Allergic to Metal Top Rope Anchor

Allergic to Metal Top Rope Anchor, witnessed in The Gunks.

Allergic to Metal Top Rope Anchor, witnessed in The Gunks.

Alex Fox found this little gem when climbing in The Gunks a few weeks ago. “Allergic to Metal” is his name, due to the fact that, well, there is nary a carabiner or nut or cam other piece of metal anywhere to be seen. I’ve certainly seen worse anchors, but this is pretty Jive-Ass just the same. 

Apparently the yellow cord going off-camera is tied to a tree with some exotic knot Alex couldn’t identify. “[I]t was backed up with a double overhand,” he added, “so was likely fairly secure.” All fine and well I suppose. But the stuff in the shot? Yeah. That’s Jive-Ass gold! Here are the issues Alex was able to enumerate himself:

1) “The webbing is tied around a completely detached boulder.” In other words, a classic Wiley Coyote set up. It’s a pretty big rock, mind you. But it’s not really that big!

2) There is some “hot nylon-on-nylon action” (my words being quoted by the way!) where cord meets webbing in a girth-hitch. Why, oh why not just connect the pieces of cord with a carabiner? We know what can happen when you connect soft goods together with a girth hitch. This happens (note the paragraph titled “Cyclic”).

3) Then there is a dyneema sling, which has a melting point of about 130 to 136 °C (266 to 277 °F), rather precariously girth hitched around another rock. 

4) Finally, and this is the clincher, Alex notes that both the nylon and dyneema webbing have a few random overhand knots tied in them, which, as Alex eloquently puts it, “didn’t appear to serve any purpose aside from weakening its overall strength.”

Location: Shawangunk Ridge (The Gunks), New York, USA

Longs Peak Clusterfuck

Clusterfuck Bail Anchor: The Diamond, Long's Peak

Clusterfuck Bail Anchor on The Diamond, Long’s Peak

Here is a photo taken just last Wednesday on The Diamond on Long’s Peak in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, by Martin Edwards. I think Martin’s own description captures it best, so I’ll let his words do the talking:

“I found this bail anchor above the North Chimney on the Longs Peak Diamond on Wednesday. There’s a lot going on: the flake that was slung was partially detached and not very solid, there is a buttonhead with an old SMC hangar, two rusted pins, and good stopper. There is webbing slung through everything with no equalization. There is no master point, either, everything converges at two different points. Jive ass.”

I couldn’t have said it better Martin, and I will only add the following two observations:

  1. The tan webbing is especially horrifying. Bolt hangers and pins often develop sharp edges, so it’s not a good idea to thread soft goods (like nylon webbing) through them. It’s best to attach them with a biner. Furthermore, nylon rubbing on nylon can melt at relatively low temperatures generated by force. So where the tan webbing is threaded through the bit of red webbing? Ouch!
  2. This whole anchor is a classic instance of what we climbers lovingly call a “clusterfuck”.

Be safe out there this summer, and happy climbing!

Location: Long’s Peak: The Diamond. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA.

Beware the Australian Carrot

Ever heard of a rock climbing “carrot” bolt? How about a “bash in”? Unless you’re an Australian rock climber, there is a good chance that the answer is “no”. As a North American climber I certainly had never heard of them. So I owe a debt of gratitude to Samuel May, who was good enough to send the photo below and alert me to the existence of this uniquely Australian contribution to sport climbing. In Sam’s own words:

“The famous “carrot” bolt was developed in Australia in the 50s and 60s due to the unavailability of any actual climbing gear. It consists of a hex head machine bolt, hand-filed to a taper, and pounded into an undersized hole without a hanger. The principle is the same as a drilled piton, but cheaper!”

So there you have it. You file a bolt to a taper (so it looks like a carrot, get it?). You drill a hole in the rock. You bash the carrot in the hole with a hammer until it’s tight (thus the alternative name “Bash in”). The shaft of the carrot bolt is sticking out a bit. And that’s it. That’s your pro. How the heck does that even work? Sam proceeds to explain:

“To clip it, you either use a removable hanger (“bolt plate”) or, if you run out of those like I did at this belay on “Cave Climb” [see Sam's photo below] in the Blue Mountains, you take a nut and slide it down the wire, slip the loop over the bolt head, and cinch the nut back up tight. You can also sling them with a skip knot on a skinny dyneema sling. Bomber!”

The "Bash in" or "Carrot" bolt: Australia's Unique Contribution to Climbing Jive-Assery.

The “Bash in” or “Carrot” bolt: Australia’s Unique Contribution to Climbing Jive-Assery.

I trust that Sam’s use of the term “Bomber!’ is ironic, as this set up looks a bit jive-ass. So I’ve done a bit of research on my own, starting with, on Sam’s suggestion, Safer Cliffs Australia‘s website. Safer Cliffs Australia is a non-profit organization devoted to maintaining safe rock climbing areas by replacing rusty, jive-ass old bolts and anchors with safe quality ones.  Here are some carrot photos from that site:

Scary Carrots! Photo Credit: Safer Cliffs Australia.

Scary Carrots! Photo Credit: Safer Cliffs Australia.

Wow, eh? Australian climbers have big balls.

So what about this ‘bolt plate’ hanger thing Sam mentioned? Here are a few photos of those:

Carrot Bolt Hanger Plates

Carrot Bolt Hanger Plates

Apparently these things are available for sale at pretty much all climbing gear shops in Australia. From what I’ve read you carry a supply of these things in your chalk bag. When you get to a bolt, you grope around in your chalk bag for a hanger plate, fish out out, and slip it over the head of the bash in carrot bolt. Then you clip a draw to it, and the carabiner, assuming it’s fat enough, keeps the hanger plate from falling off of the bolt head. And there you have it: a bolting system that gives sport climbing some of the white-knuckled, gripped thrill of trad!

Now apparently there are both zealous defenders and detractors of the carrot bolting system in Australia. So in an effort to keep myself from inadvertantly being dragged into an Aussie civil war by extolling the jive-ass qualities of this system, I think it’s worth placing this system into historical context.

Australian rock climbing pioneer and legend Bryden Allen claims to have invented the carrot bolting system some time in 1963 or 1964. I have no reason to believe this isn’t true, and I was able to find at least one resource that corroborates this claim. There weren’t exactly a lot of climbing gear options at that time. In Yosemite, for example, Royal Robbins, Yvon Chouinard, and Chuck Pratt were still putting up new routes protecting with pitons (and occasionally bolts). Royal Robbins is credited with bringing the first nuts to Yosemite from the UK in 1966. Given those conditions, the carrot bolt system, with its removable bolt plate hanger is pretty brilliant.

And with that said, here in the 21st century there now are quite a few climbing gear options–including dramatically superior bolting methods (for sport routes) and bomber spring loaded camming devices (for trad). By today’s standards, a machine bolt filed into a taper, bashed into a tiny hole and held in place through friction–especially an old and rusty one–appears a little jive-ass. Surprisingly though, from I’ve been able to determine, there aren’t many documented instances of injury or death due to bash in bolt failure.

Anyone seen this system used outside of Australia?

Location: All over Australia. 

 

Leather Belt Anchor Update

Remember the faux leather belt anchor from Oregon’s Mt. Theilsen I posted last year? Well guess what? Reports are coming in from the field that it’s still there. Below is a photo taken just this past weekend by climbing pal Ania Wiktorowicz.

Jive-Ass Faux Leather Belt Anchor Revisited

Jive-Ass Faux Leather Belt Anchor Revisited

This jive-ass anchor doesn’t look any worse for wear than when I encountered it myself last summer. Apparently it’s still attached to the mountain quite well.

“I tried wiggling it out” Ania told me, “…its bomber!” This was exactly my experience last year. The belt buckle seems to be jammed in the crack like a tricam. It’s a solid placement. Of course it’s not clear how many kN the belt buckle on an imitation leather belt can handle.

Here is a video of Ania and her find.

Another climbing friend, Jason Lee, confirms this jive-ass anchor’s continued existence with a similar photo. In this case, the jive-ass leather belt anchor is being taunted by a Metolious master cam, which makes for a nice juxtaposition I think:

Independent confirmation of Jive-Ass Faux Leather Belt Anchor.

Independent confirmation of Jive-Ass Faux Leather Belt Anchor.

Climbing Theilsen soon? Please send me a picture if the belt is still there.

Location: Mt. Theilsen, Oregon, USA

Macramé Project Rock Climbing Anchor

Jive-Ass Rock Climbing Anchor or Elaborate Macrame Project?

Jive-Ass Rock Climbing Anchor or Elaborate Macrame Project?

Whoa! Check out this elaborate jive-ass rock climbing anchor from Joshua Tree! I was asked to post this anonymously, so as not to embarrass the macramé artist who created it. There’s a lot going on here, so for purposes of orientation, let’s assume the four sides of the photo correspond to the four cardinal points of a compass. What we seem to have here is a three point anchor created out of the blue cordage, created for a ‘westward’ direction of pull. All fine and well, I suppose, except that belay device (Trango Cynch? Gri-Gri?) is set up for a ‘southward’ pull. Yikes! What keeps that blue cord anchor from getting yanked 90 degrees from the angle of pull it was designed for if the seconding climber falls? Oh yeah, that sort of tan colored rope coming from the west and tied to the blue cord anchor’s power point will keep that from happening, right? But wait, what the heck is that tied to? Well that’s revealed in the larger photo below (wait for it! don’t look yet!).

Regardless, what we have are, apparently, two opposite and opposed anchors set up for a horizontal (east-west) load force. There’s the blue cord anchor set up for a westward pull, and whatever is on the other end of the tan rope, which is set up for an eastward pull. Nothing wrong with that, if you’re expecting a horizontal (east or west) load. Ah, but that’s not what we expect! In this case we see a belay is set up at the power point for a vertical load (climber is coming from the south). That’s jive-ass–especially for a belay station.

Not to fear though. It appears the belayer has tied into a separate anchor with the climbing rope. That anchor is attached to the same pro as the blue cord anchor with a long double runner fashioned into a sliding x with no limiter knots (which is jive-ass). If the blue cord anchor blows by pulling the gear out of the rock, that back up jive-ass sliding x also goes.

Now back to the question a paragraph or so up. What’s that tan colored climbing rope coming from the west tied to? It’s tied to this:

The Rest of the Elaborate Joshua Tree Jive-Ass Macrame Project Rock Climbing Anchor.

The Rest of the Elaborate Joshua Tree Jive-Ass Macrame Project Rock Climbing Anchor.

It appears there is a second macramé project rock climbing anchor on the other side! It’s hard to see exactly how it’s constructed, but whatever it is, it appears to come to a power point as a sliding x, set up for an eastward load force. And how is it connected to the tan rope? Well the tan rope is just clipped into the power point biner. It’s not tied to it in anyway, which makes you ask, what’s at the other end of that tan rope? I have no idea, but I certainly hope it’s not yet a third elaborate macramé project. How many cordalettes, slings, and locking carabiners does this climber carry?

Oh yeah, one more thing! The in EARNEST stands for “timely”. How long do you suppose it took to knit this beast together?

This elaborate monstrosity is one of the most impressive examples of jive-assery we’ve seen on this blog yet! Very, very impressive. I hope no one was hurt.

Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA