• Out now!!

    'Descent 290 is published this week and features eight extra pages. I'm not quite sure why I decided to give myself such additional work so early in my editorship, but my loss is your gain'.

    New Descent board here:

Dot to dot cavers

mikem

Well-known member
How many people only do srt on provided topos? Are we losing skill of improvising belays or working out where they'd like an anchor to locate the spit?
 
  • Haha
Reactions: 2xw

wellyjen

Active member
How many people only do srt on provided topos? Are we losing skill of improvising belays or working out where they'd like an anchor to locate the spit?
Kids today, hey. I've no idea. How would you find out? The best way to learn pitch rigging from scratch is to go to the less frequented UK caves and mines, or best of all to go on expedition and explore new stuff. We don't need a resergence of the bolt rash of past decades. Lots of decision making required on the best natural anchors to use and where to locate a bolt.
Despite being the current main custodian of the CCPC Peak District rigging guide, I mainly use published topos to find the rope lengths and clanky bit quantities I need. That is mainly because if I print a topo out I usually forget to pack it and it stays on the kitchen table till I'm back home! At the sharp end, I'm left with trying to remember how the pitch went and deciding where it wants a rebelay, deviation, whatever on the way down. Perhaps that is just me.

Fortunately, placing spits is a dying art. Tap tap tap, turn, tap tap tap, turn, tap tap tap, turn........
 

cap n chris

Well-known member
Topos are fabulous for recreational/sport caving due to the efficiency of packing just what's required rather than taking either too much, too little, or unnecessary items of gear. Once you become super adept at this you'll find a transition to inventive rigging significantly easier than trying to commence your SRT career in an old school way. There's nothing wrong with either approach though.
 

Pitlamp

Well-known member
Folk very quickly learn how to think for themselves about how to rig pitches when they go on expeditions or make a breakthrough in this country. But yes, a lot of cavers are quite happy to let others do the thinking for them. (That's not a criticism by the way.) I tend to agree with Chris above; once familiar with how collaborations of very experienced cavers have rigged pitches optimally, working out to do it for yourself without following a pre-existing line of big metal rings in the wall should be easier (and also probably safer).

The 8 mm self drilling anchor is extremely useful in certain situations (not for long term belays for general use admittedly). In wet places, which would quicly kill a drill, they're probably still the best option.
 

topcat

Active member
It always saddens me to find a resin anchor right next to a good natural.
Skill sets are shrinking. I see a lot of one trick pony rigging with no nuances; typically alpine butterflies for everything. One university club only teaches alpine to new students on the grounds that other knots are too complicated and confuse people. Really? Too difficult for our academic elite?

I'm quite slow now at rigging on spit hangers direct (no krabs) because of lack of opportunities, but I can do it, thanks to an 80's apprenticeship. I'm not decrying resin anchors: they are superb and I'm always grateful for the efforts others have put in to make my caving faster, easier, safer and enjoyable. But I also think that we should retain some caves on spits so that younger generations have something to expand their skills on.

I was disappointed to miss three good and well placed spits in a cave recently, finding them on the way out. Getting rusty at thinking like a bolter!

Perhaps we should agree on and promote a few spit training caves? Mayday Hole would be a good start because although it has been resin anchored the original spits are still there and in good condition. Anyone not coping too well on these has recourse to the resins as a fall back.
Starting Handle Hole is short and sweet and next to the road and hardly worth the cost of IC hangers. The Jean Pot original spits were in good nick the last time I did it and the new route down the penultimate pitch is well thought out. The eye-hole variant in LKW leading to the new bits (it goes directly to the big ledge, negating the need for the fixed rope across the chamber) is on spits and natural s and the the two pitches following are on minimal spits (Still in situ??)

Perhaps a CNCC trad rigging courses would be useful before we loose the skill. I'm reminded of spiral staircases.........how many joiners can make these now? ( from scratch, not CNC kits). Not many I bet.
 

Andrew N

Active member
Why would I want to rig off a natural when a perfectly suitable resin anchor exists? It is almost always going to reduce wear on my equipment and on the cave environment to use the existing resin anchors.

I’m perfectly happy to rig off naturals, but very rarely is there any requirement to do so and therefore I don’t.

As noted above, I’m just not really convinced this is a skill needed by sport cavers in the Dales. If you go somewhere else, abroad or in a new discovery, you’ll figure it out.
 

rm128

Active member
I guess it’s worth remembering that rigging from topos isn’t a recent thing. Many of us will recall the Dave Elliot red bolt guide. A Great Leap Forward... in my opinion. Was that the beginning of us all losing the ability to rig?
 

alastairgott

Well-known member
On a trip where you’re never off the ropes - Pack a rope that’s too short every now and then to spice things up, then they’ll have to think out of the box if they “must” get to the bottom
 

cap n chris

Well-known member
Knot passing is a standard progression technique but for many can create a clusterf which can easily be a potential mid rope rescue. Good rigging is user friendly. Anything less isn't.
 

Samouse1

Member
I would say that it may not be an essential skill to have to enjoy a lot of caves across the country, and for some cavers that is absolutely fine and dandy, there’s plenty to go at. But for some of us, it’s something that will be learned as our caving career progresses, and if we want to do certain caves where it is needed to rig off naturals, we will learn it so that we can do it. There’s certainly plenty of young cavers who know how to rig off naturals.
The same could be said for climbing, a lot of sport climbers don’t know how to place trad kit, doesn’t mean it’s a dying art. Bolting and rigging off naturals is a nicher part of the sport, so it makes sense that fewer people know how.
 

2xw

Active member
One of the other innovations leading to a loss of skill is the invention of LED lights. Nowadays, you can see so far away down the cave that the skills of peering into the darkness, putting your face within 3 inches of a bolt in order to see it, and making sure your fx3 belt mounted battery doesn't hit the roof has been lost.

Perhaps it would be good if we could get a cave where student clubs can get the full caving experience of descending on hemp ladders in tweed with a sackcloth containing a tallowfat candle and some honey butties?
 

Fulk

Well-known member
Ahh, the good old days!!

I remember my first ever caving trip on SRT (sometime in the 1970s) when I picked up an old caving lifeline (a 'plastic rope', as it were) and went up to Alum Pot, where I tied the rope round a tree at the south-west end of the pot ( I can't remember why I went there, and not to the established route at the SE end; I guess the brilliant route at the NW end hadn't been set up). Anyway, I threw the rope over the edge, abbed down (what? 40-odd metres, I suppose), continued down to the the bottom, and came back out. So, I suppose that – with a crappy old plastic rope running over rock edges, with no rebelays or deviations or such sophisticated innovations – I was lucky to survive.

I also did GG Main Shaft on thick stiff Bluewater rope, tying it round a big block not far from the edge of the hole, chucking it over the edge, and going down and up, with no rope protectors or rebelays or deviations . . . .

'Ignorance is bliss', as someone once said.
 

pwhole

Well-known member
On a trip where you’re never off the ropes - Pack a rope that’s too short every now and then to spice things up, then they’ll have to think out of the box if they “must” get to the bottom

I remember following a certain caver down Leviathan in JH and got halfway down the final 30m pitch to find the now-far-too-short rope terminating in a fig-8 with a krab, with a small rope-bag containing the remaining rope clipped to it - with said caver lying on his back on the floor below pissing himself with laughter, and holding a pull-through rope he'd brought in specifically for that prank. That takes some planning. I couldn't even reach a rock to throw at him from there.
 

mikem

Well-known member
I'm certainly not suggesting going back to spits, resin anchors have many advantages & if people just want to do those routes then that's fine too, but I did want to start the discussion & there have been some good suggestions on here if you want to progress your skills (although I'd suggest that some pre-emptive training, for example on how to more safely attach to a scaff bar - clove hitch within the bowline / fig 8 knot - would have avoided the recent incident). Attempting the route without reference to the topo (however, some are more devious than you'd expect from above) & leaving those less popular caves that still have useable spits (how much to tighten them is also not obvious if you haven't been told) gives people options. So more suggested sites such as the Mohole would be good...
 

topcat

Active member
See the next issue of the Record for The Mohole rigging update.....original spits, plus drilled threads, plus a few resins.
 

al

Member
It must be old age (even with my LED lamp) but I've noticed, on the odd occasion that I rig a pitch which I haven't rigged before that, when following a topo, I regularly find it difficult to spot the next bolt. And yes, I dream about going back to Dave's red rings!!

But the usual solution which (nearly) always works is to imagine I'm bolting the pitch and think where would I place the next bolt and, sure enough, there it (usually) is!

wellyjen, was that "tap tap tap, turn, tap tap tap, turn........" bit a tribute to the late, lamented David Crosby, by any chance?
 

JasonC

Active member
On a trip where you’re never off the ropes - Pack a rope that’s too short every now and then to spice things up, then they’ll have to think out of the box if they “must” get to the bottom
That's just what I did once in Lost Johns - packed a 50m rope for Mud/Centipede instead of 60m. At the time, I just thought I'd f'd up through not having my specs on when selecting a rope at the club store, and reading that '5' as a '6'.
But I now realise I was creating a learning opportunity for our party to pick up improvised techniques!
It must have worked, as we got down eventually...
 

Babyhagrid

Member
One of the other innovations leading to a loss of skill is the invention of LED lights. Nowadays, you can see so far away down the cave that the skills of peering into the darkness, putting your face within 3 inches of a bolt in order to see it, and making sure your fx3 belt mounted battery doesn't hit the roof has been lost.

Perhaps it would be good if we could get a cave where student clubs can get the full caving experience of descending on hemp ladders in tweed with a sackcloth containing a tallowfat candle and some honey butties?
As a student caver. I am quite happy to have nice P bolts around, as they make rigging for SRT much easier and quicker than having to bring your own spit bolts and hangers (I was involved in an srt trip where the rigging involved removing a spit or two from the traverse line so the deviation could be rigged) .

It also would, I imagine the CNCC p hangers make like easier if our students union started asking questions. if we could answer that the bolts we used had been installed through an official scheme ( as well as our responsibility to check the bolts).

Also as a club in south Wales we focus on doing horizontal caving as we have a limited amount of SRT kits and rope , so when we do go to the dales or the peaks it is nice to have topos that make SRT easy and quick and also to know the amount of gear we need to bring, so that we can run multiple trips on the same day. Almost all of the SRT trips we run are to do with teaching people SRT and the occasional sightseeing or sporting trip so safe and easy rigging is a priority.

LED lights are a godsend for us as you can take spare batteries in plentiful supply and also spare lights on trips and also they make route finding easier as a lot of our trips are being done for the first time with surveys and descriptions, and having lots of light to find the certain side passage or bolt speeds things up .

I would also say that the advancements in caving gear such as undersuits , helmets , lightweight gear, published and printed surveys, accurate description that are accessable (online) has made caving a safer pastime and potentially one that is easier for people to get started into. And from my experience at University that can't be a bad thing.
 

ian.p

Member
The thing is a well placed bolt is a well placed bolt and finding a well placed bolt always requires you to think where do I want a bolt to be to be a good hang? And if there isn’t one there for whatever reason what can I do with what I’ve got to make this work. It doesn’t matter if it’s a spit or a P bolt the only difference is how much time you spend using a spanner. It’s getting the “hang” of rigging that takes the time to get good at and as a result all bolts and naturals provide equally good rigging practice. It takes one trip to get your head round how to put a spit in.

Good SRT training involves giving people tools to use, only teaching one knot and ignoring naturals is unarguably crap SRT tuition more over if you go anywhere challenging in the dales it will have been bolted by cavers who think you ought to know how to tie a bowline before rigging a grade 5 cave. But people do have to encounter a need before they seek to learn a skill and many cavers these days who stick to sport caving will never encounter a spit as Will says that’s not a problem in itself just as fettling a carbide lamp isn’t a skill you need any more things move on and that’s fine. Those going abroad may learn to use everything from spits and HKDs thru bolts to concrete screws it’s all good stuff but not really worth worrying about which one you learn to rig on they’re all just variations on very similar themes…

If you want to learn to bolt that is a very different skill set to learning how to screw in a spit and again to be honest the hard part is universally applicable to all bolt systems: assessing the rock quality and the placement for the hang after that it’s just reading the instructions for whichever bolt system you are choosing to use. Resin bolting is arguably the most tricky to master as it is the only bolting system that presents the possibility of getting covered in glue…
 
Top