What does this actually mean?
Well, first it means that the American Death Triangle is really bad...
From the Chockstone Website
If an anchor is composed of two pieces, and one piece is directly above the other piece, and you are using a pre-equalized knot on a cordellete clipped to the pieces, then you are likely to be close to completely equalized at your master-point. The photo below shows a three piece anchor with low angles between the pieces. The low angles make this a very good anchor. However, due to the fact that the pieces are not completely in line with one another, the anchor cannot be truly equalized.
Guides believe that this is an acceptable anchor.
Photo from Splitter Climbing Gear
When the angle on a two-point anchor increases, so too does the load on each piece. The theory is that when there is no or a very low angle -- under 20 degrees -- the pieces are close to equalized. When the angle increases to 40 degrees, then 54% of the load is on each piece. As the angle increases to 80 degrees, then 70% of the load is on each piece. And when the angle increases to 120 degrees, then 100% of the load is on each piece.
The following chart from the Technical Manual for Mountain Guides from the AMGA, demonstrates this with proposed weight of 1000 pounds.
The video savvy Canadian guide, Mike Barter, put together a great video on this subject for youtube.com. He uses a number of visual demonstrations throughout the video to show how weight affects an anchor as the angle increases. Check out the video below:
--Jason D. Martin