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Those Ol' Pitons...
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By ChaseLeoncini
From San Diego, California
Jun 24, 2013
El Cajon Mtn. Leonids. 5.9.

I juss climbed my first multi trad out at Tahquitz this weekend and on P3 of White Maidens Walkaway there are two old pitons for pro. Now, i find courage in knowing strength ratings. Its my own psychological... thing. Anyways, does anyone know how much an older piton like the ones placed in Tahquitz might hold? They're obviously well placed in awesome granite so that is not an issue. It's really just the age and knowing when they are getting ready to pop. Anyway to tell? Also, there are much thinner steel rings through the clip-in hole, what are the strength of these?
Any info would really help, mi cojenes es muy pequito when passing those things.
Thanks.


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By Jon H
From Northern NJ
Jun 24, 2013
At the matching crux

Piton strength ratings are entirely subjective and fairly impossible to test without actually pull-testing the piton in question (and destroying it, and the rock surrounding it).

A nice, fat, non-rusty angle piton hammered home in a perfect horizontal... probably pretty strong. An old, soft iron ring piton all rusted to hell... probably shit. All the others are somewhere in between. Don't fall on them to find out!


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By wonderwoman
Jun 24, 2013
Wonderwoman on CCK

I don't have any cajones, whatsoever. However, I seem to fall on pitons more often than I should. I feel like I've tested every single one of them in the gunks, lately. At any rate, when in doubt, back it up if possible.


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By flynn
Jun 24, 2013

The steel rings may be rappel rings, not designed for impacts. Rust and/or wiggling are pretty much skull and crossbones. If you can't back up these deathtraps, don't fall.


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By ChaseLeoncini
From San Diego, California
Jun 24, 2013
El Cajon Mtn. Leonids. 5.9.

@Jon:
I figured it would be hard to see the strength unless it was actually pulled.
Thanks for helping.
@Wonder:
Thanks for the advice, i backed up both the pitons and tried not to fall.
@Flynn:
Im not sure if they are used for rap only because they were set in succession with about 15 ft's spacing between. They did look weak tho. Not really rusty but definitely wobbly.
Thank you for the advice.

Consensus = Dont fall.


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By Jim Titt
From Germany
Jun 25, 2013

Jon H wrote:
Piton strength ratings are entirely subjective and fairly impossible to test without actually pull-testing the piton in question (and destroying it, and the rock surrounding it). A nice, fat, non-rusty angle piton hammered home in a perfect horizontal... probably pretty strong. An old, soft iron ring piton all rusted to hell... probably shit. All the others are somewhere in between. Don't fall on them to find out!


Thatīs about it, I did a test series a few years ago installing and pull testing over 100 pitons in different rock, both a 5/16" Lost Arrow and a 5/8" Chrome-moly angle held 31kN in a granite horizontal, the worst performer was a soft steel knife blade which only got 2kN. These were all new placements and good condition pitons, Iīve seen a rusty old one fail under the weight of a sling and several which have failed to hold the weight of the tester.
Iīve also got one of those nasty ring pegs which I took out of an ab station by hand, the rock had eroded away around the placement which is a common problem on limestone.


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By The Stoned Master
From Millerstown, PA
Jun 25, 2013
Day Lily.

as most everyone already stated essentially you never know. ive pulled out pitons that LOOKED bomber, little to no rust, solid placement (appearing) and theyve ripped easily by

Ive fallen on just a few and bailed on a few (between just the Gunks and Seneca alone youre bound to run across hundreds) and they didnt look great, but they held.


even if Ive climbed that route 1000 times I RE-ASSESS EVERY TIME my life is "in the pitons hands". some are absolutely bomber, some appear to be but arent (only one way to tell...)and of course some i dont even bother because theyre obviously terrible.

learning when to clip (or backup, etc) a piton or not will come with experience. follow your intuition.


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By csproul
From Rancho Cordova, CA
Jun 25, 2013
Summit of Wolf's Head with Pingora in the background

This is pin that was on a local route, Bat Outta Hell at Pilot Mtn. It looked rusty from the outside but I don't think most people would ever have guessed it look this bad underneath. I have definitely fallen on this fairly recently, although there was a nice TCU placement very close it it.

Bat Outta Hell pin
Bat Outta Hell pin


I also remember a pin on Marshall's Madness at Seneca that was at a crux bit. Lots of people fell on that thing thinking it was solid....until it failed on someone and they hit the ground.

Go ahead and clip them, they might help, but back them up if at all possible. There is really no way of definitively knowing how strong an old pin is. Could be rusted below the surface. The rock could be bad.


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By Benjamin Chapman
From Small Town, USA
Jun 26, 2013
old 1/4" bolt.

This pin was at the small roof or overlap on the 1st pitch of the "Jam Crack" at Tahquitz. It pulled out when I stuck my finger in the eye and lightly pulled. Where the pin was remained a nice slot for a 0.3 Camalot.
This pin was at the small roof or overlap on the 1st pitch of the "Jam Crack" at Tahquitz. It pulled out when I stuck my finger in the eye and lightly pulled. Where the pin was remained a nice slot for a 0.3 Camalot.


The pin is in fine shape, but the placement was very weak. We saved someone from a very nasty surprise.


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By ChaseLeoncini
From San Diego, California
Jun 26, 2013
El Cajon Mtn. Leonids. 5.9.

So is it safe to say...?
Putting in a carabiner/draw and giving a hard tug is the best physical inspection you can make on a piton after visually inspecting it for wear and rust. If the piton checks out, back it up if at all possible and upon leading above it, pray you dont fall. They are usually sound but many have failed and many more will fail, wether it be from age, poor placement, or poor rock.
Also, consider taking the metal into account. Softer pitons tend to fail at smaller forces than harder pitons. This isn't always the case, however. Many have pulled out the most bomber looking pitons with a simple tug, but results from people testing piton strength around the world show there is a greater percentage of softer pitons failing at smaller forces.

Anything i missed?


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