It is rare for a climber to buy everything perfect the first time. Instead, a rack evolves over years and is dialed in alongside climbing preferences. Below you’ll find the wonderful story of the additive transformation that Lee Kennedy’s rack has gone through.

The layout of gear on my oriental rug is the picture that was shared on the WeighMyRack Instagram feed, and was taken after one of my latest climbing trips. I normally just throw my bag in the closet and deal with the mess later, but sometimes, you gotta savor it.

There’s something about pulling each piece of gear out, inspecting it, lubing the springs, replacing the tape, and putting it back in the perfect order. It’s your baby. Each piece has a history. Your rack is the story of your climbing career.

I discovered climbing in 2007 in college (NCSU), needing a distraction from some depression. My brother had gotten into it a few years earlier and he told me to check out the college gym. It was pretty weird. The wall was made out of molded concrete (so the routes never change and they were slimy as hell) and you had to wear a helmet while belaying, but all the gear rentals were free if you were a student. I was hooked.

ncsu climbing wall
Many NCSU climbers’ humble beginnings.

I told my family I didn’t want anything but climbing gear for Christmas, and that winter break I became the proud owner of a BD Momentum Starter Pack (Momentum harness, basic locker + ATC, a crappy chalk bag) and a helmet.

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This is what a set looks like today. A legit way to get started!

The only thing left from those humble beginnings is the Petzl Elios helmet (which has now been replaced in Petzl’s line as the Petzl Boreo).

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The trusty helmet.

I pretty quickly upgraded the ATC to the ATC Guide and picked up an Omega Pacific Jake twist-lock belay biner, and I’ve used those ever since (especially for multipitch climbing).

While getting stronger and starting to go outside, I picked up some gear for toproping. An assortment of ovals and lockers (many of which I still have but don’t get used anymore) and some webbing/cord (some of which I retired and didn’t replace, some of which became staples in my rack, like the 2 long cords for gear anchors and 2 short cords for prussiks).

I also started using the Metolius PAS for some anchor situations. And I want to go on record saying that I do thread it between my legs because it’s convenient and rock climbing is not a frickin’ fashion show!

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The gear that is leftover from the toprope era.

I graduated college and was lucky enough to find immediate employment at the local climbing gym (one of the best gyms I’ve been to–the Triangle Rock Climb Morrisville!).

With the wonders of the pro-deal at my disposal, it was on.

First, I started sport climbing so I picked up some Metolius Inferno quickdraws (now available as the Inferno II quickdraw set), since then, all but 5 I’ve split for parts. They’re pretty nice if you want a big gate. Otherwise are pretty average.

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The beginnings of the sport rack.

Then, I read Freedom of the Hills.

Instead of the small, safe climbing gym I was used to, FOTH poses everything as preparation for the mountains. The cover shot of a group on top of Bugaboo Spire looked like heaven.

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That was the inspiration, the Bugaboo’s were going to happen. I started buying trad gear.

I needed gear to practice placing first, so I grabbed a set of BD stoppers and a beautiful rainbow package of Metolius TCUs (without really knowing why, I chose the full set including the #0 and #00 even though I’ve maybe placed the #0 once).

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The beginnings of a trad rack!

Then, a single set of Black Diamond C4’s and a handful of alpine draws (BD Oz’s). I spent my weekends with other early trad climbers and we’d combine each of our half-racks for a double set of protection goodness.

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Now we’re talkin’.

I eventually picked up the second set of Black Diamond C4’s (and a #4 and a #5 even though you rarely need them in NC), and rounded it all out with the rest of the alpine draws (making 14 doubles + 2 quads).

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It’s complete!

After a few years of trad, I switched gears and started sport climbing more. In my search for more draws, I entered and won a giveaway for some Trango quickdraws on a friend’s blog (cragmama.com). I loved their draws and ended up picking up a set of Trango Reacts to complete the sport set. There are lighter draws on the market but the thick construction and easy clipping makes you feel super solid. These, plus some random long anchor draws I found finished the “sport rack”.

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That pretty much covers the normal stuff. Let’s talk about the weird stuff.

  1. A second purple Metolius TCU: I had a trad project in mind at the New and was told a second purple TCU would be nice, so I grabbed another one. I’ve since all but written off that project (an hour hike each way seems unnecessary for the New…) but the gear stayed. Two Purple TCUs is nice for the lower crux of Black and Tan, so I’m calling it worth it.
  2. A second blue Metolius cam, a Master Cam this time: I just freaking love the blue sized TCUs–they’re one of the smallest cams rated for free falls and I find these placements everywhere, so I grabbed another. I’ve since placed it a ton.
  3. Ball Nutz: Similar to the purple TCU, I bought these for the tiny crack on what was going to a trad project. Plus I’d always wanted a set and they were on sale. Haven’t placed them yet but I’m looking forward to it (I think?).
  4. CAMP Tricams: I bought these forever ago and expected to use them everywhere, like in eyebrows at Looking Glass or weird pockets at Moore’s. But–and this is blasphemy in North Carolina–I just don’t like them. I think I just learned trad by placing cams, so my eye is refined for parallel placements and not so much weird pockets? Plus they’re kinda hard to place? I dunno. Someone come confiscate them from me.
  5. Omega Pacific Link Cams: Honestly, I have these mostly because they are really fun to play with. I grabbed them because they were such a cool idea, but they’re so damn heavy and I’m a little sketched out by them. Like, if you compress them just past the first hinge, aren’t they really tipped out and therefore not solid? I’ve used them on multi-pitch by just saving them for gear anchors (in that respect, they’re pretty sweet), but otherwise, I typically don’t use them.
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All the weird stuff.

Lastly (as far as gear goes), around 2005, a friend of mine got stoked on big walls and wanted to climb El Cap like…the next year. I told him I wasn’t ready to go that soon so he found another partner, but we still messed around with some aid/big wall while he practiced.

Total side story–his partner eventually said he wasn’t ready for El Cap either, but they went to the Valley for smaller stuff anyways. Before leaving, my buddy told me he had a plan: he was going to get them to do the first pitch of the Nose, and then, at the first belay, tell the guy he had secretly stashed all the gear they needed for a full ascent and they just had to haul it up and do it. Unsurprisingly, it did not happen.

During this phase I picked up some lightweight aiders, ascenders, gloves, and a Petzl Pro Traxion and we used it on a badass but unnecessary two-day + one-night ascent of the Glass Menagerie on Looking Glass. It was actually one of the most memorably experiences of my climbing career–unfortunately it wore me out so much that I haven’t aided since.

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Are you into masochism? Try big wall climbing!!

A couple things not in the original picture:

After growing out of the BD Momentum harness, I snagged a BD Chaos harness during my sport climbing phase. It was pretty slick and light, but I eventually needed more gear loops and padding and picked up a Misty Mountain Cadillac. I love it so much, and not just because it’s a local NC company (although that helps).

I also picked up a Mammut Smart belay device (now sold as the Mammut Smart 2.0) randomly one day and pretty much immediately loved it for TR belaying in the gym. When the BD Magnetron came out, I nerded out on it a bit and paired the Smart with the GridLock Magnetron. Now, I use them for pretty much any gym or single pitch climbing now. Not pictured is a set of belay specs, which is indispensable for the same purpose.

Those, plus a sweet CCC + Misty collaboration chalk bag, is my setup for the gym and sport/TR.

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The daily driver.

Finally, shoes. I started out with Evolv Defy’s, then some Mad Rock shoes that turned my toes neon green, then some more Evolv’s (Kaos I think?).

Then, I won a free pair of Scarpa’s about 5 years ago and figured I’d try some Feroce’s. They fit my foot so much better than Evolv! AND they didn’t stink to high heaven. I’ve resole and re-upped those for years now as my try-hard shoe. Sadly, Scarpa discontinued them recently so I’ve been trying to find a replacement. Those are on the lower right.

Lower middle are the classic Air Tommy’s. Any crack or even slab brings em out.

The lower left are 5.10 Copperheads–I also won these and thought they’d be great for trad but unless you are climbing splitter hand cracks, they’re not great. They’re too soft and don’t fit tight enough for edging. So I mostly use them when I have no other option.

Top middle were my approach shoes for years–the La Sportiva Boulder X. I loved them. Great for hiking, but they also feature a pretty tight toe box if you wanted to edge in them. I wore the hell out of them.

I was told that the La Sportiva TX4’s (top right) were like the Boulder X but better, so I picked those up and currently use them for approaches. They’re pretty sweet but the toe box isn’t as tight–they’re more comfortable but I also don’t like edging in them as much.

Lastly, are the shoes on the top left. The Boulder X Mid. Amazing shoes if you want a little more of a workhorse in your approach shoes.

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OMG shoes.

The Boulder X Mid are even more special for another reason: I bought them for one of my favorite trips I’d been on.

Remember that cover image from Freedom of the Hills that got me into trad? I bought those babies for a trip to the Bugaboos. They took me up a group solo up Mount Sir Donald’s NW Ridge and took me to and from the classic Snowpatch Spire (SE Corner…in a hailstorm) and Bugaboo Spire (NE Ridge). Pretty cool to have it all come together.

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Coming off Bugaboo Spire–a dream realized.

 

Building a rack is an unending process, and so the journey continues!

 

Any gear questions? Ask in the comments!

 

This Gear Stash post is Part 5 of 11 and is sponsored by Backcountry. This means, all opinions are 100% the author’s and there has been no manipulation of the gear being displayed, but gear links go directly to Backcountry’s website when available. This sponsorship helps to keep WeighMyRack alive, to pay authors, and allows more articles to be written. Also, since Backcountry has the biggest online selection of climbing gear of any US retailer, it made sense for us to partner with them for our Gear Stash stories.

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