Gunks - Trust the Pitons?


Original Post
B. L. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2015 · Points: 31

So a lot of people clip the pitons.. myself included.. but are they really anything more than a very slight chance of being any use? I usually place a piece near one as well, and only clip the pitons because.. why not? it's so easy.. but tend to think there's no way I'm going to put much trust in it's ability to catch me.

I'm curious to know if anyone has whipped on them without them breaking or on the other hand had them break on them. I always see the rusted extracted piton pictures on facebook but never hear any real life stories... other than a ranger at the gunks telling me I'd be surprised.. and that they replace the odd piton every now and again. But considering their anchor replacement program is only covering 5 anchors a year (the ranger said).. I'm guessing that a rare event.

I'd love to hear any experiences people have had with the gunks pitons recently.

Blissab · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2009 · Points: 5

Ever see the bent piton below the crux of Retribution?

Andrewww · · Concord, NH · Joined Mar 2014 · Points: 110

I took a big whip, maybe a 20-25 footer, onto the first piton on Birdland. I didn't back it up, it held thankfully. 

SethG · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 207

The first piton on Birdland is only about ten feet off the ground!

Anyway, the pitons in the Gunks have held many many falls, and no, you shouldn't trust them. 

I've fallen on a few. The one on Try Again comes to mind. I'm never happy to fall on one. 

calebmmallory · · Seattle, N.Carolina, &Hong ... · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 175
SethG wrote:

The first piton on Birdland is only about ten feet off the ground!

Maybe he dug a hole?

Andrewww · · Concord, NH · Joined Mar 2014 · Points: 110

Haha I couldn't remember the exact length but yea, i wasn't far from the ground when i stopped falling. maybe a foot or two. I may have pooped myself a little

Matt Tizol · · Bronx, NY · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 0

I will usually thread the runner through the piton instead of clipping it. The idea being that it will be less impact in the event of a fall. I would recommend backing them up when possible. I haven't taken a fall on one. 

John Duke · · Colorado Springs, Colorado · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 0
Matt Tizol wrote:

I will usually thread the runner through the piton instead of clipping it. The idea being that it will be less impact in the event of a fall. I would recommend backing them up when possible. I haven't taken a fall on one. 

How does threading a sling through a piton lessen the impact force?

JSchloem · · Homer, AK · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 50

This is why you occasionally see people with screamers on their racks at the Gunks

Simon Bloch · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2016 · Points: 0

Took a huge (20'+) on the MF piton, and it held. Also watched my good friend whip over and over and over on the Try Again pin as well.. I trust 'em but after my MF fall I back up any and all..

Gunkiemike · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 1,865
SethG wrote:

I've fallen on a few. The one on Try Again comes to mind. I'm never happy to fall on one. 

I fell on that pin something like 12 times.

Climb.tooth.radish · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 0

Some pitons are bigger and newer than others and some look quite bomber for their size and fit in a crack with good rock. Threading a runner through the piton maybe minimizes the metal on metal clanging you'd get with a carabiner in the piton. So maybe it lessens the chance of it getting torqued out or even snapped. This is a theory my buddy and I came up with but we're not scientists and it could be more of a comfort, head thing. Maybe someone else knows the facts on this. I've fallen on a piton that was equalized with a microcam and rigged with a knotted sling for no extension. It held on a decent sized fall--10 feet or less. 

Matt Tizol · · Bronx, NY · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 0
John Duke wrote:

How does threading a sling through a piton lessen the impact force?

The metal on metal impact is potentially worse than the sling just tightening on it as you fall. If the piton is going to come out, it doesn't matter either way. However, it was taught to me by some Gunks old-timers that if there are any weaknesses in the pitons, like fractures, etc...they may not be exposed or worsened by the sling as opposed to a hard impact from a metal carabiner. I'm not saying it's law, it was the way I was taught and seemed to make some sense to me. 

wivanoff · · Northeast, USA · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 392

Depends. Some of them have been replaced fairly recently: The nest at the top of Son of Easy O, the 1st belay on Sixish, the first two pins on Classic...

Others have been there far too long. Some of the "grey" angles were driven by John Stannard and some of those are still good.

I'll clip them (but try to back them up)

Tom Sherman · · Bristol, RI · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 81

Knowing how each type of piton 'works' and how to assess a 'good' piton are step one to answering your question, everything else is like hypothesizing WWJD....

Kedron Silsbee · · Princeton, NJ · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 0

I feel substantially better about pitons that are the last protection before the crux of a route on the theory that people probably fall on those more often, so they've been tested more recently.  I don't trust any of them as much as a textbook piece of pro I just placed myself, but some are sure nice to have where they are.  I only remember falling on two, and they both held.

B. L. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2015 · Points: 31

Lots of great answers here.. thanks!

I'm actually amazed some have caught falls.. good to know! But of course I'm going to keep backing them up and trying not to fall on them :)

My thinking was always a 10% chance of it catching me is better than nothing.. or relying solely on my last gear if its a way down.. and even if it breaks.. it might slow me down a little to make it easier on the next piece  (no idea if that last bit is valid but sounds reasonable).

I'll look into evaluating the pitons.. but think I've read it's impossible/hard to really know. I guess I'll see when I read into it.

SethG · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 207

Some of them are angles in wide horizontals. You can see just how intact they are, and take some comfort.

But the ones that are sunk into the rock-- I don't think they can really be evaluated without a hammer. 

Many of them can be backed up, and my policy usually is to do so. Like the one on MF, for instance. That pin is easily backed up. As is the low one on Birdland. 

Nick Goldsmith · · Pomfret VT · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 15

I recal that on P2 of Roseland in the flared corner was KB that was the only pro. thought that move was the crux of the whole route and could not back the pin up. It looked pre historic in 1986...

Kevin Heckeler · · Upstate New York · Joined Jul 2010 · Points: 1,361
Matt Tizol wrote:

The metal on metal impact is potentially worse than the sling just tightening on it as you fall. If the piton is going to come out, it doesn't matter either way. However, it was taught to me by some Gunks old-timers that if there are any weaknesses in the pitons, like fractures, etc...they may not be exposed or worsened by the sling as opposed to a hard impact from a metal carabiner. I'm not saying it's law, it was the way I was taught and seemed to make some sense to me. 

I'm sure the old-timer thought that way for a long time, but physics is physics and without any significant stretching properties the sling doesn't buy you anything.  Slings aren't supposed to give (much).   Not enough it matters in this scenario.

You have to inspect the gear you may end up trusting your life to.  If it looks really old and corroded, and is placed in a spot where it gets exposed to the elements, it's probably bad.  The tricky thing is -- the most corroded part is likely inside the rock, where you can't see it.  The larger, bent metal 'bongs' seem more durable to me and I often trust them.  Pitons much less.

Modern gear has afforded us the ability to find placements near many of the old pitons, so sometimes you don't have to use them.  So don't in those cases.

Classic is another climb with a (pair) of piton(s) that you have to trust.

Seth Derr · · harrisburg, pa · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 1,860
SethG wrote: 

I've fallen on a few. The one on Try Again comes to mind. I'm never happy to fall on one. 

That's the first one I thought of too.  Was afraid I was going for a much longer ride but reading through this thread it sounds like it's the most whipped on piton at the Gunks... 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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