Lest you get the impression that all ice climbing anchors at the Ouray Ice Park in Colorado are jive-ass (they aren’t), here is a bomber climbing anchor. It’s quite aesthetically pleasing, actually–beautiful even–with its symmetrical bowlines with overhand back up knots. Personally I prefer to have the overhand back up knot right up against the bowline knot to keep everything from slipping, but this set up is gorgeous nonetheless. EARNEST and SERENE to a fault, it’s made of a single piece of what looks to be 7 mm cord. The power point was a “super 8”. I talked to the builder and he was very proud of his anchor. The pride he takes in his work shows.
Why are so many of my jive-ass anchor photos from the Ouray Ice Park? Or perhaps a better question is: how am I able to produce so many jive-ass anchor photos from the Ouray Ice Park? I think it’s simply a matter of sheer numbers and access. On a typical day there are dozens and dozens of top rope ice climbing anchors built in the park–many of them right next to one another. There are few places–rock climbing crags included–where a person can witness so many climbing anchor set ups in one place in one day. And given the sheer number, odds are that you’re going to encounter at least one or two anchors built by someone with inadequate (or no) climbing anchor construction training. All of that said, most of the climbing anchors one encounters there are perfectly bomber.
Look at this anchor. I can’t quite get my head around it. I don’t think it’s particularly dangerous or anything. In fact, it looks pretty bomber. It’s just…well…weird. It’s a textbook case of the over-engineered climbing anchor. The methods employed are ‘unconventional’ in the world of climbing anchors.
There is a piece of what looks like 6mm perlon cord quadrupled around the tree–wrapped so many times that it can’t reach around the tree. It seems that a double wrap would have made it around the tree and still provided redundancy. And then–this is where it gets really strange–there appear to be two spectra/nylon blend double runners, doubled over (to shorten them) and then tied directly to the 6mm cord. And to provide redundancy, there is a sliding ‘x’ style loop at the power point–lest the whole works fail should one tied end of those slings fail. I say sliding ‘x’ style because there’s no way that bulky wad of spectra and nylon is going to ‘slide’. It’s essentially a case of using a dynamic equalization technique to end up with an effectively statically equalized anchor, leading us to ask why?
Two locking ‘biners opposite and opposed. Bomber.
This anchor isn’t going anywhere. It’s a top rope anchor attached to super stout natural pro. It’s just weird.
Wow! Where do I even begin with this Rube Goldberg contraption? This Ultra-Jive-Ass Ice Anchor was submitted by Ryan Cupp, who is proving to be expert at finding jive-ass anchors. If we could issue tickets for every anchor building best practice violation, this anchor would cost a fortune.
I think a ‘laundry list’ is in order for this one, so let’s count them off:
First, there’s the matter of the daisy chain personal protection leash (designed for aid climbing, not personal pro). It’s clipped in short to one of the ice screws, and the carabiner at the end if it–the one you usually use to clip yourself to the anchor for personal protection–is the power point of the freakin’ anchor! The belayer has thus trapped himself in the system. Short of cutting his leash, there is no way to escape the belay without un-weighting the anchor and at least partially disassembling it.
The left ice screw is slung with part of a quick draw. It’s not clipped to the screw with a carabiner to ensure it won’t fall off. The sling is simply, well, slung onto the shaft of the ice screw. It’s not even girth hitched to the shaft to keep it from potentially falling off. Scary.
Finally, look at that sling that joins the two screws into a power point. It is not redundant. Had he put a twist in one of the strands at the power point he’d at least have a sliding x. As it is, if one end of that sling comes lose (see issue #2 above), the whole system fails.
This thing is pretty sketchy. Whomever built it should really go get some instruction on anchor building. John Long’s classic Climbing Anchors isn’t a bad place to start. While it primarily addresses rock anchors, the principles are the same for ice anchors.
Nice use of a plaquette device (old school Petzel Reverso) though.
This photo comes to us compliments of Jason Brabec, who witnessed this set up just a few weeks ago in Idaho’s City of Rocks. This belay station consists of two spectra double runners girth hitched together and attached to a single large (#4 Camelot) cam placed in a crack. The belayer then extended the anchor with a length of the climbing rope, apparently to reach a more comfortable belay stance. I cropped the photo to protect the belayer’s identity (Jason didn’t know her), but you can still see the top of her helmet in the photo. According to Jason she was basically laying on her belly, with her head down, belaying her second who was quite a way off of the deck. Jason said he couldn’t believe what he was witnessing.
There are several obvious rock climbing anchor “no-nos’ here:
This is a “one point” climbing anchor consisting of a single cam in a crack in the rock. So obviously there is no redundancy. If that cam pops out, both the belayer and second fall to their deaths.
The two spectra slings are girth hitched together, as we’ve seen in the past (see Hot Spectra-on-Spectra Action! and Girth Hitch Death Wish). This would be safer if the slings were connected with a carabiner. Since she extended the anchor with a length of the climbing rope anyway, she also could have just extended the climbing rope further and omitted one of those Spectra slings.