Tech Tip #31
October 3, 2019
Sleeping on a climb often brings up the question of if to wear your helmet or not. Some helmets can be very comfortable when worn in a sleeping bag – and on hard ground – can be better than not: the cradle acting like a pillow. Others can be very uncomfortable, and give you a headache, or keep you awake when you should be sleeping. Trying out a new helmet by laying down in the shop, and having a snooze, might be an option, but you might get some funny looks. Having a helmet with a rear battery pack can also make things uncomfortable, so watch out for that. But what needs to be taken into account, is that from above, a helmet proves roughly 100% coverage of your head; while from the front, it’s probably only 30%, as most climbers sleep on their back. When sleeping, if you get some warning of rockfall – which often isn’t the case – you tend to just instinctively curl into a ball, which reduces your profile. So I would say that sleeping with your helmet on might be providing a false sense of security. Instead, it’s better to focus on where and how you sleep. Being close to the wall is always safest, as rock and ice that strikes a portaledge, invariably hits the outside, not the inside. So inside is better, and close in is always best. Paying attention to what’s above you is also important, as well as looking for signs of rockfall, which tend to be small and medium rocks, muck and gravel etc. If forced to sleep on such a ledge, see if you can protect yourselves by sleeping under your rucksack or haul bags, and I’ve even heard of people sleeping inside haul bags to avoid rockfall. If all else fails, and you think you might get rockfall in the night, then the best option is probably to sleep sitting up, so at least you’ve got ‘full shields’.