MatterhornNepal-GuideSource

Treks & Expeditions (P) Ltd

Europe - Asia (established 1981)

Harness Preparation Harness Preparation

Harness Preparation

General Harness Preparations

& Design for Various Uses

The following harness discussion and suggested gear to carry may seem excessive, and may be in certain situations. It is based upon the premise that a proper harness will possess the necessary characteristics and gear to address most potential issues faced as a ‘second’, and not a lead climber. Experience and personal preference will dictate how each climber eventually prepares her/his harness for a particular route and what gear is necessary. Experienced leaders have developed preferences, know their needs based upon years of climbing, and so leader harnesses are not listed.

Selection & Preparation

 We suggest buying a comfortable, properly fitted harness that you can hang from in suspension without undue discomfort (all serious stores have a suspension rope so you can hang test a harness). This requires a harness made with adequate padding of the waistband and leg loops. Harnesses can cost from 45€ to 120€, but when considering a purchase, remember it may last for years if properly used, so having the most efficient, comfortable and functional harness is a wise investment.

Since this will be your personal climbing harness and not one that needs to be constantly adjusted to fit various body sizes/styles, be sure it fits you properly and does not have excessive adjustments that will never be needed (i.e. a two buckle closure system – these are needed by guide services so harnesses can be shared).

The optimal harness may feature the following characteristics:

  •  permanently mounted, sewn belay loop (do not buy a harness without one)
  • additional rear belay loop (optional, but very convenient)
  • adjustable leg loops (to accommodate varying clothing layers)
  • leg loops that are detachable in the rear (for safe toilet stops)
  • an efficient and convenient hardware racking system
  • a single buckle closure system (not 2 buckles)
  • a proper fit that accommodates heavier winter clothing, but also fits snugly when only wearing light summer clothing. Such a fit can be difficult (or impossible) so you may need to own two harnesses eventually.

 

Basic Harness & Gear for

Sport Climbing / Seconding

 Again, this list assumes the climber does not yet lead. This harness and gear is suitable for a climber engaged in gym or sport routes, as well as for following a leader on trad or sport routes. In the gym you would not need most of this:

  • 2 regular locking carabiners (screwgate or auto-locking)
  • 2 large, pear shaped locking carabiners (HMS type)
  • 6 to 8 regular D carabiners, solid or wire-gate
  • 2 sewn slings, 60cm in size
  • 2 sewn slings, one 120cm and one of 180cm in size
  • a 5-6m length cordelette (pre-sewn web-type or 5mm Dyneema®, Spectra® or Kevlar® cord – see Notes at end of article)
  • 3 friction knot loops, two short (for autoblocks) and one long (for Klemhiest or prussik), made of 4 – 5mm perlon accessory cord (do not use Kevlar®, Dyneema® or Spectra® cord; these are slicker and do not grip or work as friction knots). One short autoblock loop will be sued as a rappel back-up, one used as a waist connection for ascending, and the long loop for your feet when ascending (and for belay escapes).
  • 1 belay/rappelling device such as Petzyl® Reverso/Reversino, Black Diamond® ATC Guide, etc. (not a Figure-8 device),
  • a proper daisy chain (‘cow’s tail’) tie-in system (see Notes below)

With the above listed items, you will be able to: rappel safely with a back-up system; belay a leader; follow a leader; escape a belay; extend or redirect a belay anchor; equalize a multi-placement anchor systems; and other tasks.

 

Basic Winter Harness & Gear

for Ice Climbing / General Mountaineering 

This harness is basically the same as a rock harness, with the addition of other gear used exclusively in snow/ice for protection/anchoring, etc. It is essential that this harness fit properly over multi-layered clothing in extremely cold weather. It must fit snugly for ice climbing, glacier travel, skiing off-piste and for all cold weather related activities requiring a harness. (Note: a skiing harness does not need all of this gear and can be as sparse as each skier deems suitable. However, a lightweight skiing harness will NOT suffice as an ice climbing or mountaineering harness):

  • 2 regular locking carabiners (screwgate or auto-locking)
  • 2 large, pear shaped locking carabiners (HMS type)
  • 6 to 8 regular D carabiners, solid or wire-gate
  • 2 sewn slings, 60cm in size
  • 2 sewn slings, one 120cm and one of 180cm in size
  • a 5-6m length cordelette (pre-sewn web-type or 5mm Dyneema®, Spectra® or Kevlar® cord – see Notes at end of article)
  • 3 friction knot loops, two short (for autoblocks) and one long (for Klemhiest or prussik), made of 4 – 5mm perlon accessory cord (do not use Kevlar®, Dyneema® or
  • Spectra® cord; these are slicker and do not grip or work as friction knots). One short autoblock loop will be sued as a rappel back-up, one used as a waist connection for ascending, and the long loop for your feet when ascending (and for belay escapes).
  • 1 belay/rappelling device such as Petzyl® Reverso/Reversino, Black Diamond® ATC Guide, etc. (not a Figure-8 device),
  • a proper daisy chain (‘cow’s tail’) tie-in system (see safety notes below)
  • 2 Tiblocs®, or a Ropeman®, (optional but recommended) for ascending ropes, hauling and back-up systems
  • 2 ice screws, one 13-16cm length, and one 22cm for abalokovs (V-threads)
  • threading tool for abalokovs
  • 1 or 2 pieces of 5mm accessory cord, approximately 150cm long, for threading abalokovs, and a locking mallion for rapping off cords
  • *Optional: Petzyl Micro- or Mini-Traxion® pulley w/brake, or Ropeman®.

Important Notes On Harnesses and Gear

In general:

A) Many people are convinced that ‘lighter is always better’, but like many things this is only a half-truth. If you are skiing a marathon where a harness is required, then light is the ticket. However, guide services occasionally have clients arrive with a super-light skiing harness that they assume is appropriate for climbing – it is not.

A climbing harness is designed to catch serious falls, hold the body in a seated position in relative comfort (according to padding), carry needed gear, offer a pre-sewn, strong belay loop, and much more. A ski harness is not designed to do these things; it is designed only to keep you attached to the rope, catch you if you drop into a crevasse briefly, and weigh next-to-nothing so you don’t notice it. As a climbing harness they are virtually worthless and no experienced climber would wear one for mountaineering, glacier travel or climbing. You need a real climbing harness for climbing – leave the ‘thong’ ski harnesses and aluminum crampons to the racers….

B) In the above lists there are items referred to by name, such as various rappel devices and other rope work/rescue devices. These items serve good purposes, but training is required to understand their design and appropriate use. Before buying such items it is recommended that you get trained to use them (several are easy to use incorrectly, regardless of diagrams printed into them), lose/drop (Tiblocs® especially) and should not be carried as substitutes for knowing friction knots, hauling and back-up safety systems, etc. After being trained you might decide you want some of this gear, but you might also wish to choose other devices, so don’t spend money w/o knowing what is needed and best for you.

On daisy chains:

C) Many guides are strong proponents of using a permanently attached daisy chain, or ‘cow’s tail’, on every harness. There are two good reasons:

a) it acts as an additional tie-in point (second to the climbing rope) to an anchor and thereby makes it virtually impossible for a climber to accidentally disconnect from an anchor; and

b) it serves as the sole tie-in security for a climber when preparing to rappel, since it is necessary for each climber to untie from the climbing rope in preparation for joining

ropes and dropping them from the rappel anchor. Climbers not using pre-installed daisy chains must therefore rig slings with locking carabiners between their harness and the anchor to serve this purpose, which uses more gear and can waste time.

D) One of the most common daisy chains sold is a manufactured, pre-sewn sling with bar-tacked loops, which was solely designed for use in aid climbing. However, these daisy chains have become commonly used (by non-aid climbers) as cow’s tails, and mis-use has resulted in deaths. These bar-tacked daisies should not be used as a harness tie-in security system in normal climbing unless the climber is experienced and knows how NOT to mis-use this item. Instead, we recommend buying a daisy constructed as a chain of interlocking, pre-sewn loops, or better yet, making a superior, lighter ‘daisy’ out of 5mm Dyneema®, Spectra® or Kevlar® cord. Many professional guides use these and all MNGS harnesses are prepared with these daisies permanently attached. These daisies are made from lengths of approximately 2m of 5mm Dyneema®, Spectra® or Kevlar® cord, with one end tied permanently to the harness belay loop and the other end prepared with a locking, wide-gate carabiner. MNGS makes such daisy systems for our clients and will be happy to offer advice or assistance if contacted.

NOTE: This article is the property of MatterhornNepal-GuideSource Treks & Expeditions (P) Ltd. and is copyrighted. No part of this article or information may be used without full attribution and prior written consent of MNGS.