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. 

That’s Just Lazy

Girth Hitch that Bolt Hanger!

Girth Hitch that Bolt Hanger!

‘Tis the season to get Jive-Ass Anchor submissions from Smith Rock State Park, apparently. I received this photo, taken last weekend, from several climbing friends. Credit to Eric Kennedy for being the first. And here’s the juicy kicker: several people have pointed out to me that this anchor was constructed by a climbing guide who was teaching clients to climb. Yeesh!

The offense here, of course, is that this ‘guide’ girth hitched a spectra/nylon sling directly to one of the bolt hangers rather than attaching it with a carabiner (like on the other bolt).

And yeah, yeah, okay. It’s just a top rope anchor. No one is going to generate big fall forces. And for top roping or rappelling, girth hitching like this is probably no big deal (unless there is a burr or a sharp edge on that bolt hanger). And it’s tied off with a figure 8, so its redundant, so even if the girth hitch failed the strand attached to the other bolt would still hold. Points all well taken. But it’s a Jive-Ass rock climbing anchor just the same. Wish someone would have asked. Lazy? Out of carabiners? Missed that day at guide school? What?

Location: Smith Rock State Park, Oregon.

Girth Hitch Insanity

Sling to sling to sling girth hitch insanity: a climbing anchor.

Sling to sling to sling girth hitch insanity: a climbing anchor.

Justin Rotherham took this shot at Smith Rock a few weeks back. A seemingly infinite chain of girth hitched webbing. We’ve discussed the whole girth hitching webbing thing in the past here and here. This one isn’t necessarily all that dangerous, for the simple reason that the girth hitched monstrosity is a ‘back up’ for a presumably more proper climbing anchor. But it definitely qualifies as Jive-Ass (in this case, of the ‘overkill’ variety).

In Justin’s words [emphasis is mine], “This sling to sling to sling girth hitch insanity was a back up to a 2 quickdraw top rope set up.  The sling ‘back up’ was attached to the anchor for the next route over with another non-locking biner.  The other end of the sling had a quicklink that they had threaded the rope through after clipping the draws.”

Yeah, some times people go a little overboard with their redundancy. Apparently two bolts (two bolts!) weren’t enough for top roping (top roping!). And thus jive-assery was required.

Parting words or wisdom from Justin: “These are bolted anchors people!  Quit trying to make it harder than it needs to be.”

Location: Smith Rock State Park, Oregon, USA

Jive-Ass Snow Picket

Jive-Ass Snow Picket

Jive-Ass Snow Picket

Check out this Jive-Ass, Old-Skool, homemade snow picket we found on the Eliot Glacier on the north side of Mt. Hood this weekend. It’s a beauty! We were on the glacier practicing high angle rescue techniques and this thing was just laying on the ice on one of the lower ice shelves near the start of the terminal morane.

Like most glaciers, the Eliot is retreating and melting at a rather disturbing rate. My hunch is that this Jive-Ass homemade picket was frozen up there in the glacier for a fairly decent amount of time, until it finally it melted free of its icy grave, sort of like Ötzi the Iceman, the 5,300 year old man who popped out of the Italian Alps in 1991. 

 Ötzi the Iceman (photo: Wikicommons)

Ötzi the Iceman (photo: Wikicommons)

I’m not saying this picket was buried in the ice for anything approaching that amount of time, mind you. I’m thinking maybe a decade or two. This highly speculative hypothesis is supported in some small measure by the 1970s era Chouinard Carabiner attached to it. That thing is an antique. Yvon Chouinard hasn’t sold carabiners since Chouinard Equipment Company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1989, due to several product liability lawsuites, and several former employees bought the inventory and founded Black Diamond Equipment

As to the picket itself? It appears to be a rather thin aluminum tube with a hole drilled in the end. Through that hole there is a piece of steel cable formed into a loop with a metal cable crimp. Notice also that the tube is sort of bent. I hope that didn’t happen while someone was hanging from it. 

Location: Eliot Glacier, Mt. Hood, Oregon, USA

 

 

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