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How to use rap rings and chains properly
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By Matt Pennock
From Portland, OR
Oct 2, 2013
Joshua Tree

I'm working on a short blog post on how to use rap rings and chains. Anyone care to comment on this before I post it? Also, would anyone have a close-up picture of climbing gear or rings with sharp burrs?

Regards,
Matt

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Over the years one of the most common things I have seen done incorrectly or inefficiently is the top-rope anchor. Bad habits abound when it comes to building anchors in both the areas of safety as well as etiquette.

On the one hand, in the area of safety, incorrect anchors are often put together presumptuously and present a high risk potential. The assumption is, "the odds are in my favor, it'll be fine." Such attitudes in the climbing world we call "bad habits". Bad habits must be broken in the sport of rock climbing for not only are you increasing the risk of danger to yourself, but more importantly, others may be watching you!

Friends don't let friends build bad anchors!

On the other hand, in the case of etiquette and the growing demand on our climbing crags, we need to think beyond ourselves as much as possible and weigh the consequences our use of fixed gear (chains, bolts, and rings) will have on all who will use them after us. Yes, permanent anchors can wear out and become unsafe!

So here is the basic rundown and proper etiquette for building anchors as it generally pertains to the Pacific Northwest. Here in the PNW we typically find bolts with chains, and occasionally only bolt hangers.

[anchors]
Common anchor station in the PNW.

The photo to the right shows a modern set of anchors complete with chains and rappel rings. When setting up top-rope anchors on these make sure not to use the rappel rings. Rappel rings are designed specifically for easy threading of, and minimal wear to, climbing ropes. They are for setting up rappels hence the name, rappel rings. When building anchors, we want to use the chain links, quick-links, or better still, the bolt hangers themselves.

Why not use the rings for anchors?
When we clip metal carabiners onto the metal rings, small metal burrs can and do occur. Who wants to thread their climbing rope through a set of roughed up rap rings with a lot of sharp micro-burrs? It may not seem like much, but when you consider the amount of drag from pulling your rope through after a rappel, that is a large section of your rope dragging over rough micro-burrs. This only speeds up the process of fraying to your ropes sheath and reduces the life-span of your rope.

[A badly worn and very dangerous rappel ring]

What about setting up top-ropes straight through the rappel rings?
Holding a top-rope session with all your friends with the rope running directly through the rappel rings is a tempting means to keep the work of building and cleaning anchors minimal. It's easy to be lazy and just use the rings isn't it? We've all done it. But alas, this too is poor etiquette. This photo of worn rings shows why. I've seen rings worn down like this in the PNW many times and this is über-unsafe. Beginners may not be aware of how greatly the integrity is compromised by the wear, and if they use them for anything they are essentially putting their lives at risk. Even expert sport climbers will use badly worn gear without thinking about it--that is, until something breaks.

Safety is not a thing to tamper with in the rock climbing environment and that is why climbing etiquette is so important. There are no laws governing your use of fixed gear in public places. They are put there out of courtesy by climbers who have put in a lot of hard work to make it possible for everyone to experience the joys of crushin' it on the rocks. It is anticipated and hoped that climbers will respect the efforts of bolters who are offering their labors for free and also be mindful of the welfare of climbers who will use fixed gear after them. Keep the crags safe!




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By redlude97
Oct 2, 2013

What is the point of your blog post exactly? It seems pretty incomplete in terms of the majority of anchors in the PNW. You seem to focus on rap rings when most bolted anchors don't have them, at least IME at 32/38/vantage/lworth/index/smith/rocky butte/carver etc. Nothing wrong with clipping rap rings with draws either. Remember biners are usually aluminum and rings/chains are steel/ss. The draws get burrs but not the anchor hardwear. Not something I would focus on, especially when they are the only option to clip many times for anchors with only rap rings.


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By Matt Pennock
From Portland, OR
Oct 2, 2013
Joshua Tree

So what you're saying is in steel vs. aluminum the steel always remains unaffected?

I'm trying to advocate for best practice in using fixed chains with rings. I'll probably expand it to include different types. It seems anchor types vary from crag to crag but these I believe are most common around Portland, OR and vicinity.


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By Matt Pennock
From Portland, OR
Oct 2, 2013
Joshua Tree

correction: chains being common, not necessarily rings.


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By Matt Pennock
From Portland, OR
Oct 2, 2013
Joshua Tree

I've seen anchors like these out at Smith Rock (Fixe DRACO steel carabiners). What's the general consensus for using these?


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By cassondra
From las vegas, NV
Oct 2, 2013
in repose

Wow, that looks like an expensive anchor. It is a shame that people will undoubtably TR through the biners until they are no good.


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By kennoyce
From Layton, UT
Oct 2, 2013
Climbing at the Gallery in Red Rocks

Matt Pennock wrote:
So what you're saying is in steel vs. aluminum the steel always remains unaffected?


Yep, in this case that's correct. When a soft metal (aluminum) rubs against a hard metal (steel), the hard metal damages the soft metal, not the other way around. Clipping rap rings with aluminum biners doesn't hurt the rap rings at all.


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By Peter Jackson
From Rumney, NH
Oct 2, 2013
Just in case the two big belay anchors aren't obvious enough for you, here is where to find the belay station.

Matt Pennock wrote:
I've seen anchors like these out at Smith Rock (Fixe DRACO steel carabiners). What's the general consensus for using these?


TLDR: we like most of Fixe's gear, but not those X shaped anchors.

Longer:

We love FIXE gear out east at Rumney, but we do not use their manufactured anchors because they are 1) expensive 2) unmaintainable (you have to replace all at once) and 3) they usually have a single point of failure, in this case the steel rap ring.

That steel ring in undoubtedly strong enough, but for the similar money, we equip our top anchors with a pair of stainless bolt hangers, with two stainless steel quicklinks on each bolt, and a pair of stainless steel Draco clips (you can buy them as a lone piece). When rigged this way, you can easily remove worn quick clips and replace them without having to redo the whole thing. Much more economical.

On routes where many newbies tend to wear out top anchors quickly, we sometimes see plated steel Draco clips instead, which cost half as much. This is expressly not recommended by the manufacturer because it can cause galvanic corrosion if you use stainless higher up on the anchor. That's a valid concern that we mitigate by only placing plated steel Dracos in high-wear areas. Over time, we are phasing this practice out.

We have seen 10-15 years of service from stainless clips when not used for TR, very good in my opinion. Most will wear out faster.

EDITED TO ADD:

Also, we place our quick clips with both gates facing away from the rock, unless it is a free-hanging anchor. The anchor you show above is rigged in opposition, which is normal when you want a pair of biners to act like a locker, but on a top anchor it just introduces a lot of gate-to-rock play that we like to avoid.

Also, the anchor above is not compatible with glue-in eyebolts, which we're using in most places.


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By Allen Sanderson
From Oootah
Oct 2, 2013

I hate to say this but the draft says little on the proper usage.

First, one is not building an anchor. The anchor is already built. It is just being used.

Second, a rap anchor is just that a rap anchor. Do not top rope from a rap anchor i.e. do not thread a rope through the rap rings, chains, etc. Top roping through the rap rings, chains, etc. causes excessive and unnecessary wear.

Third, when top roping use a set of draws clipped to the bolt hangers. Set up your top rope using the draws with the gates facing opposite directions.

Forth, when finished have the last person climb to the top, clip into the anchor, set up a rap from the anchors, clean the draws, and rap.

Done.


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By Matt N
From Santa Barbara, CA
Oct 2, 2013
OTL

Is there a better sport anchor for the money?

maximuspress.com/shop/proddetail.php?prod=fmp014


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By Matt Pennock
From Portland, OR
Oct 2, 2013
Joshua Tree

All good points, thanks guys.

I hope to get across the point of keeping fixed gear safer and lasting longer. Even getting lowered decreases the life-span of fixed gear but obviously some gear is designed for it. I have recovered aluminum biners that were used as "fixed" anchors on a route that were so worn that there were very sharp grooves in them. Definitely dangerous.

Also, using two draws as a top-rope anchor is not best practice, and another thing I might address...


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By Allen Sanderson
From Oootah
Oct 3, 2013

Matt Pennock wrote:
Also, using two draws as a top-rope anchor is not best practice, and another thing I might address...


Using two draw works has adequate safety when properly aligned. By aligned, I mean the gates are opposite facing. Lockers on draws offers better overall security for the alignment impaired.


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By Peter Jackson
From Rumney, NH
Oct 3, 2013
Just in case the two big belay anchors aren't obvious enough for you, here is where to find the belay station.

Matt Pennock wrote:
Also, using two draws as a top-rope anchor is not best practice, and another thing I might address...


Two draws as a top-anchor is standard practice at Rumney.

Personally, I like to either throw a locker on one, or tie a quad for top-anchor use. But I am in the minority.


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By Greg D
From Here
Oct 3, 2013
Out of the blue.  Photo by Mike W. <br />

You could sum your entire post into a few words.

Never thread your rope through fixed hardware. The only exception, to rappel or to do the little trick that has been around a long time listed in the post below.

PS. Nothing wrong with clipping biners to rap rings. Since safety is your claim, clipping biners direct to bolt hangers may gouge your biners. This is an obvious safety hazard for your rope later. Better to clip to a "round" surface like a chain link or rap ring.


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By Phill T
Oct 3, 2013

never say never...

for quick teardown at the end of the day, thread directly through ring at the end of chains, but also attach your own draws through the bolts with the rope end draw hanging higher than the rap rings (if that makes sense...). Weight is 100% on draws, when you are ready to rap, just unclip the draws and you are ready to go. Useful for when you know you will have a newbie be the last person to climb a route and they are uncomfortable with cleaning, or you just want to front end your workload.


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By Greg D
From Here
Oct 3, 2013
Out of the blue.  Photo by Mike W. <br />

Phill T wrote:
never say never... for quick teardown at the end of the day, thread directly through ring at the end of chains, but also attach your own draws through the bolts with the rope end draw hanging higher than the rap rings (if that makes sense...). Weight is 100% on draws, when you are ready to rap, just unclip the draws and you are ready to go. Useful for when you know you will have a newbie be the last person to climb a route and they are uncomfortable with cleaning, or you just want to front end your workload.


Yes, this trick has been around a long time. There are always exceptions.


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By Jim Titt
From Germany
Oct 3, 2013

"I'm working on a short blog post......."

`Don´t top-rope through fixed gear.´


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By Locker
From Yucca Valley, CA
Oct 4, 2013
...

Good lord!

What the fuck is climbing turning into?


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By Buff Johnson
Oct 4, 2013
smiley face

so is clean anchor sex still good, or is the cyclical shocking loading the hell out of soccer moms just not cool?...I'm so confused, and screw you guys, I'm using my pas


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By Steve Levin
From Boulder, CO
Oct 4, 2013
Guiding in RMNP

Another point of etiquette: If you construct a toprope anchor on bolts/rings/chains that are also used as a descent anchor for routes above, clip directly to the bolt hangers (or close to them) and extend your slings/lockers from these so you leave the lowering points free. That way, climbers can rappel through.


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By Taylor J
From new mexico, new england
Oct 4, 2013
My home project.... <br /> <br /><em>Eds. It may be called "The Compactor".</em>

Matt Pennock wrote:
Also, using two draws as a top-rope anchor is not best practice, and another thing I might address...



This is standard practice most anywhere I have ever climbed...As long as the gates are apposed what is wrong with top roping on your own draws?????


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By Shelton Hatfield
From Austin, Texas
Oct 4, 2013
Photo by Damien

If there is concern of burrs on your biners being hazardous for your rope, it may be worthwhile to assign a specific end of the draw for the rope and the other end for clipping into bolts.


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By John Wilder
From Las Vegas, NV
Oct 4, 2013

taylor januskiewiecz wrote:
This is standard practice most anywhere I have ever climbed...As long as the gates are apposed what is wrong with top roping on your own draws?????


nothing. the op is misinformed on this point.


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By ian watson
From Albuquerque, NM
Oct 4, 2013

taylor januskiewiecz wrote:
This is standard practice most anywhere I have ever climbed...As long as the gates are apposed what is wrong with top roping on your own draws?????



I am still here, and that is how I do it.


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By redlude97
Oct 4, 2013

Matt Pennock wrote:
All good points, thanks guys. I hope to get across the point of keeping fixed gear safer and lasting longer. Even getting lowered decreases the life-span of fixed gear but obviously some gear is designed for it. I have recovered aluminum biners that were used as "fixed" anchors on a route that were so worn that there were very sharp grooves in them. Definitely dangerous. Also, using two draws as a top-rope anchor is not best practice, and another thing I might address...

OP, maybe your blog post should just link to some of the other numerous sources of good information for anchor building on the internet, you don't seem to have enough experience to provide advice to others on the subject.


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By NC Rock Climber
From The Oven, AKA Phoenix
Oct 4, 2013
tanuki

taylor januskiewiecz wrote:
This is standard practice most anywhere I have ever climbed...As long as the gates are apposed what is wrong with top roping on your own draws?????


I have been doing it this way since the early 90's. It would be interesting to hear the OPs position on how this is not a "best practice."


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