Note: Many of these articles are very old, and although the technical information is still relevant the equipment mentioned may not be (for example a Stormy cooker was state of that art in 1995, but not in 2020).
There are many variations when it comes to racking your nuts, but all climbers would agree that using, and sticking to, a set system is crucial. Being able to find the right wire quickly is vital when you’re sailing close to the wind, one hand greasing off while the other searches for the life saving (well lob stopping) Wallnut #7.
Most rock climbers will be carrying between 20 and 40 nuts off all sizes, so to begin with they need separating out. The more wires you have the more separation is needed, with each group going onto their own karabiner. The simpliest system is to have a small, medium and large set, which would comprise of:
Small: micro wires (brass and steel) up to a rock 4. Some climbers make the mistake of clipping micro ‘RP’ type wires on their own krab, which tends to make them feel separated out from the rest of the nuts,a nd so held in reserve when cracks get really thin. In fact very often a large micro wire will provide a much superior protection piece than a small alloy nut (Black Diamoind micro stoppers versus a Mini Rocks for example). Having all these small nuts racked together means you can quickly esses what fits from a single krab, rather than switching backwards and forwards between the two (which wouldn’t happen anyway).
Medium: These should go from a Rock 4 (all groups should overlap) to a rock 7, and for most climbers this will be the most used selection (depending on rock type).
Large: Your big nuts. Being heavier and more bulky this krab tends to have the smallest number of wires (you tend to not need so many big nuts in comparison with medium and small). These range from a Rock 7 to a Rock 13.
It’s vital that racking karabiners aren’t over stocked with wires, as choice becomes harder, with clutter often leading to dropped nuts. As a guide the rack of nuts should hand vertically down nicly, with very little splaying out. If you have so many nuts that wires are pocking out at right angles, then it’s time to break them apart further. If you’re climbing big long multi pitch routes on limestone, then you can break down your nuts further into: micro (RP 0 – rock 1), small (rock 1 – 4), medium (rock 4 – 7), large (Rock 7 – 10), X large (Rock 10 -13).
The exception when it comes to racking, is on very big serious routes Where there is a good chance of a fumble (you’re wearing gloves for example), as dropping a racking krab will see all the wires of one size lost for good. In these circumstances it’s often worth racking full sets on each krab (1-10), so that if one set get’s dropped you still have a full set in reserve.
THE RACKING KRAB
The shape and size (and colour) of your racking krab determines how well it does its job. Make it too small and your nuts will bunch up and jam in the gate, make it too big and it’ll be unwieldy when your trying to spin your nuts looking for the right size. If the shapes to radical, with a narrow angled loading area, then all the nuts will jam together, and although not crucial, having differing coloured krabs makes things a nano second faster.
Off all the krabs on the market for racking, by far the best is the Black Diamond oval wire gate. Why? Well being an oval it will always sit neatly when racked, with all the wires spread out in its broad bottom. Its clean angles also mean that the wires rotated smoothly inside, vital when you’re dialling for the right nut. They are also a good size, lightweight and strong (although good for very little else!). Some climbers complain that the uniform shape makes it hard to work out which way the gate opens, but this is just a matter of getting use to the design (you can rap a piece of marker tape next to the nose.
One krab I would recommend people avoid is the keyolock gate (Petzl Spirit, DMM Shadow, BD Dynotron), which although great for everything else, tends to have the nasty habit of spewing out wires, as there is no notched nose to check their slide. Again maybe this is just down to familiarisation, but personally I’ve stuck with my ovals.
Andrew Kirkpatrick is a British mountaineer, author, motivational speaker and monologist. He is best known as a big wall climber, having scaled Yosemite's El Capitan 30+ times, including five solo ascents, and two one day ascents, as well as climbing in Patagonia, Africa, Alaska, Antarctica and the Alps.Follow @ Instagram