Author Topic: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata  (Read 1553 times)

Offline Jack Hare

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Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« on: June 30, 2019, 05:51:22 pm »
Hi all, a quick question: can I use a caving harness (one with a central maillon) for climbing or via ferrata, where there is a possibility of taking a large fall? My googling on the subject has drawn a blank, because the results are all about whether you can use a climbing harness for caving (answer: not really due to abrasion). Obviously the number of people wishing to try the opposite it quite limited, and I have no intention of being a test dummy. Does anyone have any experience, or know the manufacturers recommendation for this? For example, I have a Petzl Superavanti.

Offline reforma

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Re: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« Reply #1 on: June 30, 2019, 05:57:11 pm »
No. Attachment point too low. Take a fall expect to end up side down with a chuck of your head missing.

Offline NewStuff

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Re: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2019, 06:00:36 pm »
because the results are all about whether you can use a climbing harness for caving (answer: not really due to abrasion).

Meh. I use a DMM Brenin, I find it more comfortable. It gets checked, like all my SRT kit, after every trip, and I've yet to see any abrasion issues.  However, I'm tall, which may make up for the (in my mind) larger issue of attachment point being higher, potentially making it harder to ascend.
Permission? Wassat den?

Offline Jack Hare

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Re: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« Reply #3 on: June 30, 2019, 07:25:40 pm »
No. Attachment point too low. Take a fall expect to end up side down with a chuck of your head missing.

That is a compelling argument!

Offline Cap'n Chris

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Re: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« Reply #4 on: June 30, 2019, 07:56:36 pm »
Caving harnesses and climbing harnesses are completely different fish. Made for specific uses and hence not interchangeable in the direction of intended use you stipulate. One is for vertical progression, the other is for fall arrest, respectively. Don't use the former in the latter scenario; to summarise:

Nope.

Mark Wright will be able to provide the relevant numbers for the testing standards which apply. You can then look them up and agree.

My dried-seaweed-hunch-meter [tm] says "If you take a monster whipper in a caving harness you'll probably get a compression that could break your pelvic girdle".

Offline mountainpenguin

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Re: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2019, 09:11:42 pm »
petzl FRACTIO
https://www.petzl.com/sfc/servlet.shepherd/version/download/0681r000009tDhQAAU
says "EN 12277:2015"
the BMC say https://www.thebmc.co.uk/Handlers/DownloadHandler.ashx?id=1336 that en 12277 is the EU standard for  harness so if it has that its been tested an can be used but that a climbing harness may also have UIAA 105 which is more stringent.
The simple answer is to check the declaration of conformity for *your* harness.
It may well be fine for climbing !


Offline Bob Mehew

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Re: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2019, 10:09:02 pm »
I note that the Petzl Superavanti Declaration of Conformity states it meets EN12277.  But the Petzl Superavanti Technical Note states "Caving harnesses are designed for ascending rope. These harnesses are not suitable for rock climbing because the very low attachment point increases the risk of inversion in a fall.

EN12277 is for mountaineering harnesses, see https://www.thebmc.co.uk/Handlers/DownloadHandler.ashx?id=1336 and has four types of which type A being a full body harness and type C being a sit harness are of interest.

However EN361 covers PPE full body harnesses and EN813 covers PPE sit harnesses.  There are differences between the standards, the major one I think is that EN361 requires the body to fall into a 'head up' position where as EN12277 (and EN813) does not. (It is highly detailed stuff & I don't have time to compare them in detail.)  So the warning fits with the lack of a 'head up' requirement in EN12277.

My suggestion is go read the instructions of what ever harness you are thinking about using and the risks you are prepared to accept (like hanging upside down having knocked a chunk out of your head).

PS - UIAA safety standard 105 does not really add much to problem but can be read at https://www.theuiaa.org/documents/safety-standards/105_UIAA_Harnesses_2018.pdf.

Offline Madness

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Re: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« Reply #7 on: June 30, 2019, 10:30:01 pm »
There's two sides to this argument:-

Remember that climbers used to lead and take big falls with ropes just tied around their waists. Yes, it hurt, yes, it probably did some lasting damage to internal organs, but they did it non the less. It gave them a bit of an incentive not to fall off! If you have even the slightest thought that you might fall off a Via Ferrata, then you shouldn't be doing one.

Alternatively, stop being a tight wad and buy a proper climbing harness.


Offline blackshiver

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Re: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« Reply #8 on: June 30, 2019, 10:32:45 pm »
Caving harnesses have the attachment point too low and don’t have a belay loop or climbing (dynamic) rope tie in points.
In the event of a feet first fall while leading you are likely to break your pelvis and or finally invert - cracking your skull.
If its a head first fall there is a chance that you will just fall out of the harness head first.

In terms of via ferrata the last thing you need is a caving harness and cows tails. A climbing harness and a pair of shock adsorbing via ferrata lanyards is what (might) save your life if you have an Epic.

I once used a caving harness with a steel triangle mallion for climbing back in the 70’s when I was young and very stupid. I fell off leading and hit the deck when the mallion undid itself due to the rope rolling it open. I should have died, but it just hurt - Lots.

Go and buy a climbing harness, you know it makes sense.
I have a plan so cunning you could pin a tail on it and call it a Weasel.

Offline andrewmc

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Re: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« Reply #9 on: June 30, 2019, 10:42:21 pm »
It would be entirely safe to use a caving harness in conjunction with an appropriate (rated) chest harness. A cheapskate could decide to fashion one out of a suitable length sling.

Remember that no sit harness, climbing or caving, would be suitable for use in industry (on its own) and yet climbers fall on them all the time (and admittedly sometimes invert).

Offline blackshiver

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Re: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« Reply #10 on: June 30, 2019, 11:29:42 pm »
A suitably rated chest harness will cost more than a climbing harness and be less useful. Bodging a tape chest harness to a caving harness to avoid inversion might seem like a good idea but is a disaster waiting to happen, chest compression, bust ribs and the like. It is also likely to be very annoying on long or hard routes.

My humble advice to the OP is to get down to Go Outdoors and pick up a Climbing Harness for Thirty Quid and upwards. If you intend to do some Via Ferrata abroad I am happy to loan a pair of my screamer lanyards via Caver Post.

Then get out climbing / via ferratering and enjoy yourself.

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I have a plan so cunning you could pin a tail on it and call it a Weasel.

Offline mikem

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Re: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« Reply #11 on: July 01, 2019, 12:07:00 am »
At least one shop in Germany is advertising it as:
Quote
Petzl SUPERAVANTI, Red is developed for the following Sports & Activities:
Climbing and Bouldering
Mountaineering and Trekking
Petzl SUPERAVANTI, Red can be used in the following Weather conditions:
Warm
Cold
Sun
Wind
Rain
Although they do describe it as a CAVING harness, they don't seem to have a caving option on their uses chart.

Petzl's technical notice states:
Quote
6. Techniques
Caving harnesses are designed for ascending rope. These harnesses are not suitable for rock climbing because the very low attachment point increases the risk of inversion in a fall.

I'd use one for seconding / top roping (better than making a harness out of slings), but not leading or via ferrata with vertical cables (so not where you are likely to take a big fall). Obviously cavers have used them for climbing avens etc, but I'm not aware of anyone having a big fall - however, it must have happened...
« Last Edit: July 01, 2019, 12:23:58 am by mikem »

Offline Jack Hare

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Re: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« Reply #12 on: July 01, 2019, 07:17:07 am »
Thanks all for the detailed advice. I have a climbing harness, but was wondering whether I could lend a caving harness to a friend for climbing or VF. Now I know not to! Fortunately I'm not foolish enough to do VF on cowstails, but hopefully if someone else sees this thread in the future, they'll be warned off using cowstails as well.

Offline Wardy

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Re: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« Reply #13 on: July 01, 2019, 10:10:16 am »
As manufacturers of harnesses for industry SpanSet advise on this type of thing a lot.

A simple way to look at it is that whilst something may be capable of doing what you want, it may not be ideal and the outcome may be less certain.
What we want customers to do is use the right tool for the right job and go on to" fight another day".

Standards include criteria that should provide an assurance that the equipment will perform for the intended purpose.
Part of this is taking into account the compatible equipment that it will be used with and the demands that equipment will place upon it and in turn you.

You can compare harnesses designed to arrest falls between industry and leisure both of which can cope with dynamic forces;
Industrial Fall Arrest Harnesses are designed for use with specific lanyards and devices that limit the impact forces and fall distances to below set levels.

In climbing situations the equipment used with the harness is different and when leading the potential impact forces and fall distances can be in excess of those in industry. Therefore whilst an industrial Fall Arrest Harness may work for leisure climbing it is simply the wrong tool for the job.

When comparing two leisure harnesses, one designed for static positioning and the other for arresting falls then the big difference is the type of load they are designed and tested for.

A caving harness is intended for static positioning with devices such as ascenders and descenders and the attachment points are biased towards this making their use easier.
The suspension height is also generally lower to improve ascending efficiency.

A climbing harness is intended to cope with dynamic forces generated during falls and the attachment points are biased for tying ropes into.
The suspension height is generally higher to keep you upright in the event of a fall and the padding should help with comfort.

Another good way of looking at this topic would be to consider that over the years I have taken various cars up unmade tracks with varying success.
It is amazing where a Fiat Uno will get to, but it always surprised me that it did and that it returned in one piece. I had the misfortune to drive a BMW for a few years and that could get stuck anywhere.
I have also driven some 4x4's and not only did they get where I wanted, but I was altogether more confident and relaxed as it happened.

The right tool for the job everytime - Now pass me that hammer this screw needs putting in!




Offline nobrotson

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Re: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« Reply #14 on: July 01, 2019, 10:42:34 am »
I would say that if you have a serious (high factor) fall on any via ferrata terrain, you are going to really really hurt yourself and quite possibly die regardless of what kind of harness you are wearing. I think wearing a caving harness to do via ferrata should be the least of your concerns. Not falling off should be the main one.

Climbing in a caving harness does sound a bit unnecessarily uncomfortable, even if they just second you all the way on a multipitch.
the man is mentally ill. I have seen him eat a plastic pie.

Offline Fulk

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Re: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« Reply #15 on: July 01, 2019, 10:44:47 am »
This is an interesting discussion. I was introduced to via ferrata a few years ago, and the only harness I had available was my caving one . . . which I used, (naïvely?) assuming that with the right  – i.e. safety/shock-absorbing – safety cords, the harness was of secondary importance. Ah well, I didn't fall off and put it to the test!

Offline StarburstCLA

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Re: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« Reply #16 on: July 01, 2019, 11:05:38 am »
I've always used a chest tape on my caving harness and was under the impression everyone did so falling out of harness isn't an issues on via feratta and less worry about inversion. As it is I felt perfectly safe in a caving harness, a via ferrata set up seems closer to a caving set up than a climbing one IMHO with a central attachment point and some cows tails, be it that one is static and two dynamic shock absorbers.

Certainly I might bow to the safety ratings if it's actually clear rather than a bit of hand waving over "what its designed for". Inversion might be more of a risk but I felt safe and was with a group many of using caving harnesses last time I did via ferrata.

Climbing I have no say on. All crazy suicidal people to me :P

Offline Fulk

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Re: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« Reply #17 on: July 01, 2019, 11:26:13 am »
Incidentally, while crossing a 'monkey bridge' (is that the correct term for a single-cable walk-way with cable supports may 1.2 m above?) it occurred to me that if I slipped off on the 'proper' via ferrata safety cords, I'd be left hanging below the lower cable, so I used my caving ones as well, on the ground that that way, if I slipped off, I'd only drop a few centimetres and not put much of a load on them.

Offline Mike Hopley

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Re: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« Reply #18 on: July 01, 2019, 01:39:01 pm »
Certainly I might bow to the safety ratings if it's actually clear rather than a bit of hand waving over "what its designed for". Inversion might be more of a risk

My dad fell off VF Tomaselli on a vertical section. He fell straight down maybe 4 metres and was then caught by the ferrata cowstails on the next peg (with 700 metres of air below him!). That's something like a factor 4 or 5 fall.

Observation 1: don't wait underneath a climber on ferrata! Many people do, on busy routes. Thankfully I stayed to the side.

Observation 2: had he used caving cowstails, he would certainly be dead.

Observation 3: the amount of bruising around his waist and thighs was unbelievable. The climbing harness spread the load very effectively. It really hurt, but he had no lasting injuries. I doubt a typical caving harness would have spread the load as effectively.

Observation 4: in a significant vertical fall, inversion is a real possibility. When you stop hard, you might easily tip over backwards. A climbing harness is designed to grip the pelvis and prevent falling out; most caving harnesses are less good at this. Children need a full-body harness, because their pelvis hasn't fully developed.

Quote
but I felt safe and was with a group many of using caving harnesses last time I did via ferrata.

Observation 5: a bunch of other people doing something questionably safe does not make it any safer.

In the context of a holiday, the cost of a climbing harness is pretty minor. Just buy the damn kit. ;)

Of course, if you're only doing horizontal sections, there's little need for anything specialist.

Observation 6: my dad is a badass. ;D
« Last Edit: July 01, 2019, 01:48:37 pm by Mike Hopley »

Offline andrewmc

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Re: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« Reply #19 on: July 01, 2019, 03:19:50 pm »
Did the lanyards rip/slide? (just out of curiosity)

Offline Mike Hopley

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Re: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« Reply #20 on: July 01, 2019, 03:30:05 pm »
Did the lanyards rip/slide? (just out of curiosity)

Surprisingly, there appeared to be only a very small amount of rope pulled through (it was one of the older "rope through friction plate" devices). I think it was less than 1 cm movement.

That being said, even a small amount of movement could represent a large amount of shock absorption, due to how the devices are calibrated (sliding too easily would make them ineffective).

Despite that, we replaced the lanyards and the harness out of caution. It was a very heavy fall.

Offline andrewmc

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Re: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« Reply #21 on: July 01, 2019, 03:34:46 pm »
I have suspected (but completely without evidence) that the 'worst' falls are the ones that either just fail to deploy the lanyards, or only just deploy the lanyards, since I figure once sliding/tearing starts it will reduce the impact force. In which case that fall would be almost worst-case. Or I could be completely wrong in my speculation.

In either case it sounds like no fun at all...

What's really scary is the stories about how people used to (and apparently in a few places still do) do via ferrata with just a chest harness and lanyards!

Offline Mike Hopley

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Re: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« Reply #22 on: July 01, 2019, 03:46:42 pm »
What's really scary is the stories about how people used to (and apparently in a few places still do) do via ferrata with just a chest harness and lanyards!

We saw people doing vertical ferrata with dyneema slings larks-footed to carabiners. Quite often the adults would have proper kit, but the kids had the scary homemade stuff.

We saw a family with a terrified ~12 year old girl climbing Torre Toblino, without any helmets (some loose rock there). The mum from that family unclipped my carabiner when I was trying to pass them, leaving me with no attachments, leaning out on a ledge above a ~50m drop. She thought she was being helpful.

The most dangerous thing in the mountains is other people.

Offline mountainpenguin

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Re: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« Reply #23 on: July 01, 2019, 04:39:26 pm »
Certainly I might bow to the safety ratings if it's actually clear rather than a bit of hand waving over "what its designed for". Inversion might be more of a risk


Observation 3: the amount of bruising around his waist and thighs was unbelievable. The climbing harness spread the load very effectively. It really hurt, but he had no lasting injuries. I doubt a typical caving harness would have spread the load as effectively.

Quote
but I felt safe and was with a group many of using caving harnesses last time I did via ferrata.


Have you ever fallen in a BOD harness ?

Offline Mike Hopley

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Re: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« Reply #24 on: July 01, 2019, 04:49:14 pm »
Have you ever fallen in a BOD harness ?

I don't know what that is, sorry.

Offline Madness

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Re: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« Reply #25 on: July 01, 2019, 06:16:40 pm »
A BOD harness is a very basic unpadded mountaineering harness made by Black Diamond. It not really designed for falling in. You wouldn't really use one if you thought that you may have to fall in it or even hang in it. As has been said already, you need to choose the right equipment for a particular task.

 

Offline droid

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Re: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« Reply #26 on: July 01, 2019, 07:15:32 pm »
Sounds about as much use as a chocolate teapot then, Madness.... :lol:
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Offline Oceanrower

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Re: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« Reply #27 on: July 01, 2019, 08:28:38 pm »
It's cheap and sells thousands to climbing centres for to prolong kids.

Offline Madness

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Re: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« Reply #28 on: July 01, 2019, 10:32:32 pm »
Sounds about as much use as a chocolate teapot then, Madness.... :lol:

It may just have been designed for those with ample natural padding ;)

Offline mikem

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Re: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« Reply #29 on: July 02, 2019, 08:04:49 am »
Designed for alpine mountaineers who wear lots more layers & don't need the padding that might get damp & freeze (but now mostly sold for centre use as they are so adjustable & will never see a fall factor)...

Offline andrewmc

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Re: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« Reply #30 on: July 02, 2019, 09:17:20 am »
I'm not sure I've ever seen a Bod in a climbing centre as they are a little more complicated than is ideal; tends to be the DMM Centre Alpine or equivalent. Might be more common in older climbing centres.

Offline mikem

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Re: Using a caving harness for climbing or via ferrata
« Reply #31 on: July 02, 2019, 08:41:17 pm »
Yeah, I meant alpine harnesses generally, rather than that particular model.