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Recoverable anchor kit (for rappelling)
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Feb 19, 2016
Hello everyone.

First let me say I am somewhat new to climbing. I've gym climbed/bouldered off and on for the last ten years, but just last year started following trad with some older, experienced friends, and had my first sport lead just a few weeks ago.

I'm also a mechanical engineer by trade.

As a backpacker I'm also very keen on LNT if it's possible.

I've been doing a lot of reading about anchor building, and came across some information about recoverable anchors (mostly from canyoneer sites). The method that mot intrigues me, and seems the least risky is using a strap system similar to a cambium saver arborists use.

If you're not familiar with this here's basically what it is: webbing either tied in a loop, or with two loops ties in the ends, with two rap rings or quick links. The saver is wrapped around a tree so it makes a complete loop when the two rings are held together. you pass the rope through both rings, and rappel as normal.

What makes the system recoverable is you attach a tag line to the anchor webbing, so once you pull the rope the anchor can be pulled down behind you. Caution: be aware of the falling metal rings/links.

Here's a good how to: backpacker.com/view/photos/ski... although I wouldn't attach the pull cord directly to the link, just to make sure it doesn't interfere with pulling the rope.


Anyway, that all seems pretty well established as OK. My question is in terms of the tag line used. Typically I see people saying to use rather large cord for the tag line (5-7mm). Which to me seems bulky and heavy, especially if carried only for this purpose.

My Question: Is there a reason I shouldn't use something like an arborist's throw line for the tag line? (I'm specifically thinking New England Ropes Dynaglide, which is 2mm hollow braided dyneema, and only weighs 2.6oz per 100ft, and has an average breaking strength of 1000lbs)

The only thing I can think of is the difficulty/pain of hauling on a small dyneema line, but since I'm only pulling down the webbing anchor, I figure that shouldn't be a problem.



I'm imagining making a small kit consisting of 10-15ft bulk 1" tubular webbing, 2 rap rings or quick links, and 100-150ft of dynaglide all kept in a small throw-bag style stuff sack I can easily clip to my harness.
Brian L.
Joined Feb 19, 2016
81 points
Feb 19, 2016
Brian,

Retrievable anchors aren't needed in climbing (you normally retrieve your anchor material when you finish climbing, then rappel from the chains or rap rings already installed) A 2 mm cord would not be sufficient for pulling if there is any rope drag/friction.

If you have to leave some webbing for a rappel anchor, do it. That is usually in an emergency or bailing application where something forces you to leave a route early.

Some climbers do use pull cords, but they're usually 6 or 7 mm. Twin ropes are the best way to get longer rappels.

Have fun and stay safe.

Frank
FrankPS
From Atascadero, CA
Joined Nov 19, 2009
284 points
Feb 19, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Mt Minsi, PA
Not really applicable for cragging. Perhaps useful in other situations where you can't afford to bail on gear. Michael C
From New Jersey
Joined Jun 9, 2011
374 points
Feb 19, 2016
Hi guys,

Thanks for the replies!

What is the reason you say a retrievable anchor is "not applicable for climbing" or inappropriate? Three people have said it, but no one has explained the reasoning behind it.



Frank: "you normally retrieve your anchor material when you finish climbing, then rappel from the chains or rap rings already installed"

I do understand this, and obviously if there are bolts or established anchors I would use them. I'm specifically discussing the situation where those are not available, or look dangerous to use.

I also understand leaving a sling and ring is "standard operating procedure" for most climbers.

Additionally I understand there may be situations where you don't want to use a recoverable anchor. Like everything in climbing, there is a judgement call to be made at every step.
Brian L.
Joined Feb 19, 2016
81 points
Feb 19, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: jah ... cluster
I frequently use a macrame or a fiddlestick for retrievable anchors in canyoneering. The downside to your described system is that it requires 3Xs the length of rope as the rappel, falling metal objects, and the potential for your webbing and pull line to get stuck. With a stiff dynamic rope the macrame will still work. You have the potential with these retrievable systems to get your rope stuck in an unsafe manner that you wouldn't want to jumar back up. That said, with lots of practice there are occasional situations where it can expedite or make a descent more safe. Be careful and have fun getting sketchy. justino
Joined Oct 14, 2008
120 points
Feb 19, 2016
Brian Lomicka wrote:
Frank: "you normally retrieve your anchor material when you finish climbing, then rappel from the chains or rap rings already installed" I do understand this, and obviously if there are bolts or established anchors I would use them. I'm specifically discussing the situation where those are not available, or look dangerous to use.


Established climbs that do not have hardware for rappelling or lowering (or there is not hardware nearby on another route) are a "walk-off." If you are just picking some random cliff to climb on, well, most climbers don't don't that! Or leave some webbing.

FrankPS
From Atascadero, CA
Joined Nov 19, 2009
284 points
Feb 19, 2016
Sorry Frank, maybe that is the case where you climb, but even in my short climbing experience I have experienced twice where gear was left. Once where an anchor was sketch and we decided not to use it (there's a significant re-bolting effort going on in my area, but not everything has been attended to yet). And once because no fixed anchor existed (guide book indicates rap off tree). Brian L.
Joined Feb 19, 2016
81 points
Feb 19, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: 1
only to the issue of width of tag lines.
The thinner the cord, the worse the potential for
Untangle-able 'spaghetti'
also winds and up drafts can cause thin lines to get stuck.

Very different forms of climbing tactics are followed in Canyoneering, some scary stuff.
Climbers really are all about predictable outcomes, eliminating as many potential down sides as possible,
as for Leave no trace, well we try to strike a balance some times, but then there is the Chalk issue. Are you a 'white courage' user?

Edit;
Yeah, I forgot thin lines hurt to pull hard on if they get twisted or stuck
I keep adding a video, then I return to find it gone?

thin ropes can CUT THROUGH thicker ones....




Michael Schneider
Joined Apr 24, 2014
500 points
Feb 19, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Self Photo
Brian L. wrote:
Sorry Frank, maybe that is the case where you climb, but even in my short climbing experience I have experienced twice where gear was left. Once where an anchor was sketch and we decided not to use it (there's a significant re-bolting effort going on in my area, but not everything has been attended to yet). And once because no fixed anchor existed (guide book indicates rap off tree).


Honestly man, if the hardware is to sketch to use, consider leaving a sling with a quicklink behind as a favor to future people who climb the route before the hardware can be replaced. Every route I can think of that has the statement, "rap from a tree" has a tree with webbing already set up for rappel from previous climbers. If not, set one up and leave it for future climbers.

The ONLY reason I have seen anyone use a tag line is to avoid having to carry an extra rope for a double rope rappel. You will see it most often in canyoneering because they will use a biner block and tag line for exactly this purpose.
Josh Romney
From Kaysville, UT
Joined Aug 5, 2015
10 points
Feb 19, 2016
I have a 6mm canyoneering tag line that I often use when I need double ropes to get down and don't want to use twins.

With 6mm you have to really be attentive when belaying to stack the rope just right or it's going to be mess. I can only really join it well to my softer and thinner ropes. I don't like the connecting knot if I put it on a workhorse rope. If there is drag, it really hurts to pull. It's the smallest I'd even consider using as a tagline.

That's with a 6mm. If you move to 2mm, it's all going to be worse. Also, my 6mm can be rapped off or ascended (shudder). You can't do that witIh a 2mm line.

Ultimately, you need to consider your goal for light weight or packable gear. It's speed and efficiency. You need to ask yourself this for all changes you make to your system. What are the chances that your system will cause problems that will slow you down significantly? Can it make you faster? If you're halfway up an alpine route watching it get dark, soaked from afternoon thunderstorms, you're probably not too psyched at how much lighter your pack was that morning.

Most climbers I know would benefit more from losing 5lbs off the belly than losing 2lbs trying to trick out their rack.
highaltitudeflatulentexpulsion
From Colorado
Joined Oct 29, 2012
43 points
Feb 19, 2016
Learn to tie the daisy of death. Just don't rap off the wrong end Martin Harris
Joined Jan 3, 2016
247 points
Feb 19, 2016
Wouldn't a releasable figure 8 block do the trick? or am I missing something in the scenario?

Yes I'm a fairly new climber with limited knowledge so please inform me if I am wrong.
Daniel T
From Riverside, Ca
Joined Mar 19, 2015
17 points
Feb 19, 2016
If you're trying to pull your webbing off from around a tree the knot, open loop, any ring/quick link present, and the "tag line" itself are likely to pull rocks or other debris down on to you. Just pulling a straight section of rope can be dangerous enough, rockfall from pulling the rope during rappels does kill people.

Get tat in a color that will blend in with the environment.

Learn to bolt and come back to replace suspect hardware and remove the tat at your crag later.
Nick Drake
From Newcastle, WA
Joined Jan 20, 2015
393 points
Administrator
Feb 19, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: OMG!
Downclimb. Muscrat
Joined Oct 27, 2011
3,553 points
Feb 19, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: North Maroon
The idea has been around a lot loner than Leave no Trace ethics as dirt bag climbers have always been looking for ways to save a buck. There are even a few devices out there (no longer being manufactured) designed just for the purpose. I remember getting some samples of a couple devices decades ago. A quick internet search reveals numerous techniques for retrievable anchors. D Condit
From Colorado Springs, CO
Joined Aug 30, 2011
96 points
Feb 19, 2016
Equivocation Hitch Karsten Delap
From North Carolina
Joined May 14, 2006
226 points
Feb 19, 2016
Brian L. wrote:
Hi guys, Thanks for the replies! What is the reason you say a retrievable anchor is "not applicable for climbing" or inappropriate? Three people have said it, but no one has explained the reasoning behind it.


Consider the reason you need to build your own rappel anchor. If it is an established climb, there will be an established descent - either a rap station (whether bolts, or a slung tree or boulder) or a walk-off. If there is meant to be an established rap station but it is missing or unsafe, you would probably be a better steward by leaving a new, safe rap set-up than by leaving no trace.

If it is a new climb you are establishing, and rapping is the best way down, again it would often be better to leave the rap anchor behind for the climbers who will follow.

If you are bailing off a climb before finishing, this would have some application - but you would have to be lucky enough to need to bail right where there is an appropriately sized tree growing out of the cliff. I think carrying a whole system just in case you might need to bail is kinda like carrying bivy gear - if you bring it, you're more likely to use it.

As to the system itself, you either need to only rap distances 1/3 the rope length, or carry an extra tag line, or tie a knot in one end of your rope (for the type of set-up with 2 differently sized rings). I wouldn't want to limit my rap distance in the first case, carry an extra tag line just for this in the second case, or deal with pulling a knotted end of rope down the cliff in the third case. Regardless, you're pulling down the webbing & rings contraption, and if you've ever dealt with a stuck rope (which can happen even with no knots or extra gear!) you'll know why this is a bad idea. The extra gear can get stuck, or pull down rocks on top of you - both situations can range from pain in the ass to dangerous.

This set-up isn't really appropriate for climbing because it can cause problems, and it is solving a problem that doesn't really exist. Webbing and quicklinks or rings are cheap, just leave them behind in the rare cases when you need to. As for LNT - I'm no expert but I suspect that leaving one sling in place around a tree may be kinder to the tree than if every climber pulled their sling around and off the tree after each rap - I could be wrong though.

Arborists are in a very different situation - they don't need to think about the "next climber" who will need an anchor, don't want to leave an eyesore of webbing in a tree that will never be used again, and don't have to worry about pulling rocks down onto themselves.

Hope that helps! (BTW - 2mm is way too small for a tagline.)
Em Cos
From Boulder, CO
Joined Apr 21, 2010
11 points
Feb 20, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Moss
According to Dirty Dingus McGee,
"Safety trumps LNT."
I for one agree.

A 2mm pull cord for your webbing retrieval system will get irretrievably hung up more often than not, leaving an unsightly and useless mess of a trace.
Jason Todd
From Cody, WY
Joined Apr 21, 2012
713 points
Mar 14, 2016
I can understand the desire for a retrievable anchor for alpine climbing in less traveled places. It's fun to wander around in the mountains and the adventure is better if you never see a trace of anyone who has been there before you. It seems like most of the people who have already responded only climb at crags or well established and traveled routes.

That said, there are some serious issues to worry about if you pull your 2-ring-and-a-sling anchor down with a tag line. A couple of rings on a sling are more likely to get snared when you pull it than the knot-free end of your climbing rope and you really don't want to get hit on the head with your falling hardware. A small tag line is just another piece of gear to carry and manage. The smaller your tag line is the more likely it is to give you problems getting tangled in your bag or in the wind and the less useful it is for anything else.

I'd suggest matching the color of your tubular webbing to the places you'll climb and not worrying too much about the metal rap ring or quicklink, they don't do any damage to the environment. By the time you're adventuring into wilder places you'll have enough to experience to know when to understand the pros and cons of the system you proposed.

Good luck out there!
Jason4Too
From Bellingham, Washington
Joined Apr 26, 2014
1 points
Mar 15, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Red Rock
It comes down to one thing. If the anchor is recoverable it is also alot more likely to fail, your basically designing an anchor that will fail on purpose. Is your life worth leaving 100$ or less in gear on the wall? You don't need to leave gear behind on most climbs unless you fail to reach the top. ViperScale
Joined Dec 22, 2013
201 points
Mar 15, 2016
ViperScale wrote:
It comes down to one thing. If the anchor is recoverable it is also alot more likely to fail, your basically designing an anchor that will fail on purpose. Is your life worth leaving 100$ or less in gear on the wall? You don't need to leave gear behind on most climbs unless you fail to reach the top.


+1
Bill Lawry
From New Mexico
Joined Apr 16, 2006
1,718 points
Mar 30, 2016
Thanks for all the replies everyone.

There are a lot of really good points presented here, and a few I think are arguable, but I'm not going to get into that.

At the end of the day the risk of rock fall, or the anchor being hung up really limits the usefulness of this concept, so I will be abandoning it. Thanks everyone who pointed this out to me. That's why I came here first!
Brian L.
Joined Feb 19, 2016
81 points


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