major aspect of Search and Rescue is the ability of the rescuer to feel
comfortable working around steep mountains and cliffs. This chapter
deals specifically with the skills required to climb vertical walls for
the purpose of rescue. In sport climbing, a route is often chosen
because of its challenge rather than its practical ease. When a climber
becomes injured or stranded on a climb, the rescuer should be able to
utilize the easiest and quickest manner to reach the subject. This may
require some technical climbing on the part of the rescuer to access the
subject. Choosing the best route is at least as important as the
climbing techniques employed to reach an objective.
Distant View offers a great deal of information which is lost once
within the maze of canyons and gullies close to the objective. Note
where the major gullies lead. Notice which ridges carry through to the
top which may prove to be an easy access to a place above the subject.
(the objective). View the situation from more than one angle. Cliffs
appear vertical when seen full face, but appear manageable when viewed
from the side. Only a side view shows true angle of the wall. One should
use distant trees for a rough scale in estimating size of adjacent
terrain features. Remember that the ridges offer the best average angle
from base to top, gullies usually end in steep waterfalls.
the descent and evacuation route constantly in mind, looking back
frequently to be familiar with the return route. Memorize prominent
features and their relative locations. Mark points with chalk and
indicate the same on the topographic map. Other useful information
should be mentally noted, such as good belay points, anchors, etc. Rock
fall is a maximum hazard in the mountains, so attempt to plan the route
to preclude areas of high danger if possible. Whenever any climber
dislodges a rock, he will immediately yell "rocks", thereby
warning he team to take cover. When practical, on a technical ascent the
team will be divided into small groups (three-man teams) each
taking alternate routes to avoid climbing below one another. Climbing
one at a time is safest but is time consuming.
Route VS. Ridge Route:
Gullies act as natural channels for rock fall. Their very
existence is evidence of their weak and/or fractured character. Snow
remains there longest. When snow does melt, the dwindling water converts
rock surfaces to slick springs, leaving moss and mud. Gullies very
frequently end in steep, impassable walls and waterfalls. The only
obvious advantage in a gully route is the short falling distance.
Routes are the strongest rock in the mountains. Their existence is
direct evidence of this, however, strength is relative, and in a region
of totally weak rocks, the ridges will be fragile and topped with piles
of delicately balanced rock. There exists little danger of falling rock,
but there is considerable danger of falling with the rocks. Ridges offer
the best view of incoming weather. Ridges offer the lowest average angle
from base to summit.
This is the technique of free climbing with body weight always
directly over the feet. The hands are used mainly for balance and as
insurance against foothold failure. Gravity and friction attaches the
climber to the mountain. With practice, high angle rock can be climbed
using a minimum of effort if the simple rules are followed. Hard rock
boots with hard rubber vibram soles are adaptable to most climbing
required in SAR. Technical climbing shoes are recommended for extreme
exposure situations on vertical walls. Balance climbing allows the most
relaxed climbing. It minimizes muscle tension, allows easy breathing and
and climb upright, remembering to keep the weight over the feet. This
maintains the body's center of gravity over the legs. Don't lean against
the cliff face, as this restricts vision, hampers motion, and also
breaks off weak holds due to body weight pushing the feet outward.
Climbing upright compresses the loose rock and therefore minimizes the
amount of rock fractures.
The rule is to keep at least 3 points of the 4 points available (2
hands and 2 feet) in contact with the rock at all times. On difficult
climbs, using hands and feet as points of support, only one point is
moved at any time as the other three should form a stable tripod. Relax,
both legs and arms between and during each movement. Make the
transitions smoothly, gradually transferring weight. Lunging (dynamic
moves) causes large momentary stresses which place the climber off
balance and may fracture the climbing hold. Climb first with the eyes,
seek and plan a complete sequence of holds to an objective to include at
least 3 or 4 moves.
can be anything from a level platform to holds just large enough for the
side of the boot, or a portion of the toe. The side of the foot is
preferred to the toe. Test each hold prior to use, and choose holds
close together to avoid a "spread eagle" position. A
"three-second" foothold is one which may offer only
momentary balance, but necessitates a stable platform be available for
an immediate transfer. The "shuffle"
is a manner of traversing, where-by the rear foot is
brought up to the front foot, then again moving the front foot forward.
Do not cross feet when climbing as this moves the center of gravity away
from the wall which causes balance problems. The "hop-step", is an exchange of feet, requiring a delicate balance,
whereby the climber executes a light jump, simultaneously changing feet
on a hold. The "smear" is the use of holds entirely dependent
upon friction, such as friction of flat soles, and palms of the hands
against a sloping surface. For maximum friction, weight is kept always
directly over the feet, and the full flat of the sole is kept on the
rock surface. Look for small niches, ridges and knobs, on which to place
the sole. Make intermediate steps on smaller holds, if necessary, to
keep from making long strides, which are tiring, break rhythm, and can
cause loss of footing.
holds are used primarily to maintain balance, but should be ready to
check a slip of a foot hold. In certain cases such as overhangs the arms
are required to hold the entire body weight. The best location for hand
holds is between the waist and the head. Always test the hand hold, it
may be loose in one direction but secure in another. The "down
Pressure" hold, as is shown in figure 1 is created by
pressing the heel of the hand downward against a flat or sloping surface
The "cling" hold, that is shown in figure 2 is
the result of placing the hand overhead and clinging, with fingers or
edge of the palm. The "pinch" hold that is demonstrated in
figure 3 is used on a rib and is the result of grasping the
knob between the fingers and the thumb.
counterforce climbing method of free climbing is used when balance
climbing is no longer possible. In balance climbing gravity and friction
holds the climber to the mountain. In counterforce, an interdependent
tension is created in the body, along a line between two or more rock
surfaces. Stresses are created with the body that can be maintained only
for short periods of time. Failure of holds is usually total and
simultaneous. Jam holds are formed when a portion of the body is jammed
between rock surfaces as a means of holding onto the rock. In a foot
the boot is inserted with the sole parallel to crack walls, then rotated
to right angles. In a hand jam, the hand is inserted with the palm
parallel to crack walls, rotated to right angles, a fist is then formed
to create friction in the crack. It is possible to pull ones weight
using on the friction of the fist jammed into a crack. Any portion of
the body, trunk included, may be so utilized to form a jam hold. Note
that a jam hold can become permanent.
and pulls is another type of counterforce maneuver to utilize a crack as
a handhold. The "finger traverse," shown in figure 4,
is a modification of the "cling" hold used in balance
climbing, whereby the fingers are curled around the rock, and the
climber traverses, supporting himself on arms alone. In a narrow crack,
fingers are curled around one side while the thumb pushes against the
other side of the crack.
hold that utilizes counterforce is formed by placing both hands, facing
outward, into the crack, and pulling outward with the arms to support
weight. On a rib, push in with both hands, or use cross pressure as is
shown in figure 5. Opposing pressure, hands against the feet,
is often used when a large horizontal crack is encountered as in figure 6.
surmount the horizontal crack, push down with feet and pull up with
hands (Undercling hold.) simultaneously. The "layback", using
tension of both arms pulling against one side of a crack while both feet
push against the other. An important aspect of laybacks, depicted in
figure 7, is to keep the arms straight allowing the arm muscles
to be as relaxed as possible. Pulling in will force the bicep to tire
a knob, opposing pressure may be applied as is shown in figure 8.
"Tabling" or "Mantling" is using both hands
with down pressure to hoist oneself up onto a ledge as is demonstrated
in figure 9.
Team Climbing Gear:
pack contains various items of climbing protection equipment including
passive nuts and hexcentric chocks, webbing runners, dynamic camming
devices, etriers, ascenders, rope protection, locking and
non-locking binders, and extraction devices. Each member should
have some practice with the equipment in this package. Two climbing
lines are also included in the assault pack. There is sufficient
equipment in the assault pack to allow a team of 3 climbers to execute a
moderate difficulty multi-pitch wall climb.
access has been made to a particular point, it may be more expedient to
attach multiple fixed ropes to the site and allow team members to ascend
(climb) the fixed ropes to the site rather than execute a follow climb
to the site. Team members must also be skilled in the use of ascenders
to extricate themselves from an area that was accessed by rappelling.
The task of ascending a fixed line through the use of mechanical
ascenders is often called "Jumaring" which is based on a
specific type of ascender, the Jumar. The Jumar ascender is pictured in
figure 10. The Gibbs ascender is another mechanical ascender,
that is more popular in SAR work since the removal of a pin is required
before the ascender can work free of the line which is not the case with
mechanical ascenders operate based on a directional cam that pinches the
rope if force is applied in one direction but allows rope to feed
through if force is applied in the opposite direction. The Jumar has a
trigger that allows the climber to control the cam for easy on demand
movement. A second trigger is provided to release the device completely
from the rope which is necessary when passing obstacles. The use of
etriers and webbing attached to the ascenders allows the climber to
climb a rope in a fashion similar to climbing a ladder. Weight is
alternately transferred from one ascender to the other as the ascenders
are moved up the rope. A suggested rigging for use of the jumars is
shown in figure11.
this rigging one attempts to stay balanced with all weight being
supported by the legs. Extreme fatigue will occur if upper body strength
is used to keep ones balance. When ascending a rock face it may be
required to keep the toes of the boots against the rock surface to
provide the required center of gravity balance. Each ascender is secured
to an entrier and directly to the climbers sit harness. When rest is
needed, the climber lowers his weight onto the sit harness. Progress is
made in "small" advances transferring the weight between legs.
Weight is placed on the sit harness only for rest. A chest harness may
be utilized in conjunction with the rigging to assist the climber to
maintain a vertical position. All moves must be executed statically by
transferring weight and then standing. Any dynamic moves will result in
a movement of the fixed line. Most problems occur when too large of a
step is attempted or the center of gravity is not maintained by the
legs. The technique of
"tying in short" is recommended to prevent an extended fall,
in the event of equipment failure.
in a rescue operation, jumars are not available. Figure 12
contains an ascending rigging that works well for climbing free hanging
vertical lines. Prussiks can be used in lieu of mechanical ascenders,
but are slightly more difficult to operate as they tend to lock up when
full body weight is placed on them. In this type of rigging, weight is
alternately transferred from the one climbing leg to the sit harness.
The webbing or entrier attached to the lead ascender is run through a
chest harness to help maintain a vertical position. The lead ascender is
run up the rope above the climber's head. By standing on the
"step" the climber maintains his balance over his extended leg
while the sit harness extender is brought up the rope. Weight is then
transferred back to the sit harness ascender and the lead ascender is
forwarded up the rope again.
all cases of ascending it will become necessary to over come obstacles
where the angle of the rock changes drastically.
climber should first attempt to push away from the wall while moving the
lead ascender past the obstacle. If the obstacle cannot be circumvented
by body maneuvers, one must disengage the lead ascender and replace it
on the rope past the obstacle. Once weight is placed on the rope above
the obstacle the secondary ascender should follow easily. (Ascending
sounds much simpler than it is in operation. Much practice and
experimentation to find "what works" is needed to ascend
comfortably and with confidence.) When
it is necessary to remove an ascender, one should first attach an extra
ascender above the obstacle and then proceed with the disconnect.
are a variety of methods used to attach oneself to the jumars and
ascend. Much of this is based on personal preferences and the type of
rock being ascended (i.e. overhanging vs. low angle). Regardless of the
particular method used, several components should always remain
Both ascenders should be tied into a sit harness
ALWAYS TIE INTO THE ROPE.
Foot slings are attached to one or both ascenders.
All carabiners used in the system should be locking
Be sure the rope does not run over sharp edges. Pad all edges!
The following is a brief description of a common method of
ascending utilized by climbers (figure 11). First, tie into the
rope. The top jumar is placed on the rope and slid up almost to arms
length. A daisy chain (multi-loop) is attached from the jumar to a
sit harness. The daisy chain should be very tight so that it will hold
you in an upright position. Next attach an etrier or foot sling to the
jumar. The bottom jumar is then attached to the rope and a daisy chain
is attached from it to the sit harness. A foot sling is attached to the
bottom ascender. The system is adjusted correctly when you can stand on
the etrier attached to the bottom jumar and extend the top jumar
1-2 feet. The bottom jumar is then slid up close to the top jumar
and the process is repeated.
every 15-20 feet or when taking off one jumar or making a
traverse, tie into the rope. Only after the new knot is secured should
you untie the old knot. This is termed tying in short and will limit
your fall/save your life if both jumars should fail. As impossible as it
sounds climbers have been killed or seriously injured when both jumars
have released from the rope.
Ascending requires patience and practice. If you system is not
adjusted properly, jumaring can be extremely strenuous and slow. Use the
rock for balance and to gain forward progress if possible. On low angled
rock it is easier to keep your feet out of the etriers and
"walk" up using the jumars like stair rails for assistance. On
steep or overhanging walls, a chest harness can be used to help with
balance. Figure 12 depicts a different type of ascending
rigging that works well for climbing free hanging vertical ropes.
All mechanical ascenders have safety triggers which are designed
to keep the cam from inadvertently detaching from the rope. At times it
is necessary to remove an ascender from the rope to negotiate and
obstacle or remove of piece of climbing gear. The safety trigger must be
depressed in order to remove the jumar. Before removing the jumar, TIE
IN SHORT TO THE ROPE or use a prusik knot or Gibbs as a backup. Be sure
the jumar is properly reattached to the rope and that the safety trigger
is closed before resuming your ascent. Jumaring a traverse is difficult
and dangerous as the jumar may torque off the rope. To avoid this
complication, clip a carabiner from the webbing at the bottom of the
jumar (figure 10) directly onto the rope.
If the proper safety precautions are followed, Jumaring is an
extremely efficient and safe method of rapidly ascending fixed ropes.
Practice and experimentation is needed to find what system works best
An additional safety measure is to place a prussik ascender above
each jumar with the loop of the ascender connected to the attachment
point of the jumar. In
this manner if the jumar were to be twisted off the rope or were to
fail, the prussik would take effect.
One must be certain to keep the prussik relatively snug.