This is a guest post from a contributor who understandably chooses not to be named, in case expressing a personal opinion on SRT attracts flak from all and sundry in pubs or forums. (My own view (Ursula) is that provided what you are doing is non-negotiably absolutely safe, and is efficient for you , there isn’t really a wrong way to do SRT). Anyway, here are our contributor’s thoughts on use of an adjustable cowstail for people with a shorter reach:
As a slightly shorter than average (5’3″) caver, one of the most useful pieces of gear on my SRT harness are my adjustable cowstails (e.g., the Petzl Connect Adjust). As any caver on the shorter side will undoubtedly know, bolting and rigging is often done without us in mind, and SRT moves that are simple for 6′ burly men leave us tired and overexerted. Although there are many tips and tricks to make navigating these problems easier (e.g. using your foot loop to unclip from rebelays), faffing around with them often means that you take far longer than your taller counterparts.
The adjustable cowstails are a simple solution to many of these problems. The most obvious use is of course traverse lines, especially I’ve found those over rifts which are often rigged too high for me, meaning that while taller people are making use of the convenient footholds, I am having to chimney-shuffle my way along so as to not be hanging on my cowstails. With the adjustable cowstails I can adjust them to a length far longer than I would usually want them, allowing me to make use of footholds I usually would not be able to.
Another situation where I am often grateful for my cowstails is getting on and off of inconsiderately rigged pitches. When going down a pitch, it used to be the case that I would struggle to clip my cowstails into the Y knot at the top and instead have to faff around with my hand jammer to ensure I had my two points of attachment until I had tested my descender. Or, getting off the pitch, I would have to drag the weight of the rope off the pitch with me until I was standing and could unclip my jammers. With the adjustable cowstails this isn’t as much of a problem.
Of course the cowstails are also incredibly helpful when rigging / de-rigging, as well as in many other small more specific situations (e.g. dealing with certain deviations and rebelays above ledges).
All in all, the option to occasionally have my cowstails longer than usual for someone of my height allows me to cave with less faff and frustration, making the experience far more enjoyable.