Saturday, 10 March 2012


Setting up an anchor system when climbing alone leaves little room for error.If you are self-belaying you must have a quick,simple,and efficient system of rigging multi-directional anchors,that will work equally well on singles,doubles,or rope loops.For this purpose i use two variations of the Starfish Anchor System.The first employs six points of anchor,two cordellettes,six extender tapes,two maillons,a belaymaster-krab,and a shockcord loop with toggle adjustment.

Starfish system.

When put together,this forms a portable centre section of a multi-directional anchor,linked to the anchor placements by threaded cordellettes.The first Starfish is rigged into the primary anchor at the start of a self-belayed climb,the second Starfish is carried on the climbers harness to be rigged as the first belay point at the end of the first pitch.The climber can then descend in abseil to clean the first pitch and then re-ascend to the belay point to continue his climb through the second pitch,whilst protected in both directions.

Make safe with Chicken-Chain.

To rig the Starfish first make yourself safe with a "Chicken Chain"(See previous blogs)clipped into your upper anchor points.Then place all six points of the anchor system and afix Krabs,making each as bombproof as possible.Then hold the Starfish central to the anchors,and thread the cordellette through the tape loops to the farthest anchor point.

Thread the cordellette.

Once secured,draw the cordellette outwards between the tapes and clove-hitch twice to each krab to form each anchor point.Repeat the process around all six anchor points.

Threading completed on the "mother of all anchors".

It may be that fewer anchor points are available at a belay point.Or you may consider that one bomber anchor above and below the Starfish will do the job?Its all a matter of availability,judgement,and choice,and is entirely up to the climber.Just make what you have as bombproof as possible.The more anchors there are however,the safer the system is in enabling redundency within the process.Once the anchors are completed the cordellettes can be tightened with the clove-hitches.And finally the Starfish can be tightened further by the toggle on the shockcord,drawing the entire system and anchors towards the centre Belaymaster-Krab.

Tighten shockcord toggle.

The second Starfish is carried on the harness to be used at the next belay point where the process is repeated.

Second Starfish.

The second Starfish variation is depicted below and is constructed by using long codellettes with a central shockcord and toggle system,this type has been dealt with in previous blogs and is very efficient but slow to construct and not so versatile as the above.

Starfish System.(first iteration)

The biggest advantage of using these adjustable tension systems over and above the multi-directional function,is their use where anchors are in loose cracks or in areas where they may detach or fall out,compromising anchor point integrity.I have found a central drawstring shockcord very usefull for this purpose over the years.It allso saves a huge amount of time when building anchors,but requires some practice to perfect.

One of my Rope Loop systems.

As i have stated before,the loop system of solo-climbing serves little purpose over a single,or double rope system on a self-belay anchor.The two known functional advantages are,that it enables the rope to be retrieved if the climber wishes to abandon placed gear in order to continue an ascent,and secondly to retrieve a climbing rope whilst abseiling on a descent.The depicted rope is a Mammut-50metre-9mil,marked every 25metres with Beal Rope Marker to keep track of length during ascent.The blue rope that completes the loop is a static Mammut-50metre-6mil that serves for retrieval.The Maillons and Tapes at the ropes ends allow the ropes to be retrieved on ascent from anchors and protection if required.The loop remains the same for abseil descents with only the Tapes and Maillons removed.
For alpine use i employ an identical but lighter system using 8mil x 50metres Dynamic on a 6mil Static.
A final word:-Practice rigging anchors as often as possible its easy to get out of the habit and still think your hot-stuff.And practice "One handed" Clove-Hitches,it saves many minutes of rigging time when building soloist anchors.

Good climbing,