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ABC climbing rope belay anchor
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By MTKirk
From Billings, MT
Dec 27, 2012
Me on Supercrack
I'm interested in all opinions and comments, looking for a "Shake Down" of my methodology.

Lately I seem to have pretty much standardized on building belay anchors with the climbing rope. I call the method I use the ABC (AlpineButterfly-Clove). I like it because it is fast, easy, and uses no extra carabiners. I always add the power-point, those committed to belaying off the harness could just leave it off. The configuration I use most frequently is with three pieces, but it works great with four or two also. I don't incorporate a upward piece into my anchors, those I clip into my tie in loop (be careful if you do this that your tie in knot can be ring loaded).

At times I have used this method when I am doing all the leading. I add another large Alpine-Butterfly loop between the power-point and my tie-in, the second clips this to his belay loop and unties. I take the seconds' end tie in, and clove this line to a 'biner on the power-point. After this I untie my original tie-in and the second ties in with it. As soon as the second has me on belay (and I have recovered the rack) I unclip from the power-point and lead the next pitch. I avoid having to flip or re-stack the rope this way and have found it a time saver.

The video shows the construction of the three piece anchor (the most commonly used) and the belay technique I use to bring up the second. Also I've included how I belay the new leader and finally break down the anchor.

click here for ABC video


Three point ABC anchor
Three point ABC anchor


Four point ABC anchor
Four point ABC anchor


Two point ABC anchor
Two point ABC anchor


ABC video link

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By Superclimber
Dec 27, 2012
Let the games begin;D

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By The Stoned Master
Administrator
From Pennsylvania
Dec 27, 2012
Day Lily.
The video doesn't work on my phone but I think its bad ass that you are customizing/creating different/unique or possibly new ways. I am going to 'disect' your pics; I love playing around/figuring out new methods. Keep it up man!

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By wivanoff
Dec 27, 2012
High Exposure
Your two point anchor looked familiar. It's not really new.
See here Anchoring.pdf Scroll down to "The Direct Tie In" on page 6 and picture 6. Chauvin used a fig 8 instead of an Alpine Butterfly. I don't see why Chauvin's method could not clove two biners with his fig 8 loop - which would duplicate what you did.

I like the method that RGold has posted in the past. RGold Anchor Your 3-point anchor uses 4 carabiners. 5 if you add a redirect. RGold's method uses 4 carabiners. 5 if you add a redirect.

I do like building anchors with the rope. Thanks for posting.

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By MTKirk
From Billings, MT
Dec 28, 2012
Me on Supercrack
wivanoff wrote:
Your two point anchor looked familiar. It's not really new. See here Anchoring.pdf Scroll down to "The Direct Tie In" on page 6 and picture 6. Chauvin used a fig 8 instead of an Alpine Butterfly.


Yes, I had seen the same thing with the figure Eight on A Bight years ago in a book or mag. No claim of originality here, I'm sure it's all been done before. I prefer the Alpine Butterfly because;
1) It is easier to tie a big loop. A large loop is needed to incorporate clove hitches in the loop.
2) It is easy to adjust the size and/or location of the loop in the Alpine Butterfly after it is tied.
3) It is very easy to untie the Alpine Butterfly (even after it has been loaded)

wivanoff wrote:
I like the method that RGold has posted in the past. RGold Anchor Your 3-point anchor uses 4 carabiners. 5 if you add a redirect. RGold's method uses 4 carabiners. 5 if you add a redirect. I do like building anchors with the rope. Thanks for posting.


I used a method similar to this originally, I first saw it in "Freedom of the Hills". It differed in that it used the belay loop of the harness as the "Power Point" instead of the Alpine Butterfly loop. If you look carefully at the RGold picture (RGold Anchor) you'll see that you do need an additional carabiner to hold a clove hitch between two pieces of protection (near the number "3"). I guess theoretically you could also hang your belay device off of this carabiner, though you would have the risk of dropping the clove hitch when changing belay devices. I still sometimes use this method (it is a little easier if it's going to be a hanging belay). Most of the time I am faster with my method and find it easier to get the pieces equalized.

Thanks for the comments!

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By Bud Martin
From Bozeman, MT
Dec 28, 2012
How many feet of rope does this usually consume?

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By MTKirk
From Billings, MT
Dec 28, 2012
Me on Supercrack
Bud Martin wrote:
How many feet of rope does this usually consume?


About 12 feet, that's a down side with tying in with the rope. Turns my 70m into a 60m. Still I'd rather pull 10 meters more rope up than have a cordellete hanging from my harness.

Reduced to typing about climbing Bud? You must be done dirt bagging and back to the real world. Looks like you had an amazing trip! At least you have ice climbing at home, my situation is more grave. Wife has banned me from ice, so it's gym climbing :(, Aiding crappy sandstone, and praying for 40 degree days for me.

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By Glass Tupperware
From the barren midwest
Dec 28, 2012
Summitting Independence Monument
Using your rope in the anchor is really bad for rescue situations. If you need to do a counterbalance carry or do hauling, you'll sort of be screwed. You should really be carrying a cordalette for sketchy situations anyway.

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By Bud Martin
From Bozeman, MT
Dec 28, 2012
MTKirk wrote:
Still I'd rather pull 10 meters more rope up than have a cordellete hanging from my harness. Reduced to typing about climbing Bud? You must be done dirt bagging and back to the real world.


I guess my strategy is to keep a double sling on my harness and use that with draws or whatever to make things happen, or just carry the cord.

I am home in Wisconsin for the holidays then back to the desert to climb some granite. The good part is that living in my truck is turning into the real world...

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By mountainhick
From Black Hawk, CO
Dec 28, 2012
Steve R wrote:
Using your rope in the anchor is really bad for rescue situations. If you need to do a counterbalance carry or do hauling, you'll sort of be screwed. You should really be carrying a cordalette for sketchy situations anyway.


Yes and no. I agree, a cordelette anchor is really useful in rescue, and really don't mind carrying one or more. I like them, but you can always cut away the anchor portion of the rope if needed and leave it behind. The main rope can also be used for subsequent anchors on a multi rap descent, but your 70 m rope could become a 60, then 50 then 40 etc as you bail.

The other aspect of this is the shelf of a rope tied anchor rarely has a real honest to goodness multi-loop shelf which is really helpful for rescue.

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By Steve Levin
From Boulder, CO
Dec 28, 2012
RMNP, July 2014.
Ben Hicks wrote:
you can always cut away the anchor portion of the rope if needed and leave it behind. The main rope can also be used for subsequent anchors on a multi rap descent, but your 70 m rope could become a 60, then 50 then 40 etc as you bail. The other aspect of this is the shelf of a rope tied anchor rarely has a real honest to goodness multi-loop shelf which is really helpful for rescue.


In a single-rope, multi-rap rescue scenario it would be quite complicated to build a subsequent, lower rap anchor incorporating the rope you are rappelling on, especially tandem rappelling with your patient- not to mention your rap distance will be reduced by whatever length of rope is used in the anchor.
Makes much more sense in this scenario to build subsequent anchors without incorporating your rope. Having to cut 12 feet off at every station would leave you with some pretty short rappels, not much of a rack when/if you reached the ground, and take a lot more time to build all those additional anchors.
Better to build anchors independent of the rope, conserve your entire rope, and keep options open.

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By mountainhick
From Black Hawk, CO
Dec 28, 2012
Steve Levin wrote:
In a single-rope, multi-rap rescue scenario it would be quite complicated to build a lower rap anchor incorporating the rope you are rappelling on, especially tandem rappelling with your patient- and your rap distance will be reduced by whatever length of rope is used in the anchor. Makes much more sense in this scenario to build subsequent anchors without incorporating your rope and having to cut 12 feet off at every station... would leave you with some pretty short rappels, not much of a rack when/if you reached the ground, and take a lot more time.


Totally agree, which is why I do carry extra cordalettes on multi- pitch. Just saying that if you don't have the gear you want you can still keep going. Sucks, but it's not game over. You can also improvise with other slings etc, whatever you have that will work, but ultimately if you have to build anchors for descent you are going to lose gear, so:

Steve Levin wrote:
not much of a rack when/if you reached the ground,


Circumstantial but if you have to use gear to build anchors to get your patient down isn't this point moot?

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By Steve Levin
From Boulder, CO
Dec 28, 2012
RMNP, July 2014.
Ben Hicks wrote:
Circumstantial but if you have to use gear to build anchors to get your patient down isn't this point moot?


Absolutely. My point was you may not reach the ground.

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By mountainhick
From Black Hawk, CO
Dec 28, 2012
Whole lotta editing going on!

Indeed,

Copascetic Steve.

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By Steve Levin
From Boulder, CO
Dec 28, 2012
RMNP, July 2014.
Ben Hicks wrote:
you can always cut away the anchor portion of the rope if needed and leave it behind.


Not to beat a dead horse, and I understand your thought process, but if my rope were incorporated into the anchor and I needed to descend in a rescue scenario, I would rebuild the anchor using slings from the protection points my rope is attached to, create a master point independent of the rope, then use my entire rope to descend.

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By mountainhick
From Black Hawk, CO
Dec 29, 2012
Steve Levin wrote:
Not to beat a dead horse, and I understand your thought process, but if my rope were incorporated into the anchor and I needed to descend in a rescue scenario, I would rebuild the anchor using slings from the protection points my rope is attached to, create a master point independent of the rope, then use my entire rope to descend.


I would too if I had the slings. Or, if quick care was needed i.e. descent to the patient prior to setting up counterbalance rappel, it would be a great opportunity to retrieve gear to use after ascending back to the anchor. It would be unlikely to cut part of the rope off for such a purpose. It is just a resource if needed, and back to Steve R's post, you aren't ultimately "screwed" as in game over just because you used the rope as anchor. Just "sort of".

Sorry to the OP for the digression.

As far as your butterfly/clove anchor, yeah it works. More cumbersome to set up to me than my own version with rope, cloves and a EQ-ing between 3 pieces with doubled overhand. I like the redundancy of a double loop overhand as well rather than master point with single strand. Is it likely realistically that the single strand loop will be a problem? No. I just like the redundancy for piece of mind. And if I tie in to that master point, yes it takes an extra biner. I usually build cordalette anchors though.

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By wivanoff
Dec 29, 2012
High Exposure
I agree that a cordelette/sling anchor works great when leading in blocks or if I'm doing all the leading. However, a rope anchor works very nicely when swapping leads. I use either depending on the situation.

Anyone who insists that a certain method is "The One True Way" is only showing their noobishness.

How many times have any of you had to counterbalance rappel to rescue your second? I've practiced this but have never had to do it in anger in forty years of multipitch trad climbing.

If I had to ascend the rope to rescue a leader, build a new anchor and counterbalance rappel back down, having initially made an anchor with the rope at my belay station would not make one bit of difference.

Anyway, the OP was not asking about the validity of rope anchors vs cordelettes vs sling anchors. He was simply asking for feedback on this particular rope anchor. I have little doubt he knows how to build other types of anchors and can make an informed choice on when to use each one.

EDIT: I forgot to mention that I almost always lead multipitch on double ropes and therefore have many more anchoring and rescue possibilities. But, the OP wasn't asking about that, either.

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By mountainhick
From Black Hawk, CO
Dec 29, 2012
wivanoff wrote:
If I had to ascend the rope to rescue a leader, build a new anchor and counterbalance rappel back down, having initially made an anchor with the rope at my belay station would not make one bit of difference.


Correct, however, different if it is your second below you that you need to rescue, they have loaded your anchor and that is your bail point.

Anyway, I am not in any way advocating cutting up your rope it if you can avoid it. It's just a valid option if you need it.

Yes, everything being discussed are matters of choice, and having more methods at your disposal can help in different circumstances. Many means to the same ends.

Yep, all matters of choice. That's all.

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By rgold
From Poughkeepsie, NY
Dec 29, 2012
The traverse out to the Yellow Ridge on the Dogsti...
It's ok---I like my method better, but of course I would, wouldn't I? I can rig mine faster than shown in the video, and I'm not obliged to correctly estimate and/or adjust the length of a loop that will eventually be clove-hitched to two of the anchor points.

If you are going to belay your second guide-style off the anchor, the differences in the methods are really minor. If, like me, you prefer a harness-level belay(*), then the optimal positioning of the belayer becomes important and in that case my method seems better to me, because it enables the belayer to efficiently and precisely position themselves out of reach of the anchors, a situation in which the need to correctly estimate the size of the butterfly loop is both essential and harder to manage correctly.

(*) I use the term "harness-level belay" because I belay off the rope tie-in loop, not the harness belay loop, and rig the anchor snugly so that the load is transmitted via the tie-in strand to the anchor. The belayer and their harness do not take any of the load, it is really a belay off the anchor, except that the belay device is connected by a the length of climbing rope that serves as the anchor strand for the belayer.

As for self-rescue, it is a nearly pointless distraction. Those techniques are important to learn and practice, but there is almost no chance that they'll ever get used, and many of the more complicated ones just aren't going to work in many real scenarios.

The main reason to learn and practice self-rescue techniques is to have a broad base of knowledge to support the improvisation that almost any real emergency will demand. If you know your stuff and keep your wits about you, then being anchored with the rope is not going to be a problem. That said, there's nothing the matter with having a cordelette or a bunch of slings handy in case an anchor has to be re-rigged without the rope.

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By wivanoff
Dec 29, 2012
High Exposure
rgold wrote:
It's ok---I like my method better, but of course I would, wouldn't I? I can rig mine faster than shown in the video, and I'm not obliged to correctly estimate and/or adjust the length of a loop that will eventually be clove-hitched to two of the anchor points.


I dunno. I see that as kind of a wash. There's slack between the cloves for adjustment. Just make the loop big enough to begin with to allow for the adjustment. I see that slack between the cloves as a good place to add another cloved biner for a redirect point - similar to what you showed in your rope anchor. I think your method is a bit more straightforward. But, I haven't tried/practiced MTKirk's method.

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By Steve Levin
From Boulder, CO
Dec 29, 2012
RMNP, July 2014.
Ben Hicks wrote:
I would too if I had the slings. Or, if quick care was needed i.e. descent to the patient prior to setting up counterbalance rappel, it would be a great opportunity to retrieve gear to use after ascending back to the anchor. It would be unlikely to cut part of the rope off for such a purpose. It is just a resource if needed, and back to Steve R's post, you aren't ultimately "screwed" as in game over just because you used the rope as anchor. Just "sort of". Sorry to the OP for the digression.


Totally agree.
Apologies also to the OP for getting off-track.

ABC, clove-hitch tie-in, Rich Goldstone's system, cordelettes... all good- the more tools in the tool kit, the better....

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By RockyMtnTed
Dec 29, 2012
Bud Martin wrote:
I am home in Wisconsin for the holidays then back to the desert to climb some granite.


Sweet. Where are you going to climb granite in the desert?

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By MTKirk
From Billings, MT
Dec 30, 2012
Me on Supercrack
Ben Hicks wrote:
Sorry to the OP for the digression. As far as your butterfly/clove anchor, yeah it works. More cumbersome to set up to me than my own version with rope, cloves and a EQ-ing between 3 pieces with doubled overhand. I like the redundancy of a double loop overhand as well rather than master point with single strand.


No problem about the digression, interesting stuff (well some of it any way)

Is your rope method sort of a cordalette tied with the rope? I've tried that one as well, probably a good one to use if you need to do some big hauling. Post a pic of what you use if you get a chance?

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By MTKirk
From Billings, MT
Dec 30, 2012
Me on Supercrack
Steve Levin wrote:
Apologies also to the OP for getting off-track.


No problem, it's always fun to think about how you'd pull off a great rescue, and CERTAINLY! have enough slings, webbing, cordage, knife, etc. on you to take care of the unforeseen catastrophe!

Seems to me that with equipment you soon reach a point of diminishing returns, heaping more things on the rack can become a liability if it gets out of hand. Knowledge, on the other hand, weighs nothing and you never forget it back at the car or last belay. That's why it doesn't seem productive to rant on (not you guys, but they're out there) about how it's dangerous to climb without a cordelette in the highly unlikely event some major catastrophe occurs, while refusing to learn how to build a safe anchor with your rope in the HIGHLY LIKELY event you find yourself at the top of a full rope length of climbing only to discover you have no cordellete, no slings, and very few carabiners.

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By MTKirk
From Billings, MT
Dec 30, 2012
Me on Supercrack
rgold wrote:
It's ok---I like my method better, but of course I would, wouldn't I? I can rig mine faster than shown in the video, and I'm not obliged to correctly estimate and/or adjust the length of a loop that will eventually be clove-hitched to two of the anchor points. If you are going to belay your second guide-style off the anchor, the differences in the methods are really minor. If, like me, you prefer a harness-level belay(*), then the optimal positioning of the belayer becomes important and in that case my method seems better to me, because it enables the belayer to efficiently and precisely position themselves out of reach of the anchors, a situation in which the need to correctly estimate the size of the butterfly loop is both essential and harder to manage correctly. (*) I use the term "harness-level belay" because I belay off the rope tie-in loop, not the harness belay loop, and rig the anchor snugly so that the load is transmitted via the tie-in strand to the anchor. The belayer and their harness do not take any of the load, it is really a belay off the anchor, except that the belay device is connected by a the length of climbing rope that serves as the anchor strand for the belayer.


I'd have to agree that your anchor is around five seconds faster to create & break down than the ABC. The butterfly loop is definitely the biggest drawback, not so much that it's hard to judge the required size(you quickly develop a knack for that). Ultimately if the two pieces that clip to the loop are further than about three feet apart it's just not practical to use the ABC (try making a loop that big & you'll see what I mean). As a rule of thumb when the pieces are far apart I use the RGold anchor. Additionally, I prefer the RGold anchor if I need to back up from my pieces to look over a ledge (keeping an eye on the second).

The ABC starts to gain advantage when the pieces get closer together, particularly when belaying off the anchor Power Point. Because of the design of the RGold power point; directional equalization changes as the point of load changes (depending on whether the load is placed on a belay device hanging from the Power Point, or the rope tied to the belayer). If you equalize the anchor to the belay device hanging from the butterfly loop (which you should while bringing up the second) and the belayers rope becomes loaded most of the force will be placed on a single piece. When the leader leaves the belay anchor, should he happen to fall before placing his first piece, unequal loading will also occur (unless of course, you orient the equalization to the belayers strand to start). In a hanging, or semi-hanging, belay another thing occurs with the RGold anchor. As weight shifts to the belayers strand, the clove hitch connecting the two pieces to the lower carabiner can loosen because there is no tension from the two pieces to hold the clove in place (this then effects the equalization of all three pieces and makes a locking carabiner mandatory). Neither of these things is incredibly important, the shift of direction is barely perceptible when the anchor legs are long. I am a firm believer that redundant,solid, primary pieces connected to a dynamic climbing rope will serve us adequately in nearly every situation. But a higher degree of equalization is nice to have as well. This can easily be achieved by simply adding a separate power point loop under the finished RGold anchor, or by using the ABC anchor. Another advantage of the ABC is that it uses one less carabiner than the RGold.

My general approach is to get the anchor as high as possible. To do this I place the individual pieces as high as I can, then clip the climbing rope to them with the shortest possible arms (while avoiding severe angles). This places my belay device in a comfortable position, and if no immediate protection options are available, the leader can clip into the Power Point as his first point of protection. Belaying off the anchor commits the belayer and climber fully to the strength of the anchor, if the anchor fails you are both going for a big ride. It makes sense to me that when you are stressing the belay anchor by belaying off it, or by using it as the leaders first protection point, you should strive for the best possible anchor. If a greater degree of equalization is possible without compromising primary placements, redundancy, or risking excessive extension, there's no reason not to obtain it. For these reasons I prefer to use the ABC in a situation where I am belaying off the anchor and at least two of the pieces are fairly close together. I think both methods are very effective in many situations. If you're only going to learn one rope anchor, it should probably be the RGold (it's likely more universally applicable). It would probably be even better to learn both and two or three other methods as well.

Thank you for taking a look!

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By Jim Titt
From Germany
Dec 31, 2012
I just wonder how you tie all that when you are hanging on with one hand in the pitch dark and a storm:)

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