To make climbing
as safe as possible, most 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 they climb, using temporary placements using natural features (also known as traditional climbing), or previously placed bolts (usually, a bolt and a hanger) in the rock (also known as sport climbing).
- 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, the spotter stands below the climber and attempts to direct a potential fall. Generally, the aim is to stop the climber hitting their head on the ground, fall over backwards after hitting the ground, or otherwise land badly.
The gear used to protect climbs varies:
- Slings are loops of nylon webbing, tape, or rope, or some other material. They can be tied around rock spikes or trees, threaded through natural holes in the rock, threaded round natural chockstones in cracks, or threaded through artificial anchors such as metal hangers, chains, or rings.
- metal chocks (also known as nuts) can be placed in constrictions in cracks and attached to carabiners with wire or nylon slings.
- Spring loaded camming device (SLCDs) are devices that use a spiral shaped cam that expands into a crack as it is weighted. These can be placed even in parallel and outward 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 gluing.
- 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 protection usually consists of bolts (along with a metal hanger, chain, or ring) or fixed pitons. Sometimes there are in-situ slings. Anything else that is left in-situ has a tendency to get cleaned (collected) by climbers.
World-wide there are two major standards for climbing equipment safety and reliability:
In recent years, the CEN has become an important standards organization, especially in Europe since any products sold in Europe must by law be third-party certified to the relevant standards. There is no such requirement in most other countries, although most manufacturers voluntarily follow UIAA or CEN standards (much like electrical equipment in the US is almost always privately certified by Underwriters Laboratories).
- UIAA (International Federation of Mountaineering Associations)
- CEN (European Committee for Standardisation)
In Europe, equipment used by climbers has to meet the requirements of the Personal and Protective Equipment (PPE) Directive. 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:
There are many more. Most of them appearing in ICS code 97.220.40 and having "Mountaineering" in the title.
- 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)