OUCC Proceedings 9 (1979)

Sensible Reply Technique

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by V.A. Rious

Many members got so bored reading Kev's hatchet job on rope-walkers (the above is a savagely edited version) that they thought that some words in favour of the recently much maligned objects were needed to redress the Eyre/Senior versus the silent rope-walking public balance.

To start with, rope-walkers can be incorporated in almost any system (even sit-stand) and have many distinct advantages over spring-cam devices, viz;-

  1. They grip muddy or icy ropes; others, except Heiblers, don't.
  2. They are lighter and more compact
  3. They don't have a spring that can break or strain.
  4. Rope-walking down a rope can be achieved easily. (Believe me, this can be very useful.)
  5. You can make your own, perhaps even better than Lewis, Brew et al. (See ULSA review 12.)

The problems of getting the devices to jam can be overcome by attaching them in a reasonably sensible manner. A rope-walker flapping around on a foot of tape is obviously useless compared to one tightly strapped to the foot. The article also mentioned that many people have difficulty near the bottom of pitches. This is not inevitable and can be overcome by pulling the rope through the foot ascender for the first few feet.

In John's words;- "I hold my own rope, I'm a self made man."ropehold.gif (2259 bytes)

It is easy to avoid the devices falling into pieces by checking the linkages regularly. Obviously if rope-walking cavers are going to check their linkages as infrequently as Kev checks his foot-loops, accidents will happen.

Rope-walkers with easily cut string and split-rings which break (even if not in the manner described by Jim Eyre) can be either avoided or modified by the use of bog chain, as in Mark's system.

With a little bit of practice, the difficulties at the top of pitches can be overcome and rope-walking systems can provide a safe, fast, efficient method of prusiking. Perhaps Kev's jaundiced views result from his apparent failure to overcome these simple technical difficulties.

Floating devices have their own pros and cons depending on what is used, where, and by whom. Suffice it to say, as with most SRT systems, some swear by them, and some swear at them. Pay your money make your choice and then practice as much as possible in as many invented situations as possible: familiarity with your own system invariably breed contempt for someone else's, but in SRT you are responsible for your life so only do what you are happy with.

If you want to waste an awful lot of time reading lots of vituperative comments about rope-walkers, start with Jim Eyre's article in the 1979 Journal of the Northern Pennine Club. Follow this up in Caves and Caving Nos. 5 & 6, where some comments are more balanced than others. The National Caving Association's contributions seems just about the most useful - and brief!