How Should You Test Gear Placements?The nuances for testing and advancing on gear are as diverse as the postures of the Kama Sutra, and are equally painful and awkward if done improperly.
I am an inexperienced aid climber and have a question about the basic sequence of moving up on gear. Let’s say you are clipped to a piece with your daisy (call this your first piece), then you place a second piece above you. You clip your aider to the second piece and bounce test. If the second piece blows, won’t you fall onto your static daisy chain? That seems bad even if the fall is only a few feet. Is this OK, or am I just missing something?
—Matt Yamasaki, Oakland, California
You are missing something, and will miss quite a bit more if you continue to subscribe to big-wall bushido, a strict but misguided practice where falling is dishonorable and punished by ritualistic disembowelment. However, in the case of your daisychain fall, your insides will not be spilled by the sharp blade of the tanto, but by instant deceleration.
Even a fall of two or three feet onto a static daisy chain can create enough force to break carabiners, or rupture your spleen and other important working parts. The fact that daisy chains continue to be used as part of the safety chain is vexing. Did you learn the technique from a bearded yet bald, self-professed Master of Big Wall, or did you glean it from the Internet? A daisy chain, in the situation you described, should be used as nothing more than a lanyard to prevent you from dropping gear—it should never be part of the chain of protection. For catching falls there is another device, an invention possessing the magical qualities of shock absorption, durability and light weight: Rope.
Your sequence is all screwed up, Matt. Fortunately, I am here to help you get your act wired tight: While you are hanging on your first piece, reach up and place the second piece. Clip an aider and daisychain to the second piece. Clip the rope to your first piece and unclip the daisychain tethering you to it. Ease into the lowest step of the aider clipped to the higher piece and bounce test. If that piece blows, you take a short fall onto the first piece and are caught by the rope. So easy, so casual.
The nuances for testing and advancing on gear are as diverse as the postures of the Kama Sutra, and are equally painful and awkward if done improperly. So listen the freak up. You can, for instance, stand in the bottom rung of the aider on your first piece, and extend the aider on the second piece with slings so the bottom steps of both aiders are at an equal height. Now when you bounce test the second piece, you have a nice toprope on the first piece and won’t lead fall if the second piece rips. My other nugget for people who climb rocks with ladders is to aggressively bounce test. A bounce of six inches to a foot will simulate a micro fall. If a placement withstands this test, you can boogie along confident that if the piece you are testing rips, the lower placement will hold. Next!
This article was published in Rock and Ice issue 208 (March 2013).
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