Slings are in multi pitch climbing what quickdraws are in sport climbing. No doubt abut it.
Whether you're out for aid climbing or free climbing, a bunch of slings (various lengths) should be part of your gear just as the rope and harness are.
1. Equalizing the belay - It is advisable to equalize all the anchors in a belay as to distribute your weight evenly in all anchors. Should one anchor fail, the others will hold without taking the shock. Make sure each sling loop is independent after you equalize all the anchor points - this can be done with clove hitches or overhand knots.
2. Fluid running of the rope - The route rarely follows a straight line in alpine climbing. So two half ropes and long slings used as runners (quickdraws) are essential for reducing rope drag. Yes your falls will be longer (if you fall that is) but the rope will stretch on its entire length - this means a smaller shock both for you (lead climber) and the last anchor point.
3. A neat way of using poorly hammered pitons - On some older routes you will find pitons that are only hammered half way through. The pioneers used what they had - one size pegs made in the factories where they worked. If you clip your quickdraw into such a piton, it can pop out easily in case of a fall - the lever effect is so great that some may pop out just by hanging in. You can minimize the lever effect by making a simple prusik loop around the piton, close to the rock face - that's a neat usage of a sling.
4. Protection on sharp ridges - Don't you love rock spikes in a ridge? Those are your perfect anchors - hang slings with screw-gate carabiners around them and clip your rope in. Watch out for loose spikes though! Hit them with your fist as to asses whether they're strong or not before using them as anchor points.
Of course there are other ways you can use slings:
- improvising a harness
- using slings as foot loops in aid climbing
- miscellaneous usage in survival situations, etc.
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