Saturday, 20 June 2015

How to choose your first climbing rope

As with many sports, gear can get pretty specialized:
  •   Skiers fill up their storage rooms with a variety of ski types for a wide range of conditions.
  •  The sheds of cyclists are often over stuffed with road, cross, town, mountain, you name it bikes
  • We won’t even begin to address the amount of tackle avid anglers gather over the years

 But, if you’re new to a sport, you need to stockpile slowly and sensibly. When it comes to choosing a climbing rope, knowing a few details before you buy can help you build up your climbing arsenal affordably.

Rope specs

Climbing ropes come in an array of lengths, diameters and handling characteristics. What you predominantly intend on using your rope for will help you narrow things down a bit.

Here’s a general (note the word GENERAL) guideline to the spec ranges ropes can come in:

Weight g/m
Fall rating
(# of UIAA falls)
Workhorse Single Ropes
All-Around Single Ropes
Skinny Single Ropes
Half Ropes
Twin Ropes

What type of rope is best for your needs?

The workhorse
A workhorse is just that – durable, hardworking and tough. These ropes are great for areas with sharp rock edges and are the easiest to hold.  The drawbacks? They can run less smoothly through your belay device and they tend to be heavy.

The all-around
An all-around rope is the most common type of rope used for sport, trad and alpine climbing because they are of average weight, diameter and fall rating.

Skinny ropes are for situations where weight matters:
  •       long routes with lots of belays
  •       alpine routes where you are coiling extra rope around your shoulder
  •       on-sights and red-points

Since a fall can be harder to catch with a skinny rope, make sure your belay device can supply lots of friction and is rated for the smaller diameter of a skinny rope. Practicing catching a fall in a safe situation (ie: the gym) will help you get the feel.

Half ropes
Half ropes are ideal for routes where the protection is not in a straight line or the route wanders. The more your rope meanders back and forth, the bigger the rope drag. By clipping each rope alternately, you can minimize rope drag.

You can also minimize the potential length of a fall by taking up slack in the rope that’s running from the piece of pro that’s the farthest away. Double belay distances and the extra protection of two separate ropes in the case that one is severed are additional benefits.

The downside is the extra weight of carrying two ropes. Make sure you never clip both ropes to the same piece of pro because it doubles the amount of fall force on both your and the pro.

Twin ropes
Twin ropes are best for ice climbing and wandering routes with lots of belays. While they are lighter and less bulky that half ropes, you need to clip both ropes into each piece of pro, which can cause more rope drag.

Let’s go climbing!
While this blog has– hopefully – helped you understand the basics around the types shapes and sizes of climbing ropes, it’s no substitute for expert advice, experience and training.

If you are new to climbing, seek out a professional or an experienced friend to learn more about how climbing ropes are used and which type is best suited for which purpose.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

All About Biners

How to pick the right carabiner

·      Oval, D, pear or asymmetrical?
·      Straight, bent or wire gate?
·      Locking or non-locking?
·      Keylock or hook-and-nose closure?

With so many choices out there, picking the right carabiner is not always a simple decision. But you can’t go climbing without them. They are indispensible for so many critical chores:
·      Clipping into your rope
·      Clipping your rope to a piece of protection
·      Attaching gear to your harness

The decision on what to buy depends mainly on the intended use. You also need to be sure you are using each one correctly for the task at hand.

If you are confused about what type of biners you need to populate your personal rack, here’s a quick guide to what you need to know to navigate the potentially complex waters of carabiner shopping.


Carbiners come in four general shapes: oval, pear, D or asymmetrical D. What’s the difference?

1. The traditional oval
Invented in the early 1900s by Otto Herzog, the oval carabiner is still used today.

The pros of an oval biner are:
·      They are often more affordable
·      They can hold more gear than D shaped biners
·      Two can be used in place of a locking biner if set up correctly
·      Their symmetrical shape allows them to be used for a carabiner-brake rappel
·      They are great for aid climbing because they centre the load at their curve, helping to stop runners from shifting under load
The drawbacks to oval biners are:
·      They are not as strong as the other shapes because, under load, the force is applied equally to the spine and gate 
·      They can be heavier
·      Their symmetrical shape can make them harder to handle

2.  The dutiful D
The next phase in the evolution of the modern carabiner is the D. It’s a key tool in every climber’s rack. Because its shape forces load to the spine it is stronger and can be made lighter than the oval. Its shape also makes it easier to clip into.

3. The asymmetrical or offset D
Lighter because they are slightly smaller and narrower at one end, asymmetrical Ds are the go-to biners for many modern climbers.  They tend to have larger gate openings, making clipping and racking even easier. The drawback for some is the more limited space within the D.

Modern asymmetrical Ds come with all kinds of ergonomic enhancements to enhance clip-ability.

4. The hitchable pear
Pear shaped carabiners are generally reserved for belaying. They can be used with a belay device, but they also allow a climber to belay with a simple munter hitch.  Sometimes called an HMS carabinrer, short for the German word Halb­mas­t­wurf­sicherung, which means munter hitch belay, a pear shaped biner is a good back-up in case you find yourself without a belay device.

Carabiner gates can be:
·      Solid or wire (gate type)
·      Bent or straight (gate design)

They also come with two different closure mechanisms:
·      notched or keylock

Why all the choices?

1. Gate type
Solid gates are the most common type of carabiner gate. They are constructed of metal tubing and standard on all locking carabiners. A spring mechanism is used to snap them shut.

Wire gates are made of a loop of stainless steel wire. While they may look less strong than solid gates, the converse is actually the case.  Wire gates are:
·      lighter
·      as strong or stronger
·      potentially safer
than solid gates.

Why? Due to the low weight of the gate, they are less likely to flutter or vibrate open during a fall. Wire gates are also less likely to freeze up in winter or become jammed with mud, dirt or ice.

2. Gate design
Straight gates are the standard. They offer up lots of functionality whether you are using them to clip into protection or a bolt, or on a quickdraw.

Bent gates are designed to make clipping easier. While the shape of the gate does not affect its strength, bent gate carabiners should only be used to clip into your rope because they can unclip more easily from protection or bolts. This practice also ensures that you don’t use a carabiner that’s been scarred by a metal hangar on your rope, which can damage it.

3. Gate closure
The traditional gate closure is a simple notch in the nose that hooks into a pin on the gate. While this is a strong, reliable gate closure type, there can be a problem with the notch hooking onto things - a bolt hanger, stopper wire or sling for example.

The solution is what’s known as a keylock closure.  A keylock closure gate essentially transfers the task of “hooking” the nose and gate together to the gate.  The nose has a key shape that’s matched up to a corresponding keyhole in the gate, providing a clean design and eliminating the problem of nosehooking.
Climb safely
The strength of a carabiner is measured in kiloNewtons (kN) – the force of mass x acceleration. One kiloNewton is approximately 225 lbs. of force. But this strength rating assumes the carabiner is being used properly. Here are a few tips to make sure you use your correctly:
  • Check the gate’s action every time you use it. It should open and close easily.
  • Make sure the nose and hinge, or keylock are not compromised or obstructed.
  • Never let your rope run against the sleeve of a locking carabiner.
  • Make sure loads are only placed along the major axis. Loads placed on the shorter axis can cause the device to fail in a fall.
  • Remember that your carabiner’s strength is more than halved if the gate is open.
  • Avoid any non-locking carabiner set-ups that allow a rope to cross back to open a gate.
  • Use a locking carabiner at crucial points.
  • Always make sure your locking carabiner is secure before you use it.

    Written & Researched 
    By Wendy Niven