04 December 2008
Note: Many of these articles are very old, and although the technical information is still relevant the equipment mentioned may not be (for example a Stormy cooker was state of that art in 1995, but not in 2021).
By far the simplest and low-tech solution, this requires nothing more than a pair of hands and some muscle power. If the rucksack’s not too heavy then this is the best system to employ, as it’s quick and simple and doesn’t require fiddling with krabs or pulleys. The technique is pretty straightforward, just pulling until the ’sack is up, perhaps employing a shoulder belay if you want a quick rest.
In order to gain some mechanical advantage, you may wish to pass the haul rope through a karabiner, using it to form a crude fixed pulley. The mechanical advantage gained is actually minimal but it does allow you to rest more easily. Due to the fact the modern forged snap gates are very slim (and therefore provide less mechanical advantage), you should try to haul via the largest diameter, round bar karabiner you have (12mm HMS works best). The karabiner should be clipped directly to the belay as high as possible, making it easy to apply all your muscle power and weight to the pulling. The rope is best hauled with both hands.
If your ’sack is too heavy to hold in one hand comfortably (necessary for hand hauling) then you’ll need an auto-locking system that will provide you with a third hand. This is achieved by using a system that will allow the rope to be pulled through as the ’sack is lifted, yet lock off when your hands are removed.
Loved by old school Alpinists who revel in exotic karabiner tricks, I find this has been superseded by better systems discussed below, although like all tricks it’s one worth learning because you never know.
One way of improving this system is to incorporate a prusik loop and belay plate into the karabiner set up. Firstly, clip the haul line through your belay device as you would normally, clipping this into the hauling karabiner as you would if you were bringing somebody up. Next tie a prusik loop to the rope on the inside of the device (the opposite to the PULL or LIVE rope). The prusik needs to be 5mm or 6mm and tied as short as possible, then clipped into the karabiner. Now when you haul, the prusik will butt up against the belay device, allowing the rope to run smoothly through the prusik and belay device. As soon as you let go (in order to rest or unsnag your stuck rucksack) the prusik will tighten and hold the rucksack until you begin hauling again.
If you’re using a magic plate (Petzl, Cassin, Kong, NewAlp) you can use its auto-lock ability to act as a third hand and hold the bag. The only drawback over the above system is that there is a real mechanical disadvantage as the rope is travelling through the device at acute angles. It does work well with lighter ’sacks as well, plus it has the massive advantage of allowing you to belay your second up while hauling off the same device at the same time.
The tiny Tibloc can be used to set up a simple but very effective variation on the karabiner haul. The Tibloc is simply placed on the rope and then both the Tibloc and robe clipped into the hauling karabiner. It’s best to employ an oval or HMS karabiner for this task.
The Wild Country RopeMan Mk 1 can be used in the same way as the Tibloc, creating a makeshift auto-locking pulley. The advantage of the RopeMan Mk1 is that the cam offers the rope far less resistance than a karabiner and is perhaps the best non-pulley method.
If the ’sack is heavy enough to make hauling uncomfortable on the hands it may be best to employ a mechanical hand to the task instead.
If you’ve got an ascender (mini or standard handled) you can either use it to apply more pull on to the rope, clipping a sling into it and leg hauling, or clipping it to your harness and doing squats. Another option is to clip the rope through your belay device and locking it off with one hand, do squats as above, standing up and taking in the slack and repeating until the ’sack is up.