Top Tips #5 (Sling Simplicity)
I was staying at the Climbers Club hut in Llanberis this week. On the corridor wall is a classic 1969 Ken Wilson black and white photo of Tim Lewis leading Vertigo. Clipped to his waist are a small bunch of nuts threaded on rope and the shot shows him perched on a rib eyeing up a steep section ahead. It's a great photo that sums up the limited protection climbers had in those days. My eye was also drawn to his last piece of protection - a piece of hemp rope tied into a simple sling loop and threaded around a block.
Slings are a bread and butter item of every climbers rack and have been since climbing started. We may now have skinny Dyneema and super strong Aramid cord, but they still do the same jobs. Lassoing spikes, extending runners, threading blocks, creating cows tails, equalising anchors and a host of other tasks - where would we be without these little wonders?
Of course the advantage of slings is that they are a long strand of tape, but that also makes them tricky to carry in a way that allows them to be quickly deployed....unless you know how. We discussed a method for making 60cm slings into handy quickdraws in Top Tips #4 (which can be found here) but 120cm slings are best suited to a different approach). I have 2 favourite methods depending on the activity.
When I'm scrambling (and so often carrying coils of rope around my upper body) or carrying a light rack on mountaineering routes, I often prefer to keep them clipped to my harness. To keep them neatly stowed I double the sling, clip it to a carabiner, put several twists in the tape and then clip the end back in to the crab. This also allows quick deployment by simply unclipping one end and letting the sling untwist. You can do this one handed but this method is particularly suited to terrain where you can free up both hands.
On steeper climbs you are more likely to be hanging on with one hand so having a method for quick one handed deployment with a free hand works best. The traditional method of keeping slings stored around the upper body by doubling them works quite well but you still need to feed them over your head to remove them. My preferred method is to join the 2 ends with a carabiner. This makes removing them one handed a doddle. Just unclip one end, pull it off the body and it is ready for use. Several slings can be stored together and you can also easily carry this way while carrying a rucksack or wearing bulky clothing.