Bob Wightman

Gear Tips

The following is a selection of links to various pages concerning various tips about climbing that I have discovered or been told about over the years. They are not authorative, nor are intended to be dictatorial, but I have used all of these at some time or another.

If these tips have anything in common it is that carrying more and more specialised pieces of equipment is not the way to go. Choosing a small set of basic pieces of kit that may be combined to perform a variety of tasks is in the end a better solution. This has the advantages that you have to carry less and are thus able to enjoy the climbing more. This is particularly true in the alpine arena.

Many, if not most, of the tips presented here have at their heart flexibility in the use of kit. It is too easy to assume that another piece of kit will do the job you want without considering if something already on your rack or in your sack will suffice. Eventually you realise that you are carrying half a dozen items around with you that only get used once in a blue moon.


Rucksacks

The rucksack is the climber’s version of the snail's shell. Unfortunately, choose the wrong sack and you could have the speed of that snail! Too many climbers (and walkers) assume that they need to carry equipment to cover every possible eventuality. My ideal sack is in the range of 30 - 35 litres. This would be suited to summer rock-climbing in the UK, winter climbing in Scotland and summer alpine routes of up to three or four days in duration. I have also used a sack of this size in the alps in multi day winter ascents. My thoughts on rucksacks are further developed and explained on a separate page


Lowering Off

Lowering off a sports climb may be easy if the person who equipped the route finished the job off properly by installing two bolts, suspended from which is a chain and captive gate karabiner. Often however the belay or lower-off point consists of two eco-bolts or two bolts with a chain and/or maillon between them.

The dual eco-bolt belay means that the climber must somehow thread the rope through the belay so that he leaves no gear of his own behind.

Equipment needed:-

  • A 120cm sling
  • Two screwgate karabiners both attached to the above sling.

On arrival at the stance or lower-off point the climber should first clip a quick-draw into the belay and clip in the rope. This provides a temporary means of assurance. One of the krabs attached to the sling is clipped into the belay loop of the harness, the other is clipped into one of the belay bolts. Both krabs should be secured, though not overly so as it may be difficult to undo them if they have been secured when the climber’s weight is on them.

A length of rope of around 2.5 metres is pulled up and a figure of eight knot formed in the rope around this far from the knot attaching the climber to the rope. This knot is clipped into the karabiner attaching the sling to the climbers' harness and the krab screwed secure again.

The knot attaching the climber to the end of the rope may now be undone and the end of the rope passed through the two belay bolts before the rope is once again tied into the climber’s harness. After making sure that it is tied correctly the temporary knot, clipped into the krab, may be undone and t he resulting slack taken up by the second.

The climber now pulls up on the belay and instructs his belayer to take in on the lead rope. The climber then sits back and while loosely holding the rope, lets the rope take the strain. This should indicate if the knot has been correctly tied. If it hasn’t then the sling is acting as a back-up. Assuming that all is well, the sling may be unclipped from the belay and any other gear also removed. The climber is now free to be lowered back to the ground.

Note that the sling may be used on the descent to hold the climber close to the line of quick-draws enabling easier retrieval. The above method means that the climber always has at least two secure connections to the belay system whilst changing things over. There are variations on the above: passing a bight of the lead rope through the belay bolts and clipping into that before undoing the main knot is probably the most common, but does depend on the size of the bolt rings.