A History of the Carabiner

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Linking History...

From: Alpinist
Working his bare-feet up the face, the climber takes a knotted sling from his shoulder and places it around a stone horn. He takes a second sling, deftly unknots it and feeds the cord carefully around his hempen lead rope and the slung rock. With the rope now connected to his natural protection he ties the second cord back into a sling and climbs on….

Before Otto “Rambo” Herzog first conceived using carabiners, climbers had only two options for connecting their ropes to protection: tie the rope and protection together, or untie and run the rope directly through the gear. Neither option was quick or especially safe.
In Alpinist 35 we examine the history of the carabiner; why Otto “Rambo” Herzog first thought of using the device, how it was modified over the last century and how the carabiner got its name.

Rambo Herzog

Rambo
Otto “Rambo” Herzog earned his nickname seventy years before the Sylvester Stallone movies. “Ramponieren” in German means “to batter” or “to bash,” and Herzog got his nickname, “Rambo,” not for flailing up climbs but for the hours he spent ramponieren specific problems. Today, Herzog is remembered for introducing the carabiner and breaking Hans Dülfer’s grading system. In 1913, he climbed the south wall of the Schüsselkarspitze (2537m) with Hans Fiechtl, a route that reached the limit of grade V (5.8/9), the highest grade in Dülfer’s I-V scale. In 1921, Herzog, together with Gustav Haber, climbed the “Ha-He Verschneidung” on the Dreizinkenspitze (2306m). Today rated 5.10, Herzog and Haber’s climb was so difficult that grade VI had to be added onto the I-V grading scale.

Today all climbing carabiners are made from solid metal. But in the 1970s SALEWA introduced a hollow design, that weighed only forty grams. This model was not only revolutionary because of its form but also because of the safety testing done on every unit. For the first time, each carabiner was individually tested before hitting the market. The slight indent on the curve of the pictured ‘biner, is the mark left by the 1000kg test. Many climbers will look at the empty interior and imagine that hollow carabiners were unsafe. However, in a recent interview with Alpinist, SALEWA’s former General Manager Hermann Huber said the hollow designs were abandoned because of breakthroughs in cold forging that allowed for lighter and stronger designs from solid aluminum.  Read the rest of this story…

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2 Responses to “A History of the Carabiner”

  1. Karabiners: Unlocked | Boulders Says:

    […] a karabiner was invented, but it’s fairly widely agreed that a German climber whose nickname was Rambo was the first person to develop one just for climbing use in around 1910. In this time, the only […]

  2. Karabiners Unlocked: A Beginners Guide | Joby Newson Says:

    […] a karabiner was invented, but it’s fairly widely agreed that a German climber whose nickname was Rambo was the first person to develop one just for climbing use in around 1910. In this time, the only […]

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