Mitchell System Tips and Tricks for Newbies

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Mitchell System Tips and Tricks for Newbies

Postby PaulSiegel86 » Mar 11, 2012 9:49 pm

As they title suggests I'd like any hints, tips, tricks, hacks, observations and lessons on the use of the mitchell system. I recently converted to a Mitchell from Frogdom, and I don't have anyone talk about the Mitchell with, as most of my friends use Frogs. It seems to have become a relatively esoteric system, therefore compiling this knowledge in a public forum would serve a greater purpose (beyond helping me out)

For instance I learned that ascender choice is very important, when using a Mitchell. The Petzl basic I was using for a knee ascender this weekend did not work well on PMI Ez-bend, and it was exhausting having to feed it through. I will be switching to a CMI Short in the near future.

I think that a Croll as a QAS is an excellent idea and I'm indebted to John Cooke's article for the idea.

Some of things I'm struggling with:
length for rope from Upper ascender to step, and knee ascender to step.
Climbing against a wall?
Tricky lips?
Rebelays?

This is all stuff I could learn by trail and error, but I wanted to see if there was anyone out there who could help. So far my printed sources have not been much help, and the internet has not either.
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Re: Mitchell System Tips and Tricks for Newbies

Postby speleo » Mar 11, 2012 10:57 pm

I have been using the Mitchell for nearly 40 years. I love it. I have tried other systems, but none have been as comfortable to me. I like my top ascender to fit just above my chest box when standing with both feet on the ground. I use my left ( short ) ascender with a biner in it in order to have a larger hole to run a gloved finger through. I have it adjusted where I can reach down and put a finger through the biner without having to squat or bend. Wall drops are no problem. Most lips are no problem. Occasionally you get one where the rope bends over a curved lip and suddenly goes free like in War Eagle Cave in Alabama. Those can be a bit difficult, but manageable. The QAS helps there. The only drawback to the system that I have found is that it is not the best for multidrop caves with a series of short pits. The friends I cave with use rope walkers or frogs, but I am sold on the Mitchell. Now if I only had a younger body to go with it.

:cavingrocks:
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Re: Mitchell System Tips and Tricks for Newbies

Postby caverdoc » Mar 12, 2012 12:34 am

On this website (NSS) look under "organizations" and find "sections" then "vertical section." Click on the button for "Nylon Highway", the newsletter of the Vertical Section, and you will find most of the issues on-line. There are several articles on the Mitchell System. You can also read On Rope 1 (a vendor on here) website for some more info.

I started using a Mitchell with a pair of grey Jumars and a chest harness made from tied 1" webbing and a non-locking carabiner back in the '70s. I've tried the Gibbs Ropewalker, the double-bungie rig, knots and a lot of Frog time. I went back to the Mitchell around 2007, with occasional Frog use for NCRC. After watching my "rescue buddy" at my level 3 class in IN scurry up and down the rope with a Mitchell, doing all the rescue-related tasks, I was sold again.

Now I use a PMI double box on an On Rope 1 "hammock" chest harness. Very comfy. I've been using yellow Jumars for a couple decades and I guess they are now out of production. You can still find them on ebay. The CMI's also work well, especially the little short ones.

Gary Storrick has a webpage detailing handled ascenders that you can use in the Mitchell. Gary is a pretty devoted Mitchell system user as well.

At the Indiana convention Bill Cuddington gave an excellent presentation on why he still uses the Mitchell system. That definitely sealed the deal for me in returning to the Mitchell.

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Re: Mitchell System Tips and Tricks for Newbies

Postby PaulSiegel86 » Mar 12, 2012 7:06 am

Thanks, Fellas!

Speleo,
I see what you mean about the short pits, It would be a bit of a production for anything under ~50 feet. Your comment got me thinking? If you are traveling between pits, do you derig everything foot step wise? What's the most efficient way to travel with a Mitchell?

Doc,
Thanks for the links and suggestions, I've actually crawled through most of the Nylon Highway stuff and read and re-read On Rope, as well as perusing Mr. Smith's website. I think I meet Bill Cuddington (and John Cole) at the 2005 Convention in Huntsville. I'm actually using an old yellow Jumar, but I only have one, thus the impetus to buy a CMI. Would it be better to use it as my lower or upper ascender? It was much easier to "thumb" the cam on the Jumar, as opposed to the Simple.
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Re: Mitchell System Tips and Tricks for Newbies

Postby caverdoc » Mar 12, 2012 8:38 am

Paul
Thumbing that lower ascender cam is a handy skill. I was climbing 10mm rope out of Gory Hole, IN and my lower cam just kept biting a little too much into the rope. Not the smoothest climbing. I think that I was using a shorty CMI. I've also had yellow jumar stick like that on 10mm. Moral of story; use 11mm rope! Never had that problem with the old grey jumars but I was 30lbs lighter and we used exclusively 11mm rope (PMI or Bluewater) in the '70s.
There's some interesting stuff in Neil Montgomery's "Single Rope Techniques" which was a groundbreaking text on vertical caving in the '70s. A caver near you may have a copy you can read and photocopy. Also, if you check out the caverdiggers.com website there is the entire text of "Vertical" by Alan Warild, an Australian caver. One of the best single-source books on vertical caving, mostly Frog style, but of interest to all cavers.
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Re: Mitchell System Tips and Tricks for Newbies

Postby Scott McCrea » Mar 12, 2012 9:04 am

A Mitchell System can also be easily converted to a Texas System. Which, is great for those short, less than 50', pitches.
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Re: Mitchell System Tips and Tricks for Newbies

Postby caverdoc » Mar 12, 2012 10:31 am

What Scott says is a good reminder. Since I'm top-heavy I run my seat ascender sling ("safety Jumar")through a roller to keep me upright. And for trips where you don't have any pit over 50'ft, you can leave your long ascender and box home and a simple figure eight sling of 1/2" webbing and mini-carabiner will keep you upright.
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Re: Mitchell System Tips and Tricks for Newbies

Postby scrambler » Mar 12, 2012 1:48 pm

I have a modified Mitchell for the longer drops (I ususally use a Texas when I can get away with it) and I've found that if you put a Croll that connects from your seat harness to your chest box (you may have to drill a hole for this in the box), you can have the choice of running up the wall (ie Mitchell) or when you get tired, you can do a sit/stand (ie Frog) technique. This works really well on longer drops. It also is another way to tether yourself to the rope for when you need to pop out of the box when going over a difficult lip. You can always clip it on/off the rope as you climb depending on your needs. It's not a necessary piece of equipment, but nice to have.

No matter if/how you modify your system, remember that you want at least two points of attachment from your sit harness to the rope. For me, that means that both my upper and lower footloops have cordage that connect to my sit harness. I believe the original Mitchell only has you connected via the chest box...

Happy climbing!!
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Re: Mitchell System Tips and Tricks for Newbies

Postby PaulSiegel86 » Mar 12, 2012 2:52 pm

Scrambler,

I've already been doing that! I just wear a simple H-harness for my Croll under the chest roller harness. I hear you about the tethers, How do you manage with the upper ascender? Do you just run another piece of cord through the chest roller? (The more I think about it the more it would seem prone to tangles).

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Re: Mitchell System Tips and Tricks for Newbies

Postby Scott McCrea » Mar 12, 2012 3:02 pm

Simple is safe.

Redundancy is great and it makes you feel better. But, you NEED one point of attachment—you WANT two. If adding an extra lanyard tangles and complicates things, it could make the system worse, less safe.

The best, fastest, most efficient cavers I know have simple, compact, tidy, minimal systems. Instead of adding things in an effort to improve, try taking things away.
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Re: Mitchell System Tips and Tricks for Newbies

Postby Pippin » Mar 12, 2012 3:17 pm

I've used a Mitchell for 20 years and love it! I also use a frog for multidrop caves, but I almost always use my Mitchell for single pits or deep pits. I use a handled Petzl ascender for the one running through my chest harness and a Petzl basic for the knee ascender. I like having an actual handled ascender for the top so I can hold on to it while I'm climbing. I've never had any trouble with having to feed the rope, but if you get someone to pull on the rope for you as you get started climbing that will really help. I have a very small quick link attached to the top of the basic and I just grab that to pull it up the rope. I do have a safely line that runs from my upper ascender to my seat harness in case my chest harness blows out. I don't run a line from my lower ascender to my seat harness, I tried that once and it got in my way. I use either small diameter rope or 1 inch webbing for chicken loops.

As far as the length for the upper ascender rope, I make sure that the knots are all tied up so that the bottom of the ascender is about level with my chin. That's a good length for me. You also have to be careful that the knot tied to the ascender is far enough above your chest box that the knot doesn't get jammed into your chest harness while you climb. I always tie my lower ascender so that the cam is about level with my left arm when it's fully extended so I can downclimb if necessary.

I find climbing against walls easy with a Mitchell. Your feet keep you away from the rock enough that it's never been an issue for me. If you encounter an especially tricky lip, you can attach your QAS above the lip and take the main rope out of your chest harness to allow a bit more movement. Just don't detach your ascender rope! I did get stuck at the lip of War Eagle once because I didn't pop the main line out of my chest harness and my harness got stuck in a crack. It was pretty unpleasant and a lot of cursing and flailing ensued. The rebelays I've done are pretty easy too. You just need to practice that a bit. Just be sure to have a QAS with you for rebelays.

I find that leaving your climbing gear on between drops is sort of a pain if it's a long ways between drops. That's one reason I switched to a frog for multidrops. But when I did use a Mitchell in multidrops, I usually just took my ascenders off and clipped them to my seat harness unless the next drop was right around the corner. If it's not too far to the next pit you can just leave your gear on. Good luck with your new system, hope you enjoy it!
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Re: Mitchell System Tips and Tricks for Newbies

Postby Pippin » Mar 12, 2012 3:24 pm

PaulSiegel86 wrote:I've already been doing that! I just wear a simple H-harness for my Croll under the chest roller harness. I hear you about the tethers, How do you manage with the upper ascender? Do you just run another piece of cord through the chest roller? (The more I think about it the more it would seem prone to tangles).


Just saw this, what I do is I have two pieces of rope actually tied to my upper ascender. One rope goes through my chest harness and then down to my foot loop. The other runs over the top of my chest harness and I clip it into my seat harness with a biner. It doesn't get in my way. You have to be careful about the length of that line. If it's too long you won't be able to reach it if something happens to your main line. If it's too short it messes with your climbing. I usually tie that piece of rope so that it's comfortable to actually sit down and rest while on rope. It's about the same length as my QAS. You will need to experiment with it.

I'm not sure how you're wearing a croll under your chest harness roller. That sounds overly complicated to me.
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Re: Mitchell System Tips and Tricks for Newbies

Postby PaulSiegel86 » Mar 12, 2012 4:14 pm

I'm not sure how you're wearing a croll under your chest harness roller. That sounds overly complicated to me.


http://www.caves.org/section/vertical/nh/53/ConvertMtoF.pdf
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Re: Mitchell System Tips and Tricks for Newbies

Postby gdstorrick » Mar 12, 2012 5:23 pm

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Re: Mitchell System Tips and Tricks for Newbies

Postby gdstorrick » Mar 12, 2012 7:41 pm

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