Adventure Projects is hiring a web engineer to join us in Boulder, CO
Mountain Project Logo

Anchor Bolts: Clip Above or Below Chain/QuickLink?


Peter Lenz · · Salt Lake City · Joined May 2008 · Points: 619

I got in a bit late on this interesting discussion.
One thing to keep in mind is that carabiners are
the part of the system which fails most frequently and they do so when cross loaded.
 I usually clip underneath the rings or links, and always try to avoid any situation which may crossload a ‘biner.
 I think the OP was correct, and the person who
complained was clearly wrong.

Jim Titt · · Germany · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 490
Peter Lenz wrote: I got in a bit late on this interesting discussion.
One thing to keep in mind is that climbers are
the part of the system which fails most frequently.........

Corrected that for you  

Ken Noyce · · Layton, UT · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 2,249
Peter Lenz wrote: I got in a bit late on this interesting discussion.
One thing to keep in mind is that carabiners are
the part of the system which fails most frequently and they do so when cross loaded.
 I usually clip underneath the rings or links, and always try to avoid any situation which may crossload a ‘biner.
 I think the OP was correct, and the person who
complained was clearly wrong.

Wait, what?  As Jim said, the climbers are the part of the system which fails most frequently, not the biners, and while a cross loaded biner could fail, I've never heard of it happening in the real world.  The only biners I know of failing are nose hooked biners, the cross loaded strength of every climbing biner I've ever seen is high enough that you would need to take a pretty severe fall to break it.

Brian in SLC · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Oct 2003 · Points: 14,422
Ken Noyce wrote:

Wait, what?  As Jim said, the climbers are the part of the system which fails most frequently, not the biners, and while a cross loaded biner could fail, I've never heard of it happening in the real world.  The only biners I know of failing are nose hooked biners, the cross loaded strength of every climbing biner I've ever seen is high enough that you would need to take a pretty severe fall to break it.

Couple of examples (quick google search)...

http://publications.americanalpineclub.org/articles/13200309500/Fall-on-Rock-Protection-Pulled-Carabiner-Broke-Exceeding-Abilities-Washington-Frenchmans-Coulee-Air-Guitar

Subsequent studies of the broken carabiner revealed that the the wire gate was not distressed; in other words, the carabiner appears to have failed because its gate was open. While a gate-closed carabiner failure is rare, carabiners with their gates open lose as much as two thirds of their strength, making failure in a fall a real possibility.
What caused the carabiner gate to open? It could have become wedged or constricted inside the crack because its short quickdraw would not let it lie outside the crack. Jammed in the crack, the carabiner could have had its gate pinned open. The short, stiff quickdraw could also have let the carabiner to rotate into a cross-loading orientation, another extremely weak position.


http://publications.americanalpineclub.org/articles/13201213032

Best guess is that the climber either kicked or snagged the draw while making the next long move, causing the carabiner to shift on the bolt hanger. During the fall, the carabiner broke because it was not meant to be loaded on other than its main axis. Carabiners have been known to break in such fashion due to the carabiner being snagged, rotated, or cross-loaded on the bolt hanger. 
Ken Noyce · · Layton, UT · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 2,249
Brian in SLC wrote:

Couple of examples (quick google search)...

http://publications.americanalpineclub.org/articles/13200309500/Fall-on-Rock-Protection-Pulled-Carabiner-Broke-Exceeding-Abilities-Washington-Frenchmans-Coulee-Air-Guitar

Subsequent studies of the broken carabiner revealed that the the wire gate was not distressed; in other words, the carabiner appears to have failed because its gate was open. While a gate-closed carabiner failure is rare, carabiners with their gates open lose as much as two thirds of their strength, making failure in a fall a real possibility.
What caused the carabiner gate to open? It could have become wedged or constricted inside the crack because its short quickdraw would not let it lie outside the crack. Jammed in the crack, the carabiner could have had its gate pinned open. The short, stiff quickdraw could also have let the carabiner to rotate into a cross-loading orientation, another extremely weak position.


http://publications.americanalpineclub.org/articles/13201213032

Best guess is that the climber either kicked or snagged the draw while making the next long move, causing the carabiner to shift on the bolt hanger. During the fall, the carabiner broke because it was not meant to be loaded on other than its main axis. Carabiners have been known to break in such fashion due to the carabiner being snagged, rotated, or cross-loaded on the bolt hanger. 

First example says that the study revealed that the wire gate was not distressed, this means that is was not cross loaded.  Second one doesn't say that it was crossloaded, and makes it sound like it was nose snagged (though it is impossible to tell).  Neither example contradicts anything that I said.  

Brian in SLC · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Oct 2003 · Points: 14,422
Ken Noyce wrote:

First example says that the study revealed that the wire gate was not distressed, this means that is was not cross loaded.  Second one doesn't say that it was crossloaded, and makes it sound like it was nose snagged (though it is impossible to tell).  Neither example contradicts anything that I said.  

I think the carabiner was cross loaded on the flat edge at the bottom of the slot (#2 camalot placement).  Snapped right there.  I've done the route and remember that spot.

http://publications.americanalpineclub.org/articles/13200305300/Fall-on-Rock-Inadequate-Protection-Inadequate-Clothing-and-Equipment-Weather

We never found the ’biner, but I think it most likely became cross-loaded between the Grigri and the harness loop, dropping it’s breaking strength to well within the danger zone. 
Ryan Swanson · · Pepedidnothingwrong, freejg · Joined Jan 2018 · Points: 50

I have found that top roping through the fixed hardware eliminates this problem

Ken Noyce · · Layton, UT · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 2,249
Brian in SLC wrote:

I think the carabiner was cross loaded on the flat edge at the bottom of the slot (#2 camalot placement).  Snapped right there.  I've done the route and remember that spot.

http://publications.americanalpineclub.org/articles/13200305300/Fall-on-Rock-Inadequate-Protection-Inadequate-Clothing-and-Equipment-Weather

We never found the ’biner, but I think it most likely became cross-loaded between the Grigri and the harness loop, dropping it’s breaking strength to well within the danger zone. 

Cool, after reading that account I do believe that it was most likely was a cross loaded biner breaking, but it was also a factor 2 fall, so you could certainly have loads high enough to break a cross loaded biner.  In most typical climbing scenarios, we just don't generate loads high enough to break even a cross loaded biner, so my point stands that cross loaded biners breaking is certainly not the part of the system that fails most frequently as was stated above by Peter Lenz. 

Peter Lenz · · Salt Lake City · Joined May 2008 · Points: 619
  1. We Hi Ken Noyce wrote: 

Wait, what?  As Jim said, the climbers are the part of the system which fails most frequently, not the biners, and while a cross loaded biner could fail, I've never heard of it happening in the real world.  The only biners I know of failing are nose hooked biners, the cross loaded strength of every climbing biner I've ever seen is high enough that you would need to take a pretty severe fall to break it.

Hi Ken, 

You are obviously correct that mental and other errors by the climber, are far more common than all causes of carabiner failure.  I was referring to the weakest point in the belay chain.  I consider the belay chain to be the belay device, the rope,  the protection pieces, the carabiners, and the anchor. In a top rope situation, if the anchor is solid, and the belay is properly performed, the part of the system most likely to fail is the carabiner. They typically fail when cross loaded, and there are well documented instances of this occurrence, “in the real world.” You are simply wrong if you believe this has never occurred. The discussion was whether to clip a top roping carabiner above or below the chains or rings. My point was that one can usually avoid cross loading  the carabiners in anchor bolts, by clipping underneath the chains. 
 Obviously we often need to balance mechanical failure against human error. If you feel that clipping above the chains increases the risk of human error and subsequent injuries, then I think you are right to do it the other way.  
Ken Noyce · · Layton, UT · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 2,249
Peter Lenz wrote:

Hi Ken, 

You are obviously correct that mental and other errors by the climber, are far more common than all causes of carabiner failure.  I was referring to the weakest point in the belay chain.  I consider the belay chain to be the belay device, the rope,  the protection pieces, the carabiners, and the anchor. In a top rope situation, if the anchor is solid, and the belay is properly performed, the part of the system most likely to fail is the carabiner. They typically fail when cross loaded, and there are well documented instances of this occurrence, “in the real world.” You are simply wrong if you believe this has never occurred. The discussion was whether to clip a top roping carabiner above or below the chains or rings. My point was that one can usually avoid cross loading  the carabiners in anchor bolts, by clipping underneath the chains. 
 Obviously we often need to balance mechanical failure against human error. If you feel that clipping above the chains increases the risk of human error and subsequent injuries, then I think you are right to do it the other way.  

I honestly can't see how clipping under vs over the chains has anything to do with the liklihood of a biner becoming cross loaded, but my point has more to do with the fact that when it comes to biners failing, yes, crossloading is a concern in some scenarios (i.e. factor 2 fall on a cross loaded biner), however there are much more likely ways for a biner to fail such as nose hooking.  In a typical anchor scenario on a single pitch route (where the vast majority of climbing takes place) it would be almost impossible to generate a high enough load to cause a biner to fail when cross loaded.  

Vaughn · · Colorado · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 50
Ken Noyce wrote:

I honestly can't see how clipping under vs over the chains has anything to do with the liklihood of a biner becoming cross loaded, but my point has more to do with the fact that when it comes to biners failing, yes, crossloading is a concern in some scenarios (i.e. factor 2 fall on a cross loaded biner), however there are much more likely ways for a biner to fail such as nose hooking.  In a typical anchor scenario on a single pitch route (where the vast majority of climbing takes place) it would be almost impossible to generate a high enough load to cause a biner to fail when cross loaded.  

Seems to me the issue is not about cross loading but about loading over an edge. Often I find bolted anchors that are on a bulge, in which case the bolt side carabiner is loaded over the edge of the chain if you clip on top.

Peter Lenz · · Salt Lake City · Joined May 2008 · Points: 619

A carabiner over an edge is a great example of cross loading.
 If you don’t think clipping above chains can cross load a carabiner, try it and look closely. I think you will see what I am saying. It doesn’t happen all the time. Small hangers and large chains make it more likely. It does not happen every time; just often enough that I think it is an issue.
 Threading the chains and top roping through them definitely avoids carabiner issues,
but it does lead to wear on the chains, links
or whatever. But that is another issue to
argue about. Ready, set....go!!!!

Ken Noyce · · Layton, UT · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 2,249
Peter Lenz wrote: A carabiner over an edge is a great example of cross loading.
 If you don’t think clipping above chains can cross load a carabiner, try it and look closely. I think you will see what I am saying. It doesn’t happen all the time. Small hangers and large chains make it more likely. It does not happen every time; just often enough that I think it iaan issue.
 Threading the chains and top roping through them definitely avoids carabiner issues,
but it does lead to wear on the chains, links
or whatever. But that is another issue to
argue about. Ready, set....go!!!!

A carabiner over an edge is absolutely not cross loading.  Cross loading has a very specific definition, it is when a carabiner is loaded across it's minor axis (i.e. loading points on the gate and the spine).  Carabiners are rated in three different loading scenarios, gate closed, gate open, and cross loaded, edge loading is totally different and if that is what you are talking about you need to say that.  Words are important, especially in written communication, using the wrong words just leads to confusion like in this situation.

Peter Lenz · · Salt Lake City · Joined May 2008 · Points: 619

I appreciate your clarification. I may well have used the term “cross loading,” incorrectly. My impression was that “cross loading,” meant any load not applied to the long axis of the carabiner.
If I confused things, I apologize.
 But the bottom line is that carabiners do break,
and they do so when they are improperly loaded
i.e. off the long axis. Right?
 Clipping above chains can clearly result in an off axis load. That is my take anyway. I apologize if I used the term “crossloaded,” improperly.

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 489

IMO, clipping under or above the chains/quicklinks is not going to create anywhere near enough leverage and/or torque to snap a biner. We all know the best way to break a biner is to nose-hook it, but I would guess that the second best way to severely reduce the strength of a biner is by loading over an edge with a severe enough angle to get some gnarly leverage going on.

Imagine a cliff edge that is a 90 degree angle and the carabiner is sitting flat on the cliff top (parallel to the cliff top) with the top half of the biner resting on the cliff top and the bottom half of the biner hanging over the edge. The thought of this makes me cringe and I would guess that this biner would fail at loads slightly higher than a nose hooked biner but much lower force than a cross-loaded or open gate failure.

However, with a biner clipped above or below chains, you aren't going to get anywhere near this amount of leverage. 

Ken Noyce · · Layton, UT · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 2,249
eli poss wrote: IMO, clipping under or above the chains/quicklinks is not going to create anywhere near enough leverage and/or torque to snap a biner. We all know the best way to break a biner is to nose-hook it, but I would guess that the second best way to severely reduce the strength of a biner is by loading over an edge with a severe enough angle to get some gnarly leverage going on.

Imagine a cliff edge that is a 90 degree angle and the carabiner is sitting flat on the cliff top (parallel to the cliff top) with the top half of the biner resting on the cliff top and the bottom half of the biner hanging over the edge. The thought of this makes me cringe and I would guess that this biner would fail at loads slightly higher than a nose hooked biner but much lower force than a cross-loaded or open gate failure.

However, with a biner clipped above or below chains, you aren't going to get anywhere near this amount of leverage. 

I don't often agree with Eli, but in this case I do.

Jake Jones · · Richmond, VA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 1,644

Does anyone else ignore links, chains and hangers if there’s solid steel rings like I do?  A standard stainless ring has tons of room and is plenty strong.  For everything else, what I clip where depends on the anchor, its position on the rock and what I’m doing with it- rapping, setting up a tr, etc.

Peter Lenz · · Salt Lake City · Joined May 2008 · Points: 619

I guess I am outvoted!
To the beginners (this is a beginner forum)
I will make one final plea: don’t load carabiners off the major axis, anywhere they can be torqued, and watch for situations where carabiner gates can be opened inadvertently. 
Beware of edges, both with ropes and carabiners.
 Good Climbing,Pete

Ryan Swanson · · Pepedidnothingwrong, freejg · Joined Jan 2018 · Points: 50
Jake Jones wrote: Does anyone else ignore links, chains and hangers if there’s solid steel rings like I do?  A standard stainless ring has tons of room and is plenty strong.  For everything else, what I clip where depends on the anchor, its position on the rock and what I’m doing with it- rapping, setting up a tr, etc.

I do this too.  However, it seems that rings are getting few and far between

Harumpfster Boondoggle · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2018 · Points: 0
Jake Jones wrote: Does anyone else ignore links, chains and hangers if there’s solid steel rings like I do?  A standard stainless ring has tons of room and is plenty strong.  For everything else, what I clip where depends on the anchor, its position on the rock and what I’m doing with it- rapping, setting up a tr, etc.

The rings test to like 10,000# if I recall correctly, meaning that all the links/hangers/bolts are far weaker. 

Point being you have to inspect every link in your chain including the bolt to use the SS ring, which I hope you do.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Post a Reply to "Anchor Bolts: Clip Above or Below Chain/QuickLink?"
in the Beginning Climbers

Log In to Reply