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'60s-era pitons, including: knifeblades, lost arrows, bugaboos, ring angles, and bongs. Tom Frost - One cup of tea - 1960.jpg
'60s-era pitons, including: knifeblades, lost arrows, bugaboos, ring angles, and bongs.
1950s-1960s mild steel pitons Chiodi-roccia-morbidi.JPG
1950s–1960s mild steel pitons
Old angle pitons on Shockley's Ceiling route at the Trapps cliff of Shawangunks. Gunks Traps - Pitons on Shockley's Ceiling - 1.jpg
Old angle pitons on Shockley's Ceiling route at the Trapps cliff of Shawangunks.
RURP (Realized Ultimate Reality Piton) presented by Tom Frost. RURP by Tom Frost.jpg
RURP (Realized Ultimate Reality Piton) presented by Tom Frost.

A piton ( /ˈptɒn/ ; also called pin or peg) in climbing is a metal spike (usually steel) that is driven into a crack or seam in the climbing surface using a climbing hammer, and which acts as an anchor for protecting the climber against the consequences of falling or to assist progress in aid climbing. Pitons are equipped with an eye hole or a ring to which a carabiner is attached; the carabiner can then be directly or indirectly connected to a climbing rope.


Pitons were the original form of protection and are still used where there is no alternative. Repeated hammering and extraction of pitons damage the rock, and climbers who subscribe to the clean climbing ethic avoid their use as much as possible. With the popularization of clean climbing in the 1970s, pitons were largely replaced by faster and easier-to-use clean protection, such as nuts and camming devices. [1] Pitons are still found in place (as "fixed" pitons) on some established free climbing routes, as fixed belay station anchors, in places where nuts or cams do not work; and are used on some hard aid climbs. [2] [3] [4]

Styles and shapes

Pitons are sized and manufactured to fit a wide range of cracks. From small to large, the most common are:

First bridwell beak drawing-side.jpg

Materials and evolution

Early pitons were made of malleable iron and soft steel and would deform to the shape of the crack when driven into the rock, which worked well in the irregular cracks found on European limestone. Soft pitons are difficult to remove without damaging the piton, so they were frequently left in place and became fixed anchor points on a climb.

During climbing exploration of the hard granite in Yosemite Valley in the 1950s and 1960s, it was found that soft pitons did not work very well. The long routes developed in Yosemite made it impractical and costly to fix routes, and the soft pitons were not durable enough to be placed and removed more than a few times. Pitons needed to be removed and used again on subsequent pitches, sometimes many times. Leaving gear in place went against the ethics of many climbers. John Salathé pioneered designs using hardened steel which were much tougher than the European pitons. Salathé's pins, which he developed for a climb of the Lost Arrow, resisted deformation and were easier to remove and reuse, and were durable enough to be reused indefinitely. [7]





See also

Related Research Articles

Climbing protection are mechanical man-made devices employed to reduce the risk and effect of a fall to climbers while rock or ice. It includes such items as nylon webbing and metal nuts, cams, bolts, and pitons.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Spring-loaded camming device</span> Piece of rock climbing or mountaineering protection equipment

A spring-loaded camming device is a piece of rock climbing or mountaineering protection equipment. It consists of two, three, or four cams mounted on a common axle or two adjacent axles, so that pulling on the axle forces the cams to spread farther apart. This is then attached to a sling and carabiner at the end of the stem. The SLCD is used by pulling on the "trigger" so the cams retract together, then inserting it into a crack or pocket in the rock and releasing the trigger to allow the cams to expand. A pull on the rope, such as that generated by a climber falling, will cause a properly placed SLCD to convert the pulling force along the stem of the unit into outwards pressure on the rock, generating massive amounts of friction and preventing the removal of the unit from the rock. Because of the large forces which are exerted on the rock when an SLCD is fallen on, it is very important that SLCDs are only placed in solid, strong rock.

This is an index of topics related to climbing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Glossary of climbing terms</span> For rock climbing and mountaineering

Glossary of climbing terms relates to rock climbing, mountaineering, and to ice climbing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rock-climbing equipment</span> List of manmade gear

Rock-climbing equipment requires a range of specialized sports equipment, for training, for aid climbing, and for free climbing. Developments in rock-climbing equipment played an important role in the history of rock climbing, enabling climbers to ascend more difficult climbing routes safely, and materially improving the strength, conditioning, and ability of climbers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Black Diamond Equipment</span> Manufacturer of equipment for climbing, skiing, and mountain sports

Black Diamond Equipment is a manufacturer of equipment for climbing, skiing, and mountain sports, based in Utah, United States. The company also has a global office in Innsbruck, Austria. The company is owned by Clarus Corporation, which also owns Pieps, ClimbOn! Skincare, and Sierra Bullets.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Aid climbing</span> Style of climbing

Aid climbing is a style of climbing in which standing on or pulling oneself up via devices attached to fixed or placed protection is used to make upward progress.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nut (climbing)</span>

In rock climbing, a nut is a metal wedge threaded on a wire that climbers use for protection by wedging it into a crack in the rock. Quickdraws are clipped to the nut wire by the ascending climber and the rope threads through the quickdraw. Nuts come in a variety of sizes and styles, and several different brands are made by competing manufacturers. Most nuts are made of aluminum. Larger nuts may be threaded on Dyneema cord instead of wire, but this has become unusual.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Clean climbing</span> Rock climbing techniques which avoid damage to the rock

Clean climbing is rock climbing techniques and equipment which climbers use in order to avoid damage to the rock. These techniques date at least in part from the 1920s and earlier in England, but the term itself may have emerged in about 1970 during the widespread and rapid adoption in the United States and Canada of nuts, and the very similar but often larger hexes, in preference to pitons, which damage rock and are more difficult and time-consuming to install. Pitons were thus eliminated in North America as a primary means of climbing protection in a period of less than three years.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rock climbing</span> Type of sport

Rock climbing is a sport in which participants climb up, across, or down natural rock formations. The goal is to reach the summit of a formation or the endpoint of a usually pre-defined route without falling. Rock climbing is a physically and mentally demanding sport, one that often tests a climber's strength, endurance, agility and balance along with mental control. Knowledge of proper climbing techniques and the use of specialized climbing equipment is crucial for the safe completion of routes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Yvon Chouinard</span> American mountain climber (born 1938)

Yvon Chouinard is an American rock climber, environmentalist, philanthropist and outdoor industry businessman. His company, Patagonia, is known for its commitment to protecting the environment.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Salathé</span> Swiss-born American pioneering rock climber, blacksmith and inventor

John Salathé was a Swiss-born American pioneering rock climber, blacksmith, and the inventor of the modern piton. In his later years he promoted Christian spiritualism and vegetarianism.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of rock climbing</span> Key chronological milestones

In the history of rock climbing, the three main sub-disciplines—bouldering, single-pitch climbing, and big wall climbing—can trace their origins to late 19th-century Europe. Bouldering started in Fontainebleau, and was advanced by Pierre Allain in the 1930s, and John Gill in the 1950s. Big wall climbing started in the Dolomites, and was spread across the Alps in the 1930s by climbers such as Emilio Comici and Riccardo Cassin, and in the 1950s by Walter Bonatti, before reaching Yosemite where it was led in the 1950s to 1970s by climbers such as Royal Robbins. Single-pitch climbing started pre-1900 in both the Lake District and in Saxony, and by the 1970s had spread widely with climbers such as Ron Fawcett (Britain), Bernd Arnold (Germany), Patrick Berhault (France), Ron Kauk and John Bachar (USA).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hex (climbing)</span> Rock climbing equipment to arrest a fall

A hex is an item of rock-climbing equipment used to protect climbers from falls. They are intended to be wedged into a crack or other opening in the rock, and do not require a hammer to place. They were developed as an alternative to pitons, which are hammered into cracks, damaging the rock. Most commonly, a carabiner will be used to join the hex to the climbing rope by means of a loop of webbing, cord or a cable which is part of the hex.

<i>Salathé Wall</i> Technical climbing route up El Capitan

The Salathé Wall is one of the original technical climbing routes up El Capitan, a 3,000-foot (900 m) high granite monolith in Yosemite National Park. The Salathé Wall was named by Yvon Chouinard in honor of John Salathé, a pioneer of rock climbing in Yosemite. The route is recognized in the historic climbing text Fifty Classic Climbs of North America and considered a classic around the world.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lost Arrow Spire</span> Detached pillar, Yosemite

Lost Arrow Spire is a detached pillar in Yosemite National Park, in Yosemite Valley, California, located immediately adjacent to Upper Yosemite Falls. The structure includes the Lost Arrow Spire Chimney route which is recognized in the historic climbing text Fifty Classic Climbs of North America. The spire is the location for a dramatic Tyrolean traverse, which has since become an iconic slackline.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Steck-Salathé Route</span>

The Steck-Salathé Route is a technical climbing route up Sentinel Rock.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tom Frost</span> American rock climber (1936–2018)

Thomas "Tom" M. Frost was an American rock climber known for big wall climbing first ascents in Yosemite Valley. He was also a photographer and climbing equipment manufacturer. Frost was born in Hollywood, California, and died in Oakdale, California.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Crack climbing</span>

Crack climbing is a type of rock climbing in which the climber follows a crack in the rock and uses specialized climbing techniques. The sizes of cracks vary from those that are just barely wide enough for the fingers to fit inside, to those that are so wide that the entire body can fit inside with all limbs outstretched. Many traditional climbing routes follow crack systems, as they provide natural opportunities for placing protective equipment.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jerry Gallwas</span> American rock climber (born 1936)

Jerry Gallwas is an American rock climber active in the 1950s during the dawn of the Golden Age of Yosemite Rock Climbing. He achieved a number of pioneering first ascents including sandstone spires in the American Southwest, and the first ascent of the Northwest Face of Half Dome with Royal Robbins and Mike Sherrick in 1957. Gallwas made his own heat-treated chrome-molybdenum steel alloy pitons, which contributed to the success of the climb.


  1. Loughman, Michael (1981). Learning to Rock Climb. Sierra Club Books. p. 78. ISBN   0-87156-281-2.
  2. Loughman, Michael (1981). Learning to Rock Climb. Sierra Club Books. p. 80. ISBN   0-87156-281-2.
  3. Genereux, Andy (May 2006). Yamnuska Rock: The Crown Jewel of Canadian Rockies Traditional Climbing. Rocky Mountain Books. p. 219. ISBN   9781894765749.
  4. "Protection using pitons". Mountaineering Methodology. Retrieved 4 May 2017.
  5. Jones, Chris (1976). Climbing in North America. Berkeley: American Alpine Club and University of California Press. p.  274. ISBN   0-520-02976-3.
  6. Climbs at The Brand
  7. McNamara, Chris (2000). Yosemite Big Walls: SuperTopo. Mill Valley: SuperTopo. p. 113. ISBN   0-9672391-1-7.