Nov 11, 2018

How to tie in to your harness

Fact: Tying in, whether you’re threading the rope bottom-up, or top-down, is the single most important part of your climbing day. There’s no room for distractions. So whatever method you’re comfortable with, and will nail 100% every time, that’s the “safest” method for you.
But, is there a best or safest method to tie in to your harness?

You always want to ensure that you tie in to both the leg loop and waist belt tie-in points. Personally, I learned to tie in bottom-up, and since I am quite a bit of traditional and superstitieux person I have stayed that way. For me it also makes sense to see the eight well in front of me when I have thread the first part of the eight in my harness, making it easier to follow out, nice and clean. But this is when I tie in with a figure of eight.
When I tie in with a bowline, I always thread it top-down, because it makes a cleaner ending of the knot when I secure the extra rope with an overhand knot, which then sets on the downside of the harness, away from the loop. And, it is also easier to measure the length of rope neede for the knot, from the loop to my knee is the perfect length to tie and secure the knot.
Also for Adam Ondra*, the method depends which knot he uses: “With the bowline I go top down,”  “With the eight I go bottom-up”. A quick look shows that many other climbers do the same. U.S. National Champion Sean Bailey* and Patxi Usobiaga* are bottom-uppers when they tie in with an eight.
Swiss mountain guide Mathias Hediger/IFMGA has his opinion clear;
”for classic alpinism I am doing figure of eight and for sportsclimbing with lots of falls I am using Prohaska but double or backlooped with double guideknot”
Figure of eight, treaded bottom up

Start of a Bowline/Prohaska
Some people argue that the rope should be thread from above, which reduces the risk of missing the waist loop. If your only tied in to the legs, you will most likely flip and fall up side down, in worst case even fall out of the harness. But, if you ever taken a fall in a Swami belt only, you will have learned the reason why Bill Forrester, already back in 1967, came up with the first prototypes of our modern style of harnesses with integrated leg-loops. Leg-loops are designed to take most of the load when falling. Something they already then knew was the best way to make life more comfortable after a leader fall. In lab testing, it is shown that the leg loops take 70 to 80 percent of the load in a fall. So, if you were to only hit one tie-in point, the leg loop is the one that takes the majority of the load.
So again, the best is of course to do it right and make sure both loops are in the rope. The interesting thing here though is that in my survey most climbers, mountain guides as well as amateurs and climbing professionals, tend to tie in bottom-up when they tie in with a figure of eight. So, my theory (and something most people asked respond to*) is that the knot itself is easier to control when tied in bottom-up.

Then next question, how do you tie in to your harness, in the belay loop or in the waist+leg-loops? Again, personally I do both.
The belay loop is the strongest point on the harness and the only part that is load tested. Anything hard should attach to the belay loop (e.g., a locking carabiner while belaying or rappelling). When reading on they strongly advice; ”Warning: You should not tie anything around the belay loop, including a daisy chain or sling. The belay loop will wear through quicker and is not designed to be used in this fashion. Belay loops are made of nylon webbing.” (

Figure of Eight direct in the belay loop

A few years ago the Germain Alpine Club, DAV, had this discussion on the table. Tying in to the belay loop was thought to be less material consuming and the rope would not move around as much when clipping in on lead, thus way save the harness and make it more secure. This turned out to be more of a theory than the truth. But, DAV, tested both variations and at one point actually recommended to tie direct into the belay loop instead of leg+waist loops. Nowadays they recommend both variations as equal.
Bowline variations called "Prohaska"

Personally, like the German mountain guide Stephan Schanderl, I use both. Just depending on the situation. Most of the time I tie direct in the belay loop, it is the strongest point, and then I use the figure of eight. When I climb something that I know I will have potential to fall on, I more often use variation of the bow line called the " double Prohaska". Since it is easier to un-tie after a fall. And then, because of the construction of the knot, I tie in to both loops, leg and waist, and top-bottom.

A small detail with a huge mythic touch. 

Note: All knots and variations here written in text are from our own experience with no data from any test lab.

*People asked in this survey; Heather Trevaren - KONG representant and climber, Stephan Schanderl - Mountain guide IFMGA/DAV, Carl Lundgren - Mountain guide/SBO, Adam Ondra - Pro climber, Sean Bailey and Patxi Usobiaga are bottom-uppers.

Oct 29, 2018

Gletchorn - Furka pass

Switzerland doesn't just hold a big number of happy cows that produces the lovely local swiss cheese. As we know, the country is filled with great granit and limestone, just waiting to be climbed.
One of these nice granit mountains is Gletchorn (3305m)
The route via its south ridge up to the summit is a great day out, easy route finding (follow the ridge!) and very high quality on solid rock.
Ok, the descent is a little so so with strange placed rappel anchors and a lot of loose stuff. But the climb is stunning and exposed.

Gletchorn Sudgrat
We packed the car, filled up Ford with fuel for the 3 hour drive from Chamonix to Furka.
Just passing col des Montets on the way with some climbing "on the way"
Since the Albertheim hutte is closed for renovation at this time, summer 2018, we made a reservation at the Tifenbach Hotel. Which meant we had an approchtime of about 30 seconds! Should be possible.
Morning over Furka pass

Tifenbach is an old hotel with a lot of personality, nice suited high above Realp and further away Andermatt. The standard is just as a climber want it to be, nice, clean and some good food and wine. (The chief can be a bit hard on the salt though) Even their coffee machine produces a great espresso.
Gletchorn Südgrat
The approach from Tiefenbach towards the surrounding mountains of Grauewand, Winterstock and Gletchorn is easily made from the hotel direct by foot or by taking the car some 100m back towards Furka pass and then drive up some 5 min on the private road. Just keep 7Chf in coins with you to pay the road fee.
Teemu on the frist part of Südgrat - Gletchorn
With a decent breakfast at 05.30 we left the hotel at 06.15 with a day of perfect weather ahead of us. Some +3-4°C and a light breeze made the start of the hike to a pleasure. With the company of 2 local Suisse climbers, we was taking turns of finding the best way. And a bit of individual race.
Just before Albertheim hutte the path heads back west for Gletchorn, passing more or less under Grauewand. All the time staying high on the trail and after 1 1/2h we was a the bottom of Sudgrat. With the race still running our Suisse friends decides to go up on the ride from the east side, but we keep to the plan and go on the historical and traditional way from the west side.
Higher on the Ridge, the pleasure just goes on
Once on the glacier, what ever is left of it, with crampons under our feets an other 10 min walk took us up to the base of the wall, with a couple of hundreds meter of scrambling up to the ridge line.
The topo says to stay far to the left but I decided to stay more in the center and just follow the most natural line of scmbling up to the ridge, An other 10-15 minutes.
The beautiful corners and aretes
Once on the ridge, all the effort put in turns out to a happy payback. Exposed climbing takes us further and higher up on solid rock with pleasant formations.
With the info from the topo I had equipped for a couple of pitons and some bolted belays. But unfortunately the local Suisses had gone all in, as they tend to do on all their routes nowadays in Gruyere country, and bolted up the cracks and slabs almost like a sport climb. Really sorry to see and experience. I just wish that the local guides didn't take their job to easy and make things way to simple and light. It is actually quite nice to put in own gear and stay a bit traditional, also in climbing.
No words needed - but looks like the locals don't have money for cam devices!
As often with climbs on ridges, it can give the feeling of "ok, so we are almost on the top" But then there is again a couple of sections and hided towers to be passed over. And there is a bit of down climbing, traverses and it just goes on. So as here, just when I think we are looking on the last and highest peak, the ridge just makes a turn and we have an other couple of 100 meters to cover. But, when your on the very summit, it is impossible to miss.
We are as high as we can get on this peak, and of course it is marked by a rappel anchor in situ.
An other stupid place number of bolts that for sure will get your rope stuck if you try to use it for descent!

Instead, after the obligatory summit pictures, we scramble around the peak, and continue a bit further on the ridge line. And the down climb on a bit loose rock towards a bit cairn that shows the start of the "trail" witch goes back downwards on the west side.
And with 3 rappels of 20m we are back on the west face and the last bit of scrambling down to Tiefengletcher.

Sudgrat of Gletchorn 3305
Max 4b / or 2 p A0

5-6 QD´s
Midsize Camelot's or Green/Red Omega cams
40m rope (2x30m or 1x50m for the rappels)

Plaisir West - Furka
Pictures below

Reservation at Tiefenbach
Tel: 0041(0)41 887 13 22

// Det långa talets korta mening!

Oct 22, 2018

Petit Flambeau - Via Laurent Grivel

 From Punta Helbronner there is a number of great alpine routes, which some are easily accessed then others. One of these is via Laurent Grivel on Petit Flambeau.
A new modern alpine route that follow ledges and ridges from the south side of Petit Flambeau up to the summit above col des Flambeaux (3407m)

Start from the Helbronner lift, take the lift down to the old Torino Hut, depending on season it might be possible to go direct out from the lift station to the glacier.
Head towards the Flambeaux col, but take the south side descent´ding down the glacier, but stay close to the rock. Not to far out on the glacier, a lot of crevasses, big ones!!

Aime for a red section of the cliff with a drilled bolt/hanger, which appears just when you might start to feel unhappy to descend any further!
Go up the first section of quite loose rock, tip toeing on easy feets...with grade 3-2 scrambling.
To the base of higher quality rock that goes up a steeper section over a crack formation. An other bolt in place. Just stay in the middle section of the rock face and the route is obvious.
After this you get to the "Mezza Luna" a short but really nice crux section over a half moon shaped crack. Also protected with a bolt.
The next section is again a little harder, but always good protection, bolts in place and good cracks to put in own gear.
The last short pitches follows more the ridge up towards the very exposed summit ridge.
Feels like climbing on bricks and lego...!

From the summit, easy scrambling back towards the glacier and the Flambeaux col but this time on the north side. And the last bit over the glacier to the best coffee in a high place at the bar at Helbronner.

  -We had a short but beautiful day out on this route. The access is very easy, but still we needed to take care avoiding the crevasses that at this time, beginning of October had opened up quite a bit.
The first section of scrambling is still an interesting undertaking, cause of all the loose rocks and its a big risk of a massiv rock fall. So better avoided in warm conditions!
Finally, getting up to the first section of "real" climbing was a relief. And my lead up the Mezza was just as beautiful climbing as anywhere on the Mont Blanc granit of friction. 
Then staying concentrated up the last sections and traversing the "Lego Ridge", well its spectacular enough for a rest day!

Via Laurent Grivel.  Petit Flambeau - Italy, Courmayeur

30-40m rope, best made in short pitches
4-6 QD´s
Red Alien
Green & Red Omega Cams
Small set of mid size wires
Slings for bealy
Glacier equipment
Link to - Route