I wanted to share some thoughts about this past Sunday at Dhauj, things to think about for next time. If you intend to come with, read carefully, and let’s please start applying these.
We had folks turn up without helmets; helmets were needed, even on the little scrambles we had up to our two ledges. The area is exposed to rock fall, and since Dhauj isn’t maintained in any way, there is a serious risk of rock fall.
We had several people without ATC-style belay devices, meaning they couldn’t rappel without borrowing gear. Since we end up teaching the rappel, and want to use the same type of equipment so that we all have the same technique, please make sure you bring a regular double aperture belay device. No figure 8s please.
Very few people had personal safety anchors or knew how to use them. Since we set up and often get to exposed ledges, it’s important to have one, and to use it when up at an anchor. As a habit. It should also be tied on to your harness at all times.
So the complete list of equipment you need to invest in to come outdoors is as following:
- Climbing shoes
- ATC-style belay device
- Large locking carabiner
- Belay gloves (hands + belay devices are a frequent source of injury)
- Personal safety anchor (6ft sown/tied runner + small locking carabiner)
- Hero loop (2.5 ft long 6mm perlon tied in a 1 ft long loop) for autoblock
- 2 extra non-locking carabiners (for a variety of scenarios)
- Chalk bag
COMMANDS AND BELAY TECHNIQUE
Our belay technique isn’t what we are supposed to be following at the gym. Commands were pretty sloppy, and overall I was unhappy with the quality of our belaying. It didn’t feel like a standard, and I felt like being belay certified by us doesn’t really mean that you know how to belay.
Everybody goofed up commands (belay off especially), the belay was always too tight (which means hangdogging and pulling people off balance), folks frequently had their hands on the device during belaying (making it more likely to get the hand pulled into the device with a fall), people constantly stepped on the rope.
In general communication was not crisp or well thought out. I don’t think people treat their belayers like a partner to communicate with. Partner safety checks were often not done. While a little bit of being lax at the gym is OK and common everywhere, we need to be much sharper outdoors as a matter of habit.
Overall, I don’t think we take belaying technique seriously, and that has to change. There’s no point climbing and belaying people if you’re sloppy and don’t have the right habits. It’s dangerous, and we don’t want to wait for an accident to realise this. So please refresh your commands and technique by reviewing the content on our website and come practice at the gym.
FOOD, WATER AND CLOTHING
A few of us were super parched, and one person got a bit sunburned, so please remember to bring hats, sunglasses and sunscreen. Dhauj can be super hot and sunny, and there’s no point baking in the sun all day! So appropriate clothing please.
Access to the rocks goes through thorny bushes at times, and in fact they appear to have grown much denser, so having sturdy sandals or shoes is essential. It would be even safer to have hiking boots to protect your toes. Full sleeve shirts or a jacket is also good, protect the arms while hacking through the thorns.
We only climbed two routes each because of how long it took to access the ledge and set up top ropes. Partly a function of being rusty after a whole year away, but we can be a bit snappier next time with getting set up, and picking up the pace a bit.
One idea is to warm up at the Prow, which has really easy access, and bolts on top as well, so we can get started there, take a short lunch break, and then head on further out. That should be a nicer way to do things next time.
Another problem with our setup this weekend was that of the three options for getting off the top of the route (walking off, getting lowered off, and rappelling off), most people didn’t want to walk off and we weren’t sure they’d be OK doing that up top on their own unsupervised, most folks don’t know how to rappel off on their own, and so lowering was the only option remaining.
Lowering is terrible for the rope at Dhauj, because unless the rope is led absolutely perfectly to the right point, it will drag over something, and so will get quite a lot of friction with a person’s weight on it. This leads rapidly to deterioration of the sheath. In extreme cases, like if the rock is sharp, a rope can get shredded in a single outing.
So we need to start figuring out how to combine doing more lead (and following) on easy routes, and learning to walk off so that we protect our equipment and also not just fall into the habit of doing toprope outdoors, which is really not a great format for climbing outdoors at all!
A part of that was also the selection of the spot this weekend, where there was quite a bit of scramble up to the belay ledge, and a chasm between the ledge and climbing face, so access was even tougher. So for subsequent weekends, we can focus on crags where walking off is simpler and the belay area is bigger and accessed more easily.