9 December 2012

Rope innovation: Mammut Sensor, Edelrid Snipe, Beal Unicore

There several interesting developments coming over the next year. The Mammut Sensor has middle and end markings which you can feel with your grip as well as see. According to this article at the Gear Caster, Mammut uses thicker yarn on these identifier sections.

The Edelrid Snipe has a larger 10mm diameter near its ends (7m on each end) so that you can feel when the ends are approaching. It also means that the ends should be a bit more hard wearing - which is clever because that's the bit which usually wears out first.

Beals Unicore ropes basically have the sheath glued to the core. They say this prevents slippage when the sheath is cut or abraded, reduces shrinkage due to water submersion, and allows the rope to be cut to length without a heated knife. Preventing sheath slippage is particularly useful when ascending - normally if a sheath is damaged on a fixed line it can make it difficult or impossible to ascend, Unicore aims to reduce this. There's more info on the Beal website.

There's also a interesting idea coming from Beal - related to the Unicore technology; that if rope is more slick and supple, it affects the ease of use and handling more than simply reducing weight and diameter. The BMC suggests this may mean we'll see a change in the trend towards thinner and thinner ropes.

1 September 2012

Sirocco helmet from Petzl

The new Sirocco helmet from Petzl is moulded from expanded polypropylene EPP (as opposed to the more usual expanded polystyrene EPS) which has enabled them to create the helmet as a 'monobloc'. That is, it is  formed as a single component rather than the usual layered structure of an EPS foam inner with a polycarbonate shell. It is superlight at 165g (for comparison the Petzl Meteor III weighs 235g and is one of the lightest helmets currently available). It also has a very nifty looking magnetic buckle - which they say you can clip with one hand. Here's a video from UKC at the Outdoor Show 2012:

UKC/UKH at OutDoor 2012 - Petzl Scirocco Helmet from UKClimbing.com TV on Vimeo.

31 August 2012

Choosing the right carabiner

Black Diamond director of quality, Kolin Powick, has written a great article on carabiners; it talks about rock climbing crabs vs industrial crabs and why they don't recommend using one type for the other activity. He also carried out some tests on 'workhorse' crabs vs lightweight crabs using a drop tower. It's interesting to see that the lightweight crabs actually tended to deform and become unusable, whereas in the same tests the heavy duty crabs remained usable.

Image from Black Diamond

19 July 2012

New cam from Black Diamond: X4

Black Diamond have revealed a new 'large expansion range' small cam family called the X4. The most interesting part is the axle - which is offset. That is, the axle protrudes from a different place on each side of the cam hub. This is probably best explained in this video from UKC:

22 June 2012

Making furniture out of climbing rope: Seilfaktur

Seilfaktur is a Design Project created by Angelika Hess - creating furniture out of spent climbing ropes. Apparently she is based in  Rosenheim near the Alps - and decided to create this furniture after wondering what happens to all the ropes after they can no longer can be used.

More at Core77 and Inhabitat or at the creators website: http://seilfaktur.de/

17 June 2012

How long do slings and quickdraws last?

Another interesting article from the Black Diamond Quality Control Lab - this time looking at slings and quickdraws. They used a bunch of different sling materials and did some pull tests to see how strong they were after they had been abraded, and also how strong they were after being loaded to 5kN 1000 times (to simulate in-situ gear that's taken a lot of falls), and 11kN cycled until failure.

Image from Black Diamond

Those slings that made it through the abrasion test didn't actually loose that much strength in general, but some slings broke during the abrasion cycling. Loading to 5kN 1000 times seemed to have almost no influence on strength, loading to 11kN produced unpredictable results.

They also mention that one previous finding was that int-situ slings seem to loose most strength in the first 10 weeks of being exposed - although this finding didn't agree some some other results.

10 June 2012

Metolius Master Cam failure - cam stop broken

Count Chockula in the mountinaproject.com forums writes: "This #0 rarely gets placed and has never been hung on or taken a single fall, but one of the cam stops has completely sheared off the lobe." The post is old (May 2011) but interesting. Metolious replaced the cam and have apparently made changes to the design since then.

In an apparently separate incident, another forum user Alan Ream shows a photo of his Master Cam, which also has broken cam stops.  He shows it side by side with the newer design of stops - which appear to be slightly larger and no longer adjacent to grooves in the camming surface. Users speculated that the proximity of the stops to the grooves could have contributed to the failures.

Image from  Alan Ream on mountainproject.com forums

1 June 2012

Unusual carabiners: Rock Exotica Bi-wire, Petzl Ange, Kong Ergo Wire

I haven't used any of these, but they all look interesting. The Rock Exotica Bi-Wire is strong (30, 10, 9 kN), heavy (67g), but most unusually - it has two gates. The inner gate opens inwardly and the outer gate opens outwardly. It looks like it might take some getting used to clipping it, and wouldn't really be suitable for use in a quickdraw, maybe as a more secure clip to an anchor?

Image from CMC Rescue

Next is a Petzl Ange, which has been out since last year but doesn't seem to be widely distributed in UK stores. It has a single pronged wire gate (they call it a Monofil) rather than the normal 'looped' wire gate which means it's quite light (28g). For me, I like the idea of a single prong because it cant get tangled up like a normal wire gate - when carrying a full rack I've sometimes found wires from nuts, or the wire gate from another carabiner, can get jammed quite badly in between the nose of a wire gate carabiner. This is very difficult to solve when hanging on with one hand, and can make it impossible to place any nuts because it completely disables the gate.

Image from Petzl

Last is the Kong Ergo Wire which has an 'ergonomic' plastic grip on the wire and a via ferreta style locking device.
Imamge from Kong

26 May 2012

Crampons: do they break?

Black Diamond have posted an excellent article on crampons - it talks about choosing materials, eg. stainless steel vs chromoly steel vs aluminium, and about fatigue testing, and selecting the right crampons for your boot and your activity.

A few years ago they started using stainless steel instead of chromoly steel. Both chromoly and stainless contain chromium as an alloying element, but chromoly contains less than 1% chromium, whereas stainless steel contains at least 10.5%. This means that chromoly rusts more easily than stainless. There are also other material property differences. Ultimately they decided that stainless was better suited to the task as they found it was more wear resistant, didn't pick up as much snow when walking, and didn't rust as much.

They also refer to a BMC leaflet about care and mainteneance - the interesting point which is confirmed by their tests, is that if you have flexible boots you should wear flexible crampons, and stiff crampons for stiff boots. In their tests the fatigue life of crampons was reduced by roughly up to 80% when there was a mismatch between crampons and boots. If you have soft boots make sure you replace those rigid steel cross bars in your crampons with a flexible one, it could increase the lifespan of your crampons considerably!

Image from Black Diamond article

20 May 2012

Are knotted Dyneema® slings good for climbing?

DMM have carried out some very interesting static load and drop-tower tests to find out the strength of knotted Dyneema® slings.  Dyneema® is normally found in stitched slings - DMM wanted to find out how slings would fare if made by tying your own knot in a piece of  Dyneema® from a reel.

As the DMM article mentions, Dyneema® is actually just a brand name for Ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene (wikipedia) which is a type of polythene (wikipedia) which has very long molecules, which makes it stronger and tougher than polythene with shorter chained molecules. The size of the molecules is key because polythene with shorter molecules will have massively different mechanical properties.

Dyneema® also has a relatively low melting point (between 144 and 152C) and also has a 'low' coefficient of friction. DMM suggests that heat in the knot during dynamic testing could explain why the knotted sling failed at significantly lower loads than the sewn slings. DMM believes this is supported by the result that frozen and wet knotted slings were stronger than dry ones - perhaps suggesting that the water/ice in the knot helps to reduce heat build up.

Based on the results of the tests, DMM strongly recommend against using knotted  Dyneema® slings as they consistently failed at lower loads compared to sewn counterparts.

Take a look at the full article here. The video gives a good overview.

Image from DMM article

12 May 2012

Bosavi headlamp on kickstarter

Bosavi is a nifty looking headlamp featured on the kickstarter fundraising website, it is rechargeable with a lithium battery. It appears to be similar in a lot of ways to the Petzl Tikka headlamps when used with a rechargeable Core battery, but there a few interesting differences. It is smaller and lighter than the Tikka XP2 with a Core battery (the most comparable Petzl lamp), the packaging for the lamp is designed to turn into an origami lantern, and it has a bike adapter for fitting to a bicycle handlebar.

It has very similar lighting modes (red light for night vision, diffuse white light, two levels of high brightness spot light, strobe safety light, and a high intensity 110 lumen boost mode) to the Tikka XP2, similar brightness on the normal mode (both 60 lumen), similar battery life (70 hours on low setting for Bosavi, ~80 hours for Tikka XP2 on low).

So far it is fairing well on kickstarter - as of 12 May 2012, after around 10 days it has raised roughly $18,000 of its $20,000 target, and there is still 35 days to go. It seems a given that it will raise its target - and quite likely that it will raise significantly more. The minimum amount you need to pay in order to receive one of the lamps is $65 (+$15 for international shipping). It is also likely that UK residents will pay significant import/postal costs, in the past I have been charged £20 for an $80 item from the US.

Video from Bosavi kickstarter page

11 May 2012

BMC Helmet campaign and helmet booklet

Since the beginning of the year The British Mountaineering Council has been running a helmet awareness campaign to "challenge views on helmets, and to encourage you to re-examine your reasons for wearing one or not". They have produced a booklet on helmets to help people make an informed decision.

The BMC emphasizes that in climbing and mountaineering it's important for each individual to make their own decisions when it comes to deciding what risks are personally acceptable.

Image from BMC website

24 April 2012

Device for mounting fingerboards or holds above a doorframe

Another product from Serious Climbing – a nifty device for mounting fingerboards or holds above a doorframe. It cams into place rather than using bolts or clamps, and is supposed to work with many different doorframe shapes and sizes.

10 April 2012

Adjustable angle climbing wall which can be flat packed

This is the Serious Wall from Serious Climbing (their main website is not live yet). It is an adjustable angle wall which can be dismantled and 'flat packed' to roughly 30cm thickness. The adjustable upper part slides smoothly on rails - the motion looks a lot like opening a garage door. It can be locked into a 9 different positions using sliding bolts.

The Serious Wall on display in Boulders climbing centre Cardiff
Photo from facebook

26 February 2012

Do ropes need to rest between falls?

Black Diamond carried out some tests to find out if letting your rope rest between falls would help to reduce the peak forces experienced in a fall. They did tests where the rope was left to rest for 30 mins, 2 hours and 24 hours. They also checked to see if loosening the knot after a fall helped to reduce peak forces.

The graph shows successive falls from 1-10, with peak force on the vertical axis (using antique lbf as units, 1000 lbf = roughly 4.4 kN).

Their conclusions were:

"As expected, progressive drops resulted in increasing forces

The largest increase was from the 1st to the 2nd drop as expected

 Loosening the knot after each fall reduced the load a bit, but not much

Letting the rope rest 30 min between drops had a bigger effect at lowering loads than loosening the knot, but still not much

Allowing the rope to rest for 2 hours and 24 hours had an even greater effect at reducing the loads on the 2nd drop, as expected

Allowing the rope to rest 24 hours still resulted in a 2nd drop load of 11% greater than the first drop"

19 February 2012

Thread slings through wires rather than larks footing to improve runner strength

DMM carried out some tests comparing the strength of using a larks foot versus simply threading (ie 'basket hitch') a sling through a wire. This is often done when you can't clip a carabiner directly to the wire because it would end up with the carabiner being loaded over an edge. The results showed that threading a sling through a wire is always stronger than using a larks foot (ranging from 1kN to 5kN stronger roughly).

12 February 2012

Homemade offwidth super-size cam

Jeremy11 from the rockclimbing.com forums has created a very cool homemade cam for offwidth cracks. The cam is bigger than the biggest camalot (camalot size 6, range: 114-195 mm, weight: 650g) weighing in at around 850g with a range of very roughly 130-210 mm. He used an oversized solid aluminium axle - the original intent was to minimize weight but it turned out that over-sized aluminium axle was heavier than the steel alternative that he had considered.

The homemade cam side by side with other big cams. Image from rockclimbing.com forums

He tested prototypes of the cam and they held over 14kN - pull tested using a jeep!