March 28th, 2017
Free climbing is an up and coming sport in the United States. In fact, the number of people who participate in this extreme sport number in the hundreds of thousands in this country alone, and that number gets even larger world wide. Much of what has helped the sport grow is due in no small part to advances in the climbing technology. Equipment now makes free climbing safer than it ever has been before, which makes it more accessible to more people than ever before. Having the right equipment not only makes the sport more enjoyable, but it can also save your life. Consider some of the equipment you need to climb for enjoyment and in safety.
Perhaps the most important equipment purchase you can make is in a good pair of climbing shoes. The new technology that has been put into the shoes makes it so that things previously thought to be un-climbable are now more accessible. Though climbing shoes are not a piece of safety equipment traditionally, they do make climbing easier. Easier climbing means safer climbing. So, in an indirect fashion, the shoes can be a big lifesaver.
A true piece of safety equipment is the modern climbing rope. Made with a kern, which is continuous braided nylon, and an outer sheath mantle, the construction is superior to the traditional ropes. The outer part of the rope actually protects the inner core, where all of the strength really is, from the elements and thus damage. These ropes will even stretch under pressure so that if they are catching you, a falling climber, you will bounce more than being just jerked back. Most ropes are around 160 to 170 feet in length and can be purchased for under $200 in most cases.
No matter what climbing technique you are using, you will likely need carabiners. Carabiners are solid aluminum rings that have a spring-loaded gate so that they can be opened to let a rope in. The spring, then, will hold it closed to keep the rope inside. Carabiners are very strong (able to hold over two tons) and very inexpensive with many priced under $20 each. There are many varieties of carabiner, but the one most familiar is the "D" type because the shape will keep the rope against the side away from the gate.
A harness is crucial to both climbing technique and safety. To attach yourself to a rope, you need a sewn harness. Typically, this piece of equipment will be made up of a nylon belt that fits around your waist and two leg loops that hold your thighs. When in the harness, the majority of your weight will be put on your legs instead of your hands which makes hanging much more comfortable. There are a number of types of harness available for purchase, so the prices vary a great deal. However, most can be had for under $100.
A belay device is a must-have for the sake of safety when climbing. The belayer is what holds the rope to stop a climber who is falling. The most common belay device is the figure 8 type. It is two metal rings that are each about an inch in diameter that are joined together. A loop of the climbing rope is put through one of the two rings, and then it is put around and under the other ring. When the rope is pulled tight then, the 4 right angles created will make the rope virtually impossible to move, thus saving the climber from the fall.
These are just a few of the safety equipment must-haves for a climber. The sport of rock climbing, as was said before, continues to grow with the improved technology that makes is safer and more accessible to everyone. Proper safety techniques leave the climber free to concentrate on the task at hand and thus improve technique and overall climbing fitness. Relative amateurs are now scaling walls that were never thought to be climbable, and what seems to be sheer face has become accessible to the pros. All of it is due in great part to the advances in the equipment that not only make it easier to climb, but make is much safer to climb as well