How to Build a V-Thread Anchor
by Cory Akin
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Build a V-Thread in 9 Steps
Rappelling on ice, when there are no manmade anchors, requires a bit of ingenuity. You can use ice screws or nuts/cams if thereís rock, but then you are forced to leave your gear behind. Not only does this take a toll on your wallet and junk up the wilderness, but after enough rappels, you will find yourself out of gear, maybe even before the rappelling is over.
You can now back out both screws and clean the holes with your ice tool. Ice tools for fishing out the cord/rope can either be purchased pre-made and are basically a skinny wire with a hook on the end, meant for grabbing the tip of the rope. Or, for a cheap but effective alternative, you can make one with a clothes hanger. Simply cut a branch off a clothes hanger, and bend one of the ends to form a hook. If you cut the end at a diagonal, the sharp point will make it easier to catch the tip of the cord/rope.
Once the channels are cleaned out, you have two options for anchoring into the V-thread. First option is to fish a length of accessory cord through the channels. If you use this method, tie the cord together with a double fishermanís knot to ensure your ends stay together. You can then run the rope through the chord and prepare the rappel. In this situation, you will complete the rappel, pull the rope through, and leave the cord in the V-thread.
The second option is to fish the rope itself through the V-thread. As you did with the accessory cord, use your ice tool to finagle the rope through the hole. Then pull the rope until its middle is sitting within the V-thread. Using this method allows you to completely clean the route, leaving nothing behind except for the V-thread.
Once you have rope through either the accessory cord or the V-thread itself, sink an ice screw above the V-thread with a quickdraw attached. The purpose of the ice screw and quickdraw is to provide a back-up anchor, just in case the V-thread fails. You donít want the quickdraw to be weighted in any way when the first person rappels, since ultimately you are relying on the ice to hold your weight. Once it is the last personís turn to rappel, the screw and quickdraw are removed and placed back on that personís harness.
Before fully committing to the rappel, pull on the V-thread with enough force to ensure it is able to withstand a personís body weight. As long as it checks out, with the back-up ice screw and quickdraw in place, have the heaviest person in the group go first on the rappelóthis offers the group feedback on the strength of the V-thread.
When it comes time for the last person to rappel, as previously mentioned, the back-up ice screw is removed and the rappel is completed. The rope will then be able to easily slide through the channels as it is pulled free for either the next rappel or for the walk home on flatter terrain.
Keep in mind that when constructing a V-thread anchor, even on a single-pitch rappel, you can always set up two V-threads in the same station to provide extra security. As mentioned, set them vertically to each other, seeing as you do not want both V-threads to fail simultaneously on a horizontal plane of ice.
Before doing anything in the backcountry where your life depends on the construction of the V-thread, practice on an ice patch next to the parking lot where you wont need to rappel. Have multiple people pull against the thread while chipping away at the ice to get an idea of how strong or weak the thread can be. Practice as much as possible so that when it comes to using a V-thread on a climb, you will feel dialed.
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