Thursday, April 18, 2013

Lost Arrow Spire (Classic) - RIGGING BETA

Yesterday, I got back from a fun, short trip to Yosemite Valley with Jordan, Faith and Andrew Craig where we met up with bunch of friends and some new faces. That was really condensed trip. In two and half days we had to drive from Lodi to the Valley, hike up Yosemite Falls trail, climb and rig the Spire (finishing in a night), de-rig, pack, hike down in a night and drive back to Lodi. I will publish a post from this trip as soon as Dave is done editing some of the pictures.

Yosemite Falls ... You can see Lost Arrow Spire in a top-right corner of the picture (photo by J. Tybon)

For me it was the third time rigging the L.A.S. Classic. I teamed up with Dave to climb and rig on the Spire side and Faith helped us on the flake site. My last visit in Yosemite was three years ago and I didn't remember lots of important details about climbing and rigging. Even though the line is only 17m long (70m H to the notch/880m to the valley floor) it is one of the most complicated rigs in the Valley. During this trip lots of friends sent the Spire for the first time and I thought it would be great to share the knowledge of how to rig the line so more people can get this amazing experience (not only of walking but also rigging it, which is way awesome!) and so I do not forget again ;) ...

Damian Czermak on the L.A.S. Classic in 2009 (photo by J. Tybon)

Author walking L.A.S. in a swami/2009 (photo by J. Tybon)

OK, let's start with what gear will you need:

- the line + back-up (I can recommend 1" threaded Slack-Spec + Type-18 MKII or dynamic rope as a back-up or just double Type-18 MKII; it walks really nicely on this length!),
- anchors materials; DOUBLE WEBBING: 4 x WebLock (together with bow shackle) or 2 x WebLock (together with bow shackle) and 2 x Line-Locker Kit (if you use line-locker kit, fix it on the non-tensioning side --> Flake side), WEBBING + ROPE: 2 x WebLock (together with bow shackle) + 2 x 7/16" bow shackle or 1 x WebLock (together with bow shackle) and 1 x Line-Locker Kit + 2 x 7/16" bow shackle (if you use line-locker kit, fix it on the non-tensioning side --> Flake side),
- leash rings + leash,
- 4 x cam # 3 + metal connector (don't use aluminum carabiners!), you can use for example 12mm Delta Quicklink or steel carabiners,
- 8 to 9 tree-protectors which you can easily rap around spansets and stuff,
- light pulleys system with lineGrip works best (+multiplier),
- 3 x 12mm Delta Quicklink or steel carabiners + 2 x Oval Quicklink or steel carabiners (for back-up bolts) for the Spire side,
- 2 x 2m purple spanset,
- tape,
- highline-roller.

- 70-80m static rope or better 30-40 and 50-60m static ropes (ascending/rappelling ropes),
- gri-gri + ascenders + daisy-chains + helmet + harness + climbing shoes/chalkbag,
- cams: 2 medium size Aliens, 2 x #2, 2 x #3 & 2 x #4 camalot,
- 2 x ladder + thin wire stoppers (# 1 or #2 from BD is perfect) for adding on bolts without hangers,
- 1 x fifi-hook,
- 1 x 70m dynamic rope,
- 10 to 15 quickdraws,
- slings and carabiners to built the anchors.

Damian Czermak ready to rappel to the notch (2009, photo by J. Tybon)

Rigging info:

Approach: You want to start hiking Yosemite Falls Trail from Camp 4. If you're fast and you have a heavy haulbag you still should be able to do it in 2 hours (although more reasonable time is between 3-4h). Before you start hiking get your wilderness permit and the bear-box from the Wilderness Center. After getting to Yosemite Falls follow the trail to Yosemite Point. Soon after getting out of the woods turn right and start hiking down the slabs to the Spire. This last part will take you 15-30min.

Getting Down: In order to rig and climb the Spire you need to rappel to the notch which is around 80-90m below you. Make sure you have all the climbing gear with you and highline gear if you're planning on building the flake anchor on the way down. Attach your 30-40m static rope to one of the trees and rappel to the flake and climb your second (longer) static rope to a bolt (it's good to back it up to the first rappel rope) and rappel down to the notch. You can also start rigging the highline on the way down if you don't have someone who'll do it for you when you and your partner are climbing the Spire. If you do want to rig that anchor take 4 cams #3 with steel connectors, 2m spansets, 4-5 tree-protectors, webbing and back-up, 2 anchoring devices and a leash.

Climbing: Free-climbing the Spire is not too hard although the protection is not always the best and it takes way longer. I usually split the first pitch into two smaller ones because of the huge ledge in a middle. Your belayer can't see you and if you do fall you will definitely hit the edge (too much rope stretch). So, I think the fastest way is to free-climb the first half of the 1st pitch to the edge (the is one tricky spot, but you can pull on quickdraws - you will only need quickdraws for that part) and then partly aid and free-climb short off-width section (you will need few quickdraws and cams: 2 x #2, 2 x #3, 2 x #4 and aid-ladders). The last pitch is the longest one. It can be free-climber although again fastest way is to free-climb and aid-climb partially. It starts to the left and then follows up the tower edge. You will need all your quickdraws, two Aliens and your ladders with two small stoppers (you have to use their wires to hook your ladders on the bolts without any hangers). You can really charge fast on this pitch using this method.
IMPORTANT!: The second has to trail the end of the static rope you rappelled on and make sure it doesn't get stuck on the way up. The best way is to have it clipped to the harness through Gri-Gri so you can add or remove slack.

Route beta from web (look at last three pitches)

Rigging: After getting to the top of the Spire you will need a person on the flake site with a haulbag filled with the rest of gear you will need (pulleys system + multiplier and extra sling, 4 tree-protectors, spanset + 5 metal connectors, your anchoring devices). You have to get the haulbag and the webbing across the gap. To achieve that give the person on the flake side a bit of slack, then the haulbag and the end of the webbing should be attached to a knot on the static rope - pull it across. Now you can built your anchor. For the main you have to use 3 10mm diameter bolts (they all do have hangers) and 2 behind for back-up. Equalize all 3 bolts with your 2m spanset and clip your anchoring devices (don't forget to protect rap your spanset with tree-protectors). When you have your anchor ready you can pull the haulbag with gear and the webbing using the static rope you were trailing behind you while climbing. Then it's easy - tension your highline, back it up, taped if it's not pre-taped and it is time for epic sends!
RIGGING FLAKE SIDE: This anchor is not so easy to rig. You will need for cams #3 and if you want to have your anchor a bit lower (sitting in a vertical crack) also couple BD stopper to place in a vertical crack. What I like to to is to place my four cams on the left side of the vertical crack (looking on flake from a Spire side), equalize with my 2m spanset, protect with tree-protectors, clip the line and drop it down so it hold the anchor in place (so the cams don't 'walk' inside the crack). Remember to use steel connectors (not aluminum carabiners which usually are connected to the cams!).
The other option is to place couple cams on each side of vertical crack and two stoppers in a vertical splitter and then connect each two point and finally equalize all three with 1 meter spanset. This way the anchor is a bit lower. Back up your anchor to the bolt above the flake and the rappelling rope!

Damian Czermak on the L.A.S. Classic in 2009 (photo by J. Tybon)

Michał Korniewicz sending in 2009 (photo by J. Tybon)

De-Rigging: Before you start de-tensioning the line make sure you bring the static rope to the Spire side. What you want to do is to clip one end of the static rope to the bolt above the flake, then run it through two bolts on the spire (they are usually carabiners from the rappelling anchor) and then back to the bolt above the flake clipped through the Gri-Gri (so you can tension it a bit to tirolean easier across the rope). When you have your ropes ready back the bolt with the rappelling rope and start de-tensioning your line and the drop it. Pack the rest of your gear to the whole back and tirolean across the rope (clip to both strands!). After you're on the flake side secure your self and release the static rope. Pull it through and it is done. Ascent up the rope to the tree, clean-up and organize your gear and you can start the fun part - hiking down the Yosemite Falls trails (which usually takes place in a night) ;) ...

Author after a swami-belt ascent back in 2009 (photo by J. Tybon)

I will be back in Yosemite in about 3 weeks or so and I will rig the Spire lines at least twice so I promise to take some rigging pictures to make everything more clear. I am also adding 'Highline Guidebook' (look on the right side) section to my blog whee you can rigging info about some classic lines. I am hoping everything is clear. Comment here if you don't understand something or need more info/advice.

Peace & SlackOn!


  1. This is amazing man. I have been looking at doing some highlines when I head back to California but I have no experience with them. I just longline for now. Do you know anyone that would introduce me to the world of highlining? It would be much appreciated.

    1. You should in touch with some highliners from Bay Area: just to name few: Maxwell Sterling Silver, Dave Mayers, Jerry Miszewski etc. We are also going to be back in Yosemite sometimes around 2nd week of May and will stay for 2-3 weeks.

      Peace & SlackOn!

    2. I appreciate your help! Thank you for the contacts. I would love to head back to Yosemite, that was my play ground as a kid, but I have school.