Category Archives: Trad Pro Anchors

Rock Anchors made using traditional protection (cams, nuts, hexes, etc.).

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

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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

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

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!

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.