It was my first alpine climb and I was going to lead all 4 pitches of the West Ridge of Prusik Peak, rated 5.7 due to an unprotectable slab in the middle of the route. My partner had climbed the peak before and said I should take a light rack. He recommended half a set of nuts and 4 cams. WHAT?!

All my previous trad climbs were at crags like Smith Rocks and Squamish. They involved fixed anchors and double racks. Now I was told to take half a rack on a multi-pitch alpine climb.

I was frightened without even knowing what the climb entailed. I ran home to read copious amounts of beta online. Most of the gear recommendations I saw suggested a full rack: all the nuts and a complete set of cams. A few reports even suggested doubling up on some of the cams, if you wanted to play it safe.

My fright level increased. Obviously my partner was overconfident in my abilities. Clearly we should be taking more gear.

On the day of the climb before heading out of the parking lot I asked my partner: Are you sure this is all the rack we should take? as I looked questioningly at the pitiful pile of pro. I offered the suggestion: Maybe a few more cams? Or how about we add in these tri-cams? I held up all the extra protection I brought, looking for his approval. I assumed he must have misspoken during his earlier recommendation.

My partner hadn’t misspoke. His reply was simple: You can take whatever you want, you’re carrying the rack.

Now I was faced with a new dilemma: what extra gear would be worth the weight during the grueling 10-mile approach? I debated with myself before sneaking a set of tri-cams into my pack.

During the climb I made sure every anchor was built with slung horns or tri-cams. I’d use nuts in a pinch and relied on natural pro as much as humanly possible. There was no way I was wasting my precious cams until I absolutely needed them.

My mindset, to conserve cams at all costs, actually resulted in me using almost no cams the entire route. When I wrote a trip report later, I was proud to report that half a rack was ample, and listed tri-cams under “optional” equipment.

Years later I returned to the peak with a new partner for his first alpine lead. I suggested he lead the whole thing and told him that half a rack would definitely be enough. He had looked at me in disbelief. And as we geared up for the climb, I found that he too had snuck in a set of tri-cams.

Alison Dennis

Alison Dennis

Alison (she/her) runs WeighMyRack from her 17' travel trailer. She is currently touring the US and would love if you contacted her to meet up to talk about climbing, climbing gear, or if you have any fun and/or ridiculous adventure in mind.

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