible to do the adjustments while climbing. You have a second locker on your harness for backup. The backup rope is well-anchored at the top of the climb (usual 3 anchor points, satisfying SRENE, ERNST, or whatever acronym you use - and if you don't know and practice this, at least read Anchors and More Anchors). The backup rope is clove-hitched to the backup locker with as little slack as possible. As you ascend, you move the clove hitch up the backup rope. This avoids tying a series of 8's permanently in the backup, and you are always tied in (avoids the 2-sling, clip one, unclip the other maneuver, too). Disadvantages are the awkwardness of moving the hitch up the rope (always needed at the most sketchy stance, as you realize you have a million feet of slack and will deck if you fall), and you always have a bit of slack as soon as you move. Then again, the fall factor is always pretty small.

Leading with the clove hitch is basically the same as any other self-belay lead with a device that isn't self-feeding like the SP. You have to move the hitch far enough to make it to the next stance. Think of it as the same thing you do with the SP when it isn't feeding smoothly - you pull out some slack from the clove hitch around the drum of the SP, except here you have to loosen the hitch, feed through the slack, then tighten the hitch again. This makes for potentially very long falls. Do not remove the hitch from the biner, just feed it through.

If this isn't clear, and it probably isn't, try it on the ground under the supervision of an experienced mentor. The time to get everything in order is not when you are 50 feet up on a sketchy stance in the middle of a 5.13 runout section.

Again, the disclaimer - do not do as I described, since it is very dangerous with a high risk of injury or death. If you insist on trying it anyway, you are on your own.

2:58 p.m. on April 17, 2002 (EDT)
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408 forum posts
Ushba v Petzl

Quote:

Thanks for both perspectives. I do appreciate the words of caution.

Me too. Soloing is risky, no matter how you slice it. So much less margin.

>I would be curious how you (Bill)set up the clove hitch

I use two biners on the clove hitch. Seems easier to get slack out and won't lock down as hard in a fall (amazing how tight a clove hitch will lock...I've had to cut rope to free from a tight clove hitch!).

Quote:

Any opinion about the Ushba Basic Ascender for self belay? Does it have teeth in the cam like the Petzl Basic or does it use a different mechanism?

I'd go with a NO TEETH option for sure. USHBA way over the Petzl. USHBA is also purported to work "in either direction" too (ie if your rope were to get cut from above and you were still anchored below). No teeth. Kind of a rocking bar thingy...I've heard nuttin' but high praise from some folks who are sold on the USHBA.

As for me, I use a Gri Gri. Lightly modified. Yee haa.

Brian in SLC

3:25 p.m. on April 17, 2002 (EDT)
(Guest)

Re: clove hitch

Quote:

Comment to stubby - my disclaimer/caution is just the standard one you find attached to all climbing gear and in all climbing catalogs these days. As Wren says in their website and manuals, climbing is dangerous, and soloing, whether top rope or lead, is even more risky. If my "melodrama" gets someone to stop and think hard about what they are doing, then it is fully justified. To add one thing to the disclaimer, I do not advise you do anything that I do or describe, and actually advise against it. But if you do, it is your own risk and responsibility.

Getting someone to stop and think is great, I am all of it and keep at it. NO doubt that the technique under question is dangerous. Telling someone that they _will_ get themselves seriously hurt or killed if they pursue an activity is predicting the future. You can do that? There is a big, big difference between _will_ and _may_. _will_ is not a disclaimer, it is stating a fact (or in this case an outcome) that will happen.

Just another point, if I only roped solo w/ someone around to call for help, I will pay them $5 and have them belay me.

I also find it odd that such a complicated and dangerous technique would even be attempted to be explained via posts. Why not say "get someone who knows to show you" and leave it at that, instead of following it by pages of explaination on how to it......dazed and confused, Stubby

4:08 p.m. on April 17, 2002 (EDT)
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408 forum posts
Bill is part Gypsy...

Quote:

Getting someone to stop and think is great, I am all of it and keep at it. NO doubt that the technique under question is dangerous. Telling someone that they _will_ get themselves seriously hurt or killed if they pursue an activity is predicting the future. You can do that? There is a big, big difference between _will_ and _may_. _will_ is not a disclaimer, it is stating a fact (or in this case an outcome) that will happen.

Really, arguing over whether a disclaimer goes too far seems kind of petty. Folks should learn to separate the wheat from the chaff and if a strongly worded disclaimer gets your attention, all the better.

Quote:

Just another point, if I only roped solo w/ someone around to call for help, I will pay them $5 and have them belay me.

Great advice. Goin' rate for belay duty? I'd think most of us would charge a bit more.

Quote:

I also find it odd that such a complicated and dangerous technique would even be attempted to be explained via posts. Why not say "get someone who knows to show you" and leave it at that, instead of following it by pages of explaination on how to it......dazed and confused, Stubby

Bill did follow up with the "get a mentor" speel. And strongly stated.

You could answer every posted question to climbing with your "get someone who knows to show you". If that were the case, none of us would be here. What fun would that be?

You can choose to read and try to learn and take home and practise. Or not. And, instead of critizing someone else's advice, why don't you take a shot on your very own? Even if its advice to go find a mentor.

You go Bill. Plenty of us readin' and larnin'. Good fodder for thought. Thanks for the tips. Always appreciate your dialog.

Brian in SLC

5:38 p.m. on April 17, 2002 (EDT)
(Guest)

thanks

Thanks for info and everybody's dialog

8:58 p.m. on April 17, 2002 (EDT)
3 reviewer rep
98 forum posts
Re: Ushba v Petzl

Can't give you any comparative information, since I haven't used the Petzl, but I've been using the Ushba a bit lately, and it seems to do the job. Simple. Feeds smoothly. Holds falls. No teeth and doesn't trash your rope, although I've seen from the rope of a friend who uses one regularly that it will fuzz up the sheath a bit after a while, if you're taking lots of falls.

You've probably already noted that the Ushba is only rated to 4.5kn, so it's exclusively a TR tool or ascender - not a lead tool. 4.5 kn is not a big number, so make sure you keep the slack out of your system when you're using it to solo TR.

I use the succession of pre-tied bights method for backup. Might think about trying Bill S.'s traveling clove hitch as an alternative, but in truth I'm pretty happy with my current system.

All the usual disclaimers apply - if you are injured or killed, instruct your lawyers (or those of your estate) to go after Bill S.... ;-)

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