Saturday, January 11, 2014

Cold Case: Ice Gear 101

The biggest barrier to ice climbing is getting the gear. Well that, and seasonal weather patterns. (Winter is coming!) As with any sport, If you don't have the right gear you will get less from the experience. The specific gear you need is dictated by your specific type of activity. Ice climbing is a broad term that covers a wide range of adventure. On one end of the spectrum you have Alpine Mountaineering, attaining large summits by tackling glaciers and snowfields. On the other end you have Technical Ice, scaling actual walls of ice that can be vertical or even overhanging. Depending on your objective, your needs can be more alpine, more technical, or a mix. Either way you should know what gear serves what purpose so that you are best prepared for your objective. Below is a very basic run down of the types of ice gear that you might find and a brief description of their uses. For pictures you can follow along with this slideshow that I created when giving this presentation to the MN Rovers.

Boots: Hard Shell vs Soft Shell
Hard shell boots offer more support than soft shell boots. This can be an advantage because it can create a stronger connection to your crampons.  The double-layer design also can keep you a bit warmer than certain soft shell, single-layer boots. They are heavy though and can be clumsy to work with. Soft shell boots have become much more popular over the last few years because of their overall comfort and flexibility. They are lighter weight and ideal for technical ice climbing. The also look cooler.

For more info on boot and crampon selection, check out this Rock and Ice article.

Crampons: Three Variables
Points- Glacier vs Technical- Glacier crampons are identified by their flat, downward curving points. they are more flexible because they are designed for hiking long distances They have non replaceable points and are usually the ones you get when you rent crampons from a local outfitter. They work for technical ice but technical crampons work much better. They have points like ice tools so they penetrate ice for better foot placements. They have replaceable tips and are usually stiffer for better boot connection.

Connections- Step in vs Strap on- Step in crampons require a special boot with a ledge of hard rubber on the front and back so that the "bail"(hard metal wire), has something to lock into. This operates a lot like a ski boot: step in and snap the binding shut.  More modern designs of crampons are using a strap on system using a rubber strap on the toes to secure the boot to the crampon. This works with more styles of boots but arguably gives a softer, less effective connection.

Configuration-Dual vs Mono- Like camels, some crampons have one point,some have two. Dual point is the more common configuration for beginners. It gives the climber more stability when it comes to ankle rotation. Mono point is the single point configuration. It offers more flexibility and rotation on the toe of the crampon and also deeper penetration as the kicking force is not split between two points. This is often used by dry toolers as the pick on the crampon can fit in the same places as the tool pick does.

For more info on crampon selection, REI did a nice job putting this article together.

Tools: Mountaineering vs Technical
Mountaineering tools are designed for stabilization, self arrest, and anchoring on the vast glaciers and slopes of bigger mountains. They are not designed for vertical ice. The long shaft makes for a slow swing and the straight handle would be incredibly difficult to hold on to with a downward pull. As climbers have pushed into more technical routes, tools have become shorter, lighter, and more aggressive. A technical tool has a curved shaft and ergonomic handle to make swinging and hanging on easier. While they are not the workhorse tools that mountaineering tools can be, they are specifically designed for speed and accuracy when swinging. Leashes were introduced to help climbers keep a grip on these shorter tools, but as handle design improved, technical ice climbers have cast off their leashes for the improved maneuverability that leashless climbing offers.

Outdoor Gear Lab put together a nice buying guide for mountaineering tools and Rock and Ice has review page for more technical tools.

Extra: T and B Rating?
Both picks and shafts have a circled T or a B rating stamped right on it. What does it mean? The B stand for Basic which means it can withstand less force than a shaft or pick with a T (Technical) rating. So is the T rating better to have? I actually prefer B rated picks for ice because they are thinner an give better ice penetration than T picks. But when I am dry tooling, I would go for a T pick every time. The forces exerted on a pick why dry tooling are intense and I can feel my B picks flexing in ways that make me uncomfortable. This is a nice summary of the B and T pick dilemma.

Which gear is the best to get? Just choose the right tool for the right objective.

Climb Smart MN is a grassroots approach to climbing education based on community and charitable giving. For information on donation based climbing lessons visit ClimbSmartMN and follow us on Facebook. With over ten years of climbing instruction, coaching, and guiding experience,  Chris Hesselbein strives to better the climbing community through personalized technique and safety education.

Cold Case: N00B Tips for Ice Climbing

When I first started ice climbing I thought I would NEVER go ice climbing. Why would anyone want to hack away at a wall of ice in freezing cold weather? That did not sound like a good time at all. It sounded like a lot of work in uncomfortable conditions. The next season, a guide I was working with twisted my arm and had me come along to set up anchors and manage clients. At least I was getting paid to be cold.  When the clients were exhausted they put me on the rope. Turns out, it WAS a lot of work and I was in fact cold.  So, no surprises there.  What I didn't expect was the fantastic pump and the increased level of challenge I encountered on the wall.  So, I did what any reasonable climber would do. I bought all the gear right away.

Even though I very much enjoyed the experience there are a few things that I wish I would have known at the time. Here are some very obvious but important tips for getting the most out of your first time ice climbing.

1. Ice is actually water in disguise!
Ice climbing can be remarkably damp. If you are climbing a live flow during the day you are almost guaranteed to get wet. It sneaks up on you. Just a little bit here and there starts to add up. If your clothes get wet, you will not get dry. If you are not dry, you WILL get cold. If you get cold, you will not be happy. If you are not happy, you will not have as much fun. If you are not having fun, you will not get invited to the bar afterwards. So, stay dry if you want to party with townies. Wear as many layers as you need to stay warm, but the outermost layer needs to be waterproof, especially your gloves.

2. You are actually thirsty!
Winter outdoor activities dehydrate you quickly without you noticing. You don't feel hot so you don't want to drink water. After a while you may start to feel tired, woozy, or not quite with it. That is exactly where mistakes start to happen. Go for your Nalgene. What's that you say? It's frozen? Oh. I didn't see that coming... How about bringing a heat source or an insulated bottle so that your only source of life giving water doesn't turn into the most boring popsicle ever? Food also freezes! *Pro tip: Drive around for 20 minutes to defrost bagels on your dashboard!

3. Ice explodes!
Hitting a frozen substance with a metal pick right next to your face is a terrible idea. It tends to explode. Wear eye protection. Just do it. It doesn't have to be fancy, it just has to be there. Grab your favorite shop glasses, snorkeling goggles, or welding mask and get to work. Actually I prefer sunglasses on a sunny day for protection from both ice shards and reflective glare. On cloudy days, a good pair of clear racquetball goggles does the trick.  Also,  if you have any composure on the wall, aim for the concave (indented) areas in the ice. Convex(bulging out) ice formations will almost certainly blow up in your face

4. Just come down!
I know you really want to get to the top because it would make you win climbing. But there is a very good chance that on your first time you may not get there. Falling is very common and I wholeheartedly encourage people to get back on that wall and push their limits. However, beginners have a tendency to hang on the rope for a long time, not knowing that they are actually spent. Your best chance of sending a route is when you are warm and well rested. With each attempt your pump builds on the pump that was there before. Every minute you are on the wall, your hands are getting colder. Push your limits but know that you have a much better chance of succeeding if you come down, warm up, and rest.

5. Your rental gear sucks!
Ever rent any gear from anywhere? Chances are it sucks. The edges aren't sharp. It doesn't fit well. It might not even be the exact gear you need for the situation. But how would you know? My first time on ice was with mountaineering crampons and straight-leashed tools. There is very specialized gear for different types of climbing. You can read all about it in my post "Ice Gear 101" At least go into it knowing that the gear you are renting may be making this much more difficult than it should be. Don;t let crappy gear make you feel unsuccessful.  I encourage you to learn about the correct gear for you to rent and also to borrow good gear from friends to see what works the best for you.  It is a poor carpenter who blames his tools...but c'mon! have you seen these lousy crampons?

Climb Smart MN is a grassroots approach to climbing education based on community and charitable giving. For information on donation based climbing lessons visit ClimbSmartMN and follow us on Facebook. With over ten years of climbing instruction, coaching, and guiding experience,  Chris Hesselbein strives to better the climbing community through personalized technique and safety education.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Vertical Darwinism: Figure 8 vs. Double Bowline

This is going to be a bumpy ride.  It has been debated for years and lately the argument has been heated. So, I guess it is my turn to throw my hat into the ring and see how much backlash I get. This is still something I am researching so please let me know of any reliable resources that you might shed further light on this topic.

Lets start out with a metaphor. Two cars: a minivan and a sporty convertible. One is known and loved. It has room for 7 in its roll cage and a reliable yet sluggish automatic transmission. The other is not as widely used but often coveted. It has a drop top and a zippy 6 speed manual. Assuming that both vehicles are in brand new condition, which one is safer?

The Figure 8 and Double Bowline cage match has picked up some steam with the recent accident involving John Long and an incomplete bowline knot. Many have taken the pulpit and proclaimed that the Double Bowline is a dangerous knot and should be banned from climbing gyms. Let's look at the arguments...

The Case Against the Double Bowline:
Strength- The Double Bowline knot technically weakens the rope more than a Figure 8 (*Numbers vary but all concur that the Figure 8 weakens the rope less.)

Simplicity- The Figure 8 is easily recognizable and therefore easy to check giving climbing partners a no-brainer check. The Double Bowline seems more complicated to check and may confuse a climbing party making it difficult for partners to correctly double check.

Safety Record- The properly tied figure 8 has, to my knowledge,  a 100%  safety record while the Double Bowline has at least been associated with several high-profile climbing accidents.

In Defense of the Double Bowline:
Strength- All knots weaken the rope by a certain percent, some more than others. Even by having a higher percentage of rope weakening, the strength of a well-maintained rope terminated in a Double Bowline is still well within the range of acceptable safety.

Simplicity- Some might argue that the Double Bowline is in fact a simpler knot to tie (one can do it without looking) and, after untying, it does not leave any knot in the rope to get snagged in anchors when pulling it after a lead. Climbing partners do question it when they don't understand it. But shouldn't that questioning prompt deeper investigation of  the correctness of the tie-in point and therefore a more thorough double check?

Safety Record- While the Double Bowline has been accused of associating itself with climbing accidents, I have not been able to find one documented case of a properly tied and backed up Double Bowline failure. John Long and Lynn Hill both attribute their falls to not completing their knot, which could happen with any knot if the climbing team is distracted.

The Verdict:
The THEORIST in me looks at the strength, the safety record, and the foolproof nature of the Figure 8(it even works moderately well when not finished) and quickly comes to the conclusion that it is the only knot that anyone should ever use for climbing.  Using any knot that has inferior stats would be dumb.

However, my inner PRAGMATIST has a slightly different opinion. I know that in climbing, different challenges call for different solutions.  I know that all knots have advantages and disadvantages. I know that each knot has a unique set of features that could be handy in certain scenarios. (For example: In joining two rope for rappel, the EDT weakens the rope by around 50% but is skilled at avoiding flakes and cracks) Maybe there is a time when the features of a slightly weaker knot could be advantageous?

So, which knot do I use?  I use both depending on the type of climbing, terrain, partners, weather, and rope. I use the Figure 8 in prolonged climbing situations, or when I have new partners, or when the rope is thick or frozen.  I use the Double Bowline for shorter climbs, with pliable ropes, experienced partners, or when I am going to be pulling rope through a fixed set of anchors so I don't forget to undo my starter knot. IT DEPENDS.

Which Car is Safest?
Obviously the safest car is the one left in the garage. But climbers are creatures of action; sloth does not become us. We need to choose one car to get to the crag.   Even the minivan with the five star safety rating could be operated by a texting teenager, and the relatively more dangerous convertible captained by an incredibly alert and responsible motorist.

At the end of the day, I would argue that, all other things being equal, the safest car is the one with the best driver.

*Please feel free to contact me if you are aware of any resources that might help shed light on this issue. Lets continue the conversation as we learn together.


Climb Smart MN is a grassroots approach to climbing education based on community and charitable giving. For information on donation based climbing lessons visit ClimbSmartMN and follow us on Facebook. With over ten years of climbing instruction, coaching, and guiding experience,  Chris Hesselbein strives to better the climbing community through personalized technique and safety education.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Pulling Plastic: The Nylon Python

You are lowering your leader after their solid send, but you have to pause, effectively dangling them just feet above the gawking boy scout troop. Why? Because you are now engaged in a battle with a coiled python of nylon who refused to go quietly through your belay device.  You struggle to untangle the beast, all the while the boy scouts below your climber await like baby birds with mouths agape.

WHY? !!!?!!!1!

Why do gym ropes get all twisty? 
For that matter why do any ropes get all twisty? Imagine a rope in space. If you twist one end, the twist will travel like a wave and the other end 60m yonder will eventually turn as well, effectively expelling the twist. . One twist goes in, one twist comes out the other side. (I haven't tried it but it would be a really cool experiment when we get our passenger space programs running. Also slack-lining might be a lot less dangerous out there). When both ends are free to move twists have a way to escape the rope.

Bring the rope back to the gym. Check it for any damage possibly sustained upon re-entry. Flake it out on the ground. Your climber ties in. When this happens, the ends of the system are now closed. There is no way for twists to escape on that end since it is now locked in place and can't untwist. The other end is on the ground, underneath a pile of itself, rendering it unable to turn as well.  The only two ways for twists to escape this rope have now been closed off.

Then the belaying begins and there are more guilty parties involved: belay tools and brake hands. Brake hands without much effort can put small, fractional twists into the rope as they are belaying. Especially if the belayer incorporates a repetitive circular motion into their routine. Belay tools don't like to let twists get through. In fact they end up pushing twists down through the rope, concentrating the twists to one end. If that end is on the ground, the twists are trapped in the rope. Repeat this process a few times and all those small twists start adding up with no end in sight. To make matters worse, when finished leading, often we find both ends and coil from there towards the middle of the rope, pushing the twists to the center so they may strike at their next unassuming victim!

So what can we do avoid and/or pacify the nylon python?

1. Flake Well. Flake Often.
 Look for twists and send them to the ends of the rope to release the pressure and let them untwist. Have your climber wait to tie in until the flake is complete or else they will block the escape route. Also, be careful not to get too"circular" with your flaking and your brake hand motion. A random flaking pattern reduces the chance for repetition or a figure-eight style of flaking may help as it puts a half twist in, but takes a half twist out on the next loop.

2. Run it through.
Using the same end of the rope over and over will push the twists to the same spot. Run the rope all the way through if possible to let the twists run out the end and start from the opposite end(for both lead and top rope). Letting the full length of the rope run through the belay tool will force twists down and out of the end of the rope as well.
*Outside, a good rappel all the way to the end of the rope is very effective as it pushes twists from the center to the ends. A simulated rappel will also help. I set up a belay tool on a sling from my pull-up bar and pull the rope all the way through, starting at the center. REPEAT until tamed.

3. Be Kind. Rewind.
Coil from the center. It is much quicker to coil from the ends. But it traps twists and sends them to the center of the rope. Be considerate and take time to find the center and start there. It will reduce the frustration for the next party. It takes more time, but caring for our climbing community is worth it.
Isn't it?   Do your part, it helps everyone in the long run.

Climb Smart MN is a grassroots approach to climbing education based on community and charitable giving. For information on donation based climbing lessons visit ClimbSmartMN and follow us on Facebook. With over ten years of climbing instruction, coaching, and guiding experience,  Chris Hesselbein strives to better the climbing community through personalized technique and safety education.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Vertical Darwinism: Rappel Knots

"That climb was EPIC! do we get down?"

On larger climbs, rappels can be longer than one rope can span. That means you need a solid way of connecting two ropes for rappelling. Clearly a knowledgeable decision needs to be made with inputs from all climbers in the party. There are many ways to join 2 ropes together for rappel. Most commonly in the climbing world you will encounter one of these three. They differ in complexity, profile, and security.  Here is a brief run down so you can make your voice heard in the discussion.

Figure 8 Bend  "Ol' Trusty"
Complexity: High  
Profile: Large  
Security: High

Pros: Just like the figure eight tie-in knot it is familiar and easy to check. It is a strong knot that has a great safety record if you dress it well and back it up with your standard fisherman knots.
Cons: It's large profile takes more rope to create and also gives it a better chance to hang up on jagged rock features. It takes a bit more time to tie than some others and can be moderately difficult to get undone after the rap.

Double Fisherman's  "It works for"
Complexity: Medium
Profile: Small
Security: Medium

Pros: This is a well recognized way to join two ropes together. It has many applications for cord of all sizes from ropes to bracelets to accessory cord loops.
Cons: This knot has a tendency to fuse tightly and can be very difficult to undo. It's small profile easily slips into cracks and may hang up. There is no official back up for this knot (except another knot).

Flat Overhand a.k.a. the EDK "European Death Knot?  Really?"
Complexity: Low
Profile: Medium (offset)
Security: Medium

Pros: This very simple knot has an offset profile which has a tendency to align the cords and rotate the knot away from the rock and thereby snag less on the way down.
Cons: Testing has found that this knot weakens the rope more than the other two. Also, under high tension, there is a possibility that it may roll repeatedly toward the end of the rope. This may have been the reason for the American nickname of the "European  Death Knot." According to a tension test on 11mm dynamic rope, the knot rolled at 1400, 1940, 1990, and then broke at 2070 lbs of tension.

*Sidenote- The Flat Figure Eight (the 8 version of the EDK) has a high likelihood of rolling over and should NOT be used for rappel!

Whichever you choose there are always two rules you must remember.
1. Leave plenty of tail on both ropes to lessen the chances of slippage and rolling.
2. Always use similar diameter ropes. Thin and a thick cords are not a good match. Keep your cords within a few mm of each other.
*Bonus- While you are at it, throw some stopper knots in at the end of your rope if you are at all concerned about having enough rope to get down.  Just make sure to UNTIE them BEFORE starting your retrieval pull.

Which knot you prefer and which one works the best for your situation is up to you and your climbing party. Each method has its benefits and drawbacks. The important thing is that you understand the risks involved and accept responsibility for your choices. A majority of incidents occur on the descent. How you get down is an important decision that should be agreed upon before you leave the ground. A windy, rainy, shivering summit is no place to engage in a heated debate about safety and comfort level of all involved. This is a discussion to be had with your climbing partners before the climb. May I suggest in the car whilst driving through Nebraska?

For More Climbing Knots:
Animated Knots by Grog

Tension Testing:

Climb Smart MN is a grassroots approach to climbing education based on community and charitable giving. For information on donation based climbing lessons visit ClimbSmartMN and follow us on Facebook. With over ten years of climbing instruction, coaching, and guiding experience,  Chris Hesselbein strives to better the climbing community through personalized technique and safety education.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Pulling Plastic: 5 Suggestions for Route Setters

What makes a beer good?

I guess it depends what you are in the mood for. Something strong? Something cheap? Something hoppy? Something malty?

There are a lot of crappy, weak beers out there. There are also beers that are really strong, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are well crafted or even enjoyable.  I will still crack one open in a pinch. But I'm not going to recommend them to my friends.

I bet we could all agree that a good beer is one that really shows the craftsmanship of the brewer. One that gives us something unique that everyone can appreciate even if it isn't their favorite style.
A good route is a lot like a good beer. The climber should instantly be able to appreciate the craftsmanship.  We are lucky to have a dedicated community of setters at our local gyms. I know they are under a lot of pressure to create a high VOLUME of routes AND continue to deliver QUALITY. I offer this post as a suggestion to new route setters and a reminder to those who have kept us climbing for years. In no way do I mean this post to be an insult. I have set routes in the past so I understand how much time effort and creativity it takes to complete a route.

With that being said...

1. Be Considerate
Height and reach matter. Please avoid enormous reaches. Some might take the attitude that "reaches happen" and "it just makes you stronger." But if that reach is out of the realm of appropriate challenge, climbers give up and don't learn anything from it. Reasonable challenges are fine but think about these two ideas when setting...

90% Rule- If you can barely reach it, shorties definitely can't. Set holds not at the the full extent of your reach, at your fingertips(100%), but at your wrist(90%) or even forearm to give shorter people a chance.

Multiple Foot Options- Outside, the good holds may be far away but there are so many smaller options in between. An extra foot chip won't make it too easy. It just might make is more plausible and encouraging. Some of the most difficult routes have included multiple foot options that do not make it any easier, but they allow for many body types to enjoy the difficult sequence. 

Trust me. If a foot is set higher for a shorter person, I will not use it because it will throw me off balance. Likewise a shorter person will not use mine because it will stretch them out. One foot chip goes a long way. Like a Dachshund to a Great Dane, the smaller dog has to take many more steps than the bigger one. Allow for it.

2. Be Intentional
AKA: Dont spew holds!
Everyone climbs a route in a different way depending on their size, style and abilities. But routes should have an intended path. Avoid setting up a gauntlet of random holds that might be useful in different ways to different climbers. On one hand, it will still up a lot of conversation, on the other hand it just might be confusing and awkward. See #4

3. Be Consistent
AKA: Don't get carried away!
Route setters are creative people who often become inspired as they find new sequences. One move will inspire the next. That can be a thing of beauty, but it can also increase the difficulty of the route as it ascends. Even with the best intention, the 5.7 becomes harder along the way because the route setter thought, "Wouldn't it be cool if they had to..." Save the 5.10 moves for the 5.10s. Stay the course, even if it means being a bit more boring on this one. Remember the move and put it into a route where it fits. Or change the beginning of the route to fit with the style of your landmark move.

4. Be Excellent 
AKA: Improve your own climbing technique!
THE BEST ROUTES I have climbed in the gym have been set by the BEST CLIMBERS I have known. Climbers who have truly mastered the craft, understand a blend of strength and technique. This mastery can't help but seep into their routes. On a well crafted route, a climber can feel the intention, movement, and even personality of the route setter. You actually feel like them when you climb it. So, how do people feel when they climb your routes? Awkward? Frustrated? Confused? Look back on your own climbing for the reasons why.

5. Be Nice 
AKA: Don't F^%& us over!
There is fine line between creativity and cruelty. That final FU hold or turning a hold upside-down just to make it "more interesting" does not make the route more fun or even better. If you have to resort to cruelty to make your route more challenging or interesting, ask yourself why your route needs to be more interesting in the first place. But I guess that there are some people who like that kind of thing... Maybe just write a "safe word" on the route tag? How about "butterscotch" or "John Tesh"?

In Summary:
Give us consistent, intentional routes that show us your understanding of strength, movement, and balance, that also are considerate of the possibilities and limitations of our unique body types.

What makes a route good?

I guess it depends what you are in the mood for. Fluid movement? Dynamic throws? Powerful slopers? Delicate crimpers?

There are a lot of weak and overrated routes out there. There are also routes that are really difficult, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are well crafted or even enjoyable. I will still climb them in a pinch. But I'm not going to recommend them to my friends.

I bet we could all agree that a good route is one that really shows the craftsmanship of the setter. One that gives us something unique that everyone can appreciate even if it isn't their favorite style.

Climb Smart MN is a grassroots approach to climbing education based on community and charitable giving. For information on donation based climbing lessons visit ClimbSmartMN and follow us on Facebook. With over ten years of climbing instruction, coaching, and guiding experience,  Chris Hesselbein strives to better the climbing community through personalized technique and safety education.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Vertical Darwinism: Attachment Issues

"Are you attached?" This is more than a blunt way to check the dating status of an assumed Scorpio at a local watering hole. It is a crucial question that we should always ask ourselves when hanging out at a belay station. There are many ways to attach yourself to that all-sustaining MASTER POINT. But which method is right for you?

Let me count the ways...

A sling girth hitched to a harness can offer the security you are looking for. They work in your anchor and for slinging trees and chickenheads. So why not use them to attach yourself to an anchor? That is less of a hypothetical question than it seems. First off, girth hitching slings actually weakens their capacity. (See my "Slings and Things" post for more detail)  Secondly, slings can be loosy-goosey to deal with because of their length and lack of structure. This makes it difficult to adjust your distance from the anchor.  If you are using one you can tie limiting knots in them to add length options and give the carabiner a home base in the sling.

Daisy Chain- 
This is basically a hefty sling with sewn separations. It has more structure and seems more convenient than just using a regular old sling. So is it better? Organizationally, YES because there are a lot of little loops for you to use. Safety-wise, NO because tests have found that a high factor fall, like one from directly above an anchor, can cause stitching between the loops to fail. That is not surprising to find out because they were originally designed for use in Aiding and not intended for anyone to be falling on them. (Um... Neither are the above mentioned Slings...)

*Also note that, when using a Daisy Chain, if your carabiner is in two separate loops, you technically are in no loops at all because of Math. Topology would say that the letter B is the same as the letter O if the connector in the middle of the B gives way. A carabiner connected to both loops of the B is really hanging out in the bleak nothingness encapsulated by the O. So if you do use one, remember, "BO"...
Here is an excellent video illustrating this exact point.

Cord System- 
You will see some climbers have switched from the Daisy Chain to a wild system of cord that, using a combination of knots and magic,  can be extended to the desired length. This is a redundant system that can also be dynamic and absorb a fall depending on what type of cord you use. The only downside to this system is that it is a lot of cord hangin' out down there, which can get a bit messy and tangled. It is solid but just not as tidy as some other methods.

This multi-loop system consists of multiple loops. Yup.  Each loop is designed like a belay loop, where it is wrapped around itself twice, granting great strength in each segment. It is strong, compact, and stows away well. It also allows the climber to use more than one loop to attach if they deem it necessary since each loop is independent.

Cammed Webbing- 
I have also seen climbers using a strap with a camming device to adjust the length of the attachment. Mostly I see this used inside for route setting when you are tied into a rope as well. But hey, if it keeps a canoe on your roof rack...

Which Method is Best?
I don't know if there is a best, but I think there is a consensus that Slings and Daisy Chains are probably not the best. Personally, I use the PAS. I find that it is strong, lightweight, convenient, and compact. So run out and get one. Or I guess just head to REI and ask for a "climbing strap" and see what they hand you. But whatever method you choose, avoid taking falls onto anchors at close range. These falls are high fall factors which are not good for any of the above options. Anchor attachments should be for just that, attachments. They should not be dynamically weighted.

Regardless of your method, make sure it runs through your two strong points. NEVER on your belay loop.  Yes, I know the old PAS Packaging showed a picture of it but if you read the actual instructions you will see that they agree with me. Or I agree with them. Anyway, it turns out that not all graphic designers are personal safety experts. Is your belay loop not strong enough?  Far from it! But it is not designed to withstand the constant fabric-on-fabric action of a girth hitch or even a rope. The belay loop is a carabiner only zone. Don't believe me? check out this  excellent post from Backcountry Beacon for some interesting facts on belay loops.

Is chocolate too delicious?
No. It is the perfect amount of deliciousness.

Do I need more than one of these things to always be redundant?
You do not need to buy two attachment systems. Redundancy can come in many forms. You can even use the rope as your second attachment point. When you can't use the rope, like if you are setting up for rappel, just throw in another sling for good measure.

Does this make me look fat?
 I take the 5th.

Where should I store my attachment on my harness?
I shoot for a gear loop under my other gear. Some folk "keelhaul" it through their legs and right past their nethers. To me, that just seems like you are asking for it. Really this is personal preference. However, I value my reproductive capabilities. Maybe one day, someone else will as well. :(

Should I fear Clowns?

What about a large party of followers?
Anchor stations get crowded. Consider putting your followers on a long leash of webbing or cord to get them to a point of safety and comfort, far away from the belay. They could always use their end of the rope as an attachment as well.
*Pro Tip: Have a distinct anchor carabiner marking for everyone in your party. The gaudier the better. My favorite so far was pink nail polish with Hello Kitty Stickers :) This way everyone knows who is attached where.

Where should I pee?
Check out this handy flowchart to determine the ideal urination location.

Climb Smart MN is a grassroots approach to climbing education based on community and charitable giving. For information on donation based climbing lessons visit ClimbSmartMN and follow us on Facebook. With over ten years of climbing instruction, coaching, and guiding experience,  Chris Hesselbein strives to better the climbing community through personalized technique and safety education.