/ Via Ferrata lanyards - fit for purpose?

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andyathome - on 13 Sep 2012
Given the recall of certain Petzl VF kits last year and the current recall of some Edelrid, Singing Rock and Wild Country VF kits AND the emergency meeting of the UIAA tech. committee last week I'm surprised not to see more discussion on UKC. The BMC has a brief news item up currently http://thebmc.co.uk/concern-over-via-ferrata-sets-prompts-emergency-uiaa-meeting
which is quite suggestive.

Perhaps we have been all kidding ourselves about the 'safeness' of VF's?

There are some videos on youtube about VF security testing that are quite chilling with regard to the impact forces and the potential damage to a body taking a fall on a VF.

Surprised that this has not become a bigger issue: we're all awaiting UIAA report?
swhitinguk - on 13 Sep 2012
In reply to andyathome:

As a climber, I don't disagree with your statement about fall factors. To what extent a ripstop to dissipate shock loading mitigates this I don't know. There however must have been a lot of thought into designing VF kits with this in mind.

However, from as scientist, I disagree that it is right to state that VF lanyards are not fit for purpose. There are a number of other factors and biases in my mind which significantly change the relative (e.g. accidents per hour climbing) and absolute accident frequencies (e.g. compared to roped climbing) in VF users.

Firstly, VF kit is often rented - which makes it much more difficult to quantify the quality of the kit. I (and probably most on this forum) certainly would never hire any climbing software (rope, slings etc), and would be very nervous to hire hardware (although this is common in places such as Yosemite for cam sets).

Secondly, who are users of VF kit (personal or rented)? Are they more causal users? If so, it would probably be fair to say that these people are less aware of the 'physics' of climbing, and so are less likely to mitigate the issues of shock and cross loading etc. Therefore accidents involving these common causes were not avoided in the first place.
andyathome - on 13 Sep 2012
In reply to swhitinguk:
Hi. Your answer is a bit confusing.

re your para 2: I didn't say that VF kit is NOT 'for for purpose'! I await the report from the UIAA. But there are obvious concerns about the design/durability of some shock absorber systems on the market.
re your para 3: The fatality that has let to this discussion WAS concerning a rented lanyard kit. But does that actually matter?
re your para 4: I don't understand. Are you saying that 'casual' users are less aware of the risks and therefore more likely to 'fick it up'? Well - possibly. But that doesn't really make their death using kit that was supposed to make them 'safe' more acceptable, does it?
swhitinguk - on 13 Sep 2012
In reply to andyathome:
re your para 2: I didn't say that VF kit is NOT 'for for purpose'! I await the report from the UIAA. But there are obvious concerns about the design/durability of some shock absorber systems on the market.

- yeah! i realised that! i just wanted to address the question in your title!

re your para 3: The fatality that has let to this discussion WAS concerning a rented lanyard kit. But does that actually matter?

- I'm not familiar with the fatality so can't comment. I just think rented kit like VF gear is bad news. Maybe it's renting VF kit that's the problem, rather than the VF kit itself. The BMC article warns of rented and highly-used personal kit though.

re your para 4: I don't understand. Are you saying that 'casual' users are less aware of the risks and therefore more likely to 'fick it up'? Well - possibly. But that doesn't really make their death using kit that was supposed to make them 'safe' more acceptable, does it?

- Agreed. But, a rope might be certified strong, but, if I tie it in a shoelace knot to my harness, that makes the rope pretty pointless either way as safety equipment. My point was more: how many folk turn up in Chamonix town centre on a sunny day in the middle of summer and decide to rent gear, yet have never had training to use it. In comparison, how many spend 1000 on a rack on a sunny day to use? That'll skew accident statistics.
In reply to andyathome: My understanding of the issue so far is that rented kits get a lot more use than privately owned ones and that the resulting wear and tear on elasticated nylon webbing is the cause of the problem.
swhitinguk - on 13 Sep 2012
In reply to andyathome: Has there ever been an accident at Go Ape because of this issue? Do they use springy slings on their kits?
SteveSBlake - on 13 Sep 2012
In reply to andyathome:
> Given the recall of certain Petzl VF kits last year and the current recall of some Edelrid, Singing Rock and Wild Country VF kits AND the emergency meeting of the UIAA tech. committee last week I'm surprised not to see more discussion on UKC. The BMC has a brief news item up currently http://thebmc.co.uk/concern-over-via-ferrata-sets-prompts-emergency-uiaa-meeting
> which is quite suggestive.
>
> Perhaps we have been all kidding ourselves about the 'safeness' of VF's?
>
> There are some videos on youtube about VF security testing that are quite chilling with regard to the impact forces and the potential damage to a body taking a fall on a VF.
>
> Surprised that this has not become a bigger issue: we're all awaiting UIAA report?

I've never thought Via Ferratta 'safe' you are very likely to get badly smashed up if you fall on one. IMHO, Sport Climbing is much, much safer.
Neil Williams - on 13 Sep 2012
In reply to swhitinguk:

Not that I can recall, but their stuff is set up such that an actual fall (rather than a slump) is pretty much impossible in most cases. Normally the belay is above your head in some way. Not always true on a real VF.

Neil
Rich Mayfield - on 13 Sep 2012
In reply to andyathome:
I've been following this with some interest because I guide on VF regularly.

This latest problem aside, I've often thought:
That some are unsafe because they recommend attaching the VF kit via a screw gate or larks foot to the harness. Both these methods have serious draw backs.

Some are single use only, so what happens if a climber falls, then needs to continue climbing.

All are expensive.

I use what a Spanish UIAA guide recommended, which is a "Rigging Plate" type device, which you thread a dynamic rope through. They're cheap, attach to the harness via a Single rated rope (as per a normal climbing situation), are multi use (can be reused after a fall), rope can be replaced cheaply and easily.

I had a quick look on line so I could post a link to one but couldn't find one. Sure someone will find it for us! If not I'll post a photo of the VF kits I use tomoz.



The Ex-Engineer - on 14 Sep 2012
> Surprised that this has not become a bigger issue: we're all awaiting UIAA report?

My take on it has been fairly straightforward - this is very likely a case of where making newer kit lighter and more user friendly (elasticated lanyards) has resulted in having an adverse impact on durability.

For most people this isn't likely to be an issue, they have either like Rich bought bombproof kit for group use in the first instance or they will replace kit well before it has had heavy use.

I have had a client take a fairly big VF fall, thankfully on an overhanging section where there was nothing to hit and they were completely un-harmed. It was using a Petzl kit and the shock absorber ripped perhaps 20%. I am therefore 100% confident that modern kit is safe, at least when in good condition.

I await the UIAA report with interest but I really don't expect it to say anything other than that, in future, designs and testing need to be more conservative as regards long-term durability.
needvert on 14 Sep 2012
In reply to Rich Mayfield:

How much is the amount of slip affected by, say, fuzzy rope vs new slick rope, or wet vs dry?

Not that the stitching alternative is inherently predictable, but it does strike me as more predictable.

Anyone happen to know?
Erstwhile on 14 Sep 2012
In reply to needvert:
> (In reply to Rich Mayfield)
>
> How much is the amount of slip affected by, say, fuzzy rope vs new slick rope, or wet vs dry?
>

A good question because in my experience the difference is enormous.
New ropes in particular can be too slippery becase of the lubricant they put in when making rope.

Enty - on 14 Sep 2012
In reply to SteveSBlake:
> (In reply to andyathome)
> [...]
>
> I've never thought Via Ferratta 'safe' you are very likely to get badly smashed up if you fall on one. IMHO, Sport Climbing is much, much safer.

Exactly!
On the few VF's I've done I've always started with the same mindset as if I'm soloing.

E
jonnie3430 - on 14 Sep 2012
In reply to andyathome:
> I'm surprised not to see more discussion on UKC.
>
> Surprised that this has not become a bigger issue: we're all awaiting UIAA report?

It's a climbing forum, not VF, which has an anti-climbing ethos. VF is more for people that don't climb.

SteveSBlake - on 14 Sep 2012
In reply to SteveSBlake:
> (In reply to andyathome)
> [...]
>
> I've never thought Via Ferratta 'safe' you are very likely to get badly smashed up if you fall on one. IMHO, Sport Climbing is much, much safer.

And I forgot to mention the sixteen stone wheezing German ahead of you whose heart attack will result in him, using you, as a bouldering mat.

Steve
biscuit - on 14 Sep 2012
In reply to jonnie3430:

Can i take this opportunity to remind you to get back to work ?
Andy Say - on 14 Sep 2012
In reply to jonnie3430:
> (In reply to andyathome)
> [...]
>
> It's a climbing forum, not VF, which has an anti-climbing ethos. VF is more for people that don't climb.

That has not prevented you contributing to threads on computer screens, MOT testing, motorbike accidents and bicycles recently.

Oh. And socks.
Scott_vzr on 15 Sep 2012
From what I have read on PETZl site and elsewhere, it seems to be wear/grit rather than an actual design flaw. As we all see furry and damaged ropes at walls and the crag, it's not just VF kit that gets damaged through use.

My Petzl one passed the recall last year, it looks now it's unusable.

I don't mind as it's worth my life to buy another !
syv_k - on 15 Sep 2012
In reply to SteveSBlake:
> And I forgot to mention the sixteen stone wheezing German ahead of you whose heart attack will result in him, using you, as a bouldering mat.

So stay out of his fall zone! Unlike on motorways, tailgaters only risk their own skin.

I am now keeping a close eye on my Kong VF kit, as it is elasticated, but I have looked after it and It has not got in contact with any grit or crud, which seems to be the critical factor....
cuzdave on 17 Sep 2012
In reply to andyathome: My VF kit is used in the same way as I used my other climbing kit...with care and if it get's damaged or worn, then replace it.As for hire kit, a reputable hire firm should have some form of maintenance and use record, or at least you would like to think so...
As for taking a winger on VF, there is now doubt a fall will hurt, but it's worth remembering that not all of a VF route is cabled and so some have some hairy solo's or scrambles to do as well, the kit is only there to help stay safe, so VF or climb to your ability... There! rant over :)
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Robin VdH - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to andyathome:

On 13 September the UIAA has issued a worldwide warning that asks people to check with the manufacturer of their via ferrata set to see if it's safe (see http://www.theuiaa.org/news_389_Worldwide-warning-to-users-of-via-ferrata-sets). They have also announced that they are going to review their UIAA 128 standard (the safety standard that applies to via ferrata sets) so that it includes a fatigue test.

According to the UIAA, the fatal accident that prompted all this was caused by both lanyards on the via ferrata set failing due to intensive use and the materials used. It's probably this issue with the materials that is explains why some manufacturers have recalled their sets and others haven't.
syv_k - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to Robin VdH:

Excellent! My elasticated Kong set is OK, because the webbing that needs to hold is contained inside the elasticated part rather than them being woven together.
http://www.kong.it/doc/KONG_klettersteig_sets_statement.pdf
Rich Mayfield - on 23 Sep 2012
In reply to needvert:

Replace the "Fuzzy" rope with a non "fuzzy" rope, at considerable less expense of replacing a Zyper or similar. I did mention this feature in the OP.

For the tech details.

http://www.kong.it/doc408.htm
biscuit - on 25 Sep 2012
In reply to andyathome:

My latest update is that the kit used was a very old one that the person using took from a hut. It had been left in the hut and no one is sure of its history.

The problem is that the elastic inside is actually integral to the strength of the unit. TBH i'd always assumed it was just to keep the lanyards neater in use and wasn't part of the safety but there you go. It is the elastic that has actually 'perished' and in the test the lanyard broke at 3kn.

This type of lanyard is used by over 80% of VF kit manufacturers and comes from one factory in the Czech Republic.

The ones i am aware of at the moment that are safe are Simond and Kong though i am sure there will be others.
L.A. on 25 Sep 2012
biscuit - on 25 Sep 2012
In reply to L.A.:

Good link.

Nice to see we're recovering from the all VF kits could snap situation.I think it's amazing how well the industry regulates itself and how quickly issues like this begin to be sorted out.

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