Protection (climbing)

Protection (climbing)

To make climbing as safe as possible, most climbers use protection to prevent injury to themselves and others.

Types of climbing

There are a number of ways to protect a climb, varying according to the type of climbing:

Lead climbing

Lead climbing is the climbing system in which the lead climber places "running belays" (temporary or permanent anchors in the rock, attached to the rope via carabiners). The belayer pays out rope during the ascent, and manually arrests the climber's fall by locking the rope.

Top roping

Instead of leading the climb, when top roping the climber arranges anchors for a rope at the top of the route before attempting the climb. The rope runs from the belayer, on the ground, through the anchor at the top of the route, and back down to the climber. There will be almost no slack in the rope should the climber fall.


Bouldering is climbing short difficult routes without rope. As these routes are low to the ground, other types of safety equipment are appropriate:
*Bouldering mat. A bouldering mat or crash pad is a padded foam-cell mat placed on the ground below a climber. This reduces the chance of injury from a fall.
*Spotting. The spotter stands below the climber and attempts to direct a potential fall. Generally, the aim is to stop the climber from landing badly, and especially to stop the climber's head from hitting the ground.


Although free solo climbing is done without any protective gear, solo climbers do sometimes use protection. A climber may place a piece of protection and clip into it with a short tether for safety during a difficult move, then remove the protection and continue the ascent. There are also pieces of equipment such as a Silent Partner which fill the role of a belayer, allowing a lead climber to climb without a partner.


The gear used to protect climbs varies:
* Slings are loops of nylon webbing(also called "tape"), or rope, or some other material. They can be tied around rock spikes or trees, threaded through natural holes in the rock, threaded round natural chockstones in cracks, or threaded through artificial anchors such as metal hangers, chains, or rings.
* Metal nuts or chocks can be placed in constrictions in cracks and attached to carabiners with wire or nylon slings.
* Spring loaded camming device (SLCDs) are devices that use a spiral shaped cam that expands into a crack as it is weighted. These can be placed even in parallel and outward flaring cracks.
* Bolts can be pre-placed in pre-drilled holes in the rock and then clipped by the climber with a carabiner. Bolts are usually found "in situ". It is very unusual to place bolts as one climbs, as it involves drilling and gluing.
* Pitons can be hammered (or hand-placed if loose enough) into thin cracks and clipped (through an "eye" in the piton) to a carabiner.
* Skyhooks are talon shaped pieces of strong metal that can be hooked over very small ledges and flakes in the rock and secured to a carabiner. More usually found in aid climbing they are occasionally used in free climbing.

In-situ protection usually consists of bolts (along with a metal hanger, chain, or ring) or fixed pitons. Sometimes there are in-situ slings, or nuts/SLCDs that have been irretrievably jammed in the rock. Anything else that is left in-situ has a tendency to get cleaned (collected) by climbers.


There are two major standards for climbing equipment safety and reliability world-wide:
* UIAA (International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation)
* CEN (European Committee for Standardisation)

In recent years, the CEN has become an important standards organization, mainly in Europe since any products sold in Europe must by law be third-party certified to the relevant standards.Fact|date=March 2008 There is no such requirement in most other countries, although most manufacturers voluntarily follow UIAA or CEN standards (much like electrical equipment in the US is almost always privately certified by Underwriters Laboratories).


In Europe, equipment used by climbers has to meet the requirements of the Personal and Protective Equipment (PPE) Directive . Essentially, the equipment must be manufactured using a carefully controlled process and samples must meet various tests. Equipment meeting the regulations is marked with the CE Mark. Various standards are used when specifying how equipment should be tested:

* EN 12270:1998 "Mountaineering equipment. Chocks. Safety requirements and test methods."
* EN 892:1997 "Mountaineering equipment. Dynamic Mountaineering ropes. Safety requirements and test methods"
* EN 12276:1999 "Mountaineering equipment. Frictional anchors. Safety requirements and test methods" (covers SLCDs)

There are many more. Most of them appearing in ICS code 97.220.40 and having "Mountaineering" in the title.


Safety is a very important issue for the UIAA, as it is for all climbers and mountaineers.Therefore the UIAA has developed the UIAA Safety Label. In the mid-nineties, CEN adopted the UIAA Safety Standards. Since both commissions in CEN and UIAA share almost similar members, it was thought well to work towards a common goal. However, since a CE mark is mandatory in Europe, CEN label has grown to become vastly popular amongst the manufacturers of climbing equipment. Europe still holds more than 50% of the equipment market thus keeping the manufacturers interested in CE.

These conditions not only lead to the decline in work with UIAA standards, but also clear knowledge management problems with CEN. By early 2002, the relevance of UIAA Safety Label took a nose-dive, until REI, the largest outdoor equipment retailer from US became a Label Holder. REI mandatorily required all manufactuers to pass UIAA standards for equipment to be sold in its vast network of stores across the US.

This makes the UIAA Label truly world-wide as this is the only forum where representatives from outside of Europe have a say in the future standards for climbing equipment. UIAA in its current avtaar has over 50 manufacturers purchasing around 1600 labels a year. Many benefits of the UIAA over CEN label:

a. UIAA Original Standards then adopted by CENb. World-wide acceptance of Standards,c. Implementation of decisions within a year, whereas CEN takes 5 years d. Participation in annual commission meetings open to anyone who is associated with the subject

Finally, UIAA Safety Label is "Designed for climbers, by climbers".


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