Tag Archives: rappel

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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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

Bollards are not Jive-Ass

Constructing a bollard snow anchor

Wim Aarts constructing a bollard snow anchor

I was teaching an intermediate level snow climbing class this weekend and was reminded of how suspiciously beginning alpine climbers view bollards the first time they see them. A rappel anchor made of a rope wrapped around a bit of snow?  I suppose we shouldn’t blame them, because at first glance they do look a little jive-ass. And to be fair, in making test bollards constructed in sloppy snow I’ve seen the rope cut through like a hot knife through butter. But in hard snow, where you have to chop the trough with the adze of you ice ax, they’re extremely strong. And if you back up the rope with a few pickets or ice axes (one of each in the photo above), have the heavier climbers rappel first, and then have the lightest person pull the back up gear and go last, it’s also quite safe.

At any rate, we built a few bollards this weekend to prove the point. The students weren’t convinced until one of the instructors, Andrew Rios, rappelled first, proving that one could do so and live to tell about it.

Andrew raps off of the bollard

Andrew raps off of the bollard

Location: White River Glacier, Mt. Hood, Oregon, USA

Obvious for all but the novice alpine climber? I’m not so convinced. Case in point: last summer I climbed the West Ridge of Forbidden Peak with my buddy Matt. This is primarily an alpine rock route, but the approach to the rock involves climbing up a couloir of fairly steep snow and ice. As the summer progresses and the snow melts, it pulls away from the rock leaving an intimidating moat on all sides of an ever steeper peninsula of snow.  It’s steep enough that most people prefer to rappel back down it rather than risk down climbing the late day mushy snow. There are bolts on the rock for late season when all of the snow is melted out. However, when we were there in July, when the couloir is still filled with snow, the bolts were an unreachable 2 meters from the edge of the snow ramp. A number of climbers–obviously more comfortable on rock than on high angle snow–made the dangerous and difficult decision to climb into the moat, risking a deadly slide under the snow and ice, to set up a rappel from those bolts.

A much faster, easier, and safer method would have been to carve a bollard into the edge of the snow, which is exactly what Matt and I did.

Steve making a snow bollard rappel anchor.

Steve making a snow bollard rappel anchor (Photo by Matt Sundling).

Location: Forbidden Peak, North Cascades National Park, Washington, USA