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Quick Links for Climbing

By Gear Guy

I live near Rifle and there are a ton of fixed draws with different sizes of quick links attaching them to the bolts. What is the recommended size for this application, and what should the breaking strength be? The ones I see the most are 3/8-inch with a breaking strength of just under 2,000 pounds. And do you buy them from a climbing company like Fixe, where they cost $4 or more, or get them at a hardware store where they cost $1 or even less?

Quick links have more aliases than an adult-film star. Variously known as screw links, maillon rapides and rapid links, these buggers are made of steel so they are durable, can be cheap, and, once screwed tight to a bolt hanger, are difficult for even crusty bald tradsters to steal. For these reasons they are popular for attaching fixed draws to projects or popular sport routes, and as the rope thread at lowering and rap stations. Mmm, sounds tasty, but hold on.

I went to the local hardware and bought a couple of quick links from a clerk who looked like the product of a Santa Claus and ZZ Top cross-breeding experiment. He didn’t know if the links had been tested or were rated, or what the 1,760-pound SWL (safe working limit) stamped on the links meant. He searched the literature and found nothing. The manufacturer’s website didn’t provide any specifics. The links did carry a tag that said “Made in Malaysia.” The image of a dirty-faced child with bleeding hands pouring white-hot steel remains troubling in my mind, but not as much as the additional warning that stated: “Do not use for overhead lifting, support of human load or playground equipment.” Since sport climbing is basically all three of those things rolled into one, the answer for you should be clear. If it is not, simply ask yourself if you’d rather climb on a tested and certified rope that cost $200, or one for $50 that is untested, made in the Third World by a sweatshop ragamuffin and had a label that said, “Don’t use for human load.” The Fixe and Petzl quick links cost five times as much as the dime-store variety, but are CE certified. These are tested and rated and backed by the integrity of the brand names. Do we really need to dwell on this some more? Good. Good.

For rigging perma-draws, the 5/16-inch quick links are good. These are $3.95 from Fixe, and have a 1,540-pound working load that is 1/5 breaking strength. For lowering and rap stations, the larger 3/8-inch links ($5.50) will be kinder to ropes and even more durable. Next!

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