“A road less travelled” A statement often overused, but in this case under-describes the road between Langhar and Murghab, Tajikistan. Also known as the Afghan corridor or Wahkhan Valley corridor, the lonely stretch of road was once travelled by large caravans from Europe and Persia that wanted to reach the Far East,to buy and sell their goods. I guess this stretch of road is most commonly known as part of the the Silk Road.
A journey to the mountainous Lenin Peak (7134m) brought us to Kyrgyzstan and the lure of adventure on this lonely highway brought us to Tajikistan. The Pamir Highway is officially considered from the city of Dushanbe, in Tajikistan to the city of Osh, Kyrgyzstan. Most of this road has small villages and towns along the way, but the section from Langhar and Murghab, is extremely desolate with the exception of a few ranchers during the summer season. I found myself spending 3 days exploring just this piece of the highway.
With a 4×4 vehicle, plenty of food, water, and camping gear, we set out to take a step back in time and see what the travelers of the caravans saw, some 500 years ago. I was warned that if I had car trouble, do not expect to see another car for two or three days at least. It wasn’t quite that desolate, we did see at least one car of locals each day. But the conditions of the road did give us our share of challenges.
The road itself goes thru several high-mountain passes and we were camping at around 4300 meters each night. Having just finished our Lenin Peak attempt, we felt acclimatized for our day walks we took, but the surprise was the temperature in the evenings. Dropping down to well below 0 degrees Celsius at night, we chose to sleep in the back of the SUV. The sleeping bags were more than warm enough and the early morning Sun gave a pleasant warm up before climbing out of the car.
Each day, it felt as if we were visiting different worlds. First the beautiful greenery of Earth, then the barren landscape of the Moon, and moving on to the red sand mountains that resembled Mars. It was truly remarkable.
The high mountain lakes with it’s glacier water and mineral deposits reflected a blue so deep, that it couldn’t be captured in photos. The reflections of the mountains in the water was as clear as highest quality mirror that money could buy. Each remarkable landscape that we passed, we tried to photo but the photo just didn’t capture the beautiful realities of the surrounding.
The Fortresses of the different khans during the period still stood in it’s weakened form. But one could imagine life in these mountains behind these walls. The petroglyphs inscribed on the rock, tell of stories of Marco Polo Sheep and the Ibex that populate the area.
Though we spent only 3 days in this section, it truly felt like time travel, stepping back to another time. This is a time travelers dream. Interested in experiencing the Pamir Highway? Contact us at email@example.com and we can make it happen. The road less travelled is waiting for you…
Back by popular demand, we had another awesome rock climbing fun day out with our participants at Dairy Farm! Here’s some highlights from our day out together!
It is great to be outdoors!
Time to work out those muscles!
Cheers to our instructors who worked so hard, and making sure everyone is safe and have lots of fun!
Let’s start with a proper group photo first…
And now, the fun one! Ready – 1, 2, 3 JUMP!
Looking for a fun and unique way to spend your weekend outdoors? Join us for our next Introductory Dairy Farm rock climbing and abseiling session! No climbing experience required.
Send a message today at firstname.lastname@example.org or Whatsapp +65-8298-2292
In mid-May this year, Maybel, Edwin and Ben joined us for a 2 days rock climbing trip in Lopburi, Thailand. Despite being their first outdoor climbing experience (and kudos to Edwin and Ben as this was their first time rock climbing), they were extraordinary in their climbing, and they readily took on the challenges that we posed to them, including the attempt to conquer a 30m route. Interested? You can join our next trip in June or contact us for special dates!
This is what we are here for! The majestic peak of Khao Jin Lae.
First Challenge: The Bouldering and Traversing Challenge.
The Victorious Moment. What a View from the Top!
Work Hard, Play Hard! Time for some sight-seeing and delicious Thai cuisine in Lopburi…
The beautiful sunset in Lopburi.
Looking for a different kind of weekend getaway? Explore this beautiful town of Lopburi which is a few hours away from Bangkok, visit one of the biggest sunflower fields in Thailand, and see what adventures this part of Thailand has to offer! It is definitely worth a visit to get away from the bustle of city life!
We customise our trips based on the comfort level of our participants, making it beginner-friendly. We also offer multi-pitch experiential climbs in Lopburi for those who wish to conquer this 206m peak.
Click on the link below for the trip reviews from our participants:
Join us for our next trip coming your way soon!
Moving quickly and efficiently whilst multi-pitch climbing is a real art, and will greatly improve your experience. Here are some great techniques and tips on how to hone your skills, and get more out of your day.
Bad stance management and lack of planning can lead to all manner of problems, and the longer the route, the more serious this becomes.
Prior planning and preparation prevents particularly poor performance.
Research your routes
Plan your routes thoroughly before you leave, including descents and alternatives if your chosen route is busy. Having a good understanding of a route before you go will mean that you can also have a good idea of the type of rack you’ll need. If it’s a lot of crack climbing or lower grade stuff, then you can leave the micros at home. If it’s a face or slab, then you may not need any large cams, and if it’s polished limestone, then swap your cams for hexes. The route description will really help you make some of these decisions.
Photocopy (and laminate) the relevant guidebook pages and maybe leave the guide book behind or put it in the second’s pack. Make at least two copies in case you lose one. Making notes on the back of the photocopy on descent, gear, and important beta like belays and tricky route-finding can save you lots of time. If you know someone who’s done the route before, then have a chat with them before you leave.
Why take 500 pages when you only need two? You’re more likely to get out a piece of paper and check the route than a whole guide book, and it’s a lot easier to do this when you’re halfway through a pitch. Attaching it to a bit of cord will mean you won’t drop it. You and your second can easily access it and ensure you don’t waste time going off route. It will also save you time at the bottom of the route, and means you don’t waste time pouring through the guide book.
Organise and pack your kit the day before, not in the car park or at the bottom of the route. Time spent sorting out your gear and changing clothes is time spent not climbing, and if you leave it till the last minute, you’re much more likely to have forgotten something vital.
Pack your kit so that when you arrive at the crag your helmet comes out first and goes straight on your head, followed by your harness. Then the ropes for your second to flake while you gear up.
When you’re packing your gear, think about how you like to rack it. Maybe clip all your quickdraws together, so when you pull them out they can go straight on your harness and not in a mess on the floor. Clip nuts and cams together in separate bunches, and arrange your slings so they are ready to go with karabiners already on them. Another option is to group your gear together according to the gear loop it’s going to go on, so when you pull it out it goes straight on the relevant loop. It’s not about rushing, but about a minimum of faff.
If you’re going to be carrying rucksacks up the climb, it can be useful to have one that will fit inside the other, enabling the leader to climb without a pack.
Warm up your body and mind
If it’s a short walk in to the crag then warming up can be tricky. If you’re driving to the venue then keep the car warm or wear a belay jacket to keep your body temperature up. I usually wiggle my toes, fingers, wrists and ankles to get them loose and lubricated. When walking in start mobilising the bigger joints – the aim is to mobilise and loosen up but not stretch. If it’s a longer walk in then use the time to discuss the route and get warm.
It’s also a good idea to get your climbing head on during this time. Put aside other thoughts or stresses and start thinking about the route description and the types of moves that might be needed (lay backs, jamming etc). Try and remember (positive) experiences on similar rock and grades. So much about climbing is psychological, and taking time to focus properly will mean you begin the climb in the right frame of mind.
Get on with it
It’s amazing how fast the time can go when you’re at the bottom of a route, but if you’ve prepared properly before you get there, then it should really only be a few minutes before you’re climbing.
Whilst the leader sorts the gear, the second flakes the ropes and sorts their personal gear and packs or stashes the rucksacks away. Once you’ve both tied on and checked each other, have a quick reminder of climbing calls or rope pulls to make sure that you’re on the same page, and then the leader puts on (pre-cleaned) rock boots, opens up chalk bag and heads up.
The second will often keep approach footwear on but may loosen off the laces and have rock boots laid out ready or if cold keep ’em stuffed in their jacket to warm them up. Once leader shouts ‘safe’ the second needs to be in their boots and totally ready to climb by the time the rope is pulled tight so that when the leader calls ‘climb when ready’, you are!
Beginning your route with this level of efficiency will put you in a great position to maintain it for the rest of the climb.
The big one – stance management
A lot of time is wasted at belays and on multi-pitch climbs and that time can add up quickly. This system doesn’t require you to move any faster but will allow you to leave the belay and continue climbing more efficiently.
Make sure you both know how you like to rack your gear on your harnesses (have a system, even if you adapt it for different routes). This can be talked through on the walk in or the day before. Doing this will mean that at belays you can both be doing something to enable the leader to get going again asap.
TIP: Use different coloured tape to colour coordinate the nuts on their racking karabiner. For example small nuts are marked with red tape as is the karabiner they’re racked on, medium nuts with blue tape etc. This enables the second to very easily re-rack the leader without having to constantly ask where things go or handing them to the leader to sort. The leader should be sorting the ropes while the second re-stocks the leader’s harness. If the second hands it to the leader or clips it to the belay then the act of re-racking involves more movements and actions than is necessary.
Here’s what normally happens
The second arrives at the belay, clips themselves into it, and then takes the cleaned kit (usually in a mess) from their harness and hands it to the leader who then has to sort it, leaving the second with nothing to do. Or the second takes the kit and clips it to the belay, and then the leader unclips it from the belay and racks it on their harness. Two people doing one job. Then, if you’re leading in blocks (same leader for the whole route) the ropes need back-flaking. Once flaked and the leader on belay, only then can the climbing resume.
What if we did this instead?
As the second climbs the pitch they strip and sort the gear and rack it neatly on their harness in a way that will enable them to re-rack the leader’s harness. I put all wires onto one krab, re-sling sling draws (60cm slings tripled up), cams on one side or on one part of my harness. If using the Yosemite racking technique (see Tip: Yosemite racking) then, as a second I can rack the quickdraws in the Yosemite way ready to put straight onto the leader’s harness – in one movement three or four quickdraws can be transferred from the second’s harness to the leader’s. Any cams or large nuts with extendable slings should be shortened in readiness. I rack all of my cams on individual krabs and if I need to extend the cam with a quickdraw, I’ll leave the krab on the cam to make stripping and sorting easier.
Upon reaching the belay the traditional roles can be reversed somewhat because the second knows how the leader racks their kit. Because they have organised the stripped kit onto their harness, the second is in the best position to remove it and re-rack the leader. The leader back-flakes and sorts the ropes – why? Because they’re the ones who have spent the last five, ten, fifteen minutes coiling or stacking it at the belay! So surely they know best how to back flake it (and can’t blame anyone but themselves if there’s a tangle!).
The system above is based on the same leader, leading for the whole route, but even if you’re leading in relay (swinging leads) the system doesn’t really change that much. There should be no need to re-flake the rope, but instead of doing this the new second (already at the belay), can rack the new leader with the kit that wasn’t used. While the new leader can be looking at the route description for the next pitch. If the second is to lead the next pitch then they should be stripping and sorting the gear from the route onto their harness ready for their lead as they climb.
This system involves less actions/movements and gives defined roles to each person depending on who’s best placed to carry them out. Basically, the second deals with the gear, the leader deals with the ropes. If one finishes their job first, then they can help the other (this system obviously assumes a fair amount of competence on the part of the second).
These are techniques that we teach and practice during our climbing trips to Lopburi Thailand. A beautiful multipitch climb with 6 pitches to work thru to become efficient. Join us for our climb clinics and become more efficient at multipitch and overall climbing!
This year, we brought our participants to one of our favourite climbing crag in Lopburi, Thailand for a 2 days rock climbing and sunflower tour. We were definitely blessed with great weather and clear views! Our participants also got to experience some multi-pitch climbing and we were rewarded with spectacular views from the top of this 600 foot limestone peak. Here’s some highlights from our trip.
Preparing to abseil from the top:
Spectacular views from the top:
Visiting the historic town of Lopburi… Ancient ruins, temples, monkeys roaming the streets, instagrammable cafes and night markets in close proximity, just gives so much flavour to this little quaint town!
Our body definitely needs some rewarding too. Award-winning coffee and authentic Thai cuisine from the cafe!
The famous Sunflower fields of Lopburi that spans across acres and acres of land…
Camera rolling, Action!
Looking for a different kind of weekend getaway? Explore this beautiful town of Lopburi which is a few hours away from Bangkok, visit one of the biggest sunflower fields in Thailand, and see what adventures this part of Thailand has to offer! It’s definitely worth a visit to get away from the bustle of city life!
We customise our trips based on the comfort level of our participants, making it beginner-friendly. Join us for this unforgettable trip coming up in May 2019!
In this blog, we have a look at some of the different harnesses available, and give you some pointers to help you choose the right harness for you.
People come in all shapes and sizes and for this very reason, so do harnesses. Some harnesses may not fit certain people correctly but will be perfect on others, so it really is vital to try a number on before you select the one for you. Remember, a badly fitting harness can, in the extreme, be dangerous.
Start by answering the following two questions
1. What type of climbing do you intend to do with your harness?
When properly looked after, a climbing harness should last you some time, so it’s really worth considering your future aspirations for the sport. Do you only ever want to climb indoors? Do you intend to climb it all – sport, trad, winter? Having a good think about this will help you get a harness that ticks all your boxes. Bear in mind that the more disciplines you want it to cover, the more compromises you may need to make, often in comfort and weight.
2. How much do you want to spend?
Harnesses range from around $45.00 to over 200.00 for professional use. Your budget will of course narrow or widen your options, but even with the cheaper harnesses there is still a fair bit of choice.
Comfort and fit
The waist belt should sit just above your hips. Once you have tightened your harness, you should be able to get a flat hand in behind the waist belt but you should not be able to pull a fist out. Your leg loops should feel secure but comfortable, a good indication of proper fit is being able to slip a flat hand in between the leg loop and your leg comfortably. Your harness should feel comfortable to stand and sit in. When sitting down, make sure the buckles aren’t digging in. There has recently been a real push to move from the traditionally padded harnesses to contoured laminate harnesses, which remove bulk and weight and in some cases retain a high level of comfort. Try both types and let the way it feels dictate what you buy.
The 3 main types of sit harnesses are;
- Fully adjustable – meaning you can adjust both the waist belt and leg loops.
- Fixed leg loop – meaning you can only adjust the waist belt and not the leg loops.
- Alpine harness – available in fully adjustable and fixed leg loop, super lightweight with a the belay loop often only attached to the waist belt.
The amount of adjustment in the fit of your harness will depend a lot on the type of climbing you intend to do. If you intend to do a lot of outdoor trad and winter climbing then a fully adjustable harness is essential in order to get it on and off over bulky clothes, crampons and boots. If you intend to climb indoors and maybe outdoors in fair weather, then a fixed leg loop harness may work for you. Another consideration is your size when you first buy your harness. Many people enter the sport in order to get fit and often lose a fair bit of weight after their first few months, so if you think this will be case for you, then a fully adjustable harness would be the way to go. You ideally want the harness to be in the middle of its adjustment range when wearing it, so that you have room to manoeuvre.
Until a few years ago the standard buckle on a climbing harness was known as a “double back” buckle which meant that in order for it to be safe the webbing would need to be threaded back through the buckle. Currently most harnesses are now fitted with a “speed adjust” buckle, this has the benefit that the climber does not need to remember to double back their buckles. It’s important to realise that there are pros and cons to each system. Double back buckles have the benefit that once done up – that’s it. They will not move at all. But they have the drawback of being considerably more awkward to do up, especially with gloves on. Speed adjust buckles have the great benefit of simply pulling them tight, easy with gloves on, but the slight drawback is that they can suffer from “creep” and will need to be tightened and checked over the course of a long day.
The obvious fitting requirements of your waist size and upper thigh will dictate the general size of the harness (eg. small, medium, large). Harnesses also use another measurement, known as the “rise” and this is a very important measurement to consider. The rise is the distance between the waist belt and the leg loops. When this distance is too short, the climber will be pushed forwards when the harness is loaded, and when the distance is too long, the climber will fall backwards when the harness is loaded. Women’s specific harnesses typically have a longer rise and men’s a shorter one. A correctly fitted harness will, when loaded, mean that around 75% of weight is taken on the leg loops and 25% on the waist belt. Some harnesses are available with an adjustable rise, which can be helpful if you’re having trouble finding a good fit.
The only true way to test whether the rise is correct for you, is to see how it works when fully loaded. The only way to do this is to hang in the harness.
The number of gear loops you will want on your harness will again come down to what type of climbing you expect to do. If you intend to only climb indoors, then you’ll only really need one or two gear loops. Sport climbers usually need three to four loops, whilst trad and winter climbers will want five and above. However if you try on a harness and it fits perfectly, but has more gear loops than you need, it really doesn’t matter, a correct fit is far more important.
Some specific considerations
A few other details you may want to take into account. If you intend to go winter climbing or ice climbing, make sure the harness padding is constructed from closed cell foam, so that it can’t become water logged. If you want to take it climbing in the Alps, then weight will need to be a big consideration and often comes at the expense of comfort. There are lots of other clever features on harnesses and once you’ve gone through the essentials, the rest will be down to personal preference and taste.
Harnesses for kids
Children below 30-40kg (usually under the age of nine) will need to be fitted with a full body harness. This is because they often have small hips and a high centre of gravity and run the risk of falling out of a sit harness if inverted (upside down). Also children of this age tend to have insufficient stomach muscles to maintain an upright position and stand much more chance of turning upside down when they fall. A general rule of thumb, if trying a sit harness on a child, is to try and pull it down over their hips and if this is in any way possible then a full body harness will be needed.
Care and maintenance
Looking after all of your climbing kit is absolutely essential. Your climbing harness is your direct and only link from you to your safety chain (rope, anchors, belayer) and needs special attention. Always keep your harness away from harmful chemicals and direct sunlight (where possible), storing it in a dry dark place when not in use. If it gets dirty or has been exposed to salt water, then cleaning it with lukewarm water is usually all it takes, then dry in a warm (not hot) room away from sunlight. There are specially made cleaning products for soft climbing kit, made by companies such as Beal. You can also use pure soap flakes to clean your harness, but if in any doubt then only use approved cleaning products. When you remove your harness always slacken off your leg loops, so that they don’t warp or get worn in exactly the same place. When properly looked after your harness should last you a fairly long time, depending, of course how often you climb and where you climb.
So, to sum up, it’s clear that fitting a harness should be as detailed as fitting a pair of climbing shoes. Unless you are replacing an old harness with the exact same model and size, you really can’t know that it’s the right one for you until you’ve sat in it under load. This is why it’s usually best to have your harness fitted by an experienced person.
When instructing beginners, I always spend a bit of time on the different Carabiner and types. There are so many types and options, and of course, climber slang to Carabiners. Whether you call it a “Krab” or “Biner”, there are lot’s of variety and options to choose from. More than just choosing a nice colour!
Carabiners are one of the most common and used pieces of kit in a climbers’ rack. They are used to belay with, set up anchors, create ‘running belays’ and a whole host of other tasks. There are so many different choices available to you, when you come to buy your first few biners, it can be difficult to know where to start.
Even though at first glance climbing equipment looks like it comes in a million different varieties, shapes and sizes its usually not nearly as different as it looks and once you understand the basic properties of certain types of kit, it all becomes much clearer. Carabiners are a perfect example of looking far more complicated than they actually are. Below we have outlined some of the most important characteristics and differences between the various Carabiners available.
Whilst we have covered some of the bigger and most important differences there are still subtle details that make one crab better than another for certain jobs, and to understand everything about a particular biner the best place to look is the manufacturers website where you will get all of the specs (and a fair bit of flowery sales schpeal!).
A locking carabiner will have some form of metal sleeve or mechanism that enables the user to lock the gate shut. These carabiners are used in situations where there is a risk of the gate being opened accidentally, typically while belaying or building anchors.
A non-locking carabiner (often referred to as a snap-gate) simply relies on the spring of its gate to keep it shut. These carabiners are most commonly used as part of a quickdraw, for running belays, to rack protection and any time where there is no risk of the gate being opened accidentally.
Threaded metal sleeve covers the gate, which is manually screwed and unscrewed to open and close the carabiner. These are the most common locking carabiners and come in just about every shape and size.
Normally a spring loaded metal sleeve covers the gate, which is manually rotated to open, but will spring closed and lock automatically when released. Recently Black Diamond launched its Magnetron range which uses small magnets built into the gate to automatically lock the carabiner when closed. Auto lockers are nearly always heavier than screw gates and a lot less widely used, but they are great for beginners’ groups, children, and also big wall climbing as you have that little extra security.
These are a fairly new breed of carabiner that have a mechanism to prevent cross loading. Some also will not close unless the screw gate is done up, like DMM’s Belay Master, and AustriAlpin’s OvaLock. DMM have just released their new Rhino carabiner which is specifically designed to be used with assisted belay devices such as the GriGri 2 and Trango Cynch. Instead of the normal mechanism to prevent cross loading the Rhino has a small horn which prevents the assisted device from sliding around the biner onto the back bar.
A pear shaped carabiner which is especially good for using with a belay device, and Munter (Italian) hitches.They tend to have a very wide gate opening and are usually very strong. HMS stands for Halbmastwurf Sicherung, which roughly translates to munter hitch securing, because it was first designed to be used with the munter hitch .
D-Shape & Offset D-Shape
Traditionally the strongest shape for a carabiner. Great for general rigging of belays, use with Prussiks etc. The offset D-Shape forces the rope to load the back (strongest) bar of the biner, making it very strong, and safe to use with ropes. Also has a big gate opening. Another good rigging biner. Available as a locking and non-locking biner.
Not quite as strong as a D-Shape or HMS, although these days most are rated to 25kn (gate closed), so the screw gate versions are strong enough for a multi purpose biner. They are especially good for use with pulleys, as they allow the pulley to hang straight. Great for big wall climbing and also as a belay biner. Available as a locking and non-locking biner.
Carabiners are only referred to as solid gate when they are non-locking. A solid gate biner is generally used for sport climbing because they tend to have smooth anti-snag noses which aid clipping and unclipping of bolts. Oval solid gates are also great for racking nuts on.
Wire gate carabiners are only available as non-locking biners. Usually favoured by trad and winter climbers because they weigh so much less than solid gate biners.
A key-lock nose will mean that the krab is less prone to snagging as the nose is very smooth. One draw back of these biners is that the gate can become blocked with snow/ice/mud which will prevent the gate closing correctly.
These tend to be a lot lighter than key-locks and are great for use in the winter as they are far less likely to become clogged with snow/ice. A drawback of these biners is that the nose can get caught on bolts, holding the gate open, although many manufacturers have overcome this problem by creating clean nose profiles.
Human beings have been using ropes for various purposes since prehistoric times, and before we started to make them, it’s likely that we used natural vines and creepers (see Tarzan). They have always been as integral to our lives as the wheel and were around long before. In this article you will find a little bit of history on ropes, how they are made, the different types, what they are used for and what things like impact force, elongation and number of falls mean.
Climbers have used ropes to safeguard themselves for as long as there has been climbing. The first types of ropes that were used were generally made of strands of Hemp or Sisal twisted or woven together. These early ropes had a very poor strength to weight ratio, were stiff and awkward to handle and often failed.
In 1941 the first nylon ropes were being produced in the USA and France, but 12 years later the German company Edelrid was to make the most significant breakthrough in climbing rope history. In 1953 they invented the Kernmantle rope, and this is what we are still using today. The word comes from the German word Kernmantel and means coat-protected core. This invention revolutionised climbing ropes; hemp ropes and rope breakage very quickly became a thing of the past.
Yet another breakthrough by Edelrid in 1964 saw the introduction of the first Dynamic rope, capable of withstanding multiple falls, and that was the grandaddy of the Dynamic rope we use today.
The Kernmantle rope
Kernmantle rope is how all climbing ropes are made today. The Kern is the core and the mantle the sheath
These ropes are chiefly made of nylon (polyamide), but are sometimes made of polyester, aramid and other man made fibers. The strength of the rope is made up of both parts, core and sheath, and the proportion of each depends on the type of rope you buy.
Dynamic ropes are constructed to stretch under load, and will absorb much of the energy exerted in a fall and this is what makes them so good for climbers. If a climber were to take even a small fall onto a rope with little or no dynamic properties the result would be serious injury and even death.
Another important factor for climbers is that the rope not only lessens the energy exerted on a climber in a fall, but also lessens the energy exerted on their anchors, making them much less likely to fail.
Often referred to as Static rope, this is, however, usually incorrect as most have some degree of stretch. Semi-static ropes are used extensively by industrial rope technicians but also by climbers for a number of jobs. Whilst it is sometimes possible to use a Semi-static rope for top or bottom roping, where there is absolutely no possibility of a shock load, these ropes must never be used for leading. The most common uses for these ropes are abseiling and rigging anchors.
The 3 Types of Dynamic rope
Dynamic rope comes in three different types and you will always find a symbol at each end of the rope to tell you which one it is.
- Single Rope.This is a rope designed to be used on its own. Used across all climbing disciplines.
- Half Rope. This is a rope designed to be used in conjunction with another half rope, and sometimes referred to as “Double Rope”. Each rope should be clipped into an independent anchor or running belay. Used by trad climbers and mountaineers.
- Twin Rope. This is a rope designed to be used in conjunction with another twin rope. The big difference here is that both ropes must be clipped into the same anchor or running belay. Used by sport climbers and some mountaineers.
All of the ropes we have mentioned come in a wide variety of diameters. From as little as 6.9mm right up to 16mm, however there are restrictions in diameter for each of the main types of ropes.
- Single ropes are available from 8.9mm to 13mm
- Half ropes are available from 6.9mm to 9mm
- Twin ropes are available from 6.9mm to 9.1mm
- Semi Static rope is available from 8.5mm – 16mm
Information found on dynamic ropes
As already mentioned all dynamic ropes will have a symbol to tell you which of the three types of rope it is. There is also a whole load of other info about the rope, typically found on the packaging and always found in the manufacturers recommendations, included.
Union Internationale des Associations D’Alpinisme is the international mountaineering and climbing federation that has created the standards to which all dynamic climbing ropes with the U.I.A.A mark must adhere. The standard is 101, and EN 892. Whilst these numbers may mean very little to most, it’s important to make sure the rope you buy has been passed by the U.I.A.A. Any ropes without this marking should be avoided.
Number of Falls
This is the number of UIAA falls the rope can handle before it loses its dynamic properties and risks possible failure.
This marking can be very confusing to even fairly competent climbers. It does not mean that after you have taken the marked amount of falls, that you need to buy a new rope. The EN 892 test requires a single rope to hold a minimum of five factor 2 falls with 80kg at an impact force of less than 12kN.
To read more about fall factors, see our article on “Understanding Fall Factors”, but in brief, a fall factor greater than 1 is totally unacceptable and should never happen. If you do take a significant fall on your rope always make sure to have a good inspection of it afterwards.
The number of falls can give an indication of how robust the rope is, the more UIAA falls it can take, the harder wearing the rope will be.
This is a very useful figure in helping you decide which climbing rope you should buy . The impact force marking on a climbing rope is the amount of force in kN (kiloNewtons) that the first UIAA fall exerts on the falling body.
The aim is to create a rope with the least amount of impact force whilst staying within the maximum elongation figures. This means less force transferred from the rope to the climber, belayer and anchors, massively reducing the risk of injury or anchor failure. This is especially important to trad and ice climbers.
So, a rope that has a higher impact force will be more durable, but also transfer more force, in the event of a fall, onto the climber and the anchors; and rope with a lower impact force will be a little less durable, but transfer less force, in the event of a fall, onto the climber and the anchors.
This is the amount of stretch in the rope when a 80kg weight is hung from it.
This is the amount of stretch in the rope after the first UIAA fall test. We already know that having stretch in your climbing rope is essential, but if it has too much stretch then there is a very high risk of a climber hitting a ledge or even the ground, so the UIAA sets the maximum elongation of a rope to 40% of the rope that’s paid out. So a fall onto 10m of paid out rope cannot exceed more than 4m of stretch, and this needs some considering when you’re climbing.
Sharp Edge Test
This is no longer required by the UIAA, but to increase safety a number of rope manufacturers still use it. It basically tells you how your rope may resist cutting when in contact with sharp edges.
The sheath on a badly made climbing rope can stretch out of sync with the core and this will mean the rope will become lumpy and, in the extreme, dangerous. The Sheath Slippage test is the only test where the CE (EuroNorm) requirement differs from that of the UIAA. After pulling two metres of rope through a designated constriction, the European Standard requires that the sheath slippage should be less than 40mm, or 2%, whilst the UIAA standard is more severe, requiring a value less than 20mm, or 1%. However, many modern climbing ropes achieve 0% or very close to 0%.
This will tell you what proportion of your rope is sheath, compared to core. A larger sheath proportion will normally mean that the rope is more abrasion resistant and smaller sheath proportion can mean a lower impact force.
Regulations for Semi-static Ropes
Whilst Semi-static or Low Stretch ropes do come under UIAA guidelines, standard 107, this standard is based on the European Standard 1891:1998. Semi-static ropes come in two types. Type A and Type B. Type A is the most commonly used as it conforms to all of the standards of EN 1891, whereas Type B ropes do not, and as such should only be used after careful risk assessment.
There are far too many different types of rope treatments to be able to cover them all in this article. In general the most important one will be some form of dry treatment, to stop the rope absorbing too much water. This is most important to winter climbers and mountaineers. Ropes obviously become far heavier when they are wet and of course in cold temperatures can freeze, making them very hard to handle and in the extreme, very dangerous.
All good rope manufacturers offer a number of different choices in dry treated ropes, the most basic will be a simple treatment that is applied to the sheath only, and will essentially make your rope water resistant, but not water proof. After prolonged exposure, they will eventually absorb water into the core. However this type of treatment is really all you need if you’re trad climbing, and sport climbing.
A more expensive alternative is a fully dry treated rope, such as Golden Dry, from Beal. This means the sheath and the core have both been treated, and will give you the best protection from the elements.
Another useful benefit of either dry treatment is that it will often make your rope a little more durable, meaning it may last a bit longer.
Other treatments include, heating the rope to give it smoother handling characteristics, like Edelrid’s Thermo Shield, Beal’s new Unicore technique actually binds the sheath to the core resulting in a rope that has absolute zero sheath slippage, and is far safer in the event that the sheath is cut.
Like any piece of climbing kit, your rope’s lifespan will depend entirely on how often and where you use it, and also on how well you look after it. Some manufacturers will offer guidelines for maximum shelf life and also maximum working life. These are only guidelines and climbers need to develop their own opinions on when a rope should be retired. Don’t be tempted to ‘downgrade’ your rope from an outdoor to an indoor rope or similar. It is either safe to use or not safe to use, it makes no difference where it’s used.
To Sum Up
This article is meant as a basic introduction to ropes, and there is much more extensive information available in books and online for those who want it.
Since companies like Edelrid began making climbing ropes over 150 years ago, the technological advances have been enormous, but it’s worth considering that we are still using the basic design of the Kernmantle rope invented 56 years ago.
Of course, there are some truly amazing and unique ropes available now, like Beal’s Hotline, a rope using an Aramid sheath under a normal sheath, giving resistance to harmful chemicals, or the Raider also by Beal, that can withstand temperatures of up to 350 degrees Celsius for up to an hour and still retain 90% of its strength.
Lastly, your rope – no matter how well it’s made – will only maintain its strength and safety if you look after it properly. Always thoroughly read the manufacturer’s recommendations before you use a new rope, and make sure you know how old your rope is.
After spending a month in the Arapiles, Australia doing almost everyday of trad climbing, I really learned to embrace nuts and wires. This is also known as passive protection. Passive protection is the term used to describe leader placed protection that has no moving parts. This seems like a good time to share some knowledge and experience on the subject. It really is an awesome way to climb!
Passive protection is generally the first type of pro (short for protection) a new climber will buy. It tends to be considerably cheaper than active protection (camming devices etc), and will give you numerous placement options. Before you head out and buy your first lot of passive pro, take some time to research the areas where you are intending on climbing, as different rock types will often suit some kit better than others.
The mainstay of the Trad climbers rack. Also known as wires, these are wedge shaped “nuts” on a wire. They fit in small, medium and largish sized cracks, and when well placed are bomber. Most, if not all, are colour coded by size and and are compatible with other brands. A set of these is generally one of the first things to buy when starting out. There are subtle differences between brands, like weight, shape etc, but they all share much the same characteristics and it’ll come down to personal choice and budget.
As small as protection gets. These provide marginal protection for tiny cracks and weaknesses. The strength ratings are far lower than standard nuts, so make sure you know their limits. These are something to add to your rack as you go along, and not something you’ll need straight away. Some micro nuts, like the DMM I.M.P (Immaculate Marginal Protection) are made from brass which can offer a little more bite when shock loaded.
Sometimes referred to as HB’s after Hugh Banner, the man who invented them. These are available in both standard and micro sizes. The offset shape of the nut means that they are particularly good in placements where a normal nut will simply not hold. Peg scars, tapered and flaring cracks are far easier to protect with an offset. You don’t have to start out with these, but they will give you loads more options to place good gear. Theres only five sizes and they compliment the bigger standard rock nuts very well.
Hexes & Torques
Very large nuts, originally designed by Yvon Chouinard of Black Diamond, for protecting large cracks. Generally one of the first things to buy when starting out, and a lot cheaper than cams. When carefully placed, so that the sling is slightly rotated towards the top of the unit, force exerted in the event of a fall will actually rotate the unit slightly and cam it into the rock, creating an even safer placement.
These really belong in the cam family, but still have no moving parts as such. By rolling the head back so that it rests on the sling section and placing it into a crack, it will cam into the rock and become very stable when loaded. These are not something you need when starting out. They are excellent for use in the winter. Proper cam units become unsafe when placed in iced up cracks, but you can give a tri-cam a little love tap with your hammer and its far more likely to hold in the event of a fall. They can be a pain to get out though!
Totally essential if you want to come home with all your nuts! There quite a few to choose from , and generally it will come down to your budget and taste. Some things to look out for are, whether it has a hook or hooks to help release a stuborn cam trigger, someway to tighten a loose bolt, weight, and durability. Its often wise for the leader to carry their own nut key as well as the second, incase they need to retrieve a badly placed bit of gear.
So a good starter rack might include the following;
- Standard rock nuts – one full set
- Hexes or tourques – one full set
- Nut Key – One
A few worthwhile additions might be;
- Offsets – one full set
- Standard nuts – Sizes 1-6 (or more)
- Superlights (Wild Country) – One full set
And for a little further down the road;
- Brass offsets – One full set
- Tri-cams – Various sizes
- Peenuts (or simular) – 1-2 full sets
As mentioned at the start, this will vary based on what type of rock you climb, your grade, and personal preference.
Interested in trying trad climbing? Contact us, and we can get you started on the journey to the freest form of safe outdoor climbing. Trad climbing!