Absurdly good gear since 1983

Misc Info...

At least I thought some of it was interesting....

Subject: Here's another option for padding the haulbag
From: Mike
Newsgroups: rec.climbing
Date: Sat, 29 May 1999 01:16:11 GMT

I hang my sleeping pad rolled up and clipped under the haulbag because
I hated digging it out at the bivy and cramming it back in the

Lots of folks here at r.c. have had good success with padding the
haulbag with cardboard. I liked it: effective, lightweight and low
volume. I had one problem though: the cardboard fell apart when it
got wet after a thundershower.

I did some searching and have found a good substitute: a material that
signmakers use called "core-a-plast". It is a sheet of material
that's identical to corrugated cardboard, but it's made of plastic.

It's light, tough, and works just as good as cardboard. Waterproof
too. Look in the yellow pages under "Signs" and ask local signmakers
if they sell core-a-plast. Shop around. The first quote I got was
$36 for a 3'x5' sheet. A few calls later I found a shop selling a
4'x8' sheet for $9. This was more than enough for my 2 haulbags (one
Metolius halfdome, one Fish Grade V).

Many colors are available. I got bright yellow because it enhances
visibility when rummaging through the bag. In a pinch, the
core-a-plast seems like it would make a decent emergency substitute if
you dropped your sleeping pad. It would probably give you more
crushproof insulation than anything else you'd have on hand to
improvise with.


Subject: Re: Tiblocs rule
From - Tue Jun 15 10:48:32 1999
From: madbolter@xxxxxxxxxxxx.XSPAM (Rex Pieper)
Newsgroups: rec.climbing

Saw something cool this weekend at the SSCA meeting in the Needles.
E.C. "Eddie" Joe showed me his Tibloc (the gear you perverts!) used in
a way that I thought was pure genius. (and not in the Petzl info sheet)

Use it for simul-climbing.

Clipped to a bomber piece of pro, set in a "hauling" position with the rope
running thru the biner (I know, this is hard to visualize, but set it up)
the Tibloc can be used as pro for simul-climbing that will prevent the
second from pulling off the leader if he falls. If the second comes off
(make sure you two stay pretty close together to minimize load on
Tibloc) the Tibloc will lock off, preventing the load yanking the leader
down the cliff. When you're climbing, the rope feeds like the Tibloc isn't
even there. Way cool.

-Rex Pieper

Subject: Bent Camalots-New failure report
From: Chris Harmston <chrish@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Newsgroups: rec.climbing
Date: Mon, 5 Apr 1999 11:06:50 -0600

Along the lines of the recent thread on bent camalots I just received a
broken Camalot I wanted to share with everyone.

This failure was reported to me by Bob Gaines in California. The
following is an extract from his email:

"Bob Gaines

A guy by the name of Ian Katz took about a ten foot fall and broke a
camalot jr. last week at JTree. I saw the piece myself. It broke at the
part where the cable connects at the axel (on the top of the cams.. it
sheared in half). Katz placed the piece in a vertical crack with it
sticking straight out horizontally. Any thoughts on this?"

I emailed him back and requested that he send me the broken unit. Bob
wrote back with:

"Thanks for the quick reply. One of my Guides (Dave Mayville) has the
BROKEN CAMALOT JR. in his possesion. It was given to him by Ian Katz (the
guy who owned it and fell on it). Ian is a very experienced 5.11/12 trad
climber. He told Dave Mayville that he knew the directionality of the
placement was bad, but it was the best he could get. I'll track down Ian
Katz's phone number so you can call him if you want. In the meantime, I'll
mail you the piece."

I reviewed the Camalot and talked to Ian this morning on the phone. He
found the unit on top of a rock in Jtree. As far as he knew it had not
been dropped and looked ok. My initial assessment of the unit was that it
had been dropped prior to the fall because I saw significant deep
scratching of the crossbar intersecting the failure surface and the side
plate on this half of the unit was bent in (the part that failed is the
the one with two holes in it for the axels and is brazed to the cable-it
broke across the two axel holes). I could see evidence of recent and old
scratches due to the level of corrosion in these scratches. Ian was
climbing the route called "Safety Pin--11c" located on Split Rock. The
placement was a shallow one and Ian knew that he could not place it in the
desired direction. He placed it because it was all he could get in and
knew that if he fell he would most likely bend the cables and make it
unusable in the future. He was about 50 feet up and the piece was at his
feet. He fell. The crossbar broke in half and then hooked itself on the
sling, stopping his fall (yes, the Camalot still held his fall even though
it broke). The cables were bent in the direction of the fall but not

It is my opinion that this unit broke due to the scratches that were on
the crossbar. They were located in a position to act as tension stress
concentration points. Ian thought that the unit did not have these on it
before hand but was not sure. I think that several of these deep
sctratches were there before hand. I did not see any other evidence of
defects that would lead to this type of failure. Nor do I think this
sample broke due to tension overload because the cables were not bent
nearly as much as units I have seen previously that have been fallen on in
similar placements (that did not break).

Conclusions: Placements not in the direction of loading are weaker and we
warn people of this in our literaturem, as do others. Finding gear can be
a risky thing. My general rule is that if there is obvious visual damage
(i.e. deep scratches or cracks) then the unit should be discarded. If
there is no obvious visual damage then I would use the unit. I would most
likely have used the unit that Ian had found if I had been the one to find
it as well. The scratches would not have been that easy to see without
close inspection by retracting the cams fully. The same issues apply to
gear you already own and know the history of. This is why you must
regularly inspect your equipment and retire it if there are any obvious
problems. In the case of the original thread on this topic, seeing a cam
with bent cross bars warrants retirement because you never know what could
happen. Chances are good that it could be usable again. But this is a
big if and one which I can't recommend to anyone.

Hope this helps. chris

Chris Harmston (chrish@xxxxxxxxxx).
Quality Assurance Manager. Materials Engineer BS, ME.
Black Diamond Equipment Ltd.
2084 East 3900 South, SLC, UT 84124 phone: 801-278-5552

Subject: Re: Bent Camalots-New failure report
From: Chris Harmston <chrish@xxxxxxxxxx>
Newsgroups: rec.climbing

Date: Mon, 12 Apr 1999 15:54:53 -0600

On Sat, 10 Apr 1999 ratagonia@xxxxxxxxx wrote:

>In article <370E4EFA.7BEA@xxxxxxxxx>,
> Tom Rogers <thomas.a.rogers@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
>> Chris, why does the industry produce climbing equipment with casting
>> structures (I know why, but this is a retorical question) which is much
>> more prone to fractures then from a different design using forged
>> stock. What would the cost delta be to get away from castings? I'm
>> sure the increased cost would scare to hell out of the rec.climbing
>> community.

>It's not that simple. And it's not a matter of costs. Really.
>The way we design and build things at BD is very pragmatic. We build stuff,
>we break it. We think of lots of ways to break stuff, then we do. There is a
>wide selection of processes out there for making different parts. We look at
>and try quite a few, subject them to intense scrutiny and make a very careful
>choice. We are always aware that if we make a bad choice, the company could
>belong to someone else, tomorrow. Chris is the man.

We use castings because they allow us to design components with complex
geometry and function. Generally casting is cheaper but not always. We
have been using castings for many years and have learned a great deal
about the problems and issues that must be delt with in order to feel
confident in the parts. As Tom points out we test a tremendous amount
during prototype and production to ensure that nothing will go wrong. We
do not always succeed with this (note some previous history on Black
Prophet head castings in 1992) but we do very well in my assessment.

>So why do we use castings? On occasion, they are the best choice. The Powder
>Metallurgy pieces on the Cam Jr's are not really a casting, they are more a
>sintering process, but they do suffer a little from being somewhat brittle.
>They do not suffer from voids as cheap castings do. We have hundreds of
>thousands of parts in field with very, very few failures ( this side-loaded
>failure is the first I have heard of, though Chris may know of others ). We
>also break several hundred of that particular part a year in the QA process,
>so we have a very good pragmatic understanding of how these things break.

Even expensive castings have shrink voids. We have to design parts to
minimize the impact of this fact. All the single stem camalots use a cast
tailpiece and the #1 uses a cast crossbar. I have never seen a failure of
a cast camalot part. I have seen one other failed Camalot Jr. 0.75 that
appears to have failed from a similar bottoming placement not in the
direction of the fall. It broke at the cable and had major damage and
abuse from being removed after being stuck for some time (it is mangled
from hitting with a nut tool and severely corroded). The surfaces of the
cable ends are smashed from handling and there is no evidence of any
defect that I could see with an optical microscope.

>The other castings we use are the stainless steel investment cast heads of the
>ice tools. We have some problems with them not meeting dimensional specs from
>time to time, but otherwise we see few problems with these parts.
>We have used forged parts from time to time, but, quite frankly, they're very
>overrated. We make Figure 8s and ATC's with them. These obviously do not get
>stressed really high, but we do some thorough testing of them as if they do.
>We have to inspect them pretty carefully. Sometimes when the dies are not
>quite right, the metal does not flow correctly and you end up with surface
>flaws and flow flaws. These are rejected. We also make hot forged biners
>which don't suffer from the same problems because the metal doesn't get
>pushed around as much. But forging is not a very precise process, and these
>things require a lot of hand work to clean up the forgings, and thus they
>become real expensive.
>Biners are made by bending and cold forging ( hitting it with dies ), then
>heat treating. Since Biner's are a bending problem, this is the best process
>for making them.
>As far as "micro cracking" and "hidden flaws in dropped gear", as far as I
>know its a myth. Official company line is "use your own judgement", and I
>can't really tell you that the biner you dropped off ElCap is fine. But I can
>tell you that those ones Todd and Paul dropped off the Salathe broke at full
>strength. We generally use ductile materials that don't "micro-crack", rather
>than high tech ceramics that might have this problem.

Only the ones that were not visually damaged were full strength. Those
that were visually damaged broke lower.

>I hope this answers your question. Let me assure you that I am an unlikely
>person to be spewing the company line, but as far as our thoroughness of
>engineering I am very happy to spew.
>Jratus ( amazing the things you learn when you get a real job ) Utahnus
>( tom@xxxxxxxx - the harness guy ).

Chris Harmston (chrish@xxxxxxxxxxxx).
Quality Assurance Manager. Materials Engineer BS, ME.
Black Diamond Equipment Ltd.
2084 East 3900 South, SLC, UT 84124 phone: 801-278-5552

DISCLAIMER: Unless otherwise indicated, this correspondence is personal
opinion and NOT an official statement of Black Diamond Equipment Ltd.

Subject: Re: Kilo-Newtons???
From: bobh@xxxxxxxxxxx(Bob Harrington)
Newsgroups: rec.climbing
Date: 24 Apr 1999 13:51:55 -0700

In article <mk5U2.43$qu5.16223@WReNphoon4>,
Climber BS <climberbs@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
>Can anyone tell me in laymans-terms what Kilo-Newtons mean to a climber?

A Newton is a unit of force. Kilo means a thousand of them. Force is
how hard the rope pulls on you and your gear as it stops you. You
can't really talk about the "force of a fall" because the force exerted
on the various components of your system varies -- the force on the
faller's harness, the force on the protection, the force on the
belay device, and the force the belayer's hand holds are all different.

Anyway, 1 kilonewton = 225 pounds

One than that may be confusing you is that in physics, you have to
distinguish between mass (an amount of stuff) and weight (the force
that gravity exerts on a given amount of stuff). For non-nerd climbers,
the distinction isn't too important, unless you start climbing on other
planets, where the acceleration due to gravity is different than on
the earth.

Also confusing is that pounds get used for both mass and force, and
there are even various kind of pounds (apothecary, avadapous, troy).
This is one reason (among many others) that science and engineering
people prefer the metric system, hence the prevalent use of kN rather
than pounds.

>If I fall "X" distance and have a "X" weight, I will cause "X" amount of
>Kilo-Newtons on my climbing system.

That's not how it works. X distance and X mass tells you how much
energy your system has to absorb to stop you. The force will depend
on how fast you get stopped. For the same distance and mass, the peak
force will be lower if your fall is stopped by a bungee than if it's
stopped by a steel cable, which is why climbing ropes are designed to


Subject: Re: Kilo-Newtons???
Sender: cline@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Newsgroups: rec.climbing

climberbs@yahoo.com (Climber BS) writes:

> Can anyone tell me in laymans-terms what Kilo-Newtons mean to a climber?

Bob Harrington did a good job of answering this. Everyone else seems
to misunderstand fall forces to varying degrees.

> If I fall "X" distance and have a "X" weight, I will cause "X" amount of
> Kilo-Newtons on my climbing system.

Heavier climbers will generate proportionally greater forces in falls,
but there is no direct correlation between the distance you fall and
forces. You need to consider the springiness of the rope and a
concept called "fall factor", which is ratio of the distance fallen to
the length of rope that absorbs the fall (somewhere between 0 and 2
for climbing).

[Aside: It is better to use "effective fall force" which depends on
the distance fallen and the layout of the entire rope including the
friction along its length.]

Note that the force the climber feels will be different from the force
exerted on the gear and at the belay.

For physics nerds, ropes act a lot like springs (during a single
stretching phase only). The fall force can be expressed as follows:

F = W (1 + sqrt(1 + 2*eff*M/W)),

where F is the tension in the rope at the bottom of the fall,
W is the falling climber's weight
eff is the effective fall force, and
M is the rope's spring constant.

Deriving this is straightforward, but is just as well left as an
exercise to the reader.

You can see some interesting properties of falls from examining this
formula: Even very low fall factor falls result in a force that is
twice the climber's weight; Also, force doesn't increase linearly with
fall factor - a fall factor 2 fall is about 1.4 times as hard as a
fall factor 1 fall.

> Not having a doctorate in Physics, and wanting to be a safe climber, I
> figured I should understand this.

Most gear is designed to not break in the hardest possible falls
encountered in climbing, and ropes are engineered to keep the forces
in those falls low enough to not break you. Use recommended gear in
recommended ways, back things up when you are unsure, and liberally
apply common sense.


Subject: Re: ALERT! -- DMM/Mamba: Possible 'biner failure
From: Chris Harmston <chrish@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Newsgroups: rec.climbing
Date: Thu, 15 Apr 1999 18:18:49 -0600

On Thu, 15 Apr 1999, ezClimber wrote:

>If a climber buys something that should not break below 10KN according to
>its label, but a 2KN fall breaks it, does that make the buyer stupid?
>Cowardly? A whiner?

Now this is where I dissagree. It is very possible to break biners (good
ones) well below their rating. Ratings are generated by testing between
two 12 mm steel pins seated against the spine of the biner. The closer
the loading is to the nose of the biner (closer to the gate) then the
weaker it will be and it can easily fail below the rating. Loading a
biner with its nose hook on a bolt hanger can break it under body weight
even though it has an open gate rating of 7 kN. In closed gate, biners
break below their ratings when tested with slings because the sling
applies more load to the nose than to the spine (in comparison to steel
pins). 1" slings will cause biners to break weaker than 1/2" slings
(assuming the biner breaks first--which usually happens by the way). Much
of this type of information is also supplied with carabiner instruction

In this situation we are talking about we do not yet know if the failure
was open gate or closed gate. It is easy to tell by the deformation
associated with the parts. If the nose was bent in toward the spine then
it was closed gate, if the nose was bent out then it was open gate.
Assuming the biner failed in open gate then it is very possible that this
carabiner broke because the load was too high for the specific loading
geometry not because there was a defect. The fall you are talking about
is not a totally soft fall. Repeated falls on the same rope, only 30
feet of rope, belayer yanking in slack and locking off the belay
(assumption on my part because this is what most belayers do when they
are faced with repeated scary falls), etc. can all result in high force
falls even though the fall factor was low. What if the biner had been
shifted and loaded in minor axis? It is not uncommon for biners to break
below their rating and even the example of the biner breaking at 2 kN when
rated at 10 is not impossible (with or without a defect).

If the biner failed in closed gate then I would have a very hard time
believing that the force exceded 15 to 25 kN even in this situation as
described. To fail in closed gate I believe there would have to be a
defect involved in the biner (or minor axis loading could have
contributed to it). Hard to say without seeing it myself.

What happened to the biner after it broke? How much time was there
between the fall and the analysis now going on? Was there any chance that
part of the fracture surface came into contact with water? How have the
surfaces been protected from contact with anything?

>This piece of pro was placed in textbook-ideal conditions (welded cold-shut
>and all). It failed on a low-factor fall with more than 30 feet of rope out.
>Thanks again.

Chris Harmston (chrish@xxxxxxxxxxxxx).
Quality Assurance Manager. Materials Engineer BS, ME.
Black Diamond Equipment Ltd.
2084 East 3900 South, SLC, UT 84124 phone: 801-278-5552

Biner Unclipping
From - Sat Mar 20 00:28:36 1999
From: ratagonia@xxxxxxxxxxx
Newsgroups: rec.climbing
Subject: Re: Runners and quick draws

This seemed like a good time to re-post Chris' post about unclipping testing.
Here you go ( this is mostly in reference to Hotwires, and applies somewhat to
all biners, especially wiregates ):

Richard brings up a good point worthy of my response. When BD designs
a carabiner we are concerned with the potential for it to unclip. In the
situation Richard described it is quite easy to cause a carabiner to
unclip and it seems that it is more likely for a Hotwire than other
biners. Due to the potential for unclipping we conduct some fairly
involved tests using bolt hangers, Stopper loops, and ice screw hangers.
The test involves a biner secured to a 8" loop quickdraw (if it is not
secured with a Petzel String or rubber band the biners would not
unclip--therefore, do not secure your top biner). The test biner is
clipped to the hanger and a person tries to force the biner to unclip in
the manner described by Richard (flipping the draw with your hand and
rotating it at the same time to cause the gate to force itself on the top
of the bolt hanger--note, your hand is not on the quickdraw but on
a biner attached to the free end of the draw). To cause biners to
unclip in this manner requires that you develop the right technique.
After playing with this setup I could cause any biner to unclip once I
developed the correct technique for each style. To help randomize this
somewhat we took ten people with five different styles of BD biners. Each
person attempted to unclip each style of biner 10 times (with a couple of
practice tries to develop their own technique). We counted the number of
times the biner was sucessfully unclipped. We found that the Hotwire was
in the middle of the group. The Light D was the easiest to unclip. The
Big Easy was the most difficult. Some people could develop the technique
quickly and others could not. The average number of unclippings ranged
from 3 to 7 out of ten. This indicates that it is relatively easy to
cause any biner to unclip in this very specific situation which is very
difficult to do when actually climbing (although not impossible and people
need to be aware of this). We also conducted this test on competitor's
biners for comparison. I don't think it appropriate for me to comment on
their performance other than to say that most all biners perform the same
as ours.

We also found that biners were easier to unclip if the gate was facing the
head of the bolt that secured the hanger to the rock. Due to this I
rotate my top biner with the gate down and out if the orientation of the
lower biner warrants the top biner's gate to be facing the bolt head.
I hope this makes sense. You also have to be aware of rock interference
potential which could be far more of a problem in open gate loading

Over the last few years I have heard of a couple of incidents of
unclippings of Hotwires and other styles. From these reports there is no
trend that the Hotwire is any easier to unclip than any other style. But
this is not proof either. Unclipping of biners occurrs about as often as
biners break. i.e. I have heard of about 12 in 5 years. I am sure I
have not heard of all of them though.

Chris Harmston (chrish@xxxxxxxxx).
Quality Assurance Manager. Materials Engineer BS, ME.
Black Diamond Equipment Ltd.
2084 East 3900 South, SLC, UT 84124 phone: 801-278-5552

Book review: Advanced Rock Climbing

From - Tue Feb 9 11:37:35 1999
From: bobh@xxxxxxxxxxxxx(Bob Harrington)
Newsgroups: rec.climbing

Book Review: Advanced Rock Climbing, John Long and Craig
Luebben, Chockstone Press.

This book was recommended on r.c several weeks ago. Here's
a review of it.

Climbing instruction books are usually aimed at novice
climbers, probably because the typical climber reads a book
or two when learning how to climb, but once past the novice
phase, books are replaced by campfire discussions and harsh
experience as the primary source of technical information.
In fact, the general tone of the book recalls a campfire
give and take, with the easy humor, climberly adjectives,
and anecdotal style familiar from Long's other writings
evident here.

But Advanced Rock Climbing breaks from the normal pattern by
aiming at experienced climbers, and for the most part basic
topics are presumed familiar to the reader. Not that beginners
would not find this book useful -- they would, as long as
they realize that they should look elsewhere for answers to
elementary questions.

Deciding what material to include in this book must have
posed a problem for the authors -- one person's advanced
topic is another's elementary material. The emphasis is
on free climbing of all flavors, with sport climbing,
crack climbing, cragging and long routes being treated
with equal attention. Aid climbing is only given a cursory
glance, and snow and ice are beyond the scope.

Free climbing techniques are covered in chapters on face
climbing, crack climbing, sport climbing, and training.
These chapters are succinct and enjoyable reading.

Things are a get a bit rougher in the chapters detailing
anchors and self rescue. Here, rope procedures would
have been much clearer if they had been depicted with
line drawings rather than the postage stamp size photos
that were used. It's hard to tell what's going on in
the photos, and the lack of clarity is exacerbated by
burying the material describing the procedure in the
text, rather than placing it in captions next to the photos.
Action shots take up much space in this book -- they're not
bad, but I can't help but feel that the space would have
been better devoted to improving the how-to-do photo
sequences. The illustrations in, say, Andy Selter's
cravasse rescue book are far superior renditions of
complicated rope maneuvers than the photos in Advanced
Rock Climbing.

For the most part, the safety advice wisely left practical,
focusing on the likely causes of accidents, rather than
delving into hypothetical physics-based discussions.
However, one passage seemed particularly weak: on page 90,
a table and illustration carefully detail the down side of
the 'American triangle' anchor system, that being that it
puts an unnecessarily large force on the anchors. This is
accompanied by the statement that the forces on the anchor
multiply 'exponentially' when the angle of the anchor sling
exceeds ninety degrees, a statement that would certainly
draw some withering flames were it posted to rec.climbing.

That's a minor enough mistake in wording, but then, fifteen
pages later, two anchors are compared -- an American Triangle
(rightly criticized) and a setup where two bolts each have
a welded ring directly through the hangers, and the rappel
rope runs through each ring, forming a ninety degree angle
at each ring. This second setup is judged 'GOOD'.
Physics-wise, this setup has the same problem as the American
Triangle with zero-degree sling angle (from the table on
page 90). In a more practical sense, I hate this anchor
setup because it generates more friction during retrieval
than systems where the rope pulls through a single point.

They also seem to share rec.climbing's phobia regarding
bowlines. Page 101 shows exotic means of tieing into the
middle of a rope using a figure eight loop, a maneuver that
can be accomplished simply and quickly with a bowline.
Whatever. Rec.climbing has cured me of arguing the merits
of bowlines. Not that the chapters involving equipment and
rope maneuvers don't contain a wealth of information,
they do, and I learned a lot -- it just could have been
presented much more clearly and a bit more thoughtfully.

All in all, a good book, a lot like spending a lengthy
session around the campfire picking the brains of a
couple of world class experts. I can't imagine
that any reader would not learn something from it.
The enjoyable and informative text make it worthwhile, but
the muddy graphical presentation will probably prevent it
from achieving classic status.

Re: Making Holds

From - Wed Jan 27 16:08:21 1999
From: bldrtoad@xxxxxxxxxx (Bldrtoad)
Newsgroups: rec.climbing

yes.........used a commercial product called TUFCRETE, its an artificial
concrete, mostly epoxy and a aggregate........we used butter dishes to shape it
........it sets up fairly quick and can be molded squeezed etc..It worked very
well. we bought it from a contractor who used it to resurface patios, pools
etc. It came in a two part mix ....one dry mix and a liquid.....nontoxic and
bombproof once set
try to find some......

New Wave Aid Ratings

Brent Ware <ware@xxxxxxxxx>
writes on Mon Aug 4 16:59:24 PDT 1997 :

From: FishProductsInfo@gmail.com (FishProds)
Newsgroups: rec.climbing
Subject: was: Aid Harness Setup, Now: Aid Ratings
Date: 30 Nov 1995 03:40:51 -0500

Here's how I understand it......present day ratings for routes done in the last 10 years.

A0 - Full on bomber and easy to find. Fall potential no more than 20-30 feet. Ex: Nose, Salathe, Leaning Tower, South Face of the
Column. etc.

A1 - Easy to find and easy to place. A basic no brainer, but if you do many dumb things in a row, you will go up to 40 feet. Ex:
Lurking Fear (A1+), Prow, Muir (A1+)

A2 - Here is where it starts. Placements could be hard to find and or awkward to place. Fall potential of up to 60 feet or more. Ex:
Shield, Mescalito (A2+), Aquarian, Tangerine Trip, Horse Chute (A2+)

A3 - Big whippers hiding out here. Many tricks are used and everything is suspect. Rock is usually loose and bad landings may
appear. Fall potential of up to 100 feet, and possible dismemberment, but not death due to hitting things. Ex: NA Wall (A3-) Iron
Hawk (A3+), P.O. Wall, Zenyatta (A3+)

A4 - Bombs away. All known tricks are used including exhaling to make yourself lighter. This is where lids pop off and sane humans
never venture. Fall potential: 150-200 feet with a bad landing almost assured. Wear a helmet for the open casket hoe-down. Ex:
Native Son. GulfStream (A4+), Born Under a Bad Sign, Surgeon General, South Seas (A4-), Space.

A5 - Lights out. Count on multi-hour leads with about 6-10 being the norm. Nobody falls here because you only get one. No rookies
allowed. Every piece is shitty, all the rock is bad, and you always hit things. Fall potential: Pull the pitch. Ex: Scorched Earth?,
Sheep Ranch (A5-), Get Whacked, Plastic Surgery Disaster.

Of course all of the above are subjective blah blah...... Most of the examples are either confirmed by someone here at FP or by the FA
party. This is real and scary. Enjoy!
TTFN, Russ

A comment on the rating system

by Eric Coomer July 8, 1998:

"Huh. So you say it takes like 70 heads?"

"Yeah. And 30 blades and 20 beaks and 8 rurps. A bunch of arrows and some angles thrown in. There's no pitch you're going to go
more than about 120 to 150 feet if you blow it."

"Uh, A3+ huh?"

"Yeah." The sly smile of the devil crossed Warren Hollinger's face. Today, A3+ is a whole lot like the 5.9+ grade of the golden age of free climbing. It could mean anything. I've done A3+ pitches that involved nothing more than leap frogging good cams up a perfect splitter crack. Other pitches have been full on nailing fests with copious hooking and many insecure placements. It seems like most new routes and downgraded old test pieces fall somewhere in the A3+ to A4 range. Meanwhile, old outdated trade routes still sport A4 and A5 pitches on the topos. What's an aspiring wanna-be to do?

Warren also confided that he thought his new route was the second hardest route he's ever done on El Capitan. That's quite a statement. It appears that the Reticent is the only wall to receive a modern A5 grade that has stuck. Even so, a recent ascent party argued that it was already A4+.

The aid ratings have gotten out of hand. It's the opposite problem with the open ended free ratings. Everyone at the top end of the free scale wants the first 5.15. In contrast, no wall climber wants to rate his pitch A5 only to have others laugh and call it a light A2+. The grades have become compressed and it lies right around A3+. Maybe it's time to rethink this whole problem. Maybe it's time to give the Casual Rating System (CRS) another shot at life.

After doing the second ascent of Warren's new route, we (myself and my partners Eric George and Brent "Call me Eric" Ware) all agreed that the route was Pretty Darn Hard (PDH in CRS terms). Warren asked us what we thought and we told him straight. Lots of
good hard climbing but some good gear on the pitch somewhere. No real death fall potential except in a couple of spots- maybe some of the pitches need a Real Heads Up (RHU) modifier. Another member of the first ascent team, Miles Smart, had one of the two crux
pitches. He confided that during the route the sandbagging got a little out of hand. He wanted to call his pitch A2+. They all realized that this was a ridiculous claim. The pitch has one of the only real bad falls on the route, tenuous beaking, and a high fear factor. That's when they decided to call the route A3+. They really wanted to rate it PDD - Pretty Darn Disorderly.

Endless arguments abound in the Center of the Universe parking lot (the Lodge Lot in Yosemite) about whether the latest route of interest is indeed A4-, maybe A3++, but no one argues whether the routes are hard. They are, and we all know it. Most of the old trade routes probably fall in to the Not Too Bad (NTB) category these days, but a few still sport RHU pitches. By going to this sort of scale no one really has to wonder whether we're talking new wave or old wave. NTB is just that - Not Too Bad. RHU? You better watch your fall or you might end up pretty messy if you fall. PDH. That'll keep you on your toes pretty good. PDD - be prepared for some good fun.

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