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Climbing Anchors (Field Guide)

Table of contents :
About the Authors
Chapter One: Natural Anchors
Chapter Two: Chocks
Chapter Three: Spring-Loaded Camming Devices
Chapter Four: Bolts
Chapter Five: Fall Forces
Chapter Six: Judging the Direction of Pull
Chapter Seven: Knots for Anchoring
Chapter Eight: Belay Anchors
Chapter Nine: Toprope Anchors
Chapter Ten: The Joshua Tree System
Rappel Anchors

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C l i m b® S e r i e s

Climbing Anchors Field Guide Second Edition

John Long and Bob Gaines

FALCONGUIDES ® An imprint of Rowman & Littlefield Falcon, FalconGuides, Outfit Your Mind, and How to Climb are registered trademarks of Rowman & Littlefield. Distributed by NATIONAL BOOK NETWORK Copyright © 2007, 2014 by John Long and Bob Gaines All photos by Bob Gaines unless otherwise credited Illustrations © Mike Clelland All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote passages in a review. Portions of this book were previously published in Climbing Anchors by John Long (FalconGuides, 2006, and Chockstone Press, Inc., 1993), More Climbing Anchors by John Long and Bob Gaines (Chockstone Press, Inc., reprinted by FalconGuides, 1996), How to Rock Climb by John Long (FalconGuides, 2003), Climbing Anchors, 2nd Edition, by John Long and Bob Gaines (FalconGuides, 2013), Climbing Anchors Field Guide by John Long and Bob Gaines (FalconGuides, 2007), Toproping by Bob Gaines (FalconGuides, 2012), and Rappelling by Bob Gaines (FalconGuides, 2013). British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Information available Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data available ISBN 978-0-7627-8208-6 (paperback) The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI/ NISO Z39.48-1992.

Warning: Climbing is a dangerous sport. You can be seriously injured or die. Read the following before you use this book.

This is an instruction book about rock climbing, a sport that is inherently dangerous. Do not depend solely on information from this book for your personal safety.Your climbing safety depends on your own judgment based on competent instruction, experience, and a realistic assessment of your climbing ability. There is no substitution for personal instruction in rock climbing, and climbing instruction is widely available.You should engage an instructor or guide to learn climbing safety techniques. If you misinterpret a concept expressed in this book, you may be killed or seriously injured as a result of the misunderstanding. Therefore, the information provided in this book should be used only to supplement competent personal instruction from a climbing instructor or guide. Even after you are proficient in climbing safely, occasional use of a climbing guide is a safe way to raise your climbing standard and learn advanced techniques. There are no warranties, either expressed or implied, that this instruction book contains accurate and reliable information. There are no warranties as to fitness for a particular purpose or that this book is merchantable.Your use of this book indicates your assumption of the risk of death or serious injury as a result of climbing’s risks and is an acknowledgment of your own sole responsibility for your safety in climbing or in training for climbing. The authors and Rowman & Littlefield assume no liability for accidents happening to, or injuries sustained by, readers who engage in the activities described in this book.

Contents Introduction.............................................................................. vii

Simple Anchors Chapter 1. Natural Anchors.................................................1 Chapter 2. Chocks................................................................. 14 Nuts...................................................................................... 14 Oppositional Nuts........................................................... 26 Micro-Nuts......................................................................... 28 Hexes................................................................................... 33 Tricams................................................................................ 36 Big Bros............................................................................... 38

Chapter 3. Spring-Loaded Camming Devices........ 39 Chapter 4. Bolts....................................................................... 60 Chapter 5. Fall Forces.......................................................... 71 Chapter 6. Judging the Direction of Pull................... 75 Chapter 7. Knots for Anchoring...................................... 79

Anchor Systems Chapter 8. Belay Anchors.................................................. 89 SRENE Anchors................................................. 92 Cordelettes.. .......................................................... 95 The Sliding X................................................... 105 The Equalette.................................................... 112 The Quad.......................................................... 116 Composite Anchors: Cordelette, Sliding X, and Equalette.............................. 119 Upward Oppositional Anchors.......................... 120 Belay Methods.................................................... 122

Chapter 9. Toprope Anchors........................................... 130 Chapter 10. The Joshua Tree System......................... 137 Chapter 11. Rappel Anchors........................................... 149

C ontents


About the Authors twenty-five books, with over one million copies in print. He is the principal author of the How to Climb® series. His short-form literary stories have been widely anthologized and translated into many languages. John won the 2006 Literary Award for excellence in alpine literature from the American Alpine Club.

courtesy of John Long

John Long is the author of

fied Rock Instructor who has been teaching rock climbing since 1983. He is the owner/ director of Vertical Adventures Climbing School, based at Joshua Tree National Park, California. He has trained US Military Special Forces, including the elite US Navy SEAL Team 6. Bob has also worked extensively as a climbing stunt coordinator on over forty television commercials. He was the chief safety officer for the movie Cliffhanger and doubled for Captain Kirk when Kirk free soloed El Capitan in Star Trek V. Bob is also the author of Rappelling, Toproping, Best Climbs Joshua Tree National Park, and Best Climbs Tahquitz and Suicide Rocks, and the coauthor of Rock Climbing:The AMGA Single Pitch Manual, which is the textbook for the AMGA’s Single Pitch Instructor Course.

Patty Kline

Bob Gaines is an AMGA Certi-

Introduction Climbing Anchors Field Guide is a companion guide to the much larger Climbing Anchors. Many readers would study anchor fundamentals in the large book (or prior anchor manuals), but when they ventured onto the rock and had to work strictly from memory, they sometimes struggled to remember the details. What’s more, toting Climbing Anchors to the cliffside was neither practical nor desired. So take this book instead. That’s what it was made for. Remember:

Basic Anchor-Building Facts

• “Perfect” rarely exists in real world climbing anchors.

• No single rigging technique will work in every situation.

• Trad climbers must efficiently improvise on a handful of anchor-building techniques.

• The ability to improvise requires a thorough understanding of basic principles.

• Climbing anchors always involve compro-

mises—the trick is to understand what you should and should not compromise at a given place on the rock.


The fine points of the systems remain works-inprogress as new materials, equipment, and refinements are introduced into the field and marketplace. Nevertheless, the material in this edition represents the combined, cutting-edge knowledge of both professional guides and leading climbers worldwide.



C h a p t e r

O n e

Natural Anchors

Natural Anchors Are:

• Anything the environment provides—trees, blocks, horns of rock, etc.

• Often more secure than gear-built anchors. • Typically easy and fast to arrange. • Multidirectional (can be loaded from any direction).

• By and large environmentally friendly.

When Anchoring to a Tree . . .

• Make sure it is alive. • Strive for a minimum diameter of 12 inches. • Tie it off as low as possible to reduce leverage.


A bomber pine tree tied off with a cordelette. Here the cordelette has been looped around the trunk and tied with a figure eight loop, creating redundancy in both the cord around the tree and the two loops at the master point, which the carabiners are clipped into. Simple, strong, and redundant. In all such setups, try to keep the inside angle of the cord/sling less than 90 degrees to avoid load multiplication.



Bad. Not only is this rigging nonredundant, the sling is too short, so the carabiner is being loaded in three directions. This is known as triaxial loading.

Very bad. The sling is too short, and the single carabiner has shifted so the load is on the minor axis, straight outward on the gate. Natural Anchors


A rigging rope tied directly to a tree using a bowline knot with a fisherman’s backup. Remember, a bowline knot requires a backup knot, because it can work itself loose if the tail is too short.



Remember . . .

• Only their mass and position keep boulders and blocks in place.

• To serve as secure anchors, boulders and

blocks must be sufficiently large and totally immovable.

This large block is well situated, and is bomber for the direction of pull for which it is rigged. As always, appraising the integrity of a natural rock anchor involves judgment. Carefully examine for cracks in the block. And most importantly, how well is the block attached to the main rock structure? If you decide to use a detached block, how big is it: the size of your car or the size of your boom box? Does it rest on a flat platform or a sloping shelf? As a general rule, many climbers avoid rigging anchors off detached blocks and flakes. Natural Anchors


A monolithic, but detached block. A good rule of thumb for using detached blocks is one Bob adopted from Yosemite Search and Rescue Team protocol: For a detached granite block to be used as an anchor, it must be as large as a full-size refrigerator resting lengthwise on a flat surface.

This block is being incorporated as a component in a larger anchor system. While not as big as a fridge, it is situated low and cradled among other blocks, making it virtually immovable. 6


This beefy horn of rock is “attached to the planet,” which is what you’re looking for, rather than a detached formation sitting “on top of the planet.” The cordelette is doubled around the horn and tied with an overhand knot, making the cord itself redundant—an extra precaution to safeguard against the cord being cut by a sharp edge.

Natural Anchors


Whatever the Rock Feature . . .

• Look out for sharp edges. • Test the security of the feature by thumping it with the heel of your hand. Anything that wiggles or sounds hollow is suspect.

• Look for surrounding cracks. • Tie off as close to the main wall as possible, to reduce leverage.

• Tie off with runners, slipknotting if the form is rounded.

Using a slipknot to sling a horn.



How to tie a slipknot. A slipknot can be tightened down by pulling on one strand, making it a good choice for tying off knobs of rock.

Natural Anchors


A double-length (48-inch) nylon sling girth-hitched to a horn of rock. If this were to be used for pro, the rope action through the carabiner might loosen the sling. A better setup is to choke the sling back on itself.

Although this configuration weakens the sling by 30 to 40 percent, it increases the chances of the sling staying put.

Using a sling or cord threaded through a tunnel or pocket is called a thread. This thread anchor uses a 5mm Bluewater Titan cordelette (3,080 lbs. tensile strength), doubled first, threaded through, then tied with an overhand knot, giving tremendous redundancy and quadruple strength in the cord itself. This thread is in strong granite; this same tunnel in a softer rock, like sandstone, would be much weaker and unreliable. Also, the arch of rock just above the cord appears to be partially cracked, a sign of a structural integrity deficit. Natural Anchors


Threads like this are rare in granite, but more common in limestone. Here a low-stretch rigging rope is tied with a bowline and fisherman’s backup.

Tensile Strength vs. Loop Strength


trength ratings for cord and webbing are often given as tensile strength and loop strength. Tensile strength is tested by a straight pull on a single strand of the material with no knots, done by wrapping the material around a smooth bar (4 inches in diameter gives the most accurate test) on both ends and pulling until it breaks. Loop strength is strength of the material tested in a loop configuration, either tied with a knot or, in the case of webbing, sewn with bartacked stitching. In general, webbing loop strength when tied with a water knot is about 80 percent of twice the tensile breaking strength, and bartacked sewn webbing loop strength is generally about 15 percent stronger than the same material tied with a water knot, depending on the quality and number of bartacks.

Left—A chockstone tied off with a girth-hitched sling. This chockstone, while good for a straight-down pull, only has surface contact at the top left, and looks like it could pivot free if any outward or upward force is applied. Natural Anchors


C h a p t e r

T w o

Chocks Nuts

Basic Rules of Placing a Good Nut

• The nut has to be bigger—if only a bit—than

the section of crack below where it is lodged.

• Slot the nut that most closely corresponds to the geometry of the crack.

• Whenever possible, set the nut where the

crack not only pinches off in the downward direction but also in the outward direction.

• Orient the nut so the cable or sling points in the expected direction of pull/loading.

• Try to get the majority of the nut set against the rock, maximizing the amount of surface contact.

• Avoid endwise placements if possible, as they tend to be less secure.

• If you have a choice, go with the bigger nut, as it is generally more secure, with more surface area contacting the rock.

• Make sure the placement is well seated, with no movement or rattle when weighted by hand.


Use the SOS Acronym to Assess a Nut Placement


Structural integrity of the rock itself. Look for straight-in cracks in massive rock; avoid flakes, blocks, and rotten cracks. Orientation. Place the nut with the antici­ pated direction of pull in mind. It may hold a ton in one direction but be easily dislodged with a tug in the opposite direction. Surface Contact. Always strive for maximum flushness between the faces of the chock and the rock.

Both sides of this Stopper have great surface contact, and the constriction of the crack corresponds with the shape of the taper. Chocks


Like a man in the wrong-size trousers, this Black Diamond Stopper does not fit the slot. A desirable placement would involve a larger Stopper placed normally (rather than endwise), with the main faces of the chock flush with the walls of the crack. This nut has all the earmarks of sketchy pro: poor surface contact, susceptibility to an outward force plucking it from the crack, and instability from sitting on the flat base of the nut. On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being bomber), this Stopper is about a 2. 16


This Metolius Curve Nut has great flushness on the right wall of the crack, but the left side has negligible surface contact on gritty, grainy rock. Dicey! Because endwise placements are generally less stable, always strive to get a flush fit with as much surface contact as possible. According to Metolius, the design of Curve Nuts, while not technically “offset,” gives them added stability in flares. If you wiggled this nut around a bit, you’d likely find an ideal placement—that’s how it usually works. Few cracks are perfectly parallel sided, and slight repositioning can change a marginal placement to something much better—or worse. Chocks


This Stopper is flush on the left side, but the right side has only about 50 percent surface contact, plus the crack opens up immediately below the placement. This placement is not bomber—maybe good enough to hang off, but if this Stopper was all that was keeping you from hitting the deck, you’d best quickly look for other placements.



Stopper in a bottleneck placement. There is simply no way that in a downward pull the nut could be pulled through the bottleneck—something would have to give, either the rock itself or the nut or wire cable breaking.



This Stopper placement is in a good bottleneck and would easily hold a straight downward force, but what makes it borderline marginal is its lack of surface contact on the left side, making it susceptible to being yanked with even nominal outward force. If this is all you’ve got, set it as well as you can with a downward jerk, then test it with an outward tug and see what happens, taking care not to hit yourself in the face or teeth if the nut suddenly pops.



A solid endwise stopper placement: flush surface contact and a lip to the crack to prevent any outward force from dislodging the placement. Chocks


The Stopper placement is flush in this endwise configuration, but how strong is that nubbin of rock on the right wall of the crack? Probably strong enough to hang off, but not strong enough to hold a leader on a 30-foot ripper. Believe it: The principal cause of pro placement failure is rock failure. Protection devices seldom break, but they often rip out, meaning security, not strength, is generally the main issue.

Even though the crack is flared, this offset nut (meaning one edge is wider that the other) has great surface contact and fits the shape of the crack in both dimensions.

An excellent Stopper placement with good surface contact on both sides of the nut.

Both the ball nut and removable bolt are based upon this concept (opposition). While this configuration (“stacked” Stoppers) will work, it is very rarely used. In this case these two Stoppers mate together rather well, and both have flush contact with each other and the wall of the crack.

The direction of pull on protection changes with the next placement. In figure A, the falling climber will impact the protection straight down.



Figure B shows how a fall on protection placed higher and out of a direct line with pieces below will change the direction of pull. Note that the falling climber will not pull straight down on the top piece because of the placement of the previous nut.



Oppositional Nuts Nuts in opposition, tied together with a clove hitch on a sling, can help solve the direction-of-pull dilemma, especially when an SLCD placement is not available. (See the Knots for Anchoring chapter for a detailed description of how to tie a clove hitch.) This configuration will also work for nuts opposed in a horizontal crack.



Here clove hitches have been tied directly into the two nuts to eliminate undesirable angles of pull on the placements. Not only do the clove hitches allow the sling to maintain an optimum angle of pull on the nuts, but as long as some pressure is placed on the anchor, inward forces between the pieces keep each nut well set. This is one of the best ways to rig two opposing wired nuts in a horizontal crack, a rare scenario but not unheard of on trad climbs.




Tips for Using Micro-Nuts

• The tolerances of all micros are quite small, so only ideal placements are secure.

• Owing to the small surface area, micros are reliable only in good rock.

• Lateral forces easily pivot micros out of

cracks; always slot the micro directly in the line of pull. This also prevents tweaking the cable.

• Always extend the placement with a quickdraw. Rope drag can easily displace the micro.

• Avoid placements where the wire is running over an edge.

• Avoid jerking the micro too hard, either

when setting or removing it, lest you prematurely bend, weaken, or even break the wire.



Looking sketchy there . . . This number 6 Micro Stopper (8 kN or 1,798 lbs.) has honorable contact on its left side, but the right side is flush only at the base, making the nut very susceptible to displacement by an outward force. Placed like this, the taper cannot be relied on to hold anywhere near its rated strength. A slightly smaller nut might fit better in the bottleneck. If this is all you have, set the nut well with several sharp, downward tugs, bearing in mind the placement is on the marginal side, untrustworthy for critical situations—like holding a leader fall. Whenever you have a choice between two equally secure placements, go with the bigger nut, as its component strength is higher. But also understand that the quality of both the rock and the placement are typically what make the nut secure or insecure, not the strength of the cable. Chocks


Because of micros’ boxy shape, near parallel-sided cracks often afford the best placements. Careful placement is essential, because the relative differences between a good and bad micro placement are small indeed. While it is tempting to slot the nut deep in the crack, it’s usually better to keep it where you can visually assess the placement. Here the micro shows good, flush surface contact on both sides of the crack. 30


This Black Diamond Micro Stopper has great surface contact on the left side—almost 100 percent flush— which is what you’re looking for. The right side is also nearly flush, plus the nut simply fits the slot. To secure truly bomber placements, scan the crack for the “V-slot” configuration and place the nut that best fits the slot. Remember to set the placement with several downward tugs and give it a test by yanking slightly out and up. A poorly seated nut may hold a ton with a straight, downward load, but may be yanked up and out with a minimal force (like rope drag). Review the breaking strengths of the nuts you buy, and take this into consideration when building your anchor. This number 3 Micro Stopper has a breaking strength of 5 kN (1,123 lbs.), compared to a number 6 Stopper of 10 kN (2,248 lbs.). Chocks


This brass nut shows great surface contact on both of its faces: an excellent placement.

Poor surface contact on this brass RP nut, particularly on the left side, means this marginal placement probably wouldn’t hold a fall, and maybe not even body weight.


This is what to look for: great surface contact on both sides, with the curve of the nut formfitting the slot in the rock. Bomber!

Bomber. Great surface contact. A load on this nut would create a camming effect to further key it into the crack. Chocks


You couldn’t hang your hat on this dud—a common type of endwise placement with beginners. The right side is flush against the wall of the crack, but look at the left side! Minimal surface contact. This nut simply does not correspond to the geometry of the crack and would likely fail if loaded.

A pictureperfect endwise placement— flush contact on both ends, well seated, and bomber. Set it well and you’re good to go. 34


This Black Diamond Hex is well seated in a pocket in the crack, with excellent surface contact on both faces of the chock. When a load is applied, the camming action will kick in, further wedging it in the crack. Placements such as this are great for a downward pull, but must be well set to safeguard against any outward force. If using it as a piece of pro for leading, a quickdraw or sling will help safeguard against this possibility.

Close inspection of this hex placement reveals a lack of flush surface contact on the right side and on the inside of the hex. Also, the rock microstructure is large grained and therefore potentially weak. This could be a problem since the crack really opens up below the nut. Ideally you want the crack narrower below any nut placement so the nut has nowhere to go even if the grainy surface of the rock fails. Chocks



A Tricam placed in the passive mode as a chock.



A Tricam in camming position.

Not good. This Tricam is set in camming mode with the point resting on a crystal, meaning it’s unlikely to withstand much sideways rope wiggle, and it might fall out of the crack under even slight outward pressure.

Big Bros

Big Bros, made by Trango, are available in six sizes to fit cracks ranging from 2.7 inches to 18.4 inches wide. A set weighs almost 3 1⁄2 pounds and costs about $600, but they work like magic—often when nothing else will. With the ends of the Big Bro solidly in contact with the rock (like this) and with the collar tightly cinched, this piece can hold any direction of pull. Big Bros now come color coded for easy size identification.



C h a p t e r

T h r e e

Spring-Loaded Camming Devices The Basic Essentials of Placing SLCDs

• Always align the unit with the stem pointing in the anticipated direction of pull.

• To keep the unit from “walking” because of rope drag during a lead, clip a quickdraw into the sewn sling of the unit.

• Try to place the unit near the outside edge

of the crack, where you can eyeball the cam lobes to determine their position. This also makes it easier to reach the trigger to clean the device.

• Strive for the ideal placement, with the cams deployed/retracted in the most uniformly parallel section of the crack, so the cams cannot open if the unit walks a bit. Metolius puts color-coded dots on the cams to help with lobe positioning, but with others you’ll have to eyeball it. Read and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for cam deployment.

Continued on next page


Continued from previous page

• Use a larger device over a smaller one, but

unless you are absolutely desperate, never force too big a unit into too small a hole. Once the cams are rolled to minimum width, removal, if even possible, is grievous.

• Never trust a placement where the cams are nearly “tipped” (the cam lobes almost fully deployed). In such a position there is little room for further expansion, and stability is poor.

• Never place a rigid-stemmed unit so the

stem is over a lip. A fall can either bend or break the unit. SLCD manufacturer Wild Country recommends using the “Gunk’s tie off” for horizontal placements, which is a pre-tied loop of high-tensile, 5.5mm diameter cord threaded through the hole closest to the cam head. Clipping in to this loop prevents torque on the rigid stem.

• Take some time to experiment with marginal

placements on the ground. Clip a sling into the SLCD and apply body weight to discover just how far you can trust it. But remember— body weight testing is far milder than a lead fall!



This BD Camalot fits this pocket like a pea in a pod. All four cams have magnificent, flush surface contact, and the range of retraction is about 50 percent. To maximize the holding power of the unit, look for each of the cams to contact the rock at lower to mid-expansion range (50 to 90 percent retracted for Camalots). All cams are a little different, so be sure to read the manufacturer’s guidelines on placement for whatever brand you buy. Spring-Loaded Camming Devices


green=go yellow=caution red=stop Camming devices should be placed in the tighter aspect of their range. This flexible-stemmed Metolius unit has colored dots (drilled holes) on the rim of the cams; this placement sits on the borderline between the yellow (caution) and green (go) dots. Metolius recommends their units be placed 75 to 100 percent retracted—a different range than other manufacturer’s devices, because of their different camming angle. This sacrifices some range, but gives higher holding power. So remember, with Metolius units, tighter is better, but it’s wise to leave a few percents off 100 percent tight, so you’ll be able to remove the device easily. 42


Good. This Metolius Power Cam displays optimal green “range finder” dots in a parallel-sided crack.

Spring-Loaded Camming Devices


Poor. Although the range of retraction is acceptable (although borderline between the green and yellow dots), this Metolius Power Cam could easily walk into the wider pod of the crack above the cams, rendering the placement unstable. Also, the outside right cam has poor surface contact and is too close to the edge of the crack. 44


Incorrect use of a rigid-stemmed camming device in a horizontal placement risks shearing the stem. This can be remedied if the unit is pre-tied with a loop of high-tensile cord through the hole in the stem closest to the cam head.

The best option on a horizontal cam placement is to go with a flexible-stemmed unit. It can withstand a downward bend. Spring-Loaded Camming Devices




Poor. This Camalot is retracted only about 10 percent. Based on the “constant camming angle” (engineers call it the logarithmic spiral), a single-axle camming device will theoretically work at any point in the range. Throughout the cam’s rotation, a line drawn from the axle to the cam’s point of contact (with the wall of the crack) will remain at the same angle to a line drawn perpendicular from the stem. However, on a doubleaxle Camalot the most secure placements will be those in the lower to mid-expansion range (50 to 90 percent retracted). Try to shoot for placements where the bottom tips of all four cams come into line. With all camming devices, tighter is better, though Black Diamond recommends you leave at least 10 percent off the tightest retraction for two reasons: One is that in this last 10 percent some of the holding power is lost, and two is that you may not be able to get it out! Here a larger camming device is called for. And if this is all you’ve got—beware. If loaded directly downward, the unit will probably hold body weight, say if you’re aid climbing, but most likely would not hold a severe leader fall. This unit lacks both stability and security, as the cams are not adequately supported, and the unit could possibly twist out of the placement and fail. Also beware of the walking phenomenon. The action of a rope wiggling through a carabiner (or the repeated falling or lowering of someone on a toprope) can force a placement like this to pivot back and forth and walk upward. If the crack is wider above the placement, the cams can possibly open even further, rendering the placement worthless. A long sling can help prevent this, but will not eliminate the possibility altogether. Avoid situations where the camming device may walk into a wider section of the crack, and look for that sweet, tightly retracted placement, ideally in a pod or a crack with parallel-sided walls.

Spring-Loaded Camming Devices


Bomber. This Camalot is retracted about 50 percent. Think of 50 percent as a starting point—shoot for 50 percent or tighter. On a Camalot, 50 percent retraction is when the bases (or bottom edges) of the cam lobes form a 45-degree angle relative to the vertical axis (the direction the stem points), or when the bases of the cams form a 90-degree angle relative to each other. 48


Excellent, the perfect placement. Solid rock, a parallelsided crack, and well-retracted cams (about 75 percent retracted). This is what Bob strives for with all his Camalot placements: nice and tight, where the bottom tips of the cams’ lobes all line up.

Spring-Loaded Camming Devices


This Camalot placement has several problems. While the rock looks sound, the outer cam on the left wall of the crack is too close to the edge. The real problem, however, is the violation of the rule listed in the Black Diamond literature under BAD PLACEMENTS: “Never place a unit so that the cams are offset, e.g., with two cams extended and two cams retracted. It may not hold a fall.” Strive to keep the loading axis (the axle) near the middle. That is, when the SLCD is placed, it forms a shape, and you want the axle to be pretty much dead center in that shape. If the axle is too far to one side or the other of the cam lobes, the physics are all wrong and the loading is unstable. 50


Here the rock is solid and the placement looks bomber. But the gate on the biner is contacting the rock and could possibly open when loaded. Remember that when a carabiner is loaded with the gate open, it loses two-thirds of its strength.

By looping a sling through the SLCD using the “basket” configuration, this carabiner problem is easily remedied. Spring-Loaded Camming Devices


Too tight. This crack is too small for this cam, which is placed with the cams cranked to over 90 percent retraction. Removal might be difficult. Avoid such placements if at all possible, although in dire circumstances with no other options, it is better to risk losing a cam than losing your life.

This Camalot is placed in the middle of its expansion range, but the crack widens appreciably just above the unit. A little rope wiggle could walk the piece up into the opening, rendering it useless. A big hex would fit better in a crack that constricts like this, whereas this camming unit would be better placed in a more parallel section. 52


No! The crack is too flared. This Metolius unit also lacks surface contact on the right outer cam, and the outer cams are in the yellow (caution) dots. This placement may hold body weight for an aid move, but that’s about it. A smaller unit placed deeper and higher in the crack would be advisable.

OK. This Camalot is in a slightly flared crack, with the inside cams retracted tighter than the outside ones, although each set of cams (inside and outside) is within a suitable range and all cams have flush contact with the rock. Most camming units will still work with reasonable holding power in a flared crack up to about a 30-degree flare. Ideally you want a parallelsided crack for a bomber placement. Spring-Loaded Camming Devices


The same crack and same camming device with two different placements. In the top photo the outside cam has poor contact and is too close to the edge of the crack. By flipping the cam around (bottom photo), the gold cam now has flush surface contact with the rock. Since the inside and outside cams are offset, flipping the orientation one way or the other can often afford a better placement, particularly in shallow cracks in corners.



OK, but one size too small. Metolius recommends that if a placement falls in the yellow range, the next larger size unit will put the placement in the green range.

In horizontal placements Metolius recommends that the outer cams be placed on the lower wall of the crack for stability. Spring-Loaded Camming Devices


Dangerous. Remember, the most important thing to first consider with a placement is the structural integrity of the rock itself. Any substantial force applied to this Camalot will result in an outward force against the walls of the crack that would most likely break off this thin flake of rock. 56


Bad. While the placement itself is well retracted and flush, the problem here—and it’s a big problem—is the microstructure of the rock: in this case rotten, flaky rock that most likely will crumble if any significant force is applied to the camming device.

Spring-Loaded Camming Devices


A Camalot placed behind a thick flake of rock as pro for a lead climb. Whenever you’re placing a camming device, first analyze the structural integrity of the rock. The main reason for failure of pro placements is bad rock structure. Here the placement is good, but only as strong as the flake of rock itself. Look for cracks that bisect the plane of the rock face at a 90-degree angle, in massive solid rock. Avoid flakes, blocks, and cracked rock whenever possible. 58


The innovative Link Cams, by Omega Pacific, can cover a size range of up to four standard cams. Bob often saves one at the back of his harness when leading trad climbs for use at the belay anchor, in case he’s used up all the cams of a particular size during the lead and finds he needs that size for a crucial placement at the anchor.

C h a p t e r

F o u r


The 3⁄8-inch diameter hex-head Powers “Power Bolt” expansion bolt with a stainless steel hanger has become somewhat of a minimum standard for climbing anchor bolts. These were formerly known as “Rawl bolts,” but the Rawl brand was acquired by the Powers Company. In good granite the 3⁄8-inch diameter Power Bolt is rated at over 7,000 pounds shear strength, with a pullout strength of roughly 5,000 pounds. If you’re installing bolts, use stainless steel bolts and match them with stainless steel hangers (such as the Petzl hanger shown here) to prevent galvanic corrosion, which is a reaction between two different types of metal. Although stainless bolts are far more expensive than carbon steel bolts, they’ll outlast your lifetime. 60

The two main types of bolts. On the left is a contraction bolt (3⁄8-inch diameter Powers Drive, formerly known as a Rawl Drive), and on the right is the 3⁄8-inch diameter Power Bolt, both manufactured by the Powers Company. Contraction bolts can be easily identified by their mushroom head and are unreliable in soft rock (like sandstone), since they rely on the rock itself to compress the split shaft. In soft rock the hole tolerance is often too big, especially if drilled by hand. Even if a perfect hole is drilled with a rotary hammer power drill, the bolt can groove its way into the soft rock, often without contracting the split shaft enough to produce the tension required for good holding power. In finegrained granite with a proper-size hole, the shaft will contract, and the 3⁄8-inch and 5⁄16-inch diameter sizes are reliable in good, solid rock. The 1⁄4-inch size is usually a relic from the past and must be used with caution. Bolts


Buttonhead contraction bolts (left to right): 3⁄8-, 5⁄16-, and 1 ⁄4-inch sizes.



Learn the difference between these two hangers, one good, one very bad, both manufactured by the SMC Company and stamped “SMC” on the hanger. These are relics of the past, but you might come across this type of hanger on an old trad route. The hanger on the right is the infamous SMC “death hanger,” a moniker that stuck after several such hangers failed under body weight (possibly due to a stress corrosion problem) on Yosemite’s Middle Cathedral Rock. The “bad” SMC hangers are identifiable by a distinctive corrosive discoloration—a yellowish or bronze tint—whereas the “good” SMC hangers (on the left), made from stainless steel, show no signs of corrosion or rust and appear silvery bright, even after twenty-five years. Another noticeable difference is the thickness of the hangers— the “bad” hangers roughly the thickness of a dime, and the “good” hangers roughly the thickness of a quarter. The “good” SMC hangers are reliable, even after thirty years, but use the SMC “death hangers” at your peril. Bolts


Another hanger to watch out for is the infamous “Leeper hanger.” Over 9,000 made it into circulation, and they’ve all been recalled by the manufacturer due to stress corrosion problems in the chrome moly steel. The good news is that they’re easy to identify, due to their odd geometric shape and rusty condition.

This 3⁄8-inch diameter threaded drive bolt, placed in the 1970s at Suicide Rock, is badly corroded with a Leeper hanger to match. Not to be trusted. 64


An old threaded Rawl Drive bolt. A problem with this design is that the outward holding power is only as strong as the threads holding the nut in place. This flaw was responsible for a death in Yosemite on a route on Glacier Point Apron named Anchors Away. If you come across one of these ticking time bombs, make sure the nut is screwed down as far as it will go, and use it with caution.

Behold the woeful “spinner.” This buttonhead bolt protrudes from the hole and the hanger is not flush against the rock. The hole was not drilled deep enough, and when hammered in, the shaft bottomed out in the back of the hole, preventing the head of the bolt from pinning the hanger flush against the rock. Bolts


A relic from the old days, this 1⁄4-inch Rawl Drive buttonhead still looks good after twenty-five years; the “good” SMC stainless steel hanger shows no signs of corrosion. In trad climbing areas most aging 1 ⁄4-inch bolts have been replaced, but you’ll still find some on more obscure climbs, stuck in the stone like slow-ticking time bombs. In fine-grained, iron-hard granite, one of these contraction bolts might hold 2,000 pounds. In anything less than perfect rock, old Rawl buttonheads should never be trusted. Here the placement looks acceptable: The bolt is perpendicular to the plane of the rock face, and the head of the bolt and hanger is flush to the rock. What can’t be judged by visual inspection is the length of the bolt. These 1⁄4-inch buttonheads come in lengths ranging from 3⁄4 inch to 11⁄2 inches. Bob has replaced dozens of 1⁄4-inch bolts over the years. Many were removed simply by putting a claw hammer behind the hanger and prying outward, with about the same force required to pull a nail from a piece of particleboard. 66


Amazingly, this 3⁄8-inch threaded Rawl bolt shows virtually no signs of corrosion after thirty years at Joshua Tree. Stainless steel has become the standard for bolts and hangers, as it protects against corrosion, although many carbon steel bolts are also used because they are less expensive.

What to Do with That Bolt There is no absolutely reliable method to test insitu bolts, but there are plenty of reasons to want to. Here are some suggestions:

• Always consider a

⁄4-inch bolt suspect. They haven’t been placed as anchors for over two decades, though they are still found on older routes. Continued on next page 1



Continued frrom previous page • Make sure the bolt hanger is flush to the wall and not a “spinner,” where the hanger spins freely on the stud. A spinner indicates the hole was drilled too shallow for the bolt stud, or that the bolt stud has crept out from the hole, which happens with contraction bolts. And don’t try to fix the spinner by hammering on it. Had that been possible, the first party would have sunk it. Further hammering can only damage the shank and the head.

• Keep an eye out for cratering, which occurs in

brittle or extremely hard rock and is usually the result of sloppy drilling, which forms a chippedaway crater around the hole.

• Check the hanger for cracks. • If the bolt is a screwhead, make sure the nut is

snug and the threads are in good shape. John learned this after taking a 30-foot grounder (into a snowbank, luckily) when the hanger popped off the denuded threads of such a bolt. If the bolt is a buttonhead, or looks like a machine bolt, again make sure it’s snugly set and free of fatigue cracks.

• If the bolt is clearly bent, or looks to be set in an oblique hole, beware!

• Discoloration is natural enough, but excessive

rust denotes a so-called coffin nail. Use common sense. If the bolt looks funky, don’t trust it. And always back up bolts that don’t meet the modern standard, if possible. A perfect bolt is nearly impossible to pull out, even with an astronomical fall, but there are a lot of bolts out there that are something less than perfect. Better safe than splattered.



A 5⁄16-inch buttonhead contraction bolt with a “good” SMC hanger. A good, flush placement like this, in solid, fine-grained granite, will have over 4,000 pounds of shear strength.

This welded steel cold shut shows signs of corrosion just a few years after installation. Many manufacturers (such as FIXE) now offer the preferable stainless steel cold shuts. While more expensive, they’ll most likely last a lifetime. Bolts


A well-placed, 3 ⁄8-inch stainless Power Bolt matched with a stainless steel hanger. Good to go.

Metolius sells hangers in various colors to match the color of the rock. This is important in areas where bolting is controversial, and reduces visual pollution for non-climbers from bright, shiny hangers. Many climbers go one step further and custom paint the hangers before installation to blend into the rock. 70


C h a p t e r

F i v e

Fall Forces Forces Facts

• Essential peak (dynamic) force load-limiter

qualities in the belay system depend on flex and give in the components.

• Flex and give in the belay system keep

dynamic forces of a real world factor 2 fall lower than forces recorded in the lab during a “simulated factor 2 fall drop test.”

• The top piece always absorbs the greatest

force during a fall; therefore the top piece is the most important component in the entire belay chain—be it a point of protection or the belay anchor itself.

• Make certain, as far as humanly possible,

that the top piece of pro, and not the belay anchor, arrests any and all leader falls.

• The most critical time is when a leader is first leaving the belay and has yet to place the first piece of protection.

• The leader’s protection system is not truly

on-line until a secure piece of protection has been placed.


This climber is running the lead rope through the top piece in the anchor system as he takes off on lead. If he should fall, his full weight will come onto this piece, not the belayer, eliminating the possibility of a factor 2 fall, although unless the belayer is well braced for a pull directly toward this piece, she will get slammed into the wall. The best option is for the leader to place a bomber piece of protection as soon as possible, independent of the belay anchor, probably from his current stance, where the crack looks willing to accept a good piece. 72


Belaying the leader on a multipitch climb. Here the stance is well managed: The belayer has butterflied the rope across the tie-in rope so it feeds out easily during the lead. The yellow cordelette equalizes three anchor placements, and the leader’s rope is clipped into the master point to protect a short traverse at the beginning of the pitch. If the leader falls, all the pieces in the anchor, not just one, come into play, but the belayer better be well braced so they don’t get sucked into the carabiner where the leader’s rope is clipped.

Fall Forces


Climbers on Crimson Cringe in Yosemite. The sooner the leader can get that first bomber piece in (the “jesus nut”) the better, so as to avoid the dreaded factor 2 fall right onto the belayer’s device—a hard catch for the belayer. In this case the leader has done just that, with the first piece placed right above the anchor. If the leader clips the rope into the highest piece of the anchor, and that piece sustains a fall, the belayer will most likely get pulled hard and slammed in that direction. 74


C h a p t e r

S i x

Judging the Direction of Pull Direction of Pull

• Every fall generates a dynamic force that will

pull on the roped safety system from a specific direction or directions.

• The direction of pull is described by a direct

line between the belayer and the first piece of pro (when belaying a leader) or the last piece of pro (when belaying a follower) through which the rope runs.

• Lead protection and belay anchors must sustain loading from every direction of pull that is possible on a specific pitch.

• To accurately judge the direction of pull, you must know where the route goes.

• When the direction of pull is uncertain, a multidirectional belay anchor is required.

• When a swinging fall directly onto protection or onto the belay anchor is possible, the pro and the belay anchor must be built to sustain loading across the full arc of the swing.

• Knowing the direction of pull is to a climber what knowing the direction of a possible ambush is to a foot soldier: essential for survival. 75

On this trad route at Joshua Tree, the leader has made a tactical error, belaying from the side of the pitch instead of moving up higher and belaying from a gear anchor at the crack above. If the follower comes off, 76


the direction of pull will be in an arc below the belayer, and the anchor had better be built to withstand the swinging load.

Judging the Direction of Pull


The leader, now belaying, placed a good directional for the follower before traversing right to his belay. As long as that piece is still clipped, the direction of pull on the belayer and anchor in the event of a fall will be in a straight line toward that last piece. However, when the piece is unclipped, the direction of pull will be in an arc below the belayer, and the anchor will need to withstand the swinging load. 78


C h a p t e r

S e v e n

Knots for Anchoring

Tying the water knot (aka ring bend). 79

Tying the overhand loop.

Tying a figure eight loop. 80


Tying a double fisherman’s knot. Add one more loop around each end to make a triple fisherman’s knot. Knots for Anchoring






Tying a clove hitch. The rope going straight down from the biner in the final illustration is the load strand.







Tying a bowline. The bowline should always be tied with a backup, shown here with half a double fisherman’s for the backup knot (photo 4).

Knots for Anchoring


This page and next: The double loop bowline (aka bowlineon-a-bight) is useful for anchoring with the rope to a twopoint anchor system, such as two bolts at a hanging belay. It can also be used with a rigging rope to equalize two components in a larger anchor system. Back it up with half a double fisherman’s knot (photo 5).



3 84




Tying a prusik knot. Knots for Anchoring


Tying a double loop figure eight. Take a bight of rope and cross it back over itself, forming a loop.

Take two strands of the bight and wrap them around the standing part, then poke them through the loop.

To finish, take the loop at the very end of the bight and fold it down and around the entire knot you’ve just formed.

The double loop figure eight is a great knot to use to equalize two anchor points. You can manipulate the knot by loosening one strand and feeding it through the body of the knot, shortening one loop, which makes the other loop longer.

Tying a Munter hitch on a carabiner.



C h a p t e r

E i g h t

Belay Anchors Cliff Notes on Redundancy

• Redundancy credo: Never trust a single piece of gear.

• Proper redundancy ensures that if any one component fails, the anchor will not automatically fail.

• Redundancy asks that anchor systems be

constructed of multiple components—from the primary placements to the slings and biners used for connecting placements.

• According to NASA, doubling-up (making

redundant) components within any system greatly increases reliability over single component setups. Tripling slightly increases reliability over doubled setups. Quadrupling makes practically no difference.

• In real world climbing you sometimes cannot make redundant every facet of the system, but there is every reason to try.

• A fail-safe anchor, not redundancy per se,

is the ultimate goal, and redundancy is only one important tool to achieve that goal.




Doubled carabiners should always have the gates opposed and reversed. Locking carabiners would provide even more security. 1. The wrong way. Even if one of the carabiners is flipped over so the gates are on opposite sides, the gates are still not technically opposed. 2. The right way. Even if one of the biners flipped over and the gates were on the same side, the direction they open would still be in opposition.



Two oval carabiners with the gates properly opposed and reversed.

Two pear-shaped locking carabiners with the gates opposed and reversed at a toprope master point. 91

SRENE Anchors

• Solid • Equalized

• Redundant • No Extension

Key SRENE Points

• SRENE is an evaluation strategy, not a checklist.

• Observance of every SRENE principle does not guarantee that an anchor will hold a single pound.

• Modern rigging techniques cannot compensate for insecure primary placements.

• With strong primary placements and modern rigging techniques providing security, climbing’s roped safety system is typically very reliable.

Step-by-Step Belay Anchor

• On popular routes the belay stances/ledges are usually well established (though not always ideal). Belay there.

• Further narrow your belay site down to

the most secure, ergonomic, and practical position.



• Locate suitable cracks or rock features to fashion a “good enough” belay anchor.

• Set the most bombproof, primary big nut or camming device you can find—preferably a multidirectional placement—and clip into this while you build the rest of the anchor.

• Determine the direction(s) of pull for both the climber following the pitch and the leader casting off on the next lead.

• Simply and efficiently shore up the primary placement with secondary anchors.

• Try to set the secondary placements in close, but not cramped, proximity.

• If the rock is less than perfect in quality,

spread the anchors out, using several features, to preserve redundancy.

• Using modern rigging techniques, con-

nect the various components of the system together so they function as one unit to safeguard against all possible directions of pull.

• Consider tying into the master point with a clove hitch (to aid adjustability).

• When bringing up a second after lead-

ing a pitch, if possible situate your body in line between the anchors and the anticipated direction of pull. Remember ABC: AnchorBelayerClimber.

• Also remember KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Avoid overbuilding.

Belay Anchors


This photo shows decent technique for tying into an anchor the old-fashioned way, directly with a rope, which might be necessary if you’re short on gear or in some sort of emergency situation. An SLCD and hexentric are tied off tight with clove hitches to a backup SLCD above. The lower SLCD is set as an oppositional piece to hold an upward pull. The belayer is tied into the strand of rope coming down on the left side of the photo, which will minimize extension if the lowest piece fails. Note that the load strands of the clove hitches are cinched nice and tight, with no strands on the gate of the biner. You might consider belaying the second through a biner connected to one of the upper pieces, especially if you’re expecting someone to struggle and hang on the rope. 94



A Standard Cordelette

• Is a statically equalized system that is most

effective when its arms are of equal length.

• Normally consists of an 18-foot piece of 7mm nylon cord tied into a loop with a double fisherman’s knot, or 5.5mm high-tensile cord connected with a triple fisherman’s knot.

To Rig a Cordelette

• Clip the cordelette into the primary anchors, then pull the loops of cord down between each of the pieces.

• Pull the arms of the cordelette tight toward the

anticipated loading direction (direction of pull).

• Align the fisherman’s knot so it is below the

highest primary placement in the system, free and clear of the master point knot.

• Secure the master point with an overhand

knot or, if you have enough cord, a figure eight knot. Tie the master point loop about 4 inches in diameter, roughly the same size as the belay loop on your harness.

• Clip into the master point with a section of the climbing rope, not with a daisy chain, PAS, or other device made of low-stretch material.

Belay Anchors


Rigging a Cordelette To rig a cordelette, first clip the cordelette into the primary anchors, then pull the loops of cord down between each of the pieces. Next, pull the arms of the cordelette tight toward the anticipated loading direction (direction of pull). Make sure to align the fisherman’s knot so it is below the highest placement in the system, free and clear of the master point knot. Secure the master point with an overhand knot or, if you have enough cord, a figure eight knot (as shown here). Tie the master point loop about 4 inches in diameter, roughly the same size as the belay loop on your harness. Attach a locking carabiner and clip to the master point with a section of the climbing rope, not a daisy chain, PAS, or other sling made of static material. 96


V Rigging

This diagram illustrates how a 100-pound load is distributed between two anchor points at various angles. Keep the angle between two anchors as narrow as possible, striving for under 60 degrees. At 120 degrees the load is 100 percent on each anchor! Think of 0 to 60 degrees as ideal, 60 to 90 degrees a caution zone, and over 90 degrees a danger zone. Belay Anchors


V Rigging vs. Triangle Rigging Load per anchor with 100 lb. of force Bottom Angle

V Rigging

Triangle Rigging

30 degrees

52 lb.

82 lb.

60 degrees

58 lb.

100 lb.

90 degrees

71 lb.

131 lb.

120 degrees

100 lb.

193 lb.

150 degrees

193 lb.

380 lb.

This triangle rigging configuration is known as the American Triangle. Avoid rigging with a triangle configuration; it adds unnecessary forces to your anchor points. Stick to a V configuration for lower loads (see chart above). 98


Belay anchor with three SLCDs tied off with a cordelette. The granite is sound, and all three cams are bomber, well retracted (over 50 percent) and with all the cams nicely contacting the walls of the crack. The rope is attached to the power point with two carabiners opposed and reversed (including one locking). Clean, simple, and strong. The bottom cam means this anchor could also withstand an upward force. Note that load equalization over placements set in a vertical crack is much more a concept than a fact. Here the bulk of direct, downward loading will fall on the middle SLCD. Belay Anchors


Using a nylon cordelette to connect anchors in a vertical crack results in an anchor that does not come close to truly equalizing the forces, but if all the placements are bomber, it is a simple, easy rigging method that is essentially a series of backups to the piece that takes the brunt of the loading, with minimal extension if that piece were to fail. 100


A three-piece belay anchor in a vertical crack at the top of a climb on Suicide Rock in California. Simple, quick, and easy rigging with a 7mm nylon cordelette. This anchor is at the top of the climb, so the highest force would simply be holding the falling follower. In a vertical configuration such as this, with a nylon cordelette, the shortest loop of the cordelette (to the lowest piece) would absorb most of the load. Note how the double fisherman’s knot has been placed on the longest loop near the top piece, to keep it out of the way for tying the overhand loop to create the master point. Belay Anchors




This cordelette has been unknotted and used in the “full length” mode. This is a trick adopted by many professional guides to add greater utility and get more usable length from their cordelette, particularly useful if the placements are spread out more than arms length. A good knot to use that can be easily untied is the flemish bend (aka figure eight bend), tied by taking one end of the cordelette and tying a figure eight (with a 3-inch tail) then retracing it with the other end (leaving a 3-inch tail). When untied, the cord works well for connecting three points when a standard cordelette, describing a single loop, would be too short. Simply tie the ends with figure eights, clip into the two outside anchor points in a V configuration, and take the middle bight and clip it into a third point. Then gather the two bights together and tie a two-loop power point with a figure eight. In this particular setup the top left piece has been extended with a sling so the three arms of the cordelette are more equal length. The middle cordelette loop is clipped to two placements used together, and the right placement’s carabiner has been doubled (opposed and reversed) to prevent the gate from opening over the edge of the crack. While there is some loss of strength in those arms of the cordelette with a single strand, this rig—based on bomber primary placements—is a trade-off most climbers can live with. As is always the case with such setups, this one is rigged for a downward pull, and any oblique loading will put all the load on only one of the cordelette’s arms.

Belay Anchors


Three camming devices in a horizontal crack connected with a cordelette. Note how the farthest left loop has been clove-hitched to the piece to keep the fisherman’s knot out of the way. As with all pre-equalized anchors, the setup is set for a single direction of pull. Even the slightest oblique angle of pull will load one side of the triangle while the other side will bear little if any load. Stretchy nylon cord is more forgiving in this regard, but off-axis loading will still weight one of the placements over the others. However, because the arms of the cordelette are of relatively equal length here, climbers can expect to achieve some equalization as long as the direction of pull is straight down. 104


The Sliding X

Sliding X Basics

• The sliding X is an automatic equalizing system.

• It is normally rigged on standard-length and/or double-length sewn slings.

• A proper twist in the sliding X sling is essential to prevent failure of the complete system if one piece pulls. Always double-check to be sure that this twist is in place.

• After connecting the sliding X to the placements, clip a biner into the X, weight the placements, and slide the biner back and forth along the sling to ensure fluid functioning.

• To minimize potential extension in longer

equalizing slings, tie an overhand limiter knot in the long leg of the sling, just above the clip-in point.

• To avoid load multiplication, keep the angle

between the two legs around 25 degrees (or less). If the angle is larger than about 60 degrees, use a longer sling to decrease the angle.

Belay Anchors


Rigging a sliding X. The sling self-adjusts to equalize the anchor when the direction of pull changes from one side to the other.



Stacked Xs. Here three placements are equalized with two sliding Xs. The gray sling equalizes two placements and the red sling in turn equalizes both of these with a third placement out of view on the red sling. Note the extension limiter knot on the red sling.

Because there is no knot on the locking carabiner side of the sling, this setup is not redundant, since you’re relying on a single, twisted loop in the webbing. Belay Anchors


Two cam placements rigged with a sliding X with extension-limiting knots, set up as a component part of a larger toprope anchor system. By using a doublelength (48-inch) nylon sling and tying two overhand knots, the sling itself becomes redundant.

Stacked Xs. Here, by tying the two overhand knots on the purple sling, extension is limited and redundancy is achieved. 108


Stacked Xs. By tying two overhand knots on both the yellow and red slings, extension is limited throughout the entire three-piece anchor system and redundancy is achieved.

Belay Anchors


Three camming devices equalized with a sliding X and clove hitches. This is a good belay anchor rig for a multipitch climb, providing the two climbers are swinging leads. Since there is no power point, climbers swapping leads at this belay stance will require the arriving climber to also rig his rope in this fashion. No big deal, but a bit more time consuming, and a real cluster if there were a third climber at this stance. If one of the two SLCDs on top were to blow out, there would be sudden loading on the remaining anchor. Judging by the placements (A1), however, this would be nearly impossible, even in a factor 2 fall situation, as the downward force would be shared by the two cams, and the force required to break the sling would be astronomical. 110


The same anchor as in the previous photo is now rigged to be entirely self-equalizing. An overhand limiter knot tied on the left side of the upper sling (configured in a sliding X) would limit extension if the top cam failed. This rig is equalized with two Dyneema slings paired and attached (via a sliding X) to the lower piece, to guard against an upward/ outward pull on the anchor. It takes time for a leader to learn to survey a given belay, choose a system, and quickly and efficiently rig it. Using limiter knots can reduce extension. Learn to shorten the slings as needed. Using oversize slings adds needless slack. Belay Anchors


The Equalette

Tying the Equalette

• Use 20 feet of 7mm nylon cord tied into a

loop with a double fisherman’s knot, or 5mm high-tensile cord tied with a triple fisherman’s knot.

• Form a U shape and grab the cordelette at the bottom of the U.

• Position the fisherman’s knot about 18 inches above the bottom of the U.

• Tie an overhand knot on each side of your palm where you have grabbed the cord, about 10 inches apart.

Using the Equalette

• At the power point always use two locking

biners, with one locker connected into each separate strand of the power point (between the limiter knots). If you are forced to use one biner, clip one strand, twist the other 180 degrees, then clip the other strand to maintain redundancy. This is the same technique used to clip into a sliding X.

• Before using the equalette, make sure you have mastered the clove hitch. Use clove



This close-up of an equalette master point clearly shows how to rig two locking biners through the strands between the limiter knots. This setup will remain equalized if the load swings right or left, but if one anchor should fail, the limiter knots will minimize extension in the system.

hitches to adjust the arm lengths, as shown in the photos.

• On multipitch climbs (with a two-climber

team) where the first climber to the stance is going to lead the next pitch, each climber can clip into the master point with his own two locking biners. If the second climber to the stance is going to lead the next pitch, he can clip a locking biner directly into the twolocking-biner master point (biner to biner). This greatly facilitates secure and speedy turnover at the belay.

Belay Anchors


Four-piece anchor rigged with an equalette using clove hitches. It’s not only solidly equalized but also able to adjust to changes in loading direction.

Four-piece belay anchor in a vertical crack configuration using a 7mm diameter nylon cordelette rigged in equalette mode. Clove hitches have been used for easy adjustment, and the lower-most piece is set for an upward pull. 114


Three-piece anchor rigged with an equalette. Clove hitches have been used on the middle and right-hand pieces, and a BHK has been tied to shorten the left-most arm.

Three-piece toprope anchor rigged with an equalette. Belay Anchors


Four-piece equalette rigged using Sterling 6mm Power Cord (4,271 lbs. tensile strength). Double loop figure eight knots have been tied to equalize the placements.

The Quad To rig a quad, take a cordelette and double it. Position the double fisherman’s knot near one end. Grab the midpoint (all four strands) with your fist and tie overhand knots on each side of your fist, about 8 inches apart.



Two-bolt quad rig for toprope setup. The quad is simply a doubled equalette. Lab testing suggests that for two horizontally oriented anchor points (as shown here), the quad setup is basically indestructible. Field testing suggests that for those who frequently belay from, or toprope off, two horizontally oriented bolts (as found on top of countless sport and toprope climbs), a quad rig is your best friend. Simply keep a quad rigged (with the limiter knots tied) on a piece of 7mm nylon or 5 or 6mm high-strength cord and break it out for use in these situations. Brute strength and fantastic equalization are achieved just as quickly as you can clip off the bolts and the power point. Here locking carabiners are attached directly to the bolt hangers, bypassing the hardware store rappelling doodads, and three oval carabiners (opposed and reversed) are used for the rope attachment. Belay Anchors


Quad rig close-up. At 12.4 kN (2,788 lbs.) tensile strength for each strand of this Sterling 7mm cordelette, clipping just two strands at the master point gives you twice the strength ever needed. Clip three and have a submarine anchor. Just make sure you leave one strand unclipped (as shown here) to create a loop for your master point clip-in, so that if one of the anchors were to fail, the loop would capture the carabiners. 118


Composite Anchors: Cordelette, Sliding X, and Equalette

Multipitch anchor with cordelette and sliding X combo. While this setup—and ones like it—has been a mainstay for many years, incorporating new techniques such as the equalette will allow climbers to achieve even greater equalization. Belay Anchors


Upward Oppositional Anchors

Upward Force Oppositionals Are Required:

• When a belayer is significantly lighter than the active climber.

• Whenever belaying below an overhang

where the initial protection off the belay anchor is directly above or even behind (such as with a roof crack) the anchor.

• Where the rock is steep or overhanging and the forces generated by a leader fall can create significant (say, more than 18 inches) “lift” of the belayer.

This rig shows a cordelette used to equalize the load on two nuts combined with two SLCDs clove hitched to provide opposition. A belayer tied tight to these anchors isn’t going to be lifted any more than 18 inches—enough to provide some give in the system, but not enough to be dangerous. 120


Simple three-piece multipitch anchor rigged with an upward directional piece. Belay Anchors


Belay Methods

Here the belay device is clipped into the belay loop on the climber’s harness—an indirect belay. Providing the belayer has a solid stance to brace against downward loading, the indirect belay is the technique of choice if the anchor is less than superb. In holding a fall the belayer, not the anchor, bears the brunt of the fall force, which can be uncomfortable and awkward when the falling climber hangs on the rope for a long period of time. Although this belay method is probably the most common method used by recreational climbers to belay a follower, it is rarely used by professional guides, who favor the direct belay as long as the anchor is bomber. Though not always possible, the ideal is: With any indirect belay the belayer should try to get into a position directly beneath the belay anchor to avoid getting dragged there by downward loading. Remember ABC positioning for bringing up the second: AnchorBelayerClimber. 122


Here the belay device is clipped into both the harness’s belay loop and the loop in the figure eight tie-in knot. If the climber falls, most of his weight will go onto the anchor, not on the belayer—providing that the belayer is situated directly beneath the anchor. To the extent that the belayer is to one side or the other of the anchor is the extent that his body, not the anchor, will bear the load.

This shows how a re-directed belay is set up. Always remember that a re-direct basically doubles the loading on the anchor—no problem with premium anchors (like bolts on a sport climb), but with sketchy anchors a redirected belay is a little dicey. Here a bomber four-piece anchor is equalized with a cordelette, and the re-direct is run through the master point. Belay Anchors


This effectively illustrates a clean and simple rigging of a direct belay (direct belay = belaying directly off the belay anchor) via a Petzl Grigri clipped into the power point. Note how the power point is at an ergonomically friendly chest level, ideal for managing a direct belay. Besides the Grigri, another popular assisted braking device is the Trango Cinch. Tube devices, such as the Petzl Reverso and the Black Diamond ATC Guide, can also be used for direct belaying in the autoblocking mode. You DO NOT, however, want to use an ordinary tube device (like a regular ATC) for a direct belay, as the brake position would be awkward and potentially dangerous, especially if the master point is waist level or higher. Another direct belay option is to use a Munter hitch on a large, pear-shaped locking carabiner. Remember this: A direct belay is an easy and efficient means to belay the second or follower, but never should be used to belay the leader. Also understand that with all direct belays, when the anchors are less than ideal, any loading bypasses the shock-absorbing qualities of the belayer’s body and places the entire load directly onto the anchors. Granted, toprope forces are generally moderate, but any force is a concern if you’ve wandered off route and get stuck belaying from mank. When the anchors are rock solid, however, a direct belay is a quick, efficient, and comfortable way to bring up a second. 124


Lowering with a Grigri and a direct belay. Here the belayer is clove hitched to the shelf of the cordelette (all three loops of the cordelette’s arms). To lower someone using a Grigri, re-direct the brake strand as shown here for better control on the lower. This is an awkward maneuver unless the master point is rigged waist level or higher. Remember, even with an assisted braking device like a Grigri, never take your brake hand off the brake strand side of the rope when belaying or lowering someone. Belay Anchors


Three-bolt anchor rigged for a direct belay using a Grigri. Here the Grigri is clipped to a locking carabiner clipped to the shelf (all three loops of the arms of the cordelette). The leader has clipped directly into the bolt hangers, bypassing the old hardware store quick links.



Another clean and simple rigging for a rope-direct belay. Take the rope from your harness and tie a clove hitch to the master point carabiner, then, off the back side of the clove hitch, tie a figure eight loop and clip back to the anchor with a separate carabiner. The direct belay goes off this strand (on another figure eight loop), and it can be any distance from the anchor (e.g., 20 or 30 feet away), to allow you to position yourself so you can see the follower. You’ll always be able to give a better belay if you can get a visual on your climber.

Left—Guides frequently use a rope-direct when the anchor is set back from the edge and they want to position themselves near the edge to eyeball their client. In this setup you run the rope through two biners at the anchor’s master point, climb down to the edge, then tie an overhand loop on the doubled bight of rope. This now serves as an extended master point, and the belayer is secured where he wants to be. Here a Grigri is used for a direct belay from the new master point. Belay Anchors


This is an easy technique that is especially useful at one-pitch crags where you belay from the top and the anchors are set way back from the edge. The end of the rope is clipped to the power point of the anchor system with a figure eight on a bight. Find your belay position and tie another figure eight (which becomes an extended power point), then simply secure yourself with a locking biner to your belay loop and rig your belay device (with a separate locking biner) off the extended master point. As always, downward forces will try to drag the belayer into a direct line beneath the anchor—which is exactly where you might end up if your stance is not adequate and the anchor is not directly behind you. If using a non-locking device like the ATC pictured here, make sure you are in an ergonomic braking position, with the ability to brake above the device (as shown here). If the device is positioned above you, the braking position will be extremely awkward, compromising the safety of the belay. 128


The Atomic Clip. For belaying a second from the top of a single-pitch route, the Atomic Clip is a simple and efficient rigging method. It is particularly useful for belaying from two-bolt anchors. Tie a double loop bowline or double loop eight, clip it to the two anchor points, and equalize it. Here the climber is using a direct belay with a Grigri clipped to a figure eight loop on the strand running from the back side of the double loop bowline. Belay Anchors


C h a p t e r

N i n e

Toprope Anchors Tips for Setting

• Evaluate any hazards at the site, especially

loose rocks that the movement of a running rope could dislodge.

• Extend the anchors over the edge at the top

of the cliff to prevent rope drag and damage. Professional guides prefer to rig this extension with a length of low-stretch or static rope. Pad any sharp edges at the lip. Make sure the rope sits directly above the climb, and also make sure to run two independent strands of rope or webbing over the lip to maintain redundancy.

• Set the chocks and SLCDs fairly close

together near the top of the climb when possible to reduce the number of slings and carabiners required.

• Avoid setting pieces behind detached

blocks, flakes, or other questionable rock features. Also avoid having the rope near these features.

• Connect the rope to the master point with

two opposed and reversed locking carabiners or three ovals. Continued on page 132


Bomber toprope anchor. Clean, simple, and strong. The bolts are 3⁄8-inch diameter 5-piece Power Bolts (7,000 lbs. shear strength) installed with FIXE ring anchors (rated at 10,000 lbs.). The 7mm nylon Sterling cordelette (rated at 5,000 lbs. loop strength tied with a double fisherman’s bend) is doubled then tied with an overhand knot, leaving a four-loop master point. The rope is attached with three steel oval carabiners opposed and reversed. If you do a lot of toproping like Bob does, steel is far more durable than aluminum. As discussed earlier, any off-axis loading will put most or all of the force on one bolt, but in toprope situations the forces are relatively low (compared to a leader fall) and the extension would be minimal even if one of the bolts failed. Plus a nylon cordelette (versus a Dyneema or Technora cord) has some modicum of stretch, resulting in a lower force than if using more static material.

Toprope Anchors


A quad rigged for toproping with two locking carabiners opposed and reversed.

Continued from page 130 • Belay toprope climbs from the ground whenever possible.

• Avoid belaying directly below the climber, in case rocks come off.

• A ground anchor merely needs to provide

extra ballast to help you counterweight the climber, so one bombproof piece is usually sufficient.

• If you’re in an exposed situation where getting yanked from your ground belay would be disastrous or even fatal, set up a redundant anchor system.



A two-bolt anchor rigged for toproping with a sliding X. Note the locking carabiners on the bolt hangers, two separate nylon slings, and three steel ovals. Bob rigged this anchor for adjustment since he’d be toproping three different routes off the same anchor, each in a slightly different direction. A good rule of thumb regarding extension is this: Limit extension in any anchor system to no more than half a single-length sling. Toprope Anchors


Detail of a two-bolt equalette rigged with webbing for an absolutely bomber toprope setup. Note how the gates are opposed and reversed on the carabiners. Owing to the sliding master point, this equalette can remain almost perfectly equalized between the two bolts, even if the direction of pull should change.

A doubled equalette rigged for toproping. Here the cordelette was doubled first, then tied like a normal equalette, leaving two strands of cord for each carabiner at the master point.

Toprope rig using a doubled equalette.

The 7mm nylon cordelette was doubled, then overhand knots were tied 5 inches from the middle. Here the left arm goes to a sling threaded through a tunnel in the rock, and the right arm goes to a two-bolt chain anchor. Note how the two locking carabiners are opposed and reversed, each clipped independently to two strands of cord. Toprope Anchors


The primary placements are solid, secure, and well equalized with sliding Xs, but why not tie limiter knots on both sides of the master point to limit extension? If you can determine the exact direction of pull/ loading—and normally you can on any toprope setup—there is little to gain by using the sliding X. And in this case there’s no redundancy at the webbing. All this anchor needs is two limiter knots just above the power point and then you’d have it: Solid, Redundant, Equalized, and No Extension. Same toprope anchor as in the previous photo, but here the anchors are tied off with pre-equalized slings and joined with a cordelette. The doublelength Dyneema slings at the pieces have been tied off with figure eights (an overhand knot in 10mm width Dyneema can be very difficult to untie once weighted). Providing the direction of pull is straight down— and it is on this toprope route—such a setup is simpler to rig than the previous setup with its sliding Xs. The point is, you need not worry as much about building a multidirectional anchor when the direction of possible loading is only in one direction. 136


C h a p t e r

T e n

The Joshua Tree System Developed by professional guides at Joshua Tree National Park, the Joshua Tree System greatly simplifies seemingly complex toprope anchor setups. Bob has used it for over thirty years in his climbing school and can vouch for its efficiency and security. Using this system, he’s never come across a climb he couldn’t rig a toprope on, as long as there was enough rope. For most situations a length of 50 to 60 feet is adequate. Bob prefers 10mm or 10.5mm diameter Sterling Safety Pro low-stretch rope, which has about 3 percent stretch and good abrasion resistance.You don’t want to use dynamic rope for your rigging rope, because it is easily abraded due to its stretch, and far less abrasion resistant than static or low-stretch rope. To rig the Joshua Tree System, visualize a V configuration, with the two separate anchors at the top of the V and your master point at the point, or bottom, of the V. For your master point knot, learn the BHK (page 147). BHK stands for “big honking knot” and is essentially an overhand knot on a doubled bight, giving you two-loop redundancy at the master point. The combinations of various anchors are endless, and if you learn double loop knots (like the double loop eight and double loop bowline), you’ll be able to rig without slings and cordelettes, using only the rigging rope.


Rigging the Joshua Tree System. After the anchor placements were made, the climber pre-equalized the bottom leg of the V with a double loop eight. As he approached the edge, he secured himself by tethering with a sling to a prusik knot on the rigging rope. He’s tying the BHK master point knot, to which he’ll attach the carabiners for the climbing rope. He’ll make the final adjustment with a clove hitch to the top anchor and fix an edge protector to safeguard wear at the lip.



The Joshua Tree System rigged using double loop eights. Here each end of the V is connected to two placements pre-equalized with double loop eights. The instructor knows from experience that tying the BHK will bring the bight of rope up about 4 feet, so he took this into account when he tied off the ends of the V. As he approached the cliff’s edge, he secured himself with a double-length (48-inch) nylon sling attached to the rigging rope with a klemheist knot and clipped to his harness belay loop with a locking carabiner. He’s tied the BHK master point knot and attached two opposed and reversed locking carabiners. The rig is now ready for the climbing rope. Final rigging showing use of double loop eights, eliminating the need for any slings or cordelettes. By learning double loop knots, you can streamline your rigging by using just the rigging rope itself for maximum efficiency. Note the edge protector at the lip, attached to the rigging rope with a sling and friction hitch. The Joshua Tree System


The Joshua Tree System. Each end of the V has a twopoint SLCD anchor equalized with a double length (48inch) nylon sling tied with a sliding X and extensionlimiting overhand knots. The master point is tied with a BHK. Even if the loading direction shifts slightly, this rig will adjust to those slight changes in the vector for good load distribution.



Illustration of how to rig the Joshua Tree System using double loop knots (in this case, double loop figure eights), with two anchor placements at each leg of the V. The Joshua Tree System


Detail of BHK master point with three ovals opposed and reversed on a toprope setup.

A rope protector like this Petzl model (made of ballistic cloth with Velcro closure) can save your rigging rope from getting frayed over edges. Attach it with a friction hitch—like the klemheist knot shown here. 142


Tethering. A good way to secure yourself as you work near the edge of the cliff is to take a double-length (48inch) nylon sling, tie a klemheist knot on one strand of the rigging rope, then attach the sling to the belay loop on your harness with a locking carabiner.

The Joshua Tree System


Making the transition from rigging to rappelling. Once you’re done rigging and choose to rappel down, secure yourself with a tether by using a 48-inch nylon sling attached to the rigging rope with a klemheist knot and clipped to the belay loop of your harness with a locking carabiner. Before you go over the edge, pull up the climbing rope, rig your rappel, and back it up with an autoblock knot clipped to your leg loop. Don’t allow too much distance between the toprope master point carabiners and your rappel device, because as you go over the edge, you’ll want enough slack in your double-length sling (here the yellow sling) so that you can weight your rappel system and check that your autoblock is grabbing without any weight on the sling. After double-checking everything, you should be able to reach up and untie the klemheist so you can take the sling with you.



Tying a klemheist knot.

The Joshua Tree System


Rig an autoblock out of 4 feet, 6 inches of the softest, most supple 6mm nylon cord you can find, tied with a double fisherman’s knot. An autoblock is simply a wrap, with both ends of the loop clipped to a carabiner.



Tying a BHK. Take a bight of rope and double it.

Tie an overhand knot on all four strands.

Thread the two loops back through the single loop you’ve created,

or incorporate the loop into the master point carabiners.

The Joshua Tree System


BHK master point with three steel oval carabiners opposed and reversed on a toprope rig.



C h a p t e r

E l e v e n

Rappel Anchors Tips for Setting

• Statistically, rappelling is responsible for only about 6 percent of all climbing accidents, but many of these prove to be fatal.

• Rappelling forces you to rely completely on your equipment and anchors/rigging.

• The most common rappelling accident scenario is simply rappelling off one or both ends of the rope, so get into the habit of tying stopper knots in the ends of the rope.

• Never trust—and always thoroughly check—the integrity of fixed rappel anchors (especially the rigging), and back them up if necessary.

• Except for huge trees and titanic natural features, at least two bombproof anchors should be established at rappel stations.

• Avoid the American Triangle rigging system.

Anchors should be rigged using equalized slings, or at least slings of equal length.

• Never run the rope around a chain connecting the anchors.

• Double-check all connecting links (anchor placements/slings, slings/rope, rope/rappel device, rappel device/harness) before you start down.

• Always rappel slowly and smoothly to keep a low, static load on the anchor.


Two 3⁄8-inch bolts. The left bolt has a stainless steel hanger, then a steel quick link to a steel lap link through which the rope is threaded. The right bolt has a welded cold shut with chain. The tackle on this anchor is a witless medley of various hardware store fixtures, none of which are designed for climbing anchors. The equalization looks good, and the rope is threaded through two different points for redundancy. Most climbers are leery to even trust two hardware store fixtures and would never trust just one (like a single lap link), as the quality of the metallurgy is poor. When you come across one of these rap anchors featuring a mishmash of rusting chains and odd doodads, an easy way to give yourself an extra margin of safety is simply to tie a loop of nylon webbing through both bolt hangers as a backup.

While the two lengths of rusty chain would offer redundancy, it is lost where it all comes down to that one measly lap link of unknown origin and vintage. Why trust your life to an aging hardware store relic some skinflint bought for 79 cents? This chain rig was easily backed up by threading a length of 1-inch webbing through both bolt hangers and tying it with a water knot. Though seriously lacking, these hardware store horror shows are rarely fatal owing to the modest loads generated by rappelling. As belay anchors, such setups are truly widow makers. 150


Rap ring comparison. Top, left to right: FIXE welded stainless steel (rated at 50 kN or 11,240 lbs.); FIXE welded plated carbon steel (rated at 35 kN or 7,868 lbs.). Bottom, left to right: Omega Pacific aircraftgrade forged aluminum alloy ring (rated at 20 kN or 4,496 lbs.); SMC lightweight aluminum ring (rated at 14 kN or 3,147 lbs.); Ushba titanium ring (rated at 30 kN or 6,744 lbs.).

Not your hardware store variety, these CE-certified quick links were made for climbing applications. Top: Camp stainless steel 8mm (rated at 50 kN MBS or 11,240 lbs.); bottom: Petzl stainless steel Maillon Rapide (SWL 1,400 kg or 3,086 lbs.—SWL stands for safe working load, typically one-fifth of the breaking strength). Rappel Anchors


SMC rap rings are light (11 grams) and strong (rated at 14 kN or 3,147 lbs.), a good choice for carrying on long multipitch climbs where weight is a factor and the descent will involve multiple rappels. Bob will bring a small knife and extra webbing if he knows he’ll be doing lots of rappels off an adventure climb, since chances are some re-rigging will be necessary. 152


The American “death” Triangle is something of a myth when it comes to rappel anchors (see rigging chart in chapter 8). The fear is that this setup dangerously multiplies the loading force by pulling the bolts together. Under body weight the angle of the sling, at both bolts, is about 90 degrees. If the angle of the slings at the rap rings is 60 degrees, and a 200-pound load is applied, each bolt will be loaded to about 200 pounds using triangle rigging. With V rigging, however, the load would be just over 100 pounds on each bolt at 60 degrees. Triangle rigging is poor engineering by any definition. But given that rap anchors basically sustain body-weight loads, the American Triangle, though always a wretched rigging strategy, is by and large only deadly when rigged to abysmal primary anchors. Rappel Anchors


This example shows V rigging on one of the most common rappel anchors you’ll encounter—a two-bolt anchor. Here we have two separate 1-inch nylon slings, tied with water knots and two rap rings. With this narrow of an angle, the load is distributed nearly 50/50 on the bolts. Simple, strong, and redundant.

Example of a twobolt rappel anchor pre-equalized with cord. Thread a length of cord (7mm nylon shown here) through the bolt hangers and tie into a loop using a figure eight bend or double fisherman’s knot. Pull the cord down between the bolts and tie with a figure eight loop, then add two quick links.

A three-bolt anchor preequalized with cord. Start by tying an overhand followthrough (or a figure eight follow-through) on one end of the cord through the bolt hanger, then thread the cord through the middle bolt hanger and tie the other end of the cord to the last bolt hanger with another overhand follow-through. Gather the cord at the master point (clipping in a carabiner makes it easy to gather all the strands equally), then tie a figure eight or overhand loop. If length is an issue, remember the figure eight takes more cord to tie than an overhand. Install two quick links and you’re good to go.

Two 3⁄8-inch diameter bolts installed with FIXE ring hangers. Such ring anchors are becoming more commonplace owing to their brute strength, simple setup, and fluid rope removal. Visually unobtrusive, the welded stainless rings are stronger than the hangers. Over time, however, rings often show signs of wear—from people toproping and lowering directly off the rings, as well as from countless rappel ropes being pulled through the rings. Always inspect rings for wear. Rappel Anchors


This two-bolt rap anchor is well engineered. All the components are stainless steel. Both bolts are fivepiece Powers. The left one has a stainless steel FIXE hanger with stainless chain attached to a final quick link; the right bolt has a Petzl hanger with a quick link/ welded stainless ring combo. The positioning of the bolts combined with the hardware rigging makes for a narrow angle of pull between the two bolts. Good to go. 156


Two-bolt rap anchor in a mountain environment, exposed to winter snow and ice. The bolts are 3⁄8-inch buttonhead drives. The hangers, being made of stainless steel, appear fine, but the carbon steel quick links show corrosion that has started to take hold like a slow-growing cancer, only nine years after installation. The welded stainless rings also show signs of wear— right at the welds.

Although the paint job has worn off, this rap anchor combo shows no signs of corrosion, even after many years in a mountain environment. That’s because all the components— bolts, hangers, quick links, and rings—are made of quality stainless steel. It’s more expensive to install a setup like this, but it will likely be good for a hundred years. Rappel Anchors


Slings through a thread at Joshua Tree National Park. The rigging is redundant, but how strong is the rock itself? It’s really just a pinch where two massive blocks touch, forming a keyhole that the slings are threaded through. Use discretion with blocks. Remember, you want a chunk of rock attached to the planet, not one sitting on top of the planet.

Bomber, redundant rigging on a massive knob of rock at Joshua Tree National Park. The formation is attached to the main bedrock. Good to go. 158


For the Last Time . . . Conforming an anchor to the letter of every sound rigging principle does not guarantee that the anchor will hold a single pound. The best rigging can do no more than exploit the potential holding strength of the primary placements. Hence the first rule in building all anchors is to get sound primary placements. With bomber primary placements, the rules of thumb and modern rigging methods stack the odds in your favor that the anchor will do its job and do it well.

Rappel Anchors


About the Authors John Long is the author of twenty-five books, with

over one million copies in print. He is the principal author of the How to Rock Climb series. His shortform literary stories have been widely anthologized and translated into many languages. John won the 2006 Literary Award for excellence in alpine literature from the American Alpine Club. Bob Gaines is an AMGA Certified Rock Instructor

who has been teaching rock climbing since 1983. He is the owner/director of Vertical Adventures Climbing School, based at Joshua Tree National Park, California. He has worked extensively training US Military Special Forces, including the elite US Navy SEAL Team 6. Bob has also worked extensively as a climbing stunt coordinator on over forty television commercials. He was the chief safety officer for the movie Cliffhanger and doubled for Captain Kirk when Kirk free soloed El Capitan in Star Trek V. Bob is also the author of Rappelling, Toproping, Best Climbs Joshua Tree National Park, and Best Climbs Tahquitz and Suicide Rocks, and the coauthor of Rockclimbing:The AMGA Single Pitch Manual, which is the textbook for the AMGA’s Single Pitch Instructor Course.