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Best way to secure yourself to a natural anchor with only the rope?


Original Post
Mike Marmar · · Salt Lake City, UT · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 71

This is a pretty unlikely scenario, but it is one that I actually found myself in a few days ago. I made it work safely, but I am interested to hear other's thoughts on the best way to handle this.

Imagine you come up to a natural anchor such as a tree and you have no gear besides the rope. No carabiners, no slings, nothing. You wish to secure yourself to this tree in order to belay (body/hip belay) your second up.

Without untying the rope from your harness, what knot or hitch would be a good way to secure yourself to the tree?

wsperry · · San Jose/Lafayette · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 110

Wrap a bite of rope around the tree 3-5times, tie an overhand with the bite around the strand going to your second. for extra safety clip a locker from your belay loop to the overhand bite.Definitely not the only way to do it. but it is quick, simple, and easy.Just make sure the tree is bomber.

keithconn · · LI, NY · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 35

When I top out and there is a nice big tree to belay off of I simply take a walk around the tree (still tied in of course), give myself a bit of slack, tie BHK (overhand or fi8) with both pieces of rope, and use that as the master point to hook up ATC Guide and acts as personal anchor as well. You'll be good and safe, as far as hip belay off of that I'm not totally sure but should work.

Mike Marmar · · Salt Lake City, UT · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 71

wsperry, that's a good idea. Basically the "no knot" or the tensionless hitch but with a bight of rope.

Mike Marmar · · Salt Lake City, UT · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 71

keithconn, it seems like that would work. Remember, you have no gear, so no atc and no way to connect yourself to that masterpoint. So...not sure if weighting that knot would load it funny and possibly make it capsize.

Jim Titt · · Germany · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 490

Just walk round the tree a couple of times.

Kyle Tarry · · Portland, OR · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 162

If you really have zero gear, you planned pretty poorly. Walk around the tree, tie a knot with a big bite of rope, and then tie the bight to your belay loop or tie-in loop. Or just put the loop around your waist.

Mike Marmar · · Salt Lake City, UT · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 71

Some good ideas here that all involve walking around the tree. What if you can't walk around the tree? Any alternatives to wsperry's suggestion?

keithconn · · LI, NY · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 35

Quietly start sobbing.

Curse myself for being on the top of a cliff with no gear.

Quietly start sobbing again.

John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,530

Bowline.

But seriously, not a single carabiner? Going to make belaying your partner not awesome.

ViperScale · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 235

Walk around the tree tie an overhand on a bight and walk through it creating a girth hitch through the bight should be fine. Not sure why you would be leading without a way to belay a person up (maybe dropped belay device + biner?)

More realistically I would make sure the top piece was good (aka walk around tree) and down climb to recover some gear than climb back up again.

wivanoff · · Northeast, USA · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 472
Mike Marmar wrote:Some good ideas here that all involve walking around the tree. What if you can't walk around the tree? Any alternatives to wsperry's suggestion?
Bight of rope around the tree and tie a bowline.
Fernando Cal · · Long Beach, CA · Joined Dec 2015 · Points: 5
keithconn wrote:Quietly start sobbing. Curse myself for being on the top of a cliff with no gear. Quietly start sobbing again.
Hug tree, then loop rope around said tree a few times. Tie butterfly with rope going to belay loop and to follower. Hip belay. Make sure tears dont get rope wet.
mattm · · TX · Joined Jun 2006 · Points: 1,390
wivanoff wrote: Bight of rope around the tree and tie a bowline.
+1
Mike Marmar · · Salt Lake City, UT · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 71
wivanoff wrote: Bight of rope around the tree and tie a bowline.
So tie a bowline, treating the bight as if it is the end of the rope?
wivanoff · · Northeast, USA · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 472
Mike Marmar wrote: So tie a bowline, treating the bight as if it is the end of the rope?
Exactly. Run the bight around the tree and use the end to tie the bowline in one or both legs going back to you. If you make the bight long enough, you can back up the bowline with a 1/2 fisherman's.

RGold once wrote that he does a similar thing except with a buntline hitch instead of a bowline. There are lots of ways to accomplish what you want. Most start with just a bight around the tree - it's easiest.

EDIT: mountainproject.com/v/rope-…
DaveBaker · · Durham, NC · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 88

Bowline on a bight, overhand knot to finish. This is my standard ground anchor, also applicable in your less likely situation.

It starts to take up more of the rope (bad for if you wanted to link pitches) but let's you anchor to an arbitrarily large tree that might otherwise use too many slings tied together to reach.

SpencerB BB · · Pasadena, CA · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 79

A retraced overhand on a bight might be another option. Tie an overhand on a long bite of rope, pass the bight around the anchor point and retrace it back through the overhand knot (effectively the same as a BHK but tied around something). When using it to set up top ropes I was taught to clip a carabiner through the loop in the tail as a backup but I think I would be OK skipping this if the I am going to be right by the anchor/able to keep an eye on the knot.

Mike Marmar · · Salt Lake City, UT · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 71

So the bowline that wivanoff describes, backed up by a fisherman is what I used. Glad to hear others agree that it is reasonable.

Spencer, that's a good idea too. Are you going to make it out here for some skiing this winter? =)

Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65
Mike Marmar wrote:This is a pretty unlikely scenario, but it is one that I actually found myself in a few days ago. I made it work safely, but I am interested to hear other's thoughts on the best way to handle this. Imagine you come up to a natural anchor such as a tree and you have no gear besides the rope. No carabiners, no slings, nothing. You wish to secure yourself to this tree in order to belay (body/hip belay) your second up. Without untying the rope from your harness, what knot or hitch would be a good way to secure yourself to the tree?
OK, it seemed like an artificial constraint, but since you said it actually happened to you....... spill the beans! What lead to that situation?
Mike Marmar · · Salt Lake City, UT · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 71

I and two friends were soloing a route (west slabs of mt olympus), but one friend is a fairly new climber. The route has about 120m of 5.4 and the rest is 5.0ish. We brought a rope for the new climber, and my other friend belayed him up the first 120m, which he appreciated. After that, they unroped and we continued upwards. After another few hundred feet, the new climber came to a small overlap he was uncomfortable with soloing through. I happened to be right next to him and I was carrying the rope, so I tied it around my waist and climbed up to a tree so that I could belay him over the overlap.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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