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Bay Area Rock Climbing Message Board › Climbing safely outside- Are top rope anchors safe?

Climbing safely outside- Are top rope anchors safe?

Kent
user 5513054
Oakland, CA
Post #: 3
Here's my short reply:


Edit: Partly where I'm coming from is a belief that analyzing the situation and tailoring behavior / solutions to the situation at hand rather than applying the same rules in all cases is the best habit...

I would agree as long as there is a base knowledge. I'm not worried about either of you guys building an anchor that fails. I am worried about someone climbing with their "expert climber friend" who sets up an anchor on one bolt.

For most people who are new to anchor building I would suggest that having a good set of rules to follow every time is a good idea.

I think we're using the word "rules" differently... Yes, base knowledge is key.
Richard B.
Richard_Bothwell
Group Organizer
San Francisco, CA
Post #: 24
Hey Kent, Mel, Brian, and the whole Meetup climbing crew:

I've been remiss in replying here. Things have been busy and I've been switching gears toward backcountry skiing and snowboarding... and kayaking... and getting ready to go surfing in Costa Rica. I am really fired up to come back from Costa Rica and head for the snow!

In any case, I want to reiterate that the reason I started this discussion was to benefit the climbers in the Meetup group who are new to climbing, and especially new to climbing outdoors. Kent, Mel, Brian and I can spend hours talking about the subtleties of cordolettes vs. equalettes, but I think that discussion is best served with cold pints of Sierra, and misses my goal of helping newer climbers get outdoors as safely as possible.

I'd like to hear from the climbers who are new to setting up anchors. I'd like to hear people say things like, " I was at Goat Rock, and wasn't sure how to set up the Swiss Cheese routes, but this is what I came up with", followed by a picture of their anchor. Or " I was at the Waterfall, and wasn't sure how to set up a belay from above, what do you guys do?"

In the old days of climbing there was a culture of mentoring newer climbers that seems to have been replaced with Youtube videos on how to climb. I'd like to see the more experienced climbers here helping the newer climbers. I'm certainly willing to share my experience with anyone interested.

As a side note, we had an awesome weekend climbing at Pinnacles over Halloween. The forecast of rain kept everyone away. We only saw two other climbers all weekend, and the rain never materialized. It was one of my favorite trips to Pinnacles ever! We had the whole park to ourselves, and the weather was cool and cloudy- perfect for climbing!


See you all soon,

Richard Bothwell
Outdoor Adventure Club
A former member
Post #: 1
Yikes. #3 is downright frightening. In fact, all three are, but #3 wins the prize.
Richard B.
Richard_Bothwell
Group Organizer
San Francisco, CA
Post #: 48
Hey everybody,

I hope you're taking advantage of the great weather and getting outside climbing. I was really surprised that there weren't more people out at Cragmont yesterday. There was only one other group there all day.

As things warm up around here and we all get outside for more climbing, I'd love to see the climbing community work together to help each other climb safer as well as climbing better. I think the Meetup is a great forum to encourage discussion and help each other develop better safety skills. I can't speak for others, but I am always happy to discuss climbing safety, and I encourage anyone who has a question or idea to post it.

I saw this anchor set up last week, and thought I'd see what you all think of it. Maybe we can all learn something!
Unlike my previous posts, I'm throwing my thoughts into the mix here.


I guess the real question is "would you climb on it?"

Here's my 2¢:

I am a pretty firm believer in the SERENE model for anchors. Sound rock, Solid gear placements, Equalized, REdundant, No Extension. I know there is a big movement to worry less about extension, but I think the SERENE model is a great starting place for all top rope anchors.

Sound rock, solid gear-
These are good bolts, in good rock.

Equalized-
The entire load is placed on one bolt, so the anchor is not equalized.

Redundant
The definition of redundancy for a climbing anchor is being able to say "if any one piece fails, will my entire anchor fail?" if the answer is yes, the anchor is not redundant. Redundancy for climbing anchors does not mean having two of everything.

This anchor has two "critical failure points", so this anchor is not redundant.
There is a single carabiner holding the climbing rope. If it fails, the whole anchor fails.
The yellow cord is a single strand. It's doubled over, but it's still one strand. If it fails, the whole anchor fails. If you create a loop at each end of the cord by tying a knot (overhand, fig.8) and clipping the loops to the bolts, you'd have redundancy, though.

No Extension
Will the point where the rope is clipped into the anchor move if there is a failure in part of the anchor? If yes, there is extension, if no, there is no extension. The danger is that the extension will "shock load" the remaining gear in the anchor. There is a growing movement to not worry as much about extension as we used to, but I am still a believer in minimizing extension whenever possible.

If the left bolt or the blue carabiner clipped to it were to fail, the anchor would extend (drop) until the yellow cord took the load.- this is extension.

So the anchor doesn't pass the SERENE test. I'd choose not to climb on this one.
A quick modification would make this anchor super bomber, by my standards anyway. Take the yellow cord, which appears to be about the length of a double runner and clip it to each bolt, then pull both strands down between the bolts, and tie an overhand or fig. 8 knot. Put two carabiners in the loop formed by the knot and you have a SERENE anchor.

What do you all think? Is this discussion helpful to anyone?

Richard Bothwell
Outdoor Adventure Club
A former member
Post #: 4
Raising this thread back from a sleep, what is the general consensus on using two draws with lower lockers for a top rope anchor, assuming the bolts are nice and bomber? My thought would be to use 2 sliding x's with lockers on the bolt and rope, though some of the other people I climb with go with the 2 draws (some with lockers, some with not).

Oh yes, the discussion is helpful Richard!
A former member
Post #: 6
Would I climb on that?

Yes - Say we take the "redundancy" out of the picture, i.e. the yellow line and second bolt. It's a new looking bolt in good rock, with 2 lockers, then the rope. I don't see the rope dragging over anything sharp. I highly doubt you'd generate enough force in a top rope fall to break either of the 'biners, or pull the bolt. SRENE or not, in reality I think it would work.


But the real answer -

No. Because looking at it, whoever set it up doesn't know what they're doing, so I wouldn't want anything to do with climbing with them, or on their anchor.

Honestly setting up a good enough anchor on 2 bolts like that is about as easy as it gets, so if you can't get that right...
Richard B.
Richard_Bothwell
Group Organizer
San Francisco, CA
Post #: 56
...what is the general consensus on using two draws with lower lockers for a top rope anchor, assuming the bolts are nice and bomber? My thought would be to use 2 sliding x's with lockers on the bolt and rope, though some of the other people I climb with go with the 2 draws (some with lockers, some with not).

my 2¢: It's fairly common to see people use two quickdraws for a top rope anchor, but I don't think it's a great anchor. I believe it's acceptable to use to lower off a leader after leading a single pitch route, but I wouldn't use that anchor for doing top rope laps, largely because a better anchor is just as easy to build.

Here's why: Unless by happy coincidence, like both bolts being at the same height, and both draws being the same length, and the climb is directly under the bolts, two draws will not equalize where you want them. They will equalize where the bolts' placement and draw length dictate.

Two draws with non-locking biners on the tight, rope side of a draw will typically either have both gates facing the same direction, which a rope can flip out of ( I'll try to find a video of this), or have one gate pressing against the rock, leaving it open and therefore weak. You can rectify this problem by using two locking biners on the rope side. For most two bolt anchors, where the bolts are at the same height, this would be OK, but you still haven't controlled the equalization, and I believe there is a better solution.

My "standard" two bolt anchor is this: One double length, wide (12-14mm) spectra runner, two biners of any type at the bolts, two or three ovals at the "power point". I clip the bolts with the biners, put the runner through the biners, pull down the runner between the bolts to preset the equalization and tie an overhand (comes out cleaner than a figure 8 with webbing) knot, creating a "master point". Two (or three) ovals in the master point, opposite and opposed, and drop the climbing rope in. Voila- a SERENE or ERNEST anchor.

I am going to be teaching a Gear & Anchor Class tomorrow at Castle Rock. I'll set up both of these anchors and take pictures to post here so people can see what we are talking about.

I think it's just as easy as setting up two draws, but actually meets the SERENE anchor test. It's also clean, and easy to analyze if you see it. It's also the building block to building three bolt anchors. It's definitely not the only way to set up a two bolt anchor, but I think it's pretty fundamental. Like I said, I'll take some pictures this weekend to show what I mean.

Have a great weekend, and climb safe!

Richard Bothwell
Outdoor Adventure Club

Richard B.
Richard_Bothwell
Group Organizer
San Francisco, CA
Post #: 61
Hey everybody,

I was teaching a Gear and Anchor Class this past weekend at Cragmont. While we were there, we saw a group of climbers climbing on this as an anchor:


In case you can't make it out, the red and black webbing has black hooks on the end. It's a cargo tie down strap, not climbing webbing. It's hard to see from here, but the single carabiner at the master point is entirely outside of the red/black webbing- no sliding X, no knot. There is a second piece of webbing, connected by a chain of carabiners directly to the master point carabiner. In case there is any confusion, this is not at all a climbing anchor.

The thing that bothers me most is not that the person who set this up thinks it's OK. (that does bother me, by the way) The thing that bothers me most is that there were a handful of people there who admittedly knew nothing about climbing anchors, and were trusting their "climber friend" to build safe anchors, and take them climbing for the day.

The reality of climbing outside is that you are making a decision to trust the system every time you tie in to a rope. It's up to each of us to decide if we should trust the system. Even if you never plan on buying your own rope, you should know what makes a good anchor, so you can make well informed decisions about whether or not to climb!

As always, I welcome a discussion,

Richard Bothwell
Outdoor Adventure Club
A former member
Post #: 2
Richard, I am sure you've heard the term INS in relation to climbing SAR. In many ways, we all enjoy climbing because of the personal responsibility involved. Unlike a lot of our life experience, consequences for actions are immediate, good or bad.

New climbers outside should be asking lots of questions about systems and their personal safety. When I used to guide, I was always disconcerted with the clients who took little interest in the systems and equipment, just blindly accepted my responsibility for their safety.

Every anchor you've posted is less than ideal. Every anchor you've posted, I'll go out a limb and guess was used all day with no bad consequences. I've seen much worse.

Mentorship used to be a part of this game. I'll offer myself up to anyone genuinely interested in learning technical skills, from the basics on up. Multiple El Cap routes, multiple Himalayan expeditions, years teaching under my belt. Just provide the beer!

Brandon
Richard B.
Richard_Bothwell
Group Organizer
San Francisco, CA
Post #: 76

...New climbers outside should be asking lots of questions about systems and their personal safety. When I used to guide, I was always disconcerted with the clients who took little interest in the systems and equipment, just blindly accepted my responsibility for their safety...
...Mentorship used to be a part of this game.
Brandon

Hey Brandon (and everyone else)

Yeah, the whole reason I started this discussion was because "in the old days" we had mentors who showed us the ropes. Back then you became a safer climber as you became a better climber. Now people are pulling down 5.11 outside without understanding the safety systems. Unfortunately being a good climber doesn't make you a safe climber.

I was/am hoping that this discussion encourages people to ask questions about systems, and to use the Meetup group as a forum for exchanging ideas and techniques. I'd love to see some newer climbers getting involved in the discussion. Ask a few questions, take some pictures, share some ideas. Our climbing community will be safer for it!

See you on the rock... until it starts snowing!

Richard Bothwell
Outdoor Adventure Club
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