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Hangers and Anchors   

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Rock Climbing Photo: Leeper hangar displays stress-corrosion cracking

Leeper hangar displays stress-corrosion cracking
A bolt hanger is a bent piece of metal necessary for the use of mechanical bolts. They have two holes; one attaches the hanger to the bolt’s threaded shaft and the other is designed for clipping by the climber, either as an anchor or as protection mid-way up a climb. It is highly recommended that the hanger and bolt be composed of the same type of metal to avoid dangerous corrosion. Additionally, it is recommended that this metal be stainless steel, which is far more durable than other metal compositions used frequently in bolting. Unfortunately, stainless steel bolts and hangers are expensive. With the vast majority of bolting financed by the hard-earned cash of individual route setters, cheaper materials are used more often than not. Climbers should always be on the lookout for old, corroded, and potentially even cracked hangers that could put their safety at risk.

Top Anchors 

A fixed anchor at the top of a climb or a pitch is usually composed of a permanent pair of bolts and hangers attached to some configuration of rings or chains. Some anchors are designed specifically for the climber to lower off of with or without having to untie their knot. Others are intended for rappelling from the top of the route.

There is no universal recommendation for all top anchor configurations. The same rules that apply to choosing bolt types apply to anchor set-ups. Learn and follow local ethics and precedent, choose the best material composition for the rock type, and thoughtfully place an anchor to reduce rope-drag and contact with sharp edges. Anchors experience far more of a beating than individual hangers on a sport climb due to the frequency of rope contact. Also, because climbers lower off of anchors without any additional points of protection, it is extremely critical to constantly inspect anchors for signs of damage. This includes wear from contact with ropes as well as signs of corrosion within the bolts themselves.

Cold Shuts 

Cold shuts are eye-shaped pieces of metal used in lieu of hangers in anchor systems. These hardware store links can be welded for use in rock climbing quickly and cheaply. They are less expensive than anchor pieces specifically designed for climbing and are consequently far less safe and durable.

Rappel Rings (Rap Rings) 

Rock Climbing Photo: Stainless steel rappel ring

Stainless steel rappel ring
Rap ring configurations are common anchor designs and range from bomber to very unsafe, depending on their material composition, age, and use. Old rolled aluminum rap rings often display signs of heavy use and should be replaced if this is the case. Most recent anchor installments are forged aluminum and are far more reliable than their predecessors. Rap rings themselves are not prone to failure if used properly. However, toproping or constant lowering off of rap rings will eventually erode thin, sharp grooves in the devices that can cause rope wear and potential failure. Toproping through rap rings is not recommended as it can easily be avoided and places unnecessary wear on the fixed protection. If these grooves are present, the rap rings should be replaced.


Chains act to extend the distance between the hanger and the rap ring, quicklink, or other lowering point at an anchor. They come in a variety of metal configurations, commonly stainless and plated steel. They can be used as rappel or belay stations on multi-pitch routes or at the top of single-pitch routes and are often paired with another top anchor unit.


Quicklinks are common pieces of hardware found on rappel and belay stations. Like rap rings and cold shuts, quicklinks erode with use, especially when a weighted rope moves through them. Quicklinks are easier to replace than rap rings but do erode more quickly. Climbers should always place quickdraws or another form of personal gear if planning on toproping a route with this (or any) fixed anchor to avoid this type of stress on the anchor.

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