Top Anchors on routes

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Old Smelly
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Top Anchors on routes

Post by Old Smelly » Mon Sep 14, 2015 9:13 am

Hi

Though I am loath for this to be seen as any form of criticism or a personal attack on the good people who place Top Anchors on routes I was climbing the other day and I came across some weird Top Anchors that made me wonder what the best practice options are for climbing routes.

Just to clarify;

1. I believe that you should use an appropriate steel considering where you are in the country i.e. Titanium or 316 Stainless near the coast, Vereeniging (is there any climbing near Vereeniging :jocolor: ) and parts of Gauteng (acid rain) and other steels in other parts of the country. Naturally if you use Stainless steel everywhere your anchor lasts longer and that means less unsightly scarring and repeat holes.

2. Matching the materials used for the anchor. I often come across an anchor where the bolt is most likely stainless, the chains that have been slipped onto it mild steel and the washer and nut are plated. Naturally everything rusts to hell and looks bad too.

3. My real question is around the way the top anchors are done. I looked at the old discussion on the ARF anchors and wished I saw anchors like that when I climb. Let me clarify:

* I find the worst anchors are the ones where a chain has been slipped onto a threaded bolt and then a nut put on top of it. It is really crap and I don't feel safe using those. Why - if the person took the time to drill and place a bolt - can they not use a hanger and then a maillon that they can cement closed?

* I also don't understand the new trend at Chosspile where anchors have been replaced with one higher and one lower hanger. I understand I can use a sling and three locking biners to make an equalised anchor, but most sport climbers just use draws at the top chains and I think this would confuse them. Is there a better or correct method to use in that instance?

Once again - the goal here is not to cause trouble with people who do so much for all of us - we are all grateful for the routes and the people who put them up. We are also grateful for the people who pay for the bolts and top anchors- I just want to know what the best practice is for Top Anchors and how to use the different methods.

Maybe some feedback could help all of us! :thumright
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Keith
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Re: Top Anchors on routes

Post by Keith » Mon Sep 14, 2015 10:24 am

"...one higher and one lower hanger." These are loweroffs?

Having one higher and one lower stops the rope from getting kinked whilst lowering off.

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Nic Le Maitre
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Re: Top Anchors on routes

Post by Nic Le Maitre » Mon Sep 14, 2015 12:00 pm

Having the bolts different heights also helps to prevent people placing sideways loads onto the bolts by creating a "death triangle"
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Old Smelly
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Re: Top Anchors on routes

Post by Old Smelly » Mon Sep 14, 2015 4:25 pm

But surely only one anchor gets loaded if you use two equal length draws? If so why bother with the other one?

Sorry Nic - picture please? just to get an idea as to what you mean.

Thanks :thumright
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Wes
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Re: Top Anchors on routes

Post by Wes » Mon Sep 14, 2015 4:49 pm


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Nic Le Maitre
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Re: Top Anchors on routes

Post by Nic Le Maitre » Tue Sep 15, 2015 9:11 am

Old Smelly wrote:But surely only one anchor gets loaded if you use two equal length draws? If so why bother with the other one?

Sorry Nic - picture please? just to get an idea as to what you mean.

Thanks :thumright
Thanks Wes.

The point of two top anchors is not, as is commonly thought, to equally distribute the load between them but rather to give two independent points in case of failure of either of the top anchors because often they are your only points of protection when lowering/cleaning.
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Old Smelly
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Re: Top Anchors on routes

Post by Old Smelly » Wed Sep 16, 2015 9:45 am

I am not sure I believe you Nic...

It is not that you aren't normally right, it just seems a bit dense to continually load one anchor with all the force and the other never - also if the top anchor did fail it would shockload the sling of the quickdraw - which would then fail. So NO - that does not seem right or in fact the norm. Add to this the fact that in trad one is always trying to equalise the load and now on a sport climb we are happy to load a single anchor every time...Hmmm how totally unconvincing in the light of the fact that almost every sport route in the country has traditionally allowed one to clip two draws in and Top rope off it if need be...

The real point is that it seems like a bad idea compared to what was done previously - certainly no improvement!
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Nic Le Maitre
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Re: Top Anchors on routes

Post by Nic Le Maitre » Wed Sep 16, 2015 10:24 am

You are mistaken about how severe the shock load will be...

The degree of shock loading is determined by 3 things, the mass of the climber, the distance fallen and the amount of rope in service (which determines the stopping distance, more rope in service = more stretch = less force). If we compare the situation that we are discussing where the top one of two anchors fails and the load comes on to the lower, second anchor (lets call it situation one) to a fall low down on a route (situation 2). In situation one and two the mass of the climber is the same so for this example we can ignore it, leaving us with the distance fallen and the amount of rope in service which is commonly known as the fall factor and is determined by [distance fallen]/[rope in service].

Situation one, route height is say 15m, climber is at the top, having cleaned the route, and is just starting to be lowered when one of the top anchors fails. Distance fallen = 0.3m, Rope in service = 15m. Fall factor of 0.3/15 = 0.02.

Situation two, climber falls lower down on the route, say 1m above the second bolt while going for the third. Distance fallen = 2m. Rope in Service = 4m. Fall factor of 2/4 = 0.5.

We all know that the bolts and the gear happily survive falling on bolts lower down as we have all done it before and walked away. It is clear that Situation two produces far more shock loading than Situation one. We know that the bolts and gear survive Situation two just fine and therefore, they will survive Situation one (which is FAR less severe) just fine as well. The quick draw will not explode, nor the bolt.

In fact, climbing gear is designed to survive Fall Factors in excess of Fall Factor 2. That 22kN inscription on the quickdraw means that you can hang 2.2 tonnes off it and it will be fine.

Of course, there is the situation where you have clipped into both the lower and the upper bolts with quickdraws and clipped both of those to yourself. Should the top bolt fail at this point, things will probably not go as well for you as you will be falling on to a static sling rather than on to a dynamic rope. Fall Factor for whatever length of sling will be FF2, which is not good on a sling and will possibly result in something breaking, probably you. Should this happen, you will only have yourself to blame.

Where the top anchor is bolted with one bolt higher than the other, do not clip the quickdraw on the top bolt directly to yourself, rather extend it with a second quickdraw, so that you are loading both the lower and the upper bolts simultaneously. Better yet, learn anchor cleaning methods that do not require you to be untied from the rope ever.
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Re: Top Anchors on routes

Post by Keith » Wed Sep 16, 2015 10:39 am

Old Smelly, unequal loading is a feature not a bug.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_ca ... ngineering

Check out "Lower-off Chains" on
http://www.geckogrips.co.za/bolting.html

In addition to this, as mentioned, poorly positioned loweroffs such as two rings at the same height cause the rope to kink. This is annoying and can easily be avoided if the equipper puts a bit more thought into positioning the anchors.

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Re: Top Anchors on routes

Post by Old Smelly » Wed Sep 16, 2015 12:14 pm

Thanks Nic that was very enlightening. Not that I disagree with any of it, but I come back to the basic question and that is simply that the average climber will get to the top, haul out two identical quickdraws - because that is what they are accustomed to and then puzzle why anyone would want their newby buddies toproping off one anchor and not sharing the load with the second. Once they have read this and our funny friends response that one anchor is as likely to fail as two :jocolor: (Ha ha what a twisted viewpoint), they will conclude that they can go around creating one anchor systems ( a sling around a tree)....Hmm some how we have gone horribly wrong here...

It's not that I am saying your calculations don't make sense, just that "common sense" and "logic" walked away from the conversation when one argues that one anchor is better than two...
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Nic Le Maitre
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Re: Top Anchors on routes

Post by Nic Le Maitre » Wed Sep 16, 2015 1:53 pm

Again, I think you misunderstand.

Keith is not arguing that
Old Smelly wrote:one anchor is as likely to fail as two
he is saying a second, unloaded backup is better than a system where the anchors share the load, and that this system has a second advantage, the positioning of the anchors with one above another rather than on the same level prevents the "American death triangle" possibility.

Lastly, if you are top roping off this system, then having the draws staggered vertically is better than having them next to one another as again, it prevents the "death triangle"

One last question:
Old Smelly wrote:It's not that I am saying your calculations don't make sense, just that "common sense" and "logic" walked away from the conversation when one argues that one anchor is better than two...
I understand from this that you are choosing to ignore my calculations because of something someone else said that you disagree with?
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The Jimmy
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Re: Top Anchors on routes

Post by The Jimmy » Wed Sep 16, 2015 2:20 pm

Food for thought:

Most of the previous comments and load calcs are based on brand spanking new equipment.

However, if an anchor fails it is normally likely due to environmental degradation and/ or corrosion. Thus if anchors are placed at unequal heights forcing one anchor to take the majority of the load and this anchor fails, it is not unlikely that the "back-up" anchor won't be in great shape either as it was exposed to a more or less similar environment. A shock-load to this anchor, however minor, is probably not a great idea.

The american DEATH triangle sounds a lot more scary than it needs to be. Imo while its certainly something to be aware of, the forces you as a climber can really exert vs. what the equipment can take should not generally be a problem, except for the worst possible configurations and circumstances, which you'll almost have to be "lucky" to achieve. Some basics w.r.t. the physics of longer lower-off chains, distances btwn the 2 points the rope will be threaded through, etc should solve this quite simply.

Unless you're easily irritated, a little rope kink on a sport climb isnt the end of the world ;)

The interwebs is your friend, there is a lot of helpful advice out there.

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Re: Top Anchors on routes

Post by Keith » Wed Sep 16, 2015 4:06 pm

The Jimmy wrote: Most of the previous comments and load calcs are based on brand spanking new equipment.
Well, the 'prevent common mode failure' reasoning is based on the opposite: worn out equipment rather than brand spanking new equipment.

After being lowered off many times, chains start to become worn. By having uneven load on the two chains, simultaneous failure due to worn-out equipment becomes highly unlikely.

(Simultaneous failure is also much less likely in terms of e.g. glue-ins pulling out and so forth, if the load is spread unevenly rather than evenly.)

Kinking can be more than a minor irritation in some cases. When this does happen, I get the impression that a lot of people don't realise what it is that is causing their ropes to kink. It's the damned loweroffs! The equippers probably had good intentions by putting the anchors nice and far apart to avoid the chances of simultaneous failure. However, this is a trade-off that does not need to be made: having a vertical distance between anchor points solves the kinking problem and improves safety. And apparently it stops people from building American Death Crosses to boot.

Old Smelly
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Re: Top Anchors on routes

Post by Old Smelly » Thu Sep 17, 2015 8:39 am

Thanks Nic for all your input and your particular view on this.

No I am not sure that I am saying anything is wrong with your reasoning or your calculations - just with the basic idea that one anchor is better than two and, following on from that, but certainly more relevant, that any normal or new climber will understand what is being done or why.

I still think they will get to the anchors, think WTF and clip their equal length draws, look at it and say "this is rather curious! I have always shared the load of a top rope for my buddies easily between two anchors."

At this point several things can happen:

1. They accept that the load goes on to one anchor and lower off gingerly...
2. They take a sling, slip it through the rings, pull down in the middle and sides and pop a LOCKING carabiner though all the loops (not forgetting the twist) just like they were taught and lower off, happy that they have equalised the load as they should. :thumright
3. Come back next time with several maillons and create a system of lower off "chains" that allows people to equalise using two same length quickdraws and for the rope to run through equalised rings for the lower off.

Personally I see none of these responses as unreasonable. In fact I think they will be regarded as NORMAL responses to finding unequal rings.

What I do not see is mass acceptance of unequal anchors at the top of sport climbs.

(There is also the thing of now having to use uneven tethers if you are cleaning properly - something you referred to earlier - which can be accomodated but is not something every climber wants to think about)

So even if the approach is technically correct it looks to me that this is a very one sided viewpoint, with very little regard given to how this will be accepted by most climbers as a whole.
Really, its not that bad...I think it's my shoes...

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Nic Le Maitre
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Re: Top Anchors on routes

Post by Nic Le Maitre » Thu Sep 17, 2015 10:28 am

Old Smelly wrote:just with the basic idea that one anchor is better than two
At no point have I said that one anchor is better than two. I said that having two anchors spaced vertically rather than horizontally is better as it prevents a number of problems that arise with the horizontal arrangement.

The left hand side arrangement is a best of both worlds solution and I wish we had more anchors like this at our crags
Image
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Justin
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Re: Top Anchors on routes

Post by Justin » Thu Sep 17, 2015 10:34 am

I don't what is better (equal loaded vs one loaded & one for backup).

I do hate it when two top anchors are side by side with no extensions (chains) - the kinky factor annoys me terribly and does not do the rope any good.

When replacing top anchors, something I have been doing is leaving the old top anchor bolts in place and then adding one extra bolt, thereby creating a 3 bolt top anchor

At the recent Legoland ARF Meet, extra bolts where added (and still need to be connected up by me).

Below: 3 bolt anchor - The quick clip anchors on the ‘old’ Gospel Express bolts with new bolt backup (the chain can connect to both lower offs)
Image

Below: Top anchor of 'Life and Times of Mike Hunt' at Legoland, Montagu (I still want to make this a 3 bolt anchor) - The top bolt with the ring is newer than the other two.
Image

Below: Legoland - starting to look busy!! Looking at this got me onto the 3 bolt top anchor (add as necessary)
Image

There are more images of top anchors here: http://www.climbing.co.za/2011/11/monta ... quasimodo/
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Nic Le Maitre
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Re: Top Anchors on routes

Post by Nic Le Maitre » Thu Sep 17, 2015 10:47 am

Is that 5 bolts in that last picture? Damn, we really are ruining the rock aren't we... Lets go back to tat anchors :)
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Old Smelly
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Re: Top Anchors on routes

Post by Old Smelly » Thu Sep 17, 2015 11:05 am

Thank you for that input. I think that is an interesting point - is one anchor enough, because then you could place a second bolt that will be in essence unused and then the next time round you need only chop the bolt that has done the weight bearing stuff?

Back to the point. So what should we be doing? Two different height anchors with chains and a single ring?

At least that way we can use equal draws (depending on the chains) and then lower off the ring.

Is that the right way/ best practice?
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Re: Top Anchors on routes

Post by Nic Le Maitre » Thu Sep 17, 2015 11:31 am

The nice big ring offers other advantages too. Pass a bight of rope through it, tie a Fig-8, clip it to your harness, untie your original knot and you can then lower off without ever being untied from the rope
"Old Smelly" Two different height anchors with chains and a single ring?
Yes, that's the way
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Re: Top Anchors on routes

Post by Old Smelly » Thu Sep 17, 2015 12:10 pm

I must say thanks guys :thumright

Nic it seems you have got good working knowledge of these things and your input is very helpful. Thanks Justin and the others for your input too.

So is there some way of getting those type of chains and rings on the top of the routes rather than a piece of chain shoved over the thread of the bolt and held in place by a nut? How could we go about trying to standardise top anchor systems to be the best they can be? How do the bolters decide what method to use? Is there someone who could start a national standard? Or even a forum where bolters could agree?

Lastly how do I irritate the bolters who read the forum enough to get them to respond to this thread. Do I need Ebert to be rude to them or something? :jocolor:
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Justin
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Re: Top Anchors on routes

Post by Justin » Thu Sep 17, 2015 1:39 pm

IMO a ring or rings are the best overall option - they last longest and are very strong.

However for some areas where there is high traffic (and people are willing to contribute), quick clip anchors are great because of the speed and safety.
The quick clips at the Steeple (photo above) are seeing wear much faster than than rings.

My other favourite for top anchors is to put normal bolts in - add a maillon and then add a few links of chain to the maillon. I will post a pic when I find one :idea:

Below: Here is another variation of something that I did at the Steeple. Due to the chains wearing fast, I placed a maillon onto the one (to stop the wearing). Someone clearly didn't get it and stole the maillon :pirat:
Image

Below: Here are two glue-in top anchors (at the Scoop). There is a route at the Supertubes that had the same installation. I (the Montagu Bolting Fund) placed two maillons onto each glue-in. This stopped the wearing of the glue in bolts and made for a better lower off (in particular for the rope).
Image
Old Smelly wrote:So is there some way of getting those type of chains and rings on the top of the routes rather than a piece of chain shoved over the thread of the bolt and held in place by a nut?
How could we go about trying to standardise top anchor systems to be the best they can be?
Pleasure. To answer your question, I think the best way to go about it would be to put something down, have a few people look over it and move forward from there.
As with ARF we can't force anyone, we can only recommend (and scorn if they do it otherwise :twisted:

See below a bolt and a CRACK!

... I have more but not the time right now!!
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Nic Le Maitre
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Re: Top Anchors on routes

Post by Nic Le Maitre » Thu Sep 17, 2015 2:51 pm

You can, relatively easily create a similar setup with two hangers, two maillons and a piece of chain. Just put some epoxy on the maillon before screwing it closed to that the buggers can't steal them.

Incidentally, while we are on this topic, why don't people use nylock nuts rather than normal nuts (or even just a spring washer)?
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Re: Top Anchors on routes

Post by Old Smelly » Thu Sep 17, 2015 3:12 pm

Excellent Point I would think that Nylock nuts should be the norm!
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Re: Top Anchors on routes

Post by mokganjetsi » Thu Sep 17, 2015 3:25 pm

a bunch of top anchors at Hellfire are also two level glue in rings (as per the Scoop pic above); no chains or extentions. one should really abseil off those and not be lowered - avoid the anchors being worn and keep your rope from coiling. toprope only on QDs with those!

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Re: Top Anchors on routes

Post by Justin » Thu Sep 17, 2015 4:39 pm

Yes, the maillons can be locked up :thumleft:

Here is a pic of new top anchors installed recently 'Up North'

Likes: Cost effective, easy to use and will last a long time, won't twist the rope.
Dislike: The chain link looks a bit big for the nut - a washer would go well over the chain link.

Image
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Re: Top Anchors on routes

Post by deSouzaFrank » Thu Sep 17, 2015 7:02 pm

Has that bolt in the last pic not fractured the rock. Looks like a new crack running from the bolt hole the the crack real close to the bolt, just to the top left of the hanger?

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Re: Top Anchors on routes

Post by Justin » Thu Sep 17, 2015 8:00 pm

deSouzaFrank wrote:Has that bolt in the last pic not fractured the rock.
Assuming that we are looking at the same spot (see pic below). To me it just looks like a very thin edge - no problem.
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Re: Top Anchors on routes

Post by Justin » Thu Sep 17, 2015 8:12 pm

Nic Le Maitre wrote:
Old Smelly wrote:just with the basic idea that one anchor is better than two
Cardinal rule of climbing: "Though shall not rely on a single piece of gear" (whenever possible!)
Nic Le Maitre wrote:The left hand side arrangement is a best of both worlds solution and I wish we had more anchors like this at our crags
You get many of these (left hand chain) in the Western Cape... I've never heard of a ring failing (certainly not in ZA), but you are relying on that one single ring to come down - I know the ring is more than strong enough... my only fear is a manufacturing default :roll:
I use this type of lower often and I would rather see 2x chains (the one on the right) - price plays a factor here.

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Re: Top Anchors on routes

Post by Justin » Thu Sep 17, 2015 9:41 pm

The chain sits nicely over the top bolt.
The maillon seems to be eating the chain away (can't remember, but I think it just surface rust).

This setup does not treat the rope nicely. Because the chain links are so small, its near impossible to put a biner through the chain link (so you cant really attach yourself to the top bolt independently - you must rely on the dodgy looking maillon)
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Re: Top Anchors on routes

Post by Nic Le Maitre » Thu Sep 17, 2015 11:04 pm

You could quite easily add a maillon to the lower hanger in the picture I posted.

All this makes me glad I trad climb...
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