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Please critique my anchors

JVB Project · · Berkeley CA · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 0

an option that has not been mentioned...

Tie a good size loop in the end of the webbing (maybe 6-8" if stretched flat), use a figure 9? (ooo gona get hurt for that one... what is the real name?) and girth hitch the tree. When hitching the tree, make sure that the hitch is being pulled on and not the tree. Leave the knot in for easy application next time. Apply a BFK for an anchor point. Set up time is less than 5 min.

We used a figure 9 because no matter how many years it has been in and no matter who has dogging it, you can always get it out. Figure 9 is an 8 with an extra twist.

For getting into a good position to rap, tie an overhand on a bite in one of the webbing strands and attached a 8ft static line to it so you can rap over the edge and transfer to the climbing rope rap. this is a good option if the hike down is long.

And remember to inspect your webbing often!

BigFeet · · Texas · Joined May 2014 · Points: 380

The water knot is more secure when connecting two ends of webbing/tape compared to just an overhand which can potentially roll down past the ends of the tails. That is why everyone advises to leave quite a bit of tail when tying overhands.

The reason to bring the legs/arms of the anchor together is to minimize any extension and shock loading on any single piece. One master point to tie everything together brings the fall force to one specific point that will distribute the force to all legs/arms, reduce extension/swing, and give redundancy (which you already have in the three legs/arms).

Shorten your anchors? Yes. Get a static rope if you can and don't mind lugging it around. You will never have to worry about if you brought enough 20, 30, 40, 50 foot sections of webbing. One rope will work for many different lenghts needed.

If you are worried about abrasion then yes, protect your anchor legs the best you can; backpack, towel, shirt, whatnot.

We are all going to die, but with the sport of rock climbing... the potential to die sooner rather than later increased substantially. When others mention "yer gonna die" it is more of an observation of poor judgement, poor gear placement, or whatnot that may have tendencies to fail more often than other more effecient/safe methods.

Moral of the story is: Learn and practice your stuff before you put yourself and/or others in harms way! Double check yourself and partner! Be safe! Have fun! :)

Being here and learning by asking questions puts you on a good path. Read some books on the subject if you haven't yet and maybe find a mentor.

calvino · · Marblemount, WA · Joined May 2010 · Points: 435

No one seems to have mentioned using other materials for anchors. You will have a lot more adaptability for anchors when you incorporate passive pro, pinches, boulder wraps, and chock-stones. I let go of my bias against hexes and bought a set before moving to Madison for the season. I use them every day. A set of med-large stoppers is also very helpful. On lead, I use offset stoppers often, but less for anchors.

I really appreciate a more compact anchor and I think you will find it easier and faster when you incorporate other types of protection. Running a bunch of webbing all over the place is unsightly and can get in the way of other people hiking and climbing.

Keep getting out there and it will become more and more intuitive, or take a class to learn the nuances of placing gear. cheers

Craig Childre · · Lubbock, Texas · Joined Aug 2006 · Points: 4,950

Apparently, the hike is so steep and long getting into Devil's Lake, that webbing is preferred over a similar length of static rope for the difference in weight. So packing in more pounds of gear could be met with strong resistance.

I do agree, that rock just begs to have a gear anchor built instead of wrapping the trees. The was the OP's first time outdoors... so I think he made a wise decision, and built a solid safe setup.

Craig Childre · · Lubbock, Texas · Joined Aug 2006 · Points: 4,950

If you consider the static rope option... look for a short rope, Gear Express sells the ends of cut ropes, 80' runs around $60. While webbing works, it won't last nearly as long as a rope. Webbing carries the load with it's outer surface, exposing it to abrasion and cutting. Rope has a sheath to protect it's load bearing core.…

Dylan B. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 938

Man, they must manufacture that static line in Texas, 'cause you Texan's are big advocates of static line over webbing. ;)

BigFeet · · Texas · Joined May 2014 · Points: 380


I like webbing and will use it when I feel it is appropriate for the situation. I'm most assuredly not against it by any means.

That being said, I have never been to this climbing area and these are just my thoughts on what was presented by the OP.

If a frequently used climbing area has anchors that are needing to be made far from the edge of the climb I find it easier and more efficient to use a static rope.

In the OP's case I wanted to point out that he could simplify his inspection, build and tear down the anchor, and use no more than three pieces of gear to construct his top rope anchor (rope and two lockers at master point). Less gear = less weight.

How much space does that webbing take up in your backpack? Weight? Extra carabiners? Compared to one rope? Negligible for my tolerance, but maybe not someone else that packs lighter than I do.

Not trying to be an ass! I saw the smiley face. Just throwing out my findings and theories. I try to K.I.S.S. and what works for me may not work for someone else.

My solution would be as follows:

1- I would have used a short section of webbing tied with water knot. Double the sling around each tree individually and tied with an overhand knot to create a master point (this just to protect trees). Even more simple - just tie off the rope directly to the tree. I would use a bowline backed up with a double fisherman's. Your preference.

Or - Figure eight first end of rope to first tree sling master point with locker or tie tree with rope.

2- Walk to edge and drape bight of rope about 5-6 feet over edge.

3- Walk trailing end to other tree master point and tie off or connect with locker to master point.

4- Walk back to edge and create master point. I like the B.F.K. myself due to the ease of me being able to adjust exactly where my master point would be.

... but as bearbreeder would say, "there's more than one way to skin a cat".

matvey · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 55

Went with a friend today, and did pretty much the same setup, except we used bowlines to tie to trees, wrapping the webbing around a few times first, and tied the 3 anchors together using a figure 8 on a bite.... Will try the water knot another time.

Derek Doucet · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 53

The comment about webbing being preferred over static rope because of the weight difference and arduous approach is priceless.

Max Forbes · · Vermont & Colorado · Joined Jan 2014 · Points: 114

I'ma go ahead and second the BFK idea, basically take it all and tie it into one "Big fuckin' overhand knot" to use as a master point. Webbing is great, but I'm also going to say it probably sucked to untie all of those knots. In that situation I would have used static, however everything looks pretty good. Probably more than what you needed if anything.

BigFeet · · Texas · Joined May 2014 · Points: 380


I took some pictures for you over the weekend to reference on what I was trying to articulate in my previous post. See below.

As others have stated, you are probably not going to die with what you have shown here. You have redundancy built into your setup. You appear to be using gear that is in good shape, as far as I can tell from the photos. You have questions on possible abrasion issues. You come here for advice and guidance.

Means you are learning and trying to learn more.

Webbing tied w/ water knot double wrapped around tree to make sling w/ master point tied (simple overhand) to keep anchor direction and slightly shorten sling. NOTE: YES, use a locker for your anchors. This is just for demonstration.

Webbing tree anchor

Another way to do it. Probably the way I would have set it up in your situation due to the fact that your anchors needed to be higher up on the tree because of abrasion issues. It appears that the anchor arm would of had to raise up over a rock feature before going down to the cliff edge if the anchor was placed at the base of the tree. A girth hitched sling could help keep your anchor where you put it.

Girth hitched sling around tree

This is a single rope used to tie around tree for an anchor and then used to extend to a master point. NOTE: This is not a static rope (practice rope) and I did not bring my anchor arms to a close V as I should have. This was done just to show the versatility of a single rope when making an anchor.

Tree anchor made w/ rope. Bowline backed up w/ double fisherman.

Tree used as anchor other side leg. Bowline backed up w/ double fisherman.

Master point is BFK. You can see that with just one piece of gear I have made my anchor and extended my master point far beyond the tree.

BFK Master Point.

Master point BFK.

This is not the end-all-be-all. There are many ways to accomplish the same thing. Keep this in mind!

I wanted to illustrate how I would simplify the situation and what gear I would use. Take it for what it is worth and use it to your benefit. Someone else here will most likely have an even better alternative than mine if not out right tell me I'm wrong. :)
coppolillo · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2009 · Points: 70

Hey man, good job getting out and doing it're on your way.

Great resource just came out--Falcon Guides' "Single Pitch Manual"'s basically a consumer/public version of the American Mountain Guides Association's single-pitch instructor manual. Shows a ton of rigging and anchor options--many of 'em mentioned here--for toproping/single pitch stuff. Check it out:…

Good luck and have fun!


Tom Lausch · · Madison WI · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 170

That anchor looks bomber. I would stand there drinking beer while watching you factor 2 all day onto that thing. How did you enjoy Darcy's Wall?

matvey · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 55

Darcy's wall is awesome! We went on to try out Upper & Lower Diagonals nearby, sharing some nice people's ropes, but it was too humid & slippery and none of us got to the top.

BigFeet, thank you for the detailed explanations & pics, very helpful. I am wondering how the safety of a BFK compares to 3 separate loops, one from each anchor, connected with a pair of biners... I mean it looks REALLY solid, and equalizing the anchors is a lot quicker this way, but then it's just one loop, as in not redundant.

coppolillo, thanks for the link, I'll try to get this book.

angieL · · Madison, WI · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 5

kinda surprised it hasn't been mentioned yet, but I would hitch the trees as close to the ground as possible. I'm no physics guru but I've always been told the lower to the ground the less force on the tree... just nicer to the tree. Otherwise, good on ya for getting out and trying stuff! Super fun area to climb and if you're keen to learn more, there are plenty of groups/people in Madison that can show you all sorts of useful things.

Derek Doucet · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 53
matvey wrote:Darcy's wall is awesome! We went on to try out Upper & Lower Diagonals nearby, sharing some nice people's ropes, but it was too humid & slippery and none of us got to the top. BigFeet, thank you for the detailed explanations & pics, very helpful. I am wondering how the safety of a BFK compares to 3 separate loops, one from each anchor, connected with a pair of biners... I mean it looks REALLY solid, and equalizing the anchors is a lot quicker this way, but then it's just one loop, as in not redundant. coppolillo, thanks for the link, I'll try to get this book.
The BFK actually produces two loops at the master point and is redundant. It's worth noting that not all knots producing two terminal loops are truly redundant (the 2-loop eight for example), but the BFK is.

One significant advantage it has over multiple independent loops coming from each anchor arm is the elimination of potential tri-axial loading of the masterpoint carabiners. This doesn't appear to be an issue with your rigging, but picture a similar anchor in which the angle between the two outermost arms measured at the masterpoint is much larger, say approaching 90 degrees, which is certainly the upper limit of acceptable. In such a scenario rigged as you did in your pictures, the masterpoint carabiners would be significantly tri-axially loaded. This would be eliminated by using a BFK.
Gunkiemike · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 2,750

Bigfeet, the overhand knot in your top webbing photos serves no purpose and merely weakens the sling. It's not redundant (cut the webbing at any point and it's outa there) nor does it equalize anything. There are ways to make a SRENE attachment to a tree with just a big piece of webbing like that, but you're not doing it.

Greg DeMatteo · · W. Lebanon, NH · Joined May 2007 · Points: 315
BigFeet wrote:matvey, I took some pictures for you over the weekend to reference on what I was trying to articulate in my previous post.
BigFeet's choices are definitely more conventional, just a couple of points about the webbing anchors. In the first picture, the overhand knot adds nothing to the anchor, it just weakens the webbing (not that you're going to generate webbing breaking forces with your toprope but, hey, principles ok?) and adds an unnecessary step. In the second webbing picture, girth hitches are generally best to be avoided. They add mechanical advantage to your anchor plus webbing on webbing friction on a system that is going to be weighted/unweighted numerous times (and the knot is redundant). It's just as easy to tie these anchors without those points as with them and the concepts will serve you better as you progress in your outdoor adventures.
BigFeet · · Texas · Joined May 2014 · Points: 380


It doesn't have to be a BFK. I like it in this situation because I can adjust exactly where my master point will be by the nature of how the BFK is tied. A figure eight or even a simple overhand will suffice.

Having a master point in the system allows for all arms of the anchor to be independent and have a central point of connection so that all arms take an, as equal as possible, distribution of force/load while limiting extension and/or swing.

It is simple to inspect, re-rig if need be, redundant, limits extension, and simplifies the setup.

Can you assure that each arm of your anchor is helping distribute force/load when the system is loaded or will it be the arm that will be pulled most tight from the direction of pull?

You probably won't die climbing on your setup with webbing rated as it is and you top rope climbing where forces are substantially lower than a lead fall would generate - but what if?

Having a master point knot helps distribute the load/force through the knot sending load/force to all anchor arms. Ideally, equally to all arms, but this is most likely almost impossible to achieve.

Anybody else want to add to this? I'm sure there are things not mentioned. I'm always learning too, and correct me if you see something wrong.

BigFeet · · Texas · Joined May 2014 · Points: 380


I believe the reason the anchors were tied high on the tree was to limit abrasion issues.

It appears that if the anchor was tied at the base of the tree it would have taken a sharp upward angle over the rock feature that is in close proximity to the tree where the anchor is tied before veering down to the cliff edge.

I may be wrong, but the OP can give us his reasoning for doing such.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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