Light is Fast is Safe
When I attended the Steph Davis Crack Climbing Clinic last October, I noticed that Steph advocated for the use of the Daisy Chain rather than the Personal Anchor System (PAS). Her reasoning was that reports of the Daisy failing and killing people was not accurate, and that it was an internet rumor that really wasn’t true.
I’m glad she brought this up. We need to look at news and common understandings critically, especially in this day and age of fake news.
And in my research, I found that to be true; I couldn’t find a single confirmed case where a person had either died or was severely injured due to the improper use of the Daisy Chain. (Please let me know in the comments below if I am incorrect in thinking this).
The instances where it can supposedly fail is when it is used incorrectly, which she said she would never do. Black Diamond has a good page outlining the danger of incorrect use of a Daisy Chain here. The video shows how this incorrect use of clipping between loops where the stitching can fail. And it looks like it would be pretty easy to do, especially in a fatigued state of mind.
But, in the face of using a PAS where the supposed incorrect use is countered by a chain loop system (versus stitched long strip that forms the loops) that prevents this type of incorrect use by design, why wouldn’t you use a PAS? Metolius has even created a PAS (the Ultimate PAS) which is also designed for aid (normally a Daisy Chain use), as well as for anchoring.
Well, it seems as if the major concern for many is: weight. The standard Metolius PAS at 3.3 ounces, while pretty light, is considered too bulky and heavy for many who have the light-is-fast-is-safe ethic.
The Critical Counter-Intuitive
I get the idea of keeping things as light as possible, especially on multipitch where dragging extra ounces really starts to add up. Climbing light can be a higher safety issue than “safer” methods which may use heavier gear. This is not just counter-intuitive, it is the critical counter-intuitive, where doing something out of the norm can often be safer than the norm done for supposedly safety reasons.
Hauling extra weight can cause fatigue, which can all by itself makes us less strong than we would be while using lighter equipment. And, at 3.3 ounces, a Metolius PAS is 1.79 ounces heavier than the Black Diamond Dynex Daisy Chain (1.516 ounces).
But technology marches on, and companies increasingly make lighter, stronger, faster equipment.
Behold: the Metolius Alpine PAS
Weight: 1.7 ounces.
Not quite the 1.516 ounces of the Black Diamond Dynex Daisy Chain, but half the weight of the Black Diamond Nylon Daisy Chain (3.456 ounces). It also has a 22kn rating, which is strong as many ropes.
So, I guess it depends on which heavier PAS you’re talking about? Because if you’re talking about the Metolius Alpine PAS, then we can end that discussion right now: it’s as light as the lightest Daisy Chain, with no danger of clipping incorrectly. So why wouldn’t you pick it over a Daisy?
Single Use device
The other criticism I’ve heard of the PAS is that it is a single use device. But, when multipitching at Red Rock Canyon, the guide there told me that he also uses the PAS to extend his rappel device, which allows a prussik backup to be connected below the ATC.
The thing is, it’s good to know different methods, and test out their usage for yourself. Many climbing guides I’ve met do not use a PAS, only slings, since with a sling it has multiple uses, but at the Crack Climbing Clinic all the instructors used them.
I’ve used both the rope as well as the PAS as a tether, and there are reasons why I use one or the other based on the type of climbing I do. On multipitch I may be more inclined to just use the rope, especially if I’m doing an multi that is more than say, 5 pitches. But the convenience of simply clipping in the PAS, as well as the ease of removing myself from the system, I often choose to use a PAS.
But, if you’re thinking of using the weight argument, well…
…with the Metolius Alpine PAS you’ve got another “think” coming!
Note: The Alpine PAS, according to the manufacturer, should only be used for tethering.
Metolius Alpine PAS