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Old 10-24-2008, 03:18 AM   #25
pico23
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Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Between the Cats and Daks
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Kevin,

if your leading you should be able to build multi directional first piece anchor. even using 2 nuts in opposition using cloves to tighten them will usually work. secondly, the first piece should always be bomber because it protects the main anchor from a high factor fall.

I have to disagree with the SLCD vs. nut statement. I've climbed hundreds of pitches on nuts and tricams alone. Actually my most recent partner, now a Phd candidate at UC Berkley and a MIT grad (background to the fact he's a fairly bright guy, even if I'm not), didn't own SLCDs prior to his second year leading. We both had much more faith in a solid nut placement, or even a tricam placement in either active or passive mode. Truthfully, we often used SLCDs at belays and passive gear on route.

So with that said, I'm not sure what you've been reading for gear placement 101 that says SLCDs are better/safer than passive gear, because it's highly wrong. Safety in all gear placements comes from the rock quality and the placement quality. An SLCD placed behind a bottleneck on a horizontal crack in the gunks is obviously bomber assuming the gear itself doesn't fail (unlikely but possible). But an SLCD placed in a upward flared crack with the idea of a downward only force is far less bomber than a well set nut in that same crack. The reason is obvious but the cam can walk up the crack, and the nut isn't going to walk from rope drag when well set. Using a long sling will also help keep your gear from moving.

The problem with micro cams is that they are EXTREMELY hard to place properly. The difference between well placed and poorly placed (under cammed and over cammed, as well as other factors such as walking among many others) is so small that even while cleaning these pieces I'd often wonder if they were properly placed while uncamming them. A 22KN BD camalot isn't a 22KN camalot at all cam angles, and a 8KN green alien isn't 8KN at all angles.

that of course is NOT to say they cannot be properly placed, or they cannot hold a fall, just that they were not truly intended to be fallen on in less than perfect conditions.

Chris Hairstom from BD used to post on rec.climbing in the days of newsgroups. He would post quite thoughtful articles on many subjects of the dynamics of falling, and the strength of gear. Everything from wet ropes, and frozen ropes, to BD specific gear and how it was tested.

Some of the things he spoke of were the fact that 1) gear is never designed to not fail, even when properly used 2) use of gear is a judgement thing just because it's produced and they slap a Kn rating doesn't mean it's intended for the purpose you use it for 2a) just because a piece of gear is 3 Sigma rated to XKN or XXKn doesn't mean it can handle a fall of any sort. For instance, nuts under the size of a BD/SMileys #4 are usually intended for aiding only. Although the 2 or 4KN rating of some of the smaller nuts leads people to believe they are good for a 4KN fall. However, they have been and will continue to occasionally hold a leader fall, just like those micro cams. Often though when these are used they are as part of an equalized anchor, and/or with a screamer attached, and/or in conjuction with skinny double ropes which reduce impact on the gear.

I'm assuming the two aliens you bought are the black and green (or is it black and blue the smallest??). These aliens are largely meant for aid climbing, as are the micro camalots. Can they hold a leader fall? Absolutely, but they must be placed well.

Further (at least my early 2000s aliens) don't have cam stops. This never bothered me but it does create a problem with an under cammed alien being inverted and pulling out.

Cams have their own problems, not all cam placements are multi directional, and cams tend to walk.

A nut on the other hand, when well placed, and set tends to not walk. My partners and I always set the nuts deep in cracks, and gave them a significant tug to set the nut. This did create problems for the second at times, BUT the second can call take, has a nut tool, and in the worst case can certainly find a rock or use a large hex to tap it out while they hang on the rope (obviously traverses make this difficult). The leaders safety always comes first but we very rarely lost a nut because we set it.

Finally, it's always better to place the best gear you can at every opportunity. I've never been a fan of placing bad pieces "just in case" because what happens is the top piece uses most of the impact absorbtion of your rope system (which takes some time to return to the rope, if ever in a high fall factor fall). Studies have shown that just in case pieces often lead to lower pieces of the system failing. You might remember the climber that cycled to the 7 summits (I think) he died in a ground fall where it was believed that his cam actually exploded from the force after his top piece blew out. For this reason, every piece needs to be carefuly placed, and often! It's easier to downclimb 5ft to a good placement to rest/hang than it it's to climb up 15ft to an unknown placement that might not exist, or could be more difficult to place good gear than the last.
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