Category Archives: Rock Anchors

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

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Wrench in the Works

Trad tool?

Trad tool?

Behold! Yeah, that’s right. Take a good, long, hard look. Let it soak in for a few minutes. This piece of trad climbing performance art/mockery was discovered by Chis Mills outside Val David, in the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec. As Chris himself put it, “looked surprisingly well-placed as climbing spanners go!” He made this remark after asking if this counts as Jive-Ass, which reveals that Chris has a healthy sense of humor.

Have you looked it long and hard yet? Yeesh! This is one of those things that leaves you scratching your head, thinking to yourself, Why is this here? Or more importantly, how is it that this is here? How did this come to pass?

“Can’t say whether or not it’s ever been used in anger,” Chris told me, “but it’s definitely stuck up there!” WTF? Who carries a wrench up a trad route?

Wait, let’s back up. Let’s start over. Okay? Okay, here we go:

Imagine you’re out trad climbing with one of your friends. You’re on the sharp end. You’re up the wall a ways and suddenly you notice. “Shit! I’m completely out of gear!” Why are you out of gear? Heck, I don’t know. Maybe you sewed it up. Maybe you have a very small rack. Maybe you left your rack home. I don’t know. Work with me here. Anyway, there you are on the sharp end and maybe you’re a good way above your last piece, right? And you say, “Shit! I’m completely out of gear!” But no worries! It’s cool, because you’re an automobile mechanic! And you left work with a few tools still in your pocket, and….

No, no, no! You’re not a mechanic. You’re the cable guy! Yeah! You’re the cable guy, and you’ve just spent all day installing cable television and broadband in residential houses in Val David. They have cable television in Val David, right? Surely they do. And because you’re so into cable TV installation you go everywhere with your tool belt! You’re hanging there in the middle of a trad route, your empty rack, your harness, and your cable TV installer’s work belt! It’s strapped there around your waist. And you say to yourself, “Shit! I’m completely out of gear! But wait! I have this spanner. This Crescent wrench device. It’s about as wide as the crack I think. And if it’s not, no matter! This tool is adjustable to fit! And you’re almost out of draws too. You only have one, and it only has the one carabiner on one end, so you tie the other end of the sling onto the crescent spanner wrench thing with…holy crap, what is that? With a square not? A reef knot? An overhand knot? It doesn’t matter. Pick a Jive-Assy knot! My hand’s getting sweaty here! And off you go!

I’m sure that must be what happened. Yeah.

Location: Near Val-David, Quebec, Canada

These Bolts are Screwy

Imagine you’re leading a sport route. It’s a “soft” 5.12a, but you’re a strong climber, so no big deal. You top out and encounter a rappel anchor set up like this:

Innocent looking anchor bolts.

Innocent looking anchor bolts.

Nothing to see here, right folks? Perfectly acceptable and bomber set up. NBD, right? Right. But looks can be deceiving. Imagine a guy involved in a rebolting project shows you that the bolts holding this anchor into the rock actually look like this:

Rusty rappel station bolt. Wait, what is that?

Rusty rappel station bolt. Wait, what is that? A wood screw?

Holy shit! Is that rusty thing a wood screw? A lag bolt? Here’s the other one:

More Jive-Assery.

More Jive-Assery.

Damn! That one is sketchy as hell too! This is what you were rapping on, and not just here, but other bolts on this and several other routes. They looked perfectly fine when they were bolted in. But when they’re unscrewed they look like this:

Jive-Ass Lag Bolts(?)

Jive-Ass Lag Bolts(?) from Ozone, near Portland, Oregon.

These bolts were replaced at Ozone, a little climbing crag near Portland, Oregon, USA, by Topher Dabrowski and Micah Klesick as part of the Portland Re-Bolting Project. And bless those guys for volunteering their time to do so! This project is financially supported by local climbing club, The Mazamas and by the American Safe Climbing Association.

Topher and Micah rebolting at Ozone.

Topher and Micah rebolting at Ozone.

Now back to those Jive-Ass bolts. We have a policy here on Jive-AssAnchors.com not to name, shame, or ridicule anyone who may have, inadvertently or otherwise, engaged in acts of anchor jive-assery, That would be wrong. This being the case, I’m not going to name the routes where these anchors were found. You know the route, then you can figure out who put up the FA. And the person who put up the FA is almost certainly the person who bolted the route. Yes? So we won’t mention that. There has already been a bit of butt hurt in the Portland area climbing community on climbing forums concerning this delicate subject. In this regard, it has been pointed out by unnamed witnesses to the original bolting effort, that these screws are not just some garden variety lag bolts. Rather, they are actually Hilti Reusable Coil Anchors, considered acceptable for climbing purposes by some people, somewhere, at some period in history, damn it. And they’re not just “lagged” into a rocky hole, because there’s actually a little steel coil in that hole adding strength, like so:

Hilti HCA Resuable Coil Anchor: for dry indoor use only please.

Hilti HCA Resuable Coil Anchor: for dry indoor use only please.

Now that’s all fine and well, I suppose, except that the Hilti folks themselves stipulate that these bolts are to be used in dry, indoor conditions only, and not in the wet, outdoor, “temperate rain foresty” conditions of the American Pacific Northwest. They’re not intended for climbing routes, and they’re not even stainless steel!  Moreover, as Topher has pointed out, “The first bolt only required a 1/2 turn of the head by hand and it came right out!” Yikes. And Micah has pointed out that they were lead to rebolt this area due to several bolt failures in which bolts came loose–one on an overhang, and one due to a lead fall! So yeah, don’t use these.

At any rate, those Jive-Ass bolts have been replaced with nice, solid, climbing-route-appropriate stainless steel, torqued into place like so:

Nice new stainless steel bolts, torqued to specification.

Nice new stainless steel bolts, torqued to specification.

Long story short, donate money to rebolting efforts in your area. The ass that get’s saved may be yours!

Location: Ozone, near Portland, Oregon, USA

The American Death Triangle Fairy

Apparently there is an American Death Triangle Fairy travelling around crags unwittingly doing a safety disservice for climbers. He was spotted by Nicole Castonguay at Smith Rock State Park back in October, although apparently (and unfortunately) she didn’t realize he was the American Death Triangle Fairy at the time. Here’s the story, from what I can gather from what Nicole told me:

Nicole decided to climb Chalk Wave with a pair of climbing students in Early October. Chalk wave is a sport route, meaning it has bolts (duh!) and a bolt rap anchor at the top (duh!). Bear with me, this will be important later.

Anyway, at the base of the route they encountered a couple who were just packing up to leave (SPOILER ALERT: One of these two people was the American Death Triangle Fairy!). As Nicole and her students set up, and the couple packed up, they engaged in some climbing small talk, you know, like you do. Anyway, one half of this couple, this unidentified guy whose name we may never know, informed Nicole that it was very difficult to pull your rope if you rappelled directly off of the bolts. So as a public service he’d constructed a rappel anchor with webbing, so people could rappel from a proper rappel ring, from which it is oh so much easier to retreive your rope. He added that Nicole and her students need not clean his webbing rappel anchor, that he always brought extra webbing with him for this purpose, and that in fact, he provided this kind public service frequently. My, what a kind, thoughtful person!

So they eventually said their goodbyes and Nicole lead up the route to the anchor, where she encountered this:

Classic American Death Triangle, Double Looped for Fake Redundancy.

Classic American Death Triangle, Double Looped for Fake Redundancy.

Oh yes. That’s right. Classic American Death Triangle! This is the gift that nameless couple guy leaves “frequently”! And this is why I have dubbed nameless couple guy The American Death Triangle Fairy. Is his philanthropy limited to Oregon? The Pacific Northwest? Does he provide this service internationally? We may never know. When I asked Nicole if she had an opportunity to tell this guy that his public service was Jive-Ass (in kinder, more diplomatic terms), she sadly told me, “He was long gone by the time I discovered his handiwork.” Dang!

As Nicole herself pointed out, notice that this is not only a classic American Death Triangle, but it’s double threaded from the same piece of webbing. Presumably the double wrap is for added strength and redundancy. But there are no limiter knots tied anywhere. It’s just one continuous loop of webbing. So the entire system is a single point of failure.

So what’s the big deal with the American Death Triangle? Well it’s an anchor so jive-ass that it has its own Wikipedia entry. If you’re not familiar, take a look, but in summary, the American Death Triangle creates unnecessary magnification of force on the two anchor points. It’s also not redundant in any way. Any bit of the webbing fails, and the whole works fails.

And okay, fine, these are bolts, which are pretty bomber, and we’re only talking about rappelling, which doesn’t generate a lot of force. And in that sense, this American Death Triangle isn’t likely to fail if you rappel off of it. But that doesn’t make it okay. It certainly isn’t EARNEST or SERENE. And most importantly, this certainly isn’t a very good public service.

In conclusion, I’d like to put out an APB (All Points Bulletin) to the climbing community. Be on the look out for The American Death Triangle Fairy: a man who leaves American Death Triangle rappel anchors with a fake redundancy extra loop on sport routes, last seen in Central Oregon, and considered dangerous (to himself and others). Find this man, educate him, and make him to stop leaving Jive-Ass anchors around.

Location: Smith Rock State Park, Oregon, USA

Jive-Ass Leeper Hanger Bolt Anchor

How many Jive-Ass boxes can you tick on these anchors? That’s the question Samuel Feuerborn, who sent me these photos, asks us to ponder. There’s a lot going on in the image below, so take a moment to soak it in. We’ll wait. Then we can dive in with Sam’s assessment, and my own usual embellishments.

Jive-Ass Bolt Anchor on Ninja (5.11+), on the Reservoir Wall at Indian Creek, Moab, Utah.

Jive-Ass Bolt Anchor on Ninja (5.11+), on the Reservoir Wall at Indian Creek, Moab, Utah.

This anchor was on Ninja at Resevoir Wall in Indian Creek in Moab, Utah. According to Sam, it includes: an American Death Triangle, retired leeper hangers, a hardware store wedge bolt, a star dryvin bolt, a modern 3/8″ 5 piece that’s hanging a 1/2 inch out of the freakin’ wall (!), lots and lots of faded tat, and four extremely heavily worn ‘leaver biners’.

Wow! It’s sort of breathtaking to see so much jive-assery in one set up! I’m really impressed! I get the sense that this one is a community effort, developed and nurtured over time. I encourage you all to play a rock climber’s version of Where’s Waldo and see if you can find all of the treats Sam has identified. I can certainly see the deeply worn notch in one of those leaver biners. And that bit of 6mm or 7mm purple cord is tied to one set of bolts in a classic American Death Triangle. I think that shiny bolt on the far left is the Star dryvin. Finally, Sam doesn’t mention this, look at how that yellow webbing sliding-x dealio on the right side bolts is just threaded through the hangers.

Ah, but it get’s better. Sam has close ups!

 

Modern 3/8  inch 5 piece bolt pulled a half inch out of the wall.

Modern 3/8 inch 5 piece bolt pulled a half inch out of the wall.

Check it out! There’s a bolt pulled a half inch out of the crumbly-ass sandstone! That inspires all kinds of confidence, eh? Let’s hear it for redundancy (Whew!).

But wait! There’s more!

Leeper Hangars, recalled by Ed Leeper in 2004 for life-threatening cracking/breaking hazard.

Leeper Hangers, recalled by Ed Leeper in 2004 for life-threatening cracking/breaking hazard.

Here are the Leeper Hangers. For those of you not in the know, Ed Leeper himself recalled these hangers back in 2004 due to a serious flaw he was unaware of when he first designed and manufacured them. Apparently they are succeptible to “stress-corrosion cracking”, which may not be so apparent at first, but eventually looks like this:

Cracked Leeper Hanger

Cracked Leeper Hanger

In this scenario, the top half remains bolted to the wall, and the bottom half is clipped to your quick draw, which is also clipped to your rope, which is coiled willy-nilly on top of your broken body at the bottom of the pitch. Ouch!

Trouble is something like 95,000 of these things were made between 1962 and 1984, and maybe 20,000 to 40,000 were still installed as of 2004, according to Ed Leeper’s estimation. So to try to get the word out to the climbing community to search and replace these things, Ed took out a full page ad in Rock and Ice magazine that looked sort of like this. Good on Ed for doing what he can to get these things replaced. You can do your part by keeping an eye out and helping with the search and destroy (and replace). Apparently you can start at Indian Creek in Moab!

Oh yeah, this recall was discussed in detail back in 2004 in the Rockclimbing.com forums, which still exist for your perusal.

Happy sending folks!

Location: Indian Creek, Moab, Utah, USA