Tag Archives: Oregon

Jive-Ass Snow Picket

Jive-Ass Snow Picket

Jive-Ass Snow Picket

Check out this Jive-Ass, Old-Skool, homemade snow picket we found on the Eliot Glacier on the north side of Mt. Hood this weekend. It’s a beauty! We were on the glacier practicing high angle rescue techniques and this thing was just laying on the ice on one of the lower ice shelves near the start of the terminal morane.

Like most glaciers, the Eliot is retreating and melting at a rather disturbing rate. My hunch is that this Jive-Ass homemade picket was frozen up there in the glacier for a fairly decent amount of time, until it finally it melted free of its icy grave, sort of like Ötzi the Iceman, the 5,300 year old man who popped out of the Italian Alps in 1991. 

 Ötzi the Iceman (photo: Wikicommons)

Ötzi the Iceman (photo: Wikicommons)

I’m not saying this picket was buried in the ice for anything approaching that amount of time, mind you. I’m thinking maybe a decade or two. This highly speculative hypothesis is supported in some small measure by the 1970s era Chouinard Carabiner attached to it. That thing is an antique. Yvon Chouinard hasn’t sold carabiners since Chouinard Equipment Company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1989, due to several product liability lawsuites, and several former employees bought the inventory and founded Black Diamond Equipment

As to the picket itself? It appears to be a rather thin aluminum tube with a hole drilled in the end. Through that hole there is a piece of steel cable formed into a loop with a metal cable crimp. Notice also that the tube is sort of bent. I hope that didn’t happen while someone was hanging from it. 

Location: Eliot Glacier, Mt. Hood, Oregon, USA

 

 

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Top Rope Anchor Cluster

Wim on Pitch 1 of The Crown Jewel.

Wim on Pitch 1 of The Crown Jewel.

This entry borrows a chapter from the book “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.” In early December (2013) we had a very rare and sustained cold snap in the Pacific Northwestern U.S. It was cold enough to freeze some of the many waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge that divides Washington and Oregon, and all of my Portland area climbing pals were going ape shit crazy with all of the ice climbing opportunities. I managed to get out on two days myself, and even had the rare opportunity to climb the Crown Jewel below Crown Point on the Oregon side of the river. It’s two pitches of WI3. That’s my buddy Wim leading pitch 1 in the photo above. Not the gnarliest thing in the world, mind you, but you have to appreciate how rare it is for it to ever be ‘in’. Moreover, it’s far more exciting than a typical WI3 because it’s wet and warm and degrading as fast as it formed, leaving a lurking, spring-like fear that the whole works could de-laminate from the rock and send you hurling down the cliff.

Ah, fine and well, you might be saying, but where’s my jive-ass climbing anchor! Patience. We’re getting there.

When we were gearing up at the base of the route two stoners arrived. I call them stoners, because they roasted bowl after bowl of weed while they contemplated climbing the thing. They were rock climbers without much ice climbing experience, and I don’t know where they got it, but they were armed with positively antique ice climbing gear: straight shafted tools, pound in ice pitons, and some early Jeff Lowe ice pioneer era screws. Eventually, and much to my relief, they decided leading the thing probably wasn’t wise. So they asked me if I’d trail their rope up so they could top rope pitch 1. There’s a set of bolts at the top of pitch one. “Sure,” I said, “No problem.” And that’s what I did.

While I belayed pitch 2 from the top of pitch 1, Stoner guy #1 arrives and starts to reconfigure his top rope anchor to redirect it to the center of the ice. He reworked everything, from the bolts on. And here are the results:

Jive-Ass Sliding-X Top Rope Ice Climbing Anchor

Jive-Ass Sliding-X Top Rope Ice Climbing Anchor

He reconfigured a statically equalized, redundant anchor into this sliding x. Not ideal. No limiter knots, so not redundant. But I’ve seen worse. This isn’t what I’m here to share.

By the way, notice the ratty-tatty American Death Triangle rappel set up behind it! I should have cut that crap off, but I’m ashamed to say it didn’t occur to me at the moment for some reason.

Redirected Jive-Ass Ice Climbing Top Rope Anchor runs across the back of my calves...

Redirected Jive-Ass Ice Climbing Top Rope Anchor runs across the back of my calves…

So here is where the fancy redirected top rope ice climbing anchor gets interesting. The belay ledge is barely a ledge–maybe a foot width to stand on. Stoner guy runs the rope along the back of my calves. Unfortunately I didn’t notice this until he weighted the system to get lowered and the rope came tight on my leg.

Jive-Ass Redirect Rube Goldberg Contraption.

Jive-Ass Redirect Rube Goldberg Contraption.

Here’s the redirect anchor. One fairly solid screw, and one totally jive-ass back up screw. Stoner guy ground the screw in until he hit rock (oops!), and decided to call it good. It’s kinda redundant, right? Hopefully that other screw is bomber. I argued with him while he constructed this mess (and while simultaneously trying to concentrate on my belaying). I was able to convince him to clip the hanger on the jive-ass screw rather than sling the exposed shaft.

Once the system came tight on my leg, I complained to Stoner guy #2 when he got to the top of his lap. And he and Stoner guy #1 suggested I just step over onto the other side of the rope. I imagined an anchor failure where I get cheese-sliced off the wall and decided against it. Thus the rope sawed back and forth on the back of my legs until I was eventually able to climb away from the station.

Good times.

Location: Crown point, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon, USA

Leather Belt Anchor

Jive-Ass Leather Belt Anchor

Jive-Ass Leather Belt Anchor

Desperation some times causes us to do strange things. I ran across this climbing anchor (hand hold?) two weeks ago while climbing the summit block of Mt. Thielsen in the Southern Oregon Cascades. Some poor bastard attached his belt to the rock by wedging the belt buckle into a crack, sort of like a tricam. And it was in there pretty securely. Each of us tried to wiggle it out to no avail. I don’t think it was even real leather. How many kN is imitation leather good for I wonder?

The summit block of Thielsen is about 30 meters of 4th class climbing (with perhaps a very low 5th class move near the top). Some people just free solo it, although down-climbing it without a rope would be a bit unnerving. We protected the summit and rappelled from the top.

I’m no forensic expert, mind you, but I think this odd belt stuck in the rock was the result of a desperate down-climb. It was around six feet above a nice solid ledge. I suspect someone was free solo down-climbing, got sketched out about falling, and removed his (I assume it was a man because it’s a man’s belt) belt to fabricate a desperate hand tether with which to lower himself down to the safer platform. I hope he didn’t get hurt, because this set up was pretty jive-ass.

Location: Mt. Thielsen, Oregon, USA

Desperate Anchor Measures

Square knot anchor?

Square knot anchor?

Ever tie a climbing anchor with the same knot you tie your shoe laces? Yeah, me either. But whomever built the anchor above has. This is an honest-to-goodness jive-ass anchor photographed in the wild (on Oregon’s North Sister) by Stephanie Spence. As Steph notes, what we have here is a “square knot backed up by two overhands”(!). And judging by all of the loose sand around it, that rock the rope is slung around is pretty suspect as well.

This looks like a Wiley Coyote set up. You take a fall on the anchor, the rock the anchor is slung around pulls loose, you fall to the bottom of the cliff, and to add insult to injury, the rock you just pulled loose lands on your head. Here’s a rough dramatization for those of you unfamiliar with Road Runner cartoons.

But wait! There’s more! There is another anchor in this jive-ass set:

Sketch Slung Horn Anchor

Sketch Slung Horn Anchor

As Stephanie notes, this one is at least tied together with a double fisherman’s knot, although I don’t get the overhand knot in the middle. Presumably it was supposed to cinch the rope around the horn to keep it from falling off (there are better ways to accomplish this). More importantly, as Stephanie notes, “it’s just barely draped over that rock that may or may not be attached to the mountain.” I wouldn’t want to take my chances falling on this one anymore than the Wiley Coyote set up.

Below is a close up showing that there’s not much of a horn to keep the rope from slipping off of the rock:

Close-up of sketchy slung horn anchor.

Close-up of sketchy slung horn anchor.

So why would anyone in their right mind make such jive-ass anchors? Stephanie gives us some insight on that question.

“I was scrambling on up [North] Sister yesterday,” she writes, “and noticed these amazing anchors along what I believe is typically considered the “terrible traverse”.  One can only assume someone tried to cross this section on snow having not brought any pickets.” And there you have it. Desperate measures sometimes call for desperate climbing anchors. Another thing to note, which corroborates Steph’s impromptu forensic investigation, is that these anchor slings are made out of sections of climbing rope! It paints quite a desperate picture of someone panicked by exposure, having underestimated the climb, having failed to bring any protection, and having marginal technical skills (see the square knot), actually chopping off sections of his or her climbing rope to build some desperate anchors on the rock above the snow. Scary stuff, huh?

Location: North Sister, Oregon, USA

Nice dog! Is That a Bowline?

Dog securely anchored to a tree with a bowline knot.

Dog securely anchored to a tree with a bowline knot.

I was walking in downtown Portland, Oregon a while back and I came across a dog tied to a tree in front of a restaurant. I noticed that the knot used to tie the rope around the tree was none other than the infamous bowline knot, suggesting that dog’s owner was either a sailor or a climber. I didn’t get to talk to the owner, so I guess we’ll never know.

I have to admit that the bowline surprised and delighted me–enough that I was prompted to take this very poor photo. I think it’s in part a matter of context. As a climber I encounter this knot all the time in alpine climbing anchors. However, I don’t expect to run across a bowline in the city. I mean urban dog owners typically don’t know their knots. I would have expected a square knot at best, or a ‘granny knot’ at worst.

The dog just stood there staring attentively, like he was waiting for something to happen.

“What ya looking at boy?” I asked him. And I half expected him to respond.

“Well this rabbit came out of the hole. He ran around the tree, and then he went back down the hole. If he comes back out of that hole he’s mine.”

Location: Portland, Oregon, USA