Anchors: Tying In

By Don Graydon.

The most common way for the belayer to tie in to the anchor is with the climbing rope itself, using the first few feet of rope as it comes from its tie-in at the belayer's harness. Alternative: attach with a runner from the anchor to the seat harness. Although slower and less efficine, this is a good idea when the length of the next pitch is not known and running out of rope could be a problem.
Knots and methods for tying in to the anchor.
  1. Simple technique: loop the rope around the large, natural anchor and clip the loop back on itself with a carabiner (in a quasi-girth hitch). Tie an overhand knot in the end of the loop and clip the carabiner through that.
  2. More commonly: put a runner around or over the natural anchor, and clip a carabiner to the runner. The climber uses a knot in the climbing rope to clip into the carabiner. The figure-8 knot and the clove hitch are the preferred knots.
    • When using the clove hitch on a nonlocking carabiner, make sure it is tight, or normal rope play will make it expand and possibly open the carabiner's gate. Beware of any pull on a clove hitch that makes it slide away from the end of the carabiner, which could also make it expand and open the gate.
  3. When the belay depends on a single anchor, use one locking carabiner or two regular carabiners with the gates reversed and opposed.
    • Avoid chaining carabiners in succession, as a twisting motion relative to each other weakens them and can open a gate.
Multiple anchors.

It is normal to attach to multiple anchors for belaying-commonly 2 or 3 that will hold a downward pull and one that will hold an upward pull. The upward-pull and downward-pull anchors are not necessarily separate: a multidirectional anchor (such as a bolt or a tree) may serve as one of the downward-pull anchors and also as the upward-pull anchor. When using chocks, a common arrangement is to create a multidirectional placement with at least one pair of opposing.

There are several methods and numerous considerations in attaching yourself to multiple anchors.

  1. A quick and easy way is to tie separately, with the climbing rope, into a series of anchors, using clove hitches because of their adjustability.
    • This method can cause problems. If a serious fall occurs, all the impact goes first to a single anchor. The other anchors come into play only if the first one fails. And as each anchor fails, the belayer may suddenly drop a short distance, perhaps losing some control of the belay.
    • Use this method only if you check each of the 3 anchors and conclude, for each one, that it is highly probable that it is free of defects and could hold the worst possible fall by itself.
  2. Equalize the load among two or more anchors, in a situation in which one or more of your anchors is a fairly small chock that can't be expected to hold more than a few hundred pounds. Even if the anchor is free of defects and the chock is perfectly placed in solid rock, you can't expect this chock-on its own-to hold the worst possible fall.
    • One way to do this is to tie a clove hitch to each anchor carabiner, as before, but to run the rope back to a locking carabiner at the harness and tie in (with a clove hitch) after every other clove hitch at an anchor. This results in a section of rope tied between your seat harness and each anchor carabiner. You can then adjust the clove hitches to snug up the strand to each carabiner. Then if the anchor takes the force of a fall, the impact will be shared by the multiple placements and, if one fails, no drop results before the others come into play.
    • This method is infrequently used because it uses a lot of rope (perhaps too much given the length of the pitches) and is somewhat cumbersome to set up.

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