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Sport climbing top rope: 2 quickdraws anchors, what's your take?


Original Post
Franck Vee · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 30

Hi there,

This has been discussed a couple times within other topics on MP (based on a research I have found), but it hasn't been the focus of a discussion.

So - we know it's out there, most of us probably have done it and some of us probably do it often. You're sport climbing somewhere, and you have some buddies who want to try it "but I can't lead that - can you setup a top rope for me"?

Let's say that the bolts at the anchors lend themselves to that:

  • They are relatively close to one another (so the angle that 2 draws will make is acceptable and won't add undue force)
  • They are at the same level (or you have a third draw to extend one of the them, so they both actually share the load)
  • No weird rock angles will put undue pressure on your biner (either at the bolt or at the rope's end)

So you put 2 quickdraws, with gates opposed, clip the rope in and now have a top rope. Do you consider that an acceptable top rope setup, or do you think this is just a lazy sport climber shenanigans? Why?

RandyLee · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined May 2016 · Points: 5

Completely acceptable. Not if a team is going to toprope it all day, but for one or two, go for it. 

Jason Todd · · Cody, WY · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 983

Perfectly acceptable, perfectly safe.  
No reported accidents of this setup ever failing.

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

If you routinely toprope off of two draws, consider having two dedicated draws with locking steel carabiners on the rope end. 

AndrewArroz · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10

Totally acceptable. I actually keep a set of draws with lockers that I use for the rope end, just to be extra safe when doing this. Mostly I use those because I set up top ropes and let my middle school age daughter and her friends belay each other. I like knowing the rope is extra secure.

Chris Walden · · Soldotna, Alaska · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 640

No issues with two quickdraws.  I actually carry two draws with lockers on them in my crag bag -- I don't use them all the time but here are some situations. 

  • TR setup in a pinch.  
  • First bolt with hard'ish climbing that wanders or I feel is sketchy I'll throw a locker on here for piece of mind.
  • Projecting something hard & repeated whipping where an accidental unclip = catastrophe.  
Micah Klesick · · Vancouver, WA · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 3,964

That's my go to, and anything else is simply overkill for the scenario you described. 

Mark Rolofson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2010 · Points: 445

For added safety, I use a quickdraw with locking carbiners (one biner for the bolt & one for the rope) on one of the two anchor bolts.  This way, there is one draw that can not come unclipped.

If someone is planning to lead the pitch again, make sure that the first bolt that the leader will clip at the anchor is a regular (non-locking) quickdraw.  There is nothing worse than wanting to clip the anchor bolt when you're pumped & finding the draw you can reach is locked.

s.price · · PS,CO · Joined Dec 2010 · Points: 1,348

I have done so hundreds of times with no issue. I have always used lockers. Is it overkill? May be but it makes me feel better.

Is not doing so acceptable? Absolutely.

Squeak · · Perth West OZ · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 23

If i was setting the TR and on the climb with them I'd be happy to use standard draws. If I have to leave them to climb it and was not able to watch I'd use Lockers on both ends of the draws.

I would really hate to have someone do something silly at the top to endanger themselves or others.

Mark E Dixon · · Sprezzatura, Someday · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 549

When my wife follows a sport pitch, she cleans all the draws on the way up, except the last one, which she switches from being clipped to her rope to being clipped to the rope leading down to her belayer. 

She then finishes to the anchor, cleans it and grabs this last draw on the way down.

I think it's a pretty clever, easy way to back-up against any weirdness with the anchor draws. 

It would be an especially good idea if top roping tied into the mid portion of the rope. 

sherb · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2012 · Points: 60
Mark E Dixon wrote:

When my wife follows a sport pitch, she cleans all the draws on the way up, except the last one, which she switches from being clipped to her rope to being clipped to the rope leading down to her belayer. 

She then finishes to the anchor, cleans it and grabs this last draw on the way down.

I think it's a pretty clever, easy way to back-up against any weirdness with the anchor draws. 

It would be an especially good idea if top roping tied into the mid portion of the rope. 

Very clever Mark's wife!!!  Although it is unlikely the rope unclipped at the anchors before this last draw when cleaning (otherwise I imagine it would have fallen down already), I wonder if it could work for multiple topropers (perhaps switching the rope each time?) when not using lockers, and peace of mind for that last 15 feet.

John Barritt · · OKC · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 1,053

Two sliding Xs would be better. If you think this might be a thing or it's a regular thing buy two slings and four lockers for this scenario. Unless there's some rule in the sport manual that says you can only have draws.......... ;) JB

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 456

Most sport climbs around here have chains so I'll usually just thread the chains and clip the rope through a biner higher than the chains to take the wear. That way it's easier for the last person to clean and more secure than 2 draws. But I would be fine on 2 draws as well.

Benjamin Mitchell · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 0

This is completely reasonable. If you're paranoid then set up one of your draws with lockers on it. 

Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65
John Barritt wrote:

Two sliding Xs would be better. If you think this might be a thing or it's a regular thing buy two slings and four lockers for this scenario. Unless there's some rule in the sport manual that says you can only have draws.......... ;) JB

For a top rope? On two solid bolts? Totally unnecessary and not automatically "better".  Has nothing to do with your perceived sport climbing rules.

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

Let's say that the bolts at the anchors

[/thread] Just...stop.  All of the considerations you just listed really apply to gear anchors and are largely irrelevant unless the FA who bolted the climb was truly incompetent.  Two QDs, opposite and opposed, makes for a fine bolted TR anchor.  Go have fun.

T G · · Colorado · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 0
John Barritt wrote:

Two sliding Xs would be better.

Absolutely not. What happens if and when one side blows? The opposing side gets shock loaded.

Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65
Silverplume wrote:

Absolutely not. What happens if and when one side blows? The opposing side gets shock loaded.

Unless you're trolling......

Bolts. Solid bolts on a *sport* route. Your fears of one side blowing are just as overblown as the suggestion to use two sliding X's.

pat a · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 10

Beyond "reasonable" or "totally fine".  It's so completely bomber that there haven't been any reported failures of this setup in spite of the fact that it's the standard way to rig a toprope at the end of a sport climb.  Tens or even hundreds of millions of toproped routes climbed this way.  Bonus points for being (almost) idiot proof to rig.  Extra bonus points for not requiring anything you don't already have on you.  Extra extra bonus points for never having a follower get to the top and find themselves confronted with something they're not already familiar with.

Franck Vee · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 30
Silverplume wrote:

Absolutely not. What happens if and when one side blows? The opposing side gets shock loaded.

No, it does not. If they are relatively equal to start with (which I mentioned above), then blowing a bolt would merely shift the whole anchor as a pendulumn to the left or right. This isn't a shock lock and certainly isn't a bigger shock than a leader fall between 1st and 2nd bolt, which your draws are designed to take.

A sliding X, by the way, is ABSOLUTELY NOT a way to deal with things is your biggest worry in life is shock loading. If you remove one component in a sliding X, just check what happens. The slack given out by the failed component (say upper right), will lower the focus point of your anchor until all the slack has been given out and the focus is now lower than it initially was. THAT is a shock load on a sling, which is probably (by the way you are talking) a static sling. If shock loading your anchor is your worry, then tie a knot so that the likely direction of pull makes a well equalized anchor.

A sliding X is a good solution, to my knowledge, ONLY when you can't be 100% sure of the direction of pull, or if that direction is likely to vary appreciably, making a knot & a "fixed" directional for your anchor less ideal.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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