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Ask Dr. Piton... about modifying the big wall gear rack
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Mar 15, 2002, 9:09 PM
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Registered: Nov 28, 2001
Posts: 149

Ask Dr. Piton... about modifying the big wall gear rack
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Hallo Dokter,

I am der kletterner of ze big roks. I know you haf encounta-ed some of my fellow kountrymen since you haf quoted their advice to "haf a vell organicized belay".

I vould like to hee-uh of your modifications to ze big vall gee-uh rack. Surely, zer must be a betta vay to utilize zis fundamental piece of gee-uh.

As for me:

I haf und original A5 (pre-North Face) double gee-uh sling, from back ven A5 vas based in Flagstaff AZ. Back then, ze chest strap vas 1" tubular web that was not sewn to ze shoulder straps. It vas threaded through metal buckles on those straps, thus allowing for girth adjustment (very kool for manly men w/ 48" chests like me).

I removed this girly strap, and had a 2" strap made of seatbelt vebbing w/ an aluminum (aluminium to you...) doublepass buckle made for me by Yates of Kalifornia. I slipped this sveet baby in and sewed it in place w/ a speedystitcha. This provided much better support when leaning back on ze rack, using it in chest hah-ness mode, which is another kool thing for manly men with 48" chests like me.

I also sewed on an adjustable 1/2" veb strap on the back between ze shoulder straps, about 4" above ze chest strap. This is an improvement that TNF has incorporated on their current but otherwise inferi-ah design.

Zank you in advance for helping to stamp out yet anoth-ah vestige of traditional big vall technique.

Yours in granite suffa-ing,

[ This Message was edited by: glockaroo on 2002-03-15 21:12 ]


Mar 15, 2002, 9:28 PM
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Registered: Feb 18, 2002
Posts: 2157

Ask Dr. Piton... about modifying the big wall gear rack [In reply to]
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ALWAYS modify, or make your own gear. Or at least as far as your capability will safely let you. The state of the art is in the homemade schnitt. By the time something comes to market, sold at REI, etc., it's old news.

Any good climber knows that there are limitations in the commercial gear. A really good climber improves upon, and uses the Better Gear (= thought + hands).

YOU are a true climber, in the classic sense. Put yourself alongside Chouinard, Jardine, etc.

[ This Message was edited by: apollodorus on 2002-03-18 02:07 ]


Mar 17, 2002, 6:34 PM
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Registered: Oct 9, 2001
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Ask Dr. Piton... about modifying the big wall gear rack [In reply to]
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You ah my Hee-roe. I only vish I had such a mahn-ly chest as you.

It is a veh-ry good thing zat some girls prefer zer men a bit slim-mah.

For those of us who do not require specific modifications to our lead racks to contain our bulging pecs, there are a few modifications we can make to make racking our gear a lot easier.

When it comes to big wall lead racks bedecked with fifty pounds of aid gear, the usual state of affairs is

    "Chaos! Chaos! Chaos!"

This is something we wall doctors call a clusterf*ck.

By making these specific big wall rack modifi- cations, you can reduce your clusterf*ck-age, save time during changeovers, and actually be able to find the stuff you need when you need it.

This concept is also known as minimizing your "wank factor."

    Note: The "wank factor", which is also known as the "co-efficient of wank", is that unitless number, which when multiplied by the total time spent performing a specific duty or activity, equals the time lost to unproductive activity - i.e. "wanking about."

Minimizing your wank factor is fundamental to climbing big walls!

Please click here to see a sketch of a modified big wall lead rack.

Or you can have a look here:

The first thing you will need to do is to add two rack tethers, which are arms-length clip-in cords tied from 5mm perlon. In my sketch, they are attached in kind of a stupid place - it is much better to attach them to the apex of your shoulder, if possible.

These tethers serve two purposes.

Firstly they allow you to clip in your rack during changeovers, or to hang up after you finish a solo lead, and are ready to rap back down to clean.

If you have rack tethers, then you will NEVER drop your rack. Not dropping your rack is fundamental to your success!

Do not laugh - there have been rescues on El Cap for this very reason!

Secondly you can clip in pieces of gear while you are on lead, so you don't drop them.

Next, you will need to add some "front subracks" up high on the front of your shoulders. This is where you will rack your hooks, wires and free biners. You will also use it to clip in your handiest pieces, or pieces you expect to use momentarily.

The handiness of front subracks cannot be understated!

The next thing you will want to do is to add a couple of "nylon racks" on the back, each about arms length as well. This is where you will hang all of your nylon - slings of all lengths, tie-offs and keepers. This will keep your nylon out of the way, but allow you to grab what you need easily. I rack my nylon on several wide-gate crabs.

Finally, for really steep pitches only, you might want to add an adjustable fifi up front so you can rest your back, eh?

These modifications are easy and inexpensive to make, and are highly recommended by Dr. Piton.

"Some day, all big wall aid racks will be made this way.

But until then, you will have to do it yourself."

[ This Message was edited by: passthepitonspete on 2002-12-15 19:06 ]


Mar 15, 2003, 9:31 AM
Post #4 of 5 (8815 views)

Registered: Oct 9, 2001
Posts: 2183

Ask Dr. Piton... about modifying the big wall gear rack [In reply to]
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A few comments on the drawing above:
    [*:9af6a87e51]Lo and behold! Many gear manufacturers are starting to catch onto the Better Way and are building some of these modifications into their design, so investigate various designs before you buy. You might save yourself some bother [highly recommended by Dr. Piton]

    [*:9af6a87e51]The front sub-racks are incredibly useful, especially for tangly stuff like hooks and wires, handy stuff like free crabs

    [*:9af6a87e51]I no longer bother with the adjustable fifi on the harness itself, unless climbing an outrageously steep pitch in which case I might stick it on. Otherwise it just gets in the way

    [*:9af6a87e51]From a safety and convenience standpoint, the tethers are imperative. Those of you who are familiar with it will recognize this as an older-model Yates rack. I have had to put the tethers in a silly place

    [*:9af6a87e51]The Better Way to attach your tethers is to the highest point on your shoulders where many racks now have a factory-installed clip-in loop. This is just a couple inches behind your front sub-racks. The old-style Yates I use does not have this, so hence my silly point of attachment

    [*:9af6a87e51]Were my rack not sitting in California right now, I would take it to my shoe repairman buddy and get him to sew a couple loops onto the right place

    [*:9af6a87e51]Do not venture onto a big wall until making these modifications to your rack! Doing so will make your life so much easier, you won't believe it!

After you have completed these modifications, you can click here to read the SIGNATURE POST

Ask Dr. Piton ... about how to rack your rack.


Apr 29, 2003, 2:31 PM
Post #5 of 5 (8815 views)

Registered: May 17, 2002
Posts: 935

Shoulder Problems [In reply to]
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I've modified my harness similar to what Pete has outlined here - I like the nylon over my back - never seems to tangle, always an easy reach to get - the tethers seem like a no brainer for hanging as well as clipping in a piece before trying to place (especially if its a fumbly placement/reach).

The sub racks are also wonderful for placing your current hot pieces and a football or two of biners.

However, my wimpy small shoulders do not hold up, especially my right sholder the strap pulls off from the weight of the biners, gear etc. Real bummer hate that.

Anybody else out there using sub racks and experienced this? Got a cure?


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