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Dear Omega Man,

Since I like Wiregates in general, I was planning on buying a set of quickdraws with Omegalite 4.0 Wiregates on both sides. Then I saw your new JCs. What are the advantages and disadvantages of JCs vs. Omegalite wiregates? Also, do you think it's an OK idea to use JCs on both sides of the quick draw?


Reno, NV


Omega Man approves of your preference for wiregates. They're just plain great. Strong, easy to clip, difficult to accidentally unclip. Light. Less prone to sticking. Mechanically simple. Less gate flutter. And so on and so on. As for which of my biners to choose, you can't go wrong with either style, but there are some differences that may influence your preference.

The OL 4.0 is much larger, so it provides increased clipping area and a huge gate clearance. It's built on a bigger frame, so you can grab it while you're working routes and still clip a rope into it past your pumped and losing-strength-fast fingers. It's super-strong (26kN), too.

The JC is significantly smaller and about 8gm lighter. Its smooth, clean lines are modern and gorgeous. It fits your hand nicely and it's extremely clippable. The rope radius on the JC is actually bigger than the barstock we use in the production of it thanks to the U-Channel Construction (basically, we cleave the barstock and spread the split open to increase the interior radius of the working end). What you end up with is a rope radius of over 11mm from 10mm barstock. That we can do this from a cold-forging process is pretty cool.

Although either biner works well in virtually any situation, it appears that sport climbers generally prefer the OL 4.0 because it's huge, easy to clip and having super-light gear doesn't matter much on that type of climbing. The JCs find themselves at home on trad racks and in alpine conditions where trimming every ounce is a bigger factor.

By the way, no problem using JCs or Omegalite 4.0s on either end of the quickdraw. Both carabiners are fine for rope end or protection end use.

Dear Omega Man,

I am just beginning to rock climb and I love it. But where I live I need to have my own equipment. So I am learning as much as I can about climbing equipment. I would like to know more about this new SBG device and if it good for beginners. Also which kinds and how many carabiners are essential. I would really be grateful of the info.

Thank you,

Minneapolis, MN

Dear Joe.

Good luck to you as you begin your climbing career! May it be long, adventurous and safe.

As for gear you'll need, here's how it breaks down....

To get started, you can get by with just a chalkbag and a pair of shoes if you've got some bouldering nearby. Once you decide to get into roped climbing, though, you'll need to add a harness, an SBG belay/rappel device and Jake locking carabiner. With this setup, you'll be able to go climbing with more experienced partners who should already have a rope, protection, slings, etc. You can function well this way until you decide to take yourself climbing and start building your own anchors. By the way, you ought to do this only after you've taken plenty of instruction from qualified instructors (look for schools and guides that are accredited or certified by the American Mountain Guides Association). At least, spend a lot of time under the wing of someone very experienced at setting quality anchors before you decide to do this yourself. How you can determine the quality of your pal's skills is a bit iffy, though (that's where the AMGA-accredited instruction comes in handy-they qualify programs so that you know you're being taught well.)

When the time comes to take yourself toproping, though, you're gonna need some hardware. A good package to start with is a set of Tri-Nuts, three or four cams in the inch to two-and-half-inch range, a 60m rope, about half-dozen sewn, shoulder slings, a few lengths of 1" webbing tied with waterknots, and an assortment of carabiners (a couple of our light locking Ds, half-dozen ovals, ten OP Classic Straightgates or OL 4.0s) and that ought to be a decent, entry-level toprope system for most typical, local cragging.

Once you're ready to lead, you'll need more ... more pro, more slings, more 'biners, more everything, really. But that's probably a way down the road & nothing to worry about now. And it'll vary depending on where you climb. Certain climbing areas require more of a particular type of equipment than others, so it's impossible to state for certain what you'll use most. Trial and error here.

As for whether the SBG is good for beginners ... absolutely it is. It's the best belay device Omega Man has ever used. Now, it should be said that the device is specifically designed for thinner ropes. There's been a trend for the past several years to smaller diameter ropes and it is with this in mind that we designed the SBG. The tradeoff is that with really fat ropes, it'll require some more effort to pull rope through it. Particularly, we've found in gyms that the ropes they use are really fat, fuzzy from wear and packed tight with chalk. The SBG doesn't excel in gym environments, necessarily. However, most gyms seem to be trending toward using exclusively Gri-Gris, so you may not get the opportunity to use SBGs in gyms much anyhow.

Dear Omega Man,

I was wondering why you changed your oval carabiners. I have noticed that they are rated to a higher breaking strength, but most of my other gear is rated to less than 20 KN, so it seems like a waste of time to have an overrated carabiner. Also, the new nose will not fit in some of the holes in other gear (namely my piton hammer and ice axe). Is this new nose design for added strength? What would the result be if I file it to match the contour of the old omega carabiners (last years' model)?

Thanks for the great gear,

Flagstaff, AZ

Dear Steven,

Thanks so much for your email. Omega Man most definitely appreciates your opinions and experiences.

Regarding our ovals ....

The CE standard says we have to meet 6kN on open gate strength and while our early, thinner (10mm) barstock ovals met it, it is Omega policy to build as substantial a margin beyond minimum requirements as is reasonable. By introducing ovals with 7/16" barstock, we were able to provide you with that margin of safety; major axis strength also increased, of course.

The first couple production runs of ovals had noses that were too large to fit some pitons and wall hammers, but we've since changed that. All ovals for the past couple years have thinner profiles and fit all pitons we've found on the market.

You ask what the effect would be if you filed off the material around the nose of your current 'biners. Omega Man doesn't know the result of this, but he doubts it'd be anything good. We most emphatically recommend that you DO NOT do this. Designing noses is a pretty significant challenge even to engineers. That particular part of a biner has a dramatic effect on the overall strength and by filing away material--even a small amount of it--you could seriously weaken your krabs. Don't do it.

You mention that it seems a waste of time to build a carabiner greater than 20kN strong ... interesting point. CE says 20kN is the minimum standard but, apart from ovals, you will find very few modern carabiners that are rated at that level. You are among the few who seem to accept the CE standard as their personal standard. The standard is a good one, but manufacturers try to push that limit as high as possible.

Dear Omega Man,

I'm getting into mountaineering this season. What is the right size ice axe for me?

New Paltz, NY

I get this one all the time and the rules of thumb are changing a little, these days. Back in the olden days (a couple years ago), you'd grab a mountain axe or a lite mountain axe off the rack, hold it in your strong hand and let it dangle by your side. The correct axe for general use will hang no further than that bony notch on the side of your ankle.

This size axe seems best-suited for all-around use & a good compromise that lets a climber self-arrest, chop steps, cut bollards; is useful as a walking aid on glaciers and, of course, as a self-arrest aid. Sizing it as described above is generally accepted. It provides an axe that isn't too short or too long to perform any of those typical functions.

However, more and more hikers, climbers and mountaineers are using pairs of trekking poles when they head to the mountains these days, rendering the venerable mountain axe a pretty poor alternative walking aid. What we're seeing now is a shift toward shorter axes that swing easier, self-arrest just as well and still aid a climber in climbing steep snow and ice fields. When climbers hit the glaciers and snowfields for the approaches, the poles come out and the axes get sheathed.

Best advice Omega Man can give you, Kelly, is to determine your use and choose accordingly. Fall back to the rule of thumb if you don't know for sure.

Dear Omega Man,

I'm having trouble with sticky carabiners and am sending a couple back to you for your inspection. I've got mostly OL 4.0 Wiregates and lately the gates have started sticking open. I've cleaned them regularly since I bought them and I've even been using White Lightning lube to keep dirt from collecting in the gate action, but they stick like crazy. Are they defective?

Ft. Collins, CO

I got your Omegalite 4.0 Wiregates today. Sure enough, they were jammed pretty good. We measured them, weighed them, inspected them and then did it again & couldn't find anything out of kilter. But, after fooling with them a while, Omega Man knows exactly what's going on here.

You say you lubed them with White Lightning, eh? I've heard other climbers complain of exactly the same problem you have and they use exactly the same lubricant. This leads Omega Man to tap his pipe against his teeth like Sherlock Holmes and deduce that White Lightning may be the likely suspect.

White Lighting (or any other paraffin-based lubes) operates by coating the device with a thin layer of waxy material. This helps to reduce the amount of dirt and grime it'll pick up. Sounds fine, but, while this may work great for bike chains (White Lightning is sold for just that purpose, in fact, and is found in bike stores) and (maybe) even camming units, they're less effective on carabiners. With bike chains, there is enough power in the mechanism (the pedal stroke of the cyclist) to break through the waxy goo with each turn. However, with a carabiner, there simply isn't that kind of spring tension to reliably return the gate to the notch as that waxy buildup occurs. And, it should be noted that-despite the claims that paraffin-based lubes don't attract dirt-Omega Man removed a lot of crapola from the works of your biners. ALL lubricants pick up dirt and grime to one degree or another.

To fix the rest of your krabs, do what we did with the ones you sent back: I boiled them in water to melt the paraffin and liberally sprayed WD-40 on them to dissolve and remove any residual lubricant, dirt or grime. Then we gave them a good brushing with an old toothbrush at the hinges. After that, we shot them with a little silicone spray lubricant. I'm sending them back to you and you'll see, they work perfectly now.

Dear Omega Man,

I just got a bunch of new gear, including some Omega carabiners and I notice that my hands come away really dark after even a couple hours of toproping! What gives? I assume it's some sort of oxidation from the biners, but I've never noticed this before. How come your biners oxidize more than others?

Provo, UT

Permit Omega Man a moment to don his purple turban &. OK, then. Omega Man will now hold a printed copy of your email to his forehead and go deep into a trance and reveal some truths from afar &. Ooooommmmm&.. Not only did you recently get new carabiners, but you also got a new rope &. Ooooommmmm &.. It's probably a dry rope &. Ooooommm &. It's a dry rope made in North America &.. Oooooommmm &..

Psychic abilities? Nah. Omega Man just knows a little about ropes.

You see, Kyle, in order to apply a dry treatment to a rope, it needs a carrier-a liquid medium that permits the treatment to be applied to the cord. In Europe, environmental restrictions are less & restrictive, I guess, and most manufacturers there use a chemical-based carrier that is banned here in the States by the EPA. This requires American manufacturers use wax-based carriers to apply their dry treatments, which cause ropes to attract far more dirt and grime than their European counterparts. What you see on your hands is the dirt that the ropes pick up.

Some of what you notice may, in fact be aluminum oxide, but even if you're using incredibly old, non-anodized biners, most of the crud left behind on your hands is just plain old waxy dirt.


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