Big Wall Episode #9 - Anchors
Big Wall Bible
Big Wall Anchors
The lightest but most useful thing you can take up a big wall is knowledge. Welcome to a resource that will help you be successful in getting up big rocks. Big walling is a big topic so we broke it into bite-size "pitches" with a video to START each one. The aim is to have lots of videos, photos, and written content in each section, not just of our stuff but your stuff as well. See HowNOT2 contribute your beta below.
Our courses are A-Z content in blog format, glued together with an overarching blog we call a textbook. A blog format is easy to read, easy to update, and easy to translate. Be sure to begin at the TEXTBOOK and at the end of each episode we'll point you to the next.
Anchors can be the leak in your time boat. You can lose so much time if you don't have anchor skills dialed. If you can't build the anchor quickly, if heavy stuff smashes down what you want to unclip later, if the bag is on the left and you have to haul towards the right, or are just completely unorganized. You can shave your aid leads down to a quick half hour a pitch but lose it all at a 2 hour anchor cluster... OR you can take a casual hour to lead something but make up for that by doing your anchor, hauling and change over in 10 minutes.
I just watched several parties as I was on El Cap shooting some stuff, take literally forever to do change overs and anchors. They could climb a pitch as fast or even twice as fast as I could but they lost HOURS... literally HOURS... from the time they got to the anchor to the time the next person was climbing. Granted it was hot which causes brain fog but this was purely a lack of anchor skills. They knew the SERENE anchor concepts but they didn't know how to get shit done. It made them suffer badly. Showing up to the anchor without a bullet proof ritual had them clustering the two bolts with quick draws(!?!?!) and personal anchors rather than just throwing the quad on the bolts and building off that. It was at least 30 minutes to fix their partner. They wouldn't haul off one BOMBER bolt so adjusting themselves super duper low on there super equalized but low hanging separate hauling anchor causing an hour from the time they started to set up to the time the bag left the OTHER anchor. Ropes were EVERYWHERE and got behind their pigs once those got up there a long time later. Not having a plan for the follower to arrive made it take at least one hour from the time they did arrive to the time they were leading the next pitch.
I've had the bag on the left side of me at the top of pitch 5 of the Nose. To haul from the top of pitch 6 is literally 90 degrees to the right. It took 1.5 hours to get the bag lowered so they could haul it. I've shown up to an anchor cluster f*** before that took 2 hours to undo and reorganize. I have spent 1 hour trying to lift a 200lb haul bag to get the weight off since it was on a biner clipped last in a hanger, pinching the thing I NEEDED.
Even if you aren't the fastest climber, get these skills dialed and KISS (Keep it super simple) and you can make up the time just in your anchor skills.
Redundancy is #1 - In big walling, this is what you want!!! Have as many points as makes sense incorporated into your anchor.
Minimize shock loading if 1 anchor point blows, though if your weight is on the rope attached to the anchor it's unlikely to create a huge force - see that VIDEO
Death Triangles are shitty anchors and only a dangerous problem if one of your anchor points can't handle 1.4x the load. A proper built anchor shares the load mostly evenly between the pieces. See more about death triangles in this VIDEO
Equalization is last on the priority list if you have bomber bolts.
Popular acronyms to remember anchor concepts
Solid (or strong)
Clove, Clove, Super 8
This method gives you the most flexibility. Doing this with a 7mm cordelette is bomber but bulky.
Clip, Clip, Done
The fastest and least bulky option is to do a quad with a 240cm sling. It does require two bolts to both be good and a normal distance apart. You can do a trad anchor with this or even a 3 bolt anchor which you can see in the video. We broke tested them in this VIDEO and also doing a quad with a 6mm cordelette in this VIDEO.
More than 3 pieces. I prefer 6 if I have the gear for it. It takes more slings and takes a bunch of gear you might need on the next pitch, assuming you even have what you need when you get up there. Trade routes on El Cap and other walls are bolted anchors usually.
Fix the line
Fix your lead line to the master point for your follower to ascend. Don't haul until your followers line is fixed in case there is any mis-communication. If you don't pull up the rope, leave enough tail to move around, especially on a ledge because you aren't going any further than your rope is going to allow. Pull up the rope if you can keep it organized and it helps them out if you are faster at hauling than they are at ascending. Don't pull up the rope if they need to lower themselves off the anchor and they plan on tying into the middle of the rope and using the leftovers to lower off with.
Haul high so you can dock high
Where is your bag GOING next? Do not haul base on where its coming from but where it is going. Don't haul until your followers line is fixed. Hauling directly off one of the quad upper carabiners allows you to get the haul bag knot/bottle/microtraxion as high as possible because those bags can't get higher than this later. If you have a good bolt, it is a 10:1 safety ratio between your hauling and the hanger/carabiner. You don't need to equalize two bomber bolts to haul off of them and have your bags hanging way lower than you unless you want that on purpose.
sIf the route goes right and your partner is leading, scoot over the left and let them be on the right. Your bags will be on the right but you can see this is the order you are leaving the anchor so get in that order from the beginning. Switching around later can be a cluster.
Rope Bags!!! Clustered ropes can add hours if they get stuck or wrapped behind your docked pigs.
I'll write more soon!!!
Moving my lab is consuming my big wall bible writing time. See what I'm up too in this VIDEO. Sign up for our emails on our HOME PAGE and I'll let you know when I make progress on this.
10% Supports HowNOT2
Get 90% of your big walling gear here. This leads you to a detailed buying guide.
Please send video, image, or words, that is respectful to other view points and helpful to Big Wall education. Please be kind by delivering something ready to add and tell us where you think it best fits. We'd also like to link to anything you found helpful online. Maintaining the quality of this resource is important so please submit something worthy of 100,000 people seeing it. We reserve the right to not post what you send us.
BigWalls.com leads to our textbook and was donated by
John Middendorf who runs BigWalls.net.
This course is free but not free to make. If it really helped you, please consider SUPPORTING US.