Monthly Archives: September 2013

Desperate Anchor Measures

Square knot anchor?

Square knot anchor?

Ever tie a climbing anchor with the same knot you tie your shoe laces? Yeah, me either. But whomever built the anchor above has. This is an honest-to-goodness jive-ass anchor photographed in the wild (on Oregon’s North Sister) by Stephanie Spence. As Steph notes, what we have here is a “square knot backed up by two overhands”(!). And judging by all of the loose sand around it, that rock the rope is slung around is pretty suspect as well.

This looks like a Wiley Coyote set up. You take a fall on the anchor, the rock the anchor is slung around pulls loose, you fall to the bottom of the cliff, and to add insult to injury, the rock you just pulled loose lands on your head. Here’s a rough dramatization for those of you unfamiliar with Road Runner cartoons.

But wait! There’s more! There is another anchor in this jive-ass set:

Sketch Slung Horn Anchor

Sketch Slung Horn Anchor

As Stephanie notes, this one is at least tied together with a double fisherman’s knot, although I don’t get the overhand knot in the middle. Presumably it was supposed to cinch the rope around the horn to keep it from falling off (there are better ways to accomplish this). More importantly, as Stephanie notes, “it’s just barely draped over that rock that may or may not be attached to the mountain.” I wouldn’t want to take my chances falling on this one anymore than the Wiley Coyote set up.

Below is a close up showing that there’s not much of a horn to keep the rope from slipping off of the rock:

Close-up of sketchy slung horn anchor.

Close-up of sketchy slung horn anchor.

So why would anyone in their right mind make such jive-ass anchors? Stephanie gives us some insight on that question.

“I was scrambling on up [North] Sister yesterday,” she writes, “and noticed these amazing anchors along what I believe is typically considered the “terrible traverse”.  One can only assume someone tried to cross this section on snow having not brought any pickets.” And there you have it. Desperate measures sometimes call for desperate climbing anchors. Another thing to note, which corroborates Steph’s impromptu forensic investigation, is that these anchor slings are made out of sections of climbing rope! It paints quite a desperate picture of someone panicked by exposure, having underestimated the climb, having failed to bring any protection, and having marginal technical skills (see the square knot), actually chopping off sections of his or her climbing rope to build some desperate anchors on the rock above the snow. Scary stuff, huh?

Location: North Sister, Oregon, USA

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