'Rack' to Winter - Tips on Winter Climbing Hardware Maintenance
The seasons are changing... the nights are drawing in, and thoughts are drifting back to snowy peaks and Scottish adventures. Having your hardware prepared for the winter onslaught is essential as the rigours placed on it will be much greater than in summer.
Your trusty set of wires will take a battering from assistance both in and out by the pick of your axe, why not have a winter rack?; Treat yourself to some shiny new wires for summer and use the second best for winter.
Also get around all those glove fumbling moments by putting them on the widest mouthed snap gates you can lay your hands on.
Making decisions on the condition a route is in is one of the fundamental skills of winter climbing, this has a bearing on what rack you will take; early season mixed with the first snows of winter may see dry cracks where camming devices will still hold okay, mostly however it is a good idea to get those hexes out as they will feel much more reliable in iced up cracks. You could replace knackered old tape or cord with new longer stuff also, the more extension the better in winter...
Carrying a .Bulldog. hook or a warthog for turf protection can be very useful on some early season venues. treat with extreme caution when carrying on your harness. keep it out of the way round the back or you may end up with it in your leg!!
When the Ben comes into .nick and you are climbing ice, a good rack of ice screws is essential; this means sharp! Blunt, bent teeth do not help in quick placement, so to avoid the inevitable swearing and shaking keep your screws in their caps. Remember rust doesn.t help either, so dry them out carefully every night, no matter what time you get in! Consider racking your screws on screw holders instead of krabs as this reduces potential fumbling also.
Winter routes wander about a lot so extenders must be a good length. Always carry loads of 4 foot sling quickdraws, trebled into short extenders, and no sport draws here either! Your rack needs to be rapidly interchangeable, so having annoying rubbery bits to hold .biners in place can cause frustration when needing them individually.
On winter routes there is often a fair bit of easier ground and the days are short so speed of changeover is essential. Consider racking certain equipment on a bandolier(use a 4 foot sling) over your shoulder which keeps the glove fumbling down on a busy harness, and means you can swap kit on a stance without as much hassle. This also means you can clean the pitch when seconding, on to another sling, and be ready to go when you reach the belay.
Finally the pitches are always longer in winter, particularly on Nevis face routes, or on any easier snowier pitches, so to guarantee your ability to reach a good belay use 60 metre ropes. This will ease those worries of running out of rope in the middle of nowhere! Modern 8mm half ropes are really light but something a bit fatter can be quite re-assuring when faced with steep mixed ground and sharp tools.