There have always been good links between Brighton Explorers Club (BEC) and Craggers. In the past BEC has lent us winter kit, helped us build and then demolish, the first Craggers climbing wall and provided volunteers on various trips and at the wall.
I decided to give something back by putting on a workshop for ten of their members who were good climbers but wanted to know how to prevent problems on multi pitch climbs or to deal with problems once they had arisen.
The day started with getting information, over a cup of tea, on where they were at individually in their climbing and what they wanted out of the day. When I had this information it was easier to formulate a training plan for the day.
Then it was outside where first we talked about the massive importance of setting up bomb proof anchors on multi pitch climbs. We discussed, with lots of interactive demonstrations, vectors and how important getting the angles right was. We talked about appropriate uses for cordalettes; Anchor, Belayer, Climber (ABC); equalised and independent anchors and the many ways of setting them up; anchors in and out of reach; tying back to the harness with a figure of eight knot rather than a clove hitch on an HMS in certain circumstances. Next we went on to stance management and how avoiding tangles makes everything quicker and safer.
In all situations where problems arise the first thing that needs to be done is to decide what needs to be done. That usually means first locking off the belay plate while thinking of a course of action. Probably the most likely situation where rope tricks need to be used is where the second needs to be helped past some difficult climbing or they have had a minor accident and need to be helped up to the belay. This is where we practiced the assisted hoist.
A far more physically demanding task is to perform an unassisted hoist. We practiced several different methods.
The Explorers didn’t come empty handed; they had arrived with a couple of delicious chilli dishes, meat and vegan – very thoughtful. So as we tucked into the feast we were able to recap what we had done so far.
After lunch the next and most extensive session was on ‘worst case scenarios’. Building on what had been learned in the morning we moved from locking off the belay plate to escaping the system and the many ways to do that. As always a moment of thought to decide what to do and formulate a plan; whether to go for help or perform what could be a major rescue by yourself. If the second has been injured the most important first step is to get to them, assess their injuries perform any first aid and make them secure.
We did various rescue combinations with the idea being that when you have a few techniques wired it is possible to use them to get you out of all sorts of trouble.
It is better to spend time making sure, as much as possible, that you have taken all the precautions to avoid accidents in the first place.