Climbing software refers to rope, cord, webbing, and harnesses. All mountaineering specific equipment, to include hardware (see paragraph 3-4), should only be used if it has the UIAA certificate of safety. UIAA is the organization that oversees the testing of mountaineering equipment. It is based in Paris, France, and comprises several commissions. The safety commission has established standards for mountaineering and climbing equipment that have become well recognized throughout the world. Their work continues as new equipment develops and is brought into common use. Community Europe (CE) recognizes UIAA testing standards and, as the broader-based testing facility for the combined European economy, meets or exceeds the UIAA standards for all climbing and mountaineering equipment produced in Europe. European norm (EN) and CE have been combined to make combined European norm (CEN). While the United States has no specific standards, American manufacturers have their equipment tested by UIAA to ensure safe operating tolerances.
a. Ropes and Cord. Ropes and cords are the most important pieces of mountaineering equipment and proper selection deserves careful thought. These items are your lifeline in the mountains, so selecting the right type and size is of the utmost importance. All ropes and cord used in mountaineering and climbing today are constructed with the same basic configuration. The construction technique is referred to as Kernmantle, which is, essentially, a core of nylon fibers protected by a woven sheath, similar to parachute or 550 cord (Figure 3-8).
(1) Ropes come in two types: static and dynamic. This refers to their ability to stretch under tension. A static rope has very little stretch, perhaps as little as one to two percent, and is best used in rope installations. A dynamic rope is most useful for climbing and general mountaineering. Its ability to stretch up to 1/3 of its overall length makes it the right choice any time the user might take a fall. Dynamic and static ropes come in various diameters and lengths. For most military applications, a standard 10.5- or 11-millimeter by 50-meter dynamic rope and 11-millimeter by 45-meter static rope will be sufficient.
(2) When choosing dynamic rope, factors affecting rope selection include intended use, impact force, abrasion resistance, and elongation. Regardless of the rope chosen, it should be UIAA certified.
(3) Cord or small diameter rope is indispensable to the mountaineer. Its many uses make it a valuable piece of equipment. All cord is static and constructed in the same manner as larger rope. If used for Prusik knots, the cord's diameter should be 5 to 7 millimeters when used on an 11-mm rope.
b. Webbing and Slings. Loops of tubular webbing or cord, called slings or runners, are the simplest pieces of equipment and some of the most useful. The uses for these simple pieces are endless, and they are a critical link between the climber, the rope, carabiners, and anchors. Runners are predominately made from either 9/16-inch or 1-inch tubular webbing and are either tied or sewn by a manufacturer (Figure 3-9). Runners can also be made from a high-performance fiber known as spectra, which is stronger, more durable, and less susceptible to ultraviolet deterioration. Runners should be retired regularly following the same considerations used to retire a rope. For most military applications, a combination of different lengths of runners is adequate.
(1) Tied runners have certain advantages over sewn runners—they are inexpensive to make, can be untied and threaded around natural anchors, and can be untied and retied to other pieces of webbing to create extra long runners.
(2) Sewn runners have their own advantages—they tend to be stronger, are usually lighter, and have less bulk than the tied version. They also eliminate a major concern with the homemade knotted runner—the possibility of the knot untying. Sewn runners come in four standard lengths: 2 inches, 4 inches, 12 inches, and 24 inches. They also come in three standard widths: 9/16 inch, 11/16 inch, and 1 inch.
c. Harnesses. Years ago climbers secured themselves to the rope by wrapping the rope around their bodies and tying a bowline-on-a-coil. While this technique is still a viable way of attaching to a rope, the practice is no longer encouraged because of the increased possibility of injury from a fall. The bowline-on-a-coil is best left for low-angle climbing or an emergency situation where harness material is unavailable. Climbers today can select from a wide range of manufactured harnesses. Fitted properly, the harness should ride high on the hips and have snug leg loops to better distribute the force of a fall to the entire pelvis. This type of harness, referred to as a seat harness, provides a comfortable seat for rappelling (Figure 3-10).
(1) Any harness selected should have one very important feature—a double-passed buckle. This is a safety standard that requires the waist belt to be passed over and back through the main buckle a second time. At least 2 inches of the strap should remain after double-passing the buckle.
(2) Another desirable feature on a harness is adjustable leg loops, which allows a snug fit regardless of the number of layers of clothing worn. Adjustable leg loops allow the soldier to make a latrine call without removing the harness or untying the rope.
(3) Equipment loops are desirable for carrying pieces of climbing equipment. For safety purposes always follow the manufacturer's directions for tying-in.
(4) A field-expedient version of the seat harness can be constructed by using 22 feet of either 1-inch or 2-inch (preferred) tubular webbing (Figure 3-10). Two doubleoverhand knots form the leg loops, leaving 4 to 5 feet of webbing coming from one of the leg loops. The leg loops should just fit over the clothing. Wrap the remaining webbing around the waist ensuring the first wrap is routed through the 6- to 10-inch long strap between the double-overhand knots. Finish the waist wrap with a water knot tied as tightly as possible. With the remaining webbing, tie a square knot without safeties over the water knot ensuring a minimum of 4 inches remains from each strand of webbing.
(5) The full body harness incorporates a chest harness with a seat harness (Figure 3-10). This type of harness has a higher tie-in point and greatly reduces the chance of flipping backward during a fall. This is the only type of harness that is approved by the UIAA. While these harnesses are safer, they do present several disadvantages—they are more expensive, are more restrictive, and increase the difficulty of adding or removing clothing. Most mountaineers prefer to incorporate a separate chest harness with their seat harness when warranted.
(6) A separate chest harness can be purchased from a manufacturer, or a field-expedient version can be made from either two runners or a long piece of webbing. Either chest harness is then attached to the seat harness with a carabiner and a length of webbing or cord.
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