Unbelayvable: Who Needs an Anchor Tether?

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Kevin Corrigan
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Every Monday we publish the most unbelievable stories of climbing stupidity submitted by our readers. See something unbelayvable? Email unbelayvable@climbing.com and your story could be featured online or in print. For more Unbelayvable, check out the Unbelayvable Archives.

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We saw a climber reach the anchors of a single pitch sport route at Avalon in Boulder Canyon. He was getting ready to clean the route. He had his belayer give him slack and he started pulling out rope as though he was going to rappel, but he was still tied in. So slowly but surely, he was lowering a loop of rope to the ground between his harness and the anchor. Even beyond that, which is weird, something just didn't look right. The climber would not let go of the rock with his one hand. My partner walked over to get a better view from the base, and sure enough, he was not attached to the anchor in any way. This guy was 50 feet up, untethered, with enough rope between him and the anchors for him to hit the ground. We explained how to clip in directly to the anchor to his partner, who seemed concerned, but it didn't seem like he understood what we were trying to tell him either.—Julie, Boulder, Colorado

LESSON: That's some weird logic. The higher off the ground you are, the more dangerous a fall becomes. You'd think, since this guy used a rope to climb to the anchors, that he'd still want to be attached to something at the anchors. Holding on with one hand while fumbling to set up a rappel with the other sounds terrifying. Luckily for everyone, there's a very easy thing you can do to prevent this scenario. All you have to do is attach yourself to the anchor. There are quite a few ways to do this, but the simplest is to clip a sling to your belay loop with a locking carabiner, then clip the other end to the bolt hanger with a locking carabiner. For some redundancy, do it again with another sling on the other bolt hanger. Weight your tether while you're still protected by the rope. Good? Now you're safe to work hands free. If you want to get fancy, you can substitute that sling for something like the Metolius PAS 22, which adds adjustability to the length of your tether. It's really that simple. If you're not free soloing, you should never have to put your life solely in the hands of, um, your hands.

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