Crag shot of St. Montan on a beautiful spring afternoon

Crag shot of St. Montan on a beautiful spring afternoon

With all the regulars are away at the moment, it was me and the Shunt today at the local haunt, St. Montan. Spring is finally here, and it was a fine afternoon, although April is proving to be much more showery than last year.

 

Self belaying (also known as self-lining) was on the menu, as free soloing wouldn’t really go down well with my wife, plus I would be rubbish at it. The basic concept is climbing on a fixed line whilst belaying oneself. The rope is attached at the top of the crag and the climber is attached to the rope via a device (a Shunt in my case), which automatically locks onto the rope in the event of a rest or fall.

 

Simple, surely?

 

It was was first time using a Shunt in anger, as well as on my own, so I was feeling slightly nervous. Strangely enough it brought back similar feelings to when I was tramping around Scotland in January in preparation for my WML – the feeling of being slightly on the edge and needing to watch one’s back that little bit more carefully.

 

There were a pair of climbers already at the crag, and in the vicinity of the climbs I had earmarked, so I set myself up, trying hard to look like I knew what I was doing, never mind the climbing. Despite setting the Shunt upside down initially, and wondering why it wouldn’t lock, the setup was straightforward and it was time to climb.

 

Shunt setup - rope represents the fixed line; silver karabiner attaches to climber; cord is to release mechanism (e.g., for abseiling)

Shunt setup – rope represents the fixed line; silver karabiner attaches to climber; cord is to release mechanism (e.g., for abseiling)

It’s quite a novel sensation self-lining. It’s not quite top-roping and it’s not really leading or soloing – obviously – but there are some similar elements. The Shunt slides along smoothly when you make upward progress. However, there is the awareness of climbing above ‘gear’, as it were, and so the instinctive desire to whip it up to avoid shock loading (of you fell) can make the process a bit disruptive. Overall, I was getting the hang of it and making progress by the end, but moving routes was a faff.

 

When I got home I was pretty full of myself, but a bit of nosing round the internet reveals that Petzl issue a number of ‘dire warnings’, as Needlesports laconically put it, about self-lining with the Shunt. More nosing reveals that really there is no ideal autoblock or device suitable for this kind of climbing. All a bit depressing and slightly worrying, although Andy Kirkpatrick seems to have some time for it.

 

So, plenty of food for thought – more than I had anticipated – but still great to get out after a long climbing drought.

Categories: Blog, Personal, Simon, Sport climbing
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