Multi-pitch climbing is used where the height of the rock is greater than the length of the rope. This involves both the climber and belayer ascending and belaying each other, with the belayer, belaying from the rock side, usually from a convenient ledge.
A Gri Gri is a belay device which automatically locks in the event of a fall. Because of this it can be slightly harder to pay out the rope, however many climbers are happy to overlook this as the Gri-Gri is a very good belay device. Many indoor climbing walls use Gri-Gri’s when teaching young climbers to climb because of the auto locking feature. A new version of the Gri-Gri (known as the Gri-Gri 2) is soon to be released. According to the official website, the device will be able to take a thinner rope size, be 25% smaller and lighter and feature a more progressive descent control system.
A Petzl Gri-Gri.
A bouldering mat, or crash pad as they’re often known, is a padded mat that is placed below a climber bouldering or over a particularly nasty landing area. It’s role is to protect a boulderer, should a fall occur. Bouldering mats usually consist of two layers of foam (a thin firm layer and a thicker soft layer) inside a thick zippable cover. The mats come in a range of sizes, and usually fold in half, held tight by buckles. On one side of the mat is either a single strap or a couple of rucksack type straps, which allow the boulderer to carry the mat easily. Rock shoes, chalk, guidebooks and other items can be carried in the middle of the mat and some designs have a small flap which help to prevent anything from falling out of the bottom.
A Moon Warrior bouldering mat opened.
There are many mats available in the market today and size will probably be your first consideration, especially if you plan to travel via public transport with your mat or if you have a small car boot. On the flip side, a large mat means a large surface area to fall onto, therefore look at your requirements and choose wisely.
The Moon Warrior bouldering mat in a closed position.
A nut key is a tool used to remove nuts which have become stuck in the rock. This can happen often, so a tool like the ones shown below is vital in saving you time whilst removing your protection, not to mention the cost of having to replace your stuck gear.
A Wild Country Nut Key
A selection of different sized Nuts.
Spring Loaded Camming Devices (or SLCD for short) usually consist of three of four cams mounted on an axle. They are designed so that once placed into a crack in the rock face, any force placed on pulling the SLCD (i.e. a fall) will force the cams to spread open further, essentially holding the climber in place.
SLCD’s have a trigger mechanism, which when pulled with a couple of fingers, closes the cams together and aligns them so that it can be placed into the crack easily. SLCD’s, like all other climbing protection, are made by a number of manufacturers all of whom give their SLCD’s a different name. Some of the most common include Friends, Camalots and Aliens.
A diagram detailing how a loaded cam works.
As shown above, the more pressure placed on the cam, the wider it will attempt to open.
At first glance, most climbing harnesses look the same. They all consist of two leg loops and a waste loop connected together with a small fourth belay loop. This is not actually the case though. Some harnesses are made for regular rock climbing, some for alpine style climbing (with detachable leg loops), some harnesses have a lot of padding making them very comfortable to climb in all day long, while others (usually at the budget end of the scale) have considerably less. There are male and female specific designs available as well as many unisex ones. Some harnesses come with a large number of gear loops. These are usually plastic (although some are metal) “D shaped” rings which are attached to the side of the harness and used to clip your climbing gear onto when climbing.
A padded unisex climbing hanress with metal gear loops.
Before buying a harness it’s important to know if it feels comfortable. Many good climbing shops will have a harness hang facility, which allows you to put the harness on and suspend from a rope. This will give you the best indication of the comfort of the harness. As with climbing shoes, it is worth trying a few harnesses on to see which one feels the most comfortable. After all, you will be spending quite a bit of time in it, so it may as well feel comfortable.
An apline style harness
(notice the leg loops are not padded and can be quickly unclipped, making it easier to put on and off in alpine conditions or whilst wearing more padded clothing).
A chalk bag is used to contain climbing chalk. There are many different versions available on the market today, however they all follow the same principle. They’re usually a hand sized pouch which is attached to the climber and can be used to apply chalk whenever, wherever they are. The chalk bag usually has a fleece lining which traps chalk dust and a draw string closure to stop the chalk from coming out during transit. They’re available in different sizes, colours and designs, so take a look around at the shops and websites to find one that suits you.
A regular chalk bag. Choosing which colour or pattern can be the hardest thing!
Chalk bags are often fastened around the waist on a thin belt or can be attached to a belt loop with a small karabiner. Chalk buckets are also available for bouldering. These are large communal chalk bags allowing a number of people to share the same chalk. As most boulder problems are short, the re-application of chalk is not usually required and therefore boulderers often leave their chalk bags on the ground.
A large communal chalk bucket, ideal for bouldering.
Nuts are climbing protection, used predominantly when trad climbing. There are many varieties available from different manufacturers, however the basic format is a small wedge shaped block of metal with a loop of wire attached to it. The nut is placed into a narrowing crack in the rock face and wedged so that it will not be removed in the event of a fall. The climber will then attach a quickdraw to the loop and clip their rope through the other side of the quick draw. In the event of a fall, a well placed nut should hold fast and prevent the climber from falling any further.
Nuts are available in different sizes and are usually colour coded either by anodising the block or a small collar on the wire. The colour represents the size of the nut, which after a little time using them will help to speed up the process of which nut to select whilst climbing. Nuts are also known as wires or stoppers and although each manufacturer seems to have a different name for them, they all perform in roughly the same way.
Liquid Chalk works similar to some brands of chalk, by using a drying agent to prevent the hands from becoming sweaty. Many climbers prefer liquid chalk as it doesn’t leave a white residue on the holds. One application also lasts a while, where as chalk can require frequent reapplication. Some climbers use liquid chalk as a “base layer” before using regular chalk. As is always the case, it boils down to personal preference.