Monday, December 19, 2011

Tricks in the Alpine - Episode 3

Traveling and living in the alpine environment can pose many challenges, and often times it is the little tips and tricks that make existing in the alpine more enjoyable. Many of these tips and tricks have been passed down from climber to climber and guide to guide, but some of them are stumbled upon randomly and seem so inconsequential that they often don't get shared.

Well - I would like to change that! In an effort to do so, I'm introducing a new series to this blog, called "Tricks in the Alpine." In each episode, we will attempt to share alpine trickery that you may or may not know already. Please feel free to comment on how you've used these tricks, expanded on them, or look forward to using them!

1. Get rid of your auto-locking carabiners.

Let's face it, auto-locking carabiners have their place.  And that place is in a climbing gym (or some may argue during an AMGA Guide exam!).  In the alpine terrain however, having a mixed rack of auto-locking and screw-gate carabiners can lead to confusion and potentially even un-locked carabiners.  Additionally, auto-locking carabiners are more prone to sticking/freezing in an unlocked/locked position, and are extremely difficult to handle with one hand.  I made a quick video showing me trying to put a one handed clove hitch into a auto-locking carabiner versus a screw-gate.  To be fair, I practiced many times with the auto-locking carabiner and was actually able to do it one handed, even though it was still very difficult.  With gloves on - not sure I could have done it.  Additionally you can even see it stick for a second in between me putting the rope in, and then getting the clove in.  With the screw-gate biner, it's as smooth as silk pie.  Of course I would have locked the carabiner afterwards too if I was using it appropriately.

Perhaps I only saved a few seconds and a small amount of effort, but in the alpine - everything counts.

2. Use wire-gates, and size them appropriately.

Wire-gate carabiners are lighter, less prone to freezing and "gate-flutter," and come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  For non-lockers, there is little to no reason (if you have the available budget) to get anything but a wire-gates for the alpine terrain.  Sure you could spring for key-locking wire-gates that have a hooded nose, or use your key-locking solid gate carabiners for sport climbing - but in the alpine it's all about weight and functionality.  Additionally, choose the size that makes sense.  I always used to go with the lightest, smallest wire-gate, until I found that those are extremely hard to open with gloves on.  Although you generally want to go as light as possible when your climbing hard, alpine terrain - you still want to be able to use your gear.  Going with a lightweight but slightly larger wire-gate serves me well when I've got heavy gloves on.

Two differently sized wire-gates.  The one on the left I like to use for ice climbing when I have gloves on.   The one on the right I prefer for rock climbing when I have more dexterity.  
That's it for this episode.

--Andrew Yasso
Program Coordinator & Guide

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yasso, you are so cool. I love your blogs.