Carabiners are another versatile and indispensable tool of climbing. These ingenious metal snap-links are used for belaying, rappelling, prusiking, clipping into safety anchors, securing the rope to points of protection, and a hundred and one other jobs.
Carabiners for climbing are made of aluminum alloy and require a UIAA minimum breaking strength of 2,000 kilograms (about 4,400 pounds) along the long axis and 400 kilograms (about 900 pounds) along the minor axis. The UIAA minimum breaking strength with the gate open is 600 kilograms (about 1,300 pounds) along the long axis.
Carabiners come in many sizes and shapes (fig. 6-35). Ovals (fig. 6-35a) are very popular because their symmetry makes them a good all-purpose shape. "D" carabiners (fig. 6-35b) also offer a good general-purpose shape and are stronger than ovals because more of the load is transferred to the long axis and away from the gate, the typical point of failure. Offset Ds (fig. 6-35c) have the strength advantage of standard Ds, but the gate on an offset D opens wider, making them easier to clip in awkward situations. Bent-gate carabiners (fig. 6-35d) are a specialty design most commonly used
on difficult routes where it's important to quickly clip and unclip the carabiners from the feel of the gates alone. These carabiners should always be used with a runner so that they are free to rotate.
Locking carabiners (fig. 6-35e), with a sleeve that screws over one end of the gate to prevent accidental opening, give a wider margin of safety for rappelling, belaying, or clipping into anchors. Some locking carabiners even have a spring that automatically positions the sleeve whenever the gate is closed. You can't forget to lock these carabiners, but you must always unlock them as well, which can be a nuisance. Pear-shaped locking carabiners (fig. 6-35f) are much larger at the gate-opening end than at the hinge end and are ideal for belaying with the Mlinter hitch.
A few basics apply to the use and care of all carabiners. First, always make sure the force on a carabiner falls on the long axis, and be especially careful that the gate does not receive the load. Check the carabiner gates occasionally. A gate should open easily, even when the carabiner is loaded, and the gate should have good side-to-side rigidity when open. A dirty gate can be cleaned by applying a solvent or lubricant to the hinge (oil, kerosene, white gas), working the hinge until it operates smoothly again, and then dipping the carabiner in boiling water for about 20 seconds to remove the cleaning agent. Finally, remember that a carabiner that has fallen off a cliff onto a hard surface has probably suffered hairline fractures and should be retired. Resist using such a "treasure" found at the base of a cliff.
In fact, you should resist using any equipment discussed in this chapter if you don't know its history. Ropes, harnesses, runners, and carabiners are all vital links in your chain of protection. Secondhand equipment, whether found or passed along without an account of its use, increases the possibility of a weak link in the chain you depend upon for safe climbing.
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