ASTM F1772-17: Harnesses for Rescue and Sport Activities

Canyoneering team member with backpack rappeling down the waterfall in the canyon while man in front view and others on top of the waterfall are on stand by with technical rope and harness adhering to ASTM F1772-17.

People have been scaling mountains as early as 1336. Sir Alfred Wills’s ascent of the Swiss Wetterhorn in 1865 is considered the birth of mountaineering. With mountaineering, caving, and canyoneering, choosing proper equipment (ranging from a harness, rope, tent, pulley, carabiners, tent, light source, and a belay device) is critical.  ASTM F1772-17: Standard Specification for Harnesses for Rescue and Sport Activities provides specifications for harnesses used for rescue and rope-based sport activities.

Mountaineering Vs Hiking

Mountaineering can have elements of hiking or trekking, but the main point of the sport is to summit a mountain. It is more challenging and technical than hiking, as mountaineering may include climbing, skiing, glacier crossings, and traversing via ferratas (i.e., a route on a mountain face equipped with steel cables, ladders, and other fixed anchors). Hence, it is also more dangerous and involves more technical skills and equipment like a rope, ice axe, crampons, harness, and helmet.

Mountaineering is more physically demanding than hiking or trekking—requiring one to be in excellent physical condition and knowledgebase of the activity. The terrain and the weather can present real hazards, and since the primary purpose is to summit a mountain, it often involves high altitudes. It, therefore, requires extensive preparations and previous experience. 

What Is ASTM F1772-17?

ASTM F1772-17 covers harnesses for human use in technical rope rescue and climbing, mountaineering, caving, canyoneering, and other rope-based sport activities. Three types of harnesses are covered by this standard: full body harnesses, sit harnesses, and chest harnesses. ASTM F1772-17 establishes requirements for the testing, performance, and marking of harnesses and for the instructions that are supplied with them. It may contain test methods that do not entirely simulate real-life situations. The test methods are designed to give reproducible results in a laboratory and, thereby, a means for product comparison.

How To Choose A Canyoneering Rope

In canyoneering, a group of people travels a canyon typically from its top to the bottom. Due to the topographic and environmental characteristics of canyons with sharp rock, humid walls or water basins, the technical requirements placed on canyoneering ropes are demanding. Canyoneering ropes are not the same as climbing ropes. They are designed for static loads and sandy, muddy, wet, and abrasive conditions to get you from the top to the bottom of the canyon safely. They also have a thicker, tougher sheath, and tighter weave than climbing. The tight weave design makes canyoneering ropes very low-stretch. This static nature assists the rappeler out when they are over 200 feet over the edge and trying to stay in control of their descent.

Because a rappeler always begins at the top of a rappel and then descends to the bottom of the rope, it is important to have a rope that is semi-static or static, meaning it does not have much stretch. Many canyons have running water (like waterfalls), and wet ropes get even stretchier. The ropes therefore should be highly abrasion resistant, light, and should not absorb water. Heat resistance is an advantage because abseiling with friction devices creates heat on the rope that could melt the cover and create dangerous situations. Also, the owner of these ropes may be carrying them many miles to and from the canyon—often in scorching hot conditions. As a result, canyoneering ropes are often narrower in diameter than climbing ropes.

ASTM F1772-17: Standard Specification for Harnesses for Rescue and Sport Activities is available on the ANSI Webstore.

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