How to build an anchor – Everything you need to know

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How to build an anchor?

When it comes to multipitch climbing, it is very useful to know various ways to set up climbing anchors. In this article, we will look at the different types of climbing anchors that are quick and easy to build.

Different types of outdoor anchors

If you had no experience with multipitch or even outdoor climbing. You may not be familiar with what an outdoor anchor looks like. Hence, it is important for you to have an idea of just what to expect when you are staring down at an outdoor anchor.

Anchor with chains

climbing anchor 3
Vertical Offset Anchor
Anchor 1
Chains with Ram Horn
Anchor 6
V chain Anchor

Anchors without chains

Anchor 2
Anchor 4
Anchor 5

For multipitch climbing, climbers should always check the condition of the anchor before setting up the belay. Depending on the type of anchors at the end of a pitch climbers may set up a belay directly using the fixed anchor. However, it is recommended that climbers should set up the anchor using a personal sling or cord to minimize wear on the fixed gear.

Building a simple anchor with sling or cordelette

The most simple method to set up an anchor on 2 bolt hangers is to use a sling or cordelette.

  1. To set up an anchor using this method, all you need is a sling or cord 60cm or 120cm in length
  2. Clip a carabiner to each bolt hanger and clip each end of the sling into the carabiner
  3. Find the centre of the sling and tie a figure of 8 knot to create a master point. If the sling isn’t long enough after tying a figure of 8 knot, you can instead tie an overhand knot
  4. Clip an HMS carabiner onto the master point and secure yourself
climbing anchor
how to build an anchor

Pros

  1. Easy to build
  2. Both sling and cordelette can be used

Cons

  1. Not self equalizing
  2. The master point knot needs to be adjusted according to the gap and the location of the bolt hangers which may vary between anchors

Self-equalizing anchor with a Sliding X

The self-equalizing anchor with a sliding X is one of the easiest ways to build an anchor. All you need is a 60cm or longer sling.

  1. You can set it up simply by clipping each end of the sling to the bolt hangers.
  2. Find the centre of the sling
  3. Make a twist on one side of the sling to form an X
  4. Clip both sides of the sling together through the sliding X using an HMS carabiner and secure yourself

Pros

  1. Easy to build
  2. Self-equalizing
  3. A short 60cm sling is sufficient

Cons

  1. In situations when one point fails, there will be a huge shock load to the system. But this can be rectified with load limiter knots.

Sliding X with load limiter knots

To reduce the potential for a huge shock load. Climbers can tie load limiter knots to limit the shock load on the system if there is a single point failure. It is important to minimize shock loading the system because the anchor sling does not stretch thus there will be no shock adsorption. Hence a huge shock load can damage your gear and the bolt hanger.

Quad Anchor

The quad anchor is one of the most versatile and easy to build. All you’ll need is a 120cm or longer Dyneema sling (a cordelette of 6mm diameter can be used as well). The quad anchor in a way is a beefed-up version of the self-equalizing sliding x anchor with limiting knots. But it is significantly stronger and more versatile. It is the go-to quick and easy method for building an anchor.

  1. To build a quad anchor you’ll need to double up a 120cm or longer sling
  2. Clip one end of the sling into the bolt hanger
  3. From the clipped-in end, tie an overhand knot on the 1/3 mark and another on the 2/3 mark
  4. Clip the other end into the other bolt hanger
  5. In between the 2 overhand knots, you’ll find 4 strands of slings
  6. Clip a carabiner into 2 strands to secure yourself and another carabiner on the other 2 strands for your partner
Quad anchor
how to build an anchor

Pros

  1. Easy to build
  2. Masterpoint is spacious and can easily accommodate more than 2 carabiners
  3. Self-equalizing
  4. Has more redundancy compared to the sliding X anchor
  5. Both sling and cordelette can be used to build the quad anchor

Cons

  1. Require a long sling of at least 120cm to build

Slings for building anchors

Personal Anchor System (PAS)

A piece of gear all outdoor climbers must have is the Personal Anchor System. The PAS may have a different name depending on the brands you buy. The PAS is basically a chain of connecting “belay loops” in which each individual loop is full strength and can withstand and absorb impact forces. Unlike a daisy chain, a continuous sling with variable-length loops is not designed for use as a PAS (Danger of using a Daisy Chain as a PAS).

If you hate tying/untying and adjusting knots to equalize your sling or cordelette when building anchor then PAS is just what you need.

How to use a PAS as an anchor

  1. Every single loop on the PAS is of equal strength. Thus using a PAS to build an anchor is easy.
  2. Simply clip the last loop of the PAS into one of the bolt hangers
  3. Next, identify which loop to use as the masterpoint
  4. Find a suitable loop on the other end of the PAS to clip into the other bolt hanger
  5. Equalized the system and clip a carabiner into the masterpoint to secure the climber
PAS anchor
PAS anchor 2

Types of PAS

Pros

  1. Quick and easy, no need to tie any knots
  2. Length can be easily adjusted

Cons

  1. It is more expensive compared to a sling or cordelette
  2. Can be bulky and messy when clipped on the harness gear loop
  3. Not self-equalizing

Angle of anchor

angle of anchor
PC: howtoclimbhard.com

When setting up an anchor, the angle should not be wider than 90 degrees. At an angle of 60 degrees or smaller the load is shared evenly between the 2 bolt hangers. However, if the angle starts to widen the load on each bolt hanger will increase significantly. To prevent damaging the bolt hangers, the anchor you build must be less than 90 degrees.

Summary

These 4 anchor systems are suitable for most single and multipitch which have 2 solid bolt hangers. But, just because you are on sport routes with fixed anchors does not mean the anchors will be in good condition. Always check for signs of corrosion on the anchor and if the bolt hangers are loose before committing to the anchor.

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