Category Archives: Trad Pro Anchors

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

Leather Belt Anchor Update

Remember the faux leather belt anchor from Oregon’s Mt. Theilsen I posted last year? Well guess what? Reports are coming in from the field that it’s still there. Below is a photo taken just this past weekend by climbing pal Ania Wiktorowicz.

Jive-Ass Faux Leather Belt Anchor Revisited

Jive-Ass Faux Leather Belt Anchor Revisited

This jive-ass anchor doesn’t look any worse for wear than when I encountered it myself last summer. Apparently it’s still attached to the mountain quite well.

“I tried wiggling it out” Ania told me, “…its bomber!” This was exactly my experience last year. The belt buckle seems to be jammed in the crack like a tricam. It’s a solid placement. Of course it’s not clear how many kN the belt buckle on an imitation leather belt can handle.

Here is a video of Ania and her find.

Another climbing friend, Jason Lee, confirms this jive-ass anchor’s continued existence with a similar photo. In this case, the jive-ass leather belt anchor is being taunted by a Metolious master cam, which makes for a nice juxtaposition I think:

Independent confirmation of Jive-Ass Faux Leather Belt Anchor.

Independent confirmation of Jive-Ass Faux Leather Belt Anchor.

Climbing Theilsen soon? Please send me a picture if the belt is still there.

Location: Mt. Theilsen, Oregon, USA

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Macramé Project Rock Climbing Anchor

Jive-Ass Rock Climbing Anchor or Elaborate Macrame Project?

Jive-Ass Rock Climbing Anchor or Elaborate Macrame Project?

Whoa! Check out this elaborate jive-ass rock climbing anchor from Joshua Tree! I was asked to post this anonymously, so as not to embarrass the macramé artist who created it. There’s a lot going on here, so for purposes of orientation, let’s assume the four sides of the photo correspond to the four cardinal points of a compass. What we seem to have here is a three point anchor created out of the blue cordage, created for a ‘westward’ direction of pull. All fine and well, I suppose, except that belay device (Trango Cynch? Gri-Gri?) is set up for a ‘southward’ pull. Yikes! What keeps that blue cord anchor from getting yanked 90 degrees from the angle of pull it was designed for if the seconding climber falls? Oh yeah, that sort of tan colored rope coming from the west and tied to the blue cord anchor’s power point will keep that from happening, right? But wait, what the heck is that tied to? Well that’s revealed in the larger photo below (wait for it! don’t look yet!).

Regardless, what we have are, apparently, two opposite and opposed anchors set up for a horizontal (east-west) load force. There’s the blue cord anchor set up for a westward pull, and whatever is on the other end of the tan rope, which is set up for an eastward pull. Nothing wrong with that, if you’re expecting a horizontal (east or west) load. Ah, but that’s not what we expect! In this case we see a belay is set up at the power point for a vertical load (climber is coming from the south). That’s jive-ass–especially for a belay station.

Not to fear though. It appears the belayer has tied into a separate anchor with the climbing rope. That anchor is attached to the same pro as the blue cord anchor with a long double runner fashioned into a sliding x with no limiter knots (which is jive-ass). If the blue cord anchor blows by pulling the gear out of the rock, that back up jive-ass sliding x also goes.

Now back to the question a paragraph or so up. What’s that tan colored climbing rope coming from the west tied to? It’s tied to this:

The Rest of the Elaborate Joshua Tree Jive-Ass Macrame Project Rock Climbing Anchor.

The Rest of the Elaborate Joshua Tree Jive-Ass Macrame Project Rock Climbing Anchor.

It appears there is a second macramé project rock climbing anchor on the other side! It’s hard to see exactly how it’s constructed, but whatever it is, it appears to come to a power point as a sliding x, set up for an eastward load force. And how is it connected to the tan rope? Well the tan rope is just clipped into the power point biner. It’s not tied to it in anyway, which makes you ask, what’s at the other end of that tan rope? I have no idea, but I certainly hope it’s not yet a third elaborate macramé project. How many cordalettes, slings, and locking carabiners does this climber carry?

Oh yeah, one more thing! The in EARNEST stands for “timely”. How long do you suppose it took to knit this beast together?

This elaborate monstrosity is one of the most impressive examples of jive-assery we’ve seen on this blog yet! Very, very impressive. I hope no one was hurt.

Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Rock Climbing Anchor Trap

Metolius PAS: The 'Trap Yourself in the System' Rock Climbing Anchor

The ‘Trap Yourself in the System’ Rock Climbing Anchor

Behold the ‘trap yourself in the system’ rock climbing anchor, constructed from a Metolius PAS 22 (PAS stands for “Personal Anchor System”). Apparently personal pro can be team pro as well. I found this photo on a gear review site. The reviewers, who loved the PAS 22, listed its ability to be used to construct an EARNEST*  rock climbing anchor as one of its many virtues. At first glance this appeared to me to be a pretty jive-ass application (we’ll get to that shortly), so I searched through Metolius’ instructional material regarding the proper use of the PAS 22. I can’t seem to find any mention of using it to build your belay station.

Notice also that the PAS 22 is attached to the climber’s harness by the belay loop. Typically you’d girth hitch the PAS 22 to your harness through the same connection points you use when you tie in with the climbing rope (into the same two contact points that your belay loop is attached to)–which is what Metolius recommends.

Notice also that the belayer is belaying off of the anchor with a Petzl Reverso in ‘plaquette (or autoblock) mode’, but the device is threaded backwards (thanks to commenter leadZERO for pointing that out)! This photo is all kinds of fucked up, which makes one wonder about those gear reviews. But I digress…

*Equalized, Angle, Redundant, NExtension, Strong/Secure, Timely

Background on Personal Protection Tethers

Before we dive into our analysis of this anchor, a bit of background about the Metolius PAS. As the story goes, the PAS was invented to provide a much safer alternative to using a daisy chain as a personal protection leash. A daisy chain is designed for aid climbing and isn’t intended to support more than body weight. This is due to the fact that the individual loops that make the daisy chain adjustable in length are formed by tack stitching in the webbing, which is only rated to hold 2 – 3 kN of force. It’s highly feasible that you might exceed that amount of force if you fall when there is slack in the system. And if you’ve clipped in short in the wrong (but most obvious and likely way), you could easily rip yourself out of the anchor completely, as demonstrated in this video from Black Diamond. The Metolius PAS (and many similar leashes sold by other brands) avoids this danger by making the link loops independent chain links, which are dramatically stronger (the ’22’ in ‘PAS 22’ stands for 22 kN).
Long story short, if you’re the kind of climber who likes to use a personal protection leash or lanyard of some type, the PAS is a big improvement on a daisy chain. My personal concern with the Metolius PAS 22 is that it’s constructed from nylon and dyneema. While dyneema has incredible tensile strength, it doesn’t have very good dynamic elongation properties. My worry is that in a Factor 2 fall the leash might fail like the dyneema sling in this cautionary video from DMM (this is also why it’s not a good idea to use a dyneema sling as a lanyard either). It’s actually alarmingly easy to generate a Factor 2 fall with a personal protection leash. All you need to do is climb above your anchor while clipped in with the leash until you’re at the end of your tether (e.g., to place your first piece for a tricky lead), and then fall. And even if you don’t climb above your anchor but are level with it, and then you fall with slack in the system, that’s already a Factor 1 fall.

Some other brands make similar personal protection lanyards that are made entirely of nylon (e.g., the Sterling Chain Reactor), which would be my preference if I used a personal protection system like this. However, I personally prefer to always tie in with the climbing rope, which is the strongest and most dynamic way I can tie into an anchor. And in situations where I may have to untie from the rope (e.g., to rappel), I prefer to use a Purcell Prusik as a personal protection lanyard.

About that “Trap” Rock Climbing Anchor

Now back to the anchor in the photo above. While to my knowledge (someone please correct me if this is wrong) Metolius doesn’t recommend using the PAS 22 to construct your belay station, I have a hunch how these gear reviewers came up with this application.

Metolius sells a product called an Anchor Chain, which is a chain link of nylon/dyneema loops that are used to very easily create an equalized and redundant rock climbing anchor. It’s essentially a much easier to use replacement for a cordalette. This anchor chain looks more or less the same as a Metolius PAS. In fact, here is a photo.

Metolius Anchor Chain.

Metolius Anchor Chain.

The instructions for use of both the Metolius PAS 22 and the Metolius Anchor Chain appear in the same document, right next to one another. My guess is that the reviewers are simply using their Metolius PAS 22 like an Anchor Chain.

So what’s wrong with using the PAS 22 to construct your climbing anchor? Well since a product constructed of the more or less the same material and design as the PAS 22 is sold as anchor building material, it’s obviously strong enough to build an anchor. I don’t have any problem with it, per se. It’s perfectly bomber (not this particular anchor, necessarily, but in principle, using a sewn chain link like a cordalette). What I find to be Jive-Ass is the idea of using the same leash to simultaneously serve as the main climbing anchor and as your personal protection lanyard. The problem is that the climber is trapped within his own system.

Notice that in the photo the belayer is belaying off of the anchor with a Petzl Reverso 3. One of the great advantages of that set up is that in a rescue scenario, the belayer doesn’t have to escape the belay to go help his climbing partner. He’s already out of the system. But if you construct the belay station with your personal protection leash, you’re trapped. There is no way to escape the belay while it’s weighted short of cutting the PAS off of your harness with a knife. Similarly, it’s impossible to block lead with this set up, because you can’t get out of the anchor system to start your next lead short of disassembling the very anchor the two of you are attached to the mountain with. For these reasons, I think using your personal protection leash to construct your belay station is Jive-Ass.

What do you think?

Location: Unknown.

Helmet Chock Anchor

Jive-Ass Helmet Chock Anchor

Jive-Ass Helmet Chock Anchor

This “unnatural pro” is awesome scary, and awesome jive-ass. I don’t even know if its for real. Apparently someone submitted it to the I Love Climbing community Facebook Page, and several climbing buddies ended up forwarded it to me.  I Love Climbing also has a website, if you’re interested.

At any rate, traditional rock climbers all have at least one or two tales of desperation in their repertoire of climbing stories. Shit happens, and we deal with it in the moment, and hopefully we live to climb wiser in the future. But shoving your climbing helmet into an off-width crack as a piece of trad pro? That’s certainly the most desperate of desperate measures, in par with last month’s Leather Belt Anchor. How many kilo-newtons of force can a plastic rock climbing helmet withstand when slung as a chock stone? You know what? We’ll probably never know, because who in the heck would ever think to test such a thing? I’d certainly hate to take a fall on that thing.

Location: Unknown.

Single Point of Failure

Single Point of Failure

Single Point of Failure

This photo comes to us compliments of Jason Brabec, who witnessed this set up just a few weeks ago in Idaho’s City of Rocks. This belay station consists of two spectra double runners girth hitched together and attached to a single large (#4 Camelot) cam placed in a crack. The belayer then extended the anchor with a length of the climbing rope, apparently to reach a more comfortable belay stance. I cropped the photo to protect the belayer’s identity (Jason didn’t know her), but you can still see the top of her helmet in the photo. According to Jason she was basically laying on her belly, with her head down, belaying her second  who was quite a way off of the deck. Jason said he couldn’t believe what he was witnessing.

There are several obvious rock climbing anchor “no-nos’ here:

  1. This is a “one point” climbing anchor consisting of a single cam in a crack in the rock. So obviously there is no redundancy. If that cam pops out, both the belayer and second fall to their deaths.
  2. The two spectra slings are girth hitched together, as we’ve seen in the past (see Hot Spectra-on-Spectra Action! and Girth Hitch Death Wish). This would be safer if the slings were connected with a carabiner. Since she extended the anchor with a length of the climbing rope anyway, she also could have just extended the climbing rope further and omitted one of those Spectra slings.

Location: City of Rocks, Idaho, USA