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As I reached the anchors of a route on a crowded wall in the Red River Gorge, I heard anxious yelling directed at the climber next to me. My buddy Marc on the ground had noticed that the young lady had clipped in direct via a gear loop on the side of her harness and had begun untying her knot to clean the anchor! Marc stopped her and explained why it was dangerous to her belayer. The attitude my buddy received in return was disappointing. Both the belayer and climber acted like he was over-reacting and invading their territory, even though he had not given the information in an adversarial or know-it-all tone. Oh well, at least he prevented an accident that day and hopefully the point got across.—Paul, Red River Gorge, KY
LESSON: We've covered gear loops in this column a coupleof times, and we'll probably cover them again because it seems like a common mistake (or maybe misconception). Most gear loops are not strength rated. They're simply not designed to be load bearing beyond a beefy trad rack. I can't even tell you what the average gear loop breaks at because manufacturers don't publish the numbers, and they tend to vary from company to company and harness to harness. The bottom line is that they're not designed to hold your body weight, so you shouldn't depend on them to hold your body weight. Even while tied in with the rope, there's plenty of room to clip a locking carabiner to your belay loop, or girth hitch a personal anchor or sling to your tie in points to go on direct safely.
There are a select few harnesses (such as those in the Metolius Safe Tech line) built with full strength gear loops. While you can clip into those if you want to, hanging from your side still isn't very practical. Since the girl in the story ultimately heeded Marc's advice, I'm going to assume she was not wearing a harness with full-strength gear loops.
As for the attitude, maybe they were just hyper sensitive after learning the young lady had put herself in serious danger. Or maybe they're just jerks. Try not to let it bother you.
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