Nearly every rock climber who has been climbing just about more than a few months can tell you a fall story, particularly if he or she has been climbing outdoors. While a number of gym climbs are top-roped, which only allows falls of a few feet, those climbing sport or trad routes can take some pretty big falls. I remember my biggest fall was about a twenty-five footer, which eventually ended with my head hanging only five feet or so above a set of jagged rocks. And to answer the question; as to why didn’t I hit the ground? Well I didn’t get my head knocked on the rocks because my belayer got a hold of me and because all of my gear worked the way it was supposed to, this includes one of the most important pieces of gear, my climbing harness.
In short, a climbing harness allows a rope to be safely and comfortably secured to a climber, thus stopping the climber’s fall before he or she hits the ground. The rope passes through one or two webbing loops (depending on the harness), and these loops are one of the most important parts of the chain of protection that stops your fall, including the rope, rock protection, and belay device. These webbing loops also allow you to fasten a belay device to your harness, allowing you to belay your climbing partners. Every climbing gear manufacturers ensure their climbing harnesses meet rigorous safety standards, but it’s always essential to pay attention to your gear and check it for any wears or tears. For instance, if the nylon webbing of your climbing harness is a little fuzzy from wear that’s okay, but if it has been either torn or if there are any other visible damage, then it’s time to get a new harness.
There are all sorts of climbing harnesses as they are available in a range of sizes and designs, and it’s tough to get climbers to agree on what climbing harness is the best. However, there’s one thing that all climbers agree on: for a climbing harness to be safe, comfortable and effective, it must fit the climber well. Whereas an ill-fitting harness is at best uncomfortable and at worst dangerous, and before buying a climbing harness it’s imperative to try it out first. If you are lucky, your gear store may allow you to attach yourself to a rope and allow you to hang in the harness for awhile to make sure it’s not only comfortable to walk around in, but also should be comfortable to hang in. Beyond that, you can find stripped-down ice climbing harnesses made to be worn over layers and layers of insulation to bulky, padded harnesses which you could sit in all day; no matter what style you go for is completely left up to you!