Racking efficiency - alpines vs shoulder slings


Original Post
Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45

Hey everyone,

So the subject of racking comes up a lot, and for good reason, as it can make a big difference in how comfortable & efficient you are when climbing. One big racking difference that I have observed is what people do with their runners. I've pretty much always racked mine as alpine draws since I started trad climbing, which I like because this is IMO the most versatile. However, I've also seen a lot of people rack slings around their shoulder with a single biner, like Beth Rodden demonstrates here:
https://youtu.be/E4q5f6SPXGc

The nice thing about this is it's less of a cluster on your harness, particularly if you don't use a gear sling and rack everything on it, and it's much more efficient if you KNOW you're going to extend a piece. It seems like this system works especially well if you're mostly placing cams on a wandering route, but it seems to be a pain for placing nuts, as you have to grab an extra biner. Alpines are also nice for us indecisive folks who might place a piece and decide to extend it later ;). This seems like a bad habit in the long run, however, and the sling + single biner solves the Redundancy problem of clipping a QuickDraw to a cam sling that already has a racking biner on it.

So which system do you prefer, and why? Do you mix it up depending on the route/crag?

will ar · · San Antonio, TX · Joined Jan 2010 · Points: 215

My racking style varies greatly based on what I'm doing as I don't think there's one method that's great for everything.

These days on a multipitch route I'll usually have half my slings tripled up (aka alpines) on my harness and the other half over my shoulder with a single biner. I usually carry a couple of 4' slings as well, often with a single biner. When I have the 4' sling over my shoulder I do it in such a way that the single biner is keeping it around my torso instead of "doubling it up." Not sure if this makes sense, but it allows me to unclip the biner to get it off instead of having to pull it over my head/arm.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45

So you clip the ends to form a loop rather than using the natural loop of the sling?

rgold · · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 40

I put everything, nuts and cams, on a Metolius shoulder sling that has separate loops, leaving the frontmost loop empty. 10--12 alpine draws (in groups of 3) and some spare free carabiners on a harness gear loop, but no sport draws. As a half-rope user, I don't need to extend runners nearly as much as a single-rope user would, but I like having the extension potential when I need it. Two double-length runners over the shoulder, each with a lightweight locker, and one burly single-length runner (not dental floss) for dropping over flakes and threading constrictions and other applications that might cut the thin stuff.

JK- · · SLC · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 13

I always use them as alpine draws, but I'm extremely broad shouldered and slings tend to sit around me a little tighter than I'd like.

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 136

I usually rack most of my runners alpine draw style on a sling around my shoulder. I keep a few on my front left gear loop just incase I don't have access to my right side where the sling sits. I also carry some flexible quickdraws for placements that don't need an extension, which makes the shoulder sling style more appealing, but I wouldn't want to have to take a sling off my shoulder unless I was at a good stance, so I don't do it that way.

Gavin W · · Surrey, BC · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 23
Ted Pinson wrote:So you clip the ends to form a loop rather than using the natural loop of the sling?
Only for 120cm slings, so that you can avoid doubling them up. This also means that they can be underneath your backpack or other slings, and you can just unclip one side, pull on the biner, and the sling slides out.

And like others, I'll usually do a mix of both. Cams generally take an over-the-shoulder sling, while passive pro requires a tripled one.
Brian L. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 0

FWIW I think each system has pro's an cons. So I try to get the best of both worlds.

My standard sling rack consists of 4 60cm slings over the shoulder with biners (nylon), 4 alpine draws(dyneema/blend), 2 18" draws without keepers, and 2 30cm slings doubled into draws.

This gives me lots of options for different extension lengths, and versatility and efficiency for cam vs nut extension.

Scott Morris · · Bountiful, Utah · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 280

I prefer a combination.....usually 4-6 slings over my shoulders with a single biner primarily for extending cam placements (that already have a racking biner on them), but also 4-6 alpine draws on my harness. Often I'll also throw on 2-3 standard quickdraws. I agree the alpine draws are the most versatile, but they are little bulky and I like utilizing the racking biners whenever possible. A big plus for the alpine draw approach is that sometimes you're in a position where it's awkward to retrieve a sling from the shoulder so a draw from the harness is just easier and more efficient.

will ar · · San Antonio, TX · Joined Jan 2010 · Points: 215
Ted Pinson wrote:So you clip the ends to form a loop rather than using the natural loop of the sling?
yes
Arlo F Niederer · · Colorado Springs, CO · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 305

My racking technique is similar to Scotts.

I carry my gear on a sling around my shoulder.

I used to carry my full length draws like Beth Rodden. However, I now carry them as alpine draws on my harness. I also carry 10 quickdraws on my harness - five with two biners and five with only the rope end carabiner.

Often nuts only need a little extension, so a standard quickdraw is just right.

The same goes for cams. I use the single biner quickdraw for these. I clip the cam carabiner into the end of the quickdraw with no carabiner. I often see people clip a regular quickdraw next to the carabiner already on the cam - my method eliminates the extra carabiner.

I vary the number of quickdraws with one or two carabiners and alpine draws depending on the climb. If the climb takes many nuts, I'll increase the number of two biner quickdraws. If mostly cams, I'll have more single biner quickdraws.

My quickdraws also have a variety of lengths to accommodate a little more or less extension.

ViperScale · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 165

I have long slings doubled around alternate shoulders with 2 biners on each. I than have normal draws on my back of my harness. That way I have 3 lengths of slings to choose from. I can go short with draw, median with a doubled long sling, or let the full sling go full length.

It always depends on if you know and have climbed the route though. Sometimes you know exactly what gear you need and rack up accordingly. Like placing all cams on 1 side if you know you will only be pulling gear from that side etc.

Matt Westlake · · Durham, NC · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 528

I'm kind of a sewing machine so I carry too much stuff compared to a lot of other folks. That said, I do like having variety of sling options and don't mind carrying more weight. I used to use a metolious gear sling and sometimes break it out for specific routes but now I mostly rack on the harness. I prefer the arc'teryx harnesses because they have such nice big wide gear loops and the hard plastic plus shape is great for keeping order. Also for reference I tend to do a lot of moderate single pitch trad in NC which can be a bit of a crapshoot in terms of the kind of gear you get.

I had a guide friend try to sell me on the shoulder sling method but I kind of feel like the weight savings of like 8-12 lightweight biners is a bit negligible, although I like the idea of reducing clutter and having things organized and avoiding having to extend as it's already good to go. Mostly when I do try reducing to the shoulder method I convince myself that I could just loose that two pounds from my waistline if I was seriously concerned...

Anyway, I have the past few years been carrying a mix of lightweight dyneema trad draws in a tripled config on my harness a few behind cams on each side front loops and extra oddball slings on the back loops in front of the nuts, any big cams, nut tool, and anchor material that live on the back two loops.
The non-alpline slings are 2-4 quickdraws and 2-4 12" floppy open loop dyneema slings. I usually throw a 120cm/double length sling on the back as insurance although I rarely use it except as an extra anchor piece. I recently replaced this double length with a rabbit runner but so far only use it every now and then. I've also got a couple of the metolious long draws (16" and 20") I've outfitted with revolver biners and I swap those in when I know/suspect a big roof/traverse/other drag nastiness is in store. I used those because they are longer but have a sewn closed end which help prevent the revolvers from flipping around (making them pointless) but avoids introducing a rubber band or keeper into the system.

I admit that part of all of this specificity comes from being a bit of a chicken; I want to optimize the extension to the minimum I can get away with :) Tangentially, I am also following the thread on gear in horizontals and watched a few of the OP's climbing videos and I was sort of backseat leading, going slightly crazy as he extended nearly every placement. Harkening back to another thread about racking like the pros, I've also noticed that professional climbers are less concerned with draw length, they are well and truly comfortable with big whips and have the experience and headspace to get away with the bare minimum gear. Also on a lot of what routes they climb they aren't facing a ledgefall penalty a few feet below unlike a lot of more moderate trad where these considerations matter more often.

For the longest time I didn't appreciate the 12" slings (I got a few as a raffle prize) but have since grown to like them. They are just long and loose enough that they avoid walk and lifting out nuts but aren't so long that it feels silly to use them - sometimes putting that extended 24" sling that basically drops the biner to your toes on a waist high piece below an overhead crux seems less than ideal. Even though they are close to the same length as a tripled draw (or close) they also rack narrower than alpine draws. Essentially I keep them because I know I'm just going to leave some alpine draws unextended.

As I've adopted standard Totem cams into my rack I've had to revisit this system and trim down a bit since those take up a bit more real estate (more than worth the sacrifice!)

Eventually I may move to putting some fraction my (currently) alpine draws over my shoulder as I optimize further. Extra biner issue aside, it's one less step to have it pre-extended when you are facing a pumpy placement. Still, you have to deal with getting it over your head and off your arm which can be tricky if that hand is the one committed to the best hold in that moment.

Sorry for such a long-winded response to a rather simple question. In part I'll blame it on sitting around waiting for an injured finger to heal and suffering from gear talk withdrawal.

BigB · · Red Rock, NV · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 5

^ you sure your not a typewriter ;)

Jon Frisby · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 25
Gavin W wrote: Only for 120cm slings, so that you can avoid doubling them up. This also means that they can be underneath your backpack or other slings, and you can just unclip one side, pull on the biner, and the sling slides out.
Shit that's brilliant
anotherclimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 0

I do a mixture. Mostly tripled apline draws on my harness, and a smaller amount of 60cm slings with one carabiner over my shoulder. I like having the option of either one of these depending on the situation.

Seth Jones · · New Lenox, IL · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 5

6-10 dyneema shoulder length slings racked as alpine draws on harness

1-2 nylon shoulder length slings over shoulder with 1 biner on each

1-2 nylon double length slings over shoulder, clipped with a biner the way will ar described.

Matt Himmelstein · · Orange, California · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 95

I do both. I have a number of slings over the shoulder with a single biner and a number of alpines on my harness. I have a dedicated biner for each cam, so I use the slings, but if I want to shorten the runner, I will use an alpine since it is faster and just leave the extra biner on the cam's draw. When I place passive gear, I use the alpine.

I also find it is much faster to grab an alpine and clip it. Slings hang on my left side, so when I am using my left arm on a hold, I need to do a 2 or 3 step process to free up the sling.

Marty C · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2008 · Points: 0

I don't believe anyone has mentioned "Rabbit ear" slings yet.
There are several companies that make them; I have Metolius Rabbit Ears.

They are 4 ft. long strands with sewn loops on either end. They can be used full strength as a single strand or clipped ends as a shoulder length sling.

Biggest drawback is they are much more expensive that either a standard or double length sling (~$13 each). However, they are very versatile for slinging trees and chock stones and getting lots of extension for wandering routes.

I carry them over my shoulder and can either lift them off my shoulder or I unclip the Biner and pull it off.

Pavel Burov · · Russia · Joined May 2013 · Points: 25

My personal approach to trad racking strategy is to be described by the following Murphi's law:

Anything that can possibly go wrongs, does.

Doesn't matter which particular method one chooses to rack theirs slings, or cams, or whatever. That particular moment it is really important those little bastards will be racked in the most awkward way possible.

Just relax, and choose any reasonable racking system, and stick to to really learn it, and climb.

Micah Klesick · · Vancouver, WA · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 3,834
Scott Morris wrote:I prefer a combination.....usually 4-6 slings over my shoulders with a single biner primarily for extending cam placements (that already have a racking biner on them), but also 4-6 alpine draws on my harness. Often I'll also throw on 2-3 standard quickdraws. I agree the alpine draws are the most versatile, but they are little bulky and I like utilizing the racking biners whenever possible. A big plus for the alpine draw approach is that sometimes you're in a position where it's awkward to retrieve a sling from the shoulder so a draw from the harness is just easier and more efficient.
This is exactly what I do.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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