So a few months back I turned 50! For nostalgia’s sake and to the amusement of the current tenants, we went to the house I was born in, in Cardiff Wales and had a birthday apple on the front wall.
Snowdonia was going to just be a tourist trek and we did indeed see some beautiful places and scalable faces but a cherry on the cake was driving through a totally unknown area and jumping on the brakes at the sight of a sign that smelt of climbing: “DMM”. Founded in 1981 as Moorhouse Engineering in Bethesda, soon to become DMM and moving to Llanberis in 1986, the company celebrated 35 years of manufacturing in 2016. In 1981 the company employed just 4 people, and now thirty odd years later they are an important employer in the area with just over 150 men and women on the payroll.
We took the liberty of pulling in next to the quaint little building and the large factory and offices and after a while of nosing Around were introduced to Chris. Chris was a lovely man who works in the offices at DMM and was only too happy to take time out of his busy day and show us (unannounced), around an amazing climbers dream factory. Massive presses thumped down, torches blazed, metal blocks and rods were forged, pressed, bent and anodised into some of the best climbing gear in the world. Too many steps to jot down in a blog but what an exciting and brilliant place! We spent a good couple of hours going from base materials right through to the manual inspections and finishing tweaks. Family members who were travelling with us commented that at no point in our holiday had they seen Trace or myself smile nearly as much as we did while touring DMM!
I thought it couldn’t get any better, but when leaving Chris pointed us to a time locked pub down the road where we went for a beer. The nostalgia written (literally) on the walls (and ceiling) was captivating. This was the training ground for a guy / team in the early 50’s you may of heard of before; Edmund Hillary. They trained in these mountains for something they eventually bagged a little on the bigger size, ….you know what I mean. There were ropes, axes, boots and so many other enchanting tools from yester year hanging like they had just been left there along with some very special signatures on the ceiling. It was an amazing find. If you ever find yourself in Wales I recommend exploring Snowdonia and the Pen-Y-Gwryd Hotel for a beverage, lunch and a little trip into fantasy of times gone by.
(click any of the images for a bigger view).
Rope types and their falls explained:
Disclaimer: This is a brief view of ropes and there fall catching capabilities and is in no way complete, there is a lot more to know and understand before jumping on the sharp end. This is compiled with my knowledge and experience and should not be taken as gospel. Do your own research and study and always climb within your abilities and only with full knowledge of all of your equipment.
Ropes for lead climbing should only ever be dynamic. You should NEVER lead climb on semi-static rope; any lead fall on semi-static will likely put you in hospital or worse.
There are three types of Dynamic ropes:
The most common, this rope is used as a single strand. It is best adapted to difficult routes which are fairly straight-line, easy routes without change-over belays, and where descent is not by abseil. It is in particular the rope for sport climbing.
A ‘rope’ formed of 2 strands used together of which the leader is tied into both but, unlike twin ropes, two seconds may each be tied into just one of the strands. The leader clips only one strand into each runner so as to reduce drag. Half ropes are recommended for mountaineering, wandering lines and long ascents where abseil descent is necessary. In addition they offer better protection against stonefall or falling on an arete; to limit the drag, and thus the fall factor, you can clip the strands separately
These ropes are always used with the two strands together, remaining parallel. Each climber ties into both strands and these are always clipped together. Its advantage over a single rope is that it allows for abseils as long as the rope. It is lighter than half rope but does not allow for separate strand clipping.
All dynamic ropes have to be tested for conformity to the Standard EN 892 in a test tower at a fall factor 1.77 (see below for fall factors explained).
Single and twin ropes are tested with a mass of 80kg. A single rope, must resist at least 5 successive falls, and both strands of a twin rope combined, must resist at least 12 successive falls.
2. Half ropes are tested with a 55kg mass on one strand. It must resist 5 successive falls. Why 55 kg?Because ropes which hold 5 falls with 55kg in practice hold 2 falls with 80kg, which has been allowed as sufficient security for a half rope which is not used to hold repeated falls on one strand.
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*Factor fall explained: Generally only possible in multi-pitch climbing and whilst on lead, the fall factor( f ) is the ratio of the height ( h ) a climber falls before the climber’s rope begins to stretch and the rope length ( L ) available to absorb the energy of the fall.
Confused? (Ignoring rope stretch)
a) If you climb 5m above a belay placing gear at say 4m and fall you will fall 2m (1m to the piece of protection and 1 more below it) on 5m of rope.
f = 2/5
f = 0.4 Not necessarily a bad fall.
b) If you climb 5m above a belay without any gear placement and fall you will fall 10m (5 to the belay and 5 more below it) on just 5m of rope.
f = 10/5
f = 2 A factor 2 is the worst kind of fall you can apply to a rope (and belay) in normal climbing.
With factors in mind, always place gear or clip bolts as soon as possible when leaving a belay; it’s not the time to be thinking about running it out, not even just a little.
Acknowledgments: Beal Planet, Wikipedia.