Category Archives: Natural Pro Anchors

Anchors made with natural protection, e.g., trees, boulders, rock horns.

If You Can’t Tie a Knot, Tie a Lot

 

Here is a classic macrame project top rope rock climbing anchor.

Here’s an interesting jive-ass anchor submission from Remillard Park in Berkeley, California sent to me by Alex Duncan and Chris St. Amant. This one’s subtle. It’s one of those instances where there’s enough redundancy going on that it’s probably not going to kill anyone. Besides, it’s for top roping. It’s not going to generate big fall forces. However, there’s enough weird shit going on that it’s pretty clear that the anchor builder is sort of just making it up as he goes.

As Alex himself put it, “We decided that this man had adopted the ‘If you can’t tie a knot, tie a lot’ policy.” And you know what? If you don’t exactly know what you’re doing that’s probably a better policy than going minimalist. If your knots suck there may be safety in numbers.

So we’re starting from the power point and going back to the anchor points on this one. Looks like someone’s climbing without a personal protection leash on this excursion, because it’s being used as part of the power point. No big deal I suppose. Let’s move back a bit.

Someone actually backed up an anchor bolt with a daisy chain girth hitched around a bit of pipe in the rock.

It’s always good to back up a bolt with a daisy chain girth hitched around a piece of pipe, said no one ever.

One leg of the anchor is attached to a proper rock climbing anchor bolt with a locking carabiner. Bomber! I feel really good about that.

There’s some other shit going on here too involving a piece of aid climbing gear. I don’t really understand that part.

This top rope rock climbing anchor knot is sort of like a Bowline Knot

Classic Mystery Knot.

The other leg of this two point natural pro/bolted pro combo is tied to a rock with a…knot. At least I think it’s a knot. It could be a random tangle in the rope. Alex writes that neither he nor Chris could identify it, nor could two other people they asked.

See, now this bit is pretty jive-ass. And there’s really no good excuse for it. You can teach yourself how to tie a freakin’ bowline right here on the internet. Here’s a how to tie a bowline tutorial. And here is another. And here is another. And here is yet another. There are many more. Yeesh.

Location:  Remillard Park in Berkeley, California, USA

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Jive-Assery at Castle Rock State Park

Two Quick Draws to Top Rope Climbing Anchor
“Hmmm. I’ve slung all my shit together but the rope doesn’t quite make it to the edge. Dang! I wish there was a way I could extend the dyneema sling I tied off short to my quick draws…”

Imaginary conversation. I often construct these sorts of conversations when I encounter a jive-ass rock climbing anchor in an attempt to put myself into the head of the person who constructed it. This is the narrative that came to mind in this case. Why couldn’t this be extended just another few inches? I see no reason. And while we’re at it, who top ropes through a pair of rappel rings?  Where they worried about wearing grooves in those quick draw biners? How long are they planning to top rope here?

This Jive-Ass rock climbing top rope anchor was digitally captured in the wild by Devin Prouty at Goat Rock in Castle Rock State Park in California’s Bay Area. Devin says there are frequently J.A.A.s to be found there.  But wait, we’re not done with this one yet. There is more jive-assery. Usually I start at terra firma and work my way to the powerpoint, but today let’s work in the other direction. So here’s the bit that comes next.

Girth Hitched Soft Goods, because Carabiners are Very Expensive.

Girth Hitched Soft Goods, because Carabiners are Rare and Expensive.

Are soft goods girth hitched directly to soft goods? Yes. Yes they are. We’ve discussed this problem many times, for instance, here and here and here. Despite covering this topic over and over again the practice apparently continues, which shows what a fat lot of good this blog is doing!

I know you’re looking at those two slings stretched into those two locking carabiners. Wait for it…

Two lockers here, none at the next link in the system.

Two lockers here, none at the next link in the system.

—and here they are! Question #1 from yours truly: hey, I see you have not one but two locking carabiners there at that connection point in your fancy anchor system, but you don’t have any carabiners at the next connection point. I appreciate the extra redundancy here and all, but if you’re short on biners you might have…um…moved one of these lockers to that jive-ass girth hitch point.

Weird side loading on those lockers due to slings pulling at opposite angles? Maybe so. I don’t know how those things are attached to planet earth. Certainly not ideal.

I do want to make an announcement though. Some people on various climbing forums, the climbing sub-Reddit, etc. will occasionally wag their virtual finger, insisting that people should not be photographing jive-ass anchors to post on a blog for our fun and entertainment. No, instead, they should be instructing and correcting the fabricators of said jive-ass anchors so that they might mend their jive-ass ways, become enlightened, and climb safely in the future. Point well taken, even if it takes earnestness to a level that threatens to suck just a little bit of joy out of life. These people are correct, of course. We should all take the initiative to point out unsafe aspects of the climbing anchors we see in order to keep others from harms way. It’s the right thing to do.

To that end, I want you all to know that Devin was a good Samaritan. He informed the party responsible for this anchor about some of the jive-ass-pects of their anchor. Now you have to be delicate about this, because we climbers are a bunch of know-it-alls and we don’t always take criticism well. One might suffer a punch in the nose, or at the very least some scornful looks when one tries, ever so delicately and diplomatically, to tell a person that his or her climbing anchor may not be up to snuff. Devin reports that this party untied a sling (the dyneema one near the powerpoint I suspect) so that the rap rings at lest hung over the lip. They also offered some excuses about expecting to be able to use non-existent bolts.

Here is what we can’t see, according to Devin: “the green and blue/white sling are girth hitched to several other short slings that are run around a large mushroom of rock at the top of the cliff.” Oh my…

Location: Castle Rock State Park, California, USA

Model Belay Station

Rat's Nest Belay Anchor

Rat’s Nest Belay Anchor

Ever since the photo above was sent to me I’ve been having this recurring nightmare. In my dream I’m seconding a route. For some reason we’re using two fatty single ropes like a set of half ropes. I get up to the belay station and I see that my belayer is belaying me off of this…thing. My heart leaps. I am very afraid. I want to say “What the fuck, dude?” but before the words can leave my mouth the whole works comes undone and we both fall to our deaths.

What the hell am I looking at here? I am completely dumbfounded by this “belay anchor”.  I’m not sure where it starts and where it ends, or how it might have been constructed, or why. What sequence of events and chain of causes lead a human being to knit this rat’s nest together?  Were psychedelic drugs involved?

This anchor is from Little Cottonwood Canyon just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. The person who submitted the photo wishes to remain anonymous to protect the identity of the mad scientist who constructed this masterpiece of jive-ass clusterfuckage. I can assure you that he has a good sense of humor. “Model Belay Station” is his name for this photograph. He also suggests that the best method for escape the belay from this set up might be a “boning knife”.

Take another look at this thing. Seriously. Do me a favor. Count the caribiners for me. What do you see? Including the one in the climber’s belay loop I see seven. Seven! I don’t believe what I see, but that’s what I see. What the heck are they doing, all of these carabiners? What is their purpose? Oh I know. They’re some how connecting two climbing ropes and, what is that? Are those quickdraws threaded in there? Notice that none of the carabiners appear to be locking carabiners. Are any of them at a single point of failure?

Seriously folks. This is a total head-scratcher. Why? That’s the question I’m left with. Why was this thing made the way it was made? This thing is terrifying.

Location:  Little Cottonwood Canyon, Salt Lake City, Utah USA

Deadly Optimism

This utterly brilliant, ultra-sketchy Jive-Ass Anchor was photographed and submitted by Andrew McLeod, who happened upon it at one of the UK’s most popular crags (Stanage). I would like to commend Andrew right at the outset for providing exceptional photographic documentation, and delicious expository prose with his submission. Indeed, he had me at the caption of the first photo, which reads, “This was one of the most, if not the most, optimistic sling placements I have ever seen.” He was referring to this:

Sheer Luck Sling: An Optimistic Sling Placement that is barely holding on the edge of a slab of rock.

Optimistic Sling Placement

Whoa! Optimistic indeed. This would be the ‘dark side’ of optimism. It looks as though that thing is going to just slip over the edge at any moment. And this provokes an interesting bit of climbing philosophy to ponder. There is value to being a bit pessimistic about climbing. I don’t mean so grim and hopeless that you see no point in leaving your living room sofa to go out climbing. What I mean is having enough pessimism to plan and be prepared for the worst case scenario even if you always hope for the best case scenario. This is sometimes described as “protective pessimism“. It gives you a better margin of error. If you’re counting on everything to come off perfectly in order to succeed, you’re eventually going to get screwed badly–especially in as unforgiving an activity as climbing. This is what I mean by the dark side of optimism (illustrated well in the photo above).

But I digress! Let’s examine this “optimistic” anchor further, starting this time at the power point and working backwards.

Clove hitch loving power point.

A Power Point for Clove Hitch Lovers.

This is the power point. Notice that there are a lot of clove hitches attaching the rope to the carabiner. “for reasons unknown,” as Andrew notes. What the fuck are the clove hitches for exactly, I mean apart from creating a rat’s nest of clusterfuckage? Note also that the power point isn’t extended far enough to make it over the edge of the rock, so there is a spectra/dyneema sling attached. Notice that that spectra/dyneema sling is girth hitched to the carabiner, again for reasons unknown (knots and hitches weaken cordage, so this isn’t helping).  As Andrew also notes, there was more than enough rope left to extend that power point over the edge (especially if you were to remove a half a dozen of those clove hitches). The sling is unnecessary.

So just to orient you for the next pictures, here is Andrew’s handy description of where the strands run: “Left hand rope goes to sheer-luck sling [Editor’s Note: aka the Optimisitic Sling Placement], right hand rope to boulder-jam thread, centre to under-boulder gear.” Sounds delightful, no? You’ve already seen the sheer-luck sling, so let’s move onto the boulder-jam thread.

Boulder Jam Thread.

Boulder Jam Thread.

Oh hell yeah! Let’s thread a sling between two rocks pinched together! What could possibly go wrong (i.e. more dangerous optimism)? Never in the history of climbing has a sling pulled through a pinch between two rocks!

Thread the pinch!

Thread the pinch!

Here is a close up from another angle. Don’t do this, okay? This is Jive-Ass.

Let’s move on to the middle strand of rope (the short leg of the three point anchor), which Andrew described as “under-boulder gear”.

Underside of the boulder pinch.

Under-Boulder Gear.

This is a bit hard to see, so I’ll leave it to Andrew to describe: “Originally I thought this was two bits of gear and two quick-draws but looking at the photo more carefully I am beginning to think it is just one size 10 nut (the one my friend got out; the silver colour matches if it is DMM) with two opposed quick-draws. Which, given the completely non-redundant single sling over the edge, would be kind of insane, but believable…” I will add this point though: given the optimistic sling placement and the sketchy rock pinch, if this nut is well placed, then it’s really the only thing holding this mess together. That’s right. If I understand this correctly, they’re essentially top roping on a single nut placement. I hope it was well placed!

And there you have it. Luckily top roping doesn’t generate large forces. Thank’s for sharing Andrew McLeod. And to the rest of you, keep taking photos and sending them along.

Location: Stanage Edge, Derbyshire/South Yorkshire, UK

The Bow Tie

Holy crap, I am so excited to share this anchor submission with you all! It’s awesome jive-assery of the “over-engineered macrame project” variety (my favorite style). Beyond that it’s just bizarre. It’s from the Ouray Ice Park (hard to believe, I know) and the photos were submitted by Kent Bailey, who was visiting the park for the first time.  Kent calls this beast “The Bow Tie”, which is aptly named, as you can see.

An utterly strange ice climbing top rope anchor, macrame stylie.

Figure 1: An utterly strange ice climbing top rope anchor, macrame stylie.

As you can see, this is a redundant two point anchor. One anchor point is that simple loop of rope tied around the left tree with a knot I can’t quite identify. Here is a closer view. Any ideas anyone?

Bow Tie Ice Climbing Anchor from Another Angle.

Bow Tie Ice Climbing Anchor from Another Angle.

That knot on the left edge of the photo: it doesn’t quite look like a bowline. Not sure what it is. At any rate, here is a third photo from another angle:

Figure 3: Bow Tie Ice Climbing Top Rope Anchor from another angle.

Figure 3: Bow Tie Ice Climbing Top Rope Anchor from another angle.

Let’s move onto the second anchor point of this redundant anchor. It appears to be the load end of that elaborate spiderweb of rope wrapped around the two trees and tied up in a bow. You can see it better in figure 1. Yep. Looks like that’ll hold. I think it’ll hold. Which brings us to the question–to the elephant in the room as it were: why are those two trees bound together with that macrame project of rope? Is the idea to keep one of them from uprooting and getting yanked down the ice wall? They seem like pretty stout trees to me. Is this intended to be an art installation? In the end it really doesn’t look all that dangerous. It’s just…well…bizarre. I really don’t get it. I think Kent put it best when he wrote “I’m not really sure what all is really going on in this anchor.” My thoughts exactly, Kent. This is Jive-Ass Gold!

Location: Ouray Ice Park, Ouray, Colorado, USA