As preppers I think we all have the same mindset. If we did not, we would not be returning to SurvivalBlog on a daily basis, or stockpiling all the things we do. I am four months new to the blog and have always been a prepper at heart. With the blog, several things have been brought to my attention that I was lacking in my prepping. As these issues surface, I take immediate action either to correct them right away, or they make my very short “To Do” list.
With that, I bring to your attention the need of some basic climbing equipment and the possibility of a new book to your book shelf, but you will have to read on. I know what you are thinking, “If I’m bugging in. Why would I need any climbing gear?” Whether you are at your retreat or have to G.O.O.D. you need some basic climbing gear. I too plan on bugging in, but I always prep for the inevitable need of having to abandon my retreat. Basic climbing gear can be used to fabricate a comfortable stretcher, make river crossings easier (and more dry), vertical haul lines, a suspension traverse, a Z-pulley, fixed ropes, aid in climbing, rappelling (everyone’s favorite), among others. For this article I will cover just the very basics of climbing gear (ropes, carabiners, runners, protection, and harnesses) and cover the above mentioned benefits in later articles. I recommend and would push attending a basic climbing course. There are hands-on things that can be taught far better in a class rather than reading them in a book.
First things first, safety is always a must! Safety is everyone’s responsibility, so always observe the few following safety points with basic climbing gear:
1. Inspect all equipment prior, during, and after use. If any flaws are detected, mark and discard immediately from your climbing gear.
2. Make sure all locking carabiners are locked. If using non-locking carabiners in their stay, make sure their gates are opposite and opposed.
3. Properly wear your climbing harness-double check buckles.
4. Climb within your ability.
5. Before you start any climb, use your best judgment, and do not take any unnecessary risks.
6. Use the buddy system always!
7. Climbing difficulty ratings are subjective.
8. Gravity is a constant!
[JWR Adds: If you fall, kick loose a rock, or drop something, be advised that the acceleration will be 32 feet per second, per second! That means a drop of 16 feet the 1st second, and 64 feet the 2nd second… until terminal velocity is reached!]
These are just a few safety points for the basics as more will follow in additional articles as needed. When obtaining climbing gear, make sure you know its history. If you do not, it’s not worth your life!
There are two types of rope, dynamic and static. Dynamic ropes are designed for climbing by stretching when needed, i.e. falling. The low impact force is one of the factors we are looking for when considering a dynamic rope, lower is better generally speaking. Ropes with low impact force means the climber falls, the rope stretches, and that stop is less abrupt at the end of the fall. Not only is there less stress on the climber during the fall, but less on the belayer, the anchor system, and all the hardware being used. Diameter and length are two additional factors in deciding on which rope to purchase. With these two factors come common uses and yes ounces. Ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain. The military typically sticks to 11 millimeter diameter ropes. Obviously they will hold up better while lasting longer, but weigh more. Dynamic ropes drop in diameter to 8 millimeter, but at this diameter they are used in pairs, or twin rope systems! Lengths are typically 50 meters (165 ft), 60m (200 ft) or 70m (230 ft). I have an 11mm and a 9.7mm diameter dynamic rope, both 60m. If I am packing it for a few days I use my 9.7; if I am walking directly to my climb and back, it’s the 11. As always, not only does your life depend on your equipment, but that of your climbing buddy does as well!
Static ropes are just that, static. Static ropes can be used for several things ranging from fixed ropes, haul lines, to rappelling. Static lines should never be used in lead climbing. There is no stretch in a static rope and even the smallest of any fall could cause a severe failure in any of the components of the climbing system. Whether that failure is in the rope or right on through to the anchor system, you or your climbing buddy pays the full price! Static ropes come in the same diameters, lengths, and characteristics as dynamic ropes (minus the stretch).
If I was forced to choose between static or dynamic, I would chose dynamic. Dynamic can do everything a static rope can do, though you may have to work with the stretch. Static cannot do all that of dynamic. Certain manufactures color code their ropes in the middle and the end to inform the climber of just that. Others have wide stripes in these areas. Each rope has a fall rating as well. Though no one wants to fall, it happens and the higher the rating the better the rope. Kernmantle ropes are now the only climbing rope approved by the Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme (UIAA). With the Comitee Europeen de Normalisation (CEN), you want to make sure your rope, as with all your equipment, has met their standards of approval.
Not to be confused with the one on your key chain, carabiners are a tool used in every aspect of climbing. There are numerous styles and shapes. As I stated earlier, I am trying to stick to the very basics. With that, there are just a few I will discuss. I prefer the basic D-shaped non-locking carabiner over the oval shape for a good general purpose carabiner. The D-shape keeps the stress away from the gate (opening) of the carabiner. The gate is where most failures occur. D biners are generally stronger than oval as well. Gates can be wired gates to help reduce the weight. Locking carabiners provide extra security and safety. As long as the gate is locked closed is that safety there. You must always check to make sure the gate is locked. Most locking carabiners now have a visual check, red shows when the gate is unlocked. Locking carabiners are used for rappelling, anchors, and belaying to just name a few. Pear-shaped carabiners are larger at the gate opening to help aid in belaying and rappelling. If you do not have a locking carabiner, you can use two non-locking carabiners in opposite and opposed configuration. You would work the rope through the carabiners and the opened gates should form an X when opened. This prevents the rope or runner from coming out. You can never have too many carabiners. Again, I have to throw safety in here: Make sure the carabiners are climbing rated and not the ones off your key chain.
Runners are loops of tubular webbing or cord that are either sewn or tied together at the ends. Runners come in three basic lengths, single (1.7m), double (2.9m), and triple (4.6m). A good rule of thumb is to have at least six single, three double, and one triple. That is not to say you cannot obtain them in various lengths, you can. Sewn runners can be purchased from two inches to as long as a triple, each size has its place. Additionally you can have varying widths. Sewn are generally stronger than tied. Tied runners can vary in a length to your choosing. Most tied runners are one inch tubular webbing tied with a water knot. As with all knots, a minimum four inch pig tail is a must. Runners are a very useable piece of climbing gear.
I am not going to go in much detail at all here for safety. Protection and anchors should be discussed in a class where you can practice and test your placements. Protections come both natural and removable. Natural protection that you tie into can be that large tree, rock cropping, or multiple shrubs used together. Your imagination is the limit. Only make sure it will hold the stress. Removable protections are stoppers, hexes, tri-cams, and spring loaded cams just to name a few. Pitons are no longer used [by civilian climbers] due to the damage they cause to the rock. But post-TEOTWAWKI, pitons can be hammered into cracks and crevasses to make an anchor point.
Harnesses are no exception to the number of varieties. You have the traditional seat harness that most know about, chest harnesses, and body harnesses. For what we are dealing with, the traditional seat harness will be more than sufficient. Characteristics that you want to look for in a harness are adjustable and padded leg loops. Leg loops that can be unbuckled are nice in getting situated, using the bathroom, and so on. A padded waist belt, along with the leg loops are just added comfort. But if you can be comfortable, why wouldn’t you, you might be there for a while. An off center waist buckle can be nice when you are tying into your harness. Gear loops are a must. All your climbing gear will be either attached to you through your gear loops or on a rack system across your body or usually both. Try a harness on before buying it, if you can.
As I stated before, safety is paramount! My intent was only to touch on the basics with more to follow in additional articles. I highly recommend attending a climbing course. That said, a book you might want to add to your library is, “Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills”. It is a very informative book encompassing everything from clothing to climbing gear to glacier traversing. You will find many of the illustrations from it in the Military Mountaineering Handbook and FM 3-97.61 Military Mountaineering. As always, remember: gravity is a constant!