Back to Scugdale tonight to try out some new climbing gear and a new way of climbing. Since last week I’d been mulling over the problem of how to reduce risk when climbing alone and I was keen to try out a possible solution.
I’d spent the week watching You Tube videos and picking the brains of more knowledgeable climbing friends and I was now the owner of 30 metres of semi-static rope and a Petzl Micro-Traxion ascender. This little device grips the rope in one direction only, so you can slide it easily up the rope but a downwards force will mean it grips the rope tightly. A bit like a prussik knot but stronger, safer, faster and less tiring to use. Most climbing rope is dynamic which means it stretches to absorb the huge forces placed upon it by a lead climber falling. Semi-static rope is low stretch and resistant to abrasion, perfect when you want to hang on a rope but aren’t going to be falling from a great height. All a bit technical and boring until your life depends on it and then it suddenly becomes fascinating……..!
I was now able to set up a solo top rope and climb alone with a much reduced risk of injuring myself. There is still the risk of user error as I found out when I accidently knocked the release lever on the Micro-Traxion half way up a route. Fortunately I had used a prussik knot as a backup and was able to figure out how to re-attach the Micro-Traxion in a relatively relaxed frame of mind.
The obvious answer to the problem is of course not to climb alone, but that would probably mean not climbing much if at all. I am free at strange hours, rarely at weekends when other people are free, and I like to grab a few hours climbing when I can. Climbing is a form of escape – from the pressure of juggling home schooling with a responsible full time job, from a chaotic home life and from an increasingly uncertain world. A day out in the mountains with friends has a similar effect, but a few hours climbing mid-week makes the difference between facing the next day with a sense of humour and wanting to give up.
Enough of the serious stuff. It was a highly successful evening and as an added bonus I got to enjoy the first bilberries of the season on the walk out 🙂