Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Using Your Rope in Anchors

It's not uncommon for us to get up to an anchor point only to find that we've left our cordellete on our partner's harness or to find that it is impossible to hear.  Most people will just deal with these problems without thinking outside-the-box.  One outside the box thought though is to use your rope for these things.

This first photo was taken in Red Rock Canyon at the start of the "Tunnel Pitch" on Tunnel Vision (III, 5.7).  If you're not familiar with this route, it is an absolutely stellar ascent.  On the fourth pitch, one has the opportunity to actually climb through the mountain in a tunnel. In other words, the route requires a bit of vertical spelunking.

The top of the third pitch, at the start of the tunnel, it is difficult to see or hear the second.  The route follows a corner and chimney system up the wall.  In order to see my climber, I built an anchor and then, using the rope, extended the anchor to the edge where it was far less difficult to see and hear.

Some might argue that this system lacks redundancy.  I'm not too worried about that as I can see the whole anchor to ensure that there is no rubbing and we never have redundancy in the rope while we're climbing with a single line...

This second picture was taken in Leavenworth, Washington on one of our AMGA Single Pitch Instructor courses.  The assignment was for the student to create a fixed line across a catwalk on the slab shown.  This particular student didn't have the webbing or the cordellete to create a perfect SRENE anchor.  Instead, he built a pre-equalized anchor with his rope. In this application, this worked really well.

In this picture, another Single Pitch Instructor candidate built a top-rope anchor, wrapping a rope around a boulder and tying it off with a double-bowline.  In order to create some flexibility in the anchor he tied an figure-eight on a bite and clove-hitched it to the line going to the edge of his top-rope anchor.

This last picture shows a close-up of the figure-eight and the clove-hitch mentioned above.

Flexibility and thinking outside the box are two major tenants of climbing efficiency.  One way to be efficient and to be flexible and to be outside-the-box is to use your rope for anchoring instead of other materials.  Your rope is always on you and as such, it definitely provides an option that really shouldn't feel like it's that far out-of-the-box...

--Jason D. Martin


Anonymous said...

Very informative article. I would just take care in extending anchors with dynamic rope. Loading of an extended anchor built with a dynamic rope can cause your "anchor point" to reposition itself (possibly to somewhere you were not expecting)I with the amount of stretch in dynamic climbing rope.

Eric said...

Its crazy to think that using your rope to build an anchor is "thinking outside the box" for any climber. Seems like a very basic skill any climber should possess, other than that good article.

American Alpine Institute said...


Great comment and very apt. Ropes stretch 8-12%. So you should figure the length of the rope out and look at what approximately ten percent more might look like.

You could also weight the power-point to see how far it stretches.


Hightower Studio said...

In the second picture the carabiner looks cross-loaded.

Troy Shellhamer said...

I would like some clarification on the first picture. It seems there is only 1 anchor up top where the rope is clove hitched?

Why is this OK since there is only 1 anchor?

Troy Shellhamer

Jason Martin said...

There is a multi-point anchor in the top picture. This is extended by the rope. You can't see the baseline anchor since it's in the cave.

If you're question relates to the rope not being redundant, this is the case whenever you're climbing on the rope. It is the strongest part of the system.

Let me know if you have more questions.


Troy Shellhamer said...

Thanks. That explains my question regarding the multi-point. I didn't see the baseline anchor, and thought it looked like a cam or some pro plugged into the crack. I get it now.

I appreciate the quick response!