Michael: Petzl Quarks with my homemade tethers. Soloing the only hard winter route on Mt. Washington. Note the 4mm cord attached to the spike. I found that the tethers clipped directly to the tool took away from the feel of the swing. The sound interfered with my concentration, also.
all photos courtesy of Micheal Wejchert's collection
This is a guest blog from east coast climber, Michael Wejchert. Hopefully it won't be his last.
More of Michael's writing and adventures can be found here:
Me soloing the Last Gentleman with BD's, Sketchy?
By Michael Wejchert
"Alpinist 8 had the north face of north twin issue, which came out my sophomore year at college. I think this was the first time I saw anyone going leashless alpine climbing. A couple of years later we had all gone
leashless alpine climbing. I remember Nils Nielsen showing me his prototype BD tethers in Alaska and I modified my old vipers and new Nomics to accommodate. I prodealed the BD umbilicals a couple years ago. I remember feeling liberated alpine climbing but especially soloing. Finally I didn't have to carry leashes for fear of dropping a tool.
For two seasons I soloed up to W15 with BD umbilicals, used them alpine climbing, and dismissed them totally when ice climbing. Then, roped up with my father on a WI3 I soloed weekly, I dropped a Nomic: bumped my knee cruising as quickly as possible and realized that in a lot of other situations, such as runout M5 or so, dropping a tool, even roped up, could spell disaster. I began to look into tethers with more scrutiny.
Black Diamond tethers seemed to have their advantages: light weight, swivels to help avoid tangles, and somewhat strength-rated.
After a trip to Patagonia I also realized that almost all non BD athletes were climbing on homemade, strength rated tethers. Hmmm…
The first time I saw a Black Diamond tether come unclipped was my buddy Ryan Stefiuk’s on the classic cannon climb *Omega.* It wasn’t good timing—warm temperatures, ice coming down on a heady lead—not when you want a gear malfunction. Since then I have witnessed several BD tethers come unclipped on people’s Black Diamond ice tools. SO: a product that comes unclipped, isn’t strength rated (if you fall onto your tethers, they’ll probably break), and is 50 dollars retail? The thought of those little carabiners snapping was nestling deeper and deeper into my subconscious.
Soloing Polar Circus with BD tethers. 3 or 4 years ago now?
There is a massive difference between the demands of hard climbing and the demands of the casual user. Most people with disposable incomes are the latter, and oftentimes climbers have to finagle their own solutions to problems. I made my own tethers using strength rated webbing and Metolius mini-biners. No gimmicks, such as swivels, (which some people buy at the hardwear store), to get in the way. Alpine gear should always be absolutely necessary or have a dual purpose: I can clip my homemades in as daisy chains for rappelling, leave the mini ‘biners and cut up the webbing for bail cord if I have to. Another advantage. I made mine a little longer than arm-length to accomadate for twisting around on pitches. A good idea.
Soloing the mixed finish to Fafnir with a homemade tether attached toa modified Nomic. Great mod, BTW.
This season I’ve climbed almost exclusively on my homemade tethers. I’ve noticed that the swivel doesn’t make enough of a difference for me to miss it. Let’s face it: gear and ropes can and will get tangled in both. Ideally this doesn’t happen and takes some getting used to. On 1-3 pitch ice climbs, sport mixed climbing, and the like, I don’t usually climb with tethers at all. Most of this climbing is done where a screw can be put in at any time, I can rappel, or the terrain is rocky enough that having tools is almost superfluous. Soloing, alpine climbing, and on mulitpitch mixed route, my tools are clipped in, strength-rated, all the time.
Probable 2nd or 3rd ascent of "fat of the land" in Newfoundland withtethers. Ripped off of Ryan Stefiuk's blog:)
Many friends here in New England putting up new routes always scoffed at my setup when I took them out on Cannon cliff or somewhere but I’ve noticed that more and more, tethers are being used by one time cynics on roped terrain.
The last time I used my BD tethers was on an attempt at the Girdle Traverse of Cannon Cliff. I figured the swivel might help with all the sideways climbing, but found no advantages once the rope got caught in between the swivels. That week, I sold them. Do yourselves a favor and don’t get caught up in marketing hype. Making your own pair or getting a simple, strong pair like the Blue Ice boa is the way to go. That extra margin of safety can make all the difference. Climbers should always be wary of too many moving parts anyhow."
I've written several times here about the issues with umbilicals and there use,
More here from previous content but a Google search of Cold Thistle will give you even more..
The simple umbilicals I use in the alpine
Beware here! Any umbilical set up you make is not going to be strong enough to take a fall on and not fail. None of the commercial ones will take a a full weight fall and nothing you will make with climbing webbing will either. You might get a tiny bt stronger than the commercial set ups but the margin for error here is slim to none! DO NOT RELY ON UMBILCALS TO SAVE YOU IN A FALL.
Read Black Diamond's warnings here and pay attention.