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Lightweight Rack for Sierra Class 3-4
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Brian Sims
(MtnFiend) - F

Locale: Pasadena, CA
Lightweight Rack for Sierra Class 3-4 on 01/27/2007 14:27:35 MST Print View

I read through the lightweight rack thread for the guy starting out climbing in the Rockies. The recommendations were for someone climbing 4-5.5 roughly.

My friends and I are climbing CA's 15 14ers. We have completed Mt. Whitney as a day hike and Langley as an overnighter. Several of the people are new to high altitude and get nervous around exposure. We plan to climb Class 3, try our best to keep Class 4 to a minimum.

I want to carry some protection in case we get into a situation where we need something to get past an obstacle or need to down climb. We will not be putting ourselves in situations were we will be taking dynamic falls and there will be little chance of repelling. Again the equipment will be for emergencies or assistance around short technical sections.

My thought is to get something like the Edelweiss Discover 8mm x 30m Dry Rope (1.26 kilograms/44.4oz), DB Alpine Bod harness, BD ATC XT designed to work with multiple sizes of ropes. After that follow some of the recommendations on the other lightweight rack thread for runners and cordellettes.

Any thoughts on the items mentioned above?

Also what, if any, types of protections should I bring in the way of hexs, chocks, or nuts?

Robert McGaughey
(havoc) - F

Locale: North Texas
Lightweight harness on 01/27/2007 15:54:51 MST Print View

Hi Brian,
This past summer a buddy and I climbed Capitol Peak in Colorado and it is a class 4 peak. We decided to err on the side of caution, since we had heard bout the infamous knife edge, and took harnesses and 3o feet of light rope. Instead of 1 of our climbing harnesses, we fashioned some out of 1 inch webbing. We started with about 18' or 20' of webbing, tied 2 leg loops in, about 11 inches apart, leaving about 2 feet of webbing on 1 end and about 11 feet of webbing on the other end. After putting our legs in we wrapped the long end around our waist 2 or 3 times and also through the leg loops. Then we tied it off to the 2' section. Insert biner just like on your harness and your ready to go. We did not end up needing this on Capitol, but its nice to know a lightweight system that we might need in the future. Plus, you can always untie the leg loops and you still have a good piece of webbing. I believe mine weighs right at 9oz. Oh, webbing is also cheaper than another harness. Good luck and have fun.
p.s. That picture on my avatar is of Capitol from our hike this last summer, beautiful hike.

Edited by havoc on 01/27/2007 15:55:52 MST.

Christopher Plesko
(Pivvay) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: Lightweight harness on 01/27/2007 16:08:41 MST Print View

Craig Connelly's new mountaineering book would be a great read for you. Someone else on BPL has been reading it other than me and they also liked it. I'm putting together a small gearlist for 14er climbing here in Colorado for when my partners would prefer to rope up.

Brian Sims
(MtnFiend) - F

Locale: Pasadena, CA
Re: Lightweight harness on 01/27/2007 18:26:00 MST Print View

Thanks for the suggestion to make a webbing harness. That is a great, cheep, lightweight idea. Some of the guys are concerned about spending a bunch of money on gear as they recently purchased home in the LA area (crazy housing market here). Heck I have an Alpine Bod already and may opt for a webbing harness as well for the weight. I will use my Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills book for instructions.

Any thoughts on protection? It doesn't sound like you guys brought any on your trip to Capitol Peak?

Christopher Plesko
(Pivvay) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: Re: Lightweight harness on 01/27/2007 18:50:23 MST Print View

Freedom of the Hills is "The Classic" BUT there is room to improve in my opinion and Connelly's. Lots of good discussion on new style light ropes, light racks and how to use them. I also have Freedom and considered the new book worth the money. Just a thought, might be worth flipping through at the book store...

Robert McGaughey
(havoc) - F

Locale: North Texas
Re: Lightweight harness on 01/27/2007 19:55:29 MST Print View

I can't really help you on the lightweight protection. I'm sure Christopher is alot more knowledgable about that than I am. On Freedom of the Hills, my 7th edition does not have info on the webbing harness. However, my climbing buddy's 6th edition tells how to make it. I think it is in Ch. 6, harnesses, etc.... and called the homemade harness. Best of luck.

Brian Sims
(MtnFiend) - F

Locale: Pasadena, CA
Re: Re: Re: Lightweight harness on 01/27/2007 20:51:08 MST Print View


I just got back from picking up The Mountaineering Handbook at Borders. Thanks for the recommendation. Looks like a great book.

Eric Parsons
(EricP) - F

Locale: Alaska
light on 01/30/2007 19:33:17 MST Print View

BD alpine bod harnesses, they are only $25 and about 100 x better than webbing harnesses

big slings for natural protection

for hardware Hex's and tricams offer the most placement options for their weight

Janet Brewster
(jgranite25) - F

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Re: Lightweight Rack for Sierra Class 3-4 on 02/28/2007 17:31:44 MST Print View

A few gear suggestions:
- get the Alpine Bod -- SO much more comfortable than a webbing harness, esp. since if you get into trouble you'll probably be lowering/rapping off, and I can only imagine how painful that would be in a webbing harness...
- I've been using the BD ATC for years and I love it. You might also want to check out the Petzl Reverso -- I think that's what a lot of guides are using these days
- don't know what time of year you're planning on doing this stuff, but if weight and cost are negligable, I'd go for a dry rope rather than non-dry, since you can use it in more situations.
- many of the 14ers have rapel "stations", with existing webbing and rapel rings -- some newer than others, so it wouldn't hurt to bring your own since it's fairly light weight

As for a rack, well, that's complicated. A lot of the 14ers, at least on the class 3-4 routes, are just messy jumbles of rock. On some you'd have a hard time placing pro even if you wanted to. Short-roping is a very common option for this kind of travel. The racks of people I've climbed with have been small (both in pro size and quantity), mainly stoppers and small cams. If you haven't already done so, check out for trip reports -- maybe someone has gone into specifics about their rack.

With the exception of White Mtn, you've hit the easiest of the 14ers, and the only ones with trails. The rest are scrambles, if not technical climbs, and have time-consuming, scrambly, non-trail approaches. They are not places I would take newbies and they all have significant exposure and route-finding challenges. Class three routes may sound easy, but they are quite exposed.

My biased suggestion? Don't be so focused on bagging and start smaller (and smarter). Get your friends on some class 1-2 peaks (w/o trails) that are in the 10-13k range, get everyone comfortable with their own rock skills, and evaluate from there. The goal is to survive, have fun, and convert your friends into loving the outdoors as much as you do. If you throw them into situations where they're scared, that are beyond their (and your?) abilities, you'll probably find your group dwindling over time. Don't get me wrong -- yours is a great goal (I still have Williamson, Tyndall, Russell, and Muir to do) -- but it's a little more involved than having the right rack.... Good luck!

Ron Bell
(mountainlaureldesigns) - F - M

Locale: USA
lightweight rack on 02/28/2007 18:49:34 MST Print View

I'm always a bit hesitant to offer intro type technical climbing info on a forum. So' Ill tell a short true story about near death on Cathedral Peak I was close to...

Some prety good city gym climbers, strong 5.12 gym rats back then, sought adventure the Yose highcounrty. They had little gear experience and less vertical mountain savy. They picked an easy route on Cathedral, an easy 5.6- way easy strength wise for them. First mistake was they ended up starting so far off route, they were not even on Cathedral, but nearby Eichorn Pinnacle- and not the easy route either...The leader went up, up, and up...the climbing getting harder and harder, the protection less and less possible, nearing the end of the rope.

Eventually he fell on 5.10+ terrain and ripped out one or two manky pieces, maybe just placed poorly as he had limited experience. The belayer was bashed around quite a bit and could not help him. Luckily, as he fell the 70+ feet bouncing off mini ledges, etc. along the way. The rope (remember this part -the rope was a new burly 11mm) lodged behind a flake (common in the high sierras) and he came to stop about 40ft off the deck and just hung there for a few hours. A solo climber showed up to effect a lowering to the ground. YOSAR carried him out about 10 hours after the fall (pretty fast considering rescue realities in the mtns.) He got off with a lot of bangs, minus a bunch of skin and a badly busted ankle.

NOW HERE IS THE SCARY PART: I examined the rope and the polyester sheath had been totally sliced in two. Of the 12 individual internal nylon strands, only two remained intact. The other ten severed in half.

NOW HERE IS THE REALLY SCARY PART: The two strands that did hold were black and fused together by the heat generated by ripping and stretching of the rope.

R Alsborg
(FastWalker) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Re: lightweight rack on 02/28/2007 19:32:07 MST Print View


You must be a lot of fun passing stories around the camp fire...Wow!



Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
Lightweight Rack for Sierra Class 3-4 on 02/28/2007 22:18:59 MST Print View

I have a few suggestions. I am new to civilian climbing, but have some military experience. As such my suggestions tend toward simple, inexpensive solutions.

First of all, great you bought Connellys book. It can put everyone in your group on "one sheet of music" regarding techniques, procedures, and gear choices.

My climbing situations are similar to yours, class 3 with exposure, with inexperienced companions (even more inexperienced than me..scary..). I take:
Class 3:
One rope
One "swiss seat" (rope harnesses) per person
One locking biner per person
One helmet per peson

Possible Class 4:
A few tied* 120cm runners
A couple 6mm(or thicker) x 20 foot tied* cordeletes
A couple quickdraws and pieces of pro
A few locking biners
Two rappel rings for anchors.

*tied runners or cordage can be untied and combined, or shortened as necessary; made into harnesses, chest harnesses, prussiks, etc.. Only carry the nylon type.

I do not use any type of belay or rappel device as the munter or super munter is free, weightless, always available and can not be dropped or lost.

Any time my group ropes up, we put on helmets. That helmet should be EN1078, CPSC, and ASTM 2040 compliant. Here's one for 18 bucks.

You might decide to carry a half or twin rope instead of a single, but consider the liability consequences. You mentioned bringing a Beal Rando. The manufacturer says it is good for a factor 0.8, 80kg fall, and that is exactly what I carry for that possibility, but if more than factor 0.8 is possible, bring a single, or double up that twin. To do otherwise with inexperienced partners who trust you is irresponsible, IMO.
A more experienced group might decide to use a half(not a twin) as a single; which is what Connelly recommends, and what I do with my instructor. Halfs are tested for falls on one strand (because they assume the other will pick up the load), twins are not. UIAA warns against this usage, however.

Here's the rope I carry, depending on the situation:
Lightest twin rope: Beal Rando (i.e. Ice Twin), 37g/m
Lightest double(half) rope: Beal Ice Line, 42g/m
My single rope: Blue Water II Plus

If your hiking companions do not know anything about mountaineering, but do not want to buy the previously mentioned book, here is a great free introduction:

and rappelling:
If you want to try making the "swiss seat" out of rope or webbing, instruction starts on page 15. This was my only harness for years in the military. Use single rope; webbing folds and is painful. Of course, the BD Apline harness is better, but single use. A rope harness can be untied and used for many other things.

I could go on and on; after reading Connellys book please tell us all what you decide to take?
Hope this helped.

Edited by Brett1234 on 02/28/2007 22:50:50 MST.

Richard Gless
(rgless) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Lightweight Rack for Sierra Class 3-4 on 02/28/2007 23:07:42 MST Print View

My two cents: based on many years of climbing in the High Sierra and Yosemite I have to say that Janet Brewster advice and Ron Bell story (above) are right on, especially Janet's last paragraph. Get some experience first and don't underestimate class 3-4 in the Sierras. Some are a fun romp, some are a bit more exhilerating. A short fall, getting off route, or some unexpected weather can turn things into a real epic. I've alway found the old style nylon sling harness for climbing and belaying and Swiss seat for rapels very adequate.

Edited by rgless on 02/28/2007 23:14:15 MST.

Joseph Aulwes
(eispickel) - F
Re: Re: Re: Re: Lightweight harness on 03/01/2007 13:57:54 MST Print View


Freedom of the Hills is a great book, but I also recommend lots of experience first, make sure you know what you are doing; even in your sleep. Building all sorts of anchor systems, what's a solid piece of protection looks like, using natural anchors, proper belay techniques, etc, etc... Become proficient so you can: move fast (moving faster will help you stay safe. Example:(so that you can get off the exposed mountain before the storm rolls in)); knowing what you are doing when you are exhausted, dehydrated, and suffering from possible effects of the altitude.

I also want to say:

I think the twin rope is a great idea. I have been waiting to save up the money for my next rope as a twin. For most of my local crags I'll only need one 60M rope (routes less than 90 feet). For routes that require full rope length to a good belay take two 60M twin ropes with the added benefit of a full 200ft rappel.

Edited by eispickel on 03/01/2007 14:09:21 MST.

Robert Mohid
(mohid) - F
The rock on 03/20/2007 19:42:30 MDT Print View

My experience of the rockies come from the canadian side, and I expect the rock might in your parts might be considerably better that the crappy frozen kitty litter piles that we call mountains up here.

Now there is some granite, but on the typical rockies peak for class 3-4 I don't even bother bringing any clean rock gear. The rock is so bad you're much better off slinging features with 20 odd feet of rap cord you brought up and weaving the rope around existing features. Nuts below #3 are worthless and cam placements are unusual.

Now you might have a lot of that beautiful yose granite in your parts, but my point is that your rack should reflect the rock, not the grade, you plan on facing.

Mark Turpin
(markturpin) - F
webbing harness on 03/24/2007 11:05:15 MDT Print View

Before Chouinard came out with the first climbing harness, we used webbing harnesses on regular climbing routes 5.5 and up, and the truth is, they aren't much more uncomfortable by comparison. It was pretty much normal then. Gyms are the ones who insisted on harnesses because they're manufacture was regulated, but really, you just need to be able to tie a knot.