How to use a harness for rock climbing

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How to use a harness for rock climbing

Indoor rock climbing can be both a fun way to stay in shape as well as a gateway to the exciting world of mountaineering. Almost anyone can learn to rock climb indoors, and with the proper supplies, it is extremely safe. Most rock climbing gyms have trained staff as well as rental equipment available for those who are just trying out the sport. As a person progresses, he or she may want to purchase custom gear instead of paying to use communal supplies. Indoor rock climbing equipment includes a climbing harness, climbing shoes, climbing ropes, belay devices, and crash pads.

Perhaps the first thing people think of when considering rock climbing equipment is the climbing rope. As with all climbing supplies, the options can appear to be endless. Rest assured that the choice is not nearly as important for indoor rock climbing as for outdoor, and most climbing gyms will not permit users to bring their own ropes, as the gym may be liable for injury due to rope failure. Climbing ropes are different from other types of rope, both for their strength and ability to stretch if a climber falls. They come in various lengths and thicknesses, and have all been tested for performance during a fall.

Climbing harnesses may be rented or borrowed from the gym, but many indoor rock climbers purchase and bring their own, as they like the feel of a particular brand or style of harness. Harnesses for indoor climbing usually fasten around the waist and the top of each leg. They allow climbers to move freely while providing safety in case of a fall. A properly fitted harness will help ensure that the climber is not seriously injured, even if he or she is turned upside-down in a fall. Most experts recommend only buying new harnesses, to make sure they are safe.

Along with harnesses, climbing shoes can be rented, but in order to have maximum comfort — and to avoid germs — people often bring their own to a climbing wall. Although it is possible to climb an indoor rock wall in sneakers, climbing shoes are made specifically for traction while rock climbing. The shoes are usually not comfortable for walking, running, or hiking, but allow users to stand on small toeholds while indoor rock climbing.

A belay device is a small piece of indoor rock climbing equipment that can be tricky to use. When the climbing rope is threaded through these metal devices in a particular manner, it can be controlled in the event of a fall. As indoor rock climbing is generally done with a partner, one person stands on the ground and slowly feeds rope through the belay device while his or her partner climbs. If the climber slips or falls, the belay device catches the rope and secures the climber.

A crash pad, also known as a bouldering mat, is a piece of equipment used by indoor rock climbers who prefer bouldering. Bouldering is a form of rock climbing that is performed at very limited heights, over a crash pad. This pad is usually made of foam, with a durable covering so that it can be used outdoors as well as inside a climbing gym.

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Most important of all in buying a harness is to find one that fits you well, and is comfortable.

Try on a harness wearing the clothes you would use, not in shorts in the summer when you plan to use it ice-climbing while wearing layers. While still in the shop, you should climb, squat, walk and hang in it. It’s critical to know if you can reach the gear loops well: Rack some gear on the loops and then remove it. If you are looking for a winter harness, put it on and rack on it while wearing gloves.

Leg loops that are too tight can restrict a high step, stem or heel hook, particularly in gymnastic sport climbing. Have enough room to slip two fingers down the side between your leg and the leg loop, but it is better to err on the snug than loose side. With adjustable leg loops, you can get the perfect fit.

The snugger it is, the more comfortable a waist belt will be when you fall. It should fit well against your waist (not hips), though be careful that it will not chafe, which can be painful, especially in hot temps. Tipping upside-down in a fall in a loose, gapping waist doesn’t bear thinking of. You should only have one to three inches of space between your midsection and tie-in, and should not be able to pull it down onto your hips.

Always read the manufacturer’s instructions on how to fasten your harness properly. Buckle systems vary from thread-through types that must be doubled back to auto-locking. For a thread-through, no one can overstate the importance of doubling back, every single time, without fail, an act vulnerable to human error. Always check your own tie-in and that of your partner before either leaves the ground. Be sure that at least two to three inches of webbing poke out of the waist-belt buckle after you double it back.

Tie your knot carefully and always check it, and check your partners’ knots.

A chest harness can be readily improvised with a long loop of webbing (a long runner). One popular design depends on a carabiner to bring the ends of the harness together at your chest. Another uses a knot instead to attach the ends.

The carabiner chest harness: Start with a double-length runner. Give the runner a half twist to create two temporary loops, and push one arm all the way through each loop. Lift the runner over your head and let it drop against your back, then pull the two sides together and clip with a carabiner at your chest. Connect the chest and seat harnesses with a short piece of webbing or cord to keep the chest harness from riding up around your neck in a fall (fig. 6-32).

The final step is to link the chest harness to the climbing rope to prevent you from being flipped upside down during a fall. There are two ways to do this. You can simply run the climbing rope from your seat harness up through the chest carabiner. Or, you can tie a short prusik sling onto the rope in front of you and clip this into the chest harness. If you use the prusik, be sure it is carefully adjusted to help keep you upright, but still permit your weight to be borne by the seat harness (not by the prusik).

How to use a harness for rock climbingFig. 6-3 J. Full body harness

The baudrier chest harness: The harness known as the baudrier also is made from a runner, though it will take a somewhat longer runner than the carabiner harness. Put your arm through the runner and hang it over one shoulder. Pull the other end around your back, under the opposite arm, and across your torso. Wind it around a short loop from the other side of the runner, push it through the loop, and cinch the knot tight. Clip the tail of this chest harness directly into the locking carabiner on your seat harness (fig. 6-33).

This harness is linked to the climbing rope in the same way as the carabiner chest harness: either by running the climbing rope up through a carabiner clipped to the chest harness or by attaching a short prusik sling from the rope to the chest harness.

Regardless of the system used, remember that harnesses also deteriorate with use, abuse, and disuse. Replace them about as often as your climbing rope.

How to use a harness for rock climbing

Fig. 6-32. The carahiner chest harness

Fig. 6-32. The carahiner chest harness

How to use a harness for rock climbingFig. 6-33. The baudrier chest harness

Whenever someone is attempting to access an area at height, it’s always important for them to use some form of fall protection. And even though there are significant differences between the equipment requirements for sport and workplace safety applications, it’s always helpful to have a clear understanding of why some equipment is best applied to one circumstance, but never applied to another one.

During the sport of rock climbing, one of the primary goals (and rewards) of the sport is being able to climb up to an area hundreds of feet in the air that would be otherwise unknown to human eyes and hands. Since rock climbers are regularly exposing themselves to those dangerous heights, they understand that they need to use specialized safety equipment to prevent serious injury. But, when people are at work and they are in an industrial setting, the heights and nature of their height hazards are different because they are focused on the job that they need to do, instead of the rock climber who is at height for pleasure. Since the workplace is a different environment, people in the workplace require other types of fall protection equipment.

Rock climbers adhere to the equipment guidelines and standards that are set forth by the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (UIAA) for their personal safety, whereas people who are involved with general industry and construction safety are required by law to adhere to the height guidelines set forth by OSHA and encouraged to adhere to ANSI Z359 standards. Both of those organizations are committed to the safety of people who are accessing height. However, rock climbers are using their equipment guidelines for sport safety whereas other people are using their guidelines for workplace safety. The differences in equipment are related to the type of fall that a worker at height would experience versus the type of fall that a rock climber at height would face.

Even though the circumstances between sport and workplace applications are different, there are some basic similarities in regards to the core ideology and logic behind staying safe at height. When rock climbers are learning about fall protection, their equipment checklist sounds similar to the list that is referenced during workplace height safety training (also known as the “ABC’s of Fall Protection”). In the workplace, people are trained about height safety with the first four letters of the alphabet; workers need to have an Anchorage, a [full] Body harness, a Connector, and a Deceleration device in order to have a complete Personal Fall Arrest System. On a similar note, when climbers are learning about fall protection safety, they are encouraged to find a good anchorage location, use a [waist] body harness, and attach to their anchorage system with connectors (ropes and carabiners). The premise behind any fall protection system typically uses the same general ideas. And that’s why the application of the fall protection becomes one of the most crucial elements in establishing the appropriate safety equipment.

In the workplace, people are usually getting exposed to heights because they need to access the top of large vehicles, storage units, machines, or buildings. A majority of the time, people will need to go to those different areas because they are either in the construction process or they are performing some type of maintenance. Whether they are doing construction or maintenance tasks, people will invariably be carrying tools that could be heavy and other types of equipment that could influence the worker’s balance. But, when people are participating in the sport of rock climbing, the only items that they will need to have with them are pieces of safety equipment—all of which are designed to be relatively lightweight—and climbers only have equipment with them if they are climbing outdoors on specific types of rock faces.

Also, when workers are moving around on top of equipment or vehicles, they are usually on their feet. When rock climbers are scaling a wall, they are using both of their hands and their feet as points of contact against the wall. For this reason, rock climbers have a better sense of control and stability while they are navigating heights. Workers could easily lose their balance and fall when they only have their feet as a point of contact at height.

Two of the biggest differences between rock climbing and workplace fall protection pertain to the harness and the deceleration device. Workplace fall protection harnesses are full body harnesses that have a dorsal and/or sternal D-Ring attachment area. The D-Rings are placed in those areas because workers generally have vertical falls and placing them in a harness with an anchorage connection in that area keeps the worker upright. However, a rock climbing harness only goes around the waist and legs. This style of harness is preferred for climbers because they could fall at a variety of different angles. If a climber were to fall from any angle while wearing a full body harness, studies conducted by the UIAA have proven that a full body harness would put the climber at a higher risk for neck and spinal injuries. So, to reduce the impact of fall arrest on a climber’s body, the UIAA established that waist harnesses are safer for rock climber usage. Note, per OSHA and ANSI Z359- never use a body belt in a fall arrest application. Body belts are acceptable for fall restraint only. See ANSI Z359 for further clarification.

As far as deceleration devices are concerned, there is a huge difference between what is an acceptable device for fall arrest in the workplace and in the sport of rock climbing. In the workplace, falls should be arrested through the use of either a rip stitch lanyard or a self-retracting lanyard. These are preferred for the workplace because they provide the most controlled and immediate arrest of downward movement. But, in rock climbing, a dynamic (or semi-stretchy) rope is the deceleration device. Rock climbers use ropes because they need to be able to connect to more anchorage points as they are moving along a rock face. When workers are using fall protection at their jobs, they are tied off to either a specific anchorage point, or their anchorage is following them along an overhead track system. The rock climber needs the rope because they will be covering various distances during their climbing route with anchorages that they will tie onto as they progress on the wall.

Although the general concepts behind fall protection are the same, there are always going to be exceptions to rules. Always assess your situation before putting yourself at a dangerous height. And remember, if you’re not sure what safety devices to use, ask someone who knows. Until the next time, stay safe up there!

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The Black Diamond harness I have is light, comfortable, and easy to put on. No loops to step into. It has leg loops, but you reach back and attach it after the belt on around your waist. Leg loops are adjustable and buckle in. I was worried it wouldn’t fit over my Fanatic bibs. I shouldn’t have worried, it fits great.

Like I said, I really don’t have enough hunts with it to say for certain, but so far I like it a lot.

I’m ordering from here, which one, bigger the better, has to fit over my stand hunter extreme!

I ordered this one, don’t have to step through the leg loops and its the largest

I admit I have never rock climbed, but it appears to me that you have to use your feet and hands to keep yourself upright?

wv_bowhunter: a waist belt could easily slip up around your chest if/when you fell and make it hard to breathe, whereas the rock climbing harness will stay on your waist. But you’re right about it being less secure than a full body harness which is better for keeping you upright. It probably depends on how high your center of gravity is located:) The green loop on the front of my rock climbing harness sits in front of my belly button.

Flipping upside down is a non-issue. I don’t try and talk anyone into a RC harness if they are happy with the full body style. Just wear something so you don’t hit the ground!

My question for the guys with the rock-climbing harness is don’t you attach the lifeline to the front of the harness? Does it interfere with drawing your bow and shooting ever?

Either way, just wear something that you have confidence in. No excuse not to these days.

Whenever someone is attempting to access an area at height, it’s always important for them to use some form of fall protection. And even though there are significant differences between the equipment requirements for sport and workplace safety applications, it’s always helpful to have a clear understanding of why some equipment is best applied to one circumstance, but never applied to another one.

During the sport of rock climbing, one of the primary goals (and rewards) of the sport is being able to climb up to an area hundreds of feet in the air that would be otherwise unknown to human eyes and hands. Since rock climbers are regularly exposing themselves to those dangerous heights, they understand that they need to use specialized safety equipment to prevent serious injury. But, when people are at work and they are in an industrial setting, the heights and nature of their height hazards are different because they are focused on the job that they need to do, instead of the rock climber who is at height for pleasure. Since the workplace is a different environment, people in the workplace require other types of fall protection equipment.

Rock climbers adhere to the equipment guidelines and standards that are set forth by the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (UIAA) for their personal safety, whereas people who are involved with general industry and construction safety are required by law to adhere to the height guidelines set forth by OSHA and encouraged to adhere to ANSI Z359 standards. Both of those organizations are committed to the safety of people who are accessing height. However, rock climbers are using their equipment guidelines for sport safety whereas other people are using their guidelines for workplace safety. The differences in equipment are related to the type of fall that a worker at height would experience versus the type of fall that a rock climber at height would face.

Even though the circumstances between sport and workplace applications are different, there are some basic similarities in regards to the core ideology and logic behind staying safe at height. When rock climbers are learning about fall protection, their equipment checklist sounds similar to the list that is referenced during workplace height safety training (also known as the “ABC’s of Fall Protection”). In the workplace, people are trained about height safety with the first four letters of the alphabet; workers need to have an Anchorage, a [full] Body harness, a Connector, and a Deceleration device in order to have a complete Personal Fall Arrest System. On a similar note, when climbers are learning about fall protection safety, they are encouraged to find a good anchorage location, use a [waist] body harness, and attach to their anchorage system with connectors (ropes and carabiners). The premise behind any fall protection system typically uses the same general ideas. And that’s why the application of the fall protection becomes one of the most crucial elements in establishing the appropriate safety equipment.

In the workplace, people are usually getting exposed to heights because they need to access the top of large vehicles, storage units, machines, or buildings. A majority of the time, people will need to go to those different areas because they are either in the construction process or they are performing some type of maintenance. Whether they are doing construction or maintenance tasks, people will invariably be carrying tools that could be heavy and other types of equipment that could influence the worker’s balance. But, when people are participating in the sport of rock climbing, the only items that they will need to have with them are pieces of safety equipment—all of which are designed to be relatively lightweight—and climbers only have equipment with them if they are climbing outdoors on specific types of rock faces.

Also, when workers are moving around on top of equipment or vehicles, they are usually on their feet. When rock climbers are scaling a wall, they are using both of their hands and their feet as points of contact against the wall. For this reason, rock climbers have a better sense of control and stability while they are navigating heights. Workers could easily lose their balance and fall when they only have their feet as a point of contact at height.

Two of the biggest differences between rock climbing and workplace fall protection pertain to the harness and the deceleration device. Workplace fall protection harnesses are full body harnesses that have a dorsal and/or sternal D-Ring attachment area. The D-Rings are placed in those areas because workers generally have vertical falls and placing them in a harness with an anchorage connection in that area keeps the worker upright. However, a rock climbing harness only goes around the waist and legs. This style of harness is preferred for climbers because they could fall at a variety of different angles. If a climber were to fall from any angle while wearing a full body harness, studies conducted by the UIAA have proven that a full body harness would put the climber at a higher risk for neck and spinal injuries. So, to reduce the impact of fall arrest on a climber’s body, the UIAA established that waist harnesses are safer for rock climber usage. Note, per OSHA and ANSI Z359- never use a body belt in a fall arrest application. Body belts are acceptable for fall restraint only. See ANSI Z359 for further clarification.

As far as deceleration devices are concerned, there is a huge difference between what is an acceptable device for fall arrest in the workplace and in the sport of rock climbing. In the workplace, falls should be arrested through the use of either a rip stitch lanyard or a self-retracting lanyard. These are preferred for the workplace because they provide the most controlled and immediate arrest of downward movement. But, in rock climbing, a dynamic (or semi-stretchy) rope is the deceleration device. Rock climbers use ropes because they need to be able to connect to more anchorage points as they are moving along a rock face. When workers are using fall protection at their jobs, they are tied off to either a specific anchorage point, or their anchorage is following them along an overhead track system. The rock climber needs the rope because they will be covering various distances during their climbing route with anchorages that they will tie onto as they progress on the wall.

Although the general concepts behind fall protection are the same, there are always going to be exceptions to rules. Always assess your situation before putting yourself at a dangerous height. And remember, if you’re not sure what safety devices to use, ask someone who knows. Until the next time, stay safe up there!

5c Climbers

Table of Contents

The rock climbing harness design has come a long way since it was invented back in the 60s by Yosemite climbers. Harness designs had evolved as climbers are becoming more specialized and require specific functions catered to different types of climbing. To many casual climbers, a harness is a harness. We are all very familiar with the harness we have but do we really? Have you looked at your harness and asked yourself what the hell is this for? If you had not is ok, as we will look at these unique features on your harness and answer all the questions which you should have asked before buying a harness.

Different types of rock climbing harness

Gym harness

Gym harness is commonly used for training purposes. It is most likely the first harness you’d put on when you started climbing. Gym harness has only the most essential features a harness needs making it very cheap thus it is commonly used for introductory climbing programs and courses. Gym harness mostly come in just 1 size and is made of nylon webbing without any padding hence extremely uncomfortable.

If you are looking at getting into climbing you should NOT buy a gym harness for personal use.

Sport harness

There are many different types of sport harnesses. Each design serves a unique purpose for different types of climbing.

Standard sport harness

Most sport harness design comes with a single waist belt buckle, 2 or 4 gear loops and a non-adjustable leg loops. Sport harness is suitable for climbers of all levels and it great for gym sessions and a day out at the crag.

Sport harness with 2 waist belt buckles

You might have come across sport harnesses with 2 waist belt buckles. It might not make sense to have 2 waist buckles especially if you are climbing in an area that is hot and humid. However, if you are climbing in an area that is cold you’ll understand why harness with 2 waist buckles is necessary.

Climbers wear multiple layers of thick clothing when climbing in a cold climate. You’ll need to loosen your harness waist buckle if you are wearing your harness over thick clothing. Loosening harness with a single waist buckle will cause the belay loop to move off centre and the gear loops out off position.

The purpose of having 2 waist belt buckles is to allow climbers to loosen the harness using both left and right buckles to maintain the belay loop at the centre of the harness when wearing over thick clothing.

Sport harness with adjustable leg loops

Harness with adjustable leg loops allows leg loops to be tightened or loosen according to climbers’ needs. Climbers and mountaineer that climb in cold conditions will need to wear thick clothing hence necessary for adjustable leg loops.

Another important purpose for adjustable leg loops is so that climbers can remove leg loops without having to take off their harness. For climbers and mountaineers, there will be situations where it is necessary to remove leg loops while still keeping the harness on and clip into safety. It is not uncommon for climbers to loosen or undo their leg loops when resting on a portaledge. It is also absolutely necessary to undo your leg loops when you need a change of underwear or when taking a shit on the portaledge.

Lightweight sport harness

Manufacturers are constantly experimenting with new lightweight materials to reduce the weight of climbing gear and harness is no exception. Ultra-light and thin materials are used to construct lightweight harnesses that can weigh as little as 300grams. These harnesses are light and compact which is great for travelling. However, lightweight harnesses are lightly padded hence can be quite uncomfortable when worn for long climbs, eg multipitch routes.

Big wall harness

Imagine spending days on a wall, having to sleep and poop on a portaledge while strapped into your harness. For such expedition climbs you’ll want to be in a harness that is well padded and comfortable. The harness waist belt and leg loops will need to be highly adjustable to accommodate cold weather clothing. Harnesses designed for big expedition climbs have a wide and thickly padded waist belt and leg loops to provide comfort and support while you hang on your safety for hours at a time belaying your partner.

For big wall climbs you properly need extra gear loops as well. Most harnesses designed for big wall have up to 6 or 7 gear loops for climbers to load up on extra climbing gear.

Summary

For most casual climbers a simple sport climbing harness will be more than sufficient for gym climbing or a day out at the crag. However, as you progress and move towards climbing outdoors and wants to explore big wall climbs you’ll need to equip yourself with a more purpose-built harness.

Even the world’s best rock climbers need to exercise safety as much as we do. Aside from using a comfortable harness where you can easily move and climb, you have to make sure it can hold your weight in case you slip or fall. Rock climbing is not as easy as trail hiking and it needs the right equipment to support you. What you need to look for in buying a rock climbing harness are the safety standards, comfort, and some accessories you’ll be needing for the climb. Whether it’s for sports climbing or just having a little fun outdoors, you’ll pretty much need the same harness features so here are some shopping tips to guide you before you hit the sports store.

1. Adjustable leg loops

Most professional rock climbers have smaller legs compared to casual climbers. If you’re in between sizes, you may need a harness that fits just right by being able to adjust the leg loops. Harnesses that don’t have adjustable leg loops are lighter and a little more simple, but your equipment should be versatile for that casual climb.

2. Speed adjust buckles

One cool harness feature is the speed-adjust buckle or self-locking buckle. It’s really quick to take the harness on and off, which is very convenient. All you need to do when putting on the harness is pull it tight and you’re done!

3. Breathable Mesh Waistbands

Harnesses with thicker padding are less comfortable. Breathable mesh waistbands are the best while standing compared to the traditional designs. Less padding means less back sweat and a more comfy climb.

4. Molded Gear Loops

Choose a harness that has nice molded gear loop designs. The gear loops should stick out for you to easily clip additional gear or equipment that you need for the climb. The Black Diamond Momentum is a fine example for a harness with model gear loops.

Watch this video by EpicTV Climbing Daily for the best all-around climbing harness.

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Finding a lightweight sport-climbing harness is easy in my experience. It’s typically as durable as most all around harnesses though it doesn’t feel too comfortable when you fall. Choosing a harness with the most important comfort and safety features can be quite challenging so take note of these shopping tips to help you out.

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