On our adventures we always have to improvise; indeed, it’s this improvisation that that allows us to ‘push the envelope’ a bit. As a rule, our worst enemy on a wilderness adventure is weight; with this in mind it makes sense to cut back as much unnecessary gear as possible. The better we are at improvising, the more gear we can leave behind, resulting in a lighter rucksack. In an earlier article I made the statement that ‘knowledge weighs nothing’ and it’s this knowledge that will lighten your load. If you are out on your own or with a group in a rocky environment it is always wise to take a rope, sling and a couple of H.M.S. Screwgate krabs. Climbing gear is heavy and as you are not predominantly climbing there is no use in dragging it along; however, if you need to extricate yourself or others from a ‘sticky’ situation along with your kit, the Munter Friction Hitch will come in very handy indeed.
The Munter Friction Hitch & Double Munter Friction Hitch
This hitch allows you to make a controlled descent or to lower others and/or equipment safely. It’s other name is the’ Italian Hitch’ as it was introduced in Italy to the Alpine Association in the mid seventies. The normal hitch works well with 11mm dia. rope but if you have taken an 8mm dia. rope to cut down on weight, the Double Munter will compensate for the thinner rope. This hitch does not work well with hawser laid rope (twisted) and should always be used with kernmantle rope (kern = core & mantle = sheath, from the German word Kernmantel); this is no problem as the ropes you will choose will almost always be kernmantle through choice.
The Munter Mule
In any situation that requires the movement of the load to be terminated temporarily, perhaps if lowering an injured person or arresting your own descent for some reason, you can use the Munter Mule. This incorporates an additional two knots that are both tied in the bight (without the need for an end) and it can be untied easily while under load.
When using these friction hitches and the mule lock-off it is important that you have practiced and are confident. The reason for this is that they are normally used in situations where you may be a little outside of your comfort zone and a simple mistake may result in the loss of your gear or even worse. They are relatively simple to tie and use (as are most things with practice) but a couple of hours practice with an old rucksack loaded with some rocks will bolster confidence and reduce stress when it matters. When lowering any weight, be it gear or human always use a direct belay; this ensures that any load is taken directly by the anchor as opposed to an indirect belay where the load is taken by the person belaying who is then held by the anchor. By using a direct belay it is easy to tie-off the load and move to a different position should it be required.
More Knowledge, Less Gear
The more you can improvise the lighter your load will be; knowledge allows this improvisation to take place. More importantly it improves your confidence in your own ability and reduces your dependence on equipment. We will always need some equipment in order to stay safe but you will be surprised at how little this really needs to be. This improved self confidence will be very apparent to others in your everyday life as they see you overcome endless problems with little or no effort. A useful tip is to buy a 5m piece of 9mm dia. climbing rope and when you have been for a run or out on the mountain bike, have half an hour tying twenty basic knots, hitches and bends while you are relaxing. Try it with your eyes closed as well; you often have to tie things in the dark!
I have not gone into tying these as there would have to be many photographs. In addition to this there are a number of different methods that can be used, all of them right. Find the one that suits you the best and stick with it. There are many internet sites that go into detail on the different methods that can be used to end up with the same thing.