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Sport ethics and anchors?
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By Joshua Balke
From Colorado Springs
Oct 7, 2006
Ingraham glacier

So I've been climbing for some years but mostly at gyms or on trad routes. Recently I find myself at the crags often and was wondering after a brief conversation with another climber at a bar what was acceptable in relation to being belayed down vs rappelling off of sport anchors. Obviously its not ok to belay directly off of anchor bolts ie threading the bolts but in frequented sport areas is it kosher to thread the bolts and be belayed down vs rappelling when breaking down. It seems that some climbers are very adamant about not threading the bolts obviously due to wear but what it the general feeling about this. Again I'm new to the sport arena so I'm just looking for what the general population feels is appropriate.


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By Old and Busted
From Centennial, CO
Oct 7, 2006
Stabby

But every TR results in a lowering if the ropes strung thru the anchors. Its kind or silly to pull half of the rope up and rappell when its already rigged for lowering. We always left slings with locking biners set up for the TR untill the final run, whoever did it then set up to either rap or be lowered.


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By Leo Paik
Administrator
From Westminster, Colorado
Oct 7, 2006

Joshua, you bring up a good question. FWIW, here's my $0.02. Especially in popular areas and/or on popular routes, I think you should do your best not to lower/TR directly through the anchors so as to preserve the resources. It is amazing how worn some anchors can get as we've seen in popular areas like Boulder Canyon, Eldorado Canyon, N. Table Mt. when folks do this. My guess is you'll see this at Red Rocks in the Springs. Even when you're the last to TR a sport route, consider rapping when on popular routes. It's protecting the resources. If you climb enough, you'll see the effects of this. Eventually, metal wears down & has to get replaced with enough weighted rope pulling on fixed anchors. Oh yeah, never ever pull your weighted ropes through hollow aluminum rings or on slings alone or you'll be teaching material for the Accidents in North American Mountaineering.


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By Joshua Balke
From Colorado Springs
Oct 7, 2006
Ingraham glacier

Sounds like what's being said is I probably won't piss anyone off if I'm belayed down after cleaning the anchors if the anchors are replacable and not on a heavily used route. thanks for everyone's input.


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By Chris Owen
Administrator
From La Crescenta and Big Bear Lake
Oct 9, 2006
There's more than one use for an Ice Hammer. Lake District (UK) late '70s

I have a couple of locking steel biners which I use for when I'm setting up a top rope anchor at Stoney Point.

Lowering off is standard practice - and as stated above it creates more wear on the anchor material than rappelling, also bear in mind the following additional factors:

1) Rope wear when lowering: The rope is weighted, compressed and pulled over a rather small radius, repeatedly in the course of a few hours.
2) Wear on the rope also caused by it being run over any rock which it may encounter.
3) It's scarier than rappelling.


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By Dan G0D5H411
From Colorado Springs, CO
Oct 9, 2006
Dan on Hurricane

My view on this has changed over the last couple of years. After having seen 1 year old anchors worn almost a quater of the way through at Red Rocks, NV from either TR'ing on the anchors or being lowered on the anchors, I have switched to rapping everything. I think there are many benefits to rapping with very few losses. First I don't think it really takes any more time than being lowered. You don't have to retie your knot, which may offset the time needed to pull up the rope. The person who was going to lower you is now free to pack up, look for the next climb, etc. Second, it can cut out a lot of communication problems with the belayer. The only command now is 'off belay' and from then on it is your duty to get yourself down safe. Third, as discussed above it increases the anchor lifetime. Even if the anchors are replaceable, it still seems a bit of a waste of money and time to have to replace them more frequently. Lastly, if the anchors do not look too trustworthy, rapping should place half the weight that lowering would.


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By susan peplow
From Joshua Tree
Oct 13, 2006
Beer Anyone?

First off, you have touched on one of my pet peeves. People TR's through anchors causes unnecessary damage and certainly can be reduced if the right precautions are taken. I've seen entire crags in desperate need of anchor replacement. Of which someone has to take the time, effort and expense to replace. Has this ever been you?

So, Mike is absolutely correct (imo).

Always place draws at the top anchor and run your rope through the biners for any top rope action - the last person up can break the system down and rap or be lowered. Be aware of your surroundings and the anchor itself. Even brand new anchors showing no wear at all should be rapped from. Less dirt and friction will allow for longer life.

Anchors in good condition are fine to be lowered from in some situations. theRealLangry is correct to a degree - some anchors such as quicklinks or MussyHooks™ can be replaced with little effort. But again, I ask....are you guys carrying them in your packs along with the tools to replace?

Sometimes letting people TR through an anchor IS the best solution if you are climbing with noobs or inexperienced people who have no business breaking down or threading an anchor. Get them up and down safely should be your number one concern.

I can't express enough my appreciation to those who put up new routes, create guide books, do trail maintenance, develop areas etc. Let's get as much bang for their buck as possible.

~Susan




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By Brian in SLC
Oct 13, 2006
Climbing in Smuggler's Notch

susan peplow wrote:
First off, you have touched on one of my pet peeves. People TR's through anchors causes unnecessary damage and certainly can be reduced if the right precautions are taken.


Agree 100%.

Seems like I saw a method in one of the rags recently about how to minimize damage and still thread the rope through chain, by clipping a draw into the anchor that put the rope wear onto the draw (in other words, clip the draw up high on the anchor, so the load is on the draw). So, all TRing and lowering, except the last person, was on this draw, but, the rope was still threaded through the chains/rings. Then, last person just has to pull the draw. Kinda neat.


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By Mike McGlynn
From Henderson, NV.
Oct 13, 2006
On the Great Red Book with Calder Lane.

For what it's worth, here's my take on sport anchors/TR/lowering.

I climb in Red Rocks every week and have seen plenty of chains, rap rings, and quick links badly worn from being used to TR and/or lowering. My main climbing partner, Todd Lane, and I always carry some quick links and a wrench with us so we can replace something that looks unsafe.

When we do sport routes, the leader clips the anchors with a pair of locking biner draws, clips the rope into these, and locks the biners. We have specific draws that are only used for this purpose. All other climbers in our party can then TR off of these draws, or clip into them if they lead the route. The last person to do the route clips in direct, cleans the anchors of our draws, unties, threads the anchors (chain, rap rings, or quick links) with the rope, and raps.

This method results in the least wear possible on the anchors, and in a sandstone area like Red Rocks this is very important.

With all of this being said, this method introduces the added danger of rapping. This danger can not be understated. One only has to look at the accident statistics to see the large percentage of climbing accidents, and deaths, that result from rapping. It has all been said a thousand times before, but it bears repeating once again: 1. The first thing you do after you have threaded the anchor is to tie a knot in the end of your rope. 2. ALWAYS use some sort of an autoblock when rapping - no exceptions!! 3. Double, or triple, check all of your rapping set up before you undo your direct anchor connection. This should include weighting your setup to make absolutely sure that your rap biner has captured the rope. 4. If you don't have verbal confirmation that your rope is safely touching the ground, do the safe thing and center the rope at the anchors.

Hope this helps.


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By Old and Busted
From Centennial, CO
Oct 14, 2006
Stabby

The anchors on top of popular routes absorb a significant amount of energy with the dynamics of belaying and lowering. Energy tends to consume matter (ie. the anchors). Regular replacement of the components that absorb this energy is basically unaviodable. The point to all this is that we all have a responsibility to correctly install anchors that can safely be occasionally replaced, and that we actually do the occasional replacement.

With new routes, I suggest that 3, not 2 TR/lowering anchors be set; that way the person replacing the links does not have to rely on a single anchor while swapping out the other. Also, if the 3rd one is higher than the other 2, the method of tensioning the rope on a clip rather than the links as mentioned above is easy.

Everything that is available at a hardware store to use for belay links (snap links, chain, cold-shuts) is also available in stainless steel, simply look for Construction Anchor Suppliers. Nugent Supply in Loveland, CO would be an example. Don't buy from Home Depot, they are bent on extreme profiteering.


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By Ben F
From Benfield, Kolorado
Oct 16, 2006

Mike Lane wrote:
With new routes, I suggest that 3, not 2 TR/lowering anchors be set...


"rap anchors," not "lowering anchors" for clarification.

I suggest using the Metolius Enviro-anchors (or whatever they're called) and placing them in such a way that TR-ing through them causes much rope drag (they kind of are already like that not being rings) while still allowing them to be good TR anchors if 2' runners are extended from them (maybe having the anchors set-back or something like that).


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By Drew Gibson
From Frisco, CO
Oct 16, 2006

Here's my side to this. When I'm climbing sport I build an anchor off the bolts. Not the chains. I take two runners and four locking biners, 2 of them smaller pear shaped, 2 of them big ovals. I'll build a standard 2 point anchor with a magic "X" off the bolts that way all TRing wears on MY gear that I can replace when I so desire. That being said I always rap off sport routes when I'm cleaning. The only downside, which isn't much of one is that fact you need to carry a few extra biners and some runners. Call me over prepared, call me paranoid, but it's super safe and it doesn't wear on fixed gear.


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By elmo mecsko
From Lyle, Washington
Nov 4, 2006
My loyal climbing/mountain rescue dog, Cohosh.

Like mentioned above, Rappelling is the single most common accident in climbing, and thus, when I am sport climbing and the conditions of the anchors is appropriate (as mentioned above in a few posts) I prefer to lower off the anchors.
Sport climbing usually involves many ascents and descents in a short period. Because of this, I find it much safer to just lower off.
As for trad lines, it is a judgement call based on the location of the descent and the quality and type of anchors.


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By Matt TeNgaio
Aug 16, 2007

So this brings up a good question: How do climbers feel about new sport routes going in that have chain anchors as opposed to the "sport style" ones made by Fixe?

Locally we have a majority of sport routes that were put in with chain anchors. It's how I learned to climb and don't mind having to untie while directly clipped into the chains while setting up to tbe lowered.

Anyway, I'm just curious as to how others abroad feel about chains for anchors.


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By Old and Busted
From Centennial, CO
Aug 17, 2007
Stabby

Richard Wright has a method I think is superior. Each anchor has a snap link, then a 4 link chunk of chain. The chain is connected at link 3, so you have a link dangling to clip off of and 2 links to run the rope through.

However, I would consider the possibility of whether the gen. public can see these or not. Thats alot of shiny, realistically unpaintable metal up there.


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By Ladd Raine
Administrator
From Plymouth, NH
Aug 17, 2007
Waiting for lift-off, Thin Air(5.6) Cathedral Ledge, NH

I love chain anchors, the idea anyway...

The problem I run into with them is when they need replacement (such as many of the anchors in the Red River Gorge (especially Roadside Crag)) they frequently don't get it.


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By Buff Johnson
Aug 17, 2007
smiley face

Matt TeNgaio wrote:
So this brings up a good question: How do climbers feel about new sport routes going in that have chain anchors as opposed to the "sport style" ones made by Fixe?


I'm indifferent, I generally setup an anchor with slings/draws then off-belay & rap on the clean. So, I don't see chains vs hanger rings being more or less desirable.


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By Tom Hanson
Aug 17, 2007
Climber Drawing

I prefer to rap off of beer can bashies, but have found that others don't share in this preference, so I've had to resort to using coldshuts, chains, etc.


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By Tavis Ricksecker
From Bishop, ca
Aug 17, 2007
Church of the Lost and Found, Left. Summer 2013

I just don't see a reason to lower off the anchor when you could rap instead, besides pure laziness. It takes maybe sixty seconds longer to rap. I don't buy the 'rappelling is dangerous' argument. Lowering off is just as dangerous. In some instances, such as cleaning a very steep route, lowering off is the only option. But if you can, why not rap and save the anchor? It seems that anchors would last many times as long if they were not lowered off, negating much need for replacement. And I'm willing to bet that those who are lazy about lowering off instead of rapping probably aren't the ones going out and replacing anchors. Also, props to those who install mussy hooks or any other anchor that can be replaced without drilling a new bolt hole!


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By Zappatista
Aug 17, 2007
Book me, officer.

It saddened me to read through these posts and see the even-tempered wisdom of Mike McGlynn speaking to us from the past. For those of you who don't know, Mike died sport climbing in the Black Corridor in Red Rocks this year. Mike and his crew were always very proactive about replacing what fixed harware they could. Shortly after Mike's passing, a friend added an anchor atop the climb, and that got me thinking about what we as the locals at an area like this can do to ensure that episodes like this don't happen again.

The Las Vegas Climber's Liason Council is working on replacing anchors at the most high-use areas in Red Rock. Some chain links at the Gallery are worn to within a couple of millimeters. We are communicating with the BLM about their fixed anchor policy and actively participating in the process of making our beautiful climbs as safe as possible. I know that a lot of areas don't have what we have in terms of high usage, motivated locals, and so on, but the LVCLC is trying to make Las Vegas an example of how to be good stewards of our crags, and we are open to any suggestions that will further this goal as well as any advice we can offer to other communities trying to make their crags safer.

Planning is in the works to replace top anchors at some of the crags-the funding for this project is personal, not corporate, so please-don't steal the links and chains off of sport routes!


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By slim
Administrator
Aug 17, 2007
tomato, tomotto, kill mike amato.

it is always pretty sad to see how many people think that being lowered is safer than rapping. pretty much everything about being lowered is inferior, with the exception of extremely overhanging or extremely traversing routes where cleaning gear becomes really straining.

1) lowering puts more load on the anchors, probably not a big issue on new shiny bolts, but something to keep in mind when bailinf off of that 1" diameter dead tree.

2) lowering chews up the anchor infinitely more than rapping

3) lowering gives 2 people the chance to fuck up, instead of 1. this is even more important when there are a bunch of people at the base distracting the person responsible for lowering. if you want something done right, it is best to put your life in your own hands whenever possible.

people who cite the number of rappeling deaths versus lowering deaths are completely oblivious of the other variables involved. do people actually take turns lowering each other down the diamond raps? ummm, no. most lowering takes place on routes that are single pitch (and the vast majority on pitches that are less than half a rope length). this makes it generally harder to be lowered off the end of the rope, although people still find a way to do so when the pitch length is more than half a rope length. in fact, i would say that i have seen or heard of more lowering accidents than rapping accidents in the last 5 years.

TR'ing and lowering through anchors is one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to lazy boulderites. unfortunately, it seems like this disease has spread like wildfire across the country.


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By Jake D.
From Northeast
Aug 17, 2007

" lowering puts more load on the anchors, probably not a big issue on new shiny bolts"

We're talking sport anchors here tradmaster flash. BOLTS If you question the bolts on the route then why did you risk winging onto them?


"3) lowering gives 2 people the chance to fuck up, instead of 1. this is even more important when there are a bunch of people at the base distracting the person responsible for lowering. if you want something done right, it is best to put your life in your own hands whenever possible."

How would 2 people have to fuck up while lowering off? what the hell are you doing while being lowered that causes a danger to yourself?

If this is a problem then you need to re think who you're having belay you. You need someone that will tell people to STFU if they are a distraction. You'd trust someone to belay you up a lead route but not lower you off it? WTF?

I don't believe your assessment that there have been more lowering accidents than rappelling.. no way.

It is way more difficult and sketchy/perhaps dangerous to down clean steep routes on rappel.

1 person lowering off an anchor will not cause a significant amount of damage. IF you could get everyone to lower off the final person after top roping through their own draws then you would see a significant drop in anchor wear.


There are plenty of times that rapping is the way to go.. but for me at Rumney it's about 15% of the time.


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By Buff Johnson
Aug 17, 2007
smiley face

Jake D wrote:
tradmaster flash. ... I don't believe your assessment that there have been more lowering accidents than rappelling.. no way. It is way more difficult and sketchy/perhaps dangerous to down clean steep routes on rappel. ...


Tradmaster Flash! classic

right on here, the situation at hand is what's important. An overhang, I'd rather tram off of a take & lower if I'm cleaning right after a lead.

For the most part though, my thought is that I get lowered from my own anchor material after a lead, then a second cleans the draws (or I can clean on the lower); then the last person to climb cleans the anchor & raps. I guess depends on what is going on & how many are climbing.

In either case of a take & lower or off-belay & rap, (mis)communication is what usually kills people not the anchor & rigging; with exception to the overhang (maybe even a traverse lateral-type movement also), in this case, your rigging can set you to move when you start cleaning & without tramming yourself, the rope really doesn't help you.

Also, the rigging for a route that was longer than you thought, past the 1/2 way point -- lower the climber right off the end of the rope, I think that's another point.

So, I guess 3 situations:

Mis-communication between belayer & climber; one thought off-belay & rap, the other take & lower -- or the climber calls off-belay and then set themselves up for a take & lower.

Working an overhang (possibly a traversing type problem, also) & trying to clean draws on the way down using a rappel. (I think a friction hitch could save?? I'll have to re-read the RMRG incident report, if someone can offer a summary, great).

Working a route that is longer than you thought.


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By slim
Administrator
Aug 17, 2007
tomato, tomotto, kill mike amato.

jake.

1) i've seen people directly TR and lower through the shitty hollow aluminum rap rings that were connected, via webbing or chain, to good bolts. in one case, it was through a SINGLE aluminum rap ring (rated to about 250 lbs). i have also seen these rings that were half worn through, exposing the hollow inside. the actual METAL thickness isn't much more than that of a pop can.

2) i assume english isn't you first language? yes, it gives 2 people a chance to fuck up, when 1 is more than enough. if the person at the anchor fucks up...., if the person on the ground fucks up..... you don't need BOTH of them doing so at the same time, although the results would probably be the same.

3) your argument about lowering the last person not doing much damage is bullshit. you obviously haven't done any desert climbing. for that matter, any area that has a lot of sand that gets into your rope and acts like a tile saw. i have replaced anchors in the desert and come back 3 weeks later and they were already in bad shape. i have gone on 1 week desert climbing trips in which i had to retire nearly new belay biners due to the amount of wear they received while i was belaying and rapping.

4) like i said, special circumstances (ie super steep or super traversing) may warrant lowering.

learn how to read, and try climbing at areas where people aren't always replacing the hardware for you.


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By slim
Administrator
Aug 17, 2007
tomato, tomotto, kill mike amato.

greg,

i think the 1750 is for the aluminum rings that are solid. i'm talking about the ones that are hollow, and are for rapping only.


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By Zappatista
Aug 17, 2007
Book me, officer.

Keep it cool, guys. Leave all the hate-squading to the professionals here in Vegas. There's validity to both sides. Desert climbing chews gear like a chainsaw chews rotted pine; lowering is definitely harsh on gear. And as much as all of us wish that our partners were 100% focused, 80+% of climbers I know are rabid add cases. I prefer to rap and avoid the wear and tear because I'm a cheap bastard.


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