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[TowerTalk] Climbing Belts

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Subject: [TowerTalk] Climbing Belts
From: (Pat Barthelow)
Date: Fri, 6 Jun 1997 15:32:14 -0700 (PDT)
      Regarding Climbing Belts, Parachute harness adaptations,
etc...... You might want to know that there is a lot of design
consideration going into the heart of any climbing belt, that is not
obvious  even to the savvy eye.  Please note, that climbing belt D
rings are NOT the same size, shape, thickness, as Parachute Harness
D- Rings.  Though they are both extremely strong.  They also are not
mounted the same, though both are mounted in an extremely strong
          Notice that, the better made climbing belts have the steel rings
mounted in such a way as to hold the ring out, away from the belt
itself.  Usually a metal stop. sewm, or riveted into the leather/or
composite nylon belt,  limits travel of the ring so that a one-handed
striking/pushing motion of the harge snap hook will securely latch
the hook around the ring.  This action should be extremely smooth,
and easy to do, ALMOST without looking at the latching at the time
it is done.  Though you should ALWAYS LOOK at the apparent
connection before betting your life on it, by leaning into it and
LOOKING AT the Ring/Belt latch.   Experienced climbers know this
attachment very intimately, and ALL climbers lives depend on it.
Even the SOUND of a proper latch has a very identifiable signature. 
Some have been killed by latching the belt hook onto crescent
wrenches, or  other steel hardware carried in nearby belt loops, and
subsequent falls.  Maybe not a good idea to carry tools, etc, in the
belt loops, rather send them up the tower separately in a bucket.... 
          Look at this life critical attachment VERY closely.  On the
ground, if you have Non-Locking safety belt snaps, see if you can
twist the hook while attached to the ring in any way that can put
pressure on the spring latch, which could open the latch.  Twist the
belt hook into extreme positions on the ring and try to unsnap it
without you yourself depressing the spring latch.  By the way, have
you ever had any spring in you life experience fail from fatigue....
Think about it...your life is dependent on those 50 cent springs
inside the hook latch mechanism, check them frequently, by pushing
on the latch with your thumbs.  BETTER YET, get a belt with a
safety latch that requires a 2 step procedure to open.  Another thing
I see and don't like, in the cheaper belts, is round rope safety
lanyards.  Because of the many degrees of freedom that the hook
can move (flop around) the attachment is not as easy as with a flat,
stiff belt.  The Striking/latching action requires more attention and
sometimes even a second hand assist to make, with the round rope
lanyards.  Might be O.K., but in that 1 in 1000 chance, someday you
might be off balance, distracted, contending with wind, or swinging
objects on the tower, or whatever, and you may need to QUICKLY,
POSITIVELY latch off.  If you need to grasp the hook of a belt, while
it is hanging down from one side, a flat belt allows you  to slide the
belt through your palm (one handed) in such a way that the hook can
be positively grasped from a predictable orientation.  Not so, with a
rope lanyard.  I would want a flat, web belt EVERY TIME.
          I am a Skydiver, a licensed FAA Rigger (parachute inspection,
packing and repair) in addition to being an antenna nut/climber, and
used to read carefully the fatality reports every month in
PARACHUTIST.  I noticed in the Mid to Late 70's when rapid change
and improvement in sport parachute gear was occuring, a very sad,
common thread....Using other peoples gear (borrowing, trying out,
in anticpation of buying a newer, different model) was a frequent
factor in the (relatively rare) fatality.  (About 30 fatalities in 2 million
sport jumps per year).  Subtle differences in perfectly designed and
operating parachute gear sometimes combined with other jumper
errors in a way as to cause a fatality.   Sometimes "minor" jumper
modifications, or untested combinations of perfectly good parachute
gear, weren't so minor, and resulted in fatalities.  Another thread
was a high percentage of fatalities involved jumpers who jumped
infrequently, with long time gaps between jumps.  To stay sharp,
and safe in jumping, (as in climbing, flying, and other dangerous
activities) do it often. 
          If you climb, get good instruction, do so regularly, buy your
own gear, don't modify other types of gear to serve as climbing
belts/harnesses, and become as intimately familiar with it, as you are
with your wife/ (husband).   Your belt is a VERY PERSONAL piece of
equipment.  Your life depends on it EVERY TIME you step off the
ground to the tower.
Oh....and ALWAYS wear a hard hat!
73, DX, de Pat, AA6EG/N6IJ, "The Contest Station from the

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