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A better anchor ancronym/checklist?


Original Post
David K · · New Paltz, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 145

SERENE might have captured the best knowledge we had at one time, but we know more now. The biggest problem, IMO, is that "solid" is underemphasized. For example, I see beginners tying correct knots to dead trees, or placing well-cammed cams in crumbly rock. Right now I tend to go with Harumpfster's "Place strong pieces and clip yourself to them", but I think there would be some value in an acronym/checklist to help beginners understand what a strong piece is. Meanwhile, we now know that equalization is pretty much not a thing, and while shock loading is a bit more ambiguous, I suspect that the importance of "no extension" is also overplayed.

What I'd like is an acronym that captures:

  1. The pieces are placed properly, the knots are tied properly (one part of "solid").
  2. The bolts/rock/tree(s)/etc. that you're attached to are stable (another part of "solid").
  3. Appropriate level of redundancy.
  4. Angle: are the vector forces going to greatly multiply the force on your gear?
  5. Directionality: is this anchor solid in all the directions where force might be applied to it?
  6. Simplicity.
One thing to consider here is, how many of these actually are causing anchors to fail? Do we have any documented cases of angle or directionality contributing to an anchor failure?

Any ideas for an acronym/checklist? Other problems you see with anchors?
FosterK · · Edmonton, AB · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 60
Have you seen this article from the AAC? This may be a better alternative that emphasizes solid gear and simplicity. 

THE TRIPLE S: FUNDAMENTALS OF COMPLEX ANCHORS
When anchoring becomes more complicated, a more sophisticated approach positions the anchor builder to answer three basic questions:
Is the anchor strong enough?
Is the anchor secure enough?
Is the anchor as simple as it can be?
This is a broader, more inclusive way to think about anchors than the SERENE-style mnemonic. Call it the Triple S approach. Triple S anchors do not strive to equalize or to eliminate extensions; they strive to distribute load intelligently, minimize extensions, and avoid edge-case failure scenarios. Triple S anchors do not attempt to aggregate strength; they rely on unquestionably strong component parts and anticipate a human factor in that calculation. Triple S anchors do not muddle into unnecessary complexity; they solve the anchoring problem as efficiently as possible.
Chris Duca · · Downingtown, PA · Joined Dec 2006 · Points: 2,095

BFT—Big Effin’ Tree
BFR—Big Effin’ Rock

Turner · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2011 · Points: 287

I like to teach STRADS. Solid, timely, redundant, angle, distribution, simple. Prioritizing the importance of placing really good gear with students.

Other problems: Cliff top safety is something that I see overlooked. 

Josh B · · Cambridge, MA · Joined Nov 2018 · Points: 0

I think the most common mistake that I made when I started building gear anchors was trying to place all if my pieces too close together. I think that references like John longs climbing anchors that overemphasize cordeette rigging encourage this behavior.

Sometimes putting three pieces in one crack system is a good decision if the rock is bomber, but it's often better to space things out and use multiple features especially on punky alpine rock.

I've been making an effort to make sure all of my partners know how to build spaced out anchors that incorporate the rope, and other such tricks for rigging in less than ideal places.

My checklist is something like

Quality rock / vegetation
Solid placement
Angle
Knots / rigging

Equalization and extension come last. Sometimes it's worth thinking about them, but they never take priority.

Michael Beerens · · Germany · Joined Apr 2019 · Points: 0

Alternatively you can just use the BBB-acronym:
BOMBER BOMBER BOMBER. Get some good pieces in relatively closed to each other and you are fine. You should be able to tell a good piece from a bad one after some time leading trad. No need to make it too complicated. 

Roots · · Redmond. OR · Joined Dec 2010 · Points: 20

CYS

Check Your Shit

Fran M · · Germany · Joined Feb 2019 · Points: 0

I propose ABAA. It stands for A Better Anchor Acronym.

Noah R · · VT · Joined Nov 2018 · Points: 0

Look at each piece. Look good? Cool how about how it is attached to the rest of them? Look good? How are you attached to the anchor? How will your follower be attached?

I think the acronyms are not the most useful if you just look at each part of the system in a specific order each time.

To each their own. Whatever is the safest for you may not be safe for others of course. Just pick a system and do it every time. 

Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65
Noah R wrote: Look at each piece. Look good? Cool how about how it is attached to the rest of them? Look good? How are you attached to the anchor? How will your follower be attached?

I think the acronyms are not the most useful if you just look at each part of the system in a specific order each time.

To each their own. Whatever is the safest for you may not be safe for others of course. Just pick a system and do it every time. 

This. 

Acronyms fall into the "learning by rote" category and ignore situational context.
I'll go so far as to say that while an acronym might be useful for some people while they're learning, should someone who needs an acronym to remember anchor building actually be building real world anchors on which they and someone else depend?
caughtinside · · Oakland CA · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 1,450
David K wrote: I see beginners tying correct knots to dead trees, or placing well-cammed cams in crumbly rock. 

No substitute for good judgment and experience. 

stolo · · Shelby, NC · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 215

KISS

Chris K · · Clemson · Joined Oct 2017 · Points: 56

In no particular order to the letters but to stand for things to keep in mind:
Directional
Redundant
Efficient
Solid
Simple

idk

F loyd · · Kennewick, WA · Joined Mar 2018 · Points: 416

If you get to a stance and have to sit there and say an acronym to make your anchor solid, I don't know how you have made it so far in life.

Serge Smirnov · · Seattle, WA · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 363

I always wondered why "high enough for comfortable belay" never seems to make such lists.

Cassidy Anderson · · San Diego, CA · Joined Nov 2008 · Points: 259

Equalized
Redundant
No
Extension
Simple
Timely

Sam Sala · · Denver · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 45

YGD. 

Malcolm Daly · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 380
Michael Beerens wrote: Alternatively you can just use the BBB-acronym:
BOMBER BOMBER BOMBER. Get some good pieces in relatively closed to each other and you are fine. You should be able to tell a good piece from a bad one after some time leading trad. No need to make it too complicated. 

BBBM where M is Multidirectional. 

Andy Eiter · · Madison, WI · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 126
Strong
Equalized
Xylophone
YGD
e u i
r  n e
   n
   a
Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65
Serge Smirnov wrote: I always wondered why "high enough for comfortable belay" never seems to make such lists.

Because you don’t always have that option  Certainly not enough to make it to a list. And there’s always a comfortable option - your harness. 

David K · · New Paltz, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 145
Marc801 C wrote:

This. 

Acronyms fall into the "learning by rote" category and ignore situational context.
I'll go so far as to say that while an acronym might be useful for some people while they're learning, should someone who needs an acronym to remember anchor building actually be building real world anchors on which they and someone else depend?

I'm thinking of this as a learning tool. Obviously this stuff becomes second nature with a bit of time. PLUS or something similar is used to teach belaying in most gyms, but nobody who has been belaying for more than a few hours should be saying "Pull, Lock, Under, Slide" to themselves for every belay motion.

There's a lot of common-sense kind of stuff that is probably good to do with anchors, i.e. don't have your carabiners hanging with the gate on an edge, but I think if you really need to explain that to someone, yeah, they shouldn't be building anchors, which is why I don't think we should include that. But it's not immediately apparent or common sense to a beginner that a 120 degree angle at their master point is bad, or that rock is way more likely to fail than a reasonably-cammed cam. Similarly, I don't want to include "timely" or "efficient" in a new acronym: beginners should be taking their time and building proper anchors, and by the time they are in a situation where speed really matters, hopefully they have enough experience that they are way past acronyms.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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