The belay anchor

As the ultimate security for any belay, the anchor should be able to hold the longest possible fall and the full weight of both climbers. Anchors are essential on rock, snow, and ice for belaying and rappelling. You'll get a few tips here on selecting good anchors for belays, but for full details on finding and using natural features, and on using artificial protection on rock, snow, and ice, study Chapters 10, 12, and 14. This chapter will concentrate on ways to tie in to one or more anchors for belaying.

A large natural feature, such as a tree or pillar of sound rock, is an ideal anchor. However, it's easy to overestimate the stability of large boulders, which may be more lethal than stable. More important than size is the shape of the boulder's bottom, the shape of the socket it is sitting in or the angle of the slope it is on, and the ratio of height to width. Imagine the hidden undersurface and the block's center of gravity: will it pull over under a big load? Test it, but don't send it over the edge.

The beginner should not necessarily accept the first anchors that look good enough, but search widely for simple and obviously solid placements. When placing hardware, bend down, feel deep in cracks, and include everything within arm's length above or to the sides of your ledge. To save time, don't immediately pull out earlier hardware placements that seem less than optimal, as you may find nothing better. If a single bombproof anchor can't be set up, try to establish two or three that in combination will be capable of holding a pull. If you find an old bolt or piton already in place at the belay site, back it up with a second anchor because of the danger that the old placement is weak.

When the belay depends upon a single carabiner, use one locking carabiner or two regular carabiners with the two gates forming an X when held open and the carabiners are aligned (fig. 7-3). In free climbing, avoid chaining carabiners in sue-

Fig. 7-3. How to use two ordinary carabiners instead of a locking carabiner

cession, as a twisting motion relative to each other weakens them and can open a gate.

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