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Subcapter: Equipment

Equipment

STAYING SAFE WITH THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT

You can’t climb without equipment. And if you go alpine climbing, you’ll need even more equipment. Alongside your personal ability and the conditions, having the correct high-quality equipment is a key variable in mountaineering. Mountaineering equipment is therefore subject to various standards with which it must comply. In addition to the European Standard (EN), there is also the UIAA standard (Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme), which has become the global benchmark.

From helmets to climbing boots: The basic equipment required for alpine climbing is more extensive than for sport climbing at an indoor climbing wall or single pitch crag. Depending up the climbing tour, the equipment required may vary or be supplemented, but the basics for each team remain the same.

Equipment: Basic equipment for every climber
1
2
3
4a
4b
5
6
7
8
9
10

The basic equipment consists of 10 objects:

Harness
1
Harness
Helmet
2
Helmet
Climbing Shoes
3
Climbing shoes
Belay and abseiling equipment
4
Belay and abseiling equipment
Chalkbag + Chalk
5
Chalkbag + Chalk
Slings
6
Slings
HMS and screw carabiners
7
HMS and screw carabiners
Snap carabiners
8
Snap carabiners
Dyneema or Kevlar cords
9
Dyneema or Kevlar cords
Cell phone
10
Cell phone

HARNESS

Whether for sport climbing on a rock face, in the ice, on alpine tours or on a high-altitude tour: a climbing harness is the key piece of equipment. There is a wide variety of harnesses on the market, all with different properties according to the application.

HIP BELT

HIP BELT

Roping up with a hip belt for climbing is in line with the consensus of the Alpine Club. But there are small differences between the harnesses used in sport climbing, on high-altitude tours and in alpine climbing: while harnesses for sport climbing have fewer equipment loops, these are crucial for alpine climbing. There needs to be enough loops for quickdraws, various types of protection gear, materials to build belays, etc. Padding is less of a priority for alpine climbing than for sport climbing, as falls are largely avoided on alpine rock faces. Nevertheless, the harness should fit optimally and the straps at the back of the leg loops and on the hips should be wide enough, otherwise the harness will become uncomfortable and painful in a hanging position or during long rappelling.

In comparison, hip belts for high-altitude tours, which were not designed to be worn for long periods of time, do not have very wide straps, and are hardly padded at all. However they do have a minimal packing size and are extremely light.

CHEST STRAP

CHEST STRAP

A chest strap is supplementary to a hip belt and may only be used in combination with it. In the event of a fall, it should prevent the climber from turning upside down – although the likelihood of turning is generally low anyway. A chest strap is useful when climbing with a very heavy backpack or excess weight.

FULL BODY HARNESS

FULL BODY HARNESS

In the past, full body harnesses were mainly used on alpine or high-altitude tours. Today they are predominantly used in industrial climbing or as a small body harness for children who do not yet have fully developed muscles. They are not used in alpine or sport climbing, as it makes falling uncomfortable due to the hanging position of the harness.

The operating life of all items of equipment made from plastic or textiles is max. 10 years. Belts, ropes, helmets, etc. must be replaced after 10 years at the very latest – even if they have not been used. In the case of heavy wear, it is possible that items must be discarded far earlier – in extreme cases (e.g. a serious fall) after one use.

HELMET

HELMET

Helmets have two purposes in mountaineering and alpine climbing: Protecting against falling rocks and protecting against impact. Traditional mountaineering helmets have a plastic shell, making them robust but limited in terms of side impact protection. Modern in-mold helmets are comparatively light, as they are made up of a polystyrene core with a relatively soft outer shell. They provide optimal protection from impact but are more fragile due to their construction. Hybrid helmets aim to balance out the advantages and disadvantages of plastic and in-mold helmets: the foam construction is covered with plastic. Hybrid helmets provide good protection, but are still lightweight.

The operating life of all items of equipment made from plastic or textiles is max. 10 years. Belts, ropes, helmets, etc. must be replaced after 10 years at the very latest – even if they have not been used. In the case of heavy wear, it is possible that items must be discarded far earlier – in extreme cases (e.g. a serious fall) after one use.

CLIMBING SHOES

CLIMBING SHOES

All climbing shoes have tread-less soles in order to create friction on the rock and to ensure precise steps. The various models differ in the hardness of their soles, their tension and their shape. Climbing shoes should be selected based upon their intended use. There is no such thing as a perfect all-rounder that can handle everything from bouldering problems to 20-pitch alpine tours.

On alpine routes where climbers can’t take off their shoes after every pitch, better wear comfort is required than in sport climbing, for example. Climbing shoes for alpine tours are therefore not as tight and have less or hardly any pre-tensioning. However, they also need to fit closely enough on slabs or on vertical climbs to allow precision climbing.

BELAY AND RAPPELLING EQUIPMENT

HMS (PEAR-SHAPED) CARABINERS

HMS (PEAR-SHAPED) CARABINER

an essential component of your equipment! There are basically two different types of HMS carabiners: carabiners with secured locking systems (= SafeLock carabiners) and those with unsecured locking systems (screwgate, twistlock). The former is mainly used for roping up on glaciers or on a top-rope, as it prevents accidental opening due to rope friction.
Unsecured HMS carabiners are used on alpine tours: they have a large opening which is ideal for protection, belaying or rappelling.

ATC

ATC

Dynamic braking devices are used in alpine climbing for protecting, belaying and rappelling. They generate the braking force through manual force on the brake rope. Semi-automatic belay devices like the Grigri and the Smart work differently. In these, the passage of the rope is automatically stopped in the event of sudden fall tension.

Therefore, dynamic braking devices such as ATC, HMS or figure eight are used in alpine climbing. However, an ATC must have a belay eyelet for use in alpine terrain (e.g. ATC GUIDE). This is required for belaying the second climber, as the disk function then allows for separate rope guidance and automatically blocks the rope. This is the safe and approved method for ensuring a safe belay of any following climbers on a rope team. In a two-man rope team, the first and second climbers can also be belayed using a munter hitch.

Semi-automatic belay devices can only be used on a single rope, which is why they are rarely or never used in alpine climbing. The advantages of double ropes include the possibility of retraction (rappelling) and their safety (redundancy due to second rope).

Chalkbag and Chalk

Chalkbag and Chalk

Chalk predominantly consists of powdered or liquid magnesium, which causes the hands to dry out. Sweat moisture is absorbed, providing better grip on the rock.

SLINGS

SLINGS

In mountaineering, slings are used on intermediate belay points or to connect fixed points. Slings must be knotted or sewn independently and are usually made of polyamide (nylon) or Dyneema. Sewn slings are also known as quickdraws. These sewn slings are used in alpine climbing on belays or as intermediate belay points (“alpine quickdraws”). The advantage of Alpine quickdraws is that they can be extended quickly as an intermediate belay point in order to reduce rope friction.

Depending on the route, climbers will have three prepared alpine quickdraws on their harness, as well as four open slings for tunnels and rocky knolls with lengths of 2 x 60, 90 cm and 120 cm.

HMS and screw carabiners

HMS and screw carabiners

A traditional HMS carabiner has a large opening and takes its name from the abbreviation of the German term for the munter hitch, ‘Halbmastwurfsicherung’:

The HMS carabiner can be used with a munter hitch to belay both the lead and second climber, but is also used as a clove hitch for self-belaying and rappelling. In contrast, screw carabiners have smaller openings and are used less in (self-)belaying.

Snap carabiners

Snap carabiners

Snap carabiners are vital links in alpine climbing. They connect the rope to the hook or the traditional climbing equipment in the wall. Climbing carabiners are made of aluminum alloys and are fitted with either a straight or curved catch. Like HMS and screw carabiners, snap carabiners have to comply with a specific standard in terms of their minimum holding force.

Dyneema or Kevlar cords

Dyneema or Kevlar cords

Cords are available made from polyamide, polyethylene (Dyneema) or aramid (Kevlar). Although polyamide is extremely tear-resistant, it is weaker than Dyneema or Kevlar, which is why it has to be thicker and heavier so that it meets standard requirements. However, the advantage is the elasticity, which can absorb a lot of energy.

Dyneema is highly tear-resistant and light. It has the highest cut resistance, but is not very elastic.

Kevlar has essentially the same properties as Dyneema but is a bit heavier in comparison.

ATTENTION: Knotting reduces the strength of the cord material. Depending on the knot, the loss in strength could be 25 to 50%. At the same time, being suspended in a carabiner also reduces the cord’s break resistance.

Cell phone

Cell phone

A cell phone is an essential element of your basic equipment in order to call for help and make emergency calls.

If a multi-pitch route is secured in a way suitable for climbing for fun (equipped with bolts at short intervals, with belays available) and if no mobile belay equipment is required, the following equipment will be useful for each rope team. Of course, this may vary according to the type of tour.

Equipment: Equipment for your rope team
1a
1b
2
3
4
5

The basic equipment for group consists of 5 objects:

Rope
1
Rope
Climbing backpack
2
Climbing backpack
Quickdraws
3
Quickdraws
Topographic map
4
Topographic map
First aid kit / bivi bag
5
First aid kit / bivi bag

ROPE

Dynamic ropes are used in alpine and sport climbing. Thanks to their elasticity, they can absorb fall energy better than static ropes. This can thus reduce the impact force acting on the climber. Static ropes, on the other hand, are used as fixed ropes for ascending and descending.

There are three different types of dynamic ropes: single, half and twin ropes:

SINGLE ROPE

SINGLE ROPE

A single rope is recommended for sport climbing. The diameter is between 8.9 and 10.5mm. Unlike the half rope or twin rope, single ropes offer no redundancy, which is not absolutely necessary in sport climbing. In alpine climbing, on the other hand, falling rocks or sharp edges could destroy the rope. Likewise, rappelling over the entire rope length is not possible with single rope.

HALF ROPE

HALF ROPE

Half ropes are used on alpine rock routes. Redundancy is important in this terrain as a safety reserve in case a rope breaks. Half ropes are also important when retreating and rappelling, as the climber can knot both ropes together at the end of the rope and abseil down the entire length. In addition, with the right climbing technique, you can avoid rope friction. A half rope is 8 to 9mm thick and is usually 60m long for alpine climbing.

 

The operating life of all items of equipment made from plastic or textiles is max. 10 years. Belts, ropes, helmets, etc. must be replaced after 10 years at the very latest – even if they have not been used. In the case of heavy wear, it is possible that items must be discarded far earlier – in extreme cases (e.g. a serious fall) after one use.

TWIN ROPE

Twin ropes also offer redundancy. They are optimized to be lightweight and are between 7.5 and 8mm thick, which means that they do not have the same sturdiness as half ropes when subjected to heavy impact from edges or falling. However, twin ropes are only intended for two-man rope teams – not to protect two second climbers.

Climbing backpack

A good climbing backpack for alpine tours is light, slim, sits close to the back and is made of sturdy material. This ensures maximum freedom of movement, an optimal center of gravity and minimum weight. Finally, it needs to be possible to carry it pitch after pitch for hours on the rock face.

QUICKDRAWS

Quickdraws

Quickdraws are an essential part of the basic equipment of any rope team. They consist of two carabiners attached with a piece of sling material. They have a protection or bolt side, which is clipped into the rock, and a rope side, into which the rope is clipped. The sling has some room for maneuver on the hook side to prevent tilting and transverse stress. On the rope side, the carabiner is usually fixed with a small rubber to prevent twisting. On alpine routes, it is advisable to take along extendible quickdraws in order to reduce any rope friction and to simplify handling.

Topographic map

Topographic map

A topographic map is a representation of a climbing route. The length, course, belays, overhangs etc. are indicated on it. Uniform, standardized symbols are used when creating topographic maps.

FIRST AID KID/BIVI BAG

FIRST AID KID/BIVI BAG

A first aid kit and bivi bag are minimum requirements for a rope team’s equipment. The following products must be included in a first aid kit: triangular bandage; gauze bandage; roll of adhesive medical tape; disposable gloves; small scissors; wound compress; bandage set. A good first aid kit should be clearly arranged and have an all-round zipper or a sufficiently large opening. In addition, each rope team must carry a double bivi bag in order to stay protected on the cliff face in the event of an emergency.

Classic alpine routes often offer sparse protection. They require additional equipment, and knowing how to use it safely is paramount. Traditional climbing equipment such as camming devices, nuts and even pitons are necessary for climbers to build anchors and belays on certain routes.

Equipment: Additions for classic alpine routes
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2
3
4

The additional equipment for classic alpine routes consists of 4 objects:

Camming devices
1
Camming devices
Nuts and nut remover
2
Nuts and nut remover
Pitons and hammer
3
Pitons and hammer
Knife for removing old rappelling slings
4
Knife for removing old rappelling slings
CAMMING DEVICES

CAMMING DEVICES

Camming devices are adjustable, wedge-shaped objects that are used for protection in alpine terrain. They usually work based on a toggle principle to generate a sufficient friction effect on the walls in cracks in the rock. They can then absorb a longitudinal strain (fall.

Cam (Camalot) systems are used in alpine climbing. These are made in three or four segments and have one or two axles. Cam systems with one axle, which have four segments, are usually called “friends”. In a Camalot, the four segments are mounted on two axles. As a result, they can be contracted further and cover a larger crack width with the same size than with single-axle systems. In cam systems, (friends and cams), a flexible bar (extension of the cam) has become standard these days. The devices can thus also be positioned in transverse cracks or holes.

ATTENTION: Camming devices must meet certain standard requirements. Cheap imitation models frequently emerge that do not meet the standard and lead to serious accidents.

NUTS AND NUT REMOVER (NUT TOOL)

NUTS AND NUT REMOVER (NUT TOOL)

Nuts are non-adjustable, wedge-shaped (conical) camming devices which provide additional protection in alpine terrain and can absorb longitudinal strain. Unlike camming devices, they passively lock into a narrowing in the rock, while camming devices, on the other hand, actively expand in parallel slits.

Nuts can have various basic shapes and are therefore categorized as stoppers, hexentrics or tricams. As with camming devices, they are subject to a certain standard in terms of strength. However, their shapes and sizes may vary.

Climbers also need a nut remover called a nut tool to remove nuts from the crack. This is pressed or hit lightly against the nut in the opposite direction from the main load direction on the nut – usually from below.

Pitons and hammer

Pitons and hammer

Seen as an antique by many climbers, normal pitons (also simply called pitons) are standard on some alpine rock faces – especially in South Tyrol. Although pitons have gone “out of fashion” thanks to bolts and advances in traditional climbing equipment, the South Tyroleans have opposed the refitting of routes with bolts. Bringing along pitons and hammers for alpine rock faces in the Alps can therefore be useful or even a matter of safety – either to reinforce existing hooks or to position new ones. This also allows climbers to be flexible in an emergency situation when a belay point needs to be established.

There are two different types of pitons: soft steel and high carbon steel pitons. High carbon steel pitons are used in prehistoric rock (granite and gneiss), because the cracks usually run in a straight line and the piton does not have to “adapt”. Soft steel pitons are used in limestone because they need to adapt to the course of the crack.

In terms of positioning, soft steel pitons should be able to be inserted one third of the shaft length into the crack, and high carbon steel pitons two thirds of the shaft length.

Knife for removing old rappelling slings

Knife for removing old rappelling slings

Equipment is often found on alpine rock faces that has been there for years – usually old slings on rappelling points. In such cases, it is important to pay attention to what condition the equipment is in. If necessary, a small knife carried in a climber’s bag can be used to cut worn, old slings from tunnels and pitons if these can no longer be used. In addition, in an emergency a climber’s own rope can be cut off if it has become jammed.

QUIZ: MA­TE­RI­AL

What rope type will you take with you on your alpine climbing tour?

Step 1 Step 2 Step 3 Step 4
Material Alpine Climbing

WHAT ROPE TYPE WILL YOU TAKE WITH YOU ON YOUR ALPINE CLIMBING TOUR?

Ropes are used in mountain sports to absorb the forces that occur in the event of a fall and to reduce the fall energy. Choose the type of rope that you will take with you on your alpine climbing tour!

Unfortunately, this answer is incorrect.

Alpine climbing equipment

WHICH BELAY DEVICE IS NOT TO BE USED IN ALPINE CLIMBING TOURS?

Braking devices are used in alpine climbing for protecting, belaying and rappelling. Which of these belay devices is not suitable for alpine climbing?

Unfortunately, this answer is incorrect.

Alpine Climbing Equipment
What are the advantages of extendible quickdraws in alpine terrain? Quickdraws are part of the standard equipment for sport climbing and alpine climbing. Extendible quickdraws are also used on multi-pitch alpine routes. Why?

Unfortunately, the answer is incorrect.

Subchapter: Equpiment

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