Friday, March 6, 2015

How-To: Spring Cleaning for Your Rock Rack

Climbers follow a route in the High Sierra (A. Stephen)
It's almost that time of year again!  As the days start to get longer, my thoughts naturally turn toward ungloved hands touching dry rock.  This year, I am giving up on winter especially early. I am heading to the Southwestern United States to begin my rock climbing season in a couple weeks, which means that the pile of unsorted rock gear that has occupied my house since fall must be dealt with.  I inspect, and clean my rack once a year both for safety and to increase the life of my cams.  Here's my process:

Organize, Re-Mark, Inspect

The first step is sorting out the gear.  I lay out all cams, stoppers, and other hardware, and separate carabiners from slings.  Once everything is laid out, I will inspect everything to make sure it is in good working order.  Things I'm looking for:

Cams/Nuts: Rust? Frayed cables? Trigger action?

Carabiners and Other Hardware: Dings or potentially sharp blemishes that could mess with my soft goods?  Good carabiner gate action?  Acceptable wear (See photo below)?

Soft Goods (Rope, slings, cords, harness): Core shots? Frayed slings? Sun damage(discoloration, or a stiff/chalky feeling)?  Especially important to carefully examine Dyneema! Alot of slings will tell you the date they were made- if it was more than five years ago, retire it! If you can't tell whether or not you have a core shot, try to bend the rope in half at the point of damage.  If you can, it's a core shot.

This sling was retired this year due to fraying and general wear.
Note the fuzziness of the sling itself as well as the fraying at the bar-tack 
This worn carabiner will be retired after this year, and will not be one I use
 as a connecting point in a top-rope setting ever again.
I remark all my gear every year- nail polish seems to last the longest.
Cam Maintenance

The best way to clean your cams is with a large pot of boiling water, a pipe-cleaner, and a teflon-based lubricant.  You can buy specialized cam lube from Metolius, but I have equally as good luck with Tri-Flow, a teflon-based bike lube that is easier to find and sometimes cheaper.

Metolius Cam Lube

Boil the business end of your cams, making sure that the webbing isn't put in harms way through touching the stove or being immersed in the boiling water.


The next step is to clean the dirt and grime away from the moving parts of the cam.  I focus on the axles and springs.  Make sure to pull the trigger to get access to different aspects of the axle.


The last step is to re-lube the axles.  The teflon-based lubricant will keep dirt away from the moving parts and give your cams like-new trigger action.  If you can find an applicator tube (Tri-Flow comes with one) that is ideal.  Just a drop or two per axle will do.

Now your rack is all set for another season of sending the gnar!

--Andy Stephen, Instructor and Guide

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this useful info, and sweet triple rack! I just used this technique and cleaned my gear for the first time in three years, and some were in imperfect shape after a South America trip.

    Some tips for those that follow this:
    -The lobes should slide along the axles of the cams, including the stem, there is a ton of clearance on any double axle models like the C4 or larger X4's
    -Oil the joint of the wire and cam, it'll stop squeaking
    -Carabiners: wire gate carabiners on the joints, solid gate on the spring interior joint


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