A "deadman" anchor is any solid object buried in the ground and used as an anchor.

a. An object that has a large surface area and some length to it works best. (A hefty timber, such as a railroad tie, would be ideal.) Large boulders can be used, as well as a bundle of smaller tree limbs or poles. As with natural anchors, ensure timbers and tree limbs are not dead or rotting and that boulders are solid. Equipment, such as skis, ice axes, snowshoes, and ruck sacks, can also be used if necessary.

b. In extremely hard, rocky terrain (where digging a trench would be impractical, if not impossible) a variation of the deadman anchor can be constructed by building above the ground. The sling is attached to the anchor, which is set into the ground as deeply as possible. Boulders are then stacked on top of it until the anchor is strong enough for the load. Though normally not as strong as when buried, this method can work well for light-load installations as in anchoring a hand line for a stream crossing.

Note: Artificial anchors, such as pitons and bolts, are not widely accepted for use in all areas because of the scars they leave on the rock and the environment. Often they are left in place and become unnatural, unsightly fixtures in the natural environment. For training planning, local laws and courtesies should be taken into consideration for each area of operation.

5-11. PITONS

Pitons have been in use for over 100 years. Although still available, pitons are not used as often as other types of artificial anchors due primarily to their impact on the environment. Most climbers prefer to use chocks, SLCDs and other artificial anchors rather than pitons because they do not scar the rock and are easier to remove. Eye protection should always be worn when driving a piton into rock.

Note: The proper use and placement of pitons, as with any artificial anchor, should be studied, practiced, and tested while both feet are firmly on the ground and there is no danger of a fall.

a. Advantages. Some advantages in using pitons are:

• Depending on type and placement, pitons can support multiple directions of pull.

• Pitons are less complex than other types of artificial anchors.

• Pitons work well in thin cracks where other types of artificial anchors do not.

b. Disadvantages. Some disadvantages in using pitons are:

• During military operations, the distinct sound created when hammering pitons is a tactical disadvantage.

• Due to the expansion force of emplacing a piton, the rock could spread apart or break causing an unsafe condition.

• Pitons are more difficult to remove than other types of artificial anchors.

• Pitons leave noticeable scars on the rock.

• Pitons are easily dropped if not tied off when being used.

c. Piton Placement. The proper positioning or placement of pitons is critical. (Figure 5-12, page 5-10, shows examples of piton placement.) Usually a properly sized piton for a rock crack will fit one half to two thirds into the crack before being driven with the piton hammer. This helps ensure the depth of the crack is adequate for the size piton selected. As pitons are driven into the rock the pitch or sound that is made will change with each hammer blow, becoming higher pitched as the piton is driven in.

(1) Test the rock for soundness by tapping with the hammer. Driving pitons in soft or rotten rock is not recommended. When this type of rock must be used, clear the loose rock, dirt, and debris from the crack before driving the piton completely in.

(2) While it is being driven, attach the piton to a sling with a carabiner (an old carabiner should be used, if available) so that if the piton is knocked out of the crack, it will not be lost. The greater the resistance overcome while driving the piton, the firmer the anchor will be. The holding power depends on the climber placing the piton in a sound crack, and on the type of rock. The piton should not spread the rock, thereby loosening the emplacement.

Note: Pitons that have rings as attachment points might not display much change in sound as they are driven in as long as the ring moves freely.

Deadman Mountaineering
Figure 5-12. Examples of piton placements.

(3) Military mountaineers should practice emplacing pitons using either hand. Sometimes a piton cannot be driven completely into a crack, because the piton is too long. Therefore, it should be tied off using a hero-loop (an endless piece of webbing) (Figure 5-13). Attach this loop to the piton using a girth hitch at the point where the piton enters the rock so that the girth hitch is snug against the rock. Clip a carabiner into the loop.

The Pitons Cartoon
Figure 5-13. Hero-loop.

d. Testing. To test pitons pull up about 1 meter of slack in the climbing rope or use a sling. Insert this rope into a carabiner attached to the piton, then grasp the rope at least 1/2

meter from the carabiner. Jerk vigorously upward, downward, to each side, and then outward while observing the piton for movement. Repeat these actions as many times as necessary. Tap the piton to determine if the pitch has changed. If the pitch has changed greatly, drive the piton in as far as possible. If the sound regains its original pitch, the emplacement is probably safe. If the piton shows any sign of moving or if, upon driving it, there is any question of its soundness, drive it into another place. Try to be in a secure position before testing. This procedure is intended for use in testing an omni-directional anchor (one that withstands a pull in any direction). When a directional anchor (pull in one direction) is used, as in most free and direct-aid climbing situations, and when using chocks, concentrate the test in the direction that force will be applied to the anchor.

e. Removing Pitons. Attach a carabiner and sling to the piton before removal to eliminate the chance of dropping and losing it. Tap the piton firmly along the axis of the crack in which it is located. Alternate tapping from both sides while applying steady pressure. Pulling out on the attached carabiner eventually removes the piton (Figure 5-14).

f. Reusing Pitons. Soft iron pitons that have been used, removed, and straightened may be reused, but they must be checked for strength. In training areas, pitons already in place should not be trusted since weather loosens them in time. Also, they may have been driven poorly the first time. Before use, test them as described above and drive them again until certain of their soundness.

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