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Alpine slings—one biner or two?


Original Post
Jaren Watson · · Boise, ID · Joined May 2010 · Points: 1,848

I don’t like carrying gear I don’t use.

It seems like a waste of space and weight to have two biners on my alpine slings since I harness-rack my cams on their own biners.

Every time I clip an alpine draw to a cam, I look at the extra biner and wish I employed a more efficient method.

But then I place a nut and I remember why I keep two biners on the slings.

It seems like one solution is to rack cams on quickdraws, but this solves one problem by introducing another, namely, taking up even more space on the front harness loops.

Have you devised a better solution? Please advise!

Thanks in advance.

Sam Cieply · · Venice, CA · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 20

I usually take 3-6 slings over the shoulder with 1 biner each, and then 4-6 dyneema quickdraws for nuts and tricams.

Chad Hiatt · · Bozeman, Mt · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 85

It's route dependent, but typically I carry 4-6 alpine draws with 2 biners on my harness and 4-6 over the shoulder with a single biner.  That's 8-12 draws plus gear I can clip directly.  Occasionally I swap the double biner draws for quickdraws...especially if there a bolt protected crux. 

Dallin Carey · · Missoula · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 157

I bring 12 slings. Six go over my shoulder with one carabiner to be used exclusively for cams. The other six go on my harness with two carabiners set up in the alpine draw configuration. These are used exclusively for nuts.

May not work for everyone, but it works for me.

kendallt · · Tahoe · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 118

I usually just rack with two biners on the slings.

On long multi-pitch some of them will migrate to my shoulder when I use the extra biners at anchors.

On short single-pitch, the climbing is often hard enough that I want to be able to clip quickly with either hand.

rafael · · Berkeley, CA · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 50

FYI someone died in the alpine when they fell and one of their over the shoulder slings got caught and they basically suffocated to death from lack of circulation. Is it worth the 70 less grams to risk an unlikely death?

curt86iroc · · Golden, CO · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 53
Dallin Carey wrote: I bring 12 slings. Six go over my shoulder with one carabiner to be used exclusively for cams. The other six go on my harness with two carabiners set up in the alpine draw configuration. These are used exclusively for nuts.

May not work for everyone, but it works for me.

i use exactly the same racking configuration for my draws and would indeed recommend it...

Tyler Rohr 2 · · Cambridge, MA · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 10

What if you don't want to extend every piece? Its a lot easier to extend an alpine draw then shorten one.

What if there are more nut placements and less cam placements then you expected?

What if there is a beautiful bolted pitch you come across and want to climb?

What if you something unexpected happens and you need some spare biners?

Not to mention a shortened single length alpine draw on your harness imo takes up way less space and is easier to unrack than a bunch of extended slings flopping around your chest/over your shoulder.  

Seems worth the extremely trivial amount of weight to me :)

Jaren Watson · · Boise, ID · Joined May 2010 · Points: 1,848
rafael wrote: FYI someone died in the alpine when they fell and one of their over the shoulder slings got caught and they basically suffocated to death from lack of circulation. Is it worth the 70 less grams to risk an unlikely death?

Tragic and sad.

But of the various risks one encounters in the alpine, this is among the least likely. For me, the convenience of carrying some slings over the shoulder is worth the real, but nearly negligible, risk.
Paul Morrison · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 0
rafael wrote: FYI someone died in the alpine when they fell and one of their over the shoulder slings got caught and they basically suffocated to death from lack of circulation. Is it worth the 70 less grams to risk an unlikely death?

If you're referring to the death of Ishun Chan on The Obelisk in 2009, you're misrepresenting the cause of death. It was her gear sling that killed her when one of the cams on it became lodged during her fall.

Floyd Eggers · · Kennewick, WA · Joined Mar 2018 · Points: 341
rafael wrote: FYI someone died in the alpine when they fell and one of their over the shoulder slings got caught and they basically suffocated to death from lack of circulation. Is it worth the 70 less grams to risk an unlikely death?

Any idea of where the story is written? I have heard it a few times but have never seen anything definitive. 

Colonel Mustard · · Sacramento, CA · Joined Sep 2005 · Points: 1,186

I’ll sometimes rack double-length over the shoulder but I generally don’t rack my “alpine draws” that way. In my experience it seems like slings hang up all stacked on each other like that. Whatever gets you up the climb though.

Tim Stich · · Colorado Springs, Colorado · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 1,476

I once went with the venerable Ivan Rezuka up the Yellow Spur after work on a windy day. He racked his slings about his shoulders with a single carabiner. Then, each cam had its own single carabiner. Once joined together, not one extra carabiner dangled uselessly from the protection. I did like this system, but in time I grew to dislike the feeling of that many slings around my chest, as it was a hindrance to breathing I felt. So, I sadly have the extra biner on my placements as you described.

ven·er·a·bleˈven(ə)rəb(ə)l/adjective

  1. accorded a great deal of respect, especially because of age, wisdom, or character.
Northeast Alpine Start · · Conway, New Hampshire · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 122
Jaren Watson wrote:
It seems like one solution is to rack cams on quickdraws...

Counter productive as most cams have a sling built in. I still see climbers taking the time to clip quick-draws on BD cams even when the climb is a straight arrow of a crack. 

Save time, save gear, clip the sewn sling on the cam and keep moving!

Generally I carry:
5 alpine draws (by definition that's two carabiners, I like Petzl Ange S)
5 Petzl Finesse draws (small Ange bolt end, large Ange rope end)
2 Mini-Quads (can be used as regular slings if need be)

Something like:


I would say that covers any trad pitch 5.10 and under in the East, especially if you clip cams directly when they are in-line.

Also if I decide to put an alpine draw on a cam I often scrounge the racking carabiner for later use that pitch or at the next anchor for passive placements. With practice it takes seconds at the next anchor to re-organize.
Sam Cieply · · Venice, CA · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 20
Northeast Alpine Start wrote:
Also if I decide to put an alpine draw on a cam I often scrounge the racking carabiner for later use that pitch or at the next anchor for passive placements. With practice it takes seconds at the next anchor to re-organize.

I do the same! 

Jason Kim · · Encinitas, CA · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 255

I carry lightweight biners (WC Heliums) and narrow Dyneema slings, so keeping everything racked on my harness doesn't take much space and the extra biners that don't get used add negligible weight.  If I'm climbing something hard (for me) it isn't always possible to get a sling off my shoulder, so that's probably the main reason why I like carrying my trad draws racked on my harness.  I also prefer to use a consistent system, and it's kinda funky to have to switch from harness-racking to shoulder racking based on the difficulty of the route, especially if it isn't obvious what the hard sections will be like.

I also agree that having some extra biners on hand, in case of an emergency, is a nice buffer.  

So my solution to your question is this: get a harness that has ample space on the gear loops (I use a Petzl Adjama) and invest in some light biners and thin slings, to keep things orderly.  I rack all my slings on the rear loops and gear on the front loops.  I usually carry a double rack and about 10-12 slings, and everything fits.  I usually keep one or two double length runners around my shoulder (clipped with a single biner - easy to remove one-handed) as well.  These rarely get used, but are there if I need them.

That system works for most routes.  I have gone with the single biner/slings over the shoulder method on longer alpine routes where the approach is long and the climbing mellow, since I want to keep weight down as much as possible.  

Paul Burdick · · Portland, OR · Joined Jan 2018 · Points: 47

Ah, the age old question of what to bring, how much to bring, and how to rack it.  Naturally, as always, the answer is: It depends.

For me, I am in the same camp as Chad Hiatt and it depends on the route. Typically I have a few alpine draws on standby on my harness, always on the same side, and then the rest over my shoulder clipped with a single carabiner.  And my cams are racked on carabiners, with the smaller sizes grouped together, and organized in order of size, always on the same side of my harness.  Nuts are typically grouped on one or two carabiners depending how many I take.

Of course, no plan survives contact with the enemy/route, so I may look at the route and adjust my configuration depending on how I expect it to go. And honestly, I would prefer to have a little bit extra gear than not. An extra couple biners at an anchor point has never made me unhappy...

Daniel Kaye · · Boston, ma · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 907
Sam Cieply wrote: I usually take 3-6 slings over the shoulder with 1 biner each, and then 4-6 dyneema quickdraws for nuts and tricams.

I do this basically, with extendable and quickdraws on the harness though.

My friend racks only his 2x length slings over his shoulder, biner'd end-to-end such that he can remove them without having to lift anything over his head to get it off.

A good variety of information and methods above, I think the best advice is to try out some different ways and go with works best for your style of climbing.
Ronald B · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 0

I like having a few over my shoulder and a few on my harness and then I have the choice of both as I'm climbing. Sometimes I find it easier to use one from my harness and sometimes I find it more convenient to take one off my shoulder.

Northeast Alpine Start · · Conway, New Hampshire · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 122
Daniel Kaye wrote:

...

My friend racks only his 2x length slings over his shoulder, biner'd end-to-end such that he can remove them without having to lift anything over his head to get it off..

This is key and not well-known enough. I still see lots of folks "doubling" them with no biner' which makes them a PITA to take off if you can't free that arm up.

Sam Cieply · · Venice, CA · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 20
Daniel Kaye wrote: My friend racks only his 2x length slings over his shoulder, biner'd end-to-end such that he can remove them without having to lift anything over his head to get it off.

Awesome tip, thank you! So basically make an alpine out of 2 double lengths, connect them at the two biners, and then wear that over the shoulder?

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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