How do we test our tents?
The factors that we look out for are
I was training on an ice-wall in Dokriani Bamak glacier, when suddenly debris started falling from above. Apparently the ropes dislodged a few frozen rocks from the ice. I heard instructors shouting “Watch out” that did draw my attention towards them but I could not see the rocks against the sun. A rock banged on my helmet and another one hit my wrist. Injuring my wrist was not a big issue but had I not been wearing a helmet, the rock would have crushed my skull. These things happen so suddenly that you don’t have enough time to move away from the fall line.
– Aditya Kulkarni during Gipfel survey on helmets
Helmets aren’t necessary… are they?
Climbing is not just about body strength but rather techniques. It is also about taking calculated risks and making informed decisions. Any climber, who risks his own or anyone else’s life by not wearing a helmet, is often considered irresponsible. Such situations are not uncommon to come by, in which we see a climber climbing without a helmet but the spotter/belayer wearing one. So eventually the decision to whether or not wear a helmet varies from person to person.
According to surveys conducted by the British Mountaineering Council, most injuries to climbers happen on the lower leg but most of the fatalities are at least partly due to head injuries. Carefully weigh up your risks and then make decisions. All it takes is one bad day to indelibly scar you for life. A hybrid helmet in India does not cost much but can save your life.
That can’t happen to me….could it?
Two most common scenarios for head injuries during climbing are given below.
Probability of occurrence:
First thing that comes to mind is being hit by debris in the form of rock, ice or grit. But it could be worse. It can even be rucksacks, ice axe of another climber, pitons, anchors or even climbers themselves.
2. Falling head first
Probability of occurrence:
Risk of serious head injury:
Less likely but not impossible are injuries due to impact on falls. This could be because of tripping over a rope or losing balance while abseiling. The possibilities are endless. If the climber falls head down and from a great height, that could almost always be fatal.
Helmets don’t look cool…do they?
Well, now most of them do! The hybrid helmets these days come in beautiful designs and colours. Other than that, wearing a helmet shows how responsible you are as a climber.
Choosing a right helmet!
There are three major factors to consider while choosing a helmet
Hybrid helmet is an all-rounder. The combination of hard shell and EPS foam lining offers greater comfort and greater protection compared to the other two types. It would be even better if the foam extends all the way down till the rim of the shell. Unlike regular shell type helmets that only works best for centered impacts, these kinds will protect you even during off-centered impacts. Most helmets have a rotatable adjuster on the back to adjust the fit. The chin-strap should also be adjustable. A good quality hybrid helmet offers all of these features and has a higher strength to weight ratio. The helmet should be snug on your head and shouldn’t slip. This happens the most while sweating and walking.
A Helmet that makes your head too warm may cause too much of a problem than just discomfort. At best it can lead to a reduction in your performance. At worst, it could lead you to making errors in judgement that causes injuries.
– BMC, Helmet Guide
A good ventilated helmet can have a much larger positive impact on your climbing than commonly believed. Vents allow for a passage of air that keeps your head cool and dry. However, at higher altitudes they may also create a lot of noise because of high winds. But the benefits of having vents more than make up for this limitation.
3. Headlamp attachments
Do check whether headlamp attachments are provided. They are best suited for mountaineering.
The price of the helmet depends upon their type and properties. Generally, hybrid helmets are expensive because of their durability and impact resistance. Gipfel Alpine Helmet is very competitively priced at Rs. 2,800 because they are locally produced. The applicable standard for testing is EN 12492. The price of a helmet can go as high at Rs. 5,500 depending upon the manufacturer and helmet’s features.
So although wearing helmet is optional and not the first priority, you’d be far better off wearing it yourself and insisting others on wearing them too.
Climb safely and responsibly!
Our current solution for India for cooking stoves is an alcohol burner.
Gipfel Portable Alcohol Burner is light, leak-proof and very well built. Importantly, we also chose this solution, because alcohol stoves provide a good balance between price and availability of fuels locally.
So, what type of alcohol should be used and where could you find the same?
Denatured Alcohol, also known as methylated spirit, is ethanol with additives to make it unconsumable. Typical additives include isopropyl alcohol, acetone, methyl ethyl ketone, and methyl isobutyl ketone.
Where to buy: Medical stores, hardware store, Amazon.com
Pure ethanol burns best but is harder to find in India. You could get 99% ethanol, or from Industrial suppliers.
Where to buy: Industrial suppliers
Methanol burns well in an non-pressurised stove. It will also work well at lower temperatures. However, the slightly toxic nature of the fumes needs to be considered for extended use. One could also consider creating a gel form out of Methanol to avoid it leaking.
Where to buy: Amazon.com
Rubbing alcohol is either isopropyl alcohol or ethanol-based liquids. Some form of it is also known as surgical spirit. Rubbing alcohol is less efficient than either of the above three alternatives.
Where to buy: Medical stores/Pharmacies
The amount of fuel requirement is subject to the efficiency of the fuel, altitudes, and temperatures. Since, we are still experimenting with the efficiency of the fuels, we have seen anywhere from 90 ml per day requirement for a single person’s requirement to 45 ml, depending on whether it is Rubbing Alcohol to pure Methanol.
For now, we would recommend that you carry 200 ml for a day’s requirement for two people.
We will keep this blog updated on our findings.
A Figure of Eight Descender is a versatile tool, and here are some modes of usage. Please note, that this is not a comprehensive instructional, and many nuances of using a Figure Eight Descender maybe missing in this limited scope article.
Figure Eight is primarily a descender. While it’s primary purpose is not belaying, it has adequate friction for top-rope belaying in Sport Mode or Munter Mode. For Lead Belaying, only one mode is recommended, and that is the Sticht Mode.
Below modes, provide various levels of friction.
This is the most common or the standard mode for descending. Please note, that the rope around the neck should pass from the front, or facing the climber/descender. The rope passing from behind, creates a high risk of Lark’s foot or girth hitch. When the rope passes from behind, it can ride up when encountering an obstacle, and form the Lark’s foot.
Lark’s Foot or Girth Hitching risk is as shown in the next image. This locks up the device, and the operator wouldn’t be able to descend in this mode!
Munter or Cross Mode:
Figure-4 Wrap or Standard Vertaco Mode:
Sport Vertaco Mode:
Tete d’alouette Vertaco Mode:
Many people have asked us, “What is that extra small tube that you provide with every tent in the pole kit?” And few of them even think that these scraps are included in error.
The small tube provided is called the REPAIR TUBE, and we suggest that you carry it along with the tent.
Although our poles are made of 7000 series aviation grade aluminium, they can break if loaded in the wrong direction or if they are misused.
In situations like these, these repair tubes will be your saviours!
Here’s how to use them.
Step 1: Cut the elastic shock cord at the point of damage in the pole.
Step 2: When damaged, the pole’s broken tips flatten out and can become larger than the diameter of the repair tube. Reduce the diameter of the broken pole tips with the help of a rock or other means.
Step 3: Insert one broken tip of pole into the repair tube and pull the elastic shock cord through.
Step 4: Similarly attach the other elastic shock cord through the other broken pole.
Step 5: Connect both the elastic shock cords using a fisherman knot, and pull the knot though the pole.
Step 6: Slide the repair tube over the damaged section of the pole, and you are ready to go!
Please note that repair tubes are to be used temporarily, and ARE NOT a permanent solution. Do contact us in case of pole damage to advise and for replacement poles.
How do rock anchors fail?
A rock anchor assembly mainly comprises of a Hanger and a Bolt.
Rock Hangers that are made from Stainless Steel (304 or 316) are very likely to have a minimum breaking strength of 25-28kN. Gipfel Dynamo anchors are rated at 25kN but in actual they may not break until they are loaded till 28kN. It is highly unlikely that a falling climber will ever achieve this kind of load. So, a hanger breaking is not our concern.
Anchor bolts, however, are. The most commonly used wedge bolts in climbing are M10 and M12 of varying lengths. The Tensile and Shear strengths of a reasonably made Wedge Anchor bolt will be above the breaking strength of the Hanger itself. So one may think they do not have to worry about anything while bolting a new rock. Sadly, this is not the case.
A wedge bolt is only as strong as the rock it is holding on to. If the rock crumbles too soon, the wedge anchor can pull off from the rock at lower loads.
In order to understand this, let’s see how a bolt works.
Installing a Wedge Bolt
After drilling an appropriate sized hole in the rock, one needs to hammer the bolt inside it. When hammering it inside, make sure that it does not become flush with the surface of the rock. There must be just enough threads left outside the rock surface to mount the hanger, washer and the nut. Now tighten the nut. When you do so, the wedge bolt is pulled outside the rock with each turn. This causes the innermost tapering wedge part of the bolt to pull outside and pass through the expanding sleeve causing it to expand. This expansion causes the wedge sleeve to push against the surrounding rock surface. Now the friction between the sleeve and the rock surface caused by this action is solely responsible for the holding force of the anchor.
What if the rock is soft?
If the rock is weak, flaky or crumbly, then the holding force discussed above will be too much for the rock to bear. Upon application of load, the bolt may crack the rock surrounding itself and thereby releasing the anchor.
Lets see how this works
When a bolt is subjected to an Axial Load, a shear force acts on the concrete or rock surface in a form of a cone.
PULL OFF STRENGTH OF THE BOLT = SHEAR STRENGTH OF THE CONCRETE CONE.
THE SHEAR STRENGTH OF THE CONCRETE CONE IS DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL TO THE SURFACE AREA OF THE CONE AND THE COMPRESSIVE STRENGTH OF THE ROCK.
YOU OBVIOUSLY CANNOT CHANGE THE COMPRESSIVE STRENGTH OF THE ROCK YOU ARE CLIMBING ON, BUT YOU CAN INCREASE THE SURFACE AREA OF THE CONE BY USING A BIGGER BOLT LIKE M12. DOING THIS WILL INCREASE THE SHEAR STRENGTH OF YOUR CONCRETE CONE.
Using a bigger bolt (larger diameter and bigger length) will increase the shear strength of the concrete by increasing the surface area of the shear cone. An increase in length will increase the ‘H’ value, hence, increasing the surface area of cone. A bigger diameter will in turn increase the vertex angle of the cone, thereby again increasing the surface area of the cone.
TESTING OF M10 AND M12 BOLTS ON DIFFERENT CONCRETE TYPES
In order to test the suitability of our M10 and M12 bolts on different rock types and to prove the above, we ran tests on several samples of concrete with varying Compressive Strengths. At the end of the test we had wasted 25 bolts but the results were very informative.
For the sake of convenience, we will only discus the results of the test we ran on a ‘weak’ sample of concrete with compressive strength of just 11MPa as well as on a ‘strong’ concrete with 50MPa compressive strength (as specified by UIAA).
The pull out strength of our bolts in different concretes are given below.
THIS TABLE SHOWS AVERAGE PULL OUT STRENGTHS OF THE GIPFEL BOLTS IN DIFFERENT CONCRETE TYPES. UIAA’S MINIMUM REQUIREMENT IS 15kN BUT ON 50MPa CONCRETE.
DO’s AND DON’Ts while placing an anchor bolt
Here are a few guidelines that although not complete points out major important things to bear in mind while bolting a new route.
If the rock seems flaky and crumbly, do NOT place an anchor there. Look for another area.
If the rock is a softer kind such as Limestone and Sandstone, NEVER use the M10 bolts. Use M12 for soft and medium strength rocks. M10 is only suitable for high compressive strength Granite and Gneiss rocks.
The distance between two successive bolts should be at least a distance equivalent to 15 times the diameter of the bolt. Also any bolt should at least be 20 times the diameter of the bolt distance apart from any blind edge of the rock. Not doing so can reduce the strength of the cone.
The length of the drilled hole must at least be equal to the full length of the bolt. If the bolt can no longer be used, you can hammer it all the way inside the rock and make it flush with the rock surface so that it doesn’t protrude out.
The drilled hole must be properly cleaned from debris and dust before placing the bolt inside it. The dust and debris can reduce the holding friction between the expanding sleeve and rock surface.