Fixed Line Etiquette

9:35 p.m. on March 8, 2004 (EST)
(Guest)

Hi,

I was wondering what proper etiquette was on fixed lines on popular mountains, ex: the headwall on Denali. I assume most people use ascenders (or an ascender with an axe?), perhaps they also clip their team rope through the protection holding the fixed line? I am not familiar with how to treat fixed lines which people besides myself place.

Thanks,
JT

12:58 a.m. on March 9, 2004 (EST)
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Just queue up and wait your turn, threatening anyone out of place with your ice ax. Oh, sorry, that wasn't serious.

On the headwall above Genet Basin (14k going up to 16k), there are generally two ropes, one for up and the other for down. At Washburn's Thumb, there is only one. People are generally fairly polite and just get in line to take their turn. It is considered the right thing to let faster parties go around, but some faster parties just force their way around (not the safest thing to do). Most people clip onto the headwall fixed line with an ascender, plus a biner on a sling as a backup and the much shorter Washburn's Thumb fixed line with an ascender. The ascender is in one hand and the ice ax in the other. Crossing the Autobahn (17k to Denali Pass), there are often fixed pickets that you clip your climbing rope through, although you may have to place your own pickets. You should practice moving your ascender and backup carabiner past anchor points, and switching your climbing rope past pickets until you can do it smoothly and rapidly to avoid holding others up (and for safety - you want to move as rapidly as possible, since weather can change very quickly).

A few years ago, a Russian paraplegic team set fixed lines up Rescue Gully. The rule there was that only their team was to use those lines, by special arrangement (normally people do not ascend Rescue Gully).

Other places are a bit different, but generally climbers are fairly polite about taking turns (just don't hold faster parties up - let them pass where possible). The fixed line just below the south col of the Grand Teton has few enough people that there is no problem with traffic jams, for example, so no worries.

Other places in the world treat fixed lines differently. In Europe, the professional guides seem to consider the fixed lines as their personal property (well, they do maintain them) and claim priority, with a lot of yelling at non-guided parties. Those ropes are of too large diameter for ascenders generally, so you just use them as auxiliary handholds.

3:27 p.m. on March 15, 2004 (EST)
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Ask...whomever's line it is...what the etiquette is...

The Denali fixed lines:

Quote:

Just queue up and wait your turn, threatening anyone out of place with your ice ax. Oh, sorry, that wasn't serious.

Or...just climb the durn thing. Its not a hard slope to ascend without that fixed line.

But, yeah, if the way is free and clear, clip in your jug and go. Usually bucket steps to follow but an axe in your off jug hand makes for nice balance.

You can wait for slower parties or pass them by gettin' off the line and climbing the slope. I wouldn't try to pass and I wouldn't be psyched to have anyone pass me (if they're movin' that well, they should probably be off the line anyhow). The "down" line is an option but only if no ones coming down (very poor style points).

Quote:

Other places are a bit different, but generally climbers are fairly polite about taking turns (just don't hold faster parties up - let them pass where possible). The fixed line just below the south col of the Grand Teton has few enough people that there is no problem with traffic jams, for example, so no worries.

The fixed lines in the Tetons can be a bottleneck, and a bit dangerous with folks swinging around. Good place to either move thru very quickly, or wait at a distance. Rockfall, etc. I've up and downclimbed to the right, sometimes in the water. Its a tad necky, but, not that hard. Most Exum guides are pretty saavy about lettin' folks play thru. Their guided parties can really take some time up the ropes (and down) and its best to try to play thru if you desire to get someplace. Easy to kill 2 hours waiting on a crowded summer day, which, is enough some times to get benighted on the way down.

My advice is to try to have an alternate to a fixed line. A climb around or your own line.

Brian in SLC

November 28, 2014
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