parts for vertical caving rig

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parts for vertical caving rig

Postby perigrine » Mar 31, 2014 11:08 pm

As of right now I have almost everything I can think of for caving in Tasmania (where I live, and its mostly all vertical). My list consists of: harness, headlamp, helmet, right hand hand ascender, chest ascender, chest harness, descender, 2x snap lock carabiners, 2x screw gate carabiners, prussic cords/loops. I think that's everything, with plans to make the cowstails, safety cord and foot loop (apparently local cavers 'don't buy rope' for these - though where they get said rope mystifies me).

I can see that 3 of the 4 carabiners will be 'in use' all the time (if not all 4), and was thinking a few extras wouldn't go astray, but how many and what sort? I'm looking for what else, if anything, would be a good idea to have.

Any advice from veterans would be appreciated.
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Re: parts for vertical caving rig

Postby Stridergdm » Apr 1, 2014 5:40 am

What sort of system are you building?

That would partly determine the answer. My guess is a frog?

You say all carabiners would be in use, but in a normal setup, that's not true. The only time I have carabiners in use typically on my frog system is when using my cowstails on say a rebelay. (note I use a mini-rappel rack, so I don't have a brake-carabiner).

So I'm guessing you may be using the screw-gate carabiners in places where you really want mallions or other such pieces (like holding your harness together, attaching the hardware to your harness).

The reason for this is because carabiners should not be cross-loaded (it's their weakest position) and if you do something improperly, you can for example snap a gate with another carabiners or say your rappel rack.

I'd suggest if you can get a copy of the NSS's "On Rope" or from Europe Alpine Cave techniques.

Alternatively, for a small fee I'm willing to travel to Tasmania and do demos. :woohoo:
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Re: parts for vertical caving rig

Postby DannyW » Apr 1, 2014 8:20 am

I am also new to caving, and I find this: [/url]http://cavediggers.com/vertical/[url] is good reading and recommended by the SRT trainer in our group WASG. What Al Warild
uses in his book seems to be what most people are using that I have come across so far. I would love to visit the caves in tassie sometime
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Re: parts for vertical caving rig

Postby Anonymous_Coward » Apr 1, 2014 9:36 am

Hi Monique,

Welcome to cavechat! :waving:

For building frog systems, I usually point folks to this link: http://technology.darkfrontier.us/Vertical/Frog/

It shows how to build a frog system without a bunch of extraneous equipment but still has everything you need. No need for any maillons really, except for the large demi-rond to close your harness.

I would recommend constructing your footloop out of a non-stretchy material like spectra or Titan cord. Nylon footloops stretch with each stroke, compromising efficiency.

As for what type of carabiners to get? Cavers generally use screw lockers, and pear-shaped ones are especially popular because they have are easy to clip quickly and have the right shape for making munter hitches. On your cowstails, many will say that non-lockers are the way to go. I prefer to have lockers for those times that I really want to lock them.

You should carry one or two prusiks, and know how to use them.
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Re: parts for vertical caving rig

Postby tamarmole » Apr 1, 2014 12:34 pm

My Current frog rig

Harness: Petzl Falcon Ascent, this is linked together by a steel D Maillon. As harnesses go this is a bit bulky - If you are doing uber tight stuff something a bit more slimline might be a better bet.

For ascending I use a Petzl Croll as my chest ascender directly attached to the D Maillon. A small delta maillon into the top of the Croll and a simple tape loop chest harness. I use a Petzl handled jammer, this is attached to my security link by a steel screwgate crab. The security link in 9mm dynamic rope and attaches directly into the harness maillon. Also hanging from the hand jammer crab is my footloop which is tied from a bit of 10mm static rope (acquired from an old rope that had been relgated to the "digging store").

Cows tails are tied from 11mm dynamic with two snap gate crabs. The cows tails are tied direct into my harness maillon.

Descender: I currently use a Kong Rakong Micro rack, however for years I used a Petzl Stop. A stop is a good bet if you are doing lots of technical alpine style ropework. I attach my descender to my harness maillon with a steel screwgate crab.

Optional extras: I also tend to carry a couple of spare crabs, a pulley and a Petzl micro traxion this means that I can put a z rig together should the need arise (never has yet).
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Re: parts for vertical caving rig

Postby tamarmole » Apr 1, 2014 12:45 pm

I should add to the above post that both my security link (9mm dynamic) and my cows tails (11mm dynamic) were bought new from a UK caving retailer. Unlike my foot loop which is an old bit of tat security links and cows tails are safety critical so buy new - I tend replace them every couple of years.
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Re: parts for vertical caving rig

Postby perigrine » Apr 1, 2014 3:53 pm

Stridergdm wrote:What sort of system are you building?

That would partly determine the answer. My guess is a frog?

Alternatively, for a small fee I'm willing to travel to Tasmania and do demos. :woohoo:


The rig doesn't seem to have a name as such here (In Tassie - like I haven't heard anyone say 'this is my frog system' - it just IS), but from copious research, it is the frog system.

I have the maillon for the harness. The rigs I've seen to date always have non locking crabs on the cowstails, and generally a locking one on the descender (though I don't know if that one 'lives' there 24/7). I seem to recall the rigs have a locking one on the hand ascender as well, rather than the oval quick link.

Research says I need a minimum of 3 crabs, and a maximum of 6. If the oval quick link is preferable for the hand ascender (in my case Petzl Ascension) then I'd get one of those and free up a crab.
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Re: parts for vertical caving rig

Postby NZcaver » Apr 1, 2014 7:30 pm

Welcome to the forum, Monique. I second Andy's suggestions and observations:

Anonymous_Coward wrote:For building frog systems, I usually point folks to this link: http://technology.darkfrontier.us/Vertical/Frog/

It shows how to build a frog system without a bunch of extraneous equipment but still has everything you need. No need for any maillons really, except for the large demi-rond to close your harness.

I would recommend constructing your footloop out of a non-stretchy material like spectra or Titan cord. Nylon footloops stretch with each stroke, compromising efficiency.

As for what type of carabiners to get? Cavers generally use screw lockers, and pear-shaped ones are especially popular because they have are easy to clip quickly and have the right shape for making munter hitches. On your cowstails, many will say that non-lockers are the way to go. I prefer to have lockers for those times that I really want to lock them.

You should carry one or two prusiks, and know how to use them.

That link about the frog system is a good reference to start with, although like most cavers I have my own preferences and variations of equipment and setup. This previous post might give you some more ideas. Just ignore the title of that old topic - "am I likely to die while ascending" :shhh:
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Re: parts for vertical caving rig

Postby paul » Apr 2, 2014 6:43 am

perigrine wrote:generally a locking one on the descender (though I don't know if that one 'lives' there 24/7).


It is highly recommended that you always be prepared to change over from ascent to descent and vice versa in case of unexpected problems so you should always have your descender clipped to its normal place for descent even when ascending. So that locking carabiner would indeed live there 24/7.

perigrine wrote:I seem to recall the rigs have a locking one on the hand ascender as well, rather than the oval quick link.


It's a good idea to also use a locking carabiner to attach your hand descender rather than a quick link. This increases flexibility as you can clip this carabiner to something without using the ascender and then hang from the safety link while still clipping a cows tail (for example when passing a rebelay where there are no footholds). Also you may need that ascender in an unexpected situation, say to make up a "Z-rig" hauling system and when you need to undo a quick link which is not undone often, you find they invariably don't undo easily due to lack of use while a locking carabiner can normally always be undone.

Many cavers use non-locking carabiners on their cowstails but I have a locking carabiner on my long cowstail. I don't do it up normally when passing rebelays, traverse lines etc. but I do when I am clipped to something and moving around a lot - say hauling gear up a pitch or whatever. It adds a bit more security as it isn't impossible for a carabiner to unclip itself when it is moved around a lot. See http://www.cncc.org.uk/technical-group/warning.php for an example.
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Re: parts for vertical caving rig

Postby Extremeophile » Apr 2, 2014 9:44 am

paul wrote:It is highly recommended that you always be prepared to change over from ascent to descent and vice versa in case of unexpected problems so you should always have your descender clipped to its normal place for descent even when ascending. So that locking carabiner would indeed live there 24/7.

It's getting a little off-topic, but I do not do this, though I do have several well respected friends who do. While ascending I generally keep my descender attached to the gear loop. If I do need to changeover I can quickly attach it to my D-maillon. In many years of caving, and many miles of rope work, I've only ever had to changeover from ascent to descent once, and even on that occasion I could have just as easily down-climbed since I was only 20 ft off the floor. The only risk I see in keeping it on the gear loop is that it may be possible to drop it during a changeover, but given the low probability of needing to perform this maneuver, I've made the conscious decision to keep it clipped out of the way.
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Re: parts for vertical caving rig

Postby Tim White » Apr 2, 2014 11:50 am

I'm with Extremeophile on not having my descender always attached to my central waist connection. When using a Frog, Rope Walker or Mitchell System, I keep my descender on a side of my harness.

To avoid it being a drop hazard, I clip one end of my Cow's Tail to the descender before removing it and repositioning it to my central waist connection.

But unlike Extremeophile, I have had to do many change-overs and this method always works for me. :big grin:
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Re: parts for vertical caving rig

Postby tamarmole » Apr 2, 2014 11:57 am

Extremeophile wrote:
paul wrote:It is highly recommended that you always be prepared to change over from ascent to descent and vice versa in case of unexpected problems so you should always have your descender clipped to its normal place for descent even when ascending. So that locking carabiner would indeed live there 24/7.

It's getting a little off-topic, but I do not do this, though I do have several well respected friends who do. While ascending I generally keep my descender attached to the gear loop. If I do need to changeover I can quickly attach it to my D-maillon. In many years of caving, and many miles of rope work, I've only ever had to changeover from ascent to descent once, and even on that occasion I could have just as easily down-climbed since I was only 20 ft off the floor. The only risk I see in keeping it on the gear loop is that it may be possible to drop it during a changeover, but given the low probability of needing to perform this maneuver, I've made the conscious decision to keep it clipped out of the way.


I clip my descender into a side gear loop when I am ascending - I have an aversion to being repeatedly smacked in the bollocks as I climb. If I want to do a change over I first clip a cows tail into my rack before unclipping it from the gear loop. Remove descender from gear loop and attach to my harness maillon I then unclip the cows tail from the descender - no danger of dropping the descender down the pitch.
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Re: parts for vertical caving rig

Postby paul » Apr 2, 2014 12:57 pm

I always have my descender clipped on my central maillon. I find it doesn't get in the way (if your rack "smacks you in the bollocks", then you can always clip the top of the rack to one side when not in use which is what some friemds of mine do when they use racks - I use a Petzl Simple). Because my descender is always in place, I don't run the chance of dropping it nor attaching it incorrectly when having to change over to descent. And I have had to perform that manouevre (and descent to ascent more often) several times over the years. I don't find any real disadvantages other than occasionally getting it caught in a crack when crawling flat-out in a low passage.

I knew that someone would post that they always clip their descender elsewhere when ascending. Fair enough - that's why I wrote "recommended" rather than "must". It is of course up to the individual.
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Re: parts for vertical caving rig

Postby Extremeophile » Apr 2, 2014 1:00 pm

Tim White wrote:To avoid it being a drop hazard, I clip one end of my Cow's Tail to the descender before removing it and repositioning it to my central waist connection.

That sounds like a good practice.

But unlike Extremeophile, I have had to do many change-overs and this method always works for me. :big grin:

I'd guess that might be a consequence of your NCRC activities. Of course I've practiced it many times, but that has almost exclusively been during NCRC training events. I've had quite a few more opportunities to do the rappel to ascending changeover, but then the descender is in the usual place. I guess I just haven't had many situations where I needed to turn back once I started climbing a pitch. The one instance was when I dropped something and had to go back down to retrieve it.
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Re: parts for vertical caving rig

Postby perigrine » Apr 3, 2014 8:50 pm

I believe the common practice with the local caving club is to keep the descender on a gear loop out of the way for ascending. I've only been into two caves (one twice), and both were vertical entries, so figuring out what works for me will come. The advice I've heard (and seen repeated here :) ) is to clip the descender to a cowstail before you remove it from the gear loop, which makes sense even to my newbie brain. Dropping it down a 40m (131') drop would not be pleasant.

back on topic, that seems to account for all the carabiners I've ordered. So spares are needed - what for I'm not sure, but I don't want to find out that I need an extra carabiner while in a cave. :O
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