Author Topic: Umbilicals: Are we doing it wrong?  (Read 425 times)

Offline RjBlake

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Umbilicals: Are we doing it wrong?
« on: February 14, 2018, 05:05:55 pm »
Warning: this is a post in which a newbie climber asks a question. [flame on]

I realize there are arguments both for and against umbilicals. I'm not getting into that. Presupposing you have decided to use an umbilical for whatever reason (and you're not soloing), would it possibly make more sense to have the umbilical clipped into your lead rope, rather than directly to your belay loop, with some kind of screamer like connection between the umbilical and the belay loop providing the protection against a dropped tool, and a full strength umbilical providing a running belay.

I've illustrated what I mean here: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1fZdgCsvWbuJ2uX5KyzKSg1wnJ0YZunvsX8BjsDfvLho/edit?usp=sharing

In this manner, your top ice tools is always your highest piece of pro, and your tool is loaded dynamically with the stretch of the rope in the system absorbing energy, rather than statically onto a short tether. Obviously this only matters in the rare case where you've severely screwed up and are taking a fall...which you shouldn't do...so I get that this isn't a very big use case, and may not be worth the additional complexity. Please check out the link before responding as I think that makes it much clearer. I'm aware that not falling is the way to go. Just curious to see what people think, and if this is one of those ideas that was already tried and discarded.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2018, 05:09:47 pm by RjBlake »

Offline powdergibbs

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Re: Umbilicals: Are we doing it wrong?
« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2018, 09:25:14 am »
I've thought about this a lot myself and I think you're onto something. I do use umbilicals and think the BD spinner is currently the best available on the market. That being said there's room for improvement. The image of a popped tool is one I try not to think about when leading or following ice, as I'm fairly certain something like that would ensure should I lose grip of my tools (and yes I know I know don't let go)

The problem with any alternative solution lies in the dynamic situation here. Statically the situation is great, add momentum to the equation and things get ugly, particularly if the fall is eccentric to the tool (not symmetrically) To me the most logical solution would be to still clip into the belay loop, but make the umbilical portion out of dynamic rope with a 22kn load rated spinner and a screamer. If you were dead set on the rope you'd have even more stretch in this system so, why not combine a locking carabiner clove hitched just beyond your figure 8 with the screamer, higher load rated spinner, and dynamic rope leashes? I'm sure no company out there would ever stamp a seal of approval on it, nor would I. My guess is they've made things lower rated as a breakaway feature in an effort to avoid the popped tool impalement.

Not falling is obviously the way to go like you mentioned, but lets all be honest with each other - if not falling was the only option why do we bother dragging all that metal up there in the first place? Oh yeah the what if! I see this the same way. Solution looking for a problem, maybe, but its fun to think about anyways. This would be a fun project to test.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2018, 09:28:29 am by powdergibbs »

Offline NEAlpineStart

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Re: Umbilicals: Are we doing it wrong?
« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2018, 04:49:25 pm »
Interesting topic. I personally dislike tethers but I understand there use when dropping a tool could be catastrophic (soloing big routes, long run-outs at Willoughby)... The second option is where it seems you'd lose the ability to quickly regain control of a dropped tool. If it is only connect to your climbing rope, and your last screw is 30 feet down... you've lost the advantage of classic tethers?

I also feel, probably from reading a few incidents in ANAM BitD that too many new leaders would lead over their ability and clip tools as protection when pumped, often ending in an accident.

Offline RjBlake

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Re: Umbilicals: Are we doing it wrong?
« Reply #3 on: February 16, 2018, 04:16:30 pm »
A few folks emailed with a variety of good points, which amount to, "this is a bad idea."  Thanks for the candid feedback. It was an interesting thought experiment for me.

(In case anyone was curious, some very experienced ice climbers basically said "focus on not falling, if you have a tool placement good enough to hold a fall, why would you fall?" and pointed out that the multiplication of force on the tool plus the potential for off-axis loading of the tool during the fall made it very likely to fail, and might give one a false sense of security.

All these points are well taken. Thanks.

Offline Admin Al

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Re: Umbilicals: Are we doing it wrong?
« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2018, 08:46:39 pm »
FWIW I've been climbing leashless for close to 15 years. first with the Trango Captain Hook's then with the original Ergo's which I still have and use, as well as a pair of carbon-fibre Cobra's for a couple of years. I've never dropped a tool climbing sans-leashes. I did drop a tool once when I was climbing leashed using my Charlet Moser Pulsar's. one afternoon on Chia I was trying to get my gloved hand out of the leash to place a screw and knocked the tool. it fell all the way down to the base of the climb. I ran the screw in and hung there while my partner retrieved the tool and I lowered an end of the rope down to get it back. I've never even had a close call while leashes, even while soloing, and I've soloed a LOT over the past 15 years - easy and hard stuff. 
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