The American Death Triangle Fairy

Apparently there is an American Death Triangle Fairy travelling around craigs 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

Jive-Ass Leeper Hanger Bolt Anchor

How many Jive-Ass boxes can you tick on these anchors? That’s the question Samuel Feuerborn, who sent me these photos, asks us to ponder. There’s a lot going on in the image below, so take a moment to soak it in. We’ll wait. Then we can dive in with Sam’s assessment, and my own usual embellishments.

Jive-Ass Bolt Anchor on Ninja (5.11+), on the Reservoir Wall at Indian Creek, Moab, Utah.

Jive-Ass Bolt Anchor on Ninja (5.11+), on the Reservoir Wall at Indian Creek, Moab, Utah.

This anchor was on Ninja at Resevoir Wall in Indian Creek in Moab, Utah. According to Sam, it includes: an American Death Triangle, retired leeper hangers, a hardware store wedge bolt, a star dryvin bolt, a modern 3/8″ 5 piece that’s hanging a 1/2 inch out of the freakin’ wall (!), lots and lots of faded tat, and four extremely heavily worn ‘leaver biners’.

Wow! It’s sort of breathtaking to see so much jive-assery in one set up! I’m really impressed! I get the sense that this one is a community effort, developed and nurtured over time. I encourage you all to play a rock climber’s version of Where’s Waldo and see if you can find all of the treats Sam has identified. I can certainly see the deeply worn notch in one of those leaver biners. And that bit of 6mm or 7mm purple cord is tied to one set of bolts in a classic American Death Triangle. I think that shiny bolt on the far left is the Star dryvin. Finally, Sam doesn’t mention this, look at how that yellow webbing sliding-x dealio on the right side bolts is just threaded through the hangers.

Ah, but it get’s better. Sam has close ups!

 

Modern 3/8  inch 5 piece bolt pulled a half inch out of the wall.

Modern 3/8 inch 5 piece bolt pulled a half inch out of the wall.

Check it out! There’s a bolt pulled a half inch out of the crumbly-ass sandstone! That inspires all kinds of confidence, eh? Let’s hear it for redundancy (Whew!).

But wait! There’s more!

Leeper Hangars, recalled by Ed Leeper in 2004 for life-threatening cracking/breaking hazard.

Leeper Hangers, recalled by Ed Leeper in 2004 for life-threatening cracking/breaking hazard.

Here are the Leeper Hangers. For those of you not in the know, Ed Leeper himself recalled these hangers back in 2004 due to a serious flaw he was unaware of when he first designed and manufacured them. Apparently they are succeptible to “stress-corrosion cracking”, which may not be so apparent at first, but eventually looks like this:

Cracked Leeper Hanger

Cracked Leeper Hanger

In this scenario, the top half remains bolted to the wall, and the bottom half is clipped to your quick draw, which is also clipped to your rope, which is coiled willy-nilly on top of your broken body at the bottom of the pitch. Ouch!

Trouble is something like 95,000 of these things were made between 1962 and 1984, and maybe 20,000 to 40,000 were still installed as of 2004, according to Ed Leeper’s estimation. So to try to get the word out to the climbing community to search and replace these things, Ed took out a full page ad in Rock and Ice magazine that looked sort of like this. Good on Ed for doing what he can to get these things replaced. You can do your part by keeping an eye out and helping with the search and destroy (and replace). Apparently you can start at Indian Creek in Moab!

Oh yeah, this recall was discussed in detail back in 2004 in the Rockclimbing.com forums, which still exist for your perusal.

Happy sending folks!

Location: Indian Creek, Moab, Utah, USA

 

 

Comrades in Arms

Some climbing buddies pointed out to me today that Climbing Magazine posted a Ridiculous Anchors Edition of their Unbelayvable series (which recounts harrowing tales of reader-submitted climbing stupidity). And this installment does indeed deliver some high quality climbing anchor Jive-Assery, the most noteworthy being this one:

Jive-Ass Quick Draw chain anchor, from John Gregory's blog "Dumb Anchors"

Jive-Ass Quick Draw chain anchor, from John Gregory’s blog “Dumb Anchors”

The Climbing magazine piece quotes a guy named John Gregory in its photo caption (it would have been decent of them to at least post a link to his fine blog) [UPDATE: they did add a link to John’s site in the Climbing magazine piece–nice work!], so I looked him up to discover that John is almost like a long lost brother, a comrade in arms as it were. John manages an awesome blog–not unlike Jive-Ass Anchors–called Dumb Anchors. Most of his examples appear to be from Carderock, Maryland, USA. And indeed the photo above is from his blog. In fact, John has also posted a photo of this “dumb anchor” from another angle, which illustrates the full cluster-fuckery of this horrible anchor even more explicitly. There are some real gems in John’s blog. You should check it out.

At any rate, seeing this sort of inspired me to offer a shout out to everyone out there fighting the good fight by documenting and dissecting all of the Jive-Ass anchors we encounter out there in the world. And for those of you who see and photograph them, I’d also like to encourage you to not only witness but also to intervene. If you see something particularly dangerous and you can fix it, or educate the builder of said Jive-Ass anchor (with a bit of tact and diplomacy of course), please do so. Here are a few of the more prominant lousy anchor resources online:

  1. As I just discovered, there is the Dumb Anchors blog from John Gregory: http://dumbanchors.blogspot.com/
  2. The Mountain Project forums has a Bad Anchors section with some pretty good (bad) stuff too: http://www.mountainproject.com/v/bad-anchors/108031892
  3. The forums on SuperTopo has a rather awesome section called Good Anchors, Bad Anchorshttp://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/569713/Good-Anchors-Bad-Anchors
  4. And finally, while not devoted exclusively to horrifying climbing anchors, the /r/climbing sub-Reddit on Reddit often has instances of pure Jive-Ass gold. People send me stuff form here all the time: http://www.reddit.com/r/climbing

Missing anything? Let me know!

Nothing EARNEST or SERENE

Not very EARNEST  Alpine Anchor

Not very EARNEST Alpine Anchor

Imagine you’re climbing some alpine mixed route, and your buddy belays you up to this anchor. Hmmm…. What great time to review your climbing anchor mnemonics!  SERENE? Not so much:

Strong/Solid placements: Single boulder precariously fused into frozen pile of mud  (No).

Equalized: To what? It’s a single sling (No).

Redundant: Single sling  slung onto a single boulder is a single point of failure (No).

Efficient: Like the trains in Germany (Yes).

NExtension: Well if a piece should break the climber and anchor fall, what, 60 meters? Farther? How high are we again? (No).

EARNEST? I don’t think so:

Equalized: A single strand is always equal to itself, right? (No)

Angle: What angle? You need two intersecting lines to make an angle (No).

Redundant: Well if the sling breaks or the rock comes unstuck from the mud….um….(No).

NExtension: Yeah sure, there’s a lot of ‘extension’. But when the climber eventually hits the ground he/she will not shock load the detached anchor, so is that a yes? (No).

Solid/Secure: Sling girth hitched to boulder, boulder attached to…?  (No).

Timely: Oh hell yeah! I bet this anchor took less than a minute to build. (YES!).

Brad Farra sent me this photo. And I know who built the anchor, but I’m not telling (and no, it wasn’t Brad!). I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t a case of “desperate times demand desperate measures”. Sometimes you come to the end of your rope and, well, there just aren’t a lot of options–especially in the alpine. So you make due with what you have. I once buried a Black Diamond Viper in the snow as a ‘deadman’ belay anchor on Devil’s Kitchen Headwall on Mt. Hood. No ice to take a screw and I was out of pickets. It happens.

But let’s make no bones about it: this anchor is ultra Jive-Ass. Extra points for the old school first generation Petzl Reverso.

Location: Unknown, but somewhere in North America no doubt.