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Gully Learning

Hi Blair!

That’s a great story and glad you’re still in one piece! What’s best about it is how you’re able to identify what you’re learning and see how it works in the real world, its benefits etc (ie you didn’t break both your legs). It’s also good to take the things you learn and mix them up with what you know, to mix and tweak and adjust and make them your own (and o course to pass them on to other people when you can, especially the Prusik backup).

I suspect you dropped your belay device due to missing a few tips in the book, such as putting your back up on the rope first, so it holds the ropes in place (like an extra hand). You can also reduce the chances of dropping a device by feeding the ropes into the device before you unclip it, and clipping in a spare HMS in place the one it’s racked on.

Routes like Clachaig gully are great places to make life hard for yourself, as it’s way out of the comfort zone of most climbers, being wet, slimy, loose etc, which although counter-intuitive to attempt, always pays dividends later on, when you find yourself forced to deal with a pitch or route that’s wet, slimy and loose (“at least this isn’t as bad as Clachaig gully!).

I once went up to climb Clachaig gully with a bunch of friends, including my mate Dick, who’d climbed most of the big North faces in Winter. When we arrived at the first pitch he just took one look at it and said “fuck that” and went down to the pub! This was another lesson, in that although wet and dank gullies are type 2 fun, they’re not something you want to become too good at as they’re the climbing equivalent of S&M!




I had an email pointing out that a back-up should not be used in a waterfall, due to the risk of the climber becoming stuck. Here’s my response:

Yes this is a tricky subject and really does cross over into canyoneering/caving, but I’m guessing Blair knows less about canyoneering and caving than climbing, and perhaps the proof of the pudding is although he let go of the rope he didn’t end up as another MR stat or headline (“Young climber dies in Glencoe death gully”).

I suppose he could equally have been another stat or headline (“Young climber drowns in a freak accident in Glencoe death gully”), but that’s how it goes sometimes, you just have to best employ some kind of methodology that has been proved effective to others and run with it.

Have you ever seen this video? It demonstrates what happens if you don’t use a back-up when descending a waterfall, although in this case he did have a back-up, only it was not set correctly (I’m guessing it was too long).