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Universal (diagonal) piton -- when to use instead of knifeblade / lost arrow?


Original Post
pjc30943 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 0

When do you use universal (diagonal) pitons, instead of knifeblade or lost arrows? Universals/diagonals seem to have a mix of properties from both, but i haven't seen them commonly used and am curious when you'd use one.

Barrett Pauer · · Brevard, NC · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 775

Sounds like a very special piece. Beaks will cover you for 90% of your nailing needs. Arrows, sawed angles, baby angles for the other 10%

Jim Titt · · Germany · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 490

Never, they were worthless, out of date crap 45 years ago when I started using pitons. You still find them littering old Alpine routes and in the Dolomites, being soft steel the they are either irremovable  or rust away. 

Beean · · Canmore, AB · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 0
Jim Titt wrote:

Never, they were worthless, out of date crap 45 years ago when I started using pitons. You still find them littering old Alpine routes and in the Dolomites, being soft steel the they are either irremovable  or rust away. 

Are they worthless because they're non removable or is it the shape? 

I'm asking because they look like a cheaper alternative to knifeblades and bugs on rap anchors for ski lines. 

Jim Titt · · Germany · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 490
Beean wrote:

Are they worthless because they're non removable or is it the shape? 

I'm asking because they look like a cheaper alternative to knifeblades and bugs on rap anchors for ski lines. 

The eye sticks a long way out, you can´t use them in a corner or under a roof or anywhere where the two sides of the crack  have a different height, they have the usual poor holding power  of soft steel pitons, the eye collapses if you hit them hard enough and generally they never seemed to go into anwhere I wanted. They really were a product who´s use died out in the 1960´s but I guess the Alpine guys use them as a cheap bail piece.

Beean · · Canmore, AB · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 0
Jim Titt wrote:

The eye sticks a long way out, you can´t use them in a corner or under a roof or anywhere where the two sides of the crack  have a different height, they have the usual poor holding power  of soft steel pitons, the eye collapses if you hit them hard enough and generally they never seemed to go into anwhere I wanted. They really were a product who´s use died out in the 1960´s but I guess the Alpine guys use them as a cheap bail piece.

Thanks. They don't sound ideal. 

J Achey · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 145

Actually, I think soft-iron pitons are much better for fixed anchor points than "normal" hard-steel. Their absolute holding power is less than freshly driven hard steel, but they are still quite strong when well placed, and deform when driven to conform to the crack, making them much less susceptible to loosening through freeze-thaw, etc., so they hold their strength more reliably. Yes they eventually rust away, as do hard-steel pitons, but they are safer in the meantime. Keep in mind that they are very hard or impossible to remove. As for your original question, the "universal" design was meant to work equally well in horizontal or vertical cracks, but it isn't a good design and severely limits the placement option, as Jim notes.

Jim Titt · · Germany · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 490

Being the only person that was stupid enough to actually properly test pitons instead of guessing (we beat over 100 pins in and pulled them out again and built a special test rig to measure exactly what was happening) I can only quote my final report:-

"Soft steel- Poor to piss-poor performance from new and rust easily. They held equally poorly in straight-out testing and horizontal crack pulls primarily because it was impossible to hammer them in any harder before they started to collapse. Highest was 11kN when the eye broke (Stubai 4mm) and the lowest 2kN when a blade peg came out as we were loading the tester. This particular 5mm piton disgraced itself even further only managing an average of 3kN for three pulls in the best case scenario. The manufacturer (Charlet Moser) decided to protect these from corrosion by galvanising them, perhaps overlooking the fact that zinc is one of the metals used in bearings due to its lubricating properties. Of course the galvanising is immediatly destroyed by the rock anyway. In fact a bit of rust is not a bad thing anyway as the static coefficient of granite on lightly rusted steel is 20% higher than on normal steel. The normal 5mm and 6mm blades got an average of 6,8kn in both tests, their softness allowing them to bend and slide out easily and the placement orientation made little difference."

Hard steel pitons probably hold better in all conditions as they as strong enough to compress the rock allowing for freeze/thaw to a certain extent, mild steel cannot do this.

Eli · · GMC3500 · Joined Nov 2010 · Points: 2,785
Jim Titt wrote:

 In fact a bit of rust is not a bad thing anyway as the static coefficient of granite on lightly rusted steel is 20% higher than on normal steel. 

All those scary rusty pins just got 20% more bomber!

J Achey · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 145

Nice, Jim. My evidence is anecdotal - I have found hard-steel pitons often to be dangerously loose, removable with fingers. Soft-steel never. I'm sure you've seen this in the Dolomites - even if a pin feels loose and wobbly, it still holds bodyweight. We can probably agree that fixed pins in general are dubious, but that even 3kN is strong enough for a component of the kind of rap anchor the OP mentions. 

Jim Titt · · Germany · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 490

That´s kinda the problem, the rusty ones are held in by a load of rust and just with your fingers they feel solid whereas a hard piton just gets loose, what they actually hold you can only tell by falling on them, putting a tester on them or beating the shit out of them with a hammer. I´ve seen too many "good" pins that you can snap off with minimal force to have any great faith in fixed pitons generally, I guess it´s being brought up on limestone sea-cliffs has that effect  

Steven Kovalenko · · Calgary · Joined May 2014 · Points: 25

A very interesting read, thank you! I was curious if these pins were worth it, because I still smash a lot of them into frozen choss. I will not be adding these antiques to my pin stash any time soon.

that guy named seb · · Britland · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 205

https://www.thebmc.co.uk/is-there-a-future-for-pegs-in-british-climbing

some interesting information in this BMC article, the soft steel results backing up Jim's findings.

Edit: hahaha Jim did the report for the BMC!!

J Achey · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 145

Jim - very informative report, which lays to rest some myths, for sure. But it does leave my assertion unchallenged about how long that holding power lasts. We can agree that fixed pitons should be considered weak. If the job is to hold significant falls, this is a terrible tool for the job. But if the job is to hold bodyweight+, or allow a rappel (in pairs or threes), even a piton holding 3-4kN seems useful. I have found many hard steel pitons in rap anchors that have come completely loose, with holding power of less than 5 lbs. But I've (almost) never seen this happen with soft steel, especially in irregular cracks, and have "tested" (hung on) some really old and bad-looking pins. Esoteric argument, maybe, but if you go back to Beean's proposed use, or consider remote rap anchors in general, maybe not so much. If you aren't bringing a bolt kit, but are (like many parties do) bringing nuts and pins for rap anchors, then which will be more reliable years later, hard or soft steel pitons? A rap anchor only "needs" to hold about 1kN, so two pins that hold 2kN each make an anchor that most alpinists would say provides a decent margin of safety. If they hold 4kN, as most soft pins in your test did, better still. So would a well-made, modern piton, of a carefully chosen, economical soft steel, be a better tool for this job than hard steel?

King Tut · · Citrus Heights · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 435

Pins are for progress when other tools fail (ie clean climbing tools).

They should never be left, or trusted, as fixed protection or for anchors unless you are placing them yourself and can then use your own good judgment

Would I clip an old one if I had to? Sure. Any port in a storm.

But no new route should utilize pitons for fixed protection or rap anchors unless its your own one-time ascent obscurity. Place quality SS bolts and show some regard for the future on anything you want to be an actual contribution to your community.

J Achey · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 145

Could not agree more, Tut, with the point I think you're trying to make, but it's only tangentially relevant to this thread. Not all climbers, in all situations, will be carrying bolt kits.

Jim Titt · · Germany · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 490

"...then which will be more reliable years later, hard or soft steel pitons?"

Nobody knows, failure of both has killed climbers. Carrying a hammer is the only way to make either "reliable" and then hard pitons are the better choice.

King Tut · · Citrus Heights · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 435

^^^this. No pin, can be assessed without a hammer. 

And even then, anyone that has beat on a few can tell you sometimes what you think is good can spit right out under body weight, let alone a lead fall.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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