Survive your hobby: The Edelrid Jul/Flycatcher System

Bourgeau Left, p1

Doug on Bourgeau Left

Short Version: The Edelrid Micro-Jul system brings brake assisted belaying and rappelling to double ropes!! However to get proficient with the device, a good deal of patience is required. It has very specific details to its use. READ and follow ALL safety manuals! When combined with the Flycatcher Twin 6.9 mil ropes, you have a super light system, and confidence that will come from familiarity with this advanced product.

 

Wait, what is “Brake Assist”?

 

Long Version: My older climbing friends and I find we are continually getting drug into the future (In some cases kicking and screaming). I am usually the first though to get on board with trends like the Gri-Gri, and the many other advances that come along. It was only 6 short years ago that I finally got my first “Brake Assist”(BA) Reverso for bring followers up in an auto-lock type belay. A few years later I got a Gri-Gri, and have never looked back. The upside from a safety standpoint is obvious. Lets face it; the advantages against all of the distractions of a busy crag, the stress of a tough lead, etc. are more than enough! Why wouldn’t you take a long accidental drop out of the equation? Despite concerns about belay habits with such devices, most(many?) climbing gyms now only allow BA use.

 

The last rope-lead system not to have Brake Assist was the use of double or twin ropes. 2 rope systems are often used on long ice climbs and rock routes that have long rappels off, About 6 months ago, I stumbled on a super lightweight 2 rope system that offered BA. I was in Pro Mountain Sports complaining to Jim that I wear out my Reverso every year. He suggested going to a steel model and showed me the Mega Jul from Edelrid. There was a learning curve for me though, at first I didn’t read the brochure. I had no idea about the BA properties, so it came a pleasant shock when I got the hang of it. Soon my curiosity led me through an ever-revealing look at the company producing the device.

 

When it came time to replace my ice ropes Jim, from Pro Mt. Sports, suggested I look at the Flycatcher/Micro Jul system. After a season using them I am glad I invested in them. When I say invested, I don’t mean just money. They are expensive yes, but they will require an investment in learning time too. After getting used to them, I am happy with how they handle, the ease of how they drop throwing them on rappel, and how secure the belay and rappel feels (several options for rappel). Downsides also include how awkward it is load up for top/following mode. I have found that if you load one rope at a time, it is much easier. (see photo). Be sure to load both ropes, and lock those ‘biners!

P1170221

 

Another small disadvantage for now is that I had to buy additional belay devices to cover my partners when using my Flycatcher system. Despite a few hitches, this is a major advance in technology that other companies will imitate soon. The next generation of this device should be even more awesome.

 

Competitors will struggle however in trying to get an eco-friendly award called: Bluesign Certified. I had no idea how dirty the rope business is ecologically until my research led me there. Some big players are headed to Edelrid due to them setting a great standard in this and other fields. Have your own look into this good example of a modern and progressive corporation. I cant wait to try out more from their vast product line.

Great instructional video

.

 

Task at hand Reverso/ATC type Jul type device Advantage:
Lead Belay Smoother BA Jul
Lowering Smooth Smooth + BA Jul
Top/Follow belay Smooth and easier to set up+BA BA, smooth, tough to set up/counterintuitive Rev/ATC
Rappelling Smoother Smoothish+BA, 3rd option? 2 biners draw
Longevity Aluminum wears quickly Steel yet lightweight Jul
Learning curve Easy Takes awhile to become proficient. Rev/ATC
Overall Jul

 

 

 

Other reviews:

Weigh My Rack

Cold Thistle

“Half” vs.”Twin” Ropes

Lane getting drug in to the future,

Lane getting drug in to the future,

Canada Ice 12-’15

P1160712.jpgI got real lucky. The job completely stalled out and the Rockies ice routes came into great shape. Lane and I joined our friends Doug and Moira, in the Field area. I had huge plans to try as many big routes on my list as possible. We “warmed” up on Twisted, a route that just started forming up a few years ago. It was in tougher shape than last year, but such a good route. Lane and I went for Super Bock the next day, only to find 4 parties on route , 2 of them ahead of us. It was too cold to stand around, so I tried to find a separate line next to the other parties to keep moving. The last party was not excited about my plan,and went so far as to call me “rude”. Well, the other parties jumped to my support, and even said the route was over their heads. The climb was in very difficult shape for sure. It was dripping, and the ice was a bit rotten. We did it anyways though, and were impressed with how long and steep it was.

Next up was a route that I have been wanting to try for 20+ years, because it never comes in shape. Mixed Master is one the best routes imaginable. 7 great pitches long and gets difficult at the top. I cant describe how happy Doug and I were. We were in party mode all day long!

Lane had been keen for Bourgeau Left. Due to the cold temps, another sunny route sounded pretty good. Once again there was another party ahead that were not impressed with the conditions, so they bailed. Up I went into a very wet and strange ice crux. At the top I was drenched, but happy to have had such determination and luck to get up 4 amazing routes in 5 days!! Next up, Doug and I went after my 2nd try of French Reality, but it was just too cold and the snow too deep without flotation. Off to Haffner to pad the pitch count:  21 pitches in all for a great week. Thanks to Doug, and Moira for such a nice place to stay, and spend a fun New Years with. Lane for going up on short notice, and Pro Mountain Sports for the great deal on my new ropes!

Look for a product review soon from a local gear manufacture that has some interesting line of products! Firn Line Designs from Oregon is next!

Click images to enlarge

Curtain Call, etc

Just getting back from a spectacular trip to the Canadian Rockies, I am struck with the following trends:

I have enjoyed doing the opposite of the “Smash and Grab” trips. Taking 2 week trips allows me to rest between body destroying leads. Particularly since I just had orthoscopic repairs done on my knee a few weeks ago. “Relax and Acquire” is nice but has led to another trend that I don’t enjoy.

I have found it difficult to go out on these trips with a dedicated partner. It is probably a combination of the various issues such as: Who has that kind of time available? I have a particular agenda/ability. I am a jerk?, etc. I have adjusted to this trend though by lining up “play dates” with various partners.

Global warming is here. Ice climbing is barely surviving thanks to the vortexes that come down each year, but the reach of warming is dramatic and brings a sense of doom to our environment. For now it is nice to climb in more comfortable temperatures.

It is good for me to make lists and be organized. The piece of mind and accomplishments it brings is very satisfying. I still haven’t let it sink in that I did 4 of my dream routes in 1 amazing trip. Huge thanks to Steve, Nic, Tyler, Stuart, Bill, Tim, and Andy!

Appropriately, I ended the trip with Curtain Call. A legendary route that has inspired me to push past intimidating structures and reports of people bailing days prior due to lack of pro. Boldness on our part paid off. Tyler did a steady job pushing through bad fins at the end of his lead. The finish had a few scary things going on: Daggers over the belay, threading the needle between features, where a back-off sling leads to terrible ice. I traversed a few more feet to the left, and found better ice. It led to a couple of scary horizontal cracks in the structure, which later made good foot ledges! Swing and pull like crazy to the finish. What a route! Here are some pictures of Twisted and Curtain Call:

 

 

Rainbow Serpent

I had been crazy for this route since Steve and friends climbed it last season. Picture , and video of last years Rainbow Serpent. Not only did the stunning Rainbow Serpent come in this year, but so also did Fearful Symmetry. We went in with 4 people, hoping to do a quality photo shoot for Ben Herndon. We were prepared to do a 2 team  ascent for top-down photos. The wind and cold did not allow for such shenanigans however. Leaving the 2 Bens at the base, Jess and I split it into 4 pitches to save on rope drag and stay more active. The wind swirled with crazy might in the Recital Hall, at times cracking like a whip. It sent horrendous spend-drift down on the climbers and left the base team to chop away at the huge ice blocks that fell from old icefalls to stay warm. The Hall is an earned and temporary position, with the easiest entry up a multi pitch WI4 just to get to it. (Aquarius)

…also of note the snow drifts before the Big Hill are large enough to need a big rig currently. We couldn’t do it with a Tacoma 4wd! Adds 1-2 hours to the approach. Still worth every step.

Rainbow S. report from downclimbing

Eric and Lucie Report

Canadian Rockies Report

1-11-14 -Rainbow Serpent.

Pitch 1 is an easy short way to get to the start of the pillar. 25m, wi3. The lower pillar had crazy mushrooms stacked out into space above you. We found a doable way up the right side, yet the rope drag made progress halt just short of a wild roof formed when a dagger broke off days prior. I got the roof lead,(p3) feeling  like I had to do bouldering to get through. A great cave belay left Jess with the 40m finish endurance pillar, (p4, for us, A better party would combine 2 of our pitches). It was a longer route than I expected(The book says 70m, more like 100m), the exposure was tremendous at a few places, and the ice brittle. Despite suffering from the elements, it was a fantastic climb that I will never forget.  Thanks Jess, BenH, Ben E.

Stay tuned for Bens Pictures in the coming days!

The Ghost

The Ghost

Rainbow Serpent 100m, WI6

Rainbow Serpent 100m, WI6

rs2

Lower pillar

rs3

Mid-route, Fearful in background

rs4

p2, Wi5

rs5

rs8

rs9

Rapping over the p3 roof

Ben H. deep in the Aquarius drainage

Ben H. deep in the Aquarius drainage

Deep in the Aquarius drainage

Deep in the Aquarius drainage

Banks Lake Ice ’14

2-6-2014- Banks came in in a flash again this season, sporting brittle, chandeliered, and thin ice. Sounds just wretched but can be very exciting if your head gets into it. We (Jess, Ben, and I) started by tope-ropeing the Cable route, a deceptively long and difficult route. It is full on for 50 meters, and if in thin shape, the scale can go up dramatically. I was just barely able to get it on tope-rope, feeling like it was the hardest ice I may have ever been on.  Super technical(in thin shape), and always steep, it is a mind boggling route. There is a nice 2nd pitch above, that is seldom done. Be REAL careful if you try to set up a tope-rope on this one! The traverse is very exposed.

cable5 cable3 cable4 cable1 cable2

zenith1

The High-Threatenging-Dagger at top of page, before it snapped off

banksBrush

Brush Bash on right

2-6-13- Jess, Beau, and I head for Zenith, hoping it was in good shape, and more importantly, the high-ever-threatening-ice-dagger would hopefully be gone. We pulled up to it, and noticed it had grown into a enormous 60’+ free hanging monster the size of a large tree. The tunes drowned out the noise of the collapse, then Jess first noticed it was suddenly gone in a cloud of dust. With that good omen in the bag, we were still humbled by the amazing Zenith. It is yet another route that you can just throw the grade system away with, depending on the conditions. I don’t remember ever leading such a long and difficult single ice pitch in my past. I even did a take after the crux. If brittle and thin, it too, is nowhere close the rating offered in the guide book.The other routes in the area look gamey as well, so be careful out there. zenith9 zenith8 zenith7 zenith6 zenith5 zenith4 zenith3 zenith2

Snoqualmie Ice part 2

Part 1: Snoqualmie mt.

Part 2: Dec, 2013. The temperatures dropped, the messages stack up. Not being the type of person that can say no to an enthusiastic partner, we planned on 2 teams of 2 and headed up to Alpental Valley. Usually buried in deep snow and snow enthusiasts, we found a valley of ease and solitude, oh and some amazing ice. The original plan was to go big, but Doug, Daniel and I had heard bad things about the other local areas. After viewing a knarled finger on my phone, we set out as a party of 3 to tackle the 3 pitch WI4; Flow Reversal. A route I had done in fat conditions a few years ago, Video here . We found it in outstanding shape with water ice from top to bottom. We each had a lead and enjoyed it to the fullest. 2 rapps with a double at the end and we were back in Seattle before dark.

Dougs trip report

The next day Doug and I  just had to head back up to get the amazing route to the right of it. We had vague notions of getting the first ascent, but really, there is very little uncharted territory so close to Seattle. Steve Swenson probably did the fa in ’74, lol. It was unnamed however and after comparing it to other options we called the climb: Resistance is Futile. It drew us quickly up it with 2 easy start pitches and a short, but intense WI5 crux at the end of the 300′ waterfall. It was a pumpy over hung 2 column feature that once again had to be cleared of many daggers aimed at my head. 2 double rapps and we were back at the car by 2pm this time! Such a fun route to finish an amazing weekend. Now its off to Bozeman the enjoy the Icefest, see you there?

Flow Reversal, left. RisF on far right

Flow Reversal, left. RisF on far right

Flow Reversal

Flow Reversal

Flow Reversal

Party on Flow Reversal

RisF , Resistance is Futile

RisF , Resistance is Futile

RisF , Resistance is Futile

Top of RisF , Resistance is Futile

RisF from p1

RisF from p1

Crux of RisF, photo by Doug

Crux of RisF, photo by Doug

Doug on approach Doug on approach Doug on approach Doug on top-out Doug on top-out Doug on top-out Crux of RisF, photo by Doug P1100803

P2 belay cave

Looking down overhanging crux, RisF

Looking down overhanging crux, RisF

P1100770

Me shadow selfing the crux in mid rest.

Me shadow selfing the crux in mid rest.

Goats Beard Ice

When we found out that Goats Beard was in, all other plans were shelved.
Once I was off work and the ice formed, what busy plans they were. It started in Canmore for 5 days. Back to Seattle for a day, then Hyalite for 8 straight. A night at home, then Leavenworth then, Lilooet , …you get the idea. I came home from the latest trip to low temps, and many messages from wanting partners. . Shaun asked me to join him in trying Drury Falls, A route that comes in nearly every year, and stays in until the temps or avy danger goes up. Shaun was game for the new Goat-oriented plan which was to be his 1st multi-pitch ice route and 3rd ice route overall. Worried about the routes objective hazards, we were comforted by reports of 2 parties having success on it the days before our try. Reports of hanging daggers overhead all day, and double with sunlight made sleep uneasy the night before. A 3 am wake-up from Shauns house in Leavenworth, and a 700 am start on route. We were stunned by the first light on the route. Earlier that summer, I had done a 7 pitch 5.11 route just next to our waterfall! We were impressed that there was a way through the giant roofs guarding the top forest. It had to be one of the longest, and more importantly-,Funnest ice routes I have ever done. We were like kids at the playground of our dreams. Though Shaun and I were at opposite ends of our career, and had barely met, We were newborn to the world and grateful for life, instantly and forever connected by this thread of temporary ice. Thanks to his roommate : Heidi, ..Vern and Craig for having the cahones to do the onsite, …John for the reassurance, …Shaun for the solid effort on his first big ice route…. Christina and Pro Mt Sports for the hardwear.
We did the route in 6 LONG pitches, 6 hours car to car. We found the first crux to be a long wi5 (p2). the other cruxes were the section through the roofs( a clever, thin corner in the middle of giant roofs, p5). The last pitch was an endurance pillar that took my last shred of energy, p6. The ice was greatly varied in type and consistency, adding yet another element to the intense experience. The route is never super difficult, but the position is always on your mind. It saw 3 ascents in 3 days, and thanks to the internet, it may see more until it falls apart.

pics are in reverse order.

Upper Goats

Upper Goats

"Goats

top out stoke

top out stoke

p5 wi5

p5 wi5

p5 wi5

p5 wi5

p4, corner pitch wi4+

p4, corner pitch wi4+

goat6

Psyching up for p6 wi5

Psyching up for p6 wi5

p6 wi5

p6 wi5

p5 wi5

p5 wi5

p3 wi4

p3 wi4

goat3

High on p2 wi5

High on p2 wi5

Pitch 2 wi5

Pitch 2 wi5

Illumination Rock, Rime Dog

Topo courtesy of Zac Riesner

Faced with a 1 day weather window, and deep snow in the mountains, Beau and I headed for the friendly alpine playground of Illumination Rock. We did the most reliable and fun route on the sunny South Face of the I-Rock, It is a route I named after my girlfriends late pet: Rime, our Scottish Deerhound. I had done the route a couple of times before, it is worth repeating for sure. It offers 4 short pitches of outstanding easy mixed climbing at a moderate angle. It also now has a rap anchor at the finish that gets you most of the way down to the South Chamber with a single rope rappel. We had a blast!  Mikes tr, under thin conditions

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Rime, and her beauty.

Rime Dog

Topo courtesy of Tim Olson. copyrighted.

 

Pitch 2, photo by Beau

p3, the rime chimney, photo by Beau

Crux, pitch 3, by Beau

 

OPB on Mt Hood Climbing

Jule and friends at Oregon Field Guide did a wonderful half hour special on climbing Mt Hood. Last year she invited me to do an interview and asked for some of my photos and video of various new routes that I was involved in on the mountain. Her team did an outstanding job capturing the experience. See for yourself.

OPB Special

They use my voice-over several times, the interview occurs at 18:43 and again at 24:25.

The Replicant!

Replicant, center line

Lurking above the townsite of Banff are 3 tough ice routes. From left to right, they are:

Terminator, the Replicant ,and Sea of Vapors.

On our second try, Jess R and I tagged a dream of a route. I have been obsessing over it for over a decade. It was so amazing and I will be stoked on it for a long time to come. Conditions, weather, and stoke all came together this time for a great day in Banff. The approach went on forever. The avy danger was non-factor, thank god. It is steep and wanders up and over many features. It is nice to have a boot track, but it will blow over with the wind and you will wallow in some places up high. The 1st pitch was hollow, hooky, bouldery, and sketch. The 2nd is steep and sustained. the 3rd was so long and I got so tired, I stopped to belay after 30 meters. It was tough to follow Jesses pitch and launch into another 5+ lead. Jess then led the last short stretch to the top. I cant remember being so tired from an ice climb.  The exposure was tremendous. We felt like we had just done something amazing, and we are so excited many hours later. We pulled in the night before and went right after it, revenging a trip for it a month prior.  Yehaa! Cant thank Jim (of Pro Mt. Sports) enough for taking the time to get me the right gear!
We would have had better climbing shots, but the belays are tucked into tiny caves behind the icicles. Now for some pics!

Me on p1

Me on p1

Jess on p2

Jess swinging to the top

Fear in my eyes and nose

ON RAPPEL!