Big Wall Episode #4 - Living
Big Wall Bible
Living On The Wall
The lightest but most useful thing you can take up a big wall is knowledge. Welcome to a resource that will help you be successful in getting up big rocks. Big walling is a big topic so we broke it into bite-size "pitches" with a video to START each one. The aim is to have lots of videos, photos and written content in each section, not just of our stuff but your stuff as well. See HowNOT2 contribute your beta below.
Our courses are A-Z content in blog format, glued together with an overarching blog we call a textbook. A blog format is easy to read, easy to update, and easy to translate. Be sure to begin at the TEXTBOOK and at the end of each episode we'll point you to the next.
Existing in a vertical world is an art and honestly one of the coolest forms of camping. But you don't know what you don't know if you haven't done it, so hopefully, this will tell you what you don't know. The idea is to practice everything at home near the ground so it's smooth as butter (or those shits after those freeze-dried dinners) when you are super tired after climbing all day.
Don't Fall Out Of Bed
Rock ledge or portaledge, don't fall out of bed. At least be tied in if you do. You can be tied in with a personal anchor as long as it is bomber (Metolius easy daisies are not "rated") AND it is connected to something bomber. The straps of a portaledge are not! The most flexible and bomber connection you can have is a grigri on the end of your haul or lead line. Of course, make sure you have a knot in the end and that the rope lets you get as far down or out as you'll need to be. If you only sleep on your sides and back, this can be fine, but it's a big chunk of metal right at your groin. The alternative is to just clip a personal anchor at an extended bomber attachment point like that same rope with a figure 8 on a bight or a sling. Keep good rope management as you weave in and out of a portaledge or be mindful of the rope if walking around on a ledge so you don't knock stuff off or trip.
PRO TIP: If you are on a narrow ledge that is great to sleep on but very narrow, hang your haul bag to lean against that edge about at your chest/stomach area so you have a point of reference of where the edge is as you sleep. You still cuddle the wall but you can always touch the bag as a false sense of security so you don't feel like you will fall out of bed.
Everything you have needs to be attached to something in the vertical world. Pre-clipping everything you can with a carabiner before putting it in the haul bag makes this way easier than hunting for free carabiners. Since you only have one bottle out at a time, you don't need a carabiner on every water jug since they stay in the bag all the time. You can girth hitch the gear sling inside the haul bag with a loop style daisy and clip everything to that in the order you want it. If you want the flexibility to remove that daisy if you are so fortunate to get to a horizontal anchor, just clip it to the gear loop with a small locker and then you can spread it out and yard sale in under a minute. It's ideal that everything is sealed up, but this method really requires it so nothing gets dumped out. Be sure to have no loose items in the haul bag so you don't drop things when you pull out another item. Bags in bags in bags in bags is the trick, and every bag has a clip in point and most have a dedicated carabiner.
Pre-set up your sleeping bag, pillow, and air mattress to have a clip in point. This is what your spare carabiner stash is for but they are awkward and not naturally have good spots to clip things to.
WARNING: If you attach things to your ladders in a vertical set up like in this episode, the stuff will get tossed around quite a bit if you try climbing those ladders. Try to keep those clear and only for going up and down.
Setting Up & Tearing Down
Open stuff up one at a time, keep it clipped in. To put it all back, reverse the order. You have to set up a portaledge before pulling out the sleeping bags, and you have to put all that stuff back in the bag before tearing down the portaledge. PRACTICE at home or on a crag living off a 2 bolt anchor, or even a tree, and live on the wall for 1 night at least before going up a wall in real life. Work out the kinks when you don't have a quota of pitches to meet the next day.
PRO TIP: "Is that rain I feel?" It's 3am, you were too lazy to attach the fly that you hiked and hauled but now you feel rain droplets on your face. Think about the cluster it would take to get both of you off your ledge to unclip it, attach your fly, and clip the portaledge to the bottom of that. You might as well just get up and start climbing! PRE-ATTACH the fly cover for your portalege if you brought it!
It's way more convenient to shit in the morning when you have a ledge and all your stuff is out. You need to know if you have the magic skills of picking one function at a time, if you can't hold the pee when you poo, you can't squat on a portaledge like the ground because you are just trying to bag the poo. Ideally you just squat though.
Good news! Your butt hole isn't behind your knees so just drop your pants enough to get to the hole which means you may not need to take off the harness legs. Roll gallon zip lock bags over 3x for a firm rim which keeps the game fun and clean. Bag it in a bag and put your WET WIPES in there when you are done. TP is of the devil when you don't get a shower for a week. You don't need those wag bags that are so big you can literally stand in them. The plastic bulk makes storing it a PITA.
As much fun as it is naming poop tubes El Crapitan and Poopinator, just cut open bottles 75% that you already have and duct tape them closed after you stuff your double bagged treasure. Pre-wrap duct tape above where you plan on cutting so it's completely hassle free. Make sure your bottle is bomber and you can hang it 30 feet below you with a lot 7mm accessory cord. At the top, put that bottle in your tripled up grocery bags now that you are pretty much out of food and you will have a lot of plastic between you and your turdlettes.
Pee bottles are highly recommended on popular routes or just so you don't have to get out of a portaledge in the middle of the night to pee, only to find out it's shorter than you think and you just pissed all over the ledge where you have to lay your head back down.
Think Up and Down
Think up and down, not side to side. You lived your entire life in a horizontal plane but now you are in a vertical plane. Don't put your haul bag next to your portaledge if you don't have the horizontal space to do so. You don't want the bag below the ledge or you can't access it. So create an easy way to go up and down your vertical house. If the ledge master point is at the same height as the bottom of the haul bag nothing conflicts for space. Have your ropes flaked tidy at the anchor with about 20-30 feet of each hanging out (not in a loop) for a bomber connection point whenever you need it. This would be the top of your rope so it's quick and easy in the morning for the leader to tie in and clip the haul line to them.
If you are so lucky to have a 3rd or even a 4th bolt that lets you spread out, you can let your haul bag hang next to your portaledge, but if you step on the edge it will tip to the side. Clip a sling from the corner to a bolt/anchor point directly above it so it won't sink down if you do step there.
PRO TIP: WRITE WITH A SHARPIE WHAT SIDE OF YOUR LEDGE GOES AGAINST THE WALL AND WHICH SIDE IS OUT TOWARDS THE VIEW. MAKE IT STUPID PROOF.