Redundancy: Not in fashion these days?


Original Post
Patrik · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2010 · Points: 30

I was at a short "demo" of self-rescue techniques the other day, where one employee of a local guide company showed a few "tricks". He was a big fan of the "quad" (fig. 4 in rockandice.com/climbing-new… ), but also said he was perfectly happy with a single sling sliding-X with no knots (fig. 2 in the above link) clipped to two bolts as was one of the attendees.
I have seen this used a few times over the last few years as an "anchor", but every time, I'm just wondering how our requirement for redundancy has simply been thrown out the window. Whatever favorite acronym you have for anchor requirements (SRENE is a common one), all of them contain an "R" for Redundancy. I've always thought the definition of redundancy is that: "if one piece fails, we should not die". If the sling itself fails in fig. 2, we die. Therefore, this is not a redundant "anchor".
How can a guide publicly go out and say this is fine?
How can RockAndIce show such a picture and still label it as an "anchor"?

Jason Todd · · Cody, WY · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 958

Redundancy is reduced in importance when the individual component is so strong that its likelihood of failure approaches zero.

A rope, belay loop, huge tree, cemented in fence post, well placed bolts...

John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,530
Patrik wrote: How can a guide publicly go out and say this is fine? How can RockAndIce show such a picture and still label it as an "anchor"?
Well, the guide is free to do what he likes- he's not beholden to the UIAA or anyone about anchoring guidelines. As to whether he should- well, that's up for debate.

R&I on the other hand, didn't really say people should use the Sliding X- they just didn't do the best job of describing its drawbacks as reason that you shouldn't use it as a general anchoring system.

I can't say I've seen the sliding X used in anchors at all in the last 10 years, and rarely before that. So, the assertion that we've thrown redundancy out the window is probably a bit overkill. If anything, from what I've seen these days with equalettes, quads, and this that and the other thing in the 50 page anchor threads on mp these days, I'd say redundancy is in high fashion...
rgold · · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 525

The real problem is making catechisms out of lists of desirable features. Redundancy is desirable but not always achievable, and in some situations of far less consequence then others. In other situations, redundancy can be situation-dependent, with the possible need for speed conflicting with the extra time needed for backing things up.

It is always possible to invent thought experiments leading to the failure of a setup. At some point the probability that these imaginings will happen in reality becomes tiny enough to make counter-measures practically superfluous. Of course, where one draws the line has to do with personal risk-tolerance as well as the ability to make clearheaded assessments. None of this is enhanced by having inviolable rules.

There isn't anything seriously the matter with a sliding-X on a good pair of modern bolts, unless the party is genuinely concerned about catastrophic rock falls that could sever the anchor cord. Having guides recommend such rigging in certain situations is not evidence that the sky is falling. That said, a robust and efficient setup is to forget the cord altogether and just clove the climbing rope to the bolts in series, with no load distribution and one bolt backing up the other. (European climbers have understood the sensibility of this for years and place their anchor bolts one above the other, but Americans seem to insist on less appropriate horizontal configurations.)

Firestone · · California · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 509
Scott O · · California · Joined Mar 2010 · Points: 65

I once built a rescue anchor off the wheel of a fire truck using a 4" nylon strap. I was very OK with a single anchor point.

It all depends on context, but if an individual component is bombproof (a rope, a belay loop, a belay carabiner), it doesn't have to be redundant. A sliding X with a good sling is fine. The real risk the knots protect against is extension rather than a concern about redundancy, but even that is theoretical with well placed bolts.

rgold · · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 525
Firestone wrote: Ill just leave this here.
Yup, which is why I said "unless the party is genuinely concerned..." The party in question had plenty of reasons to be concerned, they were doing a climb below major chossy gullies on a super warm winter day when there had been very cold and wet freeze-thaw cycles earlier in the year, so falling rock was predictably an issue.
Nick Goldsmith · · Pomfret VT · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 440

RG do you have simple method for useing just the rope as an anchor when leading multi pitch in blocks? When leapfrogging I use the rope as the anchor but not when leading in blocks.

Christopher Gibson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 90

^^^^ place a second carabiner below the carabiners that you tied the rope into and have your second use those when they get to the anchor for their end of the rope just as the leader did, now their in the anchor just as you were, when its time for you to start climbing again have your second put you on belay and grab your carabiners and go.

climber pat · · Las Cruces, NM · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 215
Firestone wrote: Ill just leave this here.
If the rock had landed a couple inches lower hitting the knot or been a little wider hitting both stands the redundancy would have made no difference. They were VERY VERY lucky. This single example which is unlikely to happen again is not a strong argument for or against anything other than moving the anchor to a more sheltered position.
rgold · · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 525
Nick Goldsmith wrote:RG do you have simple method for useing just the rope as an anchor when leading multi pitch in blocks? When leapfrogging I use the rope as the anchor but not when leading in blocks.
Christopher Gibson wrote:Place a second carabiner below the carabiners that you tied the rope into and have your second use those when they get to the anchor for their end of the rope just as the leader did, now their in the anchor just as you were, when its time for you to start climbing again have your second put you on belay and grab your carabiners and go.
If I'm going to do all the leading, I usually use some kind of cordelette. I very rarely do the blocks thing, but there too the cordelette seems most efficient for longer routes. For shorter routes where time is less critical and the second is of equal or better ability, I do almost what Christopher suggests above, except that the second carries their carabiners and sets up their anchor when they reach the belay. I think this is better, because it means the leader doesn't have to have double the number of belay biners when he or she arrives at the stance. And frankly, the extra amount of time consumed (assuming the second is competent at rigging) is very small.

If the second has an installed tether (which I have continually argued is a good idea), then they tether in as soon as they reach the belay, hand over the rack collected on a single over-the-shoulder sling, and then build their belay anchor with the carabiners they are carrying, under the leader's anchor, while the leader is re-racking. After that, if the rope has been piled on a ledge, the second re-piles the rope. (If the rope has been flaked over the tie in, then we usually just "flip" the stack onto the second's tie in.)

If the party is using a guide belay plate of some sort, then the second doesn't need a tether for this process (I still think it is a good idea to have a tether for other uses), the leader just ties a backup knot and "parks" the second on the loaded belay plate, which is retrieved after the second has built their anchor.
Michael Schneider · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 745

Um ? I said what I did , is that What to say to this ?

https://www.mountainproject.com/v/anchor---on-a-scale-of-truck-to-ygd-/112178099#a_112179677

Firestone · · California · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 509
rgold wrote: The party in question had plenty of reasons to be concerned, they were doing a climb below major chossy gullies on a super warm winter day when there had been very cold and wet freeze-thaw cycles earlier in the year, so falling rock was predictably an issue.
This goes to show me that even the pros can make mistakes. If the falling rock was predictably an issue then why did the climbers think the single sling was okay? Now that we know that even in unlikely circumstances a block can potentially damage an anchor catastrophically will you think twice about that one sling between you and the deck?

climberpat wrote: If the rock had landed a couple inches lower hitting the knot or been a little wider hitting both stands the redundancy would have made no difference. They were VERY VERY lucky. This single example which is unlikely to happen again is not a strong argument for or against anything other than moving the anchor to a more sheltered position.
Moving the anchor to a different place wouldn't have helped because neither climber expected a big block to pull on them. Luckily there were limited knots in the sling or else it wouldn't matter where the block hit. I have a good feeling that a lot of people are under the impression that slings are bomber and that limiter knots are either overkill or weaken the sling.
Dana Bartlett · · CT · Joined Nov 2003 · Points: 890

A sliding X with two bolts? Why?

Arlo F Niederer · · Colorado Springs, CO · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 460
Scott O wrote:I once built a rescue anchor off the wheel of a fire truck using a 4" nylon strap. I was very OK with a single anchor point. It all depends on context, but if an individual component is bombproof (a rope, a belay loop, a belay carabiner), it doesn't have to be redundant. A sliding X with a good sling is fine. The real risk the knots protect against is extension rather than a concern about redundancy, but even that is theoretical with well placed bolts.
There are three things that are important - judgement, awareness, and assumptions.

Judgement in what is appropriate for the current situations ("context") and risks. For example, if a thunderstorm is soon to hit, faster, simpler, "less safe" methods may be appropriate because the biggest risk is from lightning.

Awareness in that you are CONSCIOUSLY changing methodolgies because of the current situation.

Be AWARE that you are accepting more risk, or you are changing the types of risks, and aware of what those risks are.

Be aware of the assumptions you are making, like "well placed bolts." How do you know they are "well placed bolts?"

The single anchor on a fire truck was very strong, but there have been incidents where somebody jumped into the truck and started moving the truck - were the keys left in the ignition? The thing that happens may not be what you expect.

Todd Skinner died when his belay loop failed. Black Diamond recently recalled many of their carabiners. Flaws in equipment are often not revealed until failures in the field by people using the equipment.

So, my default is to have redundancy in my system.

There are many arguments on MP on what is "best," and people get insulted if you choose a system different than theirs. Just because somebody chooses a system different than theirs doesn't make theirs wrong or that you are stupid because you didn't choose theirs.

I use equalettes and sometimes just a cordlette. I use a quad on two bolt sport anchors. I don't use sliding x's because testing shows sliding x's lock when shock loaded and so they don't equalize. Equalettes do not equalize the load in many situations, but do provide redundancy. Take what you like and ignore the rest.

The best system for YOU is the one YOU understand and that works for the kind of climbing you are doing. "Understand" means you know the advantages, disadvantages, assumptions and risks of the system you use. AND you know how to rig the system.
GilaShot · · Western Antarctic, New Engl… · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 0

Just take 5 seconds and tie two knots in it...every time. No judgement needed. I do it 100% of the time and haven't had a forced bivy due to wasted time yet!

Michael Schneider · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 745
Arlo F Niederer wrote: there have been incidents where somebody jumped into the truck and started moving the truck - were the keys left in the ignition? The thing that happens Todd Skinner died when his belay loop failed.Black Diamond recently recalled many of their carabiners. Flaws in equipment are often not revealed until failures in the field by people using the equipment. So, my default is to have redundancy in my systems
It is very important to be sure to say that T Skinners belay loop failure was due to the physical process of WORK,
extreme use, and the lack of a second piece of cord or tape.
It was not due to product deficiency. Nor did it happen during the proper use of the belay loop.
Arlo F Niederer · · Colorado Springs, CO · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 460
Michael Schneider wrote: It is very important to be sure to say that T skinners belay loop failure was due to the physical process of WORK, extreme use, and the lack of a second piece of cord or tape. It was not due to product deficiency. Nor did it happen during the proper use of the belay loop.
I used two examples - one with old gear (Todd), and one with new gear (Black Diamond carabiners).

Todd ASSUMED it was O.K. - if you don't inspect your gear then you are assuming it is good. My point about being aware of the assumptions you are making - we often make assumptions without even realizing it.

It's OK and necessary (climbing rope) to have a single point of failure in the system. But you must inspect all the single failure elements!

If Todd had redundancy he would still be alive.

We assume that new gear is good, but even that assumption may be false. I'm not a worrywort, but I try to be aware of the risks and reduce them if I deem it necessary. Redundancy reduces the risk of manufacturing defects - which are rare - but the consequences are bad in case of a failure.
climber pat · · Las Cruces, NM · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 215
Firestone wrote: This goes to show me that even the pros can make mistakes. If the falling rock was predictably an issue then why did the climbers think the single sling was okay? Now that we know that even in unlikely circumstances a block can potentially damage an anchor catastrophically will you think twice about that one sling between you and the deck? Moving the anchor to a different place wouldn't have helped because neither climber expected a big block to pull on them. Luckily there were limited knots in the sling or else it wouldn't matter where the block hit. I have a good feeling that a lot of people are under the impression that slings are bomber and that limiter knots are either overkill or weaken the sling.
It is important to place your anchors considering the rockfall potential. I try very hard to place bolted anchors in protected locations such as under an overhang, where there is a turn in the route or a couple of feet off to the side of likely rockfall. I also try to place trad anchors in relatively safer positions and have bypassed the documented locations and bolted anchors because of the rockfall danger. The point is to anticipate rock fall and do what you can to mitigate the danger.

I understand that you believe that you are significantly safer by tieing limiting knots in the sling and I agree that the knots make the anchor marginally safer (not enough for me to care either way). However the climbers who survived because of those limiting knots were extremely lucky; not alive by any skill on their part. Almost any change in the belay anchor position, belayer position, weight of the rock, energy the leader applied to the rock... could easily have changed the outcome for the worse or better. I believe your are much better off looking holistically at the situation and there are often other changes that have a much greater impact on safety than limiting knots.

This may be the only example of where limiting knots made a difference. Certainly the only example I have heard of.

I regularly climb routes with high rock fall potential. Moving the anchor to a 'sheltered position' makes all the difference. It is also important to only place gear in solid rock. Don't place gear behind loose blocks!!!

As far as redundancy goes. Redundancy is nice but if you examine the process of climbing a pitch (especially first ascents, but also many established climbs) there are lots of times when the failure of a single piece of gear will be disastrous in case of a fall. Watch someone climb a pitch and imagine them falling at every move and their last piece of gear failing. How often will they hit the ground?

Falls can be disastrous even with no failures (X rated climbs). Many climbers are alive today because they did not fall at a critical point.
ViperScale · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 235
Dana Bartlett wrote:A sliding X with two bolts? Why?
I don't like sliding X but how do you have a single bolt sliding X? The point is auto auto balancing between 2 points but it comes at the loss of redundancy. Yes I would agree they are pointless because the sling itself I would assume fails more often than the bolt.
Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190

I don't think Dana was implying you should use a sliding X on a single bolt. Rather, the point was that each bolt is solid enough to hold without equalization.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Post a Reply

Log In to Reply