A while ago I wrote about some of the multi-pitch harness essentials I always carry with me while climbing. One of them was a Wild Country Ropeman. The other thing I always like to have between my partner and I on most climbs, even long or alpine rock routes, is a Gri-Gri. I’ve found these two tools provide a myriad of options for self-rescue, hauling, simul-ing, and so on. During a recent trip up Liberty Crack, I tested out the use of a Ropeman and a Gri-Gri as a lightweight jugging setup when following short sections of aid.
For those who aren’t familiar with Liberty Crack, the breakdown for the first three pitches is something like 5.11-, C1/C2 (20m), and then 5.11+. Within the party of three we put together, I followed the first two pitches and lead the third one. I planned to free-climb pitches 1 and 3, pulling on gear as necessary. All in all, I would only be jugging the rather short pitch 2. I didn’t feel like it made sense to bring a set of Jumars or aiders, and wanted to see if I could piece together something for ascending the rope with what I already had on my harness: a RopeMan, a Gri-Gri, and one long sling (120cm).
First, my setup:
- I attached the Gri-Gri to my harness and fed the rope through just as if I were belaying, pulling out the slack so I was sitting on the rope rather than the anchor.
- I put the RopeMan above the Gri-Gri, attached via a small carabiner to a long sling.
- In the long sling attached to the Ropeman, I tied an overhand knot 15 cm from the end. This created a loop to hold my foot in the sling.
- I attached a larger locker to my belay loop, to which I secured loops of rope (5-10m each) as I ascended. This closed my system completely should the Gri-Gri fail, and also kept the ropes from blowing to far in the wind.
To ascend a section of rope, the process was then very simple:
1) Transition all weight onto the Gri-Gri and push the Ropeman as far as possible up the rope.
2) Stand up in the sling attached to the Ropeman
3) Take in any slack in Gri-Gri
Previous to this occasion, I had used a similar setup to get myself out of of some tricky situations where I fell off of overhanging routes as a leader, but the situation on Liberty Crack gave me a chance to put a little more thought into it. Overall, I found the jugging setup had the following benefits and downsides:
Upsides to the setup:
- Very lightweight
- All gear can also be used for other purposes (Ropeman – simuling and self-rescue, Gri-Gri – a safer belay!)
- With proper technique, felt nearly as efficient as using Jumars for the free-hanging rope I was ascending)
- When unweighting the Gri-Gri and stepping up on the sling that is attached to the Ropeman, you have to grab the rope (there is no handle like there would be on a Jumar). This makes stepping up slightly more strenuous. Proper technique helps (stand straight up on your leg, don’t lean back). It was also useful to have gloves.
- The setup works fine for steep (or overhanging) terrain, but a second stirrup for your right foot on the lower device would be useful if the terrain is less than vertical. This is hard to accomplish if the device is a Gri-Gri attached directly to your harness. With the setup here, you only have one foot to stand up on, and then have to unweight each device completely to move the other up. To unweight the higher device, the Ropeman, you have to fully sit in your harness on the Gri-Gri. This is in contrast to a normal jugging setup on less steep terrain (no Gri-Gri, lower device is a jumar with a sling). In that situation, effort feels a bit smaller because you can “walk” up the rope by transitioning weight between devices using your legs rather than by sitting into your harness.
Given these advantages and disadvantages, I’ll definitely consider this setup next time if repeating Liberty Crack or similar objectives which require short bits of jugging – maybe even if following someone on routes that are two hard for me.