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.

1 comment:

  1. The cam placements in the first two photos are fine. And the text in the second photo is incorrect- it says the placement is over-cammed and in danger of getting tipped out. First, you meant to say 'under-cammed', and second, it is not under-cammed.

    And what is your source for claiming the angle depicted needs to be 90 degrees or less? The recommendations vary by manufacturer (different cams use a different cam angle), but this placement would be fine with any cam.