At the end of last year, Pete Whittaker and Dan McManus completed the second ascent of Secret Passage 5.13c (8a+) on El Capitan (see Pete's blog here).
While tackling the 15 pitch route, Pete was also giving the new Syncro harness an extremely thorough test and he's written a guest review for us:
Having just been on a big walling trip to Yosemite I had the chance to really test the comfort of the new Wild Country Syncro harness. I was climbing on the steepest part of El Capitan with 10 of the pitches being overhanging, so I really got to test comfort levels on a hanging belay.
The new shape of the waist band does provide more protection round the sensitive parts above your hip bones. The harness also has small, built in, stiff foam panelling to help prevent buckling of the waist band. The leg loops have the same design as the waist band and have built in, stiff foam inserts which stop them pinching together. Overall I think it held out really well; admittedly after very long stints on hanging belays it did become uncomfortable, but I don’t know of a light weight climbing harness that wouldn’t.
The harness has 7 gear loops and extra ice screw loops. I’m unable to comment on the ice screw loops as I’m not an ice climber. However the standard gear loops I put to good use with the amount of gear I had to carry on a Big Wall. I took a double set of all Friend sizes along with a normal standard rack. For me it was massively beneficial to have the extra two upper loops above the two main ones as I was able to carry more pieces without my other gear loops becoming too stacked up. Carrying this much gear on your harness is always going to feel clustered, I think it’s impossible to completely overcome this, but the extra gear loops just help spread the rack around your harness evenly. The other positive was that the gear loops felt to be in sensible places.
The front loop: When it was racked the gear didn’t drape over the inside of your leg compared to past harnesses I’ve used and kept it easily accessible on the outside of your leg.
The upper centre loop: With gear racked on this there was minimal overlap onto the other gear loops.
The back gear loop: not too far round the back so you could never reach it. The gear loop was more out of sight when you weren’t in comfortable positions to twist round and have a look, so I tended to use this loop for quickdraws so you could just reach and grab.
The back centre gear loop: right at the back and out the way which was really useful for things you were never going to use on the pitch, i.e. tagging a haul line, prusiks, belay plate, etc.
Regarding the straps at the back of the harness that hold the leg loops up to the waist band, I was pleased to see that Wild Country had used clips at the attachment point. Fantastic to be able to go for a hanging poo 1000ft up a big wall.
I think Wild Country were actually going for quite a light weight design with this harness, looking at the material selection and amount of material used. The fact that I climbed, fell off, belayed, ate, pooed and slept in this harness for 9 days solid, and I didn’t want to lob it off the edge when I got to the top, puts into perspective what a good job Wild Country have done and what it would be like for a sensible day at the crag.
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