Logistics and Equipment

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Sign Up

(Side note, DO NOT do this competition with your significant other/spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend.)

The first thing you have to do is sign up. This is accomplished in two ways: pre-registration or the lottery. Years ago, the event had empty spots and anyone could join. There was a maximum, but it would take hours to fill. My first year I don’t know if it ever filled. My second year the online signup filled in 9 hours, then 15 minutes, then 4 minutes. After that, the wise decision was made to create a lottery where people were pulled randomly from a list of entrants and let fate decide.

Around the same time, I suggested to Andy Chasteen that the 24-hour wasn’t long enough and we needed a 36- or 48- hour continuation of the competition. Alas, he’s smarter than I and created the 12-hour competition before the main event which is optional but can be used to gain entry for the following year’s events. This means that someone who fails to get into the lottery for the 24-hour event can do the lottery (which isn’t nearly as difficult to get into) and earn pre-registration for next year. You ARE DEFINITELY ALLOWED TO SIGN UP FOR BOTH, and THAT’s CALLED “The 36.” I don’t suggest doing it, even though I will never not do it again.

To be pre-registered means that you competed the previous year and successfully completed the minimum required for your bracket. If you’re in the 12-hour event, you need to climb a minimum of 60 routes, (of ANY difficulty) to gain reentry. If you’re in the 24-hour event, you must complete a minimum of 100 routes (of ANY difficulty) to gain reentry. If you want to do the All 5.8 and less in the North 40, more power to you. If you want to do every 5.10 you can possibly find, it’s going to suck, but good luck!

When I say any difficulty, I mean it. Even if you sign up for Elite, and your “bracket” says you climb 5.12b and up, you can still climb easier routes. People sometimes think that just because they’re in Advanced, which is 5.11a to 5.12a, that they have to climb in that range. You don’t; you can climb 5.9 to your hearts content even in the Elite bracket.

Every year you must re-qualify for pre-entry the following year. Early on in the competition the minimum for pre-qualification was only one route per hour for each hour. The scores were correspondingly lower. To allow for more entrants, the re-qualifications have been retargeted as the techniques and crowd gets better. Scores, route-counts, etc. have all increased over the years for many different reasons, and comparing scores year-to-year is effectively meaningless. Yes, during many years, new records are set, but this 11th year was brutal and everything was depressed significantly.

Goals

Now that you’ve signed up, it’s time to set your goals. People who set a goal of completion fail. People who set a goal of 150 routes typically succeed. It sounds counter-intuitive, but the biggest deciding factor of success in this competition is ambition. If you ever stop moving, you’ll stop moving permanently. If you ever take a rest, regardless of your discipline, it’ll kill your motivation and drive. I’ve gone through it. I’ve witnessed others going through it. I’ve seen people who swore left and right that their goal of 48 routes each was super ambitious and that they trained for it and were super confident…. Only to find them asleep at 4 AM on the ground because they were going TOO slowly.

Whatever goal you set, the requalification of 60/100 routes should be your minimum. Give me any single human being who has been climbing for 6-12 months and loves it, and I can get them requalified. You will surprise yourself and you can do amazing things. You will have climbers alongside you during the competition cheering you on and trying to motivate you. Ask for beta on a route and thou-shalt-receive. The stoke and psyche are high, embrace it and go for broke.

Don’t be someone who goes for bare minimum. You’ll get in others ways and you’ll let yourself down. Don’t be afraid of the idea of doing 4-5 routes per hour each. It sounds like that’s a significant quantity of routes, and my first year I only did 80 and was super proud, but now that I’ve seen many, many, many people break into the 200+ club, regardless of their fitness level, it’s completely doable with sheer determination.

YOU CAN FUCKING DO IT, SO DO IT, AND DON’T BITCH THAT IT MIGHT BE HARD. Surprise yourself, I swear I have more confidence in your anonymous self I may never meet than you have in yourself, so go crush it. Win your division, first try, I’ve seen it done.

Your Training

Great, you’re signed up. You’ve got a goal. You’re a moron. Now give up all autonomy and follow these simple steps to get your 60/100 routes. If you don’t desire to get your requalification, why are you even reading this?! But on a serious note, every single person who has ever started the competition, either one of them, has the capacity to get their 60/100 goal. Every. Single. Fucking. One. So when I turn around at the 24-hour competition and someone says their goal is only “surviving it” or “24-48 routes total” I tell them quite frankly they will fail. Good luck!

Now you need to train. Like a crazy person. My friends and I, every year, turn the 4-6 months before the competition into a mad rush of endurance cardio training. You might not be able to do what we do, but the closer you are to it the better.

What you’re going to need is: cardio, strength, endurance, callus, hair, pain tolerance, and a destruction of your ego. Tick whatever boxes you can, and blissfully ignore any you cannot.

This year, and I feel it worked out really well for me, I rode my bicycle, rock climbed, and swam a little. (I’m a former competitive swimmer, so that helps I guess; but it was in the Mediterranean, so that doesn’t, I guess.)

My bicycle riding consisted of riding the 5 km (3-miles) each way to the rock climbing gym 3-4 times per week. I would push hard and try my damnedest to go faster each and every time than I had the previous, even after workouts at the climbing gym. Traffic and weather pose problems, but they will during 24HHH too, so suck it up, learn to negotiate traffic mentally and physically, and learn to enjoy the fact that you’re outside regardless of the weather. It can snow at 24HHH, it can rain (it has!), it can cook you (it has!) or if can be perfect 75 degrees with a light breeze for the complete 24-hours (it has!). After a few months of riding my bicycle with my climbing gear on my back, my cardio was good enough. If you don’t ride, run. If you don’t run, swim. If you don’t swim, have vigorous sex. If you don’t enjoy sex, well then you’re an idiot (oh, we’re back to the prerequisite for signing up, welcome to the club!)!

For my climbing, I go to the gym and run laps. On anything. And everything. And more. My favorite is to find a nice string of routes a little harder than my warmup and climb them until failure. For me that’s roughly 5.10+. Then do it again. Then do it again. At the end I could do roughly 1000 feet without stopping where the minimum was difficulty was at my warmup level and I would finish without being pumped. Learn to breathe large breaths while climbing. Learn to flow. Learn to ignore your forearms. Learn to look like a tool with 10 quickdraws and some PAS’s hanging from your harness indoor. About once per week, go to the gym and climb for four to six hours without taking breaks longer than 1-2 minutes. About once every other week, make it a six- to eight- hour day. You’re thinking I’m crazy, but if you can’t make 6-8 hours of air conditioned indoor rock climbing, how-the-fuck do you expect to survive 12 or 24 outside?! And lastly, before your first time at hell, I suggest desperately trying for a 12- to 16-hour day of relaxed climbing just to test yourself out. Trust me, you don’t truly know yourself until hour 16.

You’re thinking by now, this guy must truly be insane. No one does what he’s suggesting! But trust me, they actually do. And if you can get to this point, in your climbing workouts, then the actual climbing part will cease to be an issue, and no matter what you actually try to do during the competition, you’ll crush the climbing part. If you do this, trust me and every other veteran, the climbing will be the easy part and then just getting the minimum becomes a test in patience and determination.

Even if you want more than the minimum, go for this pseudo-training regimen and you’ll get a leg up. Some of the veterans do it differently, but this guide isn’t for the dudes (or ladies! [Watch out for Natalie Neal Dower]) who actually know what they’re doing, it’s for the first or second timers who want a leg-up.

For any other training, It’s just fun multi-pitch days if possible, single-pitch cragging for fun, and the occasional swim session which is partly about just mixing it up. As the competition gets closer, be careful about going for hard red-point attempts because an injury just before the competition can royally fuck you. (Speaking from experience.)

Also, when is the last time you were awake for 24 full hours? My advice: stay up one Friday night for 30 hours (because of the 3 hours before the competition and the 3 hours after the competition before you get to sleep) and see how your body does. Do it with your partner, if possible? Get to see what each other is like at 4 AM. Time the wakefulness to correspond with what you’ll experience during hell. Get up at 7:30 for the 9 AM meeting, eat your breakfast and poop, then play mind games and go to the gym together etc. But don’t let each other sleep. In the wee-hours of the night, put on your headlamps and practice wearing them for 12 hours. Don’t waste batteries, just get used to them. Play games that are mind-intensive late at night and see if either of you get loopy or lose your minds. At 10 PM and then again at 4 AM do a stroke-check on each other, like in the comp. Cheer and eat breakfast around 10 AM. Then around 1 PM get some sleep again. Yes, that’s hell. And you weren’t even climbing for 24 hours! Treat it like a game, but if you are worried about any advice in this guide, YOU CAN TEST IT BEFORE THE COMPETITION STARTS.

I’ll admit that one year, my anonymous Danny partner, was stuck in the middle of a 5.7 on the North Forty, Mr. Dixon, and spent 20 minutes trying to figure out the beta while in a no-hands rest all confused asking me what to do. *Cough Danny Cough* Basically, at 4 AM his mind shut off and it took him 20 minutes to do his lap, 30 seconds for mine (it’s a 3-bolt route with jugs), then another 20 minutes for his because he forgot his beta from literally one minute beforehand and was confused again. Yes, I let this man belay me. Yes, I still love you Danny. (He went on in later years to crush harder, and even in this particular year he did more than 100 routes when the minimum for re-entry was still 24 and 100 was uncommon.) (He did win best haircut because of the handprint on his head! And Thomas Caldwell, gentleman extraordinaire, offered to let us wipe our feet on his bare thighs, but that’s an entirely different but true story.)

Moral of the story, know yourself and your partner and what you will be like 16-20 hours into the comp. If you can’t survive 16-20 hours fooling around outside climbing, while only eating and drinking what you’re going to during the competition, how do you expect to survive together during the actual hell?

Your Equipment

Equipment 1.jpg

Okay, so now you’re shredding shit harder than you ever have before because you decided to actually do some climbing. Great! Now you need the gear. Here’s a photo of gear we own which you should also have.

Just kidding. Well, we each own this, but don’t bring it. Here is the complete minimum list of all climbing gear that you need to complete 24HHH, including traditional protection:

  • 5 quickdraws (okay, maybe 6 in case you drop/lose/break one)
  • 35-meter rope
  • Locking Carabiner with inbuilt cross loading prevention (Via Ferrata style is fantastic!!!!!)
  • Black Diamond #.75 Camalot (Green) or .75 Link Cam (Green)
  • 60mm sling
  • ATC-XP belay device with auto-locking carabiner
  • Enough tape to both become Egyptian mummies permanently

You’re thinking I’m joking. I’m not. If you want to take and utilize more, good on you. I won’t stop you, but it’s going to be excessive. Here’s a picture of the gear we actually carried with us during the comp. (Notice the blue tape on the link cams and the white tape on the quickdraws for later. We never even placed the purple link cam, though.)

Equipment 2.jpg

Rope

If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume you’re looking at doing a bunch of routes, and you’re probably going to skip the obvious ones that everyone skips. That means the longest climbs you’re going to do require a 35m rope. Buy a 70m by 9.2mm rope and cut it in half, or a 35m by 9.2mm one you don’t need to cut. Expect your rope will die by the end of the competition. If you’ve cut your 70m in half, you can leave the other half down in your car in case your side dies then you have a backup. Don’t underestimate backups upon backups upon backups! Thickness of the rope matters. It’s going to get thicker as the competition continues. Get the smoothest feeding and easiest rope for handling. It’s going to get thicker, it’s going to get dirty, it’s going to get gnarly. You aren’t going to be taking whippers on these ropes, so thickness only serves to make it HEAVIER and HARDER TO CLIP. Do yourself a favor, get a rope that is shoestring thin which can feed through an ATC fast and use it. (Even 9.4 ends up becoming too thick and less than 9.0 doesn’t bind properly in an ATC.)

Doing 100 routes at 24HHH is typically just shy of 1 vertical mile. If you and your partner both do it, that’s 2 vertical miles the rope is being clipped, and 2 more vertical miles (minimum) that it’s being pulled back through. That means your rope will experience roughly 200 pitches (each 100’ long) worth of dragging across rock. You seriously want to tell me that you expect your rope to genuinely be usable after that much usage? Come again, I can’t hear you, speak louder. How many of your ropes would you like to go climbing with knowing they already had 200 pitches of previous use, and you can visibly see the sheath separating from the core and turning fuzzy. Our 9.2mm rope this year ended up at 11.3mm in thickness, too. I’m not joking, it became hard to pull through the ATC and almost impossible to pull through a GriGri.

My ex-girlfriend took a used rope one year, and 3 hours in it became unusable because it had seen some use previously. They barely got their 100 routes each that year, and the rope only survived the first 20 that each of them did.

Trust me, it’s going be painful, but buy a rope specifically for this. You’ll love yourself for it later. If you bring a 60m, it’s going to be far too much rope and slow you down drastically. If you bring a 70m rope, you’re insane. Anything longer and you’ll be laughed at.

Also, there’s these things called rope-bags; leave it at home. In past years we’ve tried to maintain tarps, rope bags, blue IKEA bags, and laundry baskets. They only slow you down. The rope is designed to take a bit of abuse, and as long as you aren’t walking on it, and no one else does, it’ll survive touching the ground. The one exception to this rule is the year it torrentially rained, but even then it’s impossible to actually keep the rope clean. The simplest of the solutions is to get a 10’x10’ section of tarp and cut it into a 5’x5’ square and just let the rope drop onto that. Then you just pick up the corners and move on. But, of course, all of this is mitigated by having that 35m rope, because a 35m rope can be managed very easily with just your hands. Especially if you two work together to make it go faster. If you ever need to coil, both of you should be doing it and carry the piece you have at the end. Either way, they take longer to manage and will slow you, and by extension others, down. In the photo below, the rope is dirty, but survived 36 hours of direct ground contact and more than 650 total routes.

This is our rope after the 36 hours

Another really strange phenomenon I witnessed this year is each climber having their own rope permanently attached to them, and a personal rope bag of varying types for each climber. I’m speechless, that’s heavy and pointless. You quite literally don’t save any time vs our method, and only add the possibility of tangled ropes because you should be going fast enough that one would be climbing while the other is pulling THEIR OTHER rope down. Basically, read the next paragraph and go faster and lighter and smarter. Yes, I’ll admit this works, and it might be faster than a 60m rope. It’s definitely faster than retying each iteration. It’s unfathomably less favorable to having a single end you each switch off as necessary.

The other thing you’re going to be doing is taking that non-cross loading carabiner mentioned earlier and tying the end of the rope to it. Before the competition starts. Congratulations you’re not going to have to tie a knot for the entire competition! 100 routes, 2 times each, tie and untie means 400 knot tie/untie actions, running at 30 seconds each, that’s 3 hours 2 minutes of knot tying. Thanks for wasting 1/8th of your competition standing around not competing! (This, coupled with shoes, ends up being 25% of your entire competition (SIX HOURS), if you’re stupid.) If you think you can tie your knot faster than 30 seconds each time, and untie it faster than 30 seconds each time, then I’d like you to demonstrate that to me at hour 20 of the competition when you can’t feel your fingers and you’re having difficulty climbing 5.6.

More on why the short rope is better later in this treatise, outside the obvious amount of usage. We used one half of the rope each during each competition. One half was used in the 12 hour, and the other half was used in the 24 hour. Here’s a photo of our two halves of the rope after 36 hours of stupidity (they started out bright reflective lime green).

Belay Device

This suggestion is going to draw ire no matter how I state it, so I’ll just preface it upfront and say that if you want to argue with me, and won’t listen to my advice, then skip this.

I’ve used ATC’s, ATC-XP/Guides, Petzl GriGri’s, and the Micro Jule thingy. I’ve had partners in the past use these and others such as the Cinch. This last comp, the fastest we’ve gone is with a normal ATC with teeth. Let me explain why.

The safest device you’re going to use is auto-locking. If you’re remotely worried about fatigue affecting your belay technique, and want something to do your job for you because you’re too novice for belaying to be second-nature/muscle-memory, then get a GriGri 2 and read the next section. For the love of all that is holy, find a way to make belaying second-nature and require ZERO thought.

If you want a device that will twist your rope, get a Micro Jule. It doesn’t like thin ropes or being fed from certain angles, run away from it because of this! (When going fast, it’s a bitch; when taking your time, it’s actually quite lovely.)

If you want to go fast, and I mean unbeatably fast, get an ATC-XP. The kind with the teeth on one side of the device. This device is impossible to beat in terms of belay-disconnection. For reasons I’ll explain in the “During the Comp” section, this is the fastest device. Also, you should be doing your job as a belayer; anyone entering hell should be able to belay with 2-5 different belay devices on a moment’s notice without having to think about it, and be able to do it blackout drunk, at night, blindfolded, and while being attacked by ants/goats/skunks/hornets/all of the above (all of these exist during hell). Forgive the superfluous night/blindfolded, you get the idea.

In the end, you should also take a backup device. You might drop yours. You might get loopy at 4 AM and lose yours. You might break it. Last year my partner and I each had an ATC-XP for our primary devices, and I brought along an extra ATC and GriGri 2 as backups. The ATC does have the drawback that your hands are slightly more engaged, but if you do it right it actually doesn’t grind on your skin any. Learn how in advance. But if your skin does get fried, and it will eventually no matter who you are, then using something like a GriGri 2 can save your fingers more, but it’s VASTLY slower.

Also, you should tape the gate to your belay carabiner so that it’s easier to open on your fingers. The little metal nubs which give it traction start to HURT to touch during the comp. And it should be an auto-twist-locker, not a screw-gate locker, because speed and simplicity. Don’t argue with that, just do it. C’mon baby, just the tip, nice and smooth. Just go with it.

Quickdraws

You should be skipping first bolts. You should be skipping last bolts. If you aren’t, why not? If you’re that afraid of falling in places where the bolts won’t actually protect you, why are you on that route in the first place in a competition that requires clean red-points?

With that simple paragraph, 5 or 6 quickdraws can be enough for the competition. We took 10 of the lightest ones available made by Petzl, that way we wouldn’t have to ever worry about if we had enough when we left the ground.

The other feature about the quickdraws which can make-or-break your competition is the gates. You want large gates for the carabiners you clip the rope into, to make it easier to clip the rope to, obviously. Small details like that are useful. But the real killer is the gate for the side touching the bolt. You want gates that don’t have a notch so that the carabiner NEVER GETS HUNG UP ON CLEANING. You should be able to open the gate and just twist it out, even under pressure. This is the difference between 1 second per draw and 10 seconds per draw.

Let’s do some quick math. You want 50 unique Routes each. Each route is 5 draws (See Above) (I really hope not) (Please don’t clip this much) (Be safe!). That’s 250 bolts you’re clipping and 250 bolts you’re cleaning. If you’re going to clean 250 bolts and each takes 5 seconds because they have a notch, vs 1 second which don’t, that’s 4 x 250 seconds of wasted time, or roughly 15-20 MORE minutes of your competition is spent cleaning draws than necessary. And that’s conservative. Want 200 routes? That’s just become closer to 30-40 minutes. And this is assuming you can get it off in a very fast 5 seconds each time.

Now let’s look at if you skip more bolts. Instead of spending the 10 seconds to clip each send, and then the 10 seconds it takes to put it on the wall and take it off, each bolt ends up costing you 50 seconds. (Placement/cleaning + 4 clips during sends). This means in your 250 bolts from above you’re taking 250 * 50 seconds, or 3.5 hours just clipping bolts. Yes, you read that right, a conservative 5-bolts per route means you’re doing nothing but placing, clipping, and cleaning draws for 3.5 hours of your competition. That’s 1/8th of the competition wasted standing there burning energy on something you could probably skip anyway.

So then you hear about us, we were “Those Guys”. We typically skipped all but 1-2 bolts per route, which gives us less than 40 minutes combined for the entire competition spent clipping. Who gets more routes in, the guys with 0.66 of an hour clipping or the guys spending 3.5 hours clipping? Don’t do this. Ever. It’s stupid and crazy and dangerous beyond all belief. But now you understand WHY we do it. It quite literally can save 1/8th of the competition for more climbing/eating/drinking/pooping/etc. (I prefer to spend it staring at the beautiful climber ladies.)

Here’s how my partner, Austin Howell, rationalized our clipping strategy:

"In terms of clipping, think of it like you're on multi-pitch. You run it out like a bastard on some moderate climbing, then as soon as you find a crux a bolt suddenly appears in front of your face. There's no difference here except that the wall is 15 meters instead of 150 meters. Except there is one difference: you can't survive a 30-meter fall on a 15-meter wall."

Protection

This is the only protection we put in the wall in 36 Hours

Here’s a picture of the only traditional protection we actually placed for the entire competition with 42 traditional routes each in the 12 and 48 traditional routes each in the 24. Have a nice day. (Note the tape on the carabiners for later.)

The other point worth making is that the rules don’t mention the QUALITY the placement needs to be. That would be impractical and impossible to guarantee a minimum, because you can’t truly verify good placements. This means, when we sling a chicken-head, we go quick-and-fast and don’t expect it to catch a fall. When we place a cam, we place it so it’s super easy to clean. Clean it every time for the redpoint (instead of pinkpoint), it’s not going to hold anyway. Bonus Points if your belayer can knock the piece loose when lowering you to speed up the process.

Shoes

Morons wear flip-flops/sandals to HCR during 24HHH. And not the good kind like the kind who read this... The actual morons. Maybe I need better terminology so you can tell when I’m not being sarcastic. I advocate for a new emoji for this, any suggestions?

Okay, now that I’ve gotten past that, let’s talk about footwear. You’re going to wear shoes you ideally don’t ever take off. Ever. Even to walk to the next climb. Even to relax and stretch out your toes. If you can’t survive 4 hours in the gym without adjusting them, you’re not going to finish 24HHH. If you’re going to toss in the occasional 5.12, practice them in relaxed shoes, HCR is fortune in that you can get away with that quite a bit. If you’re a stone-cold-rock-crusher, ignore my advice and stop reading this guide because you know more than I do anyway.

But literally, shoes that have worked wonders in the past for myself, my partners, and my friends (I’ve tried the majority of these)

La Sportiva Mythos (crowd favorite)
La Sportiva TC Pro (my new favorite, indescribably good)
5.10 Spires (my first three years)

Terrible Shoes I’ve worn:

5.10 Newton’s (Gave me peripheral neuropathy in my toes because they don’t breathe adequately)
La Sportiva Nagos (RUN AWAY THEY ARE TERRIBLE FOR THIS!)

Occasionally I’ll see a relaxed La Sportiva Miura shoes as well, but they end up hurting everyone that tries. If you really feel there’s a single problem that needs a shoe for a very specific purpose, then you’re doing your first year of hell wrong.

It’s extremely common for people to also climb a large portion of the competition in their approach shoes. In past years I’ve used my 5.10 Guide Tennies and I’ve seen others rave over using the Scarpa Cruxes or Evolv Cruzer ones. It works if you’re climbing super easy stuff and they have climbing rubber, but in the last few years, I’ve noticed that having that extra edging power is really useful for going faster and not getting as tired from the actual act of rock climbing.

If you’re not wearing relaxed climbing-specific shoes, then you’re wearing approach shoes. If you bring regular climbing shoes and they hurt too much, you’re going to need a backup, and those should be some APPROACH SHOES. I routinely see people walking around in flip-flops with gnarly feet having difficulty continuing after 10-14 hours of the competition wishing they had some relaxed shoes to put on, and they’re only halfway through!

I can’t stress enough, that footwear will make or break your comp. Bring relaxed shoes you’ve climbed in before, and which you know you can wear for a continuous 8-16 hours without issue. Anything else and you won’t even finish the competition because you’ll be in so much pain. Also, if you’ve got those sandals/flip-flips/Chacos/fad hipster shoes on, then when your feet inevitably hurt and you want to switch out of your climbing shoes, you’re fucked because you didn’t listen to ANY of this foot advice and can’t even climb in the should-have-been-worn approach shoes. This year alone, there were 3 teams I recall which all verbally told us they wished they’d brought approach shoes to change into, had decided against it, and regretted the decision.

For speed, you’re not taking shoes off between climbs. The point of a race is speed right? If you climb 100 routes each, that’s 400 times someone is fucking with their shoes for 30 seconds before and after their climb, that adds up to 12,000 seconds, or roughly 3 hours and 20 minutes of doing nothing but putting shoes on and taking them off. You want to spend more than 1/8th of your race on something which everyone else doesn’t even bother with?!

Like with what I stated about rope before, if you feel you can put them on/take them off faster than 30 seconds each time (don’t forget your other footwear will be involved too), then please demonstrate how those non-comfortable shoes slide effortlessly onto your feet 20 hours into the competition when you don’t want to put your fingers into the loops and you can barely pull with your biceps anymore.

Harness

For harnesses, in six past years we’ve used Camp AIR harnesses because they’re the lightest things you can put on and you don’t even notice when you wear them. They’re super uncomfortable to hang in, but if you’re hanging in your harness longer than just being lowered, you’re doing it wrong.

If you’re not going to invest in a specific harness for speed/lightness, wear one geared toward comfort. Thicker/padded harnesses for long-days of climbing are much preferred. I’ve always been a fan of the Petzl Corax, but I could even make an argument for something as heavy-hitting as a Black Diamond Big Gun. Also, if you’re wearing clothing (or lack of it) that exposes skin to the harness, you’re going to have go to with something soft on the skin. (Or suffer with chafing to the point of blood, like I did this year.)

If you take your harness off during the competition, you’re doing it wrong. If you can’t poop in your harness, you haven’t practiced enough. If you can’t wear it for 24 continuous hours, why the hell did you bring it?

Helmets

I swear by the Black Diamond helmets because they can easily fit anyone and I even wore them one year for the entire 24-hours of the competition. We tried to make a time lapse of each of us by wearing GoPro cameras taking pictures every 5 seconds for the entire competition. Take it from me, the GoPro Hero 3 Black Editions are incapable of taking head-mounted shots that long, and 21-hours in they BOTH died simultaneously and neither would turn on anymore.

However, from a safety perspective, wearing helmets is a really, really, really, really good idea when climbing, especially during 24HHH. We end up eschewing them because we’re complete and utter morons, but people are constantly pulling rocks and ropes and quickdraws down onto you, so wearing one could possibly save your noggin.

It’s also worth mentioning that we do wear them for the entire night time. Don’t underestimate how much more comfortable a headlamp is when it’s sitting on a helmet on your head instead of directly on your skin. The timing of the competition means that sundown to sunrise is almost exactly 12 hours, so you’ll be wearing it for a long time.

Lastly, and it shouldn’t need to be said, but adjust the living daylights out of it before the competition starts. I’d even suggest wearing it around the house or to the local gym/crag and see if you can forget you even have it on your head. If you succeed at that, add the headlamp to it and reproduce. For us, we get to the point we forget we’re night climbing wearing a helmet and lamp, because it’s so comfortable and balanced.

Headlamps

This is a really important piece of gear. Bringing the wrong headlamp can be crippling. In some of my earlier years we used Black Diamond Storms, running around 120 Lumens, but the batteries would have to be replaced in the middle of the night to survive the duration. They work and are cheaper, but far from the ideal solution.

Now we use 250-Lumen Black Diamond lamps with the battery-pack in the back. I find it really balances out the weight of the headlamp on your head over the 12-hours of night time. The great thing about lamps like these is that they last 24-48 hours on maximum brightness without dimming. Guaranteed not to have to replace the batteries mid-comp. Also, see the section on Helmets, and you’ll understand even better how these lamps coupled with a great helmet can make the night-climbing great.

As for the brightness, if you have less than 200 lumens, you’re doing it wrong. You’re going to want enough light to see literally everything around you while you’re climbing, but you ALSO going to want enough light that when you’re standing on the ground beneath your climber, you can illuminate THEIR climbing. Don’t underestimate how useful it is to have an upward-shining light showing you where the feet are. It’s difficult to see feet at night, and it’s almost entirely remedied by a light coming up at the wall from your belayer.

One tactic which is popular is to turn off one’s headlamp when belaying. This saves battery, sure, but it doesn’t provide the direct benefit previously described. It’s sometimes fun to stand there in complete darkness belaying your partner who you can’t really even see… But this is a race so help each other out and shine some damn light!

In future years I’m hoping to find comfortable lamps closer to 300-350 lumens range, if possible.

Visibility

Who doesn’t like to glow like a Christmas tree when they run around rock climbing at night?! I KNOW I DO.

So this is the real run down. In years past we tried military-issue glow sticks that all died 8 hours into the competition. Smaller ones might vary. People love to stick them on their quickdraws. You can put glow stick loops through the loops of the draw. You can hang them from the bolt-end of the draw and they hang next to the dog bone. You can hang them from harness. You can break them open and pour them in your mouth and turn into a permanently immobile zombie. These are all really awesome and fun to do, and it certainly makes finding your shit a lot easier in the dark.

But here’s the real beta which only we have used and which everyone else gives us compliments for: avoid the stick cracking weight-adding deathtubes and get some reflective tape. Go to Home Depot (or equivalent) and find some reflective stick-on tape and put it on your shit instead. Reflective tape reflects 70-99% of incoming light back where it comes from, so when you point at your draws in the dark with your headlamp, they GLOW. And when I say glow, I mean they light up like a lighthouse beacon at more than 100 meters. You can tape your carabiners. You can tape your belay devices. You can tape your guidebook in interesting ways. You can tape your skin. You can tape your helmet (you’ve got one right?). You can tape your shoes and your genitals. Basically, put it on everything that isn’t cloth, because who knows what that adhesive does to nylon!

But wait, HERES THE EVEN BETTER GOODS…. Tape the shit out of the dog bone on your quickdraws! “But I thought you just said it might eat the shit out of your nylon dog bones?!” Well obviously, but if you haven’t realized by now there’s a solution to everything. Basically, just toss some plastic wrap over the dog bone first and you’re set. Then the tape can slide up/down the dog bone and flex, and it won’t eat it apart! Genius! Goddamn I wish some intelligent gear company out there would realize that reflective paint and tape would make night climbing so much easier on their gear. Like, on everything.

The reflective tape is kind of expensive, but it’s worth it. And you can leave it on year round! (Mine has survived 3x24 and 2x12 hells.) And, nothing beats looking up at a blank wall in the middle of the night and seeing blindingly-bright shining beacons for the bolt line you need to climb. You can’t even miss the draws because they shine in the corner of your eye, and the tape won’t fall of as readily as a glow stick.

Fingers

Miscellaneous

Food

Stashing

Liquids and Dihydrogen Monoxide and You

Accommodations

Clothing and Costumes