Passive Piton Placements

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Pitons are being used less today as climbers become more aware of the need to climb with a minimal impact on the environment, even aid climbers are leaving their pegs at home only taking them out when an epic is on the cards.


Spring loaded camming devices have made many of us a bit lazy, in the good old days, climbers had to be a bit more inventive and most of the devices that we use today are climbers inventions or ideas that have been further developed by the manufacturing companies and their engineering staff. It goes without saying that many of the manufacturers are also keen climbers themselves.

Timber blocks, machine nuts, ball bearing races, stove legs, pipe and many other devices have been used over the years to protect climbers. I’ve even heard of a scissor action type car jack being used to protect a large crack on a grade 20 climb at Tarana.

It’s a bit daunting thinking about the earlier days and some of the crazy stunts that climbers did to put up that new climb. The experience is still available for those of us who wish to get out on the bigger walls, multi-pitched routes or at any location that is void of fixed protection.

The drawing to the right depicts a simple wedging action created using a lost arrow piton wedged against a wire so that the downward or outward force on the wire causes pressure on the sidewalls of the crack. Similar placements can be created using knife blades, home made wedges and wires. The only limitations are the sizes of the wedges used and your ability to assess the placement before its use.

Aid climbers can use these type of wedging placements in very small cracks using fine knife blades and RP’s. I’ve managed to fit a number 0 RP and a Stregor titanium blade into a crack measuring 3½mm. I wouldn’t like to fall onto it but would be happy using it as an aid placement.

Helpful Tips:

  1. Low angled wedges will provide more holding power.
  2. Always seat these type of placements into place.
  3. Always secure all of the components that make up a placement to avoid loosing them or dropping them onto your belayer should they fail.

WARNING: Extreme care must be taken when using homemade placements or when modifying standard forms of protection.

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