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The Devils Lake top rope cluster Fu&k thread...


Burt Lindquist · · Madison, WI · Joined Jan 2002 · Points: 3,275

Nice work James breaking down the goodness and/or badness in this TR setup. I especially liked your citation, at the end, of the anchor builder's possible motivations for creating this anchor.. Ha!

James Schroeder · · Sauk County, WI · Joined May 2002 · Points: 3,052
Burt Lindquist wrote:Nice work James breaking down the goodness and/or badness in this TR setup. I especially liked your citation, at the end, of the anchor builder's possible motivations for creating this anchor.. Ha!
Ha! Thanks to you too Burt. My competing theory is that it was built by some grizzled veteran who literally gives zero f@#ks what someone thinks or says about his anchor and was just trying to get it done and go climbing.
Woodchuck ATC · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 3,110
Ted Pinson wrote:Yeah, that doesn't concern me. The angle's a little weird since that's such a huge ledge so you might get a little bit of force multiplication, but the eventual direction of pull is always the same for TR: down.
yeah, I guess as said, it's the big ledge and distance back that the gear is placed that had me concerned on direction of major axis of pull. ,,ya know, vectors and all that physics stuff.
Woodchuck ATC · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 3,110
James M Schroeder wrote: Ha! Thanks to you too Burt. My competing theory is that it was built by some grizzled veteran who literally gives zero f@#ks what someone thinks or says about his anchor and was just trying to get it done and go climbing.
grizzled old fart? Hey, that would be me ,,but I love just trying to count all the knots on the pic of that set up. I DO try not to put rope to sling , or even nylon sling to sling ever. Use carabiners; that's what they are made for and why you should buy in volume when some online store has them for under 5 bucks each. Load up for your toprope use needs.
EB · · Winona · Joined Jan 2002 · Points: 943

WTF? AHHHH!
I am constantly surprised by the lack of knowledge in our user group. A simple 1-2 day anchor clinic taught by someone with formal training will set a new climber up with data driven/ research driven systems that are simple, strong, and efficient. Redundancy for the sake of redundancy is a waste. Redundancy to build strength with redundancy at edges is why we have more than one strand of material in our anchors. Understanding the place and reason we choose pre- equalized vs. self- equalizing systems and how to keep things simple and efficient are basic concepts that all climbers should have a strong understanding of. I don't usually get into these things but its increasingly frustrating to see this ridiculousness in our sport AND its simply amazing what shit gear will hold humans climbing!

Also, keep the jackness coming!!!

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190
James M Schroeder wrote: Ted, 1. It takes considerable load, or travel, of nylon over nylon to melt said nylon. The nylon cord isn't under load or moving along the webbing, and there doesn't appear to be a mechanism to create a load or movement. 2. I don't think I would be concerned even if there was a load, as I've seen 5mm prusik loops hold extreme (holding the tension on slackline back before there were pre-rigged kits) force when tied as a prusik around webbing and neither of them looked any worse for the wear. 3. Even if someone outright cut the nylon cord in this photo anchor would still be redundant. 4. Consider the schematic below which, for clarity, eliminates the cord from the system. 5. Like Doug, I'm most concerned about wear and tear on the webbing if the system is being used across the width of the wall. In the end, my assessment is that the anchor builder was trying to "show off" some knowledge, and, in the end, did what most over-engineering types do and over-engineer a less effective system in place of what could have been simple and elegant. Again, largely a mistake in efficiency and aesthetics.
Gotcha. Thanks for the detailed response. :) I try to make a habit of avoiding soft goods on soft goods, but it's good to know that there are exceptions.
Seth Jones · · New Lenox, IL · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 25
EB wrote: A simple 1-2 day anchor clinic taught by someone with formal training will set a new climber up with data driven/ research driven systems that are simple, strong, and efficient.
Agreed but the concepts of anchor building can certainly be self-taught as well. If you have half a brain, half a rack and have read John Long's anchor book, you should be able to build a good anchor. What I haven't figured out yet is whether the people who end up with horrible anchors in this thread are missing the half a brain or just flat out refuse to do any real research before heading out without a guide.

That being said, we get pretty critical about silly details in this thread and I'd climb on quite a few of the anchors that are being critiqued.
Doug Hemken · · Madison, WI · Joined Oct 2004 · Points: 5,597

My "theory of the anchor builder" in this case was someone who was tired, running out of patience and gear, and ended up rethinking their anchor partway through building it. They started off tethered to the tree, got below the edge and found a couple of nut placements, tried to tie it all together with the webbing they were tethered with, got impatient with all that webbing, and decided to add the perlon because they knew they had been impatient.

Courses are great for teaching fundamental principles thoroughly and efficiently. But once you get into the myriad of nuances and trade-offs, you just need more time and experience to weigh all the little things. This is what a good mentor can provide: space for you to figure it out on your own, but more experience to bring to the subtleties. You can also get to this without a mentor, it just takes more stumbling around and a willingness to see your own mistakes.

Like James says, the problem for many intermediate climbers is that they overthink some aspect of their system without keeping sight of the overall balance. So all too often, simpler would be better. Personally, I do best if I visualize the entire anchor before I build any of it, then stick with the plan. I think the difficulty for beginners is that they visualize a gear placement, but later realize it's crappy, so they end up re-jiggering in the middle of execution.

Bill Katra · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 0

We of the CMC (Chicago Mountaineering Club) climb regularly at Devil's Lake, and this is the first time I've seen evidence of insufficient anchors. All the rest of you are jealous of our fine Quartize routes here. Billk

Mark Wenzel · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2015 · Points: 35

Climbed at the lake for nearly a decade and saw plenty of bad anchors, many from CMC'ers. Fortunately many of the sketchy nut placements were backed up by the (now dead) trees. I think the primary problem is that for many of these folks, the only time they ever handle protection in their climbing career is when they setup a top rope anchor, thus severely limiting their overall experience.

'Cmon guys, many of those routes can be safely lead.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190

Yeah, but just about all of them (except the needle/towers) can be toproped, so you can't blame people for wanting a safe day outside or the ability to project climbs above their level. I've never seen "sketchy" anchors from the CMC; if anything, their anchors are overbuilt (3 legs, even if one of them is a massive tree!), which is understandable because they invite lots of people onto their ropes.

Andy P. · · Wisconsin · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 185

How to Clusterfu&k at the Lake - a long post so I can procrastinate on doing real work today.

So how in the hell did I end up with such a FUGLY anchor, one of my worst ever… reminds me of the days when I was still learning the very basics.

I am honestly embarrassed by this but hopefully someone will learn from the ugly. I always take photos of my mistakes so I don't forget them - and thanks to Jon for making this thread a natural home for many of said mistakes!

To set the stage, it is a very windy day on top of the East Bluff, you are tasked with setting 6 anchors in the 90 minutes before your group arrives with ropes and lots of cordage/webbing. You have only set one of these anchors before (on Peter's project) so you have budgeted in time to look at both Jay’s new guidebook and the MP app in order to place them right.

Did I say it was windy, it’s so annoyingly windy that despite the fact it is projected to be 70 degrees later in the day, it’s probably near 40 this morning with windchill and it is misting at times. Having neglected to bring gloves, your fingers numb up before you’ve even finished the straightforward setting of Peter’s Project.

The four anchors on many pines buttress are mostly complete within the first 30 minutes. So you spend most of your time on Moldy, a place you have never set or climbed on before. You get one good gear anchor in and then Doug, the human DL guidebook, shows up just in time to help you figure out where to place the second anchor since you can’t figure it out looking at the guidebook. Now, with your bearings set, you look at the guidebook…

You see a page with a lot of route options on this anchor. If you peek at Jay's guidebook and the "nine minus" image, you know that you want to set right over the “prow” of the arete (perhaps favored a bit climbers right) because people could be climbing routes 3, 4, 5, 8 or 7 (around the corner from 5, then follows 4 from middle)). You read the MP app description of route 7 and anticipate a lot of falls on route 7 below the roof/corner, where climbers and the weighted rope will be trapped in a dihedral. Seems to you like one of those rare times to aim for a self equalizing anchor.

Having been down there earlier, you had placed a couple of 4 point nuts (reference at blog.alpineinstitute.com/20…) in the one good crack you could find (really difficult to find non-fractured rock, here) and put some biners on them. The big bummer now is that you are out of gear, here is what you have left:
-Foot and chest prussic cords, 7mm nylon and racking 'biner
-Autoblock/tractor cord, 5mm nylon and racking 'biner
-Emergency bail ‘biner which holds your knife/marlinspike tool
-Two locking ‘biners (for powerpoint)

Fortunately that huge piece of webbing that you usually just use for personal anchoring is available, it is 60 feet long. One end is tied off to a good tree, time to head down there and make an anchor. Note that the tree is WAY back from the anchor, this leg alone is using about 40 of of your 60 feet.

Given that I wanted self equalizing, here was my plan.
Red = Loaded strand
Green = Slack strand
Blue = Knots

A rare time I wanted self-equalizing, here was my plan that I developed at the top of the cliff.

Once I got down there it was apparent I did not have enough webbing to keep the MP sufficiently over the edge. I elected not to try an equalette because I wanted more redundancy at powerpoint. So much for self equalizing, onto plan B, my standard setup:

Plan A is out, on to my standard setup - the same one many of you probably use.

In setting this up I found some disconcerting edges that the three strands to/from the nuts would encounter, it also appeared to me that this would use so much webbing as to leave insufficient tail after the final clove hitch. So, how can I use a bit less webbing? - onto plan C:

Not really sure how I came up with this idea... I was improvising at this point.

So I get this thing tied and by now I’m shivering and the wind is driving me insane. No excuses, I know, but perhaps this contributed to me just wanting to get down, warm, and climbing. But as I prepped for rappel I just didn’t like those single strands of webbing coming into the BHK. I came up with the idea to tie an OH knot right behind the BoB to almost eliminate the distance that the single strand from the nuts would be exposed to potential edges or abrasion.

It was honestly probably because I was just cold and frustrated but I get a case of the heebie jeebies as I go to rappel.

That OH knot was a bad idea, it messed up my MP positioning, made a much sharper angle on the nuts, and made the anchor ugly. Oh whatever, lets just go climb, right?

I am now reaching the apex of ridiculousness

Due to a huge rope eating crack below, and the wind, I saddlebag coiled the rope up for a rappel and as I weighted the system I just felt uncomfortable with the setup. I knew full well that it was SRENE, I logically trusted the tree, nuts, etc… but sometimes you just get a weird feeling. So, with the rope all saddlebaged up, I grabbed what I had to spare, my foot prussic, and added it in, just maybe for psychological comfort. Something to backup that exposed single strand from the nuts. Note that this is taking absolutely no load. As I leaned back for rappel I let the BHK tail out of my pocket where I had stuffed it and it started slapping the sh*t out of me in the wind (I deserved it for all my anchor problems)! This is a problem for other climbers, too, so I reached up to tie it off with an OH on the foot prussic. At this point, I fully admit, I realized how incredibly ugly this anchor was - and, with the full intent of MountainProject clusterf*ck glory on my mind - I tied yet another overhand with the BHK tail and took a pic.

Do I get a prize?

Since Burt has nominated me for the top cluster*ck ever, I’d like to thank the wind, the crappy rock on top of Moldy, my trusty foot prussic, and my gloves that I forgot.
James Schroeder · · Sauk County, WI · Joined May 2002 · Points: 3,052

Andy,

Four words:

The Tao of Pooh

Mikeyy · · Glendale Heights, IL · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 110

Here's an example of goddamn mess I had going on top of Ironmongers one day this summer:

The anchor itself was a straightforward pre-equalized and locked off three point anchor. 40' of cord shown in orange.

The pro was cams in two cracks further back, and one (B) and (C) and a slung boulder (A) with a seperate shorter cord (purple) double fisherman's into a loop and clipped to at a butterfly knot with locking biner

The issue was this stack of boulders at the cliff edge. Avoiding the risk of having the anchor running over several edges, and saving about 5' of cord needed to get over this I tried running one of the strands underneath this small bridge of immovable boulder stacks.

toprope

Genius? right? No - equalizing this thing was a pain in the ass before tying the lock-off knot, having to pull the strands of cord which kept wedging in the boulders. I padded what looked like might be a sinister crack or two that could eat up the anchor cord as well. I got the masterpoint and two locking biners over the edge. Dangled my climbing shoes clipped on a biner to equalize well and tied the knot

At this point I noticed the 10' of hand / finger crack at the top of the route here ready to eat the climbing rope. Called it "safe than sorry" and climbed on someone else's near mouse's misery and the grotto chimney
Burt Lindquist · · Madison, WI · Joined Jan 2002 · Points: 3,275

Andy. Actually after reading the analysis by James and Doug above (and now your own account), I have to admit I was a bit off/wrong about my comment about your anchor in question. It was a poorly chosen and flippant reaction after only ever giving the photo a weak and lazy ass look see. I was drawn to the loose end tie offs in the anchor and assumed they were meant to be the primary knots in the anchor system.... I must also admit I am more then capable of at times putting together a poorly thought out TR anchor.... I am sure if you ask a few friends they will laugh and agree....

EB · · Winona · Joined Jan 2002 · Points: 943

AHHHHH! The madness!!!!!

Doug Hemken · · Madison, WI · Joined Oct 2004 · Points: 5,597
Burt Lindquist wrote: ... I must also admit I am more than capable of at times putting together a poorly thought out TR anchor.... I am sure if you ask a few friends they will laugh and agree....
Burt's "this route has great gear!" has been known to draw a smile or two - not many people have the patience or the skills to find all the placements he does ... but I'm veering off into lead climbing again.
Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190

Weather looks amazing this weekend...anyone planning to set some jive ass anchors for the sake of the thread?

Burt Lindquist · · Madison, WI · Joined Jan 2002 · Points: 3,275

Spent all day out yesterday over at Birthday Rocks and Horse Ramp. Had both places to our own..... and the day was the nicest weather I have climbed in all year.... bluebird sky, mild breezes, perfect temps, and dry dry air. Perfecto! We are having October in November this year.

jdereks · · Minnesota · Joined Dec 2015 · Points: 70

Ted,
I might head out there this weekend to get on some janky anchors. It'll be my first voyage to the lake and I'll be flying solo, so if anyone has any camping beta feel free to PM me. I have a rack, rope, and ability to make fu&ked anchors.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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