Butter Smooth Climbing with Friction Savers
Let’s get slick with it! When I refer to climbing feeling "butter smooth," I’m referring to effortless, friction-free climbing. That's only possible with by using a friction saver throughout the climb. (Not entirely without as all climbing has some degree of friction.) I’ll be covering my experiences with friction savers and explain why you should consider investing into your own friction saver.
What is a Friction Saver?
The friction saver has a rather telling name! It saves friction and makes your climbing smooth. It also saves your rope from the heat and abrasion of running through unions. Friction savers can vary in styles and cost. The most basic style is the Cambium Saver. This specific style looks just like a small section of garden hose, but is made of leather rather than rubber.
Ring-to-Ring friction savers are a very common style that can be made to be adjustable, provided you use the correct equipment. Installing Ring-to-rings can be done from the ground, removing the need to install manually. Great patience is required though! That’s because when throw lines are involved, cleaning the route is another process as well. Sometimes double-bagging is required, especially on those trees that are just absolutely thick!
If you have a Ring-to-ring (on rope material), you will need a prussic with a ring on it and BOOM! You just made it adjustable. Now installing this one is relatively simple, but you must remember; spliced eye through the small ring FIRST followed by passing through the second ring. If you get this backwards, you will be losing your patience FAST! When retrieving this style, personally, I recommend using a screw gate XSRE carabiner.
Why the mini over a large carabiner, or cone?
Let me break it down. A cone can still pop through the small ring, even if the large cone was used. I found that one out the hard way. I instead opted out for a mini XSRE non-locking carabiner. This was working great, up until the XSRE opened and locked onto the big ring! Oh, you bet I was cursing up a storm! On a separate occasion, my hardware clipped onto a limb and yet again, I had to proceed with the climb of shame. Then finally, I was made aware that DMM Wales was coming out with a screw gate XSRE, and it felt as if my problems were heard and solved! To this day when I use a ring-to-ring, I still use a mini screw gate to retrieve!
Now it’s time for my personal favorites: climbing off pulleys! I mean, why wouldn’t you want to?! There is a tradeoff here, and that’s losing the ability to remotely install from the ground. I have seen someone install a Pulleysaver from the ground but it looked a bit too complicated for my taste. Just know that it can be done if you get creative with it. Pulleysavers are great in the sense that they can also be used as a cinching anchor in a spar removal process. That's a nice benefit!
There are plenty of online videos where the climbers gaffs out and spins violently down the spar. Don’t let that be you, stay tied in and make it home safe! Pair a Pulleysaver with the Equaliza and you could spread the load between two different stems for extra support. We’ve all been in climbing situations where the one tie-in just doesn't feel safe enough. I can’t be the only one. Or, perhaps you're atop the tree where the homeowner had it previously topped because he was convinced to do it. Anyway, an Equaliza would allow you to share between the two tie-ins.
Retrievable Friction Savers
Petzl’s Eject has made its way into my top 5 pieces of gear! This piece of hardware works similarly to a Pulleysaver, only that instead of the soft eye; it’s a webbing-based sling that hugs and anchors to the tree! This removes the possibility of rings getting stuck in a tight union.
See How to Install a Friction Saver Below!