Pulling pins

6:18 p.m. on February 12, 2007 (EST)
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This may seem like a simple question but please bear with me.

I haven't much experience with rock climbing, only ice climbing. I might require the placement of some pins on a climb this weekend and, while I don't have heartburn leaving them in the rock, I would like to know the best way to remove them. I've read about this so-called Funkness device but cannot find one for sale.

Can I use some 5mm cord? Can I use my ice tool or is it much better to use a wall hammer?

12:14 p.m. on February 13, 2007 (EST)
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Dan -

If you haven't placed pins before, I would be reluctant to see you use them. The problem is that until you have seen a fair number of them placed by someone with experience in a variety of rock types and placements, it is really hard to judge when they are placed "well enough". There are lots of considerations of the soundness and suitability of the rock, matching the pin to the crack size (should be driven almost up to the eye without distortion), worries about expanding flakes, etc etc etc. And, from the LNT/clean climbing aspect, pins do damage the rock. I would suggest using chocks and/or cams. Of course, placing those is also an art.

But (he continues, reluctantly), when driving the pin, you should hear a rising, clear ringing as the pin is driven further in. The secret is to drive it until it is firmly placed, but not so overdriven that it becomes overly difficult to get out. True, in some cases, there is no real choice but to drive it so firmly that it can't be extracted (like when the leader is panicked and is terrified of the seemingly inevitable fall). You can tell when an angle. Leeper Z, or bong is overdriven, because the angle starts spreading. Lost Arrows and similar pins you find out when trying to extract them.

The Funkness device is primarily a steel cable and is used more for testing placements, than as an extraction device. You really need a hammer to use it, one with a hole in the head to which the device is clipped. I believe Mountain Gear has them in stock ($77.40 for the device and Omega Pacific wall hammer), and Sunrise Mountaineering had them last time I was there. I haven't been in Neptune for a couple years, but they usually have them in stock.

The usual method of extraction is to use your hammer to bash the pin back and forth parallel to the crack. As it gets moved back and forth, the rock along the crack starts crumbling (small amounts of rock powder). Eventually, you wear enough of the rock away that the pin wiggles with your hand and you can just pull it out. As successive parties climb the route, the placements get worn larger and larger (and the required pin size gets larger and larger), until you can use the hole for a fist jam (do the Lost Arrow in Yosemite, if you think I am exagerating!). Yes, you can loosen the pin to the point that you can complete the extraction with a Funkness. But watch out for the flying pin flapping around at the end of the cable! People have been seriously hurt this way. And no, 5mm cord will not work - it will just snap. Yes, you can use your ice tool (well, maybe not the new '07 version of the Cobra), but a real hammer works better.

This from an Old GreyBeard who started on soft iron pins, moved to chrome-molys in the late 50s and into the 60s, then saw the light while in Europe in the mid-60s, converted to chocks, added cams in the late 70s, and never looked back.

7:54 p.m. on February 13, 2007 (EST)
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Bill,

You're full of wisdom, for sure. I've read similar information in "The Mountaineers Books" book of Big Wall Climbing (the line of books that produces Freedom of the Hills). Understood; placing pins is an art form. I'm certainly not going to be leading and placing them. I'm taking them if they need to be placed by someone else and for me to practice with.

I'll be on the Jack River near Cantwell, AK. I've been told that cams are seriously ineffective in the winter, chocks are somewhat effective, and pins are the most reliable in rock here during winter months. I wish I was somewhere else to learn, but...this has to be it.

From what you've said, I remain decided not to lead on mixed terrain where I might need them. I've also resigned to the fact that a well placed pin might just have to remain well placed instead of beaten out.

I've been looking forward to this trip for a while.

7:56 p.m. on February 13, 2007 (EST)
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I've forgotten to also say that I do plan on practicing while I'm there.

6:50 p.m. on February 15, 2007 (EST)
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I'll disagree with Bill on one point. A funkness is used way more for cleaning pins than testing placements. You test a placement with a funkness, you'll usually blow the placement. You test a pin placement typcially by bounce testing it although some soloists do use a funkness for that purpose, its way more uncommon.

Its an easy thing to make, if you know someone with a swager. Its just a piece of steel cable with a loop swaged to each end. In a pinch, you could use some webbing for the same purpose (and be sure to maybe not use it again). Funking out pins creates a huge amount of force on stuff. Especially your elbow. Take care doing it. A heavy hammer and a stiff funkness is a recipe for huge elbow problems downstream.

Also, its handy to have a sacraficial carabiner to clip into the pin your beating out. They can get pretty messed up by hammer blows.

Usually, when you clean a pin, you try to get it out in a direction that might leave the resulting scar usuable as a standard non pin gear placement. "Constructive scarring", methinks. In other words, if its a straight up and down crack, you'd only beat the pin up, and then down to just parallel, so's as to create a pin scar which might accept a stopper in the future.

There's a lot of times I'll just clip a sling into a pin, mostly to keep if from going to the deck when it eventually comes loose. Can be funkable too, by just popping lightly back with the hammer.

I, uh, still place a bunch of pins mostly for ice climbing, but, sometimes for rock too. I almost always pull them out.

Cheers!

-Brian in SLC

8:33 p.m. on February 15, 2007 (EST)
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Thanks Bill and Brian. I have a 36 hour count-down to adventure and am taking the pins with me. At the least, I'll place them with my ice tool for practice. One of the other climbers might want to place them above the second pitch, where there is a lot of rock.

That's good info about banging them out especially to aid in future climbs. I realize that pins leave scars but didn't think about "designing" the scars if possible. I'll probably end up buying a wall hammer when I'm done with this trip...

Please, any other tips are welcome.

10:34 a.m. on February 16, 2007 (EST)
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Ahhh...I'll have to say, not many ice climbers carry funkness devices. You get a fair bit more leverage from an ice tool to remove a pin than a short hammer too.

I'd probably try to loosen a pin somewhat, then clip a sling to it, and gently tug and tap until it popped out.

Couple weeks ago, a partner removed a pin of mine which wasn't clipped in, and the thing sailed down the whole pitch. Not great if you're hoping to do another pitch and need a pin that size...(no big for us, though, landed at my feet as we'd switched the single pitch over to a TR).

Be careful using your ice tool pick to do much prying on a pin. You can put little micro tears in the metal of a pick, which can become timebombs downstream (ie, stress riser leading to a stress fracture). Careful inspection and buffing out of any sharp dents is prudent.

I like me some ice climbing in areas with bomber rock, ie, LCC here, which is typically granite. Nothing better than a solid pin when on thin ice.

-Brian in SLC

11:48 a.m. on February 16, 2007 (EST)
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Where are you, Brian?

I have Grivel Racing Wings and it's difficult to use the tools. I hammered a DMM Bulldog and might as well been doing it upside-down and behind my back. It's going to take some serious practice to use the backs of the tools.

2:48 p.m. on February 16, 2007 (EST)
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I'm right here...

SLC = Salt Lake City.

-Brian in the briny pond village.

4:09 p.m. on February 16, 2007 (EST)
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Makes sense...

I'll be moving to Tucson in July (talk about a change of climate) so Utah will be within a day's drive. It's sad but exciting to think about the change in outdoor activities that will happen. I guess the canoe will get put away but the bikes get to come out and play again!

8:53 p.m. on February 16, 2007 (EST)
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Don't give up on the canoe just yet. I spent most of my pre-teen years in Central Arizona. There are a fair number of streams and lakes (and I don't mean just the damn, er, um, dammed reservoir-type lakes with their high-power "ski" boats).

8:42 p.m. on February 23, 2007 (EST)
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Ice-climbing and "mixed terrain" in Arkansaw?

11:07 a.m. on February 26, 2007 (EST)
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No, AK is Alaska, not Arkansas.

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