Beware! Timber Rattler Sighted at Devils Lake!

TIMBER RATTLER (Crotalus Horridus)

timber rattlerBright and early last Thursday morning, four seasoned Apex guides were hiking up the CCC trail to set up a climbing site for a group of enthusiastic seventh graders from Roscoe Middle School. Low and behold… a three and a half foot timber rattler on the trail! The first guide and I stepped right over the snake without noticing it. Our group was split – with the two of us on one side and the others on the other side.

What to do????

After investigating, photographs and a lengthy discussion, our group decided to mark the trail with a hand-written notes and green static rope.

Timber rattlers are one of North America’s most venomous snake – recognizable by their stocky appearance, yellow or black coloration and brown and black cross-bands. Their heads are triangular and their scales are ridged, making it appear that they have rough skin. Their distinctive rattle is created by loose horny segments in the tail. When you hear the rattle, the snake is agitated. Let me tell you, we certainly heard it load and clear!

Timber rattlers are, in fact, shy. In fact, none of us have ever seen one at the park – and we have been climbing at Devil’s Lake for years. The snakes are active mid-April to mid-October and prefer deciduous forests in rugged terrain. In winter, they hole up in dens with other snakes. They survive on small mammals, birds, toads and garter snakes. Their fangs are long and can pierce hiking boots. The venom is potent. If you are bitten by a timber rattler, seek medical treatment immediately.

For a list of snakes at Devil’s Lake, check this out!

Kilonewton, Forces, & Rock Climbing

1 Kilonewton = 224.8 Pounds

A kilonewton is a measurement of force. It is important to understand the kilonewtons in top rope climbing

Evaluating and managing risk. We always climb with the intention of protecting ourselves and eliminating as much risk as reasonably possible. To get a sense of how much force a person can generate, we use this example: A man weighing 225 pounds who steps off a cliff generates 2,200 pounds (roughly 10 kN) of force in his fall. The belayer’s upward movement and the slack in the rope adds another 1,450 pounds. This increases the total potential weight of the climber about 3,650 pounds! Neither you nor I can handle this weight alone–understanding that is key.  At most, our bodies can only withstand 12 kN. Therefore, we must remember to build our anchors, as a benchmark, double what our bodies can withstand, 25 kN.

Protecting ourselves:  In order to protect ourselves from all of the forces generated in rock climbing, we can first think about how friction is added to the system. As the climber climbs up on one side of the rope, friction is generated from the rope passing through the carabiners.  Additional friction is generated by the belay device and the belayer. When used properly, the belay device creates friction by looping the rope under the device.

rock protection

The second way we protect ourselves from the forces created in rock climbing is by using “protection” or  nuts, hexes, tri-cams, cams, and naturals (trees and boulders). Each of these has its own kN value and we want the value to add up to at least 25 kN.. To find the value, look on the piece of gear or make note when you purchase (cord and webbing). This is the amount of kilonewtons that the piece of gear will hold, if placed correctly. Remember though, the strength of your gear is only as good as the quality of your placement.

These are  just a few considerations you need to know before building anchors and climbing systems.  If this is confusing or you want to learn more, join us for a two-day anchors course. We discuss this topic and many other anchoring principles and considerations. After all, it’s your life at stake!

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