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Placing Gear


by Anthony Bubb

December 29, 2001

Adapted from rec.climbing

In article <>, you write:

How about a thread about natural protection tips? I mean setting passive (nuts, stoppers, rps, even big bro's ...) and sld's (friends, camalots, tcu's,sliders, loweballs...).

What exactly do you want addressed??? I can add more. If people Mail me a big 'ole set O' questions, maybe I can put together a Q & A formatted thread to facilitate net.discussion.

How safe is natural protection? What can I expect to hold a fall? What should I do after a fall on natural pro? How can I become a safe natural protection climber...

Well, start by getting John Long's "Climbing Anchors" book. It is the best attempt of printed material on the subject that I have ever seen..

Your pro is as safe as the placement and rock. Generally, (mircos not included) and piece that can stay put can hold you. The trick is to keep it put. This means choosing pro wisely. Static pieces are more dependable, and are easier to judge, IMHO. Make sure that static pieces are in good placements. In bottle necks, try stoppers on the small side, and hexes on the large side. Just because a crack is the right size for a given piece doesn't mean you've placed it well. Stoppers have a concave and a convex face, get it in so it "bites" into the cliff nicely, and has a lot of surface area in contact. Try nuts (including hexes) in several different positions before settling on which one is best. With time, it will come automatically, at least, most of the time....

If the crack is RADICALLY bottle necked, put in a passive tricam, they often set better, and don't come tumbling out like a hex or stopper that was placed slopily in the crack. If the crack opens inward or outward, try placing the hexes endwise, withe the faces matching the flare of the crack. If the crack is ALMOST parallel, but comes ever so little tighter as you go down in it, place in a tight cammed hex and slide it back and then down until it can go no further, give it a solid TUG. It will be good..

Use a 95% product rule. The product of certainty in your gear and your ability should be 95% (that's the rule of thumb I give to newbies). In other words, .95 = certainty you could solo the route * certainty you can safely protect it. If you are only .95 sure of your gear, be 100% sure you could solo it. If you are only .95 sure you could solo it, you better be 100% sure of your gear.

Start leading on easy stuff, where you can fiddle-faddle with gear from good stances. On hard trad leads is the wrong time to learn about getting run out. Place a piece every 3', even if you don't have to. Never stray more than 1 pitch off of the ground until you are expd'. It will be easier to rescue you if you get hurt of you are able to get off on the rope you have..

Post some experiences about natural pro, its reliability and tips.

Personal exp: I once put a #5 stopper in a 1/4" inch flaring flake, and proceeded to fall off of the climb. It held, even though only half of the stopper was even in the crack at all. AT the same time, I once had a beefy cam explode the rock around it and blow. Stone is usually reliable if it looks reliable, and generally bad when it looks bad, but don't trust it, and don't forget that sometimes (when you have to have it), even "bad pro" can save your ass. Sandstone is ?able on small stoppers and cams, but takes tricams like nothing else. Limestone pockets also have no equal to the Low Tricam. Solid Quartzite is great for stoppers and hexes and SLCD's, yet tricams fall out of the slippery stuff. You can't generalize, so get used to one kind of rock to start with, then move on..

I'll start... 1. I'll take a well placed nut over a friend any day!! I've had two times that a friend held a fall but one of the cam sets inverted! It held... that's why I put it in, but it wasn't under-cammed before the fall...

Make sure a cam can't walk. Place them where the crack is consistently smooth and parallel. If there are inconsistencies in the crack, put in something else. It will be more dependable anyway..

2. ALWAYS check a piece after falling on it. In fact since I've fallen, I usually set a backup piece or two before getting back on the climb or lowering. It is very difficult to anticipate the loading a natural piece will take when fallen on.

Amen. My climbing pal fell on a #6 wall nut and said "It's bomber". I ended up finishing the lead, and when he was cleaning, it fell out. It was a good piece, but a poor placement. The flare was so tight that the piece sat ABOVE it and was free to wiggle out.

3. Always set an unidirectional piece at the bottom relatively close to the belayer. That means a piece that will take both an upward AND downward pull (maybe even sideways). This prevents any protection pieces above it, oriented for a downward fall, from zippering out when fallen on. Scary!!! :(


4. Best way to learn is to follow an accomplished leader and observe his placements. They are a dying, no pun intended :), breed.

Accomplished leaders are not a dying breed, we are just hiding from the posers and whiners, as well as people with skulls and quick draws on their shirts. We go to the far off crags so we don't have to deal with the noise or trash. We don't like to be called 'DHuuuuude', and don't WANT friggin' beta. We hate boom boxes, and pets. Some don't even like chalk (myself included) or bad attitudes. Now and then you'll catch one of us coming out of hiding and peeping into the world, but we scatter for shelter at the sight of lycra. Hell, In the "Hall of flame recount" I didn't even place. No I'm not hibernating, I just got sick of all of the useless chatter on this group and quit posting..

I tried righting the wrongs that I helped create (drivel, stupid wise-cracks, flamewars, etc...) on this group by starting a Technique Tips thread, and that never even caught on. Here's my opinion, if you have to put a *8^) after it, the it's not worth posting, 'cause i's not about climbing. RANT OVER..

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