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Sherri

Gear placement--how soon, how much?

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I've been getting conflicting advice about this: "You're wasting your time if you place anything within the first 15 feet," or "Place early and often, you want get in at least 5 pieces in the first 20 feet of climbing."

 

The voice in MY head says to shoot for the first piece at the first good stance, even if it's only 10 feet from the belay, then, if it feels good, run another 10 feet or so before looking to put in the second piece.

 

My rationale is that while the first piece will not stop me from decking, it will stop me from skidding past my belayer by an extra few yards(assuming there's a slope or ledge behind them). But this first piece(regardless of it's true value) makes me comfortable going a little further before placing anything else, so by the time I'm 20 feet up, maybe I've only got two pieces in. So, I seem to be on the wrong side of either piece of advice. :crosseye:

 

If this isn't a sound practice for reasons unbeknownst to me as of yet, I'd like to be enlightened at this impressionable stage in my lead-climbing development(so as not to inadvertently ingrain any bad habits which could later haunt me. skull )

 

What do most folks consider "ideal" spacing/frequency for first placements? (I'm talking moderate trad lines here, where there's usually possibilities early on in the route.)

 

 

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On the first pitch or when cragging sigle pitch routes, it's whenever you feel like it. But think about this... if you place your first gear at 9-10 feet off the ground, then after you have climbed only about 6 feet more, with rope stretch, you are getting into groundfall territory again anyway and need to place another piece pronto. So you might as well just put in the first piece at 15 feet unless there is a hard move in between 10 and 15 feet... unless you have some other reason. The real point is is that a piece close to the ground doesn't protect you for very long so why not make a couple more moves first, until you get the scary highball feeling.

 

Ideally after you get the first two pieces in you can increase the distance between pieces because with more rope out your potential fall factor is reducing. Say you put in one piece at 12 feet or so and next one around 22, next one around 38, next one around 55, next one at 75, one more around 100 feet... unless there's a specific crux you want a close piece for or you want something in to keep you off a ledge or a bulge or to protect your second or whatever.

 

On a multipitch though, put one piece in as soon as you can off the belay so that you dn't Factor 2 onto the belay. Even if it's like 5 feet up from the belay... then go back to the strategy givn above.

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I'm assuming you're talking about placing gear while leading a single pitch, belaying off the ground? Because on a belay off the deck (on a multi-pitch) I would definitely place gear right after leaving the belay, to prevent a FF 2 from bombing my anchor :noway:

 

if the route wanders away from the belay or the belay is off to the side because of rockfall or something (i.e. vantage), I like to place an omnidirectional piece right off the deck. This prevents a backwards zipper if I fall higher up.

 

fall factors are much higher at the start of the pitch, I tend to place a lot more gear near the bottom and once I get higher off the deck, I relax more

 

my two cents

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A trick I've used on occasion when there are cracks of consistent width is to place a cam, climb up a bit, move the cam up a bit, place another cam, move it up a bit.

 

It works on Classic Crack for example. The idea is that it takes less time and effort to move a piece up than it does to place another one.

 

This only works in a few cases but when it does it works great. Only use this when you're getting bomber jams or good stances.

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I'm glad I asked. Thanks all! G-Spotter and Rob, those points hit the nail on the head. :tup:

 

It hadn't occured to me to differentiate between the best stategy for a single pitch vs. for a multipitch. I was treating them both the same, I think, just thinking a lead was a lead.

 

Perhaps that's where my confusion was coming from, as sometimes it seemed to make sense to put in a piece ASAP(particularly on multi's where the belayer was on a ledge) whereas at other times(usually singles) it felt fine to get a few moves up before looking around.

 

So, what I'm taking from this is: the idea of a firing good piece early on multi's doesn't necessarily contradict the efficiency gained by going that extra move or two before placing the first gear on the singles. I'm getting the picture now.

 

Also, it's good to be reminded about that increased fall factor at the beginning of the pitch(I did read that somewhere when I first started, but it wasn't the basis for my placement choices.) When the climbing was solid, I think I was resisting sewing up the earlier segments because it seemed like a fine line between doing that and falling into a pattern of "panic placements" (basing the choices on fear of risking a long fall rather than on reasonable estimations of where gear was actually needed).

 

Never thought about moving up the gear with me, CBS. Interesting proposition. I'll put that in the memory banks for Classic Crack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One thing to take into consideration is that your first piece no matter how low or how high should be as bomber and try to make it multi-directional. As Rob mentioned mainly to prevent zippering. This is quite common when leading off the ground because belayers tend to stand away from the cliff. It is not so fun when you take a fall up above and then all off sudden all your lower pieces are pulling out before you know it your on a single piece.

 

As for any rule of thumb for when to place gear, I say place it when you can. Starting off lead climbing get as much experience placing your gear. The more you place the better you'll get at placing gear and the better you'll get recognizing good stances to place gear and you'll get better at spotting what gear you will need above.

 

Walking your gear as CBS described can be helpful, but it can also turn into a little bit of struggle if you are not clearly comunicating to your belayer. If they feel the slack from pulling out the piece they may take that up making it more difficult move it up. Also the weight of the rope can sometime make it awkward placing the piece above, but with your guns you shouldn't have much problem with that.

 

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If you place your first at 12 then tried to place your second at 22, it seems like you'd deck if you fell before the clip. Assuming you have no other reason to place pro other than distance (no ledges, bulges and so on), wouldn't something along the lines of 10, 15, 25, 35...ensure against a ground-fall?

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for me there's also a big distance between trying a route for the 1st time and doing it again. some routes are deceptive on where the hard moves are or where the gear gets good or bad (i.e. the crack suddenly flares or full on peters out). if i'm trying for the first time, i put gear pretty much wherever i can and afterwards it looks like i was practicing my suturing. usually when i go back, i place the minimum required gear to keep me from decking.

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If you place your first at 12 then tried to place your second at 22, it seems like you'd deck if you fell before the clip. Assuming you have no other reason to place pro other than distance (no ledges, bulges and so on), wouldn't something along the lines of 10, 15, 25, 35...ensure against a ground-fall?

 

you may as well just skip the 10 and go 15, 25, 35

 

but you know if you have to have a measuring tape out figuring where to put pro in you probably shouldn't be leading...

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Now on zippering. As was noted this is affected by how closely your belayer stands to the base of the route. But what is not as commonly thought of is that the lower your first piece is, the more likely it is to zipper.

 

wanna test this? put a piece in two feet off the ground and start leading. The rope will make a right angle bend through this first piece pretty much no matter where your belayer stands in relation to the crag. If you fall, this piece will have a huge outwards and upwards pull on it and will probably zipper.

 

So if you want to avoid your gear zippering, avoid a low first piece. Lots of people get this seriously wrong.

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Another trick for you. Suppose you are leading something where the crux is near the ground, say it's the first 20 feet and you are mainly concerned with not decking. Suppose there aren't a lot of good rest spots- it's pumpy but you can make the moves.

 

Climb up 12 feet and place a piece. Climb down to the ground and rest. Now, fire up quickly to 18 feet and get in another piece. Now you can go to 30 feet or so before you have to place another. If you encounter a good rest before then, stop and place.

 

Very important to place gear from rests. Don't pass up a opportunity to place gear from a rest stance just because you just placed a piece only six feet below. You might not always know where you'll get to the next rest.

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Now on zippering. As was noted this is affected by how closely your belayer stands to the base of the route. But what is not as commonly thought of is that the lower your first piece is, the more likely it is to zipper.

 

wanna test this? put a piece in two feet off the ground and start leading. The rope will make a right angle bend through this first piece pretty much no matter where your belayer stands in relation to the crag. If you fall, this piece will have a huge outwards and upwards pull on it and will probably zipper.

 

So if you want to avoid your gear zippering, avoid a low first piece. Lots of people get this seriously wrong.

Dru is talking about a first piece which is not omnidirectional, like a nut. If your first piece is a cam or two nuts in opposition, then you can place it low and it can be used to prevent the pieces above from zippering.

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Suppose you are leading something where the crux is near the ground, say it's the first 20 feet

 

DMM%20dyno.jpg

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Now on zippering. As was noted this is affected by how closely your belayer stands to the base of the route. But what is not as commonly thought of is that the lower your first piece is, the more likely it is to zipper.

 

wanna test this? put a piece in two feet off the ground and start leading. The rope will make a right angle bend through this first piece pretty much no matter where your belayer stands in relation to the crag. If you fall, this piece will have a huge outwards and upwards pull on it and will probably zipper.

 

So if you want to avoid your gear zippering, avoid a low first piece. Lots of people get this seriously wrong.

Dru is talking about a first piece which is not omnidirectional, like a nut. If your first piece is a cam or two nuts in opposition, then you can place it low and it can be used to prevent the pieces above from zippering.

 

If you place the piece low enough and take a good whipper you can generate enough force that it will rip no matter how directional it is. And a low piece will generate serious ropedrag too. All in all if you don't place low pieces you will have a much lower possibility of gear zippering than if you do.

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Shoot, now I've got to get a tape measure for my rack, too?? ;)

 

Rather than specific intervals, my question had to do with whether it was best to aim for a placing a lot of gear within the first 10-20 feet, or best to get a ways off the ground before considering a placement as it would be the most effective protection against groundfall.

 

It's been quite helpful to have some of the subtleties of placement pointed out(single vs. multi, efficiency vs. effectiveness, fall factors, whether it's the first time leading the route, etc) because I wasn't sure what else to base my choices on, other than the availability of good stances.

 

The trad leading is still quite new to me, so I figured now's the time to pay attention to this stuff in order to establish

a good base of skills that will serve me well in years of climbing to come.

 

Thanks again. :wave:

 

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If you place the piece low enough and take a good whipper you can generate enough force that it will rip no matter how directional it is. And a low piece will generate serious ropedrag too. All in all if you don't place low pieces you will have a much lower possibility of gear zippering than if you do.

If you place a low piece you should follow up with a second piece soon so you don't take that whipper. Rope drag will depend on a number of factors, such as how far away the belayer is from the base, how long your slings are and whether the rock overhangs above the piece.

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you may as well just skip the 10 and go 15, 25, 35
Those numbers illustrate my point too. It's a legitimate observation/question and I'm simply asking if it's valid. As for the numbers, they're just examples but if anyone is compelled to take them as literals, they can borrow my tape :)

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On the first pitch or when cragging sigle pitch routes, it's whenever you feel like it.

 

Exactly.

 

When ever you feel it necessary to protect the move. There is no math to it. Its just feeling.

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On the first pitch or when cragging sigle pitch routes, it's whenever you feel like it.

 

Exactly.

 

When ever you feel it necessary to protect the move. There is no math to it. Its just feeling.

You can feel all you want, but if you get it wrong and fall, you're going to get hurt. When you are just starting out, stick to routes that are well within your abilities and overprotect.

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to routes that are well within your abilities and overprotect.

 

When in Doubt, Run It Out

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When in Doubt, Run It Out

 

Word. The potential for a bad fall will motivate you to not let go. ;) On the other hand if the rock is loose I'd say sew it up.

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to routes that are well within your abilities and overprotect.

 

When in Doubt, Run It Out

About the only good thing about that motto is that it rhymes.

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