Tag Archives: Rock climbing

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

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Jive-Ass Rappel Station

Jive-Ass Rappel Station with stopper knot affixing rope to a bolt

Jive-Ass Rappel Station

Gosh, how the heck do you tie a bight of rope to a bolt hanger after you already tied it to the other bolt hanger with a funky ass knot? This is the question I envision the crafter of the Jive-Ass Rappel set up above having in the midst of crafting this F-ed up anchor.  Now granted, I don’t know if the, um…the…what would you even call that? ‘Stopper knot’? The thing on the left I mean. The bight of rope affixed to a bolt hanger with an overhand knot (the idea apparently being that the big fat knot will keep the rope from pulling back through the hole in the bolt hanger). Let’s go with stopper knot. Anyway, I don’t know if the decision to create the stopper knot was due to fixing the other end of the rope to the other bolt hanger first. That’s just my spectulation. Call it imaginary forensics if you like. I frankly have no idea why anyone would do this.

This Jive-Ass rappel set up (abseil set up for the Brits and Aussies among us) was submitted by Drew Smith, who happened upon it at Twin Craigs in the Lake Tahoe region of California. And since a lot of you have expressed concern that we all actually do something to remedy Jive-Ass situations rather than just take photographs of them, I want it noted for the record that, yes, Drew removed this shit so no one would get hurt in the future.

Now can we go back for a moment and evaluate this thing? The knot on the right hand bolt anchor: what the heck is that? I thought maybe a bowline at first, but now I’m not so sure. I can’t for the life of me figure out what that is.

And the anchor powerpoint. What the hell is that knot? I thought an overhand on a bight, but it looks like that quick link is attached to only one loop. Where’s the second loop?

And finally, can I say it again? Why the hell would you affix a rope to a bolt hanger with a stopper knot?  Scary.

Location: Twin Craigs, near Tahoe City, California, 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

 

 

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!

Beware the Australian Carrot

Ever heard of a rock climbing “carrot” bolt? How about a “bash in”? Unless you’re an Australian rock climber, there is a good chance that the answer is “no”. As a North American climber I certainly had never heard of them, although they apprear to be similar to the “rivets” that were once popular in Yosemite valley. So I owe a debt of gratitude to Samuel May, who was good enough to send the photo below and alert me to the existence of this uniquely Australian contribution to sport climbing. In Sam’s own words:

“The famous “carrot” bolt was developed in Australia in the 50s and 60s due to the unavailability of any actual climbing gear. It consists of a hex head machine bolt, hand-filed to a taper, and pounded into an undersized hole without a hanger. The principle is the same as a drilled piton, but cheaper!”

So there you have it. You file a bolt to a taper (so it looks like a carrot, get it?). You drill a hole in the rock. You bash the carrot in the hole with a hammer until it’s tight (thus the alternative name “Bash in”). The shaft of the carrot bolt is sticking out a bit. And that’s it. That’s your pro. How the heck does that even work? Sam proceeds to explain:

“To clip it, you either use a removable hanger (“bolt plate”) or, if you run out of those like I did at this belay on “Cave Climb” [see Sam’s photo below] in the Blue Mountains, you take a nut and slide it down the wire, slip the loop over the bolt head, and cinch the nut back up tight. You can also sling them with a skip knot on a skinny dyneema sling. Bomber!”

The "Bash in" or "Carrot" bolt: Australia's Unique Contribution to Climbing Jive-Assery.

The “Bash in” or “Carrot” bolt: Australia’s Unique Contribution to Climbing Jive-Assery.

I trust that Sam’s use of the term “Bomber!’ is ironic, as this set up looks a bit jive-ass. So I’ve done a bit of research on my own, starting with, on Sam’s suggestion, Safer Cliffs Australia‘s website. Safer Cliffs Australia is a non-profit organization devoted to maintaining safe rock climbing areas by replacing rusty, jive-ass old bolts and anchors with safe quality ones.  Here are some carrot photos from that site:

Scary Carrots! Photo Credit: Safer Cliffs Australia.

Scary Carrots! Photo Credit: Safer Cliffs Australia.

Wow, eh? Australian climbers have big balls.

So what about this ‘bolt plate’ hanger thing Sam mentioned? Here are a few photos of those:

Carrot Bolt Hanger Plates

Carrot Bolt Hanger Plates

Apparently these things are available for sale at pretty much all climbing gear shops in Australia. From what I’ve read you carry a supply of these things in your chalk bag. When you get to a bolt, you grope around in your chalk bag for a hanger plate, fish out out, and slip it over the head of the bash in carrot bolt. Then you clip a draw to it, and the carabiner, assuming it’s fat enough, keeps the hanger plate from falling off of the bolt head. And there you have it: a bolting system that gives sport climbing some of the white-knuckled, gripped thrill of trad!

Now apparently there are both zealous defenders and detractors of the carrot bolting system in Australia. So in an effort to keep myself from inadvertantly being dragged into an Aussie civil war by extolling the jive-ass qualities of this system, I think it’s worth placing this system into historical context.

Australian rock climbing pioneer and legend Bryden Allen claims to have invented the carrot bolting system some time in 1963 or 1964. I have no reason to believe this isn’t true, and I was able to find at least one resource that corroborates this claim. There weren’t exactly a lot of climbing gear options at that time. In Yosemite, for example, Royal Robbins, Yvon Chouinard, and Chuck Pratt were still putting up new routes protecting with pitons (and occasionally bolts). Royal Robbins is credited with bringing the first nuts to Yosemite from the UK in 1966. Given those conditions, the carrot bolt system, with its removable bolt plate hanger is pretty brilliant.

And with that said, here in the 21st century there now are quite a few climbing gear options–including dramatically superior bolting methods (for sport routes) and bomber spring loaded camming devices (for trad). By today’s standards, a machine bolt filed into a taper, bashed into a tiny hole and held in place through friction–especially an old and rusty one–appears a little jive-ass. Surprisingly though, from I’ve been able to determine, there aren’t many documented instances of injury or death due to bash in bolt failure.

Anyone seen this system used outside of Australia?

Location: All over Australia.