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Securing yourself while building an anchor
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By Toby Butterfield
From Portland, OR
Mar 30, 2011
Fear and Loathing.

I'm just starting to learn to trad climb, and while I have a good handle on anchor building when I'm standing on the ground just plugging pieces and rigging them together, I'm struggling to find the most efficient way to secure myself to the rock while building anchors on lead.

In the worst case scenario, when you need to build a hanging belay, I'd be very interested to hear people's strategies for attaching themselves to the rock while they build an anchor... ideally I'd like to do this using just the rope, but my (admittedly few) attempts so far have wound up turning into a cluster, where the rope gets in the way of the rigging and I wind up not being able to move my clove hitch on the rope over to the master point or shelf without some kind of tether to hang on momentarily.

All these little logistical things seem so nitpicky, but I figure they matter in aggregate so I'm hoping to improve my technique here. Thanks a ton!


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By shoo
From Boston, Massachusetts
Mar 30, 2011
Rock wars, Red River Gorge

Firstly, true hanging belays are relatively rare, and virtually non-existent in most moderate/classic trad (at least here in the northeast), so this isn't usually a big issue. Secondly, it's massively easier to use some kind of cord to build an anchor with for most belays. Most climbers around here bring anchoring cord with them for this purpose.

The sequence is pretty simple. It's the details that get annoying.

1) Get one absolutely bomber piece that will eventually be part of your anchor.
2) Clove hitch to this piece w/ a small locker and weight it if you can't get a good stance. Note: learn how to clove hitch one-handed. Comes in handy every so often. Also note that cloves are difficult to move when weighted, obviously.
3) If you are 100% confident in that piece, you can call off belay to your partner to start breaking down his/her stuff while you make your anchor. If not, skip this step.
4) Use cord to make anchor. When using whatever piece you're into, use a separate 'biner for the anchor. The cord anchor is totally independent from your personal anchor, so there shouldn't be much in terms of additional disorganized tangling.
5) Switch to the master point. A few options here. If you're using doubles, just use the other rope. If using a single, back yourself up either with a sling or a clove-hitch further down on the rope. The unclip from the one piece you are on, clip to the master point. Note: if I'm at a big ledge, I'll often forgo the backup step and just grab the anchor cord. Officially not good advice, but something to consider.
6) Call off belay if you haven't already done so.
7) Set your belay up using whatever method is appropriate.


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By P.K.
Mar 30, 2011

"If you are 100% confident in that piece, you can call off belay to your partner to start breaking down his/her stuff while you make your anchor"

Off of one piece? Better be whatever word describes something that is more than bomber


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By Steve Williams
From Denver, CO
Mar 30, 2011

Great advice.
It can't be repeated enough, the first thing you need
to do is anchor yourself safely, no matter what the stance.
Then you can yell off belay, and build your belay
anchor after that.
Be careful, and good luck.


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By Sam Stephens
Mar 30, 2011
Top half of Melifluous

I pretty much follow shoo's method. Whether or not I go off belay hanging out on just one piece depends on a couple of things. Usually they are (order of importance):

How good is my stance? (Sitting on a monster ledge with perfect cracks for gear, yea I'll come off belay on one piece. Standing on a tiny foot ledge with flaring horizontals for an anchor, not happening til I'm done)

How good is the gear? (First piece was a bomber nut that has no chance of moving, yea probably will come off belay. First piece is a 00 TCU in a shallow pod and I'm fiddling with RPs? Not a chance)

Are we in a time crunch? (If there's impending doom, I'll be more inclined to work quicker and come off belay quicker. If we're the only ones around for miles and it's 9am, who cares?)

The point is is that every situation is different. You have to learn to make calls as they come.


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By john strand
From southern colo
Mar 30, 2011

I gotta diff with shoo- I have never tied in with slings , etc. The rope is there for a purpose. I tie in with a clove / fig 8 combo always. IMO sling anchors like PAS and such are shit.


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By Evan1984
Mar 30, 2011

Sam Stephens wrote:
The point is is that every situation is different. You have to learn to make calls as they come.


Every situations different, but unless lighting is striking all around or other impending doom lurks, you won't see me off belay on one piece anywhere except huge level ledges.

I've been lead climbing for a bit and have never had the need to take myself off before the anchor was built.

Evan


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By Fat Dad
From Los Angeles, CA
Mar 30, 2011

I'm with John Strand, about tying in with the rope by clove hitch. You can also use a PAS to equalize with another anchor, but the rope is my primary tie-in.

And I don't call off belay just because I have an anchor I think is bomber, especially if it's at a stance or hanging/semi-hanging. A good ledge or similar would be a different story. I have my partner keep me on belay until I've built either the entire or primary anchor. His or her job is to protect you until you are SAFELY off belay. I may toss in an extra piece after I'm off, just for good measure, but I'm not trusting my life to one piece. Sorry, but that's just sketchy advice.


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By Pascal Ripoche
From Pittsburgh PA
Mar 30, 2011
Me

For your own safety, never depend on a single pro. a safe sequence is:
- set a first good pro (how could a single pro be really bomber)
- clip in or clove hitch in the first pro. Just clipping in will give you more freedom to move around and set other pros. Clove hitch if you are hanging so you don't have to ask to be taken and avoid to stress all protections on the pitch you just led.
- set more pro and rig your anchor.
- attach yourself to the main point of your anchor with a Locking Carabiner (clove hitch, or PAS).
- Now you're safe and you can call 'Off-Belay!!!!'

Calling off-belay before will only save you few minutes and greatly increase you're chance to get hurt!!!


Note: if you are on a good large ledge and want to move around to set your protection , it is better to just clip in than a clove hitch with lots of slack because if you fall on the clove hitch the fall factor will be high (probably around 1) while if you just clip in you'll have the whole rope elasticity

IMHO, there is no good reason to call off-belay before you are really safe: set on the main point of your anchor


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By P.K.
Mar 30, 2011

"Note: if you are on a good large ledge and want to move around to set your protection , it is better to just clip in than a clove hitch with lots of slack because if you fall on the clove hitch the fall factor will be high (probably around 1) while if you just clip in you'll have the whole rope elasticity"

I am confused, if you clip in with a PAS instead of clove hitching in with the rope, how will you have rope elasticity by falling on your PAS?


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By Rick Blair
From Denver
Mar 30, 2011
This is a novel auto blocking belay device.  I think it works quite well, depending on rope thickness and sheath quality, it belays very smooth.  Great to lower with.  You gotta love over engineering.  $3 at a gear swap!

Pascal Ripoche wrote:
- set a first good pro (how could a single pro be really bomber)

A slung 14" diameter healthy tree.
A large nut or hex fed with the wire or cord fed through from the backside of a crack with the pro wedged into a pod.
A slung rock tunnel.

Though its not how I do things I could see examples where a single piece could be trusted. The real danger of course is that you are not redundant and something can always go wrong but we all have our own personal safety margins.... don't we?


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By Pascal Ripoche
From Pittsburgh PA
Mar 30, 2011
Me

@PK:
I meant clipping in or using a clove hitch in the first pro while setting your anchor (second step in my sequence).

however, you should always be careful about slack in more or less static system.


@Rick Blair: fair enough!!! :)


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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Mar 31, 2011
El Chorro

You call off belay when you are 100% sure that YOU are safe. This will be different for every climber and it will be different at every belay. When I get to the top of a pitch and there is a huge ledge I usually check things out, find a bomber piece, clove to it and call off belay. I feel safe standing or sitting on ledges that are big enough that I'd have to do more than stumble to fall off.

If it's a good stance but not a big ledge, I'll usually place a bomber piece, clove to it, and sit in my harness. Then I'll build the anchor (usually w/ the rope) and then call off belay. Same thing goes for hanging belays, which are rare.

If I'm in a real hurry for some reason and it looks like it might take me a while to set up my anchor, and/or if I know that my partner has a huge anchor to take apart down below, then I'll try to speed things up a bit. Instead of building the entire anchor before I go off belay I'll do something like this:

Place bomber piece, clove to it, sit. Place another bomber piece, clip to it w/ second rope or shoulder sling or whatever works best. Equalize and sit. Go off belay and then build my anchor. Obviously this only saves time if you have a tricky anchor to set up or if your second has a complex anchor to clean. But if one or both of the anchors are simple then you should be able to build them in about the same amount of time that it would take to place two pieces and equalize them.


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By Adam Paashaus
From North Carolina
Mar 31, 2011
After you get done climbing be sure to head up to the summit for sunset. Its only a 10 minute walk from the main wall. Don't forget your headlamp.

Pascal Ripoche wrote:
For your own safety, never depend on a single pro. a safe sequence is: - set a first good pro (how could a single pro be really bomber) - clip in or clove hitch in the first pro. Just clipping in will give you more freedom to move around and set other pros. Clove hitch if you are hanging so you don't have to ask to be taken and avoid to stress all protections on the pitch you just led. - set more pro and rig your anchor. - attach yourself to the main point of your anchor with a Locking Carabiner (clove hitch, or PAS). - Now you're safe and you can call 'Off-Belay!!!!' Calling off-belay before will only save you few minutes and greatly increase you're chance to get hurt!!! Note: if you are on a good large ledge and want to move around to set your protection , it is better to just clip in than a clove hitch with lots of slack because if you fall on the clove hitch the fall factor will be high (probably around 1) while if you just clip in you'll have the whole rope elasticity IMHO, there is no good reason to call off-belay before you are really safe: set on the main point of your anchor


If you only read one entry this should be it.

No need to rush and save maybe a couple minutes at the cost of safety. when you get to the ledge or wherever the anchor is going to go, treat your 1st anchor placement as your last placement on the route and just clip it and start working on the rest of the anchor. That way you are basically on top rope and your belayer is still watching you and the system is still dynamic. It never takes long for the follower to break down a gear anchor so its not really ever necessary to get off belay until the whole anchor is done. As far as the comment about the tree being one piece, well that just crazy because although it is just one piece it is also the whole anchor. Another problem I see with the idea of clove hitching off to one piece to save time is the belayer still cant break the anchor until the slack is taken out and they are put on belay, after the leader clips that one piece are they pulling slack or building an anchor??? How does that save time if the belayer cant break down their anchor?


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By Crag Dweller
From New York, NY
Mar 31, 2011
My navigator keeps me from getting lost

seems like the question is, basically, "how do I secure myself to build an anchor?" the answer is to clip into a 'bomber' piece and start building the anchor.

when to come off belay is a matter of personal preference and depends on the circumstances.


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By Scott Thalacker
From Logan, UT
Mar 31, 2011
theodor adorno.

+1 for Pascal's suggestion to stay on belay and clip the rope into a good piece. Then you build the anchor 'on lead', instead of being clove hitched or runnered into anything yet. This is a practice that will be good in most situations. One less thing to evaluate.

Your belayer should already be ready to climb when you do finish the anchor and come off belay. Maybe take a drink, put on their pack, and break down previous anchor.


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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Mar 31, 2011
El Chorro

biscuits wrote:
If you only read one entry this should be it. No need to rush and save maybe a couple minutes at the cost of safety. when you get to the ledge or wherever the anchor is going to go, treat your 1st anchor placement as your last placement on the route and just clip it and start working on the rest of the anchor. That way you are basically on top rope and your belayer is still watching you and the system is still dynamic. It never takes long for the follower to break down a gear anchor so its not really ever necessary to get off belay until the whole anchor is done. As far as the comment about the tree being one piece, well that just crazy because although it is just one piece it is also the whole anchor. Another problem I see with the idea of clove hitching off to one piece to save time is the belayer still cant break the anchor until the slack is taken out and they are put on belay, after the leader clips that one piece are they pulling slack or building an anchor??? How does that save time if the belayer cant break down their anchor?


Anytime the second isn't belaying is time they could be doing something. I don't need to give you a list of things that a person needs to do to get ready to climb after having sat and belayed for a while.

A lot of times when I am seconding I start to break down the anchor as soon as the leader has gone off belay. Obviously sometimes it's not safe to do anything until you are on belay but other times it is completely safe to have everything cleaned before you are on belay. It depends on your partner and the belay ledges... or lack thereof.


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