Essential Skills: Opposite and Opposed
Get the safety of a locking carabiner with two non-lockers
Carabiners act as important connection points in climbing, and whether it’s between the rope and a bolt or you and the anchor, we trust our lives to these tiny pieces of metal. While non-locking biners are acceptable in many applications, certain connections are more critical (e.g., belay biners, clipping into the anchor) and require a gate that can be locked into a closed position, which keeps it from accidentally opening. Since lockers are heavier and more expensive, it’s customary to carry the bare minimum on a route, but you might run into a situation where you need a locking biner but are running short. Orienting two non-locking biners the right way will emulate the safety and security of one locking biner, but beware of two other orientations that aren’t quite as safe.
The gate of one is matched with the spine of the other; the top is matched with the bottom and vice versa. This is not foolproof because if one biner rotates 180 degrees on the rope (which is common), both gates are aligned and could open together, making it possible for the rope to slip out.
Spines are together, gates are together, and the top of one biner is matched with the bottom of the other. When open, the gates form an X, making it difficult for the rope to slip out, but the concern here is biner strength. Biners lose about 60 to 70 percent of their strength (think 9 kN instead of 24 kN) when the gate is open, and in this orientation, the same force (impact on rock) could open both gates, which would mean they’re weakened at the same moment.
OPPOSITE AND OPPOSED
Gates and spines are not matched up, but the tops and bottoms are together. This is the strongest and safest setup for substituting two non-locking biners for one locking biner.
ANOTHER QUICK FIX
Sometimes bailing off a long route involves leaving lots of gear behind, or there are established slings and webbing, but no rappel rings. Or maybe there’s only one aluminum rap ring, and you would prefer to have a backup. (Aluminum rappel rings should always be used in pairs, while one steel ring will do the trick. Aluminum rap rings are thinner and feel very light, while a steel ring is thicker and heavier.) Instead of leaving an expensive locker or two non-lockers, put a few wraps of climbing tape around the gate and nose of the non-locking biner, so that it acts like the sleeve of a locking carabiner. By no means does this replace a locking biner, but if you’re faced with having minimal gear to get down and want to add some safety to rappelling off one non-locking biner, this will do the trick.