These Bolts are Screwy

Imagine you’re leading a sport route. It’s a “soft” 5.12a, but you’re a strong climber, so no big deal. You top out and encounter a rappel anchor set up like this:

Innocent looking anchor bolts.

Innocent looking anchor bolts.

Nothing to see here, right folks? Perfectly acceptable and bomber set up. NBD, right? Right. But looks can be deceiving. Imagine a guy involved in a rebolting project shows you that the bolts holding this anchor into the rock actually look like this:

Rusty rappel station bolt. Wait, what is that?

Rusty rappel station bolt. Wait, what is that? A wood screw?

Holy shit! Is that rusty thing a wood screw? A lag bolt? Here’s the other one:

More Jive-Assery.

More Jive-Assery.

Damn! That one is sketchy as hell too! This is what you were rapping on, and not just here, but other bolts on this and several other routes. They looked perfectly fine when they were bolted in. But when they’re unscrewed they look like this:

Jive-Ass Lag Bolts(?)

Jive-Ass Lag Bolts(?) from Ozone, near Portland, Oregon.

These bolts were replaced at Ozone, a little climbing crag near Portland, Oregon, USA, by Topher Dabrowski and Micah Klesick as part of the Portland Re-Bolting Project. And bless those guys for volunteering their time to do so! This project is financially supported by local climbing club, The Mazamas and by the American Safe Climbing Association.

Topher and Micah rebolting at Ozone.

Topher and Micah rebolting at Ozone.

Now back to those Jive-Ass bolts. We have a policy here on Jive-AssAnchors.com not to name, shame, or ridicule anyone who may have, inadvertently or otherwise, engaged in acts of anchor jive-assery, That would be wrong. This being the case, I’m not going to name the routes where these anchors were found. You know the route, then you can figure out who put up the FA. And the person who put up the FA is almost certainly the person who bolted the route. Yes? So we won’t mention that. There has already been a bit of butt hurt in the Portland area climbing community on climbing forums concerning this delicate subject. In this regard, it has been pointed out by unnamed witnesses to the original bolting effort, that these screws are not just some garden variety lag bolts. Rather, they are actually Hilti Reusable Coil Anchors, considered acceptable for climbing purposes by some people, somewhere, at some period in history, damn it. And they’re not just “lagged” into a rocky hole, because there’s actually a little steel coil in that hole adding strength, like so:

Hilti HCA Resuable Coil Anchor: for dry indoor use only please.

Hilti HCA Resuable Coil Anchor: for dry indoor use only please.

Now that’s all fine and well, I suppose, except that the Hilti folks themselves stipulate that these bolts are to be used in dry, indoor conditions only, and not in the wet, outdoor, “temperate rain foresty” conditions of the American Pacific Northwest. They’re not intended for climbing routes, and they’re not even stainless steel!  Moreover, as Topher has pointed out, “The first bolt only required a 1/2 turn of the head by hand and it came right out!” Yikes. And Micah has pointed out that they were lead to rebolt this area due to several bolt failures in which bolts came loose–one on an overhang, and one due to a lead fall! So yeah, don’t use these.

At any rate, those Jive-Ass bolts have been replaced with nice, solid, climbing-route-appropriate stainless steel, torqued into place like so:

Nice new stainless steel bolts, torqued to specification.

Nice new stainless steel bolts, torqued to specification.

Long story short, donate money to rebolting efforts in your area. The ass that get’s saved may be yours!

Location: Ozone, near Portland, Oregon, USA

The Bow Tie

Holy crap, I am so excited to share this anchor submission with you all! It’s awesome jive-assery of the “over-engineered macrame project” variety (my favorite style). Beyond that it’s just bizarre. It’s from the Ouray Ice Park (hard to believe, I know) and the photos were submitted by Kent Bailey, who was visiting the park for the first time.  Kent calls this beast “The Bow Tie”, which is aptly named, as you can see.

An utterly strange ice climbing top rope anchor, macrame stylie.

Figure 1: An utterly strange ice climbing top rope anchor, macrame stylie.

As you can see, this is a redundant two point anchor. One anchor point is that simple loop of rope tied around the left tree with a knot I can’t quite identify. Here is a closer view. Any ideas anyone?

Bow Tie Ice Climbing Anchor from Another Angle.

Bow Tie Ice Climbing Anchor from Another Angle.

That knot on the left edge of the photo: it doesn’t quite look like a bowline. Not sure what it is. At any rate, here is a third photo from another angle:

Figure 3: Bow Tie Ice Climbing Top Rope Anchor from another angle.

Figure 3: Bow Tie Ice Climbing Top Rope Anchor from another angle.

Let’s move onto the second anchor point of this redundant anchor. It appears to be the load end of that elaborate spiderweb of rope wrapped around the two trees and tied up in a bow. You can see it better in figure 1. Yep. Looks like that’ll hold. I think it’ll hold. Which brings us to the question–to the elephant in the room as it were: why are those two trees bound together with that macrame project of rope? Is the idea to keep one of them from uprooting and getting yanked down the ice wall? They seem like pretty stout trees to me. Is this intended to be an art installation? In the end it really doesn’t look all that dangerous. It’s just…well…bizarre. I really don’t get it. I think Kent put it best when he wrote “I’m not really sure what all is really going on in this anchor.” My thoughts exactly, Kent. This is Jive-Ass Gold!

Location: Ouray Ice Park, Ouray, Colorado, USA

My What a Long Anchor!

My, my. It’s been a while since we’ve been to the Ouray Ice Park, hasn’t it? So with no futher ado, let’s dive right in, shall we? These photos were taken by my climbing pal Ania Wiktorowicz just this month. I like to call this ice climbing top rope anchor the loooooooooooong anchor. Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with a long anchor. At Ouray you often sling a tree set back 15 or 20 feet back from the cliff wall, so the length here isn’t unusual. But that’s not what’s Jive-Ass about it.

Slung Tree

Tree bone connected to the sling bone.

Let’s see, let’s sing the anatomy song on this one. The tree bone’s connected to the nylon sling bone…

Girth Hitched Soft goods

Sling bone girth hitched to…another sling bone!

The nylong sling bone’s connected to…another nylong sling bone. The…wait! Isn’t there suppossed to be a carabiner in here somewhere? Preferably a locker (since this is a single point of failure)? Nah! Just girth hitch one sling to another. We’ve addressed this issue before here, and here. This practice is, um…er…(cough! cough!) Jive-Ass.

And yeah, yeah, I know. It’s a freakin’ top rope anchor. No one’s going to crank that much force on it. It’ll probably be fine. Fair enough. It probably will. Probably no one will fall to the canyon floor and break both ankles. Probably not. But you really shouldn’t connect soft goods to soft goods like this–especially where it’s a single point of failure. “Probably” isn’t the same as “bomber”, and when you’re standing on the nice flat ground next to a tree, why not just go bomber?

Long ice climbing top rope anchor

My what a loooooong ice climbing top rope anchor.

And the final product. Try not to break off the sprinklers! That’s how they make the ice. You kids get off my route! And watch those crampons! This anchor isn’t EARNEST (no redundancy)!

Location: Ouray Ice Park, Ouray, Colorado USA

The American Death Triangle Fairy

Apparently there is an American Death Triangle Fairy travelling around crags unwittingly doing a safety disservice for climbers. He was spotted by Nicole Castonguay at Smith Rock State Park back in October, although apparently (and unfortunately) she didn’t realize he was the American Death Triangle Fairy at the time. Here’s the story, from what I can gather from what Nicole told me:

Nicole decided to climb Chalk Wave with a pair of climbing students in Early October. Chalk wave is a sport route, meaning it has bolts (duh!) and a bolt rap anchor at the top (duh!). Bear with me, this will be important later.

Anyway, at the base of the route they encountered a couple who were just packing up to leave (SPOILER ALERT: One of these two people was the American Death Triangle Fairy!). As Nicole and her students set up, and the couple packed up, they engaged in some climbing small talk, you know, like you do. Anyway, one half of this couple, this unidentified guy whose name we may never know, informed Nicole that it was very difficult to pull your rope if you rappelled directly off of the bolts. So as a public service he’d constructed a rappel anchor with webbing, so people could rappel from a proper rappel ring, from which it is oh so much easier to retreive your rope. He added that Nicole and her students need not clean his webbing rappel anchor, that he always brought extra webbing with him for this purpose, and that in fact, he provided this kind public service frequently. My, what a kind, thoughtful person!

So they eventually said their goodbyes and Nicole lead up the route to the anchor, where she encountered this:

Classic American Death Triangle, Double Looped for Fake Redundancy.

Classic American Death Triangle, Double Looped for Fake Redundancy.

Oh yes. That’s right. Classic American Death Triangle! This is the gift that nameless couple guy leaves “frequently”! And this is why I have dubbed nameless couple guy The American Death Triangle Fairy. Is his philanthropy limited to Oregon? The Pacific Northwest? Does he provide this service internationally? We may never know. When I asked Nicole if she had an opportunity to tell this guy that his public service was Jive-Ass (in kinder, more diplomatic terms), she sadly told me, “He was long gone by the time I discovered his handiwork.” Dang!

As Nicole herself pointed out, notice that this is not only a classic American Death Triangle, but it’s double threaded from the same piece of webbing. Presumably the double wrap is for added strength and redundancy. But there are no limiter knots tied anywhere. It’s just one continuous loop of webbing. So the entire system is a single point of failure.

So what’s the big deal with the American Death Triangle? Well it’s an anchor so jive-ass that it has its own Wikipedia entry. If you’re not familiar, take a look, but in summary, the American Death Triangle creates unnecessary magnification of force on the two anchor points. It’s also not redundant in any way. Any bit of the webbing fails, and the whole works fails.

And okay, fine, these are bolts, which are pretty bomber, and we’re only talking about rappelling, which doesn’t generate a lot of force. And in that sense, this American Death Triangle isn’t likely to fail if you rappel off of it. But that doesn’t make it okay. It certainly isn’t EARNEST or SERENE. And most importantly, this certainly isn’t a very good public service.

In conclusion, I’d like to put out an APB (All Points Bulletin) to the climbing community. Be on the look out for The American Death Triangle Fairy: a man who leaves American Death Triangle rappel anchors with a fake redundancy extra loop on sport routes, last seen in Central Oregon, and considered dangerous (to himself and others). Find this man, educate him, and make him to stop leaving Jive-Ass anchors around.

Location: Smith Rock State Park, Oregon, USA

Jive-Ass Rappel Station

Jive-Ass Rappel Station with stopper knot affixing rope to a bolt

Jive-Ass Rappel Station

Gosh, how the heck do you tie a bight of rope to a bolt hanger after you already tied it to the other bolt hanger with a funky ass knot? This is the question I envision the crafter of the Jive-Ass Rappel set up above having in the midst of crafting this F-ed up anchor.  Now granted, I don’t know if the, um…the…what would you even call that? ‘Stopper knot’? The thing on the left I mean. The bight of rope affixed to a bolt hanger with an overhand knot (the idea apparently being that the big fat knot will keep the rope from pulling back through the hole in the bolt hanger). Let’s go with stopper knot. Anyway, I don’t know if the decision to create the stopper knot was due to fixing the other end of the rope to the other bolt hanger first. That’s just my spectulation. Call it imaginary forensics if you like. I frankly have no idea why anyone would do this.

This Jive-Ass rappel set up (abseil set up for the Brits and Aussies among us) was submitted by Drew Smith, who happened upon it at Twin Craigs in the Lake Tahoe region of California. And since a lot of you have expressed concern that we all actually do something to remedy Jive-Ass situations rather than just take photographs of them, I want it noted for the record that, yes, Drew removed this shit so no one would get hurt in the future.

Now can we go back for a moment and evaluate this thing? The knot on the right hand bolt anchor: what the heck is that? I thought maybe a bowline at first, but now I’m not so sure. I can’t for the life of me figure out what that is.

And the anchor powerpoint. What the hell is that knot? I thought an overhand on a bight, but it looks like that quick link is attached to only one loop. Where’s the second loop?

And finally, can I say it again? Why the hell would you affix a rope to a bolt hanger with a stopper knot?  Scary.

Location: Twin Craigs, near Tahoe City, California, USA