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).
When you’re climbing long multi-pitch routes you’ll often remove your ’sack and clip it into the belay, either to get access to it or just to take the weight off your shoulders. Clipping it in via your haul loop is fine but this can prove fiddly when the belay is cramped or if you’re wearing gloves plus it also requires two hands, one to hold the ’sack and one to operate the karabiner, which is fine unless you are belaying. A better system is to tie a sling to your haul loop. This can either be a normal 60cm sewn sling or a length of tape or cord. Personally, I’d avoid tied tape as knots have a habit of migrating apart. Tie, or lark’s foot, this through the haul loop (and one shoulder strap if you’re paranoid about the loop’s strength) and clip a karabiner on the end. This karabiner should be clipped into the bottom of the shoulder strap (where the strap is sewn into the rucksack near the belt) in order to keep it out of the way. Using this you should be able to remove the rucksack with one hand, clipping the ’sack via the sling into the belay first.
It is also very useful if you need to remove the rucksack in mid-pitch (clipping it into some pro for the second to clip into a hauling rope later), or if you fall down a crevasse and want to remove it quickly and without dropping it into the abyss below.
If you’re wearing your rucksack and climbing at your limit then eventually a time will come when you’ll be forced to take it off in order to proceed. Unless your partner volunteers to second the pitch carrying two ’sacks you are going to have to haul it up after you. Rucksack hauling should be avoided if at all possible, as more often than not it turns into a total nightmare, wasting time and requiring far more effort than just climbing with the bloody thing on your back in the first place. Sack hauling can also be very destructive on your rucksack and if not done correctly can result in you dropping it — although that is one way of solving the problem of a heavy rucksack.
If you’re expecting to haul on a route then it’s worth putting a little thought into packing your ’sack in order to minimise damage and potential problems. Firstly, you must make sure there aren’t any hard objects inside pressing against the body of the pack, as they will grind a hole through the material in a second. The best way to avoid this is by placing some padding (clothing, sleeping bag) between the hard objects (stove, fuel canisters, pots etc) and the body of the ’sack.
The best way to do this is to line the rucksack with your sleeping mat, unrolling it around the interior then placing your gear inside. If you’re not carrying a mat then just wrap all your solid items in the middle of the ’sack, using soft items to pad them out.
Tuck away all the straps and try to make the ’sack as smooth as possible. Remove anything from the outside that may jam or get ripped off (crampons, axes, ski poles). If possible extend the lid of the ’sack and place it inside the main body, then cinch the top tightly with the tension strap. This should create a more bullet-shaped ’sack. The hip belt should be clipped back and around the main body of the ’sack (hip belt buckles love getting jammed in cracks) and the shoulder straps pulled in tight, along with side compression straps.
The bag needs to be suspended correctly from the haul line if it’s to hang straight in order to limit snags on the way up. Just about all rucksacks have a haul loop between the shoulder straps which should be strong enough – but the better Alpine ’sacks should have, or have some way of rigging, a second haul point on the front of the rucksack. The simplest method is to tie or clip a figure of eight into your main haul loop, then tie a secondary figure of eight higher up the rope with a large bight and clip this into the other haul point, adjusting the size of the bight in order to achieve a straight hang. If you are unable to use the end of the rope (you may need to clip into a bight of rope for some techniques) then use your rucksack sling instead. To do this simply pass the karabiner through the secondary haul loop and clip it back into itself and clip the karabiner.
The karabiner should centralise itself so the bag hangs straight.
Always connect the rope to the rucksack with a locking, or two reversed karabiners in order to avoid accidental unclipping. Any knots tied in the rope should be as close to the ’sack as possible to limit wear and tear as it’s hauled up (the close bulk of the ’sack keeping it away from the rock).