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Hiking the ND Descent vs. Rapping Royal Arches when topping out Washington Column

Which is better? Go down the North Dome Gulley of death? Wander over to Royal Arches and rap forever and ever and ever? Here’s my attempt at an answer


Yes to RA. Easy hike over to the top of RA from the Column (actually, 200-300′ of bushwacking to hit the trail proper, but whateves)

  • Two rope rap from top of rim to the start of the RA raps (you have to tension/traverse quite a ways, but it was never difficult because of the low angle nature of the slab)
    *Note: Make sure when you go off the obvious rap tree from the rim, you have your ropes on the climber’s right of the bush right in front of the tree. I didn’t and because I used a reepschnur/biner block [due to core shot in my second rope], the loop got block got snagged up on the pull and so I had to go back up (easy 3rd/4th class) and move it to the right) I assume if you don’t use a block and rap normally with two threads, this wouldn’t be an issue.
  • Easy slab to sheer raps straight down with minimal issues with ropes getting hung up.
    I will say that having a rotor/swivel for your bags is essential. Because of the less-than-vertical nature of some of the raps, if you’re riding the pig then it will twist the rope and cause a good long time at the next belay sorting through the spaghetti. I’m not sure how rapping with the bag attached to your belay loop would change things. I ended up just backpacking the haul bag because it was small (30lbs or so because it was the leftover bag from my previous climb that we had gone up to retrieve.)
  • 5 minute walk to car with your stuff once you’re down. Easy peasy to break it into multiple loads if you’re completely worked without too much time loss.

I would NOT do this during the day or afternoon because you’re going to be slow, there’s going to be issues, and it’d be rude to hold up the freeclimbers with the aid junk show. Although there would be a certain happiness to forcing them to share the rap stations with your filth and stink after multiple days on the wall.
The raps are straightforward enough that I think it’s preferable at night anyways.

North Dome Gulley isn’t a bad descent at all, but when I did it with the main solo bag with most of the weight (minus portaledge, fly, one rope) it was a horrendous 4 hour ordeal for me (at the 20′ downclimb of the broken buttress, I had to cut the haulbag loose and watch it fall thinking, “please stop rolling, please stop rolling” until a bush stopped it. *sorry lil’bush*), continuing down the trail to the indian caves was soul-crushing as well.

In comparing the two descents, I would def prefer the RA raps for a solo and the ND Gully with a partner. (ND is def going to be faster with two people, but a soloist can shuttle multiple bags to the top of RA easily then descend with the entire kit at once.)

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March 2018
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