Monday, June 20, 2011

How Good is that Anchor? Part 2

During two guided days 16 slings were removed from 4 anchors. 
I left 2-3 good slings remaining on all of the anchors
Most days it's not raining I'm out guiding in the Gunks. The majority of my guiding days thus far have been spent at the Mohonk Preserve. I've been making a conscious attempt to clean up ratty looking rappel anchors.

In a previous post I detailed my criteria for good rappel anchors: if it's not a bolt station it should be a good solid tree with 2 new-ish slings and 2 aluminum rappel rings or at least one steel quick link. Most rappel anchors in the Gunks have 6-8 slings of varying ages on them, so most of the time anchor improvement consists of mainly of cutting away old junk so it's easy to inspect the newer slings before you rappel.

During two consecutive guiding days last week I cleaned 4 anchors near the beginning of the Trapps and cut away 16 slings. Some were brand new and will be reused in other places, others were so worn that there were holes in them and they were knotted with what looks like half hitches.

One sling, found on the "Bunny" anchor was tied
 solely with half hitches. Hopefully the climber
 wasn't tied into the rope with this awful setup as well.
Nearly every day I come home with slings to throw in my garbage can and so far this year I bet I've thrown away a 10-13 gallon trash bag's worth of old webbing. I've found new slings and carabiners too. It seems that many climbers are really paranoid about the rappel anchors that they're using. From the amount of cord and webbing that I find on anchors, it appears that many climbers don't trust rappel anchors and feel that more is better.

Let's get things straight – this is a “less is more” situation. One, two, or three good slings is perfect; this anchor will only hold one person's weight at a time, and only during rappel. If you're going to toprope use your own anchor.

The same half hitched sling was abraded through

What about steel cable? The climb “Betty” has a steel cable rappel anchor at it's top on a pitch pine. At the beginning of the season (mid-April) I found this fixed anchor, no doubt placed by a local climber. It consists of two separate loops of 3/8” steel cable, looped and spliced at each end. The first time I saw it I thought “what the heck”, but after a minute of observation I realized that this simple anchor is incredibly stong. It is a bit ugly and in need of some touching up (loose cable ends could pierce your hand while threading the rope) but it's super strong. This week I came up to the same anchor and found 2 pieces of webbing and cord in addition to the steel cable. Apparently a few others climbers didn't feel the same way about steel cable that I do. Can you guess what I did next? That's right; I removed the webbing and cord for reuse elsewhere; that cable is stronger than 8” diameter the tree it's placed around.

I don't want to beat a dead horse here. My point is this: use common sense while rappelling and know your materials. If an anchor is in need of new slings, add one or two, but while you're at it remove the old, mildew covered, sun-bleached rotted slings of yesteryear.