How Much Do You Trust Gear?


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Topic Author's Original Post - Jun 9, 2010 - 02:41pm PT
I have been climbing free for over a decade and have had several falls caught by cams, even a 00 TCU once to my great pleasure, but looking over accident reports I am struck by the frequency of the phrase "Protection Pulled Out" preceding a grim description of severe injury or death. I understand human error is often the issue here creating situations where gear either zippers or is improperly placed but my questions for the climbing community (especially the more experienced) are : How much do you trust gear to catch your falls? Have you had "good" or "bomber" placements rip unexpectedly? Conversely, have you had shitty placements like cams with partial lobe contact or uneven lobes catch significant falls..? I think an assesment of this is in order to save those with blind faith and liberate those caged in fear

adventurous one

Trad climber
Truckee Ca.
Jun 9, 2010 - 03:45pm PT
Seen cams in what appeared to be "perfect" placements fail. Also have seen pro that didn't look like it would hold body weight hold 20'falls. Who knows? Bottom line: Never, ever trust one piece of pro no matter how bomber it appears (trad climbing 101) Back everything up!
If I have no choice but to get only one piece in, I still prefer a bomber hex or large nut in a perfect placement over a cam if it is a "must not fail" piece.

Big Wall climber
the range of light
Jun 9, 2010 - 03:49pm PT
I have never pulled a piece of gear that was not suspect to begin with. I trust gear to the max and have taken big (60-70 ft) falls on it!

Sometimes I think I trust a piece of gear that I put in myself more than a bolt (or welded shut!!)that some screwball could have placed.

Big Wall climber
Southern California
Jun 9, 2010 - 03:50pm PT

i have not ever placed any gear. fish told me that will change when I get on my first big will. I'm excited.

Trad climber
Santa Clara, Ca.
Jun 9, 2010 - 04:07pm PT
I think an assesment of this is in order to save those with blind faith and liberate those caged in fear

That's me! I freakin' hate falling on gear. Keeps me from climbing at a higher level, but I have fun.

I've fallen on a shitty .4 C4 and not only did it hold, it held 3 consecutive falls.

Guess it wasn't so shitty....
The user formerly known as stzzo

Sneaking up behind you
Jun 9, 2010 - 04:08pm PT
If I'm only rapping, I'll use just one piece...

Jun 9, 2010 - 04:15pm PT
I have been climbing free

Climb some aid and you'll get a real perspective on what may be good, what is not and blown away on what can actually hold...It'll give you a whole different anchoring skill set.


Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Jun 9, 2010 - 04:18pm PT
my first big will

Hopefully that's not a prophetic typo...

In two years I will have 40 years of climbing under my belt, most of it trad. I can think of two times I had gear pull in a fall, and due to my cautious nature these pieces were backed up. I've taken some big falls, but never one of any consequence due to gear pulling.

Sometimes I'll follow a lead, and as I am cleaning the gear each piece would be better in a slightly different placement. Some people are just not mechanically inclined and they are the cause of most of the "gear pulled" horror stories.

I think many climbers 20 or thirty years ago had better mechanical skills than a lot of climbers today. After all, you could not get to the crags unless you could rebuild a volkswagen alongside the road with minimal tools and improvised parts.

I have two rules I follow when I am placing gear on a serious lead:

1.) Build a system. Do not end up in the crux depending on one piece.

2.) Never settle for second best. If there are doubts about a placement it can probably be better.

Of course there are times when you have to "plug and play," but that's where the system will save your butt.

Big Wall climber
From Back to Big Wall Baby
Jun 9, 2010 - 04:20pm PT
ec, just posted along the same lines as I was just going to say. The gear is fine but the placement can be a little sketchy at times.

Mountain climber
Visalia, CA
Jun 9, 2010 - 04:26pm PT
I've never fallen on my gear. I've whipped on bolts, but never my gear. I'm trying to keep it that way. I have a rule, when at all possible, if a gear placement is questionable, I double it up as soon as is safely possible.

Lake Tahoe
Jun 9, 2010 - 04:28pm PT
The only gear I ever really fell on was an Alien offset in a pocket. It was the first piece, and only, piece of gear protecting me at the time.


Ideeho-dee-do-dah-day boom-chicka-boom-chicka-boom
Jun 9, 2010 - 04:43pm PT
Protection negates the difficulty of a climb. If you trust your gear, the climb is easier.

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Jun 9, 2010 - 04:49pm PT
Protection negates the difficulty of a climb. If you trust your gear, the climb is easier.

Some routes are bold, not well protected. In most cases we know that going in. In those cases if you trust yourself, the climb is easier.

Social climber
Jun 9, 2010 - 04:52pm PT

If it is gear made for climbing and I am climbing.. then yeah, I trust with my life.

If its gear picked up at a local heroin den... then yeah.. that stuff is iffy at best and lacks trust.

Trad climber
Jun 9, 2010 - 04:52pm PT
Putting in gear, slinging it, and jumping on it at the base of numerous cracks....helped a LOT to build confidence in gear. Analyze why a cam skated, or tricam ripped, or nut popped. It's easy to do from the ground, and you can place a lot of gear quickly.

Great confidence builder. (Now if I could just climb safely above that last piece.....)

Big Wall climber
A cube at my soul sucking job in Oregon
Jun 9, 2010 - 05:01pm PT
Probably ~10 falls of varying severity, mostly aid falls. I was not surprised by any of the gear that popped/ripped, but was surprised a couple times by what held. More often the horrifying thing is what I find when following a pitch and see the pathetic gear placement skills of random partners. Based on my perspective, I'm surprised more people don't die from their own lousy gear placement skills.

When in doubt sew it up.

Buyer beware.

Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.

Oakland: what's not to love?
Jun 9, 2010 - 05:07pm PT
I have much less faith in gear after a bad fall this winter at Sugarloaf. This piece was at about my waist when my foot slipped off of the start of the .10d traverse section of Taurus:

The placement seemed just about perfect, but it's obvious why it failed. See that crack? Wasn't there before the fall.

But! The beauty pictured below (with the big bite out of one lobe) literally kept me alive, or at least kept me from life-changing injury (I was flipped head-down when the Linkcam caught for an instant before breaking, and I wasn't wearing a helmet, which was incredibly stupid, so I would have cratered head first if the BD hadn't held):

This C3 was placed just above the stance after the .11b crux sequence. I was about ten ft off the deck when the rope came taught on it. Had the shakes the rest of that day and couldn't stop thinking about it for months after, to this day pretty much.

The experience has changed the way I think about protection, and has definitely changed the way I climb, and what I climb. I lost all faith in OP and Linkcams, and have lost a healthy dose of faith in gear in general. So I place much more now than ever before, and I haven't really pushed my technical abilities since that fall.

This weekend I climbed Steck-Salathe, and was really careful about protection. Even on the "run" slab pitch, I made sure to find gear no more than 10 ft apart. Tentative climbing makes for slow climbing, but safer, I think.


Trad climber
Jun 9, 2010 - 05:26pm PT
Gear that is in good condition and placed properly should be trusted.

That said, the next question would be: How much do you trust yourself?

Trad climber
Boston, MA
Jun 9, 2010 - 05:29pm PT
I never trust a single piece between me and the deck (or equivalent). Which is not to say I'm never in that situation. I just make sure that when I am, I do not fall.

When I have good redundant gear, I am happy to push it to the limit and take whatever falls come my way.

Sometimes when I've done that, I've ripped a single piece of gear. But (so far) it's always been a piece that was suspect (or suspect rock). However I know perfectly well that just because I've always been right so far, that doesn't mean I'll be right next time. The next one to blow might not be one I expect.

That's why I'll keep with the mantra in my first paragraph.


Trad climber
PA, then AZ, then CO, Now CA, soon OR
Jun 9, 2010 - 05:30pm PT
I don't trust it, but every time I've taken a lead fall it has held me -except when I fell on ice. On ice I ripped a screw, after the screamer on it had fully deployed. I haven't looked at ice screws the same since. I've had pieces walk out behind me while I was leading, then found myself looking down at some terrible runout. I've also had a cam guiding the beginning of a traverse piece blow on a wall when the second was ascending. That line ripped a good chunk out of my fingers as it readjusted. So I guess my answer is: depends.
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