Anchor Critique / Top Down Belaying


Original Post
Tyler Neville · · Orono, Maine · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 10

Hey guys, trying to get my head around anchor building and top down belaying. Specifically for places like the Otter Cliffs at Acadia NP. There's not a lot of clear explanations or diagrams online, so I went out with a guide the other day and he showed me a few things, but wasn't super thorough and then we got shut down by some rain.

I've got the quad anchor pretty set, it's just a matter of how to safely belay directly off said anchor that's turning me around.

Could you guys give me some critiques on this dry run I set up in my living room of a quad anchor for top down belaying, and if it's way off maybe point me to some resources I might've missed out there on the Internet? I've scoured Freedom of the Hills, Reddit, MP, all the usual spots.

Thanks in advance.

http://i.imgur.com/G8N9JAC.jpg

ollieon · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 5

You've loaded your grigri backwards. I also don't know what the blue gate carabiner is for. You could remove that.

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 15

If you're cloved into the anchor where it says "Personal Anchor," what is the one called "clove hitch to anchor" for?

Gunkiemike · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 1,865

Brush up on your Grigri threading.

And current best practice AFAIK is to redirect the brake strand (through something high, maybe the best single piece of gear) when lowering someone with a Grigri.

Good on ya for using a Grigri for this rather than an ATC-Guide type of device. Much better/easier for lowering.

Nathan Hui · · San Diego, CA · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 0

If the rope heading to the left is what you're tied into, then that carabiner ought to be a locker (since it is your lifeline).  Of course, we could go ahead and say that it's safer for everything to be a locker...

What's with the clove hitch to anchor?  Are you trying to make a basket to flake your rope into?  Or wasting carabiners?  If it's a locker in a rope system, it needs to be locked.  That's why it's a locker.

It looks like this anchor is supposed to be for trad climbing.  I would submit that a quad is the wrong thing to use in trad climbing, particularly for trad anchors.  This setup assumes that your left two pieces are equidistant from the left powerpoint on the quad - this is probably never the case.  I would go with a cordalette for trad climbing - you have way more flexibility in equalizing pieces.

In terms of the quad itself, consider using figure-eight knots instead of overhands in the quad.  This is so that the knots come undone easier after you've weighted the anchor.  That said, it being a BFK, the knots will come out decently easy anyways, and you gain a couple inches in anchor length. YMMV depending on the anchor cord you're using.

Just nitpicking with this, for the carabiner you've got as your personal anchor, you should put the hitch on the wide end of the carabiner, with the loaded strand to the spine side of the hitch.  Not that doing it the other way is unsafe (provided you don't take FF2 falls on it).

Lastly, remember that this is all situation dependent.  The layering you have right now (personal anchor, grigri, rock) works for hanging belays, but might suck if you're belaying from a ledge with the anchor above waist height, where you'd probably want it layered Grigri, personal anchor, rock.  Of course, make sure your grigri is threaded right.

Edit: Actually, one other thing.  What knot are you using to join your anchor cord in a loop (knot behind the blue Camalot)?  It looks too narrow to be a double fisherman's, which is what you usually use.  I would be wary of using a single fisherman's knot, but maybe someone wiser than I can chime in on that.

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 120
Nathan Hui wrote:

If the rope heading to the left is what you're tied into, then that carabiner ought to be a locker (since it is your lifeline).  Of course, we could go ahead and say that it's safer for everything to be a locker...

What's with the clove hitch to anchor?  Are you trying to make a basket to flake your rope into?  Or wasting carabiners?  If it's a locker in a rope system, it needs to be locked.  That's why it's a locker.

It looks like this anchor is supposed to be for trad climbing.  I would submit that a quad is the wrong thing to use in trad climbing, particularly for trad anchors.  This setup assumes that your left two pieces are equidistant from the left powerpoint on the quad - this is probably never the case.  I would go with a cordalette for trad climbing - you have way more flexibility in equalizing pieces.

In terms of the quad itself, consider using figure-eight knots instead of overhands in the quad.  This is so that the knots come undone easier after you've weighted the anchor.  That said, it being a BFK, the knots will come out decently easy anyways, and you gain a couple inches in anchor length. YMMV depending on the anchor cord you're using.

Just nitpicking with this, for the carabiner you've got as your personal anchor, you should put the hitch on the wide end of the carabiner, with the loaded strand to the spine side of the hitch.  Not that doing it the other way is unsafe (provided you don't take FF2 falls on it).

Lastly, remember that this is all situation dependent.  The layering you have right now (personal anchor, grigri, rock) works for hanging belays, but might suck if you're belaying from a ledge with the anchor above waist height, where you'd probably want it layered Grigri, personal anchor, rock.  Of course, make sure your grigri is threaded right.

Edit: Actually, one other thing.  What knot are you using to join your anchor cord in a loop (knot behind the blue Camalot)?  It looks too narrow to be a double fisherman's, which is what you usually use.  I would be wary of using a single fisherman's knot, but maybe someone wiser than I can chime in on that.

Nathan, I think he's after a top rope setup, but a top belay, because there's an ocean at the bottom. 

H.

Nathan Hui · · San Diego, CA · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 0

WRT to resources:

https://www.amazon.com/Climbing-Anchors-Climb-John-Long/dp/0762782072/

https://www.amazon.com/Mountaineering-Freedom-Hills-8th-Mountaineers/dp/1594851387/

Mentors

Most importantly, get familiar with SRENE/EARNEST/whatever acronym you want.  Learn the foundational anchors (cordalette, equalette/sliding x, quad), then learn to chain and extend anchors/placements.  Most of this you can't get from a book - you need to get out there, build something, and evaluate it with someone else.  The challenge of anchor building isn't learning the knots/setups, it's learning how to solve the problem of weird placements/gear and odd directions.

Nathan Hui · · San Diego, CA · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 0
Old lady H wrote:

Nathan, I think he's after a top rope setup, but a top belay, because there's an ocean at the bottom. 

H.

Doesn't really matter whether it's top rope or top belay.  Anchors are anchors, and in climbing, they're all pretty much the same when you're not leading, and even then, they're basically the same, unless you're retreating.  Or on ice.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45

So as others have mentioned, a Quad is rather unnecessary in this situation.  Although they can be used for trad anchors (use a clove to adjust arm length), IMO they are more trouble than they're worth, as they don't actually give you any tangible benefit.

Your Grigri is threaded backwards.  This is SUPER easy to do in a top-managed belay, but also incredibly dangerous, as the climber usually won't be able to inspect it (Acadia is somewhat different). Pay close attention to the diagrams and think everything through.  In general, everything will feel backwards when belaying from the top (pull UP to brake).  Based on the setup, I'm assuming you're belaying off of your harness; this is fine, but make sure that your direct line to the anchor (clove) is tight and that you are in line with it.  Holding a person's weight is much more difficult in this setup compared with a slingshot toprope belay, so I would practice this in a safe space like the gym if you can.

khammer · · Kinda All Over · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 10

Great that you sought professional instruction! Unfortunately some guides are not good instructors. You are getting good advice in this thread but maybe give another guide day a try? It seems there is a lot of basics you can still learn. Maybe try a different guide company or be try to be really clear with your expectations. Good luck!

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 15
Ted Pinson wrote:

, I'm assuming you're belaying off of your harness

Why would you assume he's belaying off his harness, when it looks like he's belaying off the anchor?

David Kerkeslager · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 30

Short answer: Yer gonna die.

Long answer: Misloading your GriGri is a very bad mistake that throws off my confidence in your anchors completely. We can tell you how to fix what you've created, but that will only fix this one exact situation. It won't help if something doesn't go exactly as planned and you have to adapt, and it won't help you figure out if you've forgotten some detail. To remedy this, I'd get someone experienced to show you how to solve this situation, and a variety of others. The easiest way to do this is to pay for a class or guide, but you can also find mentors on MP or in your area. Your goal should be to get a conceptual understanding of how anchors work (i.e. SERENE/ERNEST) and then get some practice applying those concepts to real life anchoring situations, with someone to check your work. Once you're consistently building anchors from scratch that pass inspection by someone with experience, you won't need to ask on MP whether your anchors are good--you'll have the conceptual framework to evaluate your anchors yourself.

At the very least, do some book learning to get concepts down before you come asking for us to check your work. At a minimum learn how to thread your belay device and watch John Busack's videos, and read Craig Leubben's Rock Climbing Anchors. Guess-and-check is not a good method for learning skills that your life depends on.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45
FrankPS wrote:

Why would you assume he's belaying off his harness, when it looks like he's belaying off the anchor?

Now that you mention it, you're right; he does have his Grigri hanging from the master point.  I guess I assumed based on the setup (Anchors on the ground, sitting at the edge).  Belaying off the anchor would be awkward in this situation.

DrRockso · · Red River Gorge, KY · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 181

Here's a good place to start.

Brandon.Phillips · · Alabama · Joined May 2011 · Points: 0

Check out the Single Pitch Instructor manual, you can buy it from Amazon.  I think it gets looked over by most non guides, but it covers almost all the technical questions I have seen on MP lately, this one included.  In my opinion it is better and more up to date than they other books suggested on here (though its scope is more limited). Most of what SPIs do is build (sometimes complex) TR anchors and belay clients up and down them, from the top or bottom.

As for the Gri Gri, think about how you are going to lower someone from a top belay - might need to back it up with an autoblock, or redirect the brake strand for increased friction.

Tyler Neville · · Orono, Maine · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 10

Thanks for all the replies so far everybody, lots of good info and lots more to learn. I don't plan on betting my life on my anchor skills until I know it's 100% bomber. I just wanted some critiques from people who know more so I can get it right eventually. I'll keep studying and improving! The whole belaying from the top over a sea cliff thing is something I just haven't run into before in my (very) young climbing career nor is there too much specific info out there on it. I'll get it though! Thanks again.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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