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PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2013 4:19 pm 
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Joined: Mon Aug 16, 2010 11:26 am
Posts: 81
Location: London, United Kingdom
Real Name: Stephen Martindale
Since my wife and I started climbing on traditional gear, we have had a huge amount of fun and learned one or two things. Amongst those, the biggest being the true meaning of "benighted" and exactly how much we have yet to learn.

One particular problem seems to raise its head quite frequently: communication.

We have tried the time honoured method of yelling really loudly and found that, even over a meagre twenty horizontal metres, it doesn't work if one of you is down wind of the other and you have a proper Cape Town breeze blowing. (Interestingly, vertical distance never seems to be a problem.)

We have tried the new-fangled rope-tug method, too. It seems scuppered by rope drag (particularly on the grades we're climbing) and uncertainty and the complete inability to communicate anything outside of a few pre-determined protocols: safe, off-belay, on-belay, climbing...

On occasion, when out of communication, I've wished I had a better way and wondered whether two-way radios would work. Would they?

I hear that some only work over line of sight but wonder if they'd work round slight corners (such as bulges on a route) over such a short distance? (50 metres maximum) I have also wondered whether granite or grit would pose problems since granite, unlike sandstone, conducts electricity.

These Zartek Pro 8s seem cheap enough: http://www.zartek.co.za/pro1.htm
What about them?


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PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2013 4:57 pm 
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Joined: Mon Apr 02, 2007 9:40 am
Posts: 766
Location: Stellenbosch
Real Name: Nic Le Maitre
Short answer, yes they do work. Are they worth it? (think of the gear you could buy instead...) IMO: No, not really, not unless you are planning an a big wall trip in Yosemite or Patagonia. They add weight, you have to charge them/change batteries, the frequencies are open to all (no licence required) so you will get lots of other chatter too and they break and then you are back to where you started.

A better system - taught to me by Hann is this:
You lead off, climb, get to the stance, stick in a few pieces (use screwgates if climbing with Old Smelly) and shout "Safe, off belay".
If you do not hear a response then immediately put your partner on belay and pull up the rope through your belay device - that way, when the rope comes tight on your partner, he/she can immediately derig the stance and start climbing knowing that he/she is safe and on belay.
Likewise your partner does not take you off belay unless they clearly hear you say "Off belay". If they don't hear the command they feed rope out as you would while normally belaying until they are out of rope, then they derig and start climbing.

This is a fail-safe system, with no real downsides that I can see.

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Nic


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PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2013 11:23 pm 
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Joined: Fri Sep 25, 2009 11:21 am
Posts: 265
Real Name: Henk Grobler
Echo what Nic said. Something about radio's goes against the ethos of trad for me. Just my silly morals I suppose.

Learn to wistle like Heidi and Peter. In the interim a lightweigt emergency wistle might help on windy days.

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PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2013 7:57 am 
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Joined: Wed May 04, 2005 7:25 am
Posts: 235
Location: Durban
Real Name: Russell Warren
My wife and I use radios and have not regretted doing so at all. She made pouches for the radios that fit on the shoulder strap of our little backpacks we normally use when trad climbing and I use the voice activated mode so it is a hands free operation. It has certainly made it quite a bit safer.


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PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2013 10:03 am 
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Joined: Mon Feb 06, 2006 2:15 pm
Posts: 27
I have used a set of the little license free radios (line of sight +/- 5 KM). They work well on Multi pitch climbs, also made little pouches that sit on the shoulder strap of a back pack, voice activation is a pain as the VOX picks up the wind and activates, especially when its windy. Also set a sub tone so you don't hear every one else s garbage on the channel.

Though most time now I either forget them at home and only now a days use them on very long routes where wind and belay positions cause problem after shouting does not work.

Even managed to have a chat with another group of climbers once, they were climbing on the fountain ledge on TM and we just topped Lions Head after finishing Clifton crest.

I find on most of my trad climbs that I just extend the belay to the lip or edge so that I have visual contact. Though not always possible, when in doubt, always place your partner on belay and rather feed the excess rope through the system.


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PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2013 10:13 am 
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Joined: Fri Sep 22, 2006 1:45 pm
Posts: 594
Location: Aberdeen, Scotland
We've got some good quality motorola ones we got in the US, mainly for keeping in touch when out skiing, but have occasionally taken them when out doing winter routes (you think Cape Town gets proper breezes??). Found them pretty useful; we normally just press "call" button either once or twice when on belays or setting off, meeans you don't have to unclip it from harness to talk.

In summary; handy if you have one already, but not sure I would get one just for climbing, especially if you are buying a cheapo one which might be unreliable anyway. Never rely on technology unless you have to.


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PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2013 10:46 am 
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Joined: Mon Aug 16, 2010 11:26 am
Posts: 81
Location: London, United Kingdom
Real Name: Stephen Martindale
I'm still debating it but might give them a try. Perhaps they'll become redundant in time but we're still newbies at the moment. Unlike sport, where our routine is pretty slick, our trad. routine is unsettled, leading to great confusion and, even if it isn't unsafe (I always put my second on belay as soon as possible, should they be out of contact.) confusion often leads to sense-of-humour-failure.

What about the Zartek ones I linked? (Pro 8 since that's legal in most of Europe) Know anything about them?


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PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2013 11:34 am 
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Joined: Mon Feb 06, 2006 2:15 pm
Posts: 27
I have a set of Oregon Scientific (Black rubberized ones, pic below) and my Belay buddy has the Oregon Scientific (Orange and Grey ones), they work nicely as the PTT sits on the side.

A mate of mine bought a pair of the Zartek ones and had a few problems, apart from the PPT button being on the face of the radio (below the screen), he had to always remove them from their pouch to use it and only one of his radios could communicate with any of our Oregon's, bit strange.

Though we all bought these radios more than 5 years ago, so I am sure that they have improved since.

Only problem I have with the rubberized black Oregon's is that the coating is now coming off.

Also shop around a bit for a good price, shocked at how much my radios are now as I paid about R399 a few years ago.


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PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2013 2:39 pm 
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Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2008 1:21 pm
Posts: 256
I agree with Nic!

You will develop a routine that works, but always err on the safe side. The main issue comes with shorter pitches where the wind carries your voice away, but then most times your second has a good idea that you are stancing because you pause for longer than usual - though I would do exactly as Nic says: if you are unsure that your leader has stanced & you have not heard anything...keep belaying. Likewise with pulling the rope up - if you are unsure as to whether you have been taken off belay, then start taking up rope quickly & the 2nd will get the hint that you are ready at the stance. Naturally create the stance first & as Nic said - any question of them starting to climb & you need the device on & you belaying them just in case.

Communication is important & I have had a few times where it has been unclear as to whether one knows what is going on & this is when you following the right routine & knowing what comes next helps. Personally I have used 2 way radio's & agree with the others that they are helpful but add more clutter to what you are already carrying. If climbing with the significant other then it may be best to ensure clear communication for safety's sake!

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PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2013 3:25 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jul 16, 2009 4:24 pm
Posts: 31
Hi,

I have a pair of the Zartek's. they work great on a climb. Last year I took them to Mt Kenya and they coped magnificently with the cold, being bumped around etc and their batteries are excellent, I never had to recharge once during 3 days of climbing. They are super light so you really wont notice the extra weight. I sound like a salesmen (I'm not), but they got me out of a real pickle when I had gone off route, and a foreign climber who was watching us through binocs from Austrian hut radioed me to let me know.

My 2 cents worth


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PostPosted: Tue May 14, 2013 9:26 am 
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Joined: Sun Aug 14, 2011 11:16 am
Posts: 15
Real Name: Brendan Argent
I use the zartek ones(about R900 ) and they're great! Batteries last ages, voice activation makes them hands-free, the huge number of frequencies make it easy to avoid chatter from other radios and even around corners I never lost signal. When there are a lot of other climbers around it also avoids the 'off-belay' or 'safe' call being heard by the wrong belayers. So basically a win all round. I don't understand why people are so anti using radios on trad. It's like not wanting to use new gear because its not 'traditional'. If its makes communication easier and the climbing safer then why not?


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PostPosted: Tue May 14, 2013 10:41 am 
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Joined: Mon Apr 02, 2007 9:40 am
Posts: 766
Location: Stellenbosch
Real Name: Nic Le Maitre
I dislike using radios because they add weight and bulk to an already heavy harness. Also you have to charge them/keep them charged otherwise they don't work. Lastly but the most important IMO is that if you come to rely on them, the day they don't work/die/get dropped 100m you will not have an alternative plan. I've never had a problem using the method I described above.

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Nic


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PostPosted: Tue May 14, 2013 12:52 pm 
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Joined: Fri Sep 22, 2006 1:45 pm
Posts: 594
Location: Aberdeen, Scotland
What Nic said. Never a great idea to totally rely on technology which is in any way fallable, unless you have a backup/ plan. Like relying 100% on a GPS and not having a map and compass in case things go wrong.


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