Constructed Anchors

Trees and boulders can only take you so far. Some climbs just do not have natural anchors conveniently located above them. Now it is time to take that trad rack loaded with passive and active protection and learn to construct anchors. Anchors that are made of gear you place yourself need to be ERNEST.

E – All anchor points should be equalized.

R – The anchor must be redundant, consist ing of multiple points.

NE – There should be no extension if one anchor in the system fails.

S – Each anchor point must be strong and stable.

T – The anchor must he timely, that is, correctly positioned.

Equalized A good traditional anchor has all of the individual protection points sharing the load as equally as possible. Stringing protection points in a line wherein only one carries the load can create a dangerous “zipper effect” that disintegrates the entire belay.

Redundant All belay anchors (with the exception of big trees, huge boulders, et cetera) must consist of more than one anchor point. In solid rock with cracks perfectly suited to nut and cam placement, you may be able to build an anchor using just two pieces of protection.

In crumbly rock with funky cracks, you may put in a half dozen or more. How many pieces to use is a matter of judgment, and is different for each belay anchor. Make it a top priority to learn how to place gear securely, and always err on the side of too many pieces instead of too few. The end result must be an anchor that you trust completely.

No Extension Shock loading any system can be dangerous. Whenever possible, eliminate the possibility that the system may ‘extend” if any one component fails. The classic example is a magic X anchor wherein one of the anchor points pulls out-the system extends until the second point takes the load.

An extension can be minimized in a magic X system by tying an overhand knot in the sling on each side of the anchor. (A word of reassurance regarding the magic X: Though the system has the potential to extend, the anchors almost never fail; use the magic X with confidence any time you need to equalize two good anchor points.)

Strong and Stable Each nut or cam must be placed in the most secure position possible, be aligned with the anticipated load, and he stable. Weak placements that are out of line and wobbly should never be trusted.

Timely Belay anchors need to be built in the right place. This principle is specifically for multi-pitch climbing wherein the leader must decide when and where to belay-if too far away from the second climber, vital visual and verbal communication may be impossible.

Remember, after you have created an ERNEST top-rope anchor, check it to be sure it is also SECURE: strong enough, the master point wended over the edge, centered over the climb, consisting of an unbroken ring of metal, through which the rope runs easily, and the edge is padded if necessary.