Learn This: Using the Anchor Shelf

Julie Ellison
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Efficiency is directly related to success on any multi-pitch climb, and being neat and tidy from the beginning is a key to efficiency. With ropes, belay devices, cordelette, and slings crowding the anchor, it’s easy for this important setup to become an overcomplicated rat’s nest. Keep your belay orderly with this effortless technique: using the “shelf.” The shelf is a secondary point (the first being the master point) you can use to clip into directly. On a standard cordelette anchor built with at least two attachment points, it sits right above the knot. Using this redundant and full-strength clip-in spot keeps the master point free for the belay device and for your follower (or followers) to clip into. It streamlines the whole setup, especially if you have three or more climbers clipping into the anchor. Here, we’ve explained two common scenarios and the proper way to use the shelf in each.

Standard Cordelette Anchor


Use a cordelette to build a solid, equalized, redundant, efficient, and extension-free anchor (SERENE/ERNEST) that includes a master point. Above the knot that creates the master point, there will be two strands of cord running from each piece of gear (you must have at least two pieces for this to be redundant) into the knot. Grab a strand from each pair and clip a locking biner through all of them. Make sure the biner goes through the strands, not just around them, which could result in the biner slipping down and coming off the anchor—very bad! Tie a clove hitch on the biner with the rope from your harness. Lock the biner and you’re clipped in. Note: For this system to be solid, you must have a biner clipped through the master point—weighted or unweighted—so there’s no way the knot can come undone. Clipping the belay device to the master point for use in guide mode is sufficient.

Tree Anchor


Use a double-length sling or cordelette to create an anchor around a solid tree that’s at least five inches in diameter, firmly rooted in the ground, and alive. Wrap the sling/cord around the tree, match the ends, and tie a figure eight on a bight to create a master point. The difference in this scenario is that to make it redundant, you must clip all the strands on one side of the knot, as opposed to taking a strand from each pair of strands like in the previous example. If you were to clip one strand from each side of the knot and one loop (top or bottom) failed, the biner would be clipped to nothing.