Harness and Safety


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Patrick Sawyer

Originally California now Ireland
Topic Author's Original Post - Oct 25, 2006 - 10:34am PT
I did not want to disrespect Todd Skinnerís memory by posting this on the Skinner thread.

According to the LA Times, the preliminary investigation found that his harness broke, whether this was the case or not I am just wondering if this has happened much.

Anybody know of such incidents and if so, the manufacturer of the harness?

Trad climber
Sacramento, CA
Oct 25, 2006 - 10:39am PT
Broken Harness... I have cannot recall this happening.
Chouinard sold off Chouinard Equipment (now Black Diamond) in the eighties because they feared the money in Patagonia clothing might go to a law suit where a person did not double back the buckle on the Bod Harness.

Webbing does not just FAIL. If the harness is not in tact, there is more to the story.

East Coast US
Oct 25, 2006 - 10:43am PT
I don't know about everyone else, but I often use ratty old harnesses that are very comfortable. To back it up I always tie a loop of 1" tube webbing around my waist. I run the webbing through my two belay loops and always run the climbing rope tie-in loop through it.

With that said, I've never had a harness fail and have never had to rely on that 1" webbing back-up.

Chicken Skinner

Trad climber
Oct 25, 2006 - 11:09am PT
This is all that I know. He was rappelling when he fell, leaving the rappell device on the rope. When he was found there was no rapppel loop on the harness. There was discussion during the climb about the shape that his harness was in. It is still being investigated.

It is unfortunate that this happened and we all need to learn from it.


Trad climber
Sacramento, CA
Oct 25, 2006 - 11:12am PT
Did he detach right when starting the rap or was the device attached part way down the rope? I expect it is too early for this type of detail.

Thanks for the info.

Desolation Basin, Calif.
Oct 25, 2006 - 11:14am PT
Harness failure? Holy cow. I know several folks climbing on 10+ year old harnesses. Some of which look very ratty.

Trad climber
Lee, NH
Oct 25, 2006 - 12:00pm PT
Someone told me last week about a climber tearing a leg loop on an old harness. Looking at my own old harness, I can't see how this could happen, unless there was already a lot of damage.

Then again, I was surprised to see Verm's self-cut Dyneema sling, and to learn of Jim Ewing's success at breaking non-nylon daisy chains. Or that broken rope in a gym ... seems there might be more variables in our systems than I knew about just a few months ago.

Big Wall climber
So Cal
Oct 25, 2006 - 12:20pm PT
I had a harness fail on me once. It was a Black Diamond harness, however I do not recall the model but it was a modern rig and only 2 1/2 years old. I had just threaded the anchor chains on a route I had just climbed. As I began to lower & clean the pitch, my waistbelt suddenly rode up to my chest. The leg loops had broken INSIDE the protective sheath that covers the point where the leg loops meet the belay loop. There was no visible wear on the harness that may have suggested that a failure was possible. I sent it back to BD with a note explaining what happened and they never replied to my inquiry except to sent me another harness of the same type which had failed.

I believe that the protective sheath was made of Kevlar and the leg loops were composed of regular nylon webbing. It is my un-professional opinion that the two types of material had differing abrasion resistance and led to the inner webbing being damaged from inside by the Kevlar sheath. BD never wrote me back to explain how or why this can occur. To this day I am sceptical of the quality of BD sewn gear. I never wore the replacement harness they sent me. I bought a different brand and have never used a BD harness since.

Like Gunkie, I too use a 1" webbing for my chalkbag and also as a backup for my harness. I tie the rope through the 1" webbing EVERY time I go climbing. I also back up the belay loop with a 'biner I have dedicated to the task full time. This way when I belay or rappel, I'm not just on the belay loop(I've heard this called a frindler too).

Be redundant in everything you can in your anchor chain. That goes for harnesses as well.


Boulder climber
Sick Midget Land
Oct 25, 2006 - 12:43pm PT
There are lessons to be learned in all those failures but none of them except the broken rope would surprise you if you took the time to think about them. Lessons learned, don't girth hitch webbing together, it cuts; webbing with no stretch isn't suited to handling high impact falls; only climb on your own ropes or your partners if you trust him; replace soft goods long before they look like they should be replaced.

The Souf
Oct 25, 2006 - 01:12pm PT
10 year old harnesses? Are they high? I retire all soft goods after 3 years of use or 6 years of storage, whichever comes first. This is, of course, subject to inspection and wear, and retirement may be sooner.

People do realize that almost all fibers, synthetic or not, lose their initial material qualities with age and not just wear right?

A question for Levy: Nice idea backing up the belay loop with a 'biner full time. I really wish more companies (Metolius is the only one I know of) would get in the habit of putting double belay loops on their harnesses.

Question, however: When rappelling and belaying with a tube style device, do you operate the device around double carabiners as well? I personally moved to the meanest HMS biner I could find (DMM Big Boa, 28kN closed gate, three-stage twist-lock gate) just to add as much security to that portion of the chain that I could.

You learn something every day. Time to get a few feet of 1in tubular for the chalkbag and pick up another Boa to live in the harness next to the belay loop...

Trad climber
the blighted lands of hatu
Oct 25, 2006 - 01:21pm PT
I seem to recall hearing about a harness failure in Europe (German climber ?) some time ago that involved the tie-in points and abrasion from the rope associated with repeated falls. I've been searching for more info, but no luck.
Hardman Knott

Gym climber
Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley, Ca
Oct 25, 2006 - 01:22pm PT
JAK - I think you misread:

For what its worth the AMGA has a technical comittee that reviews and tests climbing stuff. They (AMGA) advise that all nylon products be replaced every 5 years while metal products should be retired/ replaced every 10 years.

The Souf
Oct 25, 2006 - 01:25pm PT
Hardman -

Eh? I don't follow.

EDIT: Wait, ok, I'm with you. I was replying to Gary's mention above of friends in 10 year old harnesses, not the AMGA stuff.

Social climber
Ventura, California
Oct 25, 2006 - 01:37pm PT
Ken, Thanks for the first hand report.

I have always been skeptical of those tiny little belay loops and cringe every time I use them.

I canít recall a manufactures warning saying you MUST replace your harness in X time. The manuals that come with them are pretty thick though maybe I just missed it. Seems a little silly a harnesses weakest link the belay loop, would cause you to discard it as if it were a runner. Today I will add a knotted back up to all our harnesses.

I wouldnít be so quick to blast a manufacture, some put a great deal of effort and $$ in their testing. Leaving one for another may be like jumping out of the pan into the fire. But I would loose the Dyneema slings.

Hardman Knott

Gym climber
Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley, Ca
Oct 25, 2006 - 01:37pm PT
Sorry about that. But there are a hell of a lot of people climbing
with really old stuff. What about cams? Do you think anybody is
re-slinging them every 5 years?

My current harness looks pretty good after 7 years,
but I guess it's time to get a new one, for peace of mind.

Graham wrote:

I wouldnít be so quick to blast a manufacture, some put a great deal of effort and $$ in their testing.

This is such a mind fuÁk because we've been told that the belay
loop is infinitely stronger than the rest of the harness, and that
they "don't break". Well they do, and so did a rope in a gym recently
(sulfuric acid contamination - but no source was conclusively determined).
We've been told that we shouldn't run the 'biner through the
main harness webbing and the leg loop webbing, because it cross-
loads the 'biner. Well, I certainly won't be sharing that bit of advice anymore.

Big Wall climber
Yosemite area
Oct 25, 2006 - 01:40pm PT
Just as an FYI on two belay loops...

I spoke with Yates recently after I tried the Metolius Waldo (two belay loop wall harness) asking why yates doesn't offer two belay loops on wall harnesses. Their response was that they did, for a time. But the two belay loops, slipping past one another when weighted, resulted in excessive wear on the tie-in points. You can still have a second belay loop added as an option.

I checked my Yates harness, where I have had two belay loops (one a fat perlon loop, one a sewn belay loop) and found my leg-loop tie in points are worn about 1/3 through and the waist tie-in is worn about 1/4 through. This may also be from nylon/nylon wear from the daisy chains, who knows?

Anyway, I like running two loops, but just wanted to mention this as we consider the options for redundant belay loops.


Trad climber
Lee, NH
Oct 25, 2006 - 01:43pm PT
don't girth hitch webbing together, it cuts

Cuts under body weight? I didn't know that, until Verm's report. Previous tests I've seen of girth hitching slings suggest it reduces overall strength by something like 30%, but that leaves some margin (over 15kN) of strength.
These tests did not involve Dyneema, though, which is what I thought might be the new element in Verm's case.

It still seems to me that there are instances where girth-hitching remains safer than other alternatives, so it remains part of my toolkit -- there are risks to other sling-joining strategies too. I'm shifting from Spectra back to nylon, however.

Trad climber
Oct 25, 2006 - 01:47pm PT
GhoulweJ -

It was not a Bod harness that "failed" when it was not doubled back. I don't remember the model name, but I stopped using the one I had! And the newly created BD stopped making them.

The Souf
Oct 25, 2006 - 01:48pm PT

Are they reslinging their cams every 5 years? Probably not. Should they be? That's another question.

Trad climber
one pass away from the big ditch
Oct 25, 2006 - 01:51pm PT
Ok, ok, I'll get a new harness already.


(seriously though, mine is wearing out pretty good at the leg loop connection. good reminder to get a new one before something not anticipated happens. RIP Todd)
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