New AAC Article on Anchors


Original Post
Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190

https://americanalpineclub.org/resources-blog/2017/7/31/anchors

https://www.facebook.com/AmericanAlpineClub/videos/10155014157483935/

Found this very interesting, potentially game-changing in terms of how anchors are taught.  Ironically, posters on MP (e.g RGold) have been making these points for years, but it's good to see that the AAC has come around on it.  Maybe we'll see fewer "how to build a quad" videos in the future...kind of surprised there's no discussion/advocacy for rope anchors, however, as this seemed like the most logical solution to the shock loading danger to me.

edit: added video link.

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

I didn't see much new or interesting in the article, but thanks for posting it.

GTS · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2008 · Points: 0

I'm with Frank on this one. It's a good article with a lot of info, but I don't see anything "game changing" about it. 

Jonathan Lagoe · · Boulder · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 5
Ted Pinson wrote:

https://americanalpineclub.org/resources-blog/2017

kind of surprised there's no discussion/advocacy for rope anchors, however, as this seemed like the most logical solution to the shock loading danger to me.

Agreed. Can someone explain to me what is wrong with this simple fast adjustable method I've used forever:

Rope goes from me to clove hitch on anchor piece one  - then a bit of slack for adjustments and straight to clove hitch on anchor piece two -  then back to my belay loop and tie into a screwgate.

Equalization/ comfortable stance achieved by tweaking the clove hitches.

If I need a third or upward pull anchor then clove hitch to free rope

What is to be gained by all these complex cordelette systems? Genuine question.

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

^^Escaping the belay and block leading are both significantly easier with a cordellette.

GTS wrote:

I'm with Frank on this one. It's a good article with a lot of info, but I don't see anything "game changing" about it. 

Mainly the fact that they are acknowledging that equalization is a myth and that no amount of fancy rigging will make up for shitty placements.  I thought the idea of purposely rigging anchors so that the strongest piece takes the load was interesting.  They also argue for doing away with acronyms like Serene, earnest, etc.  I was surprised by how strongly they came down against the idea of limiter knots and quad/sliding Xs, as that seems to have been all the rage in climbing literature lately.

Nate Doyle · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 10

They also argue for doing away with acronyms like Serene, earnest

They argue for doing away with such acronyms? Or rather knowing their limitations and not treating them as some sort of holy grail perfect setup where no critical thinking is required?

Going to read the article now lol

baldclimber · · Ottawa, Ontario, Canada · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 0
Ted Pinson wrote:

...kind of surprised there's no discussion/advocacy for rope anchors, however, as this seemed like the most logical solution to the shock loading danger to me.

This...kinda.  Building rope anchors solves many of the *potential* issues of the ill-defined term of "shock loading".  I'll refer to a discussion on RC.COM from ten years ago: "Shock loading" myth? 

sandrock · · Colorado Springs, CO · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 115

Here's the accompanying video.  It is well worth the 20 minutes. He starts talking about the article concept about halfway in.


https://www.facebook.com/AmericanAlpineClub/videos/10155014157483935/

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

^^Escaping the belay and block leading are both significantly easier with a cordellette.

Only if you really don't know what you're doing. And escaping the belay is far far far far far far overrated as a concern.

Micah Klesick · · Vancouver, WA · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 3,894

I would say its game changing in that the AAC, which many climbers look up to, is officially stating that obtaining equalization of anchors is a myth. I think a lot of the climbers here that are more experienced already know that, but so, so many climbers live and die by their anchors being equalized for safety, and they honestly think that their anchors are equalized, and its actually more dangerous than they realize. Its good to have a large, official and respected climbing organization publicly stating these facts, and presenting reasons and solutions. 

GTS · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2008 · Points: 0
Ted Pinson wrote:

Mainly the fact that they are acknowledging that equalization is a myth and that no amount of fancy rigging will make up for shitty placements.  I thought the idea of purposely rigging anchors so that the strongest piece takes the load was interesting.  They also argue for doing away with acronyms like Serene, earnest, etc.  I was surprised by how strongly they came down against the idea of limiter knots and quad/sliding Xs, as that seems to have been all the rage in climbing literature lately.

Equalization was always a myth, or at least a partial myth. Equalization was going to be hard to achieve under the best of circumstances and was down the list of priorities when it came to anchor building.

I thought that rigging the anchor to load the strongest piece was common practice. No?

I'd like to see the data on the spiking of forces on the different anchor points of a quad in use. 

djh860 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 110

Its good stuff for me I'm going to read it carefully.  Thanks

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190
Micah Klesick wrote:

I would say its game changing in that the AAC, which many climbers look up to, is officially stating that obtaining equalization of anchors is a myth. I think a lot of the climbers here that are more experienced already know that, but so, so many climbers live and die by their anchors being equalized for safety, and they honestly think that their anchors are equalized, and its actually more dangerous than they realize. Its good to have a large, official and respected climbing organization publicly stating these facts, and presenting reasons and solutions. 

Yeah, thanks for putting to words what I've been struggling to articulate.  Like I said, many of these concepts have been discussed here and other places, and in large part what they are arguing is more a return to form than anything groundbreakingly new.  It just has seemed that the major trend in the industry has been quads, equallettes, etc, and for a major organization to take a strong stance on this seemed significant to me.  I also highly recommend watching the video (meant to share the whole press release, sorry), which may have taken a stronger tone.

Patrick Shyvers · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 15
Marc801 C wrote:

Only if you really don't know what you're doing.

Ok, maybe I'm just being dense, but clue me in - how do you build anchors with the rope & easily block lead? Are you untying from the rope midface?

Jeremy B. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2013 · Points: 0
Patrick Shyvers wrote:

Ok, maybe I'm just being dense, but clue me in - how do you build anchors with the rope & easily block lead? Are you untying from the rope midface?

Suggested reading: http://people.bath.ac.uk/dac33/high/6TheBelay.htm#swapd

Jonathan Lagoe · · Boulder · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 5

Second comes up and clips into belay anchors. Puts me on belay device. I unhook my clove hitches - second takes in a bit of slack and off I go. Takes about 30 seconds.

climber pat · · Las Cruces, NM · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 215

I have wondered for a long time if SERENE concept, especially the equalized and no extension were helpful or harmful to the climbing community given how obsessed new climbers and even many experienced climbers are to those two concepts. 

I think many climbers focus on equalization and no extension because that is something entirely under their control.  Whereas judging the quality of the gear is a skill which I suspect many, even very experienced, climbers are not good at and they know this at some level. 

No extension is not an issue when a rope is in the system but since more and more people climb with a PAS or clip in with runners unexpectedly high loads are a distinct possibility while the climber is clipped into the anchor.  I look forward to PAS evolving into an energy absorbing device.

I am very happy to see the AAC take this stance.  It reinforces many threads on mountain project that boil down to if your anchor really needs equalization then you should be looking to build a better anchor.  (Yes, I know that is not always possible, I have told and been told that falling was not an option because the anchor is so bad but this is extremely rare).      

David Coley · · UK · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 70

Hi,

some comments:

1. I'm not sure "Indisputably, anchors fail because the load exceeds the force that the anchor can withstand." covers everything. In that, pieces getting pulled in the wrong direction is a possible reason for failure. This is not mentioned in the list that follows.

2. I might be wrong, but was the photo with the caption "Modern anchors are configured to secure belayers no matter who they are belaying.  They might be belaying a second; they might be belaying a leader." faked? He is hanging from the rope having been dragged up the cliff by the leader falling. However if you imagine him hanging from the belay before the fall the sling to the lower "upward pull" piece must have been 3 times longer than would in truth be. This gives the wrong impression of how this needs to be put together. In addition, he seems to be holding the rope with his hands round the wrong way - his strongest hand (the upper one) is on the wrong side of his body. He seems to like being wrong handed, as he does it again in photo "All these different changes in the direction of load will shift the entire load onto a single component.  "

3. In the photo with the caption "Even the theoretical load distribution of many anchors is not "equal."  This anchor builder intentionally rigged to distribute more load to big pieces and less load to small pieces." At least two of the carabiners are being loaded over an edge. This is really bad as carabiners snap easily it such situations. 

I know the images were meant to illustrate other points, but when producing educational material one needs to understand that the reader might not just focus on what you wanted to, and might well take other messages. This is why for example, even when talking about chalk bags, a photo of a belay locker not done up on a belay plate is unhelpful.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190
climber pat wrote:

No extension is not an issue when a rope is in the system but since more and more people climb with a PAS or clip in with runners unexpectedly high loads are a distinct possibility while the climber is clipped into the anchor.  I look forward to PAS evolving into an energy absorbing device.

I don't know if that is true.  I think that one of the main points brought up in the article/video is that even small amounts of shock load can be dangerous.  A PAS will never be an "energy absorbing device" where regular shock loading is safe, even if you make it out of nylon (or climbing rope, for that matter).

climber pat · · Las Cruces, NM · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 215
David Coley wrote:

Hi,

some comments:

1. I'm not sure "Indisputably, anchors fail because the load exceeds the force that the anchor can withstand." covers everything. In that, pieces getting pulled in the wrong direction is a possible reason for failure. This is not mentioned in the list that follows.

2. I might be wrong, but was the photo with the caption "Modern anchors are configured to secure belayers no matter who they are belaying.  They might be belaying a second; they might be belaying a leader." faked? He is hanging from the rope having been dragged up the cliff by the leader falling. However if you imagine him hanging from the belay before the fall the sling to the lower "upward pull" piece must have been 3 times longer than would in truth be. This gives the wrong impression of how this needs to be put together. In addition, he seems to be holding the rope with his hands round the wrong way - his strongest hand (the upper one) is on the wrong side of his body. He seems to like being wrong handed, as he does it again in photo "All these different changes in the direction of load will shift the entire load onto a single component.  "

3. In the photo with the caption "Even the theoretical load distribution of many anchors is not "equal."  This anchor builder intentionally rigged to distribute more load to big pieces and less load to small pieces." At least two of the carabiners are being loaded over an edge. This is really bad as carabiners snap easily it such situations. 

I know the images were meant to illustrate other points, but when producing educational material one needs to understand that the reader might not just focus on what you wanted to, and might well take other messages. This is why for example, even when talking about chalk bags, a photo of a belay locker not done up on a belay plate is unhelpful.

On point #2.  I think the anchor and the length to the upward pull piece looks like it could be real.  I think the belayer is currently lowering the leader.  His strongest hand might be his left hand as he could be left handed.  In any case the ability to belay with either hand is an important skill.

On Point #3.  Yes, a terrible belay with all the biners laying on the rock like that.

I saw a preview of one of the earlier AAC teaching videos (gym belaying) and provided feedback that was not incorporated with the excuse that it was too much effort to correct.  That attitude put me off.

Skye Swoboda-Colberg · · Laramie, Wyoming · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 115

I'd like to see the data on the spiking of forces on the different anchor points of a quad in use. 

I agree, there are some statements in this article that could use some evidence. According to tests summarized in John Long's "Climbing Anchors", the absolute difference in loads between two legs of a sliding x or equalette are 1.5 kn or less, not "90% 10%" as suggested in the video. They address the "clutching effect" that can lead to unequal forces in the legs, and claim that this can be minimized by using "multiple wide mouth anodized lockers on individual strands". In all but the most catastrophic falls where you lose your first piece, there should not be a dramatic change in the direction of load because the anchor is designed to be strongest in that direction. Furthermore it should already be loaded in that direction and ready to take a fall. Maybe changing the load angle by 30+ degrees is a strawman.

If an anchor is constructed with only two pieces of equipment, like two 10kN cams, all the requirements of a SRENE anchor could be met.

This sounds like another strawman to me. Does anyone regularily build anchors with only two cams? I was told last summer I was "super safe" because I use a minimum of 3 pieces for an anchor, which surprised me. Maybe this is overkill, and an example of redundancy run amok, but a two piece anchor does not seem to be "good enough" unless you really don't have a third option.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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