Category Archives: Rappel Anchors

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!

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Longs Peak Clusterfuck

Clusterfuck Bail Anchor: The Diamond, Long's Peak

Clusterfuck Bail Anchor on The Diamond, Long’s Peak

Here is a photo taken just last Wednesday on The Diamond on Long’s Peak in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, by Martin Edwards. I think Martin’s own description captures it best, so I’ll let his words do the talking:

“I found this bail anchor above the North Chimney on the Longs Peak Diamond on Wednesday. There’s a lot going on: the flake that was slung was partially detached and not very solid, there is a buttonhead with an old SMC hangar, two rusted pins, and good stopper. There is webbing slung through everything with no equalization. There is no master point, either, everything converges at two different points. Jive ass.”

I couldn’t have said it better Martin, and I will only add the following two observations:

  1. The tan webbing is especially horrifying. Bolt hangers and pins often develop sharp edges, so it’s not a good idea to thread soft goods (like nylon webbing) through them. It’s best to attach them with a biner. Furthermore, nylon rubbing on nylon can melt at relatively low temperatures generated by force. So where the tan webbing is threaded through the bit of red webbing? Ouch!
  2. This whole anchor is a classic instance of what we climbers lovingly call a “clusterfuck”.

Be safe out there this summer, and happy climbing!

Location: Long’s Peak: The Diamond. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA.

Captain America’s Jive-Ass BD Cobra Rappel

Captain America's Foes Rappel off of Black Diamond Cobras

Captain America’s Foes Rappel off of Black Diamond Cobras

Last Sunday I watched the new Marvel Comics summer Hollywood blockbuster, Captain America: The Winter Soldier with my climbing buddy Andrew. And while the comic book action hero genre isn’t exactly my cup of tea, I have to say I actually enjoyed the film. It takes on grand, global political themes related to security and freedom, information secrecy, black ops, international assassinations, and various other realpolitik horror that resonates rather well in today’s scary world. But that’s not what I want to talk about.

The Winter Soldier has unorthodox rappelling techniques.

The Winter Soldier has unorthodox technique.

In this film Captain America’s nemsis is a black clad supervillian with a metalic arm named “The Winter Soldier”. And this fellow and his band of rogues wreak havoc on a fairly grand scale. At one of those frantic, frenetic moments in the film, where shots are cut into lightening quick action sequences, the Winter Soldier’s minions decide they’re going to rappel off of a freeway overpass. The overpass is litered with crashed cars. And in a quick edit sequence we see these fellows unzip dufflebags and pull out Black Diamond Cobras! Yes, black, carbon fiber ice climbing tools (the black carbon fiber fits in nicely with the minions’ black and metalic bad guy gear and apparel aesthetic). And at this moment Andrew and I looked at each other with our stupid 3-D glasses and said, “Whoa! Black Diamond Cobras!”

Hollywood Urban Rappel Anchor: Black Diamond Cobra

Hollywood Urban Rappel Anchor: Black Diamond Cobra

In the flim these Cobra ice climbing tools each have a rope attached to the pommel. Captain America’s nemesis minions used them as urban rappel anchors! Yes! That’s right. They used them as rappel anchors. The sequence works thusly:

  1. Pull Black Diamond Cobra with rope affixed to the pommel from duffle bag.
  2. THWACK the Black Diamond Cobra right into the sheet metal (the roof, the hood, etc.) of an abandoned automobile.
  3. Rappel!

Now that’s some awesome summer blockbuster jive-assery. I have no idea if those Cobras would rip a large gash in the sheet metal once weighted with body weight, or if they’d hold. I’m sure Black Diamond wouldn’t recommend it. If the Zombie Apocalypse ever happens maybe those of us with ice tools will find out.

Black Diamond says rappelling from your Cobras no es bueno.

Rappelling from your Cobras no es bueno.

Location: Hollywood, California USA

Jive-Ass Ice Rappel Anchor

Jive-Ass Ice Rappel Anchor

Jive-Ass Ice Rappel Anchor

Okay, I know who built this thing. One friend built it, while another friend gleefully photographed it and promptly forwarded the photo to me. They said they were only experimenting. They didn’t actually use this.

At any rate, it’s fairly jive-ass, don’t you agree? I mean I suppose if the cord is thick enough so that the subsequent knots aren’t so small that they pull into the hole left by the ice screws….

It seems like you could accomplish the same thing without the jive-ass overhand knot stoppers.

Anyway, yeah, experimenting is fun…

Location: Hyalite, Bozeman, Montana, USA

Top Rope Anchor Cluster

Wim on Pitch 1 of The Crown Jewel.

Wim on Pitch 1 of The Crown Jewel.

This entry borrows a chapter from the book “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.” In early December (2013) we had a very rare and sustained cold snap in the Pacific Northwestern U.S. It was cold enough to freeze some of the many waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge that divides Washington and Oregon, and all of my Portland area climbing pals were going ape shit crazy with all of the ice climbing opportunities. I managed to get out on two days myself, and even had the rare opportunity to climb the Crown Jewel below Crown Point on the Oregon side of the river. It’s two pitches of WI3. That’s my buddy Wim leading pitch 1 in the photo above. Not the gnarliest thing in the world, mind you, but you have to appreciate how rare it is for it to ever be ‘in’. Moreover, it’s far more exciting than a typical WI3 because it’s wet and warm and degrading as fast as it formed, leaving a lurking, spring-like fear that the whole works could de-laminate from the rock and send you hurling down the cliff.

Ah, fine and well, you might be saying, but where’s my jive-ass climbing anchor! Patience. We’re getting there.

When we were gearing up at the base of the route two stoners arrived. I call them stoners, because they roasted bowl after bowl of weed while they contemplated climbing the thing. They were rock climbers without much ice climbing experience, and I don’t know where they got it, but they were armed with positively antique ice climbing gear: straight shafted tools, pound in ice pitons, and some early Jeff Lowe ice pioneer era screws. Eventually, and much to my relief, they decided leading the thing probably wasn’t wise. So they asked me if I’d trail their rope up so they could top rope pitch 1. There’s a set of bolts at the top of pitch one. “Sure,” I said, “No problem.” And that’s what I did.

While I belayed pitch 2 from the top of pitch 1, Stoner guy #1 arrives and starts to reconfigure his top rope anchor to redirect it to the center of the ice. He reworked everything, from the bolts on. And here are the results:

Jive-Ass Sliding-X Top Rope Ice Climbing Anchor

Jive-Ass Sliding-X Top Rope Ice Climbing Anchor

He reconfigured a statically equalized, redundant anchor into this sliding x. Not ideal. No limiter knots, so not redundant. But I’ve seen worse. This isn’t what I’m here to share.

By the way, notice the ratty-tatty American Death Triangle rappel set up behind it! I should have cut that crap off, but I’m ashamed to say it didn’t occur to me at the moment for some reason.

Redirected Jive-Ass Ice Climbing Top Rope Anchor runs across the back of my calves...

Redirected Jive-Ass Ice Climbing Top Rope Anchor runs across the back of my calves…

So here is where the fancy redirected top rope ice climbing anchor gets interesting. The belay ledge is barely a ledge–maybe a foot width to stand on. Stoner guy runs the rope along the back of my calves. Unfortunately I didn’t notice this until he weighted the system to get lowered and the rope came tight on my leg.

Jive-Ass Redirect Rube Goldberg Contraption.

Jive-Ass Redirect Rube Goldberg Contraption.

Here’s the redirect anchor. One fairly solid screw, and one totally jive-ass back up screw. Stoner guy ground the screw in until he hit rock (oops!), and decided to call it good. It’s kinda redundant, right? Hopefully that other screw is bomber. I argued with him while he constructed this mess (and while simultaneously trying to concentrate on my belaying). I was able to convince him to clip the hanger on the jive-ass screw rather than sling the exposed shaft.

Once the system came tight on my leg, I complained to Stoner guy #2 when he got to the top of his lap. And he and Stoner guy #1 suggested I just step over onto the other side of the rope. I imagined an anchor failure where I get cheese-sliced off the wall and decided against it. Thus the rope sawed back and forth on the back of my legs until I was eventually able to climb away from the station.

Good times.

Location: Crown point, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon, USA