Monday, June 4, 2012

Jengis Anchors #1

"Jengis" - Slang for bogus, messed up, piece o' crap, or, more formally, that which does not uphold the standards and conventions of established safety protocol.

"Jengis Anchors" - Not SRENE. Unsafe. For whatever reason the person making the anchor did not think that safety was important (or simply wasn't thinking).

Okay. So I promise I'm not a jerk. But seriously, you've got to check these baaaad anchors out. These are real anchors that I found while climbing and guiding in the Ouray area this winter. They are proof that, despite the plethora of knowledge out there, some people should really take an instructional course about anchor building. What's even scarier is that some of these anchors were built by group leaders that brought beginner climbers out for the day. Yikes!

I'll go over each anchor's problems and ways to fix it.

Case #1: Rappel Anchor
This is a rappel anchor I came across in the backcountry. There are two good cords tied around the tree. That part is fine. The bad part is next: There is one quicklink and one carabiner to rappel from. Really? Either two carabiners OR two quicklinks should be used. The way it is now, while there is some sort of redundancy, the two are not equalized. If the quicklink fails, the system will shock load the carabiner.

Case #2: Tree Anchor A
So I came across the following few anchors one right after another. Either one maniac is creating all these anchors, or there is some kind of misinformation being spread among the climber communities out there. This anchor is made of one piece of webbing, tied in a loop and girth hitched around the tree. There is then a single locker (on the right of the photo) on which the anchor relies. There is no redundancy in any part of this anchor. 

Case #3: Tree Anchor B
Again, the same setep. One piece of webbing girth hitched around the tree, with a single locker. If any part of this anchor fails, the anchor will fail. What to do instead? Instead of girth hitching the webbing loop around the tree, tie a proper SRENE knot, like a figure-8 on a bight.

Case #4: Tree Anchor C
Yep, same deal again. Yikes.

Case #5: Tree Anchor D
Well, you've got to give this person "some" credit. The webbing has been tied correctly to make the cord redundant. But there's only one locker! This anchor should have a second, opposite and opposed locking carabiner to make the anchor redundant. If the single carabiner fails, the anchor will fail. Yikes again!

Okay, that's all I can take for now. I'll be posting more as I dig them up. In the meantime, keep building safe anchors out there. Be a part of the safe, educated climbers out there!

--Mike Pond, instructor and guide


Josh said...

Those anchors are mank? Really?

seano said...

Great post, Mike, and scary pics for sure. Quick question: In the first tree anchor pic, you said there's only a single locker, but I see 2. Granted, they're not opposed, and they both rely solely on that girth-hitched runner, but that increases the redundancy a tiny bit, no? Just curious. Thanks

Anonymous said...

One question then for the first anchor - what do you think of using a single non-locker taped shut, and skipping the link altogether? At least one quite reputable AMGA guide has told me that rapping off of a single, taped-shut non-locker is perfectly acceptable when bailing in the alpine... Obviously, no reason not to over-bomber everything at the local crag, but the alpine's a bit of a different story...

Anonymous said...

I wanted to ask on the concept of a single carabiner causing a failure of the entire system. Is it not true that when you are belaying then there is a single carabiner in the system as well. the use case here is for top rope, so why should a single locking carabiner not be good enough. I do agree redundancy is good and I would and do use 2 opposing lockers

Mike Pond said...

Good questions. Sorry it's taken me a little while to get back - I've been up on Denali. Here goes:

The first picture, the one with the quick link and a carabiner, can be improved by having two pieces of the same size, either two quicklinks or two carabiners. That way, both share the load, as well as the redundancy. The way it is in the picture, the quicklink alone has 100% of the load and the carabiner is a fully unweighted. Many quicklinks are not rated for full loads (i.e. I have seen some on climbs that are rated to 250 lbs).

I rappel off of a single carabiner frequently. Are two better? Yes. With two biners, there is not a single point of failure for the system. But the chances of a single locked locker (or non-locker taped shut) coming unlocked and opening while you rappel are small enough that I see it as an acceptable practice. Note that one is not concerned with the failure strength of the carabiner (at over 20kN), as much as the carabiner opening and dislodging the rope.

As a side note, you do not always have to rappel off of a carabiner. You can rappel off of a cordalette with the rope directly running through it. We use biners as the rappel point to allow for multiple rappels, as pulling a rope through a cordalette (after the rappel) will quickly burn through your cord. In the alpine, though, you will save biners and not have to worry about a biner opening if you rappel off of a (strong, safe) cordalette. For this reason, always beware of in situ cords - make sure to check the safety of your anchors!

Climb safe,