Points of protection

A point of protection is a general term for a device on a specific spot which is capable of withstanding force and preventing a fall. Sometimes the term “anchor point” is also used. A point of protection is created by anchoring a given protection device in the rock, or if applicable into snow or ice. It serves as an element in the chain of protection, whether during the creation of a belay station or intermediate protection whose purpose is to reduce the distance of a fall. A point of protection can be placed in the rock as a fixed, or permanent solution (e.g. rings, bolts, permanently driven pitons), or as a temporary one (e.g. chocks, runners, spring-loaded camming devices, etc.). As there are many different types of protection points in mountaineering, and as a result they have various different levels of quality. We have to consider, for example, a drilled rock piton (bolt) a certain way, while such a device placed in friable rock is a different story. Your mountaineering activities must adapt to these conditions. It is often possible to encounter situations where people adopt a certain style of climbing on their favourite cliffs or artificial climbing walls (repeatedly sitting into intermediate protection points, frequent rebounds into the rope), and do not realise when transitioning to another area – nor does it even occur to them – that the points of protection in the new environment are of a different character, and that the change of setting should be accompanied by a change of behaviour as well.

Another substantial matter is the age of the fixed protection. Whether metal rock pitons or textile runners or slings, all things degrade over time. You must proceed with caution with those protection points that demonstrate damage due to age (rusty pitons, shabby slings or runners), and not place too much faith in them. If possible, back up such protection points, i.e. place other points in close proximity, now using your own portable protection devices.

The strength of protection points can sometimes be rather difficult to judge, but it is an expression of healthy cautiousness to doubt most of them, and act accordingly. There are situations when climbing in the outdoors when it is simply a bad idea to fall, and you can only climb with absolute certainty. And this is mostly affected by the appropriate selection of the complexity and difficulty of the ascent route. Do not overestimate and do not have “hungry eyes” when visiting a new region you don’t know; you will not be aware of the condition of local protection and you won’t even know how friable the mineral is.

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Title Part 3Mountaineering Methodology – Part 3 – Belaying and Rappelling

ISBN 978-80-87715-09-3

MMPublishing, 2013

Available for download from Apple iTunes (in the Books section).

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Title Part 3 GPMountaineering Methodology – Part 3 – Belaying and Rappelling

ISBN 978-80-87715-14-7

MMPublishing, 2014

Available for download from Google Play.