Tag Archives: climbing anchor

Ice Climbers Like American Death Triangles Too

An American Death Triangle Ice Climbing Anchor in Ouray, Colorado

The Viking discovers Jive-Ass gold.

Look! Two ice screws threaded with a piece of webbing into a textbook American Death Triangle! This ice climbing top rope anchor photo was submitted by climbing buddy Ally Imbody. That’s Portland’s own Keith Campbell posing with this masterpiece of Jive-Assery.

This is the first submission of the season from that jive-ass anchor Shangri-La, the Ouray Ice Park.  I’ve got a group of climbing buddies from Portland out there for a week, so I expect to see more coming.

Oh, and just by way of reminder. This is no way intended to be a disparaging commentary on the fine Ouray Ice Park. The fact that so many jive-ass anchors photos come from here is largely about sheer numbers and easy access, which I think I explained way back when in this posting. When there are over 100 ice climbing routes in one place, there are many opportunities to inspect ice climbing anchors. And invariably at least a few are going to be jive-ass.

Why will the American Death Triangle not die already? How do we make it stop?

Location: Ouray Ice Park, Ouray, Colorado, USA.

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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

Model Belay Station

Rat's Nest Belay Anchor

Rat’s Nest Belay Anchor

Ever since the photo above was sent to me I’ve been having this recurring nightmare. In my dream I’m seconding a route. For some reason we’re using two fatty single ropes like a set of half ropes. I get up to the belay station and I see that my belayer is belaying me off of this…thing. My heart leaps. I am very afraid. I want to say “What the fuck, dude?” but before the words can leave my mouth the whole works comes undone and we both fall to our deaths.

What the hell am I looking at here? I am completely dumbfounded by this “belay anchor”.  I’m not sure where it starts and where it ends, or how it might have been constructed, or why. What sequence of events and chain of causes lead a human being to knit this rat’s nest together?  Were psychedelic drugs involved?

This anchor is from Little Cottonwood Canyon just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. The person who submitted the photo wishes to remain anonymous to protect the identity of the mad scientist who constructed this masterpiece of jive-ass clusterfuckage. I can assure you that he has a good sense of humor. “Model Belay Station” is his name for this photograph. He also suggests that the best method for escape the belay from this set up might be a “boning knife”.

Take another look at this thing. Seriously. Do me a favor. Count the caribiners for me. What do you see? Including the one in the climber’s belay loop I see seven. Seven! I don’t believe what I see, but that’s what I see. What the heck are they doing, all of these carabiners? What is their purpose? Oh I know. They’re some how connecting two climbing ropes and, what is that? Are those quickdraws threaded in there? Notice that none of the carabiners appear to be locking carabiners. Are any of them at a single point of failure?

Seriously folks. This is a total head-scratcher. Why? That’s the question I’m left with. Why was this thing made the way it was made? This thing is terrifying.

Location:  Little Cottonwood Canyon, Salt Lake City, Utah USA

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