Mountain Project Logo

Preferred method: alpine draws, or shoulder slings?

Original Post
Robert Buswold · · Northglenn, CO · Joined Jul 2010 · Points: 80

I'm normally the sort to clip 8-10 alpine draws to my harness, being a shoulder-length sling with two biners and triple them up so they are about the length of a standard quickdraw when hanging un-extended.  (I hope you can understand that word salad)  I don't normally carry regular quickdraws when I'm trad climbing, because an un-extended alpine draw can take care of the same need.

I was recently reading an article in which the author talks about taking a few regular quickdraws, and then a lot of shoulder slings with one biner each, and a few extra biners on the harness.  Thinking about it, I feel like this might save a lot of room on the harness, as well as make fiddling with gear much quicker/easier as I'm climbing, as well as the cleanup and turnover at the belay station on multipitch climbs.

What are your opinions on how you rack your gear in anticipation of extending your cams?  Lots of tripled up alpine draws, or just shoulder slings with one biner each over your shoulder?

John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,530

I used to rack over the shoulder, but the more I climbed, the more passive gear I used, and so alpine draws just made more sense. Also, the harder I climbed, the less sense over the shoulder made because it can be hard to get a sling off when you're cruxing. 

To each their own, though- as long as it works for you, do what you feel is best. 

Maureen Maguire · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 0

Slings over the shoulder with one biner each. All cams for the pitch racked with single biners and a few extra carabiners for nuts. . No quickdraws. It's fast to place the piece, clip the sling and then the rope..less weight. Shortening the sling if needed can be done one handed by passing the sling carabiner through the cam carabiner and reclipping the sling. Sketched out? Clip the rope to the cam carabiner and then place the sling. Unclip the rope from the cam carabiner leaving the sling clip intact. Add a cheat by standing on the belayers side of the rope and resting on the cam.while you attach the sling. Happy trails

Ronald B · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 0

I'll usually have a mix of both, but how many of each depends on the route. Some routes make it difficult to get slings off of my shoulder so in that case I'll put all or nearly all of them on my harness. If I'm expecting to place a lot of passive pro I'll put more alpine draws on my harness. But usually I'll keep most of my slings over my shoulder because I find it a little easier to work with them that way (plus that way I have fewer biners with just one per sling instead of two... I'll often have a couple loose ones but only a couple).

ollieon · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 40

Half and half.

baldclimber · · Ottawa, Ontario, Canada · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 0

another option:


Andy Kirkpatrick discusses the pros and cons of various methods in Sling Racking, and quickdraw choices in How many Quick-draws? .  He doesn't mention the "runner runner" method.

edited to add links

David Kerkeslager · · New Paltz, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 55

Typically I've gone for alpine draws on the harness.

But think about the pitch you're going into before you rack. Over the shoulder is a nightmare when you're on a roof, but on the harness is a nightmare in a chimney.

I've not done runner runner exactly, but I've put a sling over my shoulder and clipped alpine draws (and cams) to that. This is my preferred way to follow because then you just hand the racking sling over to the leader when you're finished the pitch.

Drederek · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2004 · Points: 315

Alpine draws just seem like too much of a clusterfuck to me.  I like slings with one biner over the shoulder and draws on my harness, long draws to the back.  If I'm cruxing I can slap a draw on something pdq.  Never have carried loose biners, can always rob one off my clip in slings if needed.

Zacks · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 15

I carry alpine draws and regular draws with the longer 18cm dogbone.  If i'm alpine climbing i'll take some 120cm clipped in a loop with 1 biner over my shoulder.  I find standard slings over the shoulder to be a problem if you are climbing harder climbs and your only hold is with the wrong hand, how do you get the loop off your shoulder then?  (or off your arm it'll end up trapped).  The 120s over the shoulder are easy cause you just unclip the biner from one end and pull it through (sorry hard to understand)  When i'm alpine climbing I place a lot of nuts cause nuts are lighter than cams alpine draws.  I bring the standard draws because they work fine a lot of the time, and they are simpler to rack, and they have rope end keepers to keep the biners inplace, I could carry nothing but alpines but I own 6 nice light alpines and a couple heavy nylon ones and I just don't need to buy more light ones this way (my regular draws are camp photons with 18cm BD dyneema bones so super light)

I've also got some beefy workhorse draws for times weight doesn't matter (usually not trad) but i'll bring a few if setting up a TR

not to mension how much weight do you really save, if you have 10 slings on your shoulder and idk 6 extra biners, you saved only 4 biners vs alpine draws,  if you use a light biner (I used mammut wall wire 28g?) 4x28=112g less if you used nanos.  and now you can only place 6 nuts which might be more than enough for hard single pitch, but on long multipitch?  Depends on where you climb, I've done pitches where I carried nuts and offset nuts and had like 3 left at the end, and I've done pitches where I placed 0 nuts.

Allen Sanderson · · Oootah · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 1,145

Frequently my runners start out as alpine draws but then end up as over the shoulder slings. It just depends on the climb and the gear hand off. Not too mention which harness I am using  (often I use a light weight harness sans gear loops).

One comment on the  "runner runner" method shown above. it is really not much different than the alpine draw, with two rather than three loops. However, I think the double loop is more prone having one long loop and one short loop which can catch on stuff.

Ryan M Moore · · Philadelphia, PA · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 35

The runner-runner also doesn't give you the option of a quick-draw length option if you're worried about every inch off the deck/ledge. Depending on what I'm climbing I'll change my extension system. For the Gunks, where I do most of my climbing I use mainly alpine draws with about 4-5 shoulder slings with only one biner and then a few long quick draws. I rack my alpine draws with 1 draw clipped to the gear loop then 2-3 clipped to that biner to save space. I place a lot of tricams/nuts at the gunks and most pieces need some extension and shoulder slings are a pain to get off under a roof sometimes.

Firestone · · California · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 449

What about daisy chaining your slings? you can clip them to your harness in bundles or you can clip them to a sling over your shoulder. Extending is easy by clipping the sling to your gear and then grabbing one loop of the daisy.

Matt Himmelstein · · Orange, California · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 125

If you have a racking biner that stays on your cams, then you can use a sling with one biner to extend it.  If you double up on cams when you rack them, you need an alpine or a standard draw.  For nuts and other passive pro, I don't have dedicated biners, so I need alpines or draws.  The preference of alpines over draws depends on how much you need the extension.  If the route is pretty straight up, you can get by with just draws.  I typically carry about an even number of slinds with a single biner and alpines.  If I think I will need a lot of gear, I will take a few extra draws as well.

caughtinside · · Oakland CA · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 1,470

Just try them both and the answer will be clear.

Hector Luevano · · Seattle, WA · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 10

You can knot every single sling individually like those clowns on the recent weekend whipper.

Brian L. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 90

I carry a mixture. Usually 4 alpine draws, 4 slings over the shoulder w/ biner, and 2 18cm draws. Gives me options.

Generally: nylon slings over the shoulder, dyneema slings racked as draws.

Christopher Woodall · · Somerville, MA · Joined May 2015 · Points: 144

I just use alpine draws (~8 single and 2 double) and a few quickdraws (for climbs with lots of bolts, or difficult clipping positions) if the situation is appropriate. I usually keep 1 or 2 free nylon slings around my shoulder (I tend to clean onto shoulder slings if I am not leading the next pitch so I can handover the gear right away) (sometimes double length if I think I am going to need to rapidly sling a tree, thread or horn). I rack my alpine draws in sets of 3-5, with one clipped to my harness and the remaining clipped to the carabiner that is clipped to my harness. Takes less space, and I can bulk move draws from side to side if I need to (corner climbs, etc) based on what I see coming ahead.

For me the over the shoulder slings have only caused problems and discourage passive pro placements, which I try to promote in my climbing (especially if I am not cruxing out). I find it especially annoying if I am climbing with a small leader pack.. I have taken alpine draws and turned then into shoulder slings before in anticipation of a section of climbing where my harness might not be as accessible. 

It really is all about the situation, but I find that alpine draws cover most of my needs most of the time and can be turned into shoulder slings if I need extra free carabiners, or feel that a shoulder sling is more appropriate.

Brian Abram · · Celo, NC · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 498

I use 25cm DMM dogbone quickdraws for trad climbing, and I carry 6 on the harness: 3 on each side with just one clipped to a gear loop and the other two clipped to the first. Then I carry 4 60cm slings over a shoulder with a single biner each. I used to do alpine draws, but they seem fiddly when the climbing is hard for me.

Daniel T · · Riverside, Ca · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 35
baldclimber wrote:

Andy Kirkpatrick discusses the pros and cons of various methods in Sling Racking, and quickdraw choices in How many Quick-draws? .  He doesn't mention the "runner runner" method.

edited to add links

Andy indeed covers the use of Runner Runner, its called is the Larks Foot Method.

Nick Sweeney · · Spokane, WA · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 656

It depends what I'm doing.

Trad cragging: I'll bring 6-8 alpine draws and 2-4 quickdraws.  Quickdraws are lighter, neater, and marginally easier to clip.  I likely won't need to extend every piece at the crag, so a few quickdraws are fine.

Alpine rock climbing: I'll bring 4-8 alpine draws and 2-4 double length slings.  In the mountains, I tend to extend almost every placement. The double length slings are wrapped around my shoulder, and each has a single carabiner.  This means you can take off the double lengths even if they are under your backpack.  The more difficult and sustained the route, the more draws and slings I will carry. The double length slings are also useful for slinging features as pro.  If I anticipate a lot of simulclimbing, especially on a ridge, I will sometimes bring only double length slings.

Ice Climbing: I will bring 6-8 quickdraws and 1-2 alpine draws.  I rarely bother to extend my ice screw placements on pure ice routes because there is so little rope drag on pure ice.  

baldclimber · · Ottawa, Ontario, Canada · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 0
Daniel T wrote:

Andy indeed covers the use of Runner Runner, its called is the Larks Foot Method.

Similar idea, but definitely not the same.  The "Runner Runner" method requires a carabiner and doesn't use a larks foot.  Andy's "Larks Foot Method": This uses one sling to rack several others, with the sling being worn over the shoulder, with the rest halved and larks footed to the main sling. The technique can be further improved by adding a karabiner to both loops, so as to reduce the likely hood of a sling coming loose. 
Note that the carabiners are not clipped to each other, they are just there to provide tension to prevent the larks foot from working itself loose.  Andy's method means the slings also hangs much lower.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Post a Reply to "Preferred method: alpine draws, or shoulder sli…"
in the Trad Climbing

Log In to Reply