By: Matt Shove
Often times we build anchors while on climbs. We need to belay, or there is a logical place to end the pitch , for example, a large ledge. These places often hold a number of options, and there is usually a better one. Perfect cracks, solid rock, perfect gear placements, a shiny two bolt anchor, or even natural anchors like horns and boulders. What we do with them and the methods we attach ourselves to them is what really matters. The interface between us and the individual anchors can set us up for an efficient transition, or time wasted wondering how all of these knots and twists got into the rope. Here are a few techniques I used recently while working at the Gunks in upstate New York and more locally at Ragged Mountain. A number of concepts that have turned into acronyms have been used, but let me remind you that load sharing is the goal most of the time. Remember, these are just a few choices in a sea of options. ‘Choose, but choose wisely’ Knight, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Three bombproof pieces in two independent crack systems. Tied together and pre-loaded for the anticipated load is what makes this a good option. The load is shared to some extent, and we have a common point to work from. Seven millimeter perlon cord is the best option here. This is pretty standard stuff when it comes to anchor building.
Shiny Modern and well placed bolts. 3/8 to ½ inch. The next pitch involves a traverse, right off of the anchor.
If you have well placed modern bolts, that are tight with no rust, and hangers that don’t spin, AND a new nylon sling, you have the option to help you move efficiently. In walks the Magic X or Sliding X self equalizing system. It is not redundant, and has no common point, but is efficient, and simple. (This anchor can be made redundant with the addition of a second sling used in the same configuration, or two limiter knots (or even a Quad)—however, this limit’s the efficiency and uses another sling that you might want on the next pitch). I did add a limiter knot to address anchor failure. Every aspect of this is acceptable to me because I was belaying from right there and monitoring the anchor. I was the redundancy. I could beef it up in a split second if needed. This anchor shares the load as evenly as possible, and accounts for extension, albeit within reason. I often use a half sling length as a reasonable amount of extension, and I’m talking about a shoulder length runner—24″ or 60cm. Everything in this system needs to be in good nick, because there isn’t much to it.
One time, I actually had a serious case of butterfingers. I dropped my cordelette from the top of the 4th pitch of Moby Grape (III 5.8, Canon Mountain). Off it went, and there was no saving it. I was forced to use slings instead. You can use slings in a pre-equalized fashion, but the master or common point is not as defined. Essentially, you take a sling, tie a loose overhand knot in it, attach the loops to your protection, and adjust the overhand knot to where you expect your load to come from. I prefer to use a large carabiner as a common point because it makes life a little less complex. In the anchor pictured, I used a magic X system to equalize two pieces, and linked the pre-equalized component with the single best piece (large red nut). I did add an extra carabiner to the other connection as it has to carry 50% of the load, and is shared with two components. In this anchor, I would have liked to use two nylon slings, but this was all I had left when I finished the pitch.
The Other Pre-Equalized Anchor:
I’ll be honest. When rappelling from fixed anchors in multipitch terrain, I very much dislike seeing people clip into a single bolt at an anchor. I know that under ideal conditions, building a fast and secure multi point anchor is what we do. I want to showcase a fast and easy way to attach to two anchors with a bolt and chain anchor. Again, this is a techniques I use on occasion when needing to move swiftly through said anchors when no other parties are sharing the anchor or are approaching the anchor. In essence, I have it all to myself.
The deal here is that the bolts need to be good and the chains/quick links need to touch evenly/equally. As you can see above, the large black carabiner is the master point. You can thread the rappel rope(s) directly on top of the master carabiner.
I understand and appreciate that some of these techniques are likely new to you, but under the right circumstance, then can be good options. Remember that it’s only a good choice if it is secure, efficient and meeting the needs of the given situation. Situational awareness is king. Choose, but choose wisely.
Warning: this article is for informational and entertainment purposes only. This is not and will not be a suitable substitute for formal training from an AMGA Certified Rock Instructor or Guide. Seek out qualified instruction prior to attempting these techniques.