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Needless Destruction Theater

Submitted by adatesman on 2009-02-21 | Last Modified on 2009-03-03

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by Aric Datesman

By Aric Datesman

Are you one of those people who comes to RC but only clicks on the list of recent posts and never looks around to see what else is here? Or have you clicked around but never ventured into The Lab, because, well... it's pretty geeky in there? Well, youíre in luck. Here in Needless Destruction Theater, a monthly feature, we'll be do away with all that troublesome clicking and scrolling and bringing it all direct to you in simple one-stop-shopping kind of way.

What is Needless Destruction Theater? To be honest I havenít quite figured it out yet myself, which may be a bad thing since Iím the one responsible for it. What I can tell you is that the plan is for it to be a monthly summary of interesting things that have come up in The Lab over the past couple weeks. So sometimes it will be pictures and commentary from testing thatís been done and other times youíll find a quick teaser summary of a particularly interesting discussion. And seeing as we have a large list of links to cool stuff outside of RC to take a look at, more likely than not one or more of those will get a quick look as well.

But since this is the first one, Iíll be doing things a bit differently and simply starting out with an explanation of what different in The Lab over the past couple months since thereís been so many changes.

First and foremost thereís now the beginnings of a FAQ, which makes a feeble attempt at making all the good stuff easier to find. At the moment it's broken into seven sections, but in reality you can probably skip over Welcome to The Lab! and The Lab FAQ. I donít see the point of redoing things, so hereís a snippet from The Lab FAQ on what it all is:

Question 2:How is everything going to be organized and formatted?

The Lab FAQ is broken into seven sections, which are:

As mentioned above, Welcome to The Lab! deals with explaining what The Lab is all about. The The Lab FAQ gives a quick explanation of how the Lab FAQ is structured. Links to Interesting Threads and Articles is mainly a repository for links to all sorts of technically-oriented climbing information. The Directory of Test Results contains links to test results for climbing gear, whether done here on or elsewhere. The Compendium of Climbing Patents is exactly what it sounds like... a giant list of every climbing-related patent that we can find. Knots, Knots and More Knots contains links to various knotting resources and climbing-related knot threads. The Bolting and Anchor Systems section is where you'll find anything and everything having to do with anchor systems, which is everything from discussions about the Sliding-X to bolting guides.

Now, with that out of the way youíre probably wondering how you can help out and/or get something added to the Lab FAQ. Iím still lazy, so hereís what the FAQ has to say about it:

Question 3: How do I go about getting something added to {insert section name here}?

Most of the FAQ threads will be kept locked to keep them from getting overly long, but this doesn't mean you're not welcome to add things to them. Simply post whatever you'd like to see added or changed to this thread and we'll add them where appropriate. To keep things tidy, once the edit/addition has been made the post suggesting it will be recycled.

Alternatively you can feel free to drop me a PM, which would work just as well.

And by the way, by "post whatever you'd like to see added or changed" I mean go ahead and write something that I can just cut and paste into the FAQ, rather than you posting something along the lines of "Hey, why don't you write something about this..." As we all know, I do more than my share of talking around here!

And even better than that would be to find something youíre interested in, asking some questions about how to test it and then reporting back with results. There are a lot of very knowledgeable people who follow things in The Lab, and for the most part theyíre quite willing to point well intentioned people in the right direction provided they have half a clue about what theyíre doing. Heck, they havenít kicked me out yet and I rarely know what Iím talking about.

So now that Iíve driven off everyone with a short attention span, hereís the good stuff youíve been patiently waiting for...

  • Qwert happened upon an article by the German Alpine Club on the holding power of ice screws a couple weeks ago and was nice enough to translate the main points of it for the linguistically challenged among us (link). The sort version is that in many cases ice screws can be as strong as quality bolts in rock.

    Rockclimbing Article Image5_large
    Hereís a graphic of the ice-screw results, with red signifying the test stopped due to maxing out the puller, yellow being failure of the screw and blue failure of the ice.

    Of course thereís still the question of how to tell decent ice from bad ice, so be sure to keep that in mind when evaluating your placements. There is some good info on the effect of screw length on strength of the placement as well, which appears to show that longer isnít always stronger.

    Rockclimbing Article Image2_large

    Itís a very interesting article and definitely worth a look even if you donít do the ice thing.

  • Speaking of anchors, the whole Bolting and Anchor Systems section is new and has some really good stuff in it. The Bolting articles from the ASCA were over in the Links to Interesting Threads and Articles section before, so theyíre not new to the FAQ but the bolting guides from the Red River Gorge and are. Both are fairly comprehensive looks at bolting, covering everything from selection of the hardware to step by step instructions for installing it. On a side note it seems a fair amount of the information in the guide is based upon work done by Jim Titt of Bolt-Products, so be sure to take a look at the clarifications he posted here: Link.

    Of particular interest in the guide from is this handy chart for evaluating rock hardness, which is of particular importance when selecting suitable hardware:

    In the Red River Gorge guide is this particularly clever way to deal with the mess of installing glue-ins on overhanging routes, a specially made brass collar that fits over the bolt and is installed along with the bolt after the hole is filled with epoxy:

  • And speaking of Jim Titt, he did some quite extensive testing on belay devices which is written up here: Link. The beginning part is a bit heavy as it concerns itself with the physics of how belay devices operate, but its good information, well presented and needed to make sense out of the good stuff at the end. As a teaser to get you to take a look, here's a chart where he summarizes the braking power of several devices using several rope diameters.

    Rockclimbing Article Image3_large

    If you have time and inclination, Jim included a very large bibliography in the article with links to things that would also make for interesting reading.

  • I'd probably be remiss not to at least mention the Trango 2009 Homemade Cam Competition here, since the deadline for entering is coming up fast (entries have to be on my doorstep the last day of February). In case you somehow missed it, the idea is to build a piece of protection and then send it in for destruction. Prizes will be awarded for the one with the highest combined score (based on strength, weight, usability) and for the one judged prettiest/most bad-assiest in an online poll here on I've gotten 3 entries so far and know of several more that should be showing up this week so there's still a good chance of walking away with the goods if you hurry.

    To go along with the competition I put together a handy step by step tutorial for building a cam using only simple hand tools, which is hiding over in The Lab in a thread called A Dirtbag Approach to Cam Building.

    Rockclimbing Article Image4_large
    The cam I built using instructions found in The Lab.

    In case you're curious, it has/had a range of ~50-82mm and broke at a hair under 20kN. Not bad for something hastily thrown together in the basement... If you want to learn more about how cams work or tempted to try building one, check out the links over in the Camming Device Theory and Design section of Links to Interesting Threads and Articles.

Unfortunately I donít have any gear test results to report at the moment, as Iíve been tied up with the homemade cam competition (which will likely be an annual event) and rebuilding the pull tester. There will be plenty of it coming in the very near future though, so keep an eye out for it. The new puller should not only be able to hit 10,000 pounds of force with 3 feet of stroke but also be able to handle drop testing on multi-point anchor systems. I don't know about you all, but I'm looking forward to it. [Editor note: insert maniacal cackling.]

In the meantime if you see something that may be Lab-worthy, feel free to post it or send me a link and I'll see about getting it into next month's Needless Destruction Theater. See you then!


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Strong werke, Aric. I had missed that screw thread, good stuff to read. Thanks for making the effort and putting all this together.

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