/ Building an anchor - Improvising

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sianabanana - on 21 Jun 2012
Last week when I got to the top of a route I was faced with two obvious pieces of protection to build a belay. The top was flat rock with cracks/features in it - so flat on the floor not in a wall in front of me.

The first was an obvious v shaped crack facing in the direction of the climb that fitted a nut nicely.

The second a parallel crack that open on one end and slightly flared at the end so that you could slide a nut in to it.

When trying to find the right nut to fit in to this parallel crack firstly I found that I had used the size I needed on the route and therefore had nothing that fitted. I tried all the nuts i had in every which direction and nothing would go. If the crack was a bit bigger maybe my smallest hex would have fitted but it was just too small.

The only thing I had left on my rack that would fit was my smallest cam.
I placed it in from the top trying to face the stem towards the direction of pull but couldn't really as the crack was laying flat rather than in a vertical wall.

It felt strong and the other nut was bomber so went with it and belayed my second.

Once the second came up, I had a look through the other nuts to see what would have fitted better. The only one fitting was my no 7 dmm wall nut which I then proceeded to get stuck in this crack and is now ruined!! lol But thats another story.

Reading a different thread on the forum they mentioned the video below where they only use knots in slings/rope to protect instead of nuts.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mg5LOLsQGXQ

It made me think - maybe I could have tied a knot in a sling and used that as protection?

I suppose I could have walked a few meters back and found some trees/bushes to belay but nothing stood out other than these two placements for obvious protection in the direction of the climb.

Anyone have any tactics/secrets for situations like this when you cant find the right bit of kit?
Calder - on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to sianabanana:

Sounds like you did just fine - I'd much rather use a cam for an anchor than a jammed knot!
sianabanana - on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to Calder:

I just didn't like the angle of the cam really - as it had to stick up in the air - rather than facing the direction of the belay.

wurzelinzummerset on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to sianabanana: If the gear placements aren't great and space allows you can sit down and brace your feet against something or just use your body friction and rope friction on the rock as an extra degree of security. Make sure you're tight to what gear there is at the belay, and keep the rope tight to the second to reduce the load if they fall.

And maybe get another set of nuts if you find you're running short.
Alex Slipchuk on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to sianabanana: you can sometimes place two opposing nuts (one upside down) so that when the "right way up" nut is loaded it effectively pushes against the inverted nut to expand to the crack. Usual safety rules apply, or pick up a pebble and jam itto crack and then thread it. It's how rocks got their name :)
digby - on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to sianabanana:

Was the parallel crack at right angles to the climb/load? If so, and the stem of the cam is flexible wire, then it's fine (as long as it's a good placement obviously). It may look a bit unnatural but it's no different to putting a cam in a horizontal crack in a vertical wall when climbing.
Monk - on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to sianabanana:

There have been tests on knots, but you wouldn't catch me using one for pro unless I was totally and utterly desperate. By your description, it sounds like your cam placement was totally ok. If you flipped the scene 90 degrees so that the ground was vertical, it is as if you placed a cam in a horizontal crack, with the stem coming out towards you. This is perfectly fine as long as the flexible part of the stem is bending rather than the metal swages, although if loaded hard could bend the stem of the cam.
Jimbo C - on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to sianabanana:

Sounds like your belay was fine.

I enjoy improvising gear that turns out to be bomber. I've never done this but I've heard that before huge cams, people used to stack hexes and nuts in wide cracks. Maybe a stack of 2 small nuts would have worked for you but to be honest, your cam sounds fine and there were other alternatives like you said.
EeeByGum - on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to sianabanana:
> (In reply to Calder)
>
> I just didn't like the angle of the cam really - as it had to stick up in the air - rather than facing the direction of the belay.

Nowt wrong with that.
sianabanana - on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to wurzelinzummerset:

Thats what i did with the rope - i loaded it so the anchor was tight and holding my weight and then kept the rope tight to the second.

The thing was I had two sets of nuts, the other set i just couldnt find any of them to fit. I think it was an awkward crack and me not being so great at placing my gear.
sianabanana - on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to Jimbo C:

I was tempted trying to stack nuts but would have had to stack two quite small ones.

The crack was really annoying, i tried to place the gear when my second got to the top to see what would fit as I really couldnt find anything suitable on my remaining rack. The number 6 nut just wouldn't touch it - and the no 7 nut looked to slide in ok, but then turned slightly and then i couldnt remove it. It was rattling on the spot but an attempt to move in any direction made it stick fast. I spent 30 mins battling with it before it finally came out - now its all curly and bashed. Will have to be replaced.

It looked like the obvious placement as this was an easy route on a popular crag and I am convinced this is what others would have used - but it really baffled me.
Calder - on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to sianabanana:

You had three options really:

1) Belay off one anchor - the good wire in the other crack. It means you'd not bend a 50 cam if you heavily load the belay, but means you risk damaging yourself and your mate if your anchor blows.
2) Belay off wire and cam - but possibly permanently bend cam if it becomes heavily loaded. Sounds like standard procedure - and it's unlikely the cam would get loaded so heavily that it'll be damaged.
3) Spend ages trying to fettle a stacked nut anchor, that you may sit there questioning anyway when you're bringing the second up.

I'd have gone for option 2 every time. Why waste time cocking about stacking nuts when you can use a cam?

One question though - how did you damage a wire so badly trying to get it out? Ususally if you thing about it they wiggle out with a bit of persuasion.
sianabanana - on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to Calder:

I think i pretty much came up with those options in my head (with maybe a 4th - going much further back and routing around the bushes for something)

Im glad i came up with the same decision as others might have.

As for the stuck nut - I didnt actually place it, my second did. He slid it in and upwards and its was on an angle not facing the climb so fiddled it some more so it was in the perfect belaying angle and was bomber.

So bomber he couldnt manage to reverse what he had done.

The more he pulled and pushed the more it cammed in place.

We got it moving on the spot - it would move up down left and right. But then stick in any direction.

It only came free after much pushing pulling and hammering.

I was so pissed off with it, i would have left it, but as i said, it looked like the obvious anchor for the route, so didnt really want to mess anyone else up leaving my stuck gear.

In the end, we pushed the wire down through the bottom of the nut and then by pulling in both directions finally persuaded it out.

Hence the wire now looking like a pigs tail!!
Calder - on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to sianabanana:
> (In reply to Calder)
>
> ...
>
> In the end, we pushed the wire down through the bottom of the nut and then by pulling in both directions finally persuaded it out.
>
> Hence the wire now looking like a pigs tail!!

I get you. One of those things unfortunately.
jkarran - on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to sianabanana:

> I just didn't like the angle of the cam really - as it had to stick up in the air - rather than facing the direction of the belay.

If the crack it was in was sound (not expanding, shattered, rotten or flared outward) and the cam was of the bendy stem variety then I'd not worry about it. If you want to avoid needlessly bending your cam stem then rig it with a tiny bit of slack so it backs up the bomber nut rather than sharing the load. Not 'textbook' but not an unreasonable compromise given the low-load sat at the edge toprope scenario described.

I'd not mess with jammed knots for that sort of thing, they clearly can be made to work but it's going to be a rare situation where they're your best option! You can stack nuts with a little care but again, it sounds like the cam was reasonable and probably your best choice.

jk
jkarran - on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to sianabanana:

> I spent 30 mins battling with it before it finally came out - now its all curly and bashed. Will have to be replaced.

Curly and bashed is normal for nuts :)
jk
sianabanana - on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to jkarran:

I might make it in to a keyring. :)

The cam was a 4cu by the way.

Thanks for the input guys.


EZ on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to sianabanana:

> I just didn't like the angle of the cam really - as it had to stick up in the air - rather than facing the direction of the belay.

If the cam was bottomed out in the crack and all four lobes were engaged then so long as there was no loose rock the placement should have been fine. I expect that if heavily loaded from a fall you'd end up with a heavily flexed stem (I'm assuming it is a modern flexible stemmed cam and not an older cam with a solid forged stem) but the placement should not move. With regard to how much tension to have between you and that particular anchor I would, in the same scenario, have my weight just starting to flex the stem

The problems with such placements are the potential for the placement to become poor as the cam tries to rotate under load and the uneven balance of force exerted to each lobe. If the cam is bottomed out (touching three sides of the crack) then there shouldn't be any rotation. You have added a fulcrum (the lobes working against the end of the head of the cam with the load 6 inches away at the back of the stem) that has a lot of leverage so there is greater risk to distort the cam if loaded but I wouldn't worry about that.
There is one type of cam that I know for certain should not be used this way and that is the Omega Pacific Link Cam. With these cams one must account for the direction of pull before loading it as the hinges in the lobes are a weak point that has been known to fail in such circumstances.
scott titt - on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to sianabanana:
Hmm....225 ascents logged on UKC and you are the only one who mentions difficulty with the belay; I think you got too focussed on the awkward placement and didn't walk about enough - me, I would have tied to a tree.
sianabanana - on 21 Jun 2012
In reply to scott titt:

There was no obvious big tree rather some shorter ones and bushes.
There were other placements to one side but would have been too far over for the route we were climbing. The two placements were obviously used by most people as they were polished/shiny - very obvious. The main problem was that i had used up my gear that would fit this one placement.
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Merlin - on 26 Jun 2012
In reply to sianabanana:

I climbed on one set of nuts for a long time, however it becomes massively restrictive on longer routes esp limestone crags where it would seem you need a whole rack of size 5's!

Well worth buying a second set of nuts, or just doubling up on the mid sizes, I find 4 - 7 are most popular. Go for a different brand to the set you own to make use of the alternative shap.

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