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Learn This: Efficient Racking

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Successful and swift trad climbing is all about efficiency. You can’t squander minutes searching for the perfect piece, drain strength by over-gripping while you untangle runners from your cams, or waste energy by lugging up unnecessary weight. Mayan Smith-Gobat knows a thing or two about smart racking, with multiple speed records broken on the Nose of El Cap this year. She and Chantel Astorga set the all-female speed record with a time of 7:26, breaking the previous record by almost three hours. Then she went on to break the male/female speed record with Sean Leary, clocking in at 4:29. We asked this trad-efficiency expert for her tips on racking for speed.

Front right gear loop


Assuming you’re right-handed (swap for left-front loop if lefthanded), keep your compact nuts and most-used (and versatile) pro here on the most accessible loop. Clip cams in order by size, smallest in front, and give each a single biner. If the route calls for certain pro at the beginning, don’t hesitate to move it up to this spot.

Back right gear loop

This is the place to keep larger cams, biners, slings, and less commonly used pro. Keeping the weight and bulk toward your back will keep you balanced and prevent you from tripping over heavy and longer gear. Belay/rappel devices go on the very back of this loop since you won’t actually be climbing when you need to access them. You can make tiered bundles out of draws and slings to save space on each gear loop. Clip one draw to the loop, with a few draws clipped to the top biner on that first draw, then a few more draws clipped to a biner on the second tier. If the pro will require a lot of extending, carry slings and biners, which are more versatile than quickdraws.

Front left gear loop

Doubles of most-used sizes go here. This is also the place for smaller and less versatile pieces like micro-cams. Again, arrange all gear by size—smallest to largest. Reading the route to figure out the general size of most placements is key; it will take some guesswork.

Back left gear loop

Largest and least-used gear goes here, so it’s in the back and out of the way, specifically on your non-dominant side. Also a good spot to clip shoes if you’re carrying them for a walk-off descent. Carry a personal tether for clipping into the anchor at belay stations. If you won’t need it until the rappel, clip the whole thing to a gear loop. If you will be using it on the climb, girthhitch one end to the tie-in points on your harness (or belay loop) and clip the other end to the back of this gear loop. In both cases, use a locking biner. Keep slings and biners neat by setting them up into alpine quickdraws. (See for instructions.)

The great gear sling debate

On harder trad routes, Smith- Gobat never uses a shoulder gear sling. “They are too annoying to carry, swinging around and getting stuck on your harness and chalk bag, unless you need to take a full double rack or more, which is not comfortable on a harness,” she says. Shoulder slings do come in handy, though, on routes with corners or laybacks, she says, so you can keep gear on one side so it stays out of the way. Slings are also useful during speed climbs or when swinging leads with a partner. Smith-Gobat used them during her runs up the Nose; it made for fast and easy gear swaps— “just exchange the full rack at lead changes.” Not using a sling means only racking on the harness, which also means a heavy weight around your midsection, pulling your harness down. Make sure you have a well-fitted harness that you can snug up tightly around your waist.