Just have a session with Wilfred and I-Gek from Mountaintorq.com last Saturday. Managed to get Aiden and Peter Chang from Power Tours to sit together and discussed about how to work with each other.
Discussion meeting was held at Adventure Factors office here in Wisma Sabah, Kota Kinabalu. Apart from discussing about the via ferrata packages, I also learn some new things from Wilfred on the activities and the extra equipments needed.
Because of the risky nature of this via ferrata activity, Wilfred told me that they have to provide safety equipments for all their climbers. Basically, there are 5 equipments provided:
- Safety helmet
- Double shock absorbing lanyards
- Dynamic ropes
1. Safety helmet
A helmet is a tough item of headwear that primarily protects the skull against impacts. In well-developed and popular climbing areas, these impacts are more commonly caused by falling objects (such as pebbles or climbing equipment) than by a falling climber hitting the rock or ground.
To protect your head, they use Petzl Elios helmet for their climbers. This helmet has a high density expanded polypropylene foam headpiece on the inside and a thermoformed ABS outer shell, providing both lightness and strength. The ergonomic shape provides maximum protection while ensuring a clear field of vision.
A single adjustment wheel in the back and an adjustable chinstrap allow for efficient and quick adjustments. Four exterior hooks and a groove in the outer shell are designed to attach and secure a headlamp. Nothing has been left out in this simple, but refined helmet.
Carabiners (snap links), are equipments which are used to anchor the climber to the safety cable and (sometimes) to rungs along the route.
As the climber moves past an anchor point on the cable (one of the bolts which attach the cable to the rock), the two carabiners are unclipped and clipped on the other side of the anchor, one at a time in succession, so that the climber is attached with at least one side of the lanyard (item no. 3) at all times.
For example, Petzl William Screw-Lock carabiner is a pear-shaped carabiner with large opening. It also has:
- Large size to allow anchoring of several ropes and slings
- Large opening
- Wide pear shape facilitates belaying with Munter hitch on single or double ropes
- Keylock System (snag-free body / gate interface)
3. Double shock absorbing lanyards
Attached to the harness (item no.4), it is a double or “Y”-lanyard with two cords running to carabiners (item no. 2). On all the route of the via ferrata, the lanyards are always clipped to a safety cable.
Because a fall down the safety cable to the nearest anchor point can generate dangerously high forces, the lanyard is equipped with a load limiting (shock absorbing) device. Ordinary climbing slings are unsafe and may not be used on the via.
They use Petzl Scorpio lanyards, which uses ripping if stitches to achieve the same ends. This is thought to be a safer system as there is nothing to catch that could prevent it working and thus less that could go wrong.
Also the rip-stitch absorber section is stored in a pocket and is more compact and does not hinder movements. The third short end enables you to clip in short to rest, and to remain closer to the cable when traversing (e.g. horizontal or sloping progression).
A climbing harness is a piece of equipment used in certain types of rock-climbing, abseiling or in this case via ferrata, requiring the use of ropes to provide access and/or safety. They type of harness that is used in this activity is sit harness.
Sit harness comprises a waist belt and two leg loops which are normally connected in the front of the hips either through a permanent webbing loop (sometimes called a belay loop) or through the use of a carabiner via a lanyards.
*Some tips – Do remove handkerchiefs, car keys, bulging wallets etc, from your trousers before trying on harnesses. Do remove pullovers too.
Don’t get a harness that you can do up the waist-belt as tight as it can go – buy the next size down so that there is always room to tighten it further. You do not want to risk sliding out of it in a head first fall. Check your waist measurement well above the hips, at your thinnest bit!
5. Dynamic ropes
A dynamic rope (it’s green color item) is a specially constructed, stretchable rope. This ‘stretch’ is what makes it ‘dynamic’, versus a static rope that doesn’t have any give when under load.
By stretching under load, a dynamic rope will soften the impact of extreme stresses on it, and lessen the likelihood of failure. This is particularly useful in rock climbing, where it can absorb much of the energy of a fall (referred to as a whipper amongst rock climbers).
In this activity, the rope is used as a second layer of safety precaution, whereby it will be connected to the person in front and behind you along the trail.
This second layer of protection will help climbers from falling down if they accidentally did not secure the carabiner to the safety cable or forgot to do it. So, when they fall, they will still be connected to the other two climbers.
By the way, they DO NOT provide hand gloves. You have to bring your own…