Rock-climbing equipment

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Rock-climbing equipment varies with the type of climbing undertaken. Bouldering needs the least equipment outside of shoes and chalk and optional crash pads. Sport climbing adds ropes, harnesses, belay devices, and quickdraws to clip into pre-drilled bolts. Traditional climbing adds the need for carrying a "rack" of temporary passive and active protection devices. Multi-pitch climbing (and big wall climbing) adds devices to assist in ascending and descending fixed ropes. And finally aid climbing uses unique equipment (e.g. aiders).


Advances in equipment are a key part of the rock climbing history, starting with the climbing rope. Modern devices enable climbers to perform tasks that were previously done manually and with greater control (in all conditions) and less effort. Examples of replacements include the harness (replaced tieing the rope around the waist), the carabiner (replaced many knots), the descender/abseil device (replaced the dülfersitz), the ascender (replaced the prusik knot), the belay device (replaced the body belay), and nuts/hexes (replaced chockstones).

Modern equipment includes dynamic ropes, plyometric training tools, advanced spring-loaded camming devices (SLCDs) for protection, and advanced rope control devices such as self-locking devices (SLDs), progress capture devices (PCDs), and assisted braking devices (ABDs). Modern equipment uses advanced materials that are increasingly more durable, stronger, and lighter (e.g. spectra/dyneema and aluminum alloys). The equipment must meet specific standards (e.g. the UIAA standards) for strength, durability, and reliability, and must be certified and tested against such standards (with individual pieces carrying such certification marks).

Use and certification

Type of climbing

The rock-climbing equipment needed varies materially depending on the type of rock climbing being undertaken. Starting from the least equipment-intensive type of climbing, the general equipment needs are as follows: [1]


UIAA-certified twin ropes Ende eines Zwillingsseils.JPG
UIAA-certified twin ropes

Rock-climbing equipment is broadly classed as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). [7] The UIAA was an important early body in setting standards (and pre-1995 it was the only body setting standards) for equipment, and the UIAA Safety Commission continues to play a central worldwide role in this area. [8] The European CEN is also an important major regulator of PPE, and which works closely with the UIAA Safety Commission through its CEN Working Group for Mountaineering Equipment. [9] [10]

North America has fewer specific regulations as rock-climbing equipment as it is not classed as military or professional PPE and thus does not fall under OSHA regulation; [10] in effect, the UIAA and CEN have become the most important bodies for setting standards and regulating rock-climbing equipment worldwide, and most major manufacturers (and distributors) produce equipment certified and stamped with UIAA and CE marking. [10] Post Brexit, the United Kingdom use "UKCA" certification in lieu CEN. [7]

Ropes and slings


Cross-section of 10.7 mm kernmantle dynamic rope Kernmantle climbing rope dynamic Sterling 10.7mm cut end.jpg
Cross-section of 10.7 mm kernmantle dynamic rope

Modern climbing ropes are 50–80 metres (160–260 ft) in length (the longer versions are for multi-pitch climbing), and have a kernmantle construction consisting of a core (kern) of twisted nylon fibers and an outer sheath (mantle) of woven colored coarse nylon fibers. They are either dynamic ropes, which can stretch to absorb the energy of a falling climber, or are the less expensive but more hard-wearing static ropes, which are only for use in constant-load situations such as descending (e.g. abseiling) and ascending (also called fixed-roping). [1] [11] [12]

Some climbers will use a single climbing rope of full-thickness (circa 9–11 mm), whereas others will use double ropes (or "half-ropes") to reduce rope drag (e.g. they are not both clipped into each anchor or protection point), which have less thickness (circa 8–9 mm) to limit the weight of the extra rope. Where two thinner ropes are used that are both clipped into each anchor or protection point (i.e. it is not to reduce rope drag, but instead to have a backup rope for long climbs), it is known as twin roping, which are (circa 7–8 mm). [1] [11] [12]


Sets of sewn webbing slings Genaaide bandlussen.jpg
Sets of sewn webbing slings

Modern webbing (or "tape"), is made of strong tubular nylon and/or the even stronger spectra/dyneema material. Climbers use webbing that has been sewn (using a certified standard of reinforced stitching) into various lengths of closed loops called "slings" (or "runners") that can be used in a wide range of situations, including wrapping around sections of rock (for abseiling, or creating belay anchors, or as passive protection), or tied to other equipment (often via carabiners) to create a longer version of a quickdraw or even a makeshift lanyard. [1] [11] [13]

Slings can be made into more complex pieces of equipment such as the daisy chain, which is used in aid climbing, [6] and the Personal Anchor System, which is used in securing a climber to a fixed anchor point. [14]


Rope (two on left) and cord (two on right) thicknesses compared Klim en Prusik Touw.jpg
Rope (two on left) and cord (two on right) thicknesses compared

While lengths of webbing can be tied via a knot (e.g. a water knot) to create custom-length loops (instead of the pre-sewn fixed-length slings), their load-bearing capacity can be materially reduced making them less safe. Climbers instead use cord (or "accessory cord"), which is a length of thinner (circa 4–8 mm) static kernmantle rope, tied via a double fisherman's knot into closed loops of any size. [1] [11]

Cord loops (also known as "cordelettes") serve a wide variety of functions in rock climbing including creating friction prusik knots for ascending or gripping fixed climbing ropes (usually using thinner circa 5–6 mm cord), or for attaching to, and equalizing forces across, multiple fixed anchors points, [15] such as when setting up abseil or belay anchors on multi-pitch climbing routes (usually using thicker circa 7–8 mm cord). [1] [11]

Rope connectors

A number of devices help climbers securely attach items to the rope, including themselves (e.g. via a harness) and protection devices (e.g. via carabiners and quickdraws). Before their invention, climbers used alternative techniques such as looping the rope around the body in lieu of a harness (e.g. the body belay), or around the rock in lieu of protection, as well as using various climbing knots to link ropes and anchor points together. [1]


Non-locking (top) and locking (bottom) carabiners Assorted Biners.jpg
Non-locking (top) and locking (bottom) carabiners

Carabiners are closed metal clips with spring-loaded gates that are used as connectors between the rope and various devices. Modern carabiners are made from a lightweight but strong aluminum alloy that can withstand the load of a fall. Carabiners come in various shapes (e.g. the asymmetric/offset D-shape is the most common), and gate styles (e.g. a straight gate or a bent gate). A particular variation is whether the gate is locking (for extra security for example when belaying, but making the carabiner heavier and slightly tricker to clip into) or non-locking (the easiest to clip into and out of for example when leading a bolted sport climbing route, but with the risk that the gate may unintentionally open). [11] [1] [16]


Climbing harnesses are used for connecting the rope to the climber (via a "belay loop" on the harness). Harnesses are made of strong materials to specific strength guidelines that can withstand the load of a major fall. There are many types of harness designs (and materials used) depending on the type of climbing undertaken. Examples include minimal "sit" harnesses for sport climbing (e.g. they require little in the way of gear-carrying loops), lightweight and detachable leg-loop harnesses for alpine climbing (e.g. to fit around heaving winter clothing), padded harnesses for big wall climbing (to give comfort for long hanging belays and abseils), and chest/full-body harnesses for children and when carrying heavy loads. [11] [1]


Petzl's "via ferrata lanyard set" with attached "energy absorber" ViaFerrataLanyardPetzlScorpio.jpg
Petzl's "via ferrata lanyard set" with attached "energy absorber"

Lanyards (or "teather", or "via ferrata set") are much longer versions of quickdraws that attach from a harness to a rope (or other anchor points, such as a metal cable). The difference is that lanyards are much stronger than quickdraws and are capable of withstanding fall factors of 2 as found on via ferrata or on multi-pitch climbing routes. They are often made from materials that can absorb dynamic energy and often come with additional optional fall energy absorption devices, and lanyards that have had heavy falls often have to be discarded. Lanyards are also constructed to be sufficiently flexible to resist being twisted. [1] [17]

Personal Anchor Systems

A sub-class of lanyards is the Personal Anchor System (PAS), which is a section of rope or interconnected chains of slings, which are used to tie the harness to an anchor point such as a belay station. Traditionally, climbers would tie their harness to anchors using part of the climbing rope; however, the PAS has become popular as a way to avoid reducing the effective length of the climbing rope, and to use a more straightforward and direct connection. [18]


Sport/competition climbing quickdraw with a "bent-gate" at one end for easier clipping-in Ekspres-(climbing).jpg
Sport/competition climbing quickdraw with a "bent-gate" at one end for easier clipping-in

Quickdraws are used by climbers to connect ropes to fixed items such as bolted anchors in sport climbing, or protection devices in traditional climbing. The quickdraw consists of two non-locking carabiners connected together by a short, pre-sewn loop of webbing. They are used to reduce the friction and drag between the rope of the fixed item (i.e. instead of just clipping into a carabiner clipped into the bolt); in competition climbing the quickdraws are already hanging from the bolts, which is called pinkpointing in sport climbing (i.e. instead of the lead climber carrying the quickdraws, they are already in-situ). The quickdraws used on advanced sport and competition climbing routes often have a "bent-gate" on the lower carabiner to make clipping-in easier. [11] [19]

Rope devices

A number of devices are used for controlling the rope (belay devices and self-locking devices), moving up the rope (ascender devices), or moving down the rope (rappel/abseil or descender devices). These actions were historically done by climbers with no devices (e.g. the body belay for belaying, the dülfersitz abseil for descending, and the prusik knot for ascending), and the devices help with control and safety in all conditions (e.g wet or icy ropes). [1]


Ascender attached to a rope ClimbingAscenders (cropped).jpg
Ascender attached to a rope

Ascenders (also called "jumars" or "crolls" after popular brands) are mechanical devices to enable a climber to move up a fixed rope (e.g. a static rope that is hanging from a fixed anchor). Ascenders perform the same basic function as friction or prusik knots made from cord but far less effort and concentration are needed to use them (e.g. tired climbers at high-altitude), they can handle much heavier loads (e.g. climbers with ruck-sacks), and they are more reliable in all conditions (e.g. on wet and icy ropes). The ascender uses an internal cam that allows the device to slide freely in one direction but tightly grip the rope when pulled on in the opposite direction. To prevent the ascender device from accidentally falling off the rope, a locking carabiner is also used. [14]

Belay devices

Various models of tubers, and a sticht plate (r-lower) Zekeringsapparaten.jpg
Various models of tubers, and a sticht plate (r-lower)

Belay devices are mechanical friction-brake devices used to control the climbing rope(s) when belaying a climber. Their main purpose is to allow the rope to be locked-off/fully-braked with minimal effort when arresting a climber's fall. There are many kinds of belay devices, such as the original passive braking devices like "sticht plates" and the later "tubers/tubulars" (e.g. the original Black Diamond ATC, or the Petzl Reverso).

Modern belay devices include auto-block devices (e.g. the GiGi) allowing the belay device to be attached to a separate anchor point (e.g. and not to the belayer, which is useful for bringing up the second-climber on multi-pitch routes), and active assisted-braking devices (ABDs) that will self-lock with sudden rope movements (e.g. the Petzl GriGri or the Wild Country Revo). Some passive belay devices may also be used as descenders for abseiling. [20]

Indoor climbing walls can provide in-situ fixed mechanical auto belay devices that enable the climber to top rope a route alone; more recent lead auto belay models allow the climber to also lead climb the route alone. [21]


Modern descenders
Kong-spa-discesore-oka 03.jpg
Advanced figure-8
Petzl I'D S ready.JPG
Petzl I'D self-locking

Descenders (or abseil devices) enable a climber to abseil (or rappel) down a fixed rope (e.g. a static rope that is hanging from a fixed anchor). They perform the same basic function as the dülfersitz abseil but with more control and less effort. The classic passive descender, and still widely used, is the figure-eight, although it is offered in more complex variations with "ears" and "wings" to prevent the rope from locking up. [14]

Many passive belay devices can be used as descenders, such as tubers/tubulars. Some modern descenders come with self-locking device (SLD) features that will grip the rope in the event of an uncontrolled fall (e.g. the Petzl I'D S  [ de ]). [14] Heavy-duty descenders such as abseil racks are used for greater control and friction when carrying heavy loads and/or in very wet or icy conditions (e.g. big wall climbing and caving). The modern technique is to use a descender with a Personal Anchor System. [14]

Self-locking devices

Self-locking devices
Back side of red GriGri circa 2022-2023 version.jpg
Petzl GriGri
Revo Wild Country outdoor with rope.jpg
Wild Country Revo

Self-locking devices (SLDs), also called progress capture devices (PCDs), are the terms given to the broader class of rope devices that allow the climbing rope to move more freely in one direction but will lock quickly if the rope tries to move in the opposite direction. Their basic action means that several can also be used as emergency ascenders or assisted-belaying devices (ABDs), but they come in a broad range for a variety of uses (e.g. as a hauling or rescue pulley, like the Petzel Traxion). [22]

The most complex use is for rope solo climbing, for which devices such as Wren's Silent Partner, the Petzel GriGri, and the Wild Country Revo have been used (rope solo climbing requires the widest range of rope devices including ascenders and descenders), [3] [4] or the more straightforward top rope solo climbing, for which the Petzel Micro Traxion, and Camp Lift have been used. [5]

Protection devices

As discussed in types of climbing, rock climbing protection devices are mainly used in traditional climbing and in sport climbing (both of which can be done in single and multi-pitch formats). In addition, clean aid climbing also uses many of the traditional climbing protection devices. [2]


Temporary protection devices (also known as pro, gear or the rack), provide the means to place temporary anchor points on the rock to which a lead climber can clip their rope (via a quickdraw) when traditional climbing; they also can be used for anchor points for belaying and for abseiling. The devices are categorized as being passive (i.e., they maintain a static position throughout), or active (i.e. they dynamically move or adjust in the case of a fall). [2]


Passive protection
Assorted Nuts and Nut Tool.jpg
Nuts on a wire
Set of Hexcentrics.jpg
Hexes on loops of cord
  • Nuts (also "stoppers", "wires" or "chocks"). The most common passive protection, are small curved blocks of strong aluminum alloy attached to a loop of wire. Nuts are used by wedging them into narrowing/tapering cracks (they do not work well in wide or parallel cracks) and then giving them a tug to set them in place. [2] [23] Nuts are come in many varieties (e.g. offset-shaped HB nuts, micro nuts, and brass RP nuts). [24] In areas where Australian carrot bolts are common, the wire loop has been used as an emergency substitute for a bolt plate (i.e. like a rivet hanger). [25]
  • Hexes. These are hollow asymmetrical hexagonal tubes attached to a loop of cord (particularly for large hexes) or wire. Often wider than nuts, their asymmetrical shape allows their use in parallel and even widening cracks. They are placed like a nut ideally into a narrowing section of the crack and any fall will cause the hex to twist in its placement, thus exerting sideways force on the wall of the crack. Modern climbers tend to use SCLDs over hexes. [2]
  • Tricams. These are shaped aluminum blocks attached to lengths of webbing tape (like a nut). The block is shaped so that pulling on the tape makes it "cam" against the crack walls, gripping the rock tighter in a similar fashion to a Hex. Tricams may also be placed similarly to a nut, relying only on the constriction of a crack. Tricams are not as easy to place or remove as an SLCD but they can fit into narrow cracks and pockets, in some cases being the only type of protection that will work on a particular feature. Tricams are typically cheaper and lighter than SCLDs, and are less in use today. [2] [26]


Active SCLD protection
Materiel d'escalade - studio WMCH - coinceurs mecaniques.jpg
Selection of SCLDs
Camalot number 6.JPG
Camalot SCLD in a crack
  • Spring-loaded camming devices (SLCDs, or "friends", "camalots"). These consist of two to four aluminum cams mounted on a spring-loaded axle (or two adjacent axles), in such a way that pulling on the shaft connected to the axle forces the cams to narrow so they can be inserted into small cracks. Once the SLCD is inserted into the crack, its cams will maintain a constant camming angle of 13.75 degrees against the walls of the crack. SCLDs are overwhelmingly the most popular form of active protection device. [2] [27]
  • Big Bros (or tube chocks). These are large hollow telescopic aluminum tubes manufactured by Trango whose width can be dynamically adjusted to fit across large off-width cracks that are too wide for standard SLCDs. [28] [29]
  • Removable bolts (or RBs). These are a type of SLCD for insertion into pre-drilled bolt holes, but instead of using cams, the system uses a metal tube that once inserted expands to grip against the walls of the hole. Less frequently in use, their main application is for climbers creating bolted routes. [2]


Fixed protection devices are permanent in-situ anchors to which a lead climber can clip their rope (via a quickdraw) when sport climbing; they also can be used to create anchor points for belaying and for abseiling. The main types are: [2]

Fixed protection
Gunks Traps - Pitons on Shockley's Ceiling - 2.jpg
Piton with in-situ metal ring

Aid equipment

Aid climbing uses several of the above devices but in a way that gives "aid" to the aid climber in ascending (e.g. pulling up on pitons and hooks). There are also a number of other pieces of equipment that are more exclusively associated with aid climbing. [6]

Aid climbing equipment

Clothing equipment

Rock climbers use a number of pieces of specialized clothing equipment including:

A modern rock climbing shoe Five Ten Anasazi Verde.jpg
A modern rock climbing shoe

Miscellaneous equipment

Climber using a bouldering mat GIO.png
Climber using a bouldering mat

Training equipment

Various items of equipment are employed during climbing-specific training to strengthen the climber's fingers, tendons and muscles:

A hangboard Concet Climbing Solution Hangboard .jpg
A hangboard

See also



Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Traditional climbing</span> Type of rock climbing

Traditional climbing is a type of free climbing in rock climbing where the lead climber places the protection equipment while ascending the route; when the lead climber has completed the route, the second climber then removes the protection equipment as they climb the route. Traditional climbing differs from sport climbing where the protection equipment is pre-drilled into the rock in the form of bolts.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Quickdraw</span> Piece of climbing equipment used by rock and ice climbers

A quickdraw is a piece of climbing equipment used by rock and ice climbers to allow the climbing rope to run freely through protection such as bolt anchors or other traditional gear while leading.

<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">Abseiling</span> Rope-controlled descent

Abseiling, also known as rappelling, is the controlled descent of a steep slope, such as a rock face, by moving down a rope. When abseiling, the person descending controls his own movement down a static or fixed rope, in contrast to lowering off, in which the rope attached to the person descending is paid out by his belayer.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Free climbing</span> Climbing without using aid climbing

Free climbing is a form of rock climbing in which the climber can only use climbing equipment for climbing protection, but not as an aid to help in their progression in ascending the route. Free climbing, therefore, cannot use any of the tools that are used in aid climbing to help overcome the obstacles encountered while ascending a route. The development of free climbing was an important moment in the history of rock climbing, including the concept and definition of what determined a first free ascent of a route by a climber.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sport climbing</span> Type of rock climbing

Sport climbing is a type of free climbing in rock climbing where the lead climber clips into pre-drilled permanent bolts for their protection while ascending a route. Sport climbing differs from the riskier traditional climbing where the lead climber has to insert temporary protection equipment while ascending.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Belaying</span> Rock climbing safety technique using ropes

In climbing and mountaineering, the term belaying refers to techniques used to create friction within a climbing protection system, particularly on a climbing rope, so that a falling climber does not fall very far. A climbing partner typically applies tension at the other end of the rope whenever the climber is not moving, and removes the tension from the rope whenever the climber needs more rope to continue climbing. The belay is the place where the belayer is anchored, which is typically on the ground, or on ledge but may also be a hanging belay where the belayer themself is suspended from an anchor in the rock on a multi-pitch climb.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lead climbing</span> Technique of rock climbing

Lead climbing is a technique in rock climbing where the lead climber clips their rope to the climbing protection as they ascend a pitch of the climbing route, while their second remains at the base of the route belaying the rope to protect the lead climber in the event that they fall. The term is used to distinguish between the two roles, and the greater effort and increased risk, of the role of the lead climber.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bolt (climbing)</span> Anchor point used in sport climbing

In rock climbing, a bolt is a permanent anchor fixed into a hole drilled in the rock as a form of climbing protection. Most bolts are either self-anchoring expansion bolts or fixed in place with liquid resin. Climbing routes that are bolted are known as sport climbs, and those that do not use bolts, are known as traditional climbs.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pitch (climbing)</span> Steep section of a climbing route requiring a rope

In climbing, a pitch is a section of a climbing route between two belay points, and is most commonly related to the task of lead climbing, but is also related to abseiling. Climbing on routes that require only one pitch is known as single-pitch climbing, and climbing on routes with more than one pitch is known as multi-pitch climbing.

<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 or indoor climbing walls. 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">Munter hitch</span> Adjustable knot used control friction in a belay system

The Munter hitch, also known as the Italian hitch, mezzo barcaiolo or the crossing hitch, is a simple adjustable knot, commonly used by climbers, cavers, and rescuers to control friction in a life-lining or belay system. To climbers, this hitch is also known as HMS, the abbreviation for the German term Halbmastwurfsicherung, meaning half clove hitch belay. This technique can be used with a special "pear-shaped" HMS locking carabiner, or any locking carabiner wide enough to take two turns of the rope.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Multi-pitch climbing</span> Type of climbing

Multi-pitch climbing is a type of climbing that typically takes place on routes that are more than a single rope length in height, and thus where the lead climber cannot complete the climb as a single pitch. Where the number of pitches exceeds 6–10, it can become big wall climbing, or where the pitches are in a mixed rock and ice mountain environment, it can become alpine climbing. Multi-pitch rock climbs can come in traditional, sport, and aid formats. Some have free soloed multi-pitch routes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ascender (climbing)</span> Devices used for ascending, braking, or protection in climbing

An ascender is a device used for directly ascending, or for facilitating protection, with a fixed rope when climbing on steep mountain terrain. A form introduced in the 1950s became so popular it begat the term "Jumar" for the device, and the verb "to jumar" to describe its use in ascending.

In rock climbing, an anchor can be any device or method for attaching a climber, rope, or load to a climbing surface—typically rock, ice, steep dirt, or a building—either permanently or temporarily. The intention of an anchor is case-specific but is usually for fall protection, primarily fall arrest and fall restraint. Climbing anchors are also used for hoisting, holding static loads, or redirecting a rope.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Single-rope technique</span>

Single-rope technique (SRT) is a set of methods used to descend and ascend on the same single rope. Single-rope technique is used in caving, potholing, rock climbing, canyoning, roped access for building maintenance and by arborists for tree climbing, although to avoid confusion in the tree climbing community, many have taken to calling it "stationary" rope technique.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rope solo climbing</span> Type of solo climbing with protection

Rope-solo climbing or rope-soloing is a form of solo climbing, but unlike with free solo climbing, which is also performed alone and with no climbing protection whatsoever, the rope-solo climber uses a mechanical self-belay device and rope system, which enables them to use the standard climbing protection to protect themselves in the event of a fall.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Reverso (climbing)</span> Belay device for climbing

A Reverso is a belay device developed and patented by Petzl, used for example in rock-climbing and other activities which involves rope-work. Another version of this device is the Reversino, intended for use with thinner ropes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Belay device</span> Mechanical piece of climbing equipment

A belay device is a mechanical piece of climbing equipment used to control a rope during belaying. It is designed to improve belay safety for the climber by allowing the belayer to manage their duties with minimal physical effort. With the right belay device, a small, weak climber can easily arrest the fall of a much heavier partner. Belay devices act as a friction brake, so that when a climber falls with any slack in the rope, the fall is brought to a stop.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Caving equipment</span> Equipment for caving and spelunking

Caving equipment is equipment used by cavers and speleologists to aid and protect them while exploring caves. The term may also be used to refer to equipment used to document caves, such as photographic and surveying equipment. Originally, cave diving equipment was quite limited, but the increasing popularity of caving during the 20th century led to the creation of specialist caving equipment and companies.


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Further reading