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One of the most versatile pieces of equipment available to the mountaineer is the carabiner. This simple piece of gear is the critical connection between the climber, his rope, and the protection attaching him to the mountain.

Carabiners must be strong enough to hold hard falls, yet light enough for the climber to easily carry a quantity of them. Today's high tech metal alloys allow carabiners to meet both of these requirements. Steel is still widely used, but is not preferred for general mountaineering, given other options. Basic carabiner construction affords the user several different shapes. The oval, the D-shaped, and the pear-shaped carabiner are just some of the types currently available. Most models can be made with or without a locking mechanism for the gate opening. If the carabiner does have a locking mechanism, it is usually referred to as a locking carabiner. When using a carabiner, great care should be taken to avoid loading the carabiner on its minor axis and to avoid three-way loading.

Nonlocking and locking carabiners.

Nonlocking and locking carabiners.

  • The major difference between the oval and the D-shaped carabiner is strength. Because of the design of the D-shaped carabiner, the load is angled onto the spine of the carabiner thus keeping it off the gate. The down side is that racking any gear or protection on the D-shaped carabiner is difficult because the angle of the carabiner forces all the gear together making it impossible to separate quickly.
  • The pear-shaped carabiner (or pearabiner), specifically the locking version, is excellent for clipping a descender or belay device to the harness. They work well with the munter hitch belaying knot.
  • Regardless of the type chosen, all carabiners should be UIAA tested. This testing is extensive and tests the carabiner in three ways—along its major axis, along its minor axis, and with the gate open.
  • Great care should be used to ensure all carabiner gates are closed and locked during use.
Major and minor axes and three-way loading

Major and minor axes and three-way loading


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