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Berger Rigging: Change of “style”

Ian P

Active member
Following an excellent trip down the Berger on the FFS “Berger 2022” meet last week, it is worth noting that they had fundamentally changed the way the cave was rigged.

There are now literally hundreds of drilled threads and “Abalakovs” , these were threaded with Dynema cord.
The hole diameters are not huge so probably only suitable for Dynema and probably require an Abalakov “hook” to thread them.

They had even drilled threads next to the newer serviceable spits.

Some of the “routes” appeared to be significantly different from a previous visit.

Hurricane was very different, with multiple rebelays and free hanging traverses making for a very technical descent but taking you well away from the waterfall.

Just worth noting for any future trips.

A truly fantastic cave. A108FB59-50D3-4A45-8784-A343C4EE8CF0.jpeg479E85AB-422C-485E-81BE-343644A5BE76.jpegBF25E1FF-B379-47B5-865F-9D392F692983.jpeg


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topcat

Member
As a winter climber I wondered how long it would be before Abalokovs started to feature in caves. :)
I wonder what kind of jig they used for the drilling? It would have to be foolproof otherwise we could end up with pitch heads like Swiss cheese.
The jig I use on ice , made by Black Diamond, isn't robust enough for drilling holes in rock.

It does irritate me when new anchors are place along side perfectly good older anchors though. Premature bolt rash.....or in this case , hole rash.
 

Loki

Active member
I’m not sure I get this. On the one hand there’s no need to go and inspect the holes so it’s good for maintenance. However are expeds expected to thread them every time??! Or will there be ratty threadbare bits of tat in each that snap just like the spits do now? Is it just on the bottom pitches that get hammered in the wet.
 

pwhole

Well-known member
Several of those holes look to have sharp edges, and several of the rigs look like a crochet accident. I don't get it - what is it improving?
 

aricooperdavis

Moderator
This is just my assumption but: compared to a spit/bolt/glue-in this would be easier to inspect and replace, and cheaper too. It's not realistic to expect most cavers to take a bolting kit on a trip, but it is realistic to take a few bits of dyneema. The downside being that the dyneema will have a much shorter lifespan than a spit/bolt/glue-in, and therefore need more frequent inspection and replacement (although the thread should have a much longer lifespan). In my opinion it's a bit ugly.

@Ian P did it feel any different to use? Is there any movement of the dyneema in the threads, and does that need thinking about? How about the positioning of the crabs/maillons?
 

Ian P

Active member
Some of my thoughts to the points raised.

Drilling next to “good” Spits means that when the Spit fails, they don’t have to drag a drill 1000m down the cave ??

No idea about a jig. Good hand eye coordination maybe?? (There was some evidence of “failed” Abalakovs where the rock had broken in front of the two holes.

If they don’t leave something in the threads some will be REALLY difficult to relocate once the drill dust has washed off.

“Tat “ won’t be suitable, it would really need to be Dynema due to the hole size and sharp edges. It will need ALOT of Dynema

All pitches on the entrance series were double rigged, so yes some pitch heads were a “Cats cradle”.

I think it is “improving” Spits ??

There was significant movement on some of the Dynema in the threads, where the Dynema was threaded through and then each end was tied to the traverse line, creating a “sawing” action as you moved along hanging on the traverse line. I inspected some of the Dynema and all seemed OK at the time. Is Dynema “bomb proof” ??

Some of the rigging seemed a bit “over complicated”, the situations where they terminated the traverse line twice at an anchor leaving a loop of traverse line loose (not needed to avoid rope rub on a corner) was a bit awkward to pass at times.

Overall the rigging was fairly “technical” and strenuous in places, but not as strenuous as carrying rope bags to rig it 😂. ( They sent in one of the “fast team” to replace a rope on Hurricane with a 6hr round trip estimate 😱, the speed of some of the cavers was incredible, one French team came “scree running” down to camp 1 and passed through at an incredible pace with a cheery “Bonjour”. Great to witness)
 

cap n chris

Well-known member
UK caves have had Ablakov belays for a long time (if you know where to look); there's nothing new about them. Properly done and with internally smoothed curvatures they're very good.
 

Loki

Active member
Is dyneema bomb proof? I’ve not deliberately used it on what is clearly a rub point but it can be cut easily with scissors in cord form. It does have very low stretch though. My concern is they get left in situ and wear through where the two holes meet where it isn’t seen. If they are laboriously placed every trip then I don’t see a massive problem.
The spits were a massive problem though!
 

mrodoc

Well-known member
Looks a bit of a mess to me. When I went down the Berger in 1985 I thought the rigging was excellent. I have never heard of Ablakov belays so perhaps somebody younger and au fait with the jargon can explain what they are.
 

Beardy

Member
 

Maj

Member
Looks a bit of a mess to me. When I went down the Berger in 1985 I thought the rigging was excellent. I have never heard of Ablakov belays so perhaps somebody younger and au fait with the jargon can explain what they are.
Click on this link 😅
 

pwhole

Well-known member
I assume they can't be pull-tested in any meaningful way? And surely fixing one requires a 'perfect' situation in terms of rock profile - as in a raised nub that you can drill through horizontally to make two exit points - and know its coherence is good behind the hole? I'm not convinced. Though I wouldn't use spits either! I would have thought swaged stainless wire rope would be better for long-term use, if this technique had to be used. But then they'd have to take a swager down with them. Rigging them off good natural is fine - don't have an issue there, and it seems the perfect method in that instance, not least as you can inspect the whole length before you get onto it.
 

wellyjen

Active member
I wondered what work had been done in France on this type of belay, as far as strength, wear and so on. Did a search of the ffspeleo.fr web site looking for abalakov. A few mentions in their forums, often related to ice, rather than rock, but little more than that. The only longer article is from the Jura, from 2010. Opération « Zéro plaquette» explains how they are used, but nothing on testing. They reference another article, in https://info-efs.ffspeleo.fr/200601info_efs_49.pdf, that didn't show up in the original search.
UN ANCRAGE, UN OUTIL, UN NŒUD OU L’ART DE FAIRE DU
TRICOT EN SPELEO, on page 10 and from 2006.

In English, courtesy of Google Translate, with all the perils of machine translation...
AN ANCHOR, A TOOL, A KNOT OR THE ART OF CAVING KNITTING
The technique being sometimes only an eternal restart, thanks to the appearance of new materials, we propose in this article an anchor, a tool and a knot so that the equipment of a cavity is carried out from sustainable and "innovative" way.

1- Anchoring: AF or drilled mooring Some call it lunule or even “abalakof”, but we prefer AF in reference to AN. The implementation of this anchoring consists in drilling in the rock a tunnel of small diameter (from 8 to 14 mm and preferably rectilinear) in order to thread an open ring of mooring there. Like all other types of anchors, its quality comes from the characteristics of its support and its installation, but it has many advantages: - Its longevity, thanks to the absence of mechanical stress from its vacuum support or from a chemical bond between the support and the mooring. - Its ecological impact, on a planetary scale, is reduced because it does not require any manufactured raw materials and almost zero "embodied energy". - Its financial cost, reduced to a perforator and a wick. - Its reversibility, thanks to easy makeup in case of uselessness. - Its discretion, for a pedagogical teaching of the techniques of always efficient equipment. Like all other types of anchoring, it also has its drawbacks: - Its discretion can make it invisible to some people. - Its use can be made difficult because of a strap or a cord that is too wide in relation to the diameter of the hole. - The mooring ring that passes inside can be "dropped". But if this ring shows signs of wear, then it will be easy to change it. - His subjective resistance. - Its implementation which requires the use of a perforator and the recovery of the important drilling powder.
This anchor is one more anchor in the panoply available to speleologists. There is no systematic in the techniques of equipping a cavity. Nevertheless, the field of application of this anchor is wide and its use should therefore satisfy the greatest number of people, except the visually impaired!

2- The tool: the hook The use of the AF requires the passage of an open mooring ring. This operation is sometimes made difficult due to an open ring that is too wide compared to the diameter of the AF. Or, the piercing configurations make it difficult to pass through. Also the use of a hook will facilitate this use. Manufacturing (10 minutes) 1- Dismantle a car windshield wiper. 2- Using flat pliers, bend one end to form a hook. 3- Using a steel file (or a Dremel micro motor), sharpen the hook so that it fits into the fibers of the cord or strap.
Using flat pliers, bend the other end to form a ring to pass a carabiner through. Implementation 1- Pass the hook through the AF you want to use. 2- Using the hook, grab the end of the cord or strap. 3- Remove the hook, and the open ring will follow.

3- The weaver's knot The use of this type of mooring makes it possible to connect directly to the progression rope without the intermediary of a carabiner. This has the advantage of relieving the speleologist without weakening the chain of resistance. Be careful however to comfort in the progression. Sometimes it makes more sense to have a comfortable, identifiable place to hang out. During the successive passage of speleologists, the closing knot of the mooring ring may become unreachable. And when removing equipment, you will have to use a knife or leave the ring in place. The weaver's knot offers several advantages: easy to adjust, allows a direct connection with the rope, is easily undone, was tested by the EFS during the test campaign on the use of the Dyneema cord in caving. Realization 1- Take the two ends of the ring and form a simple weaver in the loop of the knot. In the configuration of a single-point splitting, you may encounter some difficulties in going along. To avoid this situation, one can, for example, set up an ad hoc carabiner in the loop of the knot of the progression rope, or else make a diju knot (EFS notebook n°13: the dyneema cord in caving / p18).
In conclusion
The tests organized within the framework of the use of the dyneema cord in caving have shown that it is imperative to untie the rings after each use so that they can behave favorably in dynamics (under shock). This rule can therefore also be valid for ASs. In this untied configuration, the weaver's knot will give full satisfaction to AS users. Finally, the implementation of AF in the same way as the socket (Info EFS n°45/46) can be considered as an alternative to pins, but this is another subject that calls for another article.
Bibliography
ARNAUD Judicaël (2005)
La cordelette Dyneema en spéléologie (Les cahiers de
l’EFS n°13)
CAZES Gérard (2004)
Une alternative aux broches ? (Info EFS n°45/46)
MARBACH Georges / TOURTE Bernard (2000)
Techniques de la Spéléologie Alpine
The article implies that you untie and presumably remove the cord when you derig, so wear isn't so much of a problem. Fine for something like the Berger, when it will be typically rigged for up to ten days at a time by each team, but not so convenient for a day trip to a cave. Nothing on strength, by itself. That the drill holes go deeper in to the rock than a spit and probably a similar depth to a resin anchor, implies that the load is spread over a fairly large volume of rock, so in sound rock should be similar in strength.

Of the references, EFS number 13 is from 1981 and available as a scan, so text translation will need some OCR first. The other reference, aside from Marbach and Tourte, is here, but doesn't cover this type of anchor.
 

pwhole

Well-known member
Nub not required, two holes drilled to meet within the rock/ice.
See description here; https://www.needlesports.com/Information/Need-Advice/The-Abalakov-Thread
My mistake - I've read through it now - that's not so bad. However, I still don't feel comfortable with non-metal rigging that's hidden and passing over potentially sharp edges - on ice maybe it's OK as the friction would slightly melt the lip of the holes and junction and round them off, but I'm dubious about limestone.
 

aricooperdavis

Moderator
The article implies that you untie and presumably remove the cord when you derig, so wear isn't so much of a problem.

In which case we shouldn't be thinking of them as alternatives to bolts but as alternatives to hangers (or more realistically, a different approach to anchors entirely).

I suspect you're right that the drilled threads are likely to be as, if not more, secure than a traditional spit/bolt/glue-in.

I think I like them, as an approach to anchors in big caves that require trips dedicated to rigging. Perhaps they'd be worth considering for exploratory alpine rigging?
 

wellyjen

Active member
In which case we shouldn't be thinking of them as alternatives to bolts but as alternatives to hangers (or more realistically, a different approach to anchors entirely).

I suspect you're right that the drilled threads are likely to be as, if not more, secure than a traditional spit/bolt/glue-in.

I think I like them, as an approach to anchors in big caves that require trips dedicated to rigging. Perhaps they'd be worth considering for exploratory alpine rigging?
You'd still need a drill. You'd also need a hook. Depending on how good your eye is, you'd probably want an alignment jig to get the holes to meet in the rock reliably. However, instead of the heavy expansion bolts, hangers, maillons and krabs, all you'd need is a supply of 5mm dyneema cord and a knife. A weight saving on an exploratory alpine trip. A proportionately greater weight saving on a big alpine tourist trip, with just some cord, a hook and a knife, instead of loads of hangers/maillons and krabs.
My mistake - I've read through it now - that's not so bad. However, I still don't feel comfortable with non-metal rigging that's hidden and passing over potentially sharp edges - on ice maybe it's OK as the friction would slightly melt the lip of the holes and junction and round them off, but I'm dubious about limestone.
If the loop of cord is long enough, you'd be able to pull it out of the hole to inspect its condition and replace if required as you pass it. The stuff has very low stretch, so doesn't get as much of the sawing action that caving rope has over an edge.
 

mrodoc

Well-known member
Se;ems Ablakov really = 'make your own natural belay' which can be understood rather than using a fairly obscure name (unless you are an ice climber rather than a caver). So now we have a cave filled with drill holes and natural belays filled with left behind tat. I thought the Berger was being tidied up?
 

Ian Ball

Well-known member
I thought the practice was to leave the cord long enough so it can be slid round to see the state of the cord all its length?
I also thought it was common to use two loops not one?
and I also thought falling onto dyneema with a knot in was a really bad idea? or is that just slings?
 
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