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How to stay safe while mountaineering?
Personal and technical equipment: what, how, when?

Mountaineering, climbing, alpinism- it is difficult to determine whether it is a sport, passion, lifestyle, or something in between. It is not so important after all, as long as certain rules and regulations are respected that contribute to our safety. One of them is the right choice for our equipment.

In addition to the general personal and collective equipment we use for the mountain, there is also equipment that we call technical equipment. There are several factors, directions, rules for choosing the technical equipment, and in this post I will present you with some of the most necessary technical equipment without which it is practically impossible and inadvisable to start any mountain adventure.

Technical equipment includes everything that will help us to climb a mountain, provide us with safe access, that we can carry with us, or occasionally use it to perform various actions on the mountain.

Important: when choosing technical equipment, I recommend consulting a mountain guide or an expert. The equipment and tables for the selection of equipment that I will demonstrate below are according to the standards of UIAA (International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation) or CE certification.


The most representative parts of personal technical equipment are:
 

Mountaineering helmet

Mountaineering helmets are designed and serve to protect our heads from smaller objects that fall (usually smaller rocks from crumbling rocks), from shocks caused by rockfalls or slipping, steepness, or from unwanted shocks when climbing.
 
There are several types of mountaineering helmets, but generally, all are made according to some generally accepted and recommended standards and therefore I recommend that before choosing a helmet you read the manufacturer's instructions in detail to find out the characteristics and capabilities of the helmet, and thus find out what are you protected from.
 
 

It should be noted that the correct use of the helmet means that it is firmly attached to the head and is always placed on the head before entering the dangerous area of ​​the mountain. It is also important to know that helmets are designed to protect us from hits and falls as much as our body can withstand and deliver blows, specifically in the neck and head.


climbing belt

The climbing belt serves for amortization and evenly distributing the impact forces that occur in the event of a fall from a height after we stand on the rope to which we are tied. In general, we can group the belts into three groups:
                                                                - Sitting belt - consists of a belt around the waist and two belts around the legs that are interconnected by smaller belts that are extremely strong and durable. This belt is widely used in commercial rock climbing and abseiling because it is relatively easy to wear, has more freedom of movement, and you still have a high degree of safety in its use.

                                                                - One-piece belt or chest belt - which has an additional part around the shoulders and thus allows during a  sudden fall, the receiving place of the impact force is higher than our center of gravity, damping the impact and virtually preventing severe spinal cord injury, even when we carry heavier and bigger backpacks.

                                                                - Double belt or Full Complete Belt - is a combination of seat and chest belt and combines all the good features of the two belts. At the expense of all that it is a little heavier than them and is mostly used by members of the Mountain Rescue Services.


                                                                 


                                                                carabiners

                                                                There are many types of carabiners that are divided into different groups for different purposes. Carabiners serve as a connection between the belt, rope, wedges, via ferret set, anchors, etc. They are usually made of lightweight, high-quality metal alloys and have different performances.

                                                                For mountaineering I recommend the so-called Pear / HMS carabiners with a protective system - nut or the latest models with automatic closing, which takes a little more time to get incorporated into a routine, but the safety with them is much higher.



                                                                belay device

                                                                The belay device is a mechanical device that allows safe rock climbing and descent while using the rope friction mechanics with the device in combination with the applied force of our hand at one end of the rope. 
                                                                This combination allows for controlled rock descent speeds or maintaining a certain tension and rope length when climbing, all in the service of safe and controlled mountaineering. 
                                                                There are three types of such devices and they are:
                                                                - Tubular devices
                                                                - Make Assisted braking
                                                                - Carabiner 8 (Figure 8)

                                                                The choice of which type of these devices will be used depends on the type of mountaineering activity you want to practice. For example, rock climbing, multi-climbing, mountaineering, sport climbing in a mountain or artificial rock hall, speleology, mountain rescue, descent from heights, etc.


                                                                ropes and auxiliary ropes

                                                                Generally, ropes are divided into dynamic and static ropes:
                                                                  - Dynamic (elastic) ropes are designed to, in the event of a fall, stretch (even more than a third of their length) and thus absorb and soften part of the impact force, thus mitigating the fall of the climber. Dynamic ropes are commonly used for mountaineering, rock climbing, sports boulder climbing, ice climbing, multi-pitch rock routes. Depending on the selected category of mountaineering, we distinguish three categories and techniques of choosing ropes, single, half, and twin ropes.
                                                                    - Static ropes are ropes that have extremely low stretching, even insignificant in terms of length, and are mostly used for rescue on the mountains, for lowering an injured mountaineer, climbing a rope, or carrying cargo. These ropes should never be used as a single climb rope or a leading rope for a group of climbers. This category includes all shorter ropes and leashes.

                                                                    Important: When choosing a rope you should pay attention to the appropriate type of rope for the appropriate activity you want to perform, diameter (thickness) and rope length, safety, and rope characteristics recommended by the manufacturer of the chosen rope, as well as rope treatment after use. I strongly recommend consulting an expert in this field when choosing and buying a rope, especially if you are a beginner.

                                                                    Disclaimer: All the images used in this article are sourced from the UIAA webpage: https://www.theuiaa.org/safety-standards/


                                                                    Written by: Petar Nolev, mountain guide and rescue service

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