As i live in Sussex,UK and only have summer sandstone and chalk to play on?I developed the following "Solo Aid System" to practice with new gear alone and in moderate safety.Used properly,its a great way to (a) gain confidence at higher grades or on unfamiliar problems,unencumbered by loads of gear.(b)climb safely with equipment on a fully simulated solo climb.I have no doupt that there are better ways to do this?But this has worked for me for many years and never failed me yet.As with all my technique,what you see is the latest of the evolutions in my soloing-practice system.It is the way i do things at present,and i am not suggesting that anybody else should use it!
I allways choose an unfrequented climbing area with ungraded routes or crags of little importance,so as not to bug the local natives.Climbers justifiably get a bit bitter and twisted if your dragging fixed-ropes all over their favourite crags?!As usual let someone know where you are climbing(see Route Plans blog)its good practice and common sense.
Make sure the top of your crag is easily reached from ground level,and easy to walk down from when you top-out.Make sure there are plenty of good "bomber" anchor points for your fixed-rope.If the ground at the top is soft,you may consider using a "Ground Pin" anchor system?These are available from Peter Gwilliam of "Specialist Training Consultants" a great company that i can thoroughly reccomend,who will even train you how to use this kit?!You would allso do well to visit Tom Gwilliam,s blog for further info and a great range of useful gear.
Rig a bomber anchor-system as you would for a Group Abseil,with good safe access and egress points,making sure the system is secure from tampering!If you have a partner along ,take turns guarding the anchors if there is human traffic around.
Allthough i allways use a 9.5mil Mammut,Static-Rope for this procedure.I like to "dynamise"the system a little with a "Energy Dissipator" device as an added safety measure.These are brilliant little,inexpensive items of gear that may well save your life!And are allso available from Peter and Tom!I dont know of anyone outside the Rescue and Rope-Access Industry that uses these,apart from myself?But i would not now be without one,especialy for this system!
Having rigged the anchors,i then abseil down the route to get a good close look at it.I feed the rope from a Rope-Bag as i go and where possible i use the "Australian Abseil" to get a better perspective of the route overall! Done correctly the Aussie-Abseil is safer than the standard-abseil and far more controlable.The instructors who claim this is "less" safe than the standard technique are talking "total bollocks",and probably dont know how to do it properly!
This abseil allso enables one to move more slowly under better control,so that you can stop at will to kneel and locate fragile mountain plant micro-systems you wouldnt want to damage.
DISMOUNT & ABSEIL PROCEDURE.