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Protection (climbing)

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To make climbing safe, climbers use protection to prevent injury to themselves and others. There are a number of ways to protect a climb:
  • running belays: a piece of gear is secured to the rock and attached to a carabiner, the rope is clipped through the carabiner (and is allowed to run through, hence running belay). The gear can be either placed by the climber as she climbs, leader placed (aka Traditional climbing), or placed there before the climber climbed the route, in-situ.
  • top-rope. Instead of leading the climb, the climber arranges anchors for a rope at the top of the route. The rope runs from the belayer, on the ground, through the anchor at the top of the route, and back down to the climber. There will be almost no slack in the rope should the climber fall.
  • Bouldering mat[?]. A bouldering mat is a padded foam-cell mat placed on the ground. The aim is ameliorate any bad effects of hitting the ground.
  • Spotting. Basically getting one of your mates to stand at the bottom. Generally the aim is to stop the climber hitting their head on the ground and also to stop them falling over backwards after hitting the ground (which is a common cause of wrist injury[?]).

The gear used to protect climbs varies:

  • Slings (loops of nylon tape or rope, or some other material) can be tied round rock spikes or trees or threaded through natural holes in the rock or threaded round natural chockstones[?] in cracks.
  • metal chocks (aka nuts[?]) can be placed in constrictions in cracks and attached to carabiners with wire or nylon slings.
  • spring loaded camming devices (SLCDs) (a popular trademark brand is Friends) are devices that use a spiral shaped cam that expands into a crack as it is weighted. These can be placed even parallel or even flaring cracks.
  • bolts can be pre-placed in pre-dilled holes in the rock and then clipped by the climber with a carabiner. Bolts are usually found in-situ, it is very unusual to place bolts as one climbs (as it involves drilling and glueing!).
  • pitons[?] can be hammered (or hand-placed if loose enough!) into thin cracks and clipped (through an "eye" in the piton) to a carabiner.
  • sky hooks[?] are talon shaped pieces of strong metal that can be hooked over very small ledges and flakes in the rock and secured to a carabiner. More usually found in aid climbing[?] they are occasionally used in free climbing[?].

In-situ gear usually consists bolts or cemented pitons. Sometimes there are in-situ slings. Anything else that is left in-situ has a tendency to get cleaned (collected) by climbers.

Standards - Europe

In Europe equipment used by climbers has to meet the requirements of the Personal and Protective Equipment (PPE) Directive (EU Parliament reference anyone?). Essentially, the equipment must be manufactured using a carefully controlled process and samples must meet various tests. Equipment meeting the regulations is marked with the CE Mark[?]. Various standards are used when specifying how equipment should be tested:

  • EN 12270:1998 "Mountaineering equipment. Chocks. Safety requirements and test methods."
  • EN 892:1997 "Mountaineering equipment. Dynamic Mountaineering ropes. Safety requirements and test methods"
  • EN 12276:1999 "Mountaineering equipment. Frictional anchors. Safety requirements and test methods" (covers SLCDs)

There are lots more. Most of them appearing in ICS code[?] 97.220.40 and having "Mountaineering" in the title.

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