Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Rope Management - Rule #2

This is the second post in a series on rope management strategies.  You can read the first one here.

Rule #2:  If it’s a mess now, it will be a mess later.  (So fix it!)

This rule exists to save time, even though a superficial examination may initially seem to indicate otherwise.  At some point, the nice stack of rope that you’ve been working with or the well-organized anchor you’ve constructed will become a mess.  While it may seem faster to just try to muddle through, the best option is to stop action, re-flake the rope, and re-organize.  All it takes is one experience hanging out at a terrible stance fighting the pump on the lead as your belay attempts to disentangle the Christmas lights-style knotted pile of rope to become a believer in this rule.  So, if the stack is untidy or the ropes are twisted, fix them first, then climb on.

The corollary to this rule is about preventing messes in the first place:  order your anchor like the world that’s tied to it.  If you wish to keep your ropes running free and clear, avoiding twists and tangles at the anchor, the best advice is simply to keep everything clipped to your anchor in the same order (left-to-right or top-to-bottom) as the things (usually people) that are clipped to it.

For example, suppose Tom, Dick, and Harry are multipitch climbing together on two ropes.  Tom is leading with both ropes, Dick is tied to one rope and climbs first, and Harry is tied to the other rope and climbs second (1).  Starting with the first pitch, if Dick is standing on the ground to the left of Harry, then Dick’s rope should be tied in to the left of Tom’s belay loop.  Similarly, Harry’s rope would be tied in on the right side of Tom’s belay loop.

When Tom reaches the anchor, let’s assume that the next pitch goes up and left.  Tom should tie his clove hitch into the masterpoint (2), position himself to the left of the anchor, and clip his plaquette to the right of his clove hitch (since Dick and Harry are effectively on climber’s right at this point).  Dick should climb first.  When he arrives at the anchor, he should tie his clove hitch onto the master point anywhere to the right of Tom (3).  Harry will climb second and tie his clove hitch as the rightmost component of the masterpoint (4).  Once the plaquette is removed, the climbers will be in order from left to right with Tom on the left, Dick in the middle, and Harry on the right (5).  If everything was done correctly, there will be no tangles and Tom will be free to go up and left.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Rope Management - Rule #1

During my guiding, instruction, and personal climbing, I often encounter situations where a few simple rope management techniques can drastically reduce unwanted headaches.  Consequently, I have developed a few rules for rope management to help avoid the all-too-common rope spaghetti I tend to see at climbing anchors.

Rule #1:  Always know where to locate both ends of the rope.

The first rule allows you to climb safer and saves time with organization and problem solving.  When flaking a rope under a climb, I always first set aside a few feet of rope and then flake the rope into a stack so that it is not on the rope end.  When I am done flaking, the rope end I have finished with is ready for the leader, and the belayer’s rope end is on the ground in a visible location.  If the belayer will be following the pitch (on a multipitch climb or in a top belay situation), both climbers can tie in.  This will prevent an over-eager leader from accidentally pulling the rope end off the ground and out of the follower’s reach.

If the belayer will not be following the pitch but simply lowering the leader (such as in a sport climbing situation), then the belayer’s end of the rope should be “closed;” that is, tied off to a rope bag or secured with some kind of stopper knot.  This helps mitigate being lowered off the end of the rope, which is one of the most common causes of preventable climbing accidents.

When both climbers in a rope team are at the same anchor on a multipitch climb, things can become disorganized quickly.  Having a good conceptual understanding of where each end of the rope is located can help resolve crossed ropes and tangles.  Generally, to untangle the rope, the end of it usually needs to pass around or through some other portion of rope.  Since the rope is tied to both climbers, the punch line is that one or both of the climbers will get to hurdle over or limbo under some strand of rope.  I find that conceptually recognizing where each rope end lies can aid in the untangling process.

Finally, rope end awareness can inform rappelling practices in both efficiency and safety.  When a leader is bringing up a follower on the last pitch of a multipitch climb, she can already be considering the rappel that will follow.  If the leader belays with a plaquette belay device (ie. Black Diamond ATC-Guide, Petzl Reverso, or similar), she can start threading the rappel rope as the follower climbs since she’ll have to pull all the rope up to the anchor anyway.  Recognizing the location of her only available rope end, the efficiency-minded leader will tether herself to the anchor on a sling when she reaches the top of the pitch so that she can untie and thread the rope as she reels in the follower’s slack, saving a step once the follower has arrived.

More importantly, rope end awareness is crucial on the rappel itself.  An intuitive and explicit understanding of the location of the rope ends will help ensure that a rappelling climber does not rappel off the ends of his or her rope, another leading cause of preventable climbing accidents.

Monday, December 10, 2012

October out West

This October, I had the privilege to take a western road trip with some help from North Carolina Outward Bound.  The itinerary included a few major plans:  tons of rock climbing near Las Vegas, Nevada at the world-class Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, attending the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Annual Meeting, and presenting at the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education conference. 

Susan following the pitch 5 crux of "Birdland" (III 5.7), high above the floor of Pine Creek Canyon
The journey began with a two and a half day drive from Asheville, North Carolina to the Red Rock campground located on the outskirts of Vegas.  The main objective for the rock climbing portion of the trip was to climb lots of long, tall routes.  While a simple goal, the particular routes climbed were carefully selected to best help prepare me take the AMGA Rock Guide Course and Aspirant Exam in April of 2013.  My wife Susan, a fellow NCOBS staff, and I had the opportunity to climb some outstanding routes, including the classic “Black Orpheus” (5.10a IV) and “Dark Shadows” (5.8 IV). 
Leading out on pitch 4 of "Dark Shadows" (IV 5.8)
A few days into our adventure, the AMGA 3-day Annual Meeting began.  I had the opportunity to socialize, network, and learn with literally world-class mountain guides trained to the highest level offered by any organization on the planet.  Needless to say, I was a bit intimidated by the attendance of some “big names” in the industry.  Luckily, another NCOBS staff, Ron Funderburke, was also in attendance and able to show me the ropes.  Perhaps best of all, I was afforded unique professional development through clinics, meetings, and round tables focused on technical skills like short roping, soft skills such as stress management, and administrative issues such as access, permits, guest guiding, and land use and management plans.

After the meeting adjourned, Susan and I climbed a few more days before I dropped her off at McCarrin International Airport for her flight back home to Asheville.  I stayed another day or two in Vegas to climb with some friends from Colorado before driving up to Snowbird, Utah for the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education conference.  There, Ashley Gray, a former NCOBS instructor, and I presented to a packed room about diversity and inclusion curriculum in outdoor programming.  I also got to meet plenty of great students and encourage them to come on our courses and join our staff.  The crux of the whole trip, though, was the drive back east through 35 inches of snow fall!

On the shoulder of Rainbow Mountain atop "Black Orpheus" (IV 5.10a)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Raspberry Chocolate Cookies!

If you are looking for a 'healthy' treat amid all the holiday food feasts, this is a delicious Raspberry Chocolate Cookie recipe from my friend, Jana. (Check out Jana's blog at These cookies are sooo yummy and sweetly free of cholesterol!  This recipe make 2 dozen cookies.

1/2 cup raspberry preserves
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sifted unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with parchment. Make a funny face.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the raspberry preserves, sugar canola oil, vanilla, and almond extract.

In a separate bowl, sift together the cocoa, flour, soda and salt. Now add the dry to the wet in three separate batches. When you get to the last batch you might need to use your hands to work it into a soft and pliable dough.

Roll dough into walnut size balls, flatten slightly — they should be 2 1/2 inches in diameter — and place 1/2 inch apart (they do not spread) on cookie sheet.

 Bake for 10 minutes.

 Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes and then transfer to cooling rack to cool completely. Then enjoy!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ladies' Gear Review: The Diva Cup

I have to be honest, I've had some issues with my dear, sweet Aunt Flo. As a teenager, she visited me both frequently and erratically. One time she only went away for a week before she came back to visit for a whole freaking month. I’m not kidding - a whole, entire, freaking month. I ended up with iron-deficiency-anemia due to her frequent and rather obnoxious visits.

There were also quite a few embarrassing accidents thanks to her. I promise you, I will never in my life wear white pants. It didn't matter that I doubled up on products and changed them all out every two hours. There were still accidents.

So, it’s probably not a surprise to most of you ladies that even though I am an “outdoorsy” lady myself, my standard practice for that time of the month has been to stay home rather than venture outdoors. It was simply too much of a pain. The quantity of products needed to manage the issue, plus needing to pack out all that trash --?! It was ridiculous. Not to mention the discomfort of sweating and hiking and rock climbing while wearing what is pretty much a diaper (cause even with a tampon, I still had to wear a pad as back up) - it just had not been worth it to me.

Then I learned about the Diva Cup. The makers of Diva Cup have not paid for me to write this review or provided me with any free stuff in exchange for this review. I don't think they even know I've posted this review. I've written this review because the Diva Cup has significantly impacted my life in a super positive way and I would love to share that experience with other women. Diva Cup is not the only menstrual cup out there, so do your homework and figure out what brand is best for you.

Without further ado, here is my review…

The Diva Cup

What is it? Diva Cup is a menstrual cup that is inserted into the vaginal canal, similar to a tampon. Unlike a tampon, it captures the menstrual flow rather than absorbing it. The cup needs to be emptied out every 12 hours and can be reused for years. There are a variety of brands out there, but this review is on the Diva Cup  brand.


  • Volume! This baby can actually handle my Aunt Flo. No more doubling up on both tampons and pads. 
  • Comfort. While it takes some time to figure out where it needs to be placed exactly, once you get it there it is way more comfortable than a tampon or a pad. I have literally forgotten I was using it. 
  •  Freedom. You only have to empty the cup twice a day. Now, I will disclose that on the first big day of my period, I do need to change it out at mid-morning and mid-afternoon as well. However, if you read my introduction I think you understand that my Aunt Flo is a bit of a freak and not really typical at all. This is still a huge improvement to having to change both pads and tampons every two hours like I used to do. It is a great convenience when I’m out climbing and might be up on a wall for the whole day.
  •  Less Waste. This little sucker will last you for years. Think of how many pads and/or tampons that would be in a landfill otherwise.
  •  Less Cost. Reiterating my last point - it lasts for years!! It only costs about $30 depending on where you get it. Think of how much you spend on other products every month. 
  • Better for your Health. Because the cup just captures your flow rather than absorbing it into a porous material like pads and tampons, it does not allow for build up of bacteria or other harmful things. This reduces the likelihood of developing health issues like yeast infections or TSS. Of course, you do still need to maintain good hygiene practices including washing your hands both before and after emptying your cup.  

  • Learning Curve. Holy crap is there a learning curve to this thing. Or at least there was for me. I have other lady friends who got it all figured out super fast, but it took me about 6 periods before I became comfortable enough with the cup to stop backing it up with pads. Since I was already backing up my tampons with pads, it wasn't so bad - but be prepared to be patient with yourself on this one.
  • Freshette Compatibility. Meaning, it’s not super compatible with my Freshette (here is my Ladies' Gear Review: The Freshette). It works, but it takes some effort. In order to maintain a seal with my Freshette, I have to hold it pretty firmly against myself, which puts some pressure down there. The Diva Cup also creates some pressure. All this pressure makes it kind of hard to pee. I've found that waiting until I really have to go helps me have success. It also helps to maintain a wider stance than I normally would and to lean my torso forward while sticking my butt back -- I feel a bit dopey doing it, but it works. If you've ever been pregnant, you probably already know all about this tactic since I stole the idea from a preggo-book.
  • Mess. As I was learning to use the device, things got a bit messy. It’s kind of an unavoidable part of the learning process. However, the messy phase does end as you learn how to use the thing. I dealt with this by making sure I could always use a private bathroom while I was learning (a bathroom that has its own private sink). I also figured out that I could reduce the mess by inserting the Diva Cup just before my period started -- rather than waiting for it to start.
  • Time. It does take a little longer to empty out the Diva Cup than it would take to switch out a tampon. However, the time is saved later when you only have to deal with the Diva Cup twice a day instead of every few hours and you get faster at it as you get more experience. 

For me, the Pro's definitely outweigh the Con's. Interested in learning more? Check out Diva Cup's official website at My Diva Cup was a gift from Derek, and this review is entirely independent.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Physical Therapy

Injuries suck. Repeat injuries suck harder. My right shoulder keeps getting injured repeatedly. It sucks the hardest.

It all started with an indoor bouldering session years ago when I was living in South Carolina (next Free- Give-Away will have to be a contest to see who can guess how many states Derek and I have lived in). I was working a problem across the gym's ceiling when my feet cut out from under me.

At the time, I had been reaching for the next hold so all of my weight suddenly fell onto my right arm. As I swung and my body twisted - POP - my shoulder made the distinctive noise of badness and pain zinged from my arm to my fingertips before it went quickly numb. I, of course, promptly fell 8 feet to the padded floor.


Thankfully, my arm had only partially sublexed and did not fully dislocated. It popped itself right back into place and the feeling returned to my arm with radiating waves of pain deep in my shoulder. Since then, my shoulder has been a bit of a problem.

I've been to PT a few times for it, but I tend to slack off and then go climb something way out of my league which inevitably results in yet another shoulder tweaking.

Derek has decided, after witnessing the original injury as well as all successive ones, to take an active role in my shoulder's recovery. I suppose that being my main climbing partner as well as my hubby, he feels a bit vested in my good health :)

Here is my daily Physical Therapy:

Dislocates 3 x10
Arm circles 3 x10/ea Side
Delt Raise 3 x10 @ 2.5lb
Front Delt Raises 3 x10 @ 2.5lb
Wrist Shakes 3 x10 @ 2.5lb
Over head presses 3 x10 @ 2.5lb
Rotator cuffs 3 x10 @ 2.5lb
Standing flys 3 x10 @ 2.5lb

I'm going to really try to do a good job this time, and stick to my physical therapy so I can finally get over this silliness. Not only because it sucks to be hurt (repeatedly) but also because Derek is kind of like a drill sergeant and I know he won't leave me alone until I'm better!

Do any of you have recurring injuries? How do you handle them?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

New Website Photos

Since Derek was redesigning the Peregrine Climbing Guides website, we wanted to have some fresh, professional pictures to really make it pop. I managed to coerce Derek's brother-in-law, Chad Guenther, into taking some photos for us.

I posted a public album of his photos on Facebook if you want to check them out. You can also visit Chad's photography website at

Here are a few of my favorites from out climbing day...

All of our photos were taken at the North Side of Looking Glass Rock. Derek led Creatures of Waste and I led Safari Jive.