Now you’d be hard pressed to call the Climbing Zone attitude free, so a little sincerity goes a long way. But the folks at Metolius are so disarmingly modest, we’re sometimes in danger of missing their newest gear. In any event, you have to look closely to see their latest design innovation: Metolius’ new climbing harness buckle. It’s bigger than two stacked quarters, but just barely.
This’s where the copywriter inserts the product name. But when I asked about this during the product demo, the fellow designers (Doug Phillips and Jim Karns) extemporized: So we capitalize the buckle’s narrative function: Metolius’ Quick Release Buckle. Don’t be surprised if Metolius makes up their own name for this buckle by the time it’s delivered.
Here’s what the Metolius website says: (Nothing yet: the buckle’s too new.)
This buckle’s a bit bigger deal than that. We’ve handled nearly every harness and buckle since we last tied-on with a bowline-on-a-coil looped around a somewhat slimmer waist. Fall on the bowline a couple times and you’re using a knife to open the rig. What could be safer? Well, any modern harness, properly maintained and secured, is probably safer than the anachronistic bowline-on-coil. But after proper maintenance/retirement dialectic, securing a new harness can be an existential problem. Notice the last thing new climbers are taught to do before exchanging climbing signals? “Check your partners’ harness.”
A recent online forum discussion recalls an early scene of the “Cliffhanger” movie. You know the one where the girlfriend’s harness buckle opens and she falls just out of Sly’s reach? The movie falls even further. But the recent online forum describes a real-life harness buckle, though properly fastened, loosening, then opening under load. The harness leg loops stayed in place and the fall was arrested. But still, with the newer buckle systems that don’t loop-double back through the buckle, potential “issues” exist, from what we’ve read.
For opening most (“quick release”) harness buckles, we lever-up the top buckle-fitting to release the webbing threaded though the buckle fittings. Simple. When loosened, we just push the buckle down the webbing to open the harness. The pressure/friction of the tightened buckle against the webbing keeps the buckle closed. Loosen the buckle a bit and the webbing’s got a chance to run free.
The new wrinkle? Metolius’ buckle will ONLY slide open if we definitely hold apart the two buckle fittings with two fingers, then slide the buckle loose. Sounds minor until you consider the alternative. The new Metolius buckle’s a huge improvement, yet barely bigger than two stacked quarters. And it’s subtle.
Look closely at the photo. See how the top-fitting sits flat, down, exactly matching the corresponding “slot” of the lower-fitting? Kinda like sliding a coin to just fit inside a beer-bottle cap. Open these fittings and loosen the webbing a bit, then try to slide the harness open. The two fittings slam shut as soon as the webbing moves. I must hold the fittings slightly apart for the webbing to move through the closure fittings. Let go of the two fittings and the buckle slams shut again, locking the harness tight. Hold the fittings a slightly apart and the buckle runs open over the webbing quickly as you want. Start to let the buckles drift together and the buckle grabs tight…you get the idea: the free “release and run” and “locked tight” continuum favors buckle closure, unless you’re definite about wanting the harness open.
All the convenience of a quick release harness buckle, with safety perfectly balanced against the climber’s intention. You want the harness open: it’s easy and quick opening if you manipulate the fittings with two fingers. Do nothing and the thing’s locked tight, no matter what.
Engineering, trial-and-error, patented. Simple and safest harness closure we’ve seen since we tied our last ring-bend knot on a surplus, 1-inch tubular swami.
$90 – $105