May 13, 2010 at 9:22 pm #1258913
What is the length of rope issued by Philmont for the bear bag rope. The 2010 guide lists 100'on page 18. I've seen both 150' and 100' listed in various places and was wondering what they actually issue. We have already purchased 300' of the blue amsteel rope so we are set in either case.May 14, 2010 at 4:31 pm #1609881
You can get by with 100 feet if you stay on Philmont property and don't use an OOPs bag. I'm told that some of the campsites in the Valle Vidal don't have bear cables and need more rope … will find out this July.May 17, 2010 at 4:57 pm #1610732
@scottbentzLocale: Southern California
We took 2 lengths of Blue Amsteel 150' each. It was too much rope. I think 100; would be fine if you haven't already cut it down in half. Also, the rope is hard to work with when new. It's best to get out and get it dirty, wet, etc. as it becomes a little more pliable. You can also wrap the rope around a stick to help haul it up.May 18, 2010 at 8:28 pm #1611100
@gosmithpaLocale: Southern Arizona
We took two 150' lengths last year which was actually too much. Two 100' lengths on a non Valle Vidale trek should work fine. I agree with the comments about the rope being difficult to use when new. Our crew had a tough time keeping it untangled. This can become quite frustrating and time consuming. I would definitely practice or devise an alternate solution. We plan to do something different for our trek in 2011.
Make sure you have the specifications with you for the rope because you may need to convince your ranger it is acceptable. Each one is different. The rope when untangled is terrific.May 19, 2010 at 6:11 pm #1611481
+1 on frustration with tangles
Just stuffing it in a stuff sack rather than rolling it up reduced the problem with tangles. This is because tangles are caused by "loops" pulling through each other and rolling the rope elbow to wrist as the boys like to do creates lots of loops for the next use.
On our next Philmont trek, I plan to wrap the rope around a flat 4"x12" rectangular plastic sheet with V notches cut in the 4" sides.May 27, 2010 at 5:36 pm #1614647
Al, what kind of plastic sheet did you have in mind? I am looking for something as well to try and put our ropes on. daveMay 27, 2010 at 9:12 pm #1614713
I was thinking of using something light and rigid such as foam poster board. Here is a quick sketch of the idea to keep from tangling the 150' of Amsteel bear rope.
If you give it a try, let me know how it works.
AlMay 27, 2010 at 9:15 pm #1614714
I did that same thing with paint stirrers–those pieces of wood that are about a foot long, an inch wide, and 1/8 inch thick. I cut it down to about 6 inches, put notches in the end, and it holds about 75 feet of Kelty triptease. Weighs almost nothing. However, plastic might be more durable, since the wood these stirrers are made out of is slightly better grade than balsa wood!May 31, 2010 at 5:42 pm #1615517
Al, I made a holder out of 3/16" foam poster board today from your sketch. It holds 150' of Amsteel rope very well. I will let you know how the boys do with it. May have to come up with some kind of dirt bag or something to get the rope over the bear cable. thanks for the idea, daveMay 31, 2010 at 6:18 pm #1615521
My 0.45 ounce solution (from an old Camel Back dryer). I ended up clipping the ends a bit closer to reach the 0.45 oz mark.Jun 14, 2010 at 10:02 pm #1620147
@sm498Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
For our two crews in 2009 we got 300 feet of 7/64 Amsteel Blue from Redden Marine. We cut 2 – 100 foot pieces for the main ropes. I don't remember for sure but I think we had 2 – 50 foot sections for the oops bag. We also spliced in a small loop at the center of the main lines. We used the loop to clip in a carabiner and a climbing pulley to make raising the oops bag easier.
We didn't have a problem with tangles; I've got my guys trained to put up ropes in a monkeybraid/daisy chain.
One thing to remember is to not let that rope hang free. When it's over the bear line make sure to tie the ends together with a loose knot so that it forms a loop over the bear lines. We didn't do that once and with a little wind we got a tangle 25 feet above the ground. It took some fussing to get our rope back.Jun 23, 2010 at 10:57 am #1622711
Our crew liked Al's block and tackle system. The boys managed to set one up at just under 16oz. One of Al's articles suggested Philmont was "evaluating" the technique but had not yet approved. I called today and talked to the Chief Ranger (Adam H) who appeared to only have a vague recollection of the idea and does not recall that anyone actually evaluated anything in the off season. We are going to bring Al's setup and demonstrate it again to any of the four Assistant Chief Rangers Adam named (Christine S, Alex K, Kirsten A, and/or Matt P). Sounds like we need to be prepared to fall back on the Philmont way – at least with our ligher ropes. We will see if we can get a formal ruling out of Philmont this year. Other crews should consider doing the same.Jun 23, 2010 at 11:21 am #1622719
Michael, just wanted to let you know you are going to have to be VERY persistent with Philmont to adopt something new! Even when rangers suggested things to the administration in the past, it took a couple of seasons. That being said, all of upper leadership in place in the ranger dept now are great (we were all rangers together back in 05&06). If you can get any of the ACRs excited about it, you will be more likely to succeed. Also, make sure if they do like your proposal, that you sit down with Adam and Mark Anderson (the head of philmont and who will actually be the one to make a decision about changes in the backcountry).Jun 23, 2010 at 11:32 am #1622724
Oh and just for info everyone, the offical bear rope length is 100'. Just measured mine that I took from the ranch back in '06. Don't think anything has changed since then.
EDIT: I do think if you are bringing your own rope, 150' is definitely a better length as there are a few lines that are way up there and doing your own hanging in the valle, it will be easier with the longer length.Jun 27, 2010 at 5:34 pm #1623884
@tkkncLocale: Desert Rat in the Southwest
Just got back from Philmont. The amsteel worked well, except for tangling and untangling the rope. It frustrated a few Scouts in our crew. I would suggest having the scouts practice untangling the rope. Some of our Scouts could not get the concept of shaking the rope to remove the tangles. Instead the wanted to pull the rope through, which just made more knots.Jun 28, 2010 at 5:18 pm #1624269
The response from Philmont below. I'll let you know how it goes when I get back in early August. Many thanks to Al for the great ideas.
From: Adam Herrenbruck
Sent: Friday, June 25, 2010 3:41 PM
To: Philmont Camping
Subject: Re: FW: [Philmont 2010] alternate bear bag procedure
To all it may concern:
I spoke with one crew advisor on the phone about the bear bag system as
proposed by Al Geist.
I explained to him that it would be best to demonstrate it to the Ranger
who can then determine if it will work.
I also requested that he stop by the Ranger office and Ranger Leadership
can look at the system and give a ruling on what we think based on our
Philmont experience. The system is not, as far as I can tell, in
violation of our policies. I do however have some concerns and seeing
the system set up would be helpful.
The system can be stored in a crew locker if it is determined inadequate
for the trail.
Philmont Scout RanchJul 8, 2010 at 8:05 am #1627225
@sckuhnLocale: Mountainous Ohio
Don't count on using ANY alternative Bear rope method this summer at Philmont. There have been multiple incidents with bears this year and any deviation from 'standard' procedure is greatly frowned upon. None of our 4 crews were allowed to use our Amsteel blue on our treks in late June… prior to most of the bear incidents…. Some ounces aren't worth the hastle – enjoy the hike!Jul 8, 2010 at 3:15 pm #1627335
Just returned from 2010 trek. Saw only one bear, not a threat. No incidents with our crew/gear.
Rangers and staff at PSR are very strict regarding bear precautions. Whilst the provided ropes are not perhaps the best, they work more than adequately using the prescribed procedures. Lighter ropes may save a few ounces, but unless you're carrying much stuff that's not needed, the rope weights won't be a significant issue.
We did hear of several bear incidents, but I cannot report with confidence on the credibility of the reports. Widely variant reports on same incidents cropped up repeatedly.
My recommendation is to follow PSR procedures for hanging smellables, and use their gear. Effective, and the staff are comfortable with their procedures. Small gains in using non-prescribed methods/gear don't outweigh cost and time involved in arguing with staff.Jul 9, 2010 at 11:41 am #1627573
The ONLY Philmont provided gear that our crews have used in the last few years have been the bear ropes & bags.
The weight impact across a crew is a few ounces per hiker.
There are many worse problems to have.
Have a GREAT time at Philmont!Jul 9, 2010 at 8:34 pm #1627727
@tdawardLocale: The woods of the South
I just returned from PSR on Tuesday….we used our 1000lb kevlar rope without any questions, got it approved at the issue point. There are no cables in the Vidal, that's where the extra lengths come in play…We ended up finding a Philmont issued rope and used it with three loops tied in it about 2' apart, hooked beaners up to those and looped our Kevlar trough them. Hoist that rope up and then we pulled our bags up through the beaners. That made it easy….As far as the issued bear bags…why carry an extra bag to put your stuff sack in? Tie a loop in the rope and clip your bag on the rope…Jul 9, 2010 at 10:02 pm #1627744
@btolleyLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
Does anyone know if Philmont has ever considered building bear boxes like you find at some back country sites in the Sierras or adopting the use of hard sided bear cannisters?
During my 2007 Trek I was a bit shocked at the damage to trees and soil caused at the bear bag hanging sites, the latter of which is evident in the photo by the original poster. I asked our ranger and one or two other staffers the same question and they did not know what bear boxes or bear cannisters were.Jul 10, 2010 at 11:06 am #1627818
@tdawardLocale: The woods of the South
I put on my suggestion questionar that they should put posts in the ground at the cables to avoid the damage to the trees. They try to keep the damage to a minimum and in a consolidated area. It is a well kept place for having 21,000 people a year go through it….Jul 13, 2010 at 6:38 pm #1628725
> To all it may concern:
> I spoke with one crew advisor on the phone about the bear bag system as proposed by Al Geist.
I just heard back from Philmont Crew 627-B-13 who used my bear bag pulley system for their entire trek. Here is their report:
Just returned from Philmont this past weekend, and used your
Bear Bag Rope system, or a variation of it, during the whole trek.
A few comments:
On the whole, yours is a great system. We replaced the inexpensive
"Harbor Freight" pulleys with smaller and higher-quality sailboat tackle,
but used your hook design and am-steel rope exactly as shown.
Like your crew, we found the mechanical advantage of the four pulleys
allowed us do away with the "Oops Bag" entirely, as the largest loads
(even on food pick-up days) could be easily hoisted by two youth crew members
We did have minor problems in two areas:
- Low Bear Bag Cables: Several Philmont bear bag cables are too low
to allow for the required drop when using the string spool toggle as the
jam mechanism. On cables minimally only 15'-16' above the ground,
the bottoms of our lowest bear bags would hang 12'-13' above the ground
when fully raised, but then drop to an unacceptable 8'-9' as the toggle
rose and the bags descended (at a 4:1 ratio).
Solution: In these instances, we merely placed our release spool and
twine into our rope bag, and tied off the rope and bag to a single tree
using the standard Philmont wrap method. This kept our bottom pulley
and the bear bags fully against the low bear bag cable.
- Hook Release Twine Issues:
Occasionally, other crews would entangle
our hook release string, rendering it unusable.
In these situations, we found that the hook could still be easily
and reliably released as long as there was any other bear bag still
hanging on the cable. All that was required was to drop our bags, and
while holding our bottom pulley at ground level, walk the hook and
upper pulley along the bear bag cable until it contacted another crew's
tie-off line. At that point, the hook would readily rotate off the cable
and onto that line, and slide down the other crew's line to the level where
it was tied off.
Occasionally, tugging on the release twine failed to release the hook.
In these cases, simply throwing the twine spool back over the bear cable
(in the reverse of the direction from which it originally came)
allowed dropping the hook with a simple tug.
All-in-all, it is a great system. The trade-off in weight, and
particularly in ease of raising heavy loads, was well worth the effort.
I would definitely use the system again!
Bob (Crew 627-B-13)Aug 3, 2010 at 12:58 pm #1634591
Well we got back from out trek. I did get a chance to demonstrate Al's technique to Adam and a good part of his staff before we went out on the trail. Had a little trouble engaging the hook but it came off beautifully. (We have since modified Al's technique to just tie the lead line to the end of the hook. It goes on easier and releases by throwing the lead line back over the cable.)
Unfortunately Adam and his staff were entirely closed minded about any deviations from the Philmont way. The lawyers have them so spooked they were not even rational claiming the technique to hang the bags would somehow increase the incidence of bear attacks. They even rejected the use of our Amsteel rope claiming it was too thin, not as strong, and could not be held by scouts despite my explanations and demonstrations to the contrary. Adam suggested we would have to appeal directly to the PSR professionals not the rangers.
I was most disappointed that neither Adam or any of his senior staff had any idea about the AT or PCT bear bagging methods. They seem to have an attitude that there are only two ways to do things – the PSR way and the wrong way. I was at least hoping they were on top of all the techniques and had some good reason for rejecting these other approaches. Alas not.
I might recommend that the individuals rangers (not the chief ranger or his senior staff) were much more rational and receptive to new ideas. For example we checked out the mandatory frisbee and spatula and promptly deposited them in our locker. We went out on the trail with two paint strainer bags and our ranger thought they were just great. It might suggest you also check out the PSR bear ropes and chuck them into the locker also and take the Amsteel/pully system on the trail. The trees could sure use a break from the LNT-unfriendly PSR method.
We did have a good time despite the bear bagging method disappointments and the heavy rains. The PSR bear ropes get really heavy with all the waterlogging – another reason to switch to the Amsteel. Regardless, we had 8 in the crew with fully loaded weights between 24 and 30 pounds and the remaining three all at 35 pounds. From what we observed that was about half the weight of the next lightest crew in our 721 group. No blisters or sprains unlike our sister crew that had three pulled off the trail for those reasons.Jan 11, 2012 at 4:48 pm #1823500
@dstellutoLocale: NE Ohio
August 2012 will be our first trip to Philmont. We need to get our bear bag equipment lined up now – for our conditioning campouts. Although I embrace everything about Al's PCT method, I will stick to the heavy 150' 1/4" rope that Philmont recommends (just to be safe). First time out – I don't want any surprises from staff, so I'd better get my boys ready for Philmont's method.
That being said, I'll also avoid the lighter Amsteel Blue option too. What rope would you recommend? Everything REI has is metric (no 1/4 inch). Also, should we get accustomed to packing an extra 1/4" length of rope for the oops bag?
Thanks in advance,
- Low Bear Bag Cables: Several Philmont bear bag cables are too low
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