Common sport climbing mistakes to avoid

Common sport climbing mistakes to avoid

20. July 2017
Tips and Tricks

Now that winter has come and gone, we can finally see the sun shining down upon our favourite crag in Kochel, Germany. As one of the route setting teams, we had long since rung in the new sport climbing season before large groups of sport climbers started to arrive. Unfortunately, as more climber started to hit the crag, the more shocked I became. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Even the more experience climbers were making the most awful mistakes. Just the other day, I witnessed something you’d usually see at the gym: the belayer kept moving away from the base of the wall as the climber ascended. All of the sudden, the climber falls from the last bolt and slams into the wall.

“Ah, so that’s what facing the rock head-on feels like.” Fortunately, it was nothing serious. Another example: A belayer said to his partner, laughing: “good thing I’m using an assisted-braking device! I just completely let go of the rope ‘cuz the quickdraw hit my hand.” Of course, we can’t really do anything about our reflexes, but come on. I know what you’re thinking: “amateurs…” But, the thing is such silly mistakes aren’t unique to beginners. In fact, we more seasoned climbers tend to make mistakes precisely BECAUSE we’ve been climbing for so long. It’s like a kind of tunnel vision! So, before we kick off the new climbing season, it seems now’s a better time than any to reacquaint oneself with the most common mistakes made in sport climbing.

Done it a thousand times before…

I was out climbing with a friend and thought to myself, “Wow. Training at the gym was obviously worthwhile since my leader’s up there doing a no-hands rest. What a cool cat, I say to myself. After all, the route was by no means easy. Only later did I realise that it was more or less an involuntary break during which he quickly finished tying his knot. Yeah… Tied ‘em a thousand times before… “Good thing I noticed it after the crux”, he said soberly. Do we really have to start doing the “partner check” again after ten years of climbing?

Apparently, we never should’ve stopped! Double checking is not just useful when it comes to knots but other integral bits of your gear as well. For example, it can help you find other mistakes like when the rope is not threaded properly. Other mistakes can be weeded out simply by getting new gear. For example, if your belayer tends to forget to screw screw-gate carabiners shut! In such a case, I’d recommended giving him or her a twist-lock or ball-lock carabiner that has a safety wire too. It’s money well spent – promise! The same goes for investing in a new climbing harness with a smart buckle system. Most new models have something similar to the Rock&Lock system by Singing Rock, so you won’t have to double back. Another potential error eliminated!

Much too little and then much too much

Lead climbers like to nag. One minute you’re not paying out enough rope and doing so too slowly, and the next you’re paying out much too much and way too quickly. Maybe that’s why so many belayers stand so far away from the wall? To be prepared for anything and everything? Regardless, not giving the appropriate amount of slack can really get a climber’s knickers in a twist – and understandably so! But still, who wants to be “bitched at” in their free time? Well, nobody, really, but try to be a good belayer, anyway! That means you shouldn’t give too much slack because, in the event of a fall, your climber will go for a long ride, which could be fatal! Far too often, we underestimate how much a fall can be lengthen by too much slack.

Here’s another example of a situation from the gym you’re probably all familiar with: one second the lead climber was just about all the way up top and now he’s dangling about a metre above the ground. Come on, people, stand adjacent to the wall and keep your head up! After all, a stiff neck will heel a lot faster than broken bones! Maybe you could even get a neck massage? Another fatal error is when there’s too much of a weight difference between climbing partners, something that tends to be more pronounced in the winter. In other words, it’s okay to ask! Of all the places where you wouldn’t ask a woman how much she weighs, climbing gyms aren’t one of them. That’s how important it is to know your climbing partner’s weight!

Look up

Ah, distractions, distractions. I was hanging just below the crux and was hesitant, so what do I do? I look down at my belayer for reassurance, but what I get is the exact opposite… My belayer is indeed looking up, just not at me! I guess somebody else had the better arse! To be fair, this level of distractedness is by no means unique to my belayer. As I look around, I notice how little the belayers are paying attention to their partners! When I think about it, all of the mistakes mentioned before could fall under this category. We all know better, but for whatever reason, we still allow ourselves to get distracted.

And for good reason, I mean, there are so many beautiful people with beautiful bodies, with some wearing less than others, and climbers attempting to redpoint your project and much more. In fact, it can be so difficult to concentrate sometimes that one could claim that trying not to listen or watch something or someone is harder than climbing itself! However, this is not the cause of all missteps. It’s also true that there’s often not enough communication between partners. When lowering off, for example, communication is incredibly important. Unfortunately, there have been far too many accidents – some fatal – as a result of poor communication. Communicating clearly with your partner could save your or his or her life! If you’re going climbing with someone you usually don’t climb with, it’s crucial that you agree on climbing commands beforehand!

We all make mistakes

Despite all the precautions you may take, your gear can end up failing you, too. So, it’s always a good idea to inspect your rope after your winter break and check the “expiration date” on your belay loop. In other words, check your gear for wear and tear. None of us want to end up like Todd Skinner, whose belay loop was so worn that he tragically fell to his death. Even carabiners can wear out over time, resulting in very sharp edges. Falling onto a sharp-edged biner should be avoided at all costs because the rope could rip. So, do check them for wear on occasion. It’s as easy as running your fingers over them.

The same goes for the protection on the wall. Bolts can take quite the beating over the years, so it’s incredibly important to watch out for wear and corrosion caused by weather conditions and sunlight. Always err on the side of caution when building a belay as well. When in doubt, just leave your gear behind. By the way, a good thing to use as an extension on the wall is the Kong “Prog”, the long-awaited arm extender. No genetic engineering required!

Rocks break

As we all know, water shapes rocks. As a result of the freeze-thaw process, this can have an effect on us climbers as well. Another instinct that always seems to fall by the wayside as a result of climbers’ winter hibernation is the awareness of the risks of rock fall. You don’t see that all too often at the gym, do you? Spring, in particular, is a time when it’s not at all uncommon to see “pebbles” flying by when your stand at the base of a wall.

You may also come across several loose nuts on bolts. Before committing to them, do make sure they’re tight. After all, what’s more embarrassing than getting injured as a result of foolishness? All that being said, let’s kick off the climbing season with some common sense, shall we?

Build your very own bouldering wall

Build your very own bouldering wall

18. July 2017
Tips and Tricks

Recently, I awoke with the urge to build something again. And, since our attic was being expanded anyway, I figured I’d seize the opportunity to build my very own bouldering wall. It seemed like a good idea at the time and, admittedly, a lot easier than it really is. Contrary to what I had initially thought, building a bouldering wall (one you’ll actually be able to climb around on) requires a lot of planning and attention to detail. So, if you’re like me and have been thinking about building a bouldering wall of your own but don’t know where to start, here are some tips to help you get started.

Materials, size and construction

The first thing worth mentioning is the following: even though a small bouldering wall might look pretty spiffy, it’s virtually useless when it comes to training. At the very least, the wall should have a surface area of 6 m² . But, the bigger, the better. If children are going to be using the wall too, it’s very important that the height of the wall not exceed 3 metres, since the fall height would be too high. As for the material, plywood works great. However, do keep in mind that the plywood sheets should be 18-22mm thick. Also: the substructure supporting the wall must be extremely strong, since it will be forced to support very heavy loads, both live and dead loads. If the boards are not directly mounted to a concrete wall, a substructure consisting of wooden beams or steel support structure is your best bet.

What your (sub-)structure supporting your bouldering wall should look like depends on several different factors. In addition to the angle, height and other factors, different wall panels require different substructures. So, what the frame of a bouldering wall should look like is hard to say. Interestingly, all artificial climbing structures used by the public must comply with the European standard EN 12572. This standard defines the wall height, dimensions for falling space and the dimensions of the impact zone beneath. Obviously, this standard is not binding in our case, because we’re just DIY-ing it, but it is a great reference tool full of useful tips on how to build your own wall.

Here’s the most important info at a glance:

  • Wall height: max. 4m (free-standing, can be climbed over), max. 4.5m (can’t be climbed over)
  • There shouldn’t be any electrical cables in the falling space
  • There should be sufficient falling space and impact zone to the side of, in front of and beneath the bouldering wall. You should also be sure to cushion any posts or beams.
  • The falling space should be flat and free of any hindrances and sufficiently padded (with pads/mats, etc.) Also: make sure that there are as few gaps as possible between the pads, as these could increase your risk of injury (you could sprain your ankle or wrist). As dangerous as larger gaps are, smaller ones can wreak just as much havoc on a climber. 8-20mm gaps, for example, may not sound like a big deal, but they’re the perfect size for your fingers to fit through. Yikes! Not your precious fingers!

Of course, none of this explains how many supporting beams you need for your panels, nor does it tell you how thick they should be! As was mentioned before, different materials have different requirements. In other words, it’s hard to say what you need without knowing exactly what you have to work with. For simple overhanging climbing walls, people tend to use beams with a thickness of 10x8cm, which can be supported by laths. It’s definitely worth stopping by your favourite DIY or home improvement retailer for some advice. If you’re planning on building something a bit wilder or more ambitious, you might want to consult a carpenter as well. If your using pre-made climbing wall panels, the manufacturer’s installation guide should give you all the information you need. The important thing is that the wooden panels are attached to the substructure, not just the laths.

The wall sheets

The grid – for the perfect distance between holds

If you’re not planning on using pre-made climbing wall panels for your bouldering wall, you’ll need to drill holes for your holds. How and where to do that is what we’re going to talk about now. Industrially made climbing walls usually have about 15-25 centimetres between the holes, resulting in about 25 to 50 holes per square metre. If you’re doing it yourself, you might want to use a similar pattern. This will not only allow you to set different routes but also customise them as you see fit. The typical pattern is the staggered grid.

This grid is incredibly easy to make. All you need is a tape measure, a pencil and a drill. Mark all the holes for your grid on the back of the sheets. The important thing is that the holes in the top and the bottom row are far enough away from the edge and that there is the same amount of space on the left and right-hand sides as well.

Now, draw in horizontal lines across the sheet followed by vertical lines so that you end up with a checked pattern. Once you’ve finished, you can start marking the holes. For the top row, use the points at which the lines intersect. In the next row, mark the spot for the hole on the horizontal line between each of the vertical lines (see image). You can think of this point as the middle of an X. Then mark the rest of the holes in the same way.

You can also do without the grid if you’re only using screw-on holds that are secured with wood screws. These will save you loads on time, money and effort!

Painting your wall

If you haven’t done so already, it’s now time to paint the front of your sheets. If you’re just looking to brighten up your wall with a bit of colour, you can use any standard wood stain. However, if you’d like to add some texture to the wall, you need some special paint or coating:

  • A paint job using a two-component anti-slip coating

For this, you use special kind of paint. In addition to the standard pigments, this paint has a grain, which makes for a rough and thus stickier surface (akin to rough sandpaper). This kind of paint should have a slip resistant rating equivalent to R11. You can simply apply the paint by using a paintbrush or a roller.

  • Coat of epoxy and silica sand

This option involves mixing epoxy, which is suitable for the outdoors, with silica sand. It’s important that the mix ratio be about 5:1 and the silica sand have a grain size of 0.7-1.2mm. This mixture is then applied to the surface.

Nuts

Once you’ve drawn in your grid and painted the sheets, you can drill the holes for the nuts in the spots we talked about earlier. It’s important to note that there are two different types of nuts in the world of climbing walls: Flange and T-nuts If your wall is intended for your own private use and won’t be unscrewed/repositioned, T-nuts are the way to go. These are affordable alternatives to flange nuts and often come with holds “for free”, as with Metolius climbing hold packs. For T-nuts, you’ll have to drill 12mm holes.

Professionals tend to use flange nuts. These are extremely strong and don’t twist after repeated repositioning, since they’re usually secured by small screws on the back. Plus, larger holes (14 mm in diameter) have to be drilled for flange nuts.
Once you’ve drilled all the holes, flip the board over and stick the nuts in and secure them. When installing T-nuts, it’s a good idea to “pull in” the nuts tightly using the very same bolts (M10) that are supposed to keep the holds in place.

When drilling the holes, you can put a piece of wood on the back side of the board to prevent the wood splintering when the bit goes through the other side.

Raise the roof

Once the wall panels are finished, they can be attached to the substructure you’ve already installed. For metal substructures, you can’t go wrong with nuts and bolts. If you’ve got wooden beams, your wall panels can be secured using standard countersunk wood screws. And don’t be afraid to go all out! It’s really important to use a enough screws.

Once your panels are in place, you can begin installing your holds. Since you usually start off in a sitting position when bouldering, you can install footholds only up to height of about 60cm. Once you’ve done that, go head and start setting different holds that correspond with the type of wall you have and your own personal climbing skills.

Tip: Since the size and height of DIY walls are usually limited, it’s a good idea to refrain from setting routes that go more or less straight up. If you’d like to improve your endurance, we recommend setting routes that can be climbed in a circle. That way, not only can you do multiple “laps”, as it were, but also practise down-climbing.

If you’re unsure how to set your routes, you can always ask route setters at your favourite climbing gym!

Sleeping mats: Proper care, storage and repairs

Sleeping mats: Proper care, storage and repairs

12. July 2017
Care tips

Every true adventurer has a sleeping mat – be it a self-inflating or foam one. I mean, how could they not? After all, they’re so comfy and practical! I know I couldn’t get on without one on my various camping trips or at weekend festivals. Despite how much use we get out of these things, a few questions remain: For one, how should we store our precious sleeping mats? In a dark, dank cellar? Oh, and another thing: How should sleeping mats to be cleaned? And finally, what should we do with our battle-tested veteran mats that are slowly but surely starting to show signs of wear and tear? Well, you’re about to find out! In the following, we’re going to share some tips and other useful information so that you and your trusty sleeping mat can enjoy many adventures to come.

A brief intro to sleeping mats

Let’s begin by differentiating between the different kinds of sleeping mats. Basically, there are two types of mats: the “normal” sleeping mat and the self-inflating kind. The first is usually made of an insulating and cushioning foam material and can be rolled up or folded. The latter – the self-inflating mat – consists of a compressible, insulating filling covered with an airtight shell and equipped with one or more valves. When you fold it up to store it, the filling is compacted. When you open the valve, the filling returns to its original state and the sleeping mat literally self-inflates because of the vacuum created by it having been compressed. This – also quite literally – gives rise to quite a comfortable sleeping mat with very powerful insulation. Why did we address this difference, you ask? Well, even though both types of mats serve a common purpose (to prevent us from freezing our bums off on the hard tent floor), they are quite different from each other when it comes to care, storage and repair.

How to store a sleeping mat properly

No matter what type of mat you have, where you choose to store it is of utmost importance. The storage area should be dry and warmed up to normal room temperature, so storing it in your dank, dark cellar is not an option. Speaking of dankness and moisture in general, it is incredibly important to make sure your sleeping mat is dry before putting it in storage. Regrettably, I’m speaking from experience. If you leave your mat all rolled up when you get home and store it along with the all the moisture it has accumulated over the course of the trip, after a few days you’ll come to find that your mat has turned into a stinky mouldy mess – and nobody wants that.

Other than that, there aren’t any other similarities between the two when it comes to storage. In contrast to normal foam sleeping mats, which aren’t all that fussy when it comes to storage, self-inflating mats are pretty high maintenance. If you have a warm, dry place to store it in, a foam mat can be stored rolled up. A self-inflating sleeping mat, however, can’t be stored in this way because doing so would crush the foam over time, rendering it unable to return to its original state. In other words, it won’t blow itself up anymore. For this reason, be sure to roll out the mat and open up the valve before storing it. It logically follows that you shouldn’t store any heavy boxes or containers on top of the mat, either.

Why open the valve? This will allow any moisture to escape from the inside. Plus, the fabric won’t be unnecessarily worn out by continuous pressure from the inside. So, roll out that mat and store it behind a door or in your wardrobe. It doesn’t matter whether it’s upright or lying flat. And here’s some more good advice: don’t try blow up the mat with your mouth! If you do, moisture and microorganisms can make their way into the interior of the mat, damaging the filling and potentially resulting in a build-up of odours and mould. Yuck! Then, when exposed to sub-zero temperatures, the moisture on the inside can even freeze and damage the foam core. Again, nobody wants that.

How to clean your sleeping mat

Cleaning your sleeping mat is an absolute must. I know it’s easier said than done, but look at it this way: The end of one trip means another is about to begin! In other words, start prepping for your upcoming adventure by cleaning your sleeping mat! Here are some tips on how to go about cleaning doing so: Most spots and stains can be cleaned using a cloth or sponge or a soft brush and warm water. However, there are some things you need to keep in mind: the sponge can’t have a coarse surface, nor should the brush have any damaged bristles, as these could damage the mat’s outer material. For more stubborn stains, you can use detergent (make sure it doesn’t contain any bleach, fabric softener or other additives), or mild washing-up liquid.

Thoroughly rinse the mat afterwards and refrain from using aggressive agents such as vinegar or chlorinated cleaners. Not only do they smell horrendous, but they’ll also damage the foam and the outer material. Let the mat dry at room temperature or outside in the shade . Don’t lay the mat out in the sun or try to speed up the drying process with a hairdryer or clothes dryer! Doing so could also damage the mat. After a couple of hours, your mat should be dry and ready to go! If you know you won’t be using your mat for a while, you should give it more time to dry.

If you’re cleaning a self-inflating mat and using water, be sure to close the valve. Before cleaning, make sure the outer fabric doesn’t have any holes in it so that any water you use doesn’t penetrate the interior. If you stumble upon a hole or two, here’s how to repair them.

How to repair minor damage all by yourself!

The insulating properties of standard foam sleeping mats usually remain unaffected by minor damages to the material. However, it’s a completely different story when it comes to self-inflating sleeping mats. Even the smallest holes in the outer material are enough to allow insulating air to escape the interior of the mat. If the hole or tear can’t be seen with the naked eye, it’s high time you did some sleuthing. There are a variety of ways you can do this, but the easiest way by using a leak detector, a small container filled with foam pellets that help you to detect a leak. If you don’t have access to such a master detective, you can always use soapy water. Rub the soapy water on the mat, and bubbles will start to form over the damaged areas. If you’re out in the middle of nowhere and don’t have access to soapy water, you can get your hand damp and patiently (very patiently) try to find the hole.

Once you’ve found the “enfant terrible”, you can start your repairs. How? Well, for one, there’s a bevy of repair kits you can buy. If you’re using one of these kits, all you have to do is let the air out of the mat, patch it according to the manufacturer’s instructions and let it dry. Now, fill up the mat with air to see if it’s sealed In addition to holes and tears, there’s always the possibility that your mat has a damaged valve, which could be the reason your mat’s losing air. If a valve is indeed damaged, consult the manufacturer of the mat, as they are the only ones who could replace it, if and when necessary. If you’re looking for more detailed instructions on how to patch and repair your mat, please click here.  Your mat will thank you for it!

Get a grip: All about chalk and chalk bags

Get a grip: All about chalk and chalk bags

7. July 2017
Buyer's guide

Chalk has been an integral part of virtually every climber’s and boulderer’s gear for decades. Credited with introducing chalk to the world of rock climbing is the American climber and gymnast John Gill, who is now considered to be one of the most important figures in early history of bouldering. As we all know, the magnesium carbonate was in widespread use at the time in ring and bar exercises to keep the gymnast’s hands drier and thus improve their overall grip on the various apparatuses.

Seeing climbing as an extension of gymnastics, Gill took this idea and ran with it, or better: climbed with it; He chalked up with his gymnastic chalk and started to climb. The result? You guessed it: a dramatic improvement in his grip on slick climbing holds. Because his idea worked so well and Gill turned out to be such a great boulderer, chalk eventually became just as important to climbers as it had been to gymnasts for years before. Today, chalk is so ubiquitous in the climbing world that you’d be hard-pressed to find a climber or boulderer who doesn’t use chalk and a chalk bag.

What is chalk, anyway?

Technically speaking, what we climbers now know as chalk is magnesium carbonate. It’s also known as MgCO3. For gymnasts, however, talcum is mixed in the magnesium carbonate so as to allow for more slippage on the apparatuses. Climbers, of course, would prefer not to slip, so it is important for the chalk to be pretty much pure. In addition to its application in climbing, the natural substance known as magnesite is also used for foodstuff, medicines, building materials and a variety of other things. Depending on the manufacturer, there are different formulations, each of which has a dedicated following among climbers. In other words, each type of chalk has a special touch, something unique about it that one climber will love and another might hate. For instance, one climber may love Black Diamond chalk, while another may prefer the chalk made by Metolius.

Even though there may be some argument over which chalk is better, there’s certainly no arguing over chalk’s effect or application. By rubbing the magnesium carbonate on your hands and fingers, you’ll have nice and dry hands to climb with. The powder basically soaks up the sweat on your fingers and improves your grip on holds, preventing you slipping off.

Loose chalk, block chalk, a chalk ball or liquid chalk?

Since many beginning climbers seem to be overwhelmed by the huge selection of chalk available on the market today, we’re going to give you a brief overview of the different types of chalk:

  • Loose chalk
    Available in a variety of different textures from fine to coarse, loose chalk can be purchased in bags or other containers. To use it, all you have to do is fill up your chalk bag with it, but only about a quarter of the way. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to fit your hands in there comfortably! It’s always better to have to refill it instead of filling it to the brim.
  • The chalk ball
    Chalk balls are incredibly popular and easy to use. If you’re unfamiliar with them, they’re just mesh balls with pores designed to contain the chalk until you want to use it. They are available in a variety of sizes (make sure to check the amount of chalk and the diameter before buying). It should fit well in your hand. So, if you have big hands, you should get a big chalk ball and for smaller hands a small ball. Simple right? To chalk up, all you have to do is squeeze and knead the ball, as you would bread, and your hands will be covered with chalk.
  • Block chalk
    Chalk is also available in blocks or hunks that a climber can crush or break up into smaller chunks.
  • Liquid chalk
    Liquid chalk is alcohol with magnesium carbonate mixed in. To apply it, all you have to do is squirt a couple of drops onto your palms and fingers, rub it in and you’ll have a chalky residue covering your hands straight away.

If you’re looking for a recommendation, there’s really no clear-cut winner. Everybody has their own personal preference. The regular old powder is very popular, efficient and easy to use. However, loose chalk does produce quite a bit of chalk dust, especially when you French blow (blow the excess chalk off your hands). When you’re at the crag, it’s not that big a deal, but doing it at the gym could be problem. Inhaling all that chalk dust can’t be good! Liquid chalk is perfect for short climbing routes and boulders. For longer climbs, this kind of chalk is less suitable, since you can’t just plunge your hands in your chalk bag to reapply it. For beginners, chalk balls are certainly a good choice. They’re easy to use and great for both climbing indoors and outdoors. How long a chalk ball will last depends on how much you climb and thus how often you use it. But, seeing as chalk balls limit the amount of chalk you can pat onto your hands, an average sized ball used on a regular basis can last for several routes before it has to be replaced.

Chalk bags – those stylish bags that hold your chalk

The chalk bags climbers wear on their harness are used for carrying their chalk and chalking up on their way up. These bags usually have integrated drawstrings to close it and a cord or strap to attach it to your harness. The important thing here is that you can reach the chalk bag from both sides, since you can hardly plunge both hands into your bag at once! As for their features, chalk bags have a fleece lining to help keep the chalk in the bag and distribute it evenly on your hands. Plus, the rim of the opening is usually stiff so that it won’t close on you when you need to chalk up.

It’s hard to say which bag is the best. As with the chalk, every climber has his or her own personal preferences when it comes to chalk bags as well. I mean look at the picture on the right! Many brands offer chalk bags in different sizes, with some being much deeper and others much wider. In spite of all the variety, you should choose a chalk bag is suitable for your hand size. It shouldn’t be too big or too small. After all, you want to be able to move your hand around in there or get a good grip on your chalk ball. All the practical aspects aside, chalk bags are an expression of your own individual style and an integral part of every climber’s gear. There are even hand-made chalk bags you can buy. Wildwexel, for example, makes beautiful one-of-a-kind bags that are bound to turn some heads, no matter where you go climbing.

How to pack your rucksack

How to pack your rucksack

4. July 2017
Equipment

“We’re all too familiar with the trials and tribulations of a backpacker: Neck, back and shoulder pain is all part of a long day of walking. But, it doesn’t don’t have to be! It’s high time you put a stop to all that pain so that you can have fun again on your outdoor adventure! And, you can do just that by adjusting your rucksack correctly and using the right packing strategy. In the following, we’re going to show you a few tricks on how to adjust and pack your rucksack properly so that the contents of your pack are balanced and you are comfortable on the trails!

The importance of properly packing your rucksack

In order for you to be comfortable and feel secure in difficult terrain, you need a well-balanced load. Hopping from stone to stone, crossing a river or climbing require a good sense of balance, and it is exactly that which can be very easily disrupted by a poorly-packed rucksack. It can force you to lean forward to keep your balance or even make you feel as though you were tipping over. A properly fitted and packed rucksack is easier for you to control. Keep in mind: If it’s poorly packed, it will control you! In other words, properly packing is not only a matter of comfort but also of safety.

The most important rules of packing

Packing systematically is the only way to go! Proper balance and control depend heavily on your ideal centre of gravity. If your centre of gravity is too high or too low, you’ll end up battling with your own pack and lose valuable energy as a result. Plus, it’s flat-out uncomfortable. If you pack too many heavy items toward the top of the rucksack, it will rock back and forth on your back. If they’re too far to the outside, you’ll run the risk of tipping over backwards, and if items that are too heavy are positioned too far back, this will put quite the strain on your body.

Thus, it is important to place the heaviest pieces of equipment close to your upper back, as this places the load’s centre of gravity closer to the body’s centre of gravity. Heavy pieces of equipment are things like your tent, camera or a heavy food bag.
Light, but bulkier items, such as your sleeping bag or back-up shoes, should be packed at the base of the rucksack. Medium-weight itemslike clothing should be stored in the middle away from your back and small items in the lid compartment or in the side pockets. It’s best to pack the light items around the heavier ones to stabilise them and prevent anything for shifting.

Daypacks and backpacks under 30 litres needn’t be packed as meticulously, as they’re not suitable for large loads, anyway. Loads that are that small don’t have such a negative effect on your body’s centre of gravity as heavier ones do.

Rucksack fitting

At the beginning of my “outdoor career”, I, too, had wondered what all the buckles and straps were for – a lot of pointless dangling?!, it seemed to me. In fact, I found them so pointless that I grabbed a pair of scissors and cut off the load adjuster straps, sternum strap and hip belt. Take that! But, not too long thereafter and with a bit more experience under my belt, I realised how beneficial it can be to have so many adjustment options, especially when it comes to comfort. One such option that all packs have in common is the shoulder straps. Every rucksack, even the super lightweight models have adjustable shoulder straps so that you can prevent it from slipping off your back.

The hip belt can have a significant effect on how you carry the load. If the hip belt is fitted properly, it will reduce the load your shoulders are forced to bear, thereby literally taking the load off both your mind and body. After all, the hips are supposed to carry some of the load as well!

Usually, the hip belt can be expanded or shortened using additional straps. The sternum strap, on the other hand, will come in especially useful when you have walking poles. It will not only give your arms added mobility but also stabilise the entire rucksack.

The load lifter straps, which connect the top of the rucksack to the shoulder straps, may be often overlooked, but they play a significant role in stabilising the load and making you comfortable. When pulled, the rucksack is brought closer to your body, thereby reducing the angle of the load and stabilising the pack so that it doesn’t move around as much.

However, even with the best adjustments, it’s all for naught without the correct back length. The beginnings of the shoulder straps should be positioned in between your shoulder blades, whilst the hip belt (which will be described in the following paragraph) should rest comfortably on your hip bones.

If the shoulder straps are hovering over your shoulder blades or if they’re too short, the back length needs to be adjusted, provided the pack has an adjustment system (e.g., the Bergans Spine System or the Lowe Alpine Axiom System).

Guide to fitting your rucksack

Now, it’s time to adjust the shoulder straps to your body so that you can comfortably stretch your arms out in front of you. Then you can check to see if the load is really resting around your hips. After that, clip on and tighten the sternum strap so that the shoulder straps rest comfortably around your shoulders. You can put the finishing touches on the fit by adjusting the load lifter straps.

Keep in mind: Since your posture tends to vary depending on whether you’re going uphill, downhill or straight ahead, rucksacks give you the option of experimenting with the load lifter straps, sternum straps and shoulder straps to determine the best fit for your current posture.

What should women keep in mind?

Most outdoorsy women have surely already noticed that most rucksack brands have models for women, and for good reason: the anatomy of a woman is much different from that of a man. The most significant differences include the smaller back length and a women’s specific contoured hip belt to accommodate the female body type.

Ideally, you’d also have the option of positioning the sternum strap somewhat higher than you would on men’s models so that nothing gets squished. This option could also be an argument in favour of men using a women’s rucksack or vice-versa. Some are just more comfortable than others!

Conclusion

Use these tips and be ready for your next hill walk or trekking tour! Believe me, your back, neck and shoulders will thank you. Plus, you’ll have so much more fun out there on the trails!

An overview of sustainable down labels and certifications

An overview of sustainable down labels and certifications

30. June 2017
Equipment

Down is warm and fluffy and the absolute best when it comes to thermal insulation. How the down is obtained, however, is where things get delicate. Even though almost 90% of the world’s down is removed from ducks and geese during slaughter, there are still cases of live-plucking – a practice that clearly falls under animal cruelty.

Fortunately, the topic of sustainability has been becoming more and more prevalent, especially in the outdoor industry. Almost all manufacturers obtain their down from companies that are either certified by external organisations or have established their own market standards. Today, we would like to introduce some of these labels:

Responsible Down Standard

The Responsible Down Standard (RDS) was created by The North Face in collaboration with the non-profit Textile Exchange after the animal rights organisation PETA and Vier Pfoten (Four Paws) had launched a large down campaign and brought the issue to the attention of the public.

The RDS certifies the suppliers, ensuring that the down feathers come exclusively from ducks and geese during slaughter, that they live healthy lives free of pain and suffering and force-feeding. The supply chain is audited from breeding up to the manufacture of down until it makes it to retail. In order for a manufacturer to receive a RDS label, 100% of the down must be produced according to their standards and free of down from dubious sources.

The certificate is valid for a total of 14 months. During this time, RDS carries out both announced and unannounced audits. During the audit, the auditor must be granted complete access to all sites. The RDS criteria can be seen in full here.

Some of the brands that use RDS-certified down are:

Global Traceable Down Standard

None other than the American outdoor company Patagonia – who else? – established the basic form of the Global TDS. Based on their own certification and in collaboration with other companies as well as the National Sanitation Foundation, Patagonia developed the Traceable Down Standard.

Presently, this is the strictest standard in the down feather industry and guarantees that the down is not from live-plucked and force-fed birds. The Global TDS certification also requires that the parent farms be audited. RDS only has an additional qualification for this. The audits are always unannounced, unless an announcement is required by law. Timing is crucial for the audits as well. Audits are carried out in the months in which force-feeding and live-plucking are most likely to be practised.

Both large companies and small farms can be certified. More information on Patagonia’s original company standard can be found here, and you can read up on the Global Traceable Down Standard here.

The following manufacturers use Global TDS-certified down:

Small labels – better than nothing, but not uncontroversial

If you opt for products with RDS or Global TDS certification, you can be certain that the animals weren’t subjected to pain during the production of down. In addition to the two well-known standards, there are other lesser known labels that are more geared toward bedding and fashion products. Unfortunately, more often than not, only the final product is inspected, leaving the supply chain largely unaudited. Some may say it’s better than nothing, but in all actuality, it doesn’t bring us any closer to obtaining ethically sourced down.

What about other companies?

Patagonia has shown us how it’s done! All you need is a company philosophy and the will to implement it for animal rights. Simple, right? For this reason, in-house efforts of other manufacturers couldn’t be more welcome. After all, they have the power to force their suppliers to comply with conventions. There are several outdoor brands that get their down from RDS or Global TDS-certified sources, but others follow their own standards.

Fjällräven’s Down Promise

The down promise is the spearhead of the certification business. The Swedish company’s down promise is transparent and allows for 100% traceability. Live-plucking and force-feeding are totally forbidden, and the facilities are inspected regularly.

Mountain Equipment’s “Down Codex”

The “Down Codex” is the English company’s way of ensuring that the down used for their products does not come from birds that have been live-plucked or force fed and that have been raised in good conditions. Every down product has its own code you can use on the Trace Your Down website to trace the entire supply chain. The supply chain is also independently tested by the International Down and Feather Laboratory (IDFL).

The “Yeti Ethical Down Code”

The Yeti Ethical Down Code is very similar to Mountain Equipment’s label. Their supply chain is also tested by the IDFL.

The bottom line

The topic of sustainability is something that applies to just about every single outdoor product category. And, this is obviously an incredibly positive development. After all, it’s extremely important that we keep our ecological footprint as small as possible. But, as always, don’t believe everything you read. Not every label or certification for that matter is as comprehensive as it may seem. In other words, do some extra research or feel free to ask one of your fellow Alpine Trekkers for some extra info!

Everything you ever wanted to know about carabiner noses

Everything you ever wanted to know about carabiner noses

20. June 2017
Equipment

Carabiners have noses? Indeed they do! And just like the ones on people and animals, carabiner noses come in all sorts of shapes an sizes. The only difference: Biner noses don’t have a sense of smell! What they do have are some great names: “HoodWire”,“Wirelock”,“MonoFil”, „Keylock“ or even “Clean Wire”. Not bad, eh?

Yeah, biner noses can be pretty confusing. Luckily, you have us to clear it all up for you! In the following, we’re going to give you an overview of the carabiner noses mentioned above and tell you what to keep in mind when carabiner shopping.

Nose or no nose – that’s the question

If you’ve ever taken a closer look at your carabiners, you’ve probably noticed that they not only differ in terms of their shape and size but also in terms of the tip. The bit of the carabiner which the gate snaps into. That’s the carabiner’s nose. And, it can either have a little hook or no little hook.

The nose and the gate of a carabiner work together much in the same way as a lock and key do. The nose is basically like the “bit” of a key, locking the carabiner with the gate so that it has maximum strength. There you have it: the first essential function of the carabiner’s nose! In other words, the nose makes it possible for the carabiner to have a strength of at least 20 kN along the major axis (European standard EN) when closed. However, when loaded along its minor axis or when open, the strength of a carabiner is significantly reduced. You’re probably already well aware of this, but I’m going to say it anyway: When climbing, you should avoid loading carabiners in these ways at all costs, if and whenever possible. Here comes a bit of wisdom you may not have known: Your choice of a nose can help avoid these dangerous situations!

The nose hook

As was already mentioned, there is the nose in the form of a little hook. This can cause the following problems:

  • The nose can get hung up on bolt hangers, nuts or even a sling
  • The rope is really difficult for the follower to remove
  • When loaded, a carabiner with a traditional nose (hook/notch) is also very difficult to unclip

Bolts, nuts and co.

It’s rather irritating to get your quickdraw (your carabiner) caught in the gear loop of your harness, but being hung-up on a bolt hanger or nut is extremely serious business.

You will not be able to close your carabiner, putting you in the very dangerous open gate scenario. In such a situation, the load isn’t in line with the major axis, causing the basket to bend and perhaps even break.

Good to know

The fact that your rope will be difficult for you to remove is something you should consider if you’re planning on following on a multi-pitch climb. This won’t be so much of a concern for pure sport climbers.

On overhangs, you’ll notice that your rope is under load even when you’re removing your gear and that it’d be best to remove the carabiner on the side of the bolt hanger first. That way, you won’t risk your safety, even though it will be irritating and energy-sapping trying to remove your carabiner for the fifth time because its nose keeps getting caught.

These kinds of noses are primarily on wire-gate carabiners, older screw-gates can also have a notch (hook).

Keylock is the magic word

The problems we mentioned above are easy to solve. Thanks to some innovations in the field, carabiners no longer need a nose to work. Keylock is the magic word, did I mention that? Keylock refers to a locking system that forgoes the traditional nose in the form of a small hook. Instead, keylock carabiners have something akin to a jigsaw piece on the noise, which fits into a corresponding opening in the gate. This serves to prevent anything from getting tangled. Keylock carabiners are absolutely essential for belay stations, in conjunction with a belay station sling and the upper carabiner of a quickdraw, as they reduce the risks mentioned above.

The professionals

With keylock carabiners out of the way, we can now move on to “Hoodwire”, “MonoFil”, “Wirelock” and “Clean-Wire”. These are all designs that utilise both the lighter wire gate as well as the keylock system, thereby fusing the advantages of a wire gate with those of the keylock system. Let’s begin with Hoodwire:

  • “Hoodwire” by Black Diamond: Very simple, but extremely effective, the small wire bar over the nose prevents snagging when clipping and cleaning bolts. The HoodWire design is found in the Black Diamond – Hoodwire Quickdraw – Quickdraw.
  • The Petzl “MonoFil”: A single wire is inserted into the nose, thereby fusing the functionality of both a wire-gate and a keylock carabiner. Petzl’s MonoFil keylock can be found in the Petzl – Ange Finesse – Quickdraw.
  • The “Wirelock by DMM is also a wire gate that is snapped into the nose, eliminating any snags. This system can be found in the DMM – Shield – Quickdraw.
  • “Clean-Wire” by Wild Country: This wire-gate carabiner utilises the keylock system as well. The wire gate snaps into the nose, as seen in the Wild Country Helium 2 QD – Quickdraw. This is achieved by means of a small bulge or hood over the nose.

Keylock is the future

The keylock system has clearly surpassed the noses of old. In terms of wire-gate carabiners, the new technology introduced here is your best option, even though they tend to be much more expensive. For this reason, you should think about what you’re going to use them for and if they’re really necessary. If you resort to traditional noses, make sure that the noses are as small as possible and slightly rounded, if possible. Have fun climbing!

If you have any questions, feel free to ask our experts in customer service. They are available during the week from 9 a.m. till 4 p.m. and can be reached by phone at 03 33 33 67058 or via e-mail.

There’s a lot going on in the climbing and outdoor industry. New products are being invented, existing ones are being reworked and improved, and we, too, are learning more every day. And, of course, we would like to share this knowledge with our customers. That’s why we regularly revise the articles at base camp. So, don’t be surprised if a post changes a bit in the coming months. This article was last edited on 10/11/2015.

VAUDE: A pioneer in all things sustainability

VAUDE: A pioneer in all things sustainability

8. June 2017
Tips and Tricks

“It’s easy to get lost in the sea of labels, certifications and all the hifalutin promises regarding sustainability and environmentally-friendly production. I mean, there are so many manufacturers out there, working tirelessly to establish sustainability in both their product line and their value chain. A very welcome development, if I do say so myself. Of course, as it is with every movement, you’ll find some brands spearheading the movement.

One such brand is the German company known as VAUDE. The outdoor company from Tettnang is not only a member of the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles but have even created their very own label called Green Shape, in accordance with which over 88% of the company’s products have been manufactured as of 2017. In the following, we’re going to talk about both Green Shape as well as VAUDE’s other environmental endeavours.

The need for an their own label

The Green Shape label is the result of the desire to introduce a uniform quality evaluation system for ecological products geared toward all parts of the product lifecycle as opposed to only certain areas. In other words, the focus is not only on environmentally-friendly fabrics and socially-acceptable products but also on the recyclability of the products, easy and gentle care as well as a long lifespan and repair service. More specifically, this means:

  • VAUDE emphasises the use of certified resource-conserving materials (e.g. bluesign, Ökotex 100, GOTS, etc.) and recycled materials. Plus, environmentally-friendly natural materials are used, such as organic cotton, Tencel or hemp. What’s more, there are no PTFE membranes, genetically engineered products or nanotechnology involved in Green Shape products. Other eco criteria include refraining from using bleaches containing chlorine or hypochlorides.
  • The manufacturing sites have verified social standards as well. All suppliers were and are subject to intensive training in the areas of environmental, chemical, workers’ safety management and social standards. Printing methods are also environmentally friendly and free of any harmful substances.
  • Central topics of design and development are reparability and the lifespan of the product.

More detailed information on the Green Shape label can be found here!

Comprehensive sustainability

VAUDE’s dedication goes far beyond jackets, trousers, shoes as well as their employees and suppliers. In fact, it extends throughout all areas of the company, something VAUDE calls the “green theme”. The company’s headquarters in Germany is “climate neutral” and has an in-house childcare centre and organic cafeteria. Plus, the products are transported in an environmentally-friendly way. And, they even have their own repair service that customers can contact if there happens to be a problem with one of their products. There’s also a VAUDE second-hand shop on eBay where old products are sold.

Strong partnerships

As was already mentioned, VAUDE is a member of the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles and a bluesign system partner. They’re also an affiliate of the Fair Wear Foundation, which supervises the supply chain and working conditions and helps to uphold social standards. In collaboration with the Economy for the Common Good, VAUDE regularly creates a balance sheet that assesses their contribution to the common good as well.

One of VAUDE’s many partners is the WWF. As a partner, VAUDE supports various projects, such as the removal of so-called ghost nets (fishing nets) in the Baltic Sea, and even supplies WWF employees with clothing and gear. Along with myclimate, VAUDE also works tirelessly on reducing emissions. Since 2002, the company has also been the main sponsor of DAV (German Alpine Club).

Just lip service?

In all honesty, it has been extremely difficult to find a fly in the ointment, as it were. So difficult, in fact, that I haven’t found a single one. At the very most, one could criticise the fact that a small portion of their gear is treated with PFCs (per- and polyfluorinated chemicals). But this, too, should be history by 2018, thanks to the Greenpeace’s Detox Campaign. For more detailed information on VAUDE’s efforts, have a look at their sustainability report. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask! Post a comment or send us an e-mail at service@alpinetrek.co.uk.

Camping in thunderstorms

Camping in thunderstorms

Tips and Tricks

As we all know, the summer is our main thunderstorm season, so there’s always a risk of a storm when camping in the summertime. Near the end of a hot and humid summer day, you’ll often run into extremely violent thunderstorms, complete with strong rains, winds and hail. Thus, it’s incredibly important to find a spot that will not only provide the protection you need from strong winds and lightning but one that will prevent rainwater from pooling and has optimal pegging conditions. Even though most of us immediately think of the risk of getting struck by lightning, the risk of our tent getting destroyed by the storm or flooded by the rain shouldn’t be underestimated.

All too often, trekkers and campers poorly select their pitches, putting themselves in harm’s way and allowing their tent to be transformed into a little pool that nobody wants to swim in! As for the risk of getting struck by lightning, it is indeed very low, but you can reduce it to an absolute minimum by being prudent and adaptive.

The pitch, not the tent, will protect you from the storm

Unfortunately, a tent is not a Faraday cage, like a car, which can transfer the enormous current of 20,000 amp from the surface to the ground. Instead, you’re just as well or poorly protected from a thunderstorm inside a tent as you would be without one. For this reason, there are two things that you absolutely have to keep in mind when camping out in the open. For one, when selecting a pitch, you always need to consider the possibility of a storm because it is very difficult, and often even impossible, to move camp when a storm is nearby. The other factor is your the action you take when a storm is coming. You may not be able to find the best pitch for your tent, so you’ll be forced to asses the situation and make a quick, but very good decision.

Choosing your campsite to reduce the risks during a storm

When selecting your pitch, you need to keep three crucial factors in mind:

  • The dangers of lightning
    Lightning often strikes tall, exposed locations, meaning that tall trees or groups of trees, small hills or knolls in an open area or exposed locations in the mountains are particularly risky. The risk of getting struck by lightning in the forest is much lower.
  • The dangers of strong storm winds
    A pitch that is exposed to wind increases the risk of your tent getting damaged by the storm. However, those typical areas we all think will provide protection, such as those covered by trees, need to be carefully inspected. For example, if you set up camp near trees, there’s always a risk of the branches breaking off and falling on your tent or even trees being completely uprooted over the course of a storm. You should also watch out for flying objects that could very easily damage the walls of your tent. Secure anchors in the ground consisting of quality pegs and taut guy lines will prevent your tent from getting torn or flung up in the storm. If you know the direction of the region’s prevailing winds, you should pitch your tent so that it offers as little wind resistance as possible. If possible, the entrance to the tent should be facing away from the prevailing wind.
  • The dangers of heavy rains
    The large amount of water that can accumulate during a short storm is the biggest risk for tents and can cause even more damage than lightning itself. In hollows, tents are submerged from below, whilst in dried-out streambeds, you can run into torrents of water. Rivers can rise and flood the area. This is reinforced by the fact that sluice gates are opened upstream due to heavy rains and the amount of water in a valley drastically increases. Due to the large amounts of water, it is also extremely dangerous near rock faces, as individual rocks can fall from a cliff face, resulting in even larger quantities of rock falling. In the worst case scenario, this could result in a landslide or a debris avalanche. In sum, it’s very important to determine where the water could come from and where it will flow to.

Determining your distance from the storm

When a storm’s approaching, the distance of the thunderclouds is a crucial factor in judging your own personal safety. To calculate the distance correctly, you can use our calculator for determining the distance of a storm and other useful tips.

Your storm action plan

If the storm is too close or has basically already arrived, it might be a good idea to forget about pitching your tent and instead seek refuge under a ledge, in a hut or a cave. Since all metal objects can attract lightning, it is also advisable to store these some distance away in waterproof containers.

If you’re inside your tent, be sure to crouch down and make yourself small on an insulated surface. It is best to leave you walking boots on and crouch down on a double-folded sleeping mat or your walking backpack without placing your hands on the ground for support. It is also important that there is no standing water on the interior of the tent, as water is an excellent conductor of electricity. If you’ve chosen your pitch well and lightning happens to strike really close by, you should be able to keep yourself safe with the help of insulation to protect yourself from ground currents and by making yourself small.

It’s not always possible to avoid running into storms on camping trips. Pitching your tent in a good spot and taking the proper action can indeed reduce the risks associated with thunderstorms, but it is just as important to have a look at the weather situation before heading out on your adventure. If it’s possible to simply avoid a storm in an open area or in the mountains all together, then that’s certainly your best option. Summer thunderstorms tend to occur in the afternoon, so weather services and weather apps are often able to detect them. So, use these services! You’ll be able to plan your trip well and find the perfect pitch!

The skinny on quickdraws

Climbing Quickdraw Buyer’s Guide

1. June 2017
Buyer's guide

A quickdraw is an indispensable piece of gear, as it allows us climbers to connect our rope to protection, but have you ever wondered what the difference was between the various options? I mean, there’s tons of different quickdraws to choose from! How are we supposed to keep track of them all?

Fortunately, we’re here to shed some light on the topic. In the following, we’ll discuss what an extender or quickdraw is, what it’s made of, the different types and what you should keep in mind when buying and using quickdraws.

What is a quickdraw?

An extender or quickdraw is a piece of equipment used to connect the rope to protection. You may be familiar with the fixed quickdraws from your climbing gym. You know, the ones that are hanging on the wall. Even though you’ll often find quickdraws left behind on some routes outdoors as well, climbers are usually responsible for bringing their own (and removing them when they leave). Quickdraws consist of two carabiners, which are connected to each other by means of a semi-rigid material called a sling.

The sling’s material

A small, but significant difference between the different quickdraws lies in the material used for the sling. This is usually either polyamide or polyethylene. You’ll know polyamide by the fact that the material is dyed and the slings are wider (11-16mm). Polyamide is also known as nylon. If you’d like to know more about Dyneema and nylon, check out this blog post.

In climbing, polyethylene is usually linked to the name Dyneema. Slings constructed from this material are very thin (8-11mm), and the fibres are so smooth that they can’t be dyed. Thus, these slings tend to be almost completely white and are combined with a coloured section made up of polyamide.

In general, these slings have a strength of 22 kN. Polyethylene (Dyneema) slings are lighter due to the reduced width. Despite the lower weight of Dyneema, polyamide slings remain quite popular and are often used as a “panic quickdraw” that is easier to grab hold of than the thinner Dyneema sling.

Length of the sling

Quickdraws are available in various lengths. The different lengths are there to prevent the carabiner from lying up against the rock (higher risk of breaking). Plus, using quickdraws allows you to keep the path of your ropes straight if your bolts are directly above each other. This helps to reduce rope drag resulting in an overall more fluid climb. Longer quickdraws can be particularly useful on multi-pitch climbs/alpine climbing.

Carabiners

Another important thing to consider when it comes to quickdraws is that fact that the carabiners can vary greatly in terms of their strength. The strength of carabiners is rated in three directions, namely lengthwise (major axis), sideways (minor axis) and while open. In order for a carabiner to be in accordance with the standards for strength, it has to have a major-axis strength of 20 kN and a gate-open and minor-axis of “only” 7 kN.

The kN ratings may seem excessive, but it is a life or death situation, so distributing a load on the gate of the carabiner should definitely be avoided. Cross-loading is pretty much impossible on a quickdraw because the rope-end carabiner is fixed to the sling.

This is achieved by sewing or fitting the sling with a rubber keeper. It is important that the rubber keeper and the sling are connected to the carabiner (see image below)!

A carabiner being loaded with the gate open can occur as a result of the whiplash effect. If the carabiner hits a rock face in the event of a fall, the gate will open for a split second due to inertia. This risk can be reduced by using wire-gate carabiners. In contrast to solid or full gate carabiners, wire-gate carabiners have less mass and lower inertia, thereby reducing the risk of whiplash.

Straight or bent

Straight or bent? Both! Bent-gate carabiners have a slightly curved gate, which makes clipping a rope very easy. Thus, you’ll always find these kind of carabiners at the rope-end of quickdraws. The straight-gate carabiners are reserved for the wall end. If a quickdraw only has straight-gate carabiners, the end with the keeper will determine which carabiner is for the rope end.

Noseless

The fact that a carabiner doesn’t have a sense of smell goes without saying. Still, the fact remains that many have a nose, which can get in the way in certain situations.

Due to the multitude of both disadvantages and solutions to these problems, we’ve decided to dedicate an entire blog post to the topic. You can find it here.

Which quickdraw to use when

Basically all quickdraws are suitable for beginning rock and sport climbers. But, always be sure to have one quickdraw with you with a slightly longer sling. A set consisting of 8-10 quickdraws will be plenty for most routes. For longer routes, it could be a good idea to have a couple more. But, as a general rule, you should have a couple of extra quickdraws – just in case. And don’t forget take some along if you plan on using them as part of your anchor as well.

The best quickdraws for multi-pitch climbs are those that have noseless carabiners with relatively large gate openings, as these are compatible with thick double ropes as well. It’s helpful to have some quickdraws with longer slings as well.

When ice climbing, you should always use wire-gate carabiners because these aren’t as likely to freeze up in cold temperatures. Other than that, the rules are pretty much the same as those for sport climbing. Quickdraws for ice climbing can have a shock absorber instead of a sling, which serves to significantly reduce the impact force on dubious protection in the event of a fall.

It is incredibly importance to go with the highest gate-open strength possible.

A quickdraw’s worst enemy

Frequent use will certainly leave its mark on a quickdraw. The webbing may be used for a maximum of 10 years, but it can wear out much earlier, especially if the sling has rubbed up against numerous rock faces. The bit that shows the most wear and tear is where the carabiner and the sling are attached. It is thus extremely important to check the seams on a regular basis.

The rope-end carabiner can suffer quite a bit of wear and tear as well. If you happen to find a sharp edge on your biner, get it replaced immediately.

If a quickdraw is hanging from a bolt hanger during a fall, sharp edges can take shape. If this happens, use it as your wall-end carabiner so that your rope doesn’t suffer as a result. This brings me to another point: You should never swap the rope-end biner for the wall-end one. They are forever damned to stay in their respective places :)

Fixed quickdraws

As mentioned before, fixed quickdraws are those that have been left behind on a route or that are permanently fixed to the wall at the climbing gym. As convenient as they may be, it can be dangerous to use them. You should always look out for any signs of wear and tear. Of course, the ones at the climbing gym are checked regularly, but those ‘out in the wild’, as it were, are not, so it’s always a good idea to have a good, close look before using them. By the way, the DAV (German Alpine Club) released a very informativ earticle on the topic that you should definitely read!

If you have any questions, feel free to ask our experts in customer service. They are available during the week from 9 a.m. till 4 p.m. and can be reached by phone at 03 33 33 67058 or via e-mail.

There’s a lot going on in the climbing and outdoor industry. New products are being invented, existing ones are being reworked and improved, and we, too, are learning more every day. And, of course, we would like to share this knowledge with our customers. That’s why we regularly revise the articles at base camp. So, don’t be surprised if a post changes a bit in the coming months. This article was last edited on 30/10/2015.

Deep water soloing - what's that about?

Deep water soloing – what’s that about?

24. May 2017
Alpinetrek-Experts

A pair of climbing shoes, a chalk bag and some swim briefs – that’s about all you need to climb a wall. At least, that’s all Alex Honnold needs. Unfortunately, the kind of climbing (free soloing) Honnold wows us with on a regular basis is very dangerous, forcing the less audacious among us to leave it to the professionals. If you want to give it a crack anyway, we recommend deep water soloing.

Those who have tried it before refer to it as climbing in its purest form. Why? Well, there’s no protection, you can choose to follow routes or not and you won’t be risking your life as you would with each and every free solo climb.

Deep water soloing (DWS), also known as psicobloc, is becoming more and more popular. If you have yet to figure what it’s all about and where you can do it, you’ve come to the right place! Let’s start with a definition: Simply put, deep water soloing (DWS) is climbing without protection above deep water. So, does that mean it’s a less dangerous version of free solo climbing? Let’s put it this way: it depends on how you go about it. But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s start with the basics:

Advantages

You can just climb. You don’t have to think about protection, routes, belay stations, etc. In other words, you can leave most of your gear at home, which will come in really useful if you plan on flying somewhere. Simply pack your shoes, chalk and swimshorts and get ready to crush some gnarly DWS routes! If you’re planning on rappelling into routes then you’ll need straightforward kit like harness, belay device and rappel rope plus ascenders/prusiks to get back out if necessary.

Since you don’t need a belayer, you can climb by yourself (though we recommend climbing with others or letting them know your plans at the very least), saving yourself from the embarrassment of trying get over the crux for the umpteenth time. In other words, you can just focus on climbing, the movement, the route and your goal. Many people are surprised by how much easier it is to climb at your limit whilst on a DWS, at least once you’ve got over the fear of falling into the water.

This kind of climbing could be perfect for those of you who want something somewhere between free soloing and bouldering. Especially if you enjoy the heady sensation of highball bouldering above pads and spotters, DWS is for you.

Things to consider

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as you might think. In order for it to be fun and truly safe, there are a few things you need to consider.

How to get there

I know of three different ways. Climb there, rappel to your spot or take a boat! Many popular DWS locations have easy rental access to kayaks, canoes or other small boats, meaning you’ve instantly got a way to access the wall and a place to scramble onto after taking a dive. It also means your buddies are going to be in right place in the event of a bad fall or just to take the necessary action shots!

When rappelling into a DWS destination, bear in mind how you’re going to get back out. If the route proves too hard or you need to get out because of the tide coming in, or maybe you just stayed out until dark – you’ll need another way out of the crag. Take a jumar/prusik and know how to use them. Trust me, it’s better than getting stuck at the bottom of a sea cliff with the waves lapping at your feet! If climbing down, consider carefully whether you are confident on the approach. If in doubt, use a rope and be aware of potential loose rock.

The wall

This should obviously be in water and positioned in such a way so that you don’t fall on underwater rocks, logs, reefs or other obstacles. A lot of DWS cliff faces are vertical (like in the video from Löbejün below) or slightly to majorly overhanging. If inexperienced, don’t just commit to a ‘DWS’ without knowledge of the wall and water below. It could be that the route you think is safe is actually just as dangerous as soloing it above ground.

The landing zone – the water

The water at the base of the climb should be deep enough so that a long fall does not lead to impact under water. The wall should thus extend vertically downward below the surface of the water for several metres. Many DWS walls are over 15m high. There should be several metres of water below you.

The water should be calm as well. As many DWS are seas cliffs, you will have to familiarise yourself with subject matters such as surfs, swells and currents. And, in some regions, you may even have to think about whacky stuff like jellyfish, sharks, crabs, submarines, fish, pelicans, etc.

If you prefer to stay away from stuff like that and like it a bit more relaxed, look for DWS cliffs in lakes. However, make sure to spot your landing zone and have a boat at the ready – don’t get complacent just because you’re not in the sea.

Gear

The good thing is, you really only need shoes and chalk (and swim briefs/bikini). However, you can only use them for a single route, because after your dive/jump – which is an integral part of every fall – your shoes and chalk bag will need time to dry, unless you have backups. When deep water soloing in warm countries, most people take 2-3 pairs of shoes and have the others drying out in the sun whilst they are climbing.

In the UK, things need a little more preparation. Items such as a towel to dry off between attempts, a rash vest to keep warm during longer sessions and a waterproof container for keeping dry essential bits of kit like spare chalk/sandwiches come very much in handy. You should also carry a first aid kit at all times to deal with any small injuries or a genuine first response situation where a friend is injured.

There’s a trick you can use for your chalk bag, though. Take a plastic bag (one that fits perfectly inside your chalk bag) and fill it up with chalk. That way, you can just replace the plastic bag instead of having to use an infinite number of chalk bags. Liquid chalk is also great as that can applied once before a climb and will last well.

Information

You usually won’t be able to see far enough below water to find out what your landing zone looks like, so it’s important to find some background information about the venue beforehand. You can find this kind of information online or in certain climbing guides, such as the Rockfax – Deep Water – Climbing guide. Even better, get in touch with the local climbing scene and see if there are some clued up local climbers who don’t mind showing you around in exchange for beer and high fives.

What does psicobloc mean?

For one, psicobloc is another name for DWS. But, it also happens to be the name of a competition that Chris Sharma launched in 2013.

The competition takes place in Utah where an artificial climbing wall is erected above a swimming pool (usually used for high diving). In 2013, elite climbers met there for the very first time in a trial of mental strength! In August of 2014, they met again for another epic battle. The video is worth watching. Your fingers are guaranteed to sweat.

The crucial question – is it dangerous?

As always, it depends entirely on how you go about it. I mean, you can get injured doing anything, even whilst playing chess! All jokes aside, when compared with free solo climbing, DWS is much more attractive since a fall is not necessarily fatal. Still, your safety depends on a few factors.

The higher the fall, the harder the surface of the water will be when you come crashing down upon it. So, the way you land is crucial. You should try not to fall out of control but instead attempt – as you would when bouldering – a controlled jump, stabilising your body position to your advantage. The height of the fall and how you fall into the water will determine whether your landing is soft, burns, breaks some bones or worse.

Obviously, if the water’s too shallow at the base of your climb, a fall would be fatal. A good example of the importance of water depth is the Hard Moves Boulder League held in Wuppertal, Germany. In 2013, the wall they used for the competition was 7.5 metres high. However, the swimming pool in the Wuppertal’s Schwimmoper was not deep enough, so they improvised and built a trampoline to catch the participants’ falls (see image). If they hadn’t done that, it wouldn’t have gone well.

It’s also very important to make sure you’re not climbing over the foot of a cliff over rocks hidden underwater, as that could be fatal as well. Ledges along the route can also lead to serious injuries. In the worst-case scenario, you could hit a ledge on the way down, land in the water and have to fight your way out, all whilst dealing with a potentially serious injury.

On top of that, you’ll have to deal with all the risks associated with the water itself, such as swells, currents, etc. So, it’s possible that even after a great landing, you’ll still be exposed to certain dangers. Even a small fall can really knock you around so having friends on hand make sure things don’t get epic in the bad way.

In other words, I know we said you COULD go by yourself, but for exactly these reasons, you shouldn’t. Always go with at least one other climber. But, I’m sure you know that from rock climbing already.

In sum, if you’ve found a good rock wall with a good landing zone, use your head when you climb, jump off the rock faces well, don’t climb too high, then DWS should a brilliant and relatively safe activity for you to try.

Popular DWS locations

Popular and documented locations for DWS include places in Mallorca and Malta, Thailand, Croatia, the French Riviera (Cap d’Antibes, Coco Beach, Point de l’Aiguille) and Vietnam.

In Germany, you can go deep water soloing in Löbejun near Halle or in Kochel above Lake Kochel.

As for the UK, the southwest coastline of England and Wales has a lot of great places for DWS-ing. Beginners should look to the popular enclaves of Pembroke and Dorset, for good quality routes with nice holds and good water underneath. Harder challenges can be found in the intimidating sea caves of Berry Head in Devon, with hard link ups such The Wizard of Oz f7b standing out as must-tries for the seasoned soloer. Kato Zawn in Pembroke is another location where harder challenges can be sought out. Beyond that, there are plenty of other destinations for those seeking the thrill and sea spray of a stonking deep water solo – and maybe even a few first ascents to be made for the true advocate!

Have fun getting after it!

Telescoping poles for walking and mountaineering

Telescoping poles for walking and mountaineering

12. May 2017
Buyer's guide, Equipment

Have you ever thought about getting telescoping walking poles but don’t know where to start? Well, fellow Alpine Trekker Fritz Miller has put together the most important info for you so that you can find the right pair to fit your needs! You may be wondering what the advantages of using walking poles are. Well, walking poles not only allow you to walk more safely and efficiently but also take the strain off of your knees, especially when you’re venturing downhill. What’s more, they’re absolutely essential for trips with a heavy pack, when ski touring or snowshoeing. Plus, walking poles can come in handy if you plan on winter hiking without snow shoes or going on high mountain tour. On traditional high mountain tours, I, personally, opt to carry a single pole as opposed to two. As an aside, if you’re fairly fit and healthy, try not to fall in love with using poles, as frequent use could negatively impact your sense of balance. After all, you can hill walk just fine in the summer without them. The same goes for a leisurely stroll in your local park.

Who uses what?

Fortunately, deciding on a pair of walking poles isn’t as difficult as picking out a pair of mountaineering boots, a new smartphone or a cute puppy. In other words, the things you need to take into consideration when buying walking poles are pretty straightforward.

Number of segments

Most walking poles have 3 segments. This not only makes them easier to adjust to the appropriate length but also allows you to store them (when completely collapsed) in your travel bag or on the outside of your backpacks. The latter is a great option to have for steeper sections of a climb or when taking the bus back to the trailhead. But when on a bus or train, try to remember to keep the tips pointing down!

2-section poles are particularly suited for skiing. After all, when you’re forced to carry large skis around, it won’t really matter whether your poles pack down nicely or not.

4-section telescoping poles are even more compact than 3-section poles, which is great for transport. But, I don’t think that justifies all the extra fumbling around and the (somewhat) heavier weight.

Newer 3 or 4-section folding poles are great for minimalists who prefer a small pack size and less weight. However, these usually don’t have an adjustable length and come at a higher price.

Material and weight

If you want to go light, there’s no way around carbon fibre poles. However, my personal experience has shown these to be less durable than aluminium. Of course, in this context, not only the material but also the strength thereof plays a crucial role. Heavier poles tend to be more stable than lighter models and thus more suitable for expeditions and heavier people.

Handles and straps

Light foam handles with a covering on the uppermost segment are great for mountaineering, as this feature allows you to hold onto the part just below the handle in steeper terrain. You can also wrap the bare pole with handlebar tape or something similar to achieve the same effect. When trekking, it is particularly important that the grip feels comfortable and keeps your wrist in a good position. Other common handles include rubber and cork grips, both of which are quite comfortable. Cork is usual found on the more expensive models. By the way, the higher-quality poles are often equipped with ergonomic grips that have a corrective angle for comfort. Another important feature is the wrist strap. It is important that the wrist strap is comfortable, distributes the pressure and doesn’t cause chafing. Otherwise, you’ll get blisters very quickly. Many poles have the buckle for adjusting the wrist strap hidden away in the handle, which I find to be particularly comfortable. If the buckle’s on the strap itself and ends up rubbing up against the back of your hand, it can be really bothersome, unless you happen to be wearing padded gloves.

Locking mechanism

The traditional lever or clamp-like mechanism on the pole is not bad, but it does have some disadvantages: For one, it tends to open by itself every once and while, and we can’t have that! In fact, I ran into this problem on a regular basis during one of my multi-day treks. It absolutely refused to close! Some may be able to deal with this, but I couldn’t. More reliable locking mechanisms are those that work much in the same way as a quick release on a bike seat post. Leki refers to this mechanism as the “Speed Lock System”. As the name already suggests, the Speed Lock Mechanism allows you to adjust the length much more quickly.

Tips and baskets

A hard metal tip is quite the good thing to have. After all, you wouldn’t want your pole to slip, would you? A basket near the tip serves to prevent the pole from drowning in mud or disappearing into every single little crevice. Personally, I find small trekking baskets to be perfect for the summer. They even get the job done when you’re forced to traverse patches of old snow. But, in such situations, I’d steer clear of micro baskets. Larger baskets (approximately palm sized) are better for winter tours.

Shock absorbers

Some telescoping poles come complete with an anti-shock system or shock absorbers. The shock absorber can be activated for a downhill climb and is designed to take the strain off of your hand/arms. But, you have to be pretty sensitive to really appreciate the “cushion” such a shock absorber provides.

Pole length

Most poles for walking and mountaineering have an adjustable length. So, no need to worry about finding the exact size – you only have to know the approximate length. If you’re preparing for your trip, our Pole length calculator could help you determine which length is appropriate for you based on your height and the area of use. But, if you’re already out in the hills or just need to find out fast, have a look at the picture to see how to determine the proper length.

It’s best to make your poles shorter for longer, steeper uphill climbs and longer for steep downhills. Ski mountaineers use telescoping poles as well, which can be lengthened for uphill climbs and shortened for alpine descents.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask our experts in customer service. They are available on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and can be reached by phone at 03 33 33 67058 or via e-mail. This article was last edited on 31/01/2017.

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