Forums: Climbing Disciplines: Big Wall and Aid Climbing: Slings for hooks: Edit Log


Dec 19, 2002, 1:14 PM

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Registered: Oct 9, 2001
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Slings for hooks
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Mountainmonkey wrote,

Quote:"Maybe there is a doctor in the house to clear this up? There is always a better way."

Clearly Casey "gets it".

[Dr. Piton glances up from his cup of coffee, bleary-eyed, and wonders how he missed this post. Ah-ha, he realizes, he was actually up here on the wall when the question was first posed...]

[Like]me, eh?]

When it comes to slinging hooks, there is most emphatically a Better Way. I cannot believe how wrongly many climbers sling their hooks! [Well, I reckon I can, because I used to do it, too] Perhaps this is because I have yet to see anything drawn or published that tells you everything you need to know. Sure, you get little snippets here and there, but if you're going to do it, you might as well do it right, eh?

So things are about to change for the better.
Depending on your outlook, hooking can be the most terrifying thing or the most fun thing you do while aid climbing! Having your hooks slung correctly is the first step in converting your fear to enjoyment.



It's that time of year again, time when fair-weather aid climbers like me huddle up in front of the fireplace with a loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and something to fondle.

And what could possibly be more fun to fondle than your gear?! Especially hooks! What a merry jingle they make when fondled! Heck, you can even use them on your Christmas tree to hang up ornaments! Dr. Piton would love to see such a photo inserted into this post. [HINT]

When it comes to slinging your hooks, there are a few things you should keep in mind. These are the most common mistakes I see, and something you can fix very easily.

STUFF YOU NEED for this exercise is as follows:
Pair of scissors or knife [to cut off all your old slings that you have certainly slung incorrectly]
Marlin spike, in case you are a cheap bastard, and merely want to untie your wrongly-tied slings

Plenty of 9/16" webbing in two or three different colours

Big Wall Lighter so you can burn the slings when done

Duct tape for sealing the knot


Dumb word, eh? I couldn't think of a better one. What I mean is, do not use spectra, kevlar, or any "slippery" type of nylon when you sling your hooks! Knots in this kind of stuff will not hold, and you will be in for a nasty shock when you see the knots in your sling coming undone before your very eyes, predictably in the worst possible situation.

The sole exception to this rule would be if you are sewing your slings onto your hooks.


If you are going to venture onto the big wall, you need to rack for redundancy. Simply put, this means not putting all of the same thing onto a single crab. This is because if you happen to drop that carabiner, you are basically buggered.

Nowhere is this more important than with your hooks! Your hooks are critical to your success.

When I made my solo ascent of Zed-Em, I was watching a Japanese soloist attempting Sea of Dreams. [It took him hours to make that desperate move onto the Continental Shelf - heh heh!] Anyway, buddy cruises the Hook or Book Pitch, one of El Cap's first "if you fall you die" pitches, and then a day or two later, I see him bailing! I couldn't figure out why as he had been doing well.

A week or so later I caught up with him, after recognizing his blue helmet. He told me he bailed because he dropped both of his Cliffhanger [regular Chouinard skyhook] hooks, and didn't want to continue for fear of needing such a critical piece.

I told him I knew precisely how he felt! You can click here to read where I - Dr. Piton - dropped all of our hooks. Sheesh.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of racking for redundancy, then please click here to Ask Dr. Piton ... about how to rack your rack. This is a Dr. Piton SIGNATURE POST, meaning you should know it backwards, forwards and sideways.

Fortunately, there is no gear easier to rack for redundancy than your hooks!

All you need to do is to tie each set of hooks with the same colour of sling. Then you can [at] put one full set on a single carabiner, without ever having to worry about accidentally having two of the same hook in the same place.

Clever, eh?

If you are climbing with a partner, then you might be able to get away with only two sets of hooks. But if you are climbing in a team of one, then you had best have three sets - at least in the critical Grappling and Cliffhanger [Sky] pieces - with each set tied in its own colour.


You must sling your hooks in the correct orientation - sling them from the outside in. This way, when you weight your hook, the sling is pulling the hook inwards and towards the rock, rather than outwards and away from the rock.
This is essential, and offers the side benefit of allowing you to keep an eye on your knots.

You will have to push through a loop of sling from the outside in, and tie the free ends of the tape in a water knot. You want the knot tied such that the free ends of the tape both come out in the same direction, which is unlike the way you would tie a tie-off. This is the only way you can tie your knot to make the loop short enough, as described below.


The single most important thing you can do to sling your hooks is to use a short sling!

The longer your sling, the farther out of reach your next placement is. There is no benefit whatsoever to a long sling on a hook! Typically, when I tie slings on my hooks, I snug up the water knot so that the loop is less than an inch long. This way, when you weight the hook, the sling ends up at its correct length, which is a little over an inch.

What you want is for your lead carabiner to be very close, but not actually touching, the base of the hook. Make sure there is enough slack in the hook to provide the necessary degree of freedom, but without allowing yourself to hang too low.


You should sling your hook with the thickest webbing you can force through the hole. Typically this is 9/16" webbing. One of my hooks made by Russ Walling, either the Fish or the Captain, has too small of a hole, and I had to use 1/2". This kind of sucks as I use this hook regularly for protection on hard aid.

Half-inch webbing is too rinky dink for your hooks! It abrades too easily! Don't use it! If you have half-inch webbing on your hooks, cut it off.


When I was climbing Reticent Wall, which is a PDH route on El Cap, I remember having to stop in the middle of a pitch, and while hanging on one hook, use my teeth to tighten the sling on another hook whose knot was coming undone!

Talk about scary! Sheesh.

You must really tighten up those knots! The best thing to do is to grab your aiders, hang your hook off of your doorjamb [you know, the same one on which you used to do your fingertip pullups when you were stupid enough to train for free climbing?] clip in your aider and gently bounce-tighten your hook slings.

Really cinch that knot down! I recommend leaving about a one-inch tail in the ends of the sling.

Next you should take some duct tape, and tightly wrap the tails together to prevent the knot from ever coming undone.

If you do not secure your knots thusly, they will come undone. This is not Big Wall Theory - this is Big Wall Fact.


The slings on your hook rub directly on the rock. Consequently, they abrade quickly.

Check them after every wall, and replace as needed.

If you have followed these basic steps, then you have slung your hooks the Better Way.

Take a look - you can see in this photo how short my hook is slung, and you can also see the wrap of grey duct tape which secures the tails on the red sling to keep the knot from untying. It's a decent shot of my Russian aiders and my adjustable daisy.

Conspicuously absent, however, is my my adjustable fifi. Perhaps you are wondering why.

Since you have now tied your slings correctly, you might want to Ask Dr. Piton ... about the Better Way to climb on hooks.

This, in Dr. Piton parlance, is a [HINT].

I am Dr. Piton,

and I am so sick I actually enjoy climbing on hooks

(This post was edited by cliffhanger9 on Mar 26, 2013, 6:06 PM)

Edit Log:
Post edited by cliffhanger9 (Moderator) on Mar 26, 2013, 6:04 PM
Post edited by cliffhanger9 (Moderator) on Mar 26, 2013, 6:06 PM

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