Monday, January 22, 2007

Training and Geekery


The elbow seems to have reached some sort of sticking point; not getting better, not getting worse. I can sort of climb on it if I'm gentle (going at all hard puts it back a step for sure), but total rest seems to make it much more painful and "creaky." Last night I went back into the weight room for the first time, avoided any power movements on my elbow but hammered on the rest, damn good. There's just something so overwhelmingly positive about blasting your body, I'm typing with sore muscles for the first time in a month, hell yeah! And the elbow feels about the same... Maybe I'm being stupid, but my latest theory is that I likely have so much scar tissue from training over the years that resting just "sets" that stiff tissue and generally makes thing worse. Massage seems to help the most, so I'm doing that while driving and resting, plus ice, see what happens...


Playing WMV (windows meda files) on a Mac has always really annoyed me. Quicktime is a far superior format because you can pause it mid-video, scroll back and forth within the player without causing malfunctions, etc. WMV files play slightly better on a PC, but still suck compared to Quicktime (especially when playing WMV files within internet sites). The solution for Macs is to get Flip4Mac, which plays WMV files from within Quicktime. Full Quicktime function, way better than Windows Media Player. You can upgrade for $29 and then use most of the Quicktime Pro functions too, pretty cool.

Geek (or, as I've been admonished, "Nerd") mode off.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Equalizing belays

The whole concept of equalizing belay anchors has been discussed heavily lately, both over on and also on I've also had some correspondance with Jim Ewing over at Sterling, who did much of the actual lab work referenced. The basic concept is that it's very difficult to effectively equalize multiple pieces in a belay, and that shock loading when one piece pulls is surprisingly minimal. We all want to do the "right" thing when building anchors, but as I've written previously, the "right" thing often isn't. This picture is lifted from, where a user lifted it from John Long's new book (I still need to buy a copy of that, hopefully he won't mind posting it here as it's promo for his book--I've known Long for years, he's not the sort of individual you really want pissed at you, not because of his iron addiction but because he flips words with style). I thought people might enjoy seeing the data, when I got it from Jim it wasn't in a viewer-friendly format. I find the whole discussion sort of humorous because we all used the "sliding X" years ago, then were told that the cordellette was plus bon, now it's pretty clear that the old sliding X is pretty darn good in comparison. I've played with the "equallette," overall it seems like it's more prone to mis-rigging and requires more biners than I'm likely to carry for its performance advantage over a simple sliding X. Might use it on nice sunny days when I have unlimited time to set up an anchor, but for winter climbing it's a right pain. One of the main problems with cordellettes is that the central knot often becomes set for the day after only one use, I see the equalette as being worse. At least with a sliding X frozen knots aren't a problem. I'll likely go with a sliding X with the biner clipped directly into the rope, and the rope then clipped into a third piece as a "All hell breaks loose" backup to the two primary pieces. Or something else depending on what the situation callls for, the bottom line is that no one system for building belays will be the best for all possible circumstances. I'll continue to carry a cordellette as they are very useful for slinging pillars or other features, chopping up for V-threads, rigging rap anchors, etc., but less useful than I always thought for building equalized anchors.

All of this discussion has also changed my viewpoint that tying together some "OK" pieces will make a "really good" belay. I'm now more interested in having at least one "bomber" piece in the belay, and then backing that up with with at least one and hopefully two "OK" or better pieces. I've always built my rap anchors around one "bomber" piece (Abalakov or super solid pin/nut/bush/whatever) with a backup, I'm starting to look at belays more like this given how relatively poorly even the best equalized anchor works in the lab. In combat situations systems are likely to work even less well in my experience. Lots of good gear is a good thing, this whole climbing thing is pretty unpredictable when it comes right down to it. I'm very fond of 3.5 inch stainless bolts that I've placed, grin.