Category Archives: Natural Pro Anchors

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

My What a Long Anchor!

My, my. It’s been a while since we’ve been to the Ouray Ice Park, hasn’t it? So with no futher ado, let’s dive right in, shall we? These photos were taken by my climbing pal Ania Wiktorowicz just this month. I like to call this ice climbing top rope anchor the loooooooooooong anchor. Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with a long anchor. At Ouray you often sling a tree set back 15 or 20 feet back from the cliff wall, so the length here isn’t unusual. But that’s not what’s Jive-Ass about it.

Slung Tree

Tree bone connected to the sling bone.

Let’s see, let’s sing the anatomy song on this one. The tree bone’s connected to the nylon sling bone…

Girth Hitched Soft goods

Sling bone girth hitched to…another sling bone!

The nylong sling bone’s connected to…another nylong sling bone. The…wait! Isn’t there suppossed to be a carabiner in here somewhere? Preferably a locker (since this is a single point of failure)? Nah! Just girth hitch one sling to another. We’ve addressed this issue before here, and here. This practice is, um…er…(cough! cough!) Jive-Ass.

And yeah, yeah, I know. It’s a freakin’ top rope anchor. No one’s going to crank that much force on it. It’ll probably be fine. Fair enough. It probably will. Probably no one will fall to the canyon floor and break both ankles. Probably not. But you really shouldn’t connect soft goods to soft goods like this–especially where it’s a single point of failure. “Probably” isn’t the same as “bomber”, and when you’re standing on the nice flat ground next to a tree, why not just go bomber?

Long ice climbing top rope anchor

My what a loooooong ice climbing top rope anchor.

And the final product. Try not to break off the sprinklers! That’s how they make the ice. You kids get off my route! And watch those crampons! This anchor isn’t EARNEST (no redundancy)!

Location: Ouray Ice Park, Ouray, Colorado USA

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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. 

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

Leather Belt Anchor

Jive-Ass Leather Belt Anchor

Jive-Ass Leather Belt Anchor

Desperation some times causes us to do strange things. I ran across this climbing anchor (hand hold?) two weeks ago while climbing the summit block of Mt. Thielsen in the Southern Oregon Cascades. Some poor bastard attached his belt to the rock by wedging the belt buckle into a crack, sort of like a tricam. And it was in there pretty securely. Each of us tried to wiggle it out to no avail. I don’t think it was even real leather. How many kN is imitation leather good for I wonder?

The summit block of Thielsen is about 30 meters of 4th class climbing (with perhaps a very low 5th class move near the top). Some people just free solo it, although down-climbing it without a rope would be a bit unnerving. We protected the summit and rappelled from the top.

I’m no forensic expert, mind you, but I think this odd belt stuck in the rock was the result of a desperate down-climb. It was around six feet above a nice solid ledge. I suspect someone was free solo down-climbing, got sketched out about falling, and removed his (I assume it was a man because it’s a man’s belt) belt to fabricate a desperate hand tether with which to lower himself down to the safer platform. I hope he didn’t get hurt, because this set up was pretty jive-ass.

Location: Mt. Thielsen, Oregon, USA