Rock Climbing is one of the most equipment-intensive sports around. It is chock full of specialized equipment that is unique and essential. Even the casual weekend climber has a closet stuffed with ropes, packs, shoes, and hardware of all kinds.
In other outdoor sports, the equipment is more straightforward: white-water boaters need a boat, paddle, personal flotation device, helmet, and a few other things; skiers need skis, boots, poles, and a lift ticket. But climbing is different-we need so many specialty widgets, thingamajigs, and gizmos, it is simply amazing.
Obsession with gear is a malady common to climbers and can reach dizzying proportions. Pat Ament, a cutting-edge climber in Colorado three decades ago, relates a story about climbing in the Front Range with the legendary Layton Kor in 1962, in Climb by Bob Godfrey and Dudley: “We’d go screaming down to Eldorado in Layton’s old car. He’d look at me and say, Got the RURPs?” – “Gosh, Layton, no, I thought you had ’em.” Around we’d spin, bald tires squealing, and tear back to Boulder to get them.” Yes, he said RURPs.
Realized Ultimate Reality Pitons are about the size of a postage stamp. What other sport needs things like RURPs?
Obsessed or not, we all need the right gear. Whether you are climbing indoors in a gym or outdoors, sport or traditional style, the basic equipment is necessary.
Climbing safety equipment is designed to he far stronger than necessary. When used correctly, climbing equipment in good condition does not break. However, when it is damaged or used incorrectly, climbing equipment can fail. Understanding why the gear is strong and how to use it is important in building confidence and instilling safe habits.
An international testing agency, the International Union of Mountaineering Associations (Union Internationale des Associations Alpines, UIAA), sets standards and tests strengths for certain types of climbing safety equipment, including ropes, carabiners, harnesses, and helmets.
Though not all equipment is tested by the UIAA, its seal of approval is one tool the climber can use when making decisions about what gear to buy.