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Racking Gear for Trad Routes

How to Carry Climbing Equipment

By

Climbing legend Jimmie Dunn made the first solo first ascent of a new route on El Capitan.

Jimmie Dunn, a Colorado climbing legend, racks gear on a 2-foot sling at the base of Turkey Rock.

Photograph © Stewart M. Green

You’re getting geared up at your truck in the parking lot to do the Yellow Spur in Eldorado Canyon. You and your partner have checked the route description in your guidebook—Best Climbs Denver and Boulder, and read the suggested gear list, which says, "Sets of Stoppers and cams to #3 Camalot." You’ve picked out all that gear—Camalots, Aliens (TCUs), and Stoppers—and added a few extra pieces too, including some RPs or small brass nuts.

Use a System to Organize Your Rack

Now that you have decided what to bring on the climb, how are you going to organize that gear? The process of organizing your equipment for a route is called racking or racking up, while the collection of gear is the rack. You have to give order to your rack so that while you are leading, you can quickly find the right piece of gear for each placement to protect yourself. If you have a system for racking your equipment, it makes it easier to find that exact piece when you need it.

Trad Routes Require Lots of Gear

You will carry lots of gear on most traditional or trad routes, especially if they are several pitches long and feature a variety of climbing. The Yellow Spur, the route you are climbing today, is seven pitches long and has lots of face climbing along with some crack climbing so you have plenty of equipment to carry. Besides the Stoppers, RPs, and Camalots, you also have five slings, each with two carabiners, a couple four-foot slings, and ten quickdraws.

Use a Gear Sling for Easy Organization

The best way to carry your equipment on multi-pitch routes, especially if you and your partner are going to be switching off leads, is by carrying everything on a gear sling that is carried over one shoulder and under the opposite arm. With a gear sling, it is easy and quick to re-rack the gear at each belay stance and give it to the leader for the next pitch.

Rack Pieces From Small to Large

The typical way to rack gear on a sling is to put small pieces, like the wired nuts, at the front of the sling, and then rack the cams in order of size from small to medium to large behind the nuts.

How to Rack for Your Climb

Rack your equipment on a gear sling for your Yellow Spur climb in this order:

  • At the front of the sling, rack the RPs on a free carabiner.
  • Break the set of Stoppers in half and rack the smaller ones together on a free carabiner, then the larger ones together on another carabiner. Clip both carabiners to the gear sling behind the RPs.
  • Next rack the Aliens or whatever set of TCUs you use, on the rack. Depending on how many you are carrying, you can either rack them separately with each one having its own carabiner or you can double or triple them up onto a single carabiner.
  • Lastly rack the Camalots or whatever set of cams you use, onto the gear sling. It is usually easiest, especially if you are only carrying a single set of cams, which is one of each size, to rack each one separately with its own carabiner on the sling. Put the small ones behind the TCUs, then the bigger ones in ascending order. In the case of this route, the largest cam is a #3 Camalot so it should be at the back of the rack.

Carry Quickdraws and Slings on Gear Loops

Carry the quickdraws and two-foot slings, with carabiners on each end, on the gear loops on your harness rather than on the gear sling. They will be easier to grab and clip and will keep the rack on the gear sling from being too bulky. The longer 4-foot slings can be doubled and carried over your shoulder or, if they are thin like the 12mm Spectra slings, you can condense them down and carry them on a gear loop. Also carry your personal gear, including belay and rappel device with a locking carabiner and a nut tool for cleaning gear when you're seconding, on a gear loop.

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