So I decided I should start to get myself up to speed with what equipment I would need the other day, and the recommendation came from the Jagged Globe guys (with whom I’ve booked my forthcoming Alpine Introductions course) that I should get myself a fixed line system and practice with it. I therefore thought I should best find out what the heck a fixed line system actually was, and it has opened up a whole new (and frankly terrifying) world. Welcome to jumars, prussic loops, HMS Seagate fasteners, cow’s tails, and the like!
It seems that a jumar is an ascending device, which acts like a one way ‘grabber’, so that it moves freely one way, but not at all in the other, thus enabling you to move up a fixed rope. I have no idea at all what a prussic loop is, or indeed what the difference is between a D-shape and an HMS carabiner, and that is despite going to buy them at the weekend (and in fact now owning them!).
It seems very odd, that having been fortunate enough to have spent a fair few occasions in my life trekking or otherwise in the mountains, I have never even come across these terms. I think I abseiled once as a kid, but as to knowing what equipment you actually need (other than rope that is :)) for it leaves me at a loss altogether.
So there I am in Cotswold Outdoors at the weekend, and I tell the guy that I have a (very well put together, with pictures for people like me :)) list of equipment to buy. Every question I asked however, was met with other ones that I didn’t understand. Phrases like ‘belaying’ , and ‘slings’ and ‘figures of eight’ would come up, and I just wondered if I really would be better off doing something much safer and easier to understand, with words and phrases in English too. Maybe like dominoes or something?
I mean, what is the difference between harnesses? They are surely all the same, aren’t they? And why do you need climbing trousers? And what is a B3 boot? Why might I want 9mm rope? Should I get the 8mm instead? Or the 10mm? How do I know? And what on earth is a Larks Foot knot? If I can’t tie my cow’s tail rope device thingy using one am I going to fall off the mountain? These things could, after all, be rather important, at the very least. I also at one point in time ended up in the shop suspended from the ceiling in a harness, and I thought I was going to spin upside down at one point, flying-trapeze like.
All of these things therefore leave me very uneasy. I desperately want to book my trip to the Himalayas, and would hate it if I missed out and they got booked up soon. But I also feel like I should wait until after my climbing course next month to help me shape my trip. I could book the less-technical (but higher) Mera Peak trip, but that would mean I wouldn’t get to see Everest Base Camp. If I do Island Peak then I get to go to EBC en route. And although everyone who has been tells me that EBC is very much an eyesore at the very best, you just have to go there, don’t you? I mean, every Everest Expedition there has ever been (at least as far as I know) has made the trek up to EBC, so you are following in the footsteps of Hillary, Bonnington, and all the greats. I can’t go to the Himalayas and not tick it off the list, I really can’t.
Anyway, for the record, I came out of Cotswold Outdoors (thanks to Nick in there, he was great) with a Petzl Corax harness, 2.5m of 8mm rope, an HMS carabiner, a D shape carabiner, a Petzl right-handed jumar, and a roll of duct tape. Maybe the duct tape is for my mouth to stifle my screams, who knows? All I have to do now is tie the damn things together, and then learn what do do with the bloody thing. Larks Foot knot instructions anyone?
‘Oh my giddy Aunt’, as they say……..