"The prusik knot or prusik hitch is a friction knot most commonly used by climbers for ascending. It is named after Karl Prusik, an Austrian mountaineer who introduced this knot in 1931." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prusik_knot)


My Mount Shasta and AMC climbing training experience proved a  most valuable lesson yesterday while climbing Arch and Wrist combination  in the Gunks.   Knowing how to prusik knot was a tremendous help.  What a learning experience!

John and I headed to the Gunks mid-day and got there early afternoon.  We didn't have a planned route to climb. When we got to the Trapps through the long steps, we saw Arch vacant, so we decided to do  it.

A group ahead of us was finishing a climb above us  so that gave us the way to start.  We did our usual routines,  putting our harnesses, flaking the rope, and setting up my belay anchor.  Mistake # 1, I forgot to bring my helmet, that made us hesitate to do a  multi-pitch, but Arch looked inviting.

John started the climb; I gave him a bouldering spot first and when he reached a stance to place the first protection, I attached myself to the belay anchor. When he placed the first and the second protection, I put him on belay . I was relieved! I always get anxious when he's starting a climb with a long gap between the ground and the first protection like the one we did in Allamuchy. But he's always gotten through.

We both reached and finished the first pitch of the Arch.  Very nice route with traversing protections. Then came the 2nd pitch, Wrist.  We started from the pine tree belay and from there I could see the "right-facing corner" with a ceiling where my prusik on-site experience would take place. John got to the top and set up the belay anchor for me.

I started my climb and didn't have any problem reaching the ceiling and taking the protection that was placed at the corner.  The next thing to do was to traverse as far left as possible  to reach the crux to get to a nice ledge.  I did it and - Mistake #2 -had a second thought and shouted, " John, slack please!" It was a "wild" traverse; that was what I thought. I got my slack, so I went back to the corner.   I started to traverse again and at that instant I just had to -Mistake # 3- let go . Now, I really got an intense feeling in the stomach as I was literally hanging down the middle of the rock and my hands were very stressed.

Thinking that I could not do it without putting more stress on my muscle and pain on my left wrist, I thought of doing a prusik. John continued to give me a voice communication asking if I was all right.  I relayed to him what I was going to do.   He was belaying me up so it was very important to let him know what I was up to.   I took out the prusik ropes attached to a carabiner from my harness; it took me a little while to separate them as they were knotted to each other.   

In the middle of this, a couple of eyewitness was  waiting for me to get through the stunt as they were also going to the same direction.  They were very patient and kind to wait.   One of them  gave me further instructions on the knotting.  

I attached both knots around the rope -  short prusik to the rope and clipped to harness and  the long prusik to the rope below the short prussic loop, not attached to the harness .  To take effect, I sat and stood, alternately moving the prusik knots.  My left foot was on the long knot and that helped me pull myself up. When I reached the point where I could have a good hand and feet hold, I continued the climb and reached for the left stance.  From there, I continued my way up to where John was without any "obstacle." I was so happy to reach the top! Way, way happy! John was saying,  "Great job, Margaret!", when he saw my view from the corner.  

The climb was truly an experience. I had mixed feelings about it.  I was disappointed to have to use through the corner  prusiking; at the same time , was proud to have used what I had learned from my climbing training;  gave me a refreshing lesson on the knot  in an actual experience.  Overall, I was glad to do the climb:-)

July 3, 2005


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