Monday, April 11, 2011

Anchor Installment #2 - Trad

This installment depicts a simple three point traditional (or trad) anchor.

Keep in mind, that the goal for all anchors is "SERENE".

  • S - Strong (or Solid) - The stronger the better
  • E - Equalized - Anchors should be constructed so that each component of the anchor carries an equal amount of the load
  • R - Redundant - Anchors should consist of multiple components in case one or more components fail
  • E - Efficient - Anchors should be as simple and timely as possible without giving up any of the other SERENE qualities
  • NE - No Extension - Anchors should be built so that if one or more of the components fail the remaining components won't be shock loaded 
Solid, Equalized, Redundant, Efficient, and No Extension. Above all else, anchors must be Solid. Complete anchor failure often means death to you, your partner or both. Get proper training and practice anchors on the ground before you go out and try them in a climbing setting.

Tools Needed: A trad rack, non-locking 'biners, 22' cordellete, & a few locking 'biners.

Learning to Place Pro: Before you begin crafting trad anchors, you'll need to learn how to properly place nuts and cams. Next time you can't find a climbing partner (or it's too wet to climb), go out to the rock and build a bunch of anchors a few feet from the ground. To start, take out your rack and see if you can place each and every piece you own in some sort of placement. Test each placement by connecting a sling to it and bouncing on it. CAUTION! - be sure you're only a few inches from the ground when you "bounce test". Resist the urge to look directly at the placement. Sometimes they pop right out and smack you in the face. Look for placements that have natural constrictions so the nut or cam can't wiggle out. With cams, be extra careful to place them so they can't "walk" forward. If they walk forward they can "tip out" and fail.

Pay attention to the angle of the cam lobes. The angle should be less than 90 degrees.

This cam has "walked" forward and is beginning to "tip out". If it continues to move, it will fail.

This cam has completely tipped out and would fail with only a minor amount of force.

Be careful about over-camming as well. The cam below is "over cammed". It won't work as well and could be difficult or impossible to remove.

Step 1 - Place Your Cams: An anchor should consist of three properly placed cams. In general, big cams are better if you have them. If you had a solid nut and the anchor would not be subjected to an upward pull, then 2 solid cams and a nut would be OK.

A couple of well placed cams.
Place all 3 cams and orient them in the anticipated direction of pull.

Clip your 22' of 8 mm cordellete into all 3 cams.
Pull down the cordellete & tie an overhand or Figure 8 knot in the end.

If you don't have a cordellete, it is possible to equalize cams using a single, shoulder length sling. Simply tie an overhand knot in the middle of the sling then clip a carabiner though both loops. Tie the knot loosely at first then even it up, equalize it, and tighten it. 

Throw in one more cam, then connect it with a double length sling.

If possible, spread your cams out into different rock features. This helps equalize the load in the event the rock is weak (for example in sandstone). Be sure to keep the angle less than 90 degrees to minimize the load on each cam.

The best way to learn how to build anchors is to take a class. Please visit Central Coast Climbing for more information.

A Full Day of Customized Instruction

I received an e-mail from Darrin on Saturday morning that he was interested in getting out for a full day of climbing. By Saturday night we worked out a tentative agenda and by Sunday morning we were out climbing. The biggest challenge was finding him a pair of size 12.5 shoes! Fortunately, I have a few friends with BIG feet and managed to get him a pair.

We met at Darrin at 8am at the top of Highland. After doing a bit of paperwork and a quick gear check, we were headed up to the crag by 8:30 am. We decided to head up to Garden Wall to try a few easy climbs in the sun. I set up a Top Rope and Darrin climbed Madison Square Garden (5.7-ish), Look Ma No Hands (5.6-ish), Woofs of a Wandering St. Bernard (5.8), and Doggie Style (5.9). Darrin had a "minor slip" on the 5.9 friction move (I have too!) but cruised up it in style. I'm thinking we better get him on some harder climbs! 

After a quick snack and water break, Darrin asked for a "short course" in anchor building. We plugged in a few cams on the ground and set up a 3 point trad anchor.

Darrin using a cordellete to tie the 3 cams together into a "SERENE" anchor (Solid, Equalized, Redundant, Equalized, No-Extension,& Efficient)

Practicing setting up a redundant anchor using a tree. Wrapped around 2X and tied into a Figure 8 knot so it's also SERENE.

After our mini-anchor class, we headed over to Cracked Wall and set up Mouse Maze (5.9). Bryan Carroll assisted with Top Roping. 

All chalked up with "white courage" and ready to rock!

Darrin easily cruising the opening 5.7 moves. 

Crossing over the ramp for Dirty Rat's Crack and getting ready for the first (5.8+) mantle move. 

Piece of cake. 

Cruising over the 5.9 roof move. 

After a quick lunch break, we headed up to "Hallucinogen Wall" above Cracked Wall. Darrin wanted to try some "mock leading" and learn how to rappel. 

Darrin "mock leading" (he's on top rope while also trailing a lead rope). Darrin easily cruised through the 5.7/5.8 opening moves of J-K Flashback.

The finish is a bit dirty but still fun.
Still smiling so it must be good!

After climbing J-K Flashback, we set Darrin up on for a rappel, protected by a top rope belay. That went so smooth that Darrin wanted to do some more! Instead of walking down (my original plan), we set up a 180' rap from the top of Knight Moves, past Mouse Maze all the way down to the base of Cracked Wall. Darrin's rappin' on the blue rope while being belayed on the white rope.

Everyone had a great time & we were back to the car by 4pm. 

If you're interested in taking a class or creating a similar adventures, check out Central Coast Climbing or send me an e-mail

Thanks for checking us out!