Pitons - the classic way to stay safe when climbing
Long before the first friends were invented, before nutsand bolts, pitons were the only way to secure a climbing route. All classic climbs were secured using mostly self-forged climbing hooks, wooden wedges or cord slings. Even if they have gone out of fashion nowadays, there are plenty of climbing situations that cannot be taken on without pitons and a rock hammer.
When do you need a piton?
There are still to this day climbing areas, like dolomites for example, where bolts have not yet become the standard for Alpine climbing. The use of pitons is still just as necessary as it used to be on many routes. After all, friends and nuts cannot be used everywhere. Pitons are often the only way to secure a path when there are only very small cracks in the rock. The more Alpine a route becomes, the more climbing pitons become necessary for every climber. Pitons are also perfectly suited for abseiling.
What different types of pitons are there?
Basically, pitons fall into two categories: Soft steel hooks are, exactly as their name suggests, made of a softer steel. They fit very nicely into the groove of a crack and are best suited for use with softer stones like limestone for example. Hard steel hooks on the other hand, are made of a much harder steel and are best for inserting into harder rock like granite. Yosemite Valley is the place of origin for these pitons, with its impressive granite cliffs.
Hooks and cliffs also originated here. They are more exotic pitons that are used mainly for technical climbing. As opposed to normal pitons, they are not hammered into the rock, but rather laid into the rock cracks and then weighed down by your body weight.