Climbing magazine is producing a series of how-to videos to demonstrate a number of basic skills and techniques. In this video, Julie Ellison, Climbing's gear editor, shows how to clean a sport anchor.


Previous Comments

I will not say that we should not teach lowering technic, but I do not think a video on the internet that any person can watch should be so limited in teaching pros and cons of any system it teaches. Lets accept it, many people watch this videos and goes out to apply the technic. As responsible media you should make every attempt to minimise this possibility. I always try to rappel, and even when lowering is easier there is always a way to rappel—To protect the anchor gear. But all technics should be reached and every pro and con of every technic should be emphasised. The only way to be safe is to climb with knowledge. Noteworthy, I live in Mexico and have climbed in different countries. Not all countries have the intelligence or support to keep an eye on anchor gear, in many places it is scary to anchor yourself from the gear. Observation, options and common sense are needed to climb, we should not teach ONLY technics that work when all the gear is perfect. That said, it is very important places like this site that expose topics and let climbers comment and discuss. We, as climbers, should always be open to debate and new ideas. Keep the knowledge flowing.

Richard - 03/20/2013 7:36:39 Not really that much more wear honestly so you can't really make that argument. I prefer to rappel but it is safer to lower for newer climbers

kevin - 02/12/2013 4:50:34

Hi folks, thanks for all the thoughtful comments. Rappelling is preferred for preserving anchor gear, and we should all encourage it wherever possible. However, there are many situations (especially on traversing and overhanging routes) where lowering is safer or makes it easier to clean the gear from a route; in some cases, it's nearly impossible to clean routes while rappelling. It's important for all climbers to learn a simple and safe method for threading the anchors and lowering, and that is our goal with this video.

Climbing Staff - 02/09/2013 2:29:45

One more thing Jeff: of course " I assumed that this video was geared toward new climbers". Does an experienced climber need to be taught how to clean an anchor?

Michael - 02/09/2013 11:31:13

1) Adrian: Verify your anchor is safe, set up your rappel correctly, tie stopper knots in the ends of your rope if you're not 100% certain both ends are on the ground, and always use an autblock or some form of rappel backup. 2) Jeff: You say "not everyone can or will rap". IMO rappeling is a Basic Rock Climbing 101 skill that should be learned even before one learns how to clean an anchor. Also Jeff you don't need a fireman's if you use a rappel backup such as an autoblock. I always use an autoblock backup when I rappel, always. My rappel device and autoblock setup are always on my harness whether I'm climbing multi-pitch trad or 30 foot sport climbs.

Michael - 02/09/2013 11:21:46

I typically always have my slings on me in the event that the next climber decides (in the middle of my climb) not to climb and clean, I can still clean the anchors. In the event I forgot my slings or not had intentions of cleaning but had to, then this method would work. It would probably be my last choice of methods for cleaning, but a workable one none the least. As I have gained more experience and grown more comfortable with rappelling there are times that being lowered is still preferred, like difficult descents or fatigue.

Jeff - 02/08/2013 8:20:09

Michael, you have valid points that rappelling is better for the anchors and rope. This is simply another method of "cleaning the anchor". I know of at least two other methods and I am sure that are more variations. It is always good to know different techniques. Knowledge is power. Personally I use two slings and clip directly from the bolt to to two different points on my harness (as you point out in #2). Your second statement on #2 is out of place since this is a method to clean anchors using a lowering method. Actually most of your argument is poking holes in this method because you are pro-rap. Don't get me wrong, as I already agreed that rappelling is better for the gear but not everyone can or will rap. And, IMO, to foolishly say "why not free up your belayer..." while even if you have a second brake hand setup, the belayer should have you on fireman's belay. Why take the risk just so your belayer can get a drink a couple minutes earlier. Rappelling is not intended to be "courteous". Had you not mentioned point #3 I probably would not have commented at all. But really, come on. You also assumed that this video was geared toward new climbers, when at no point did the video indicate that.

Jeff - 02/08/2013 8:03:04

I have to agree with Michael and Richard, this is a pretty bad video in several regards, though, thankfully, not dangerous. The chain is going to wear out soon with repeated lowers and is often a hassle to replace; it doesn't rotate like rings do. As to Adrian comments, if you start doing bigger climbs you want to be uber effecient in the rappel aspect, and there are many ways of safeguarding the rappel like a firemans or extension/prussik. Why not make it a practice so if you do have to retreat from on high, you are dialed in and less prone to make an error?

jj - 02/08/2013 8:02:00

I've climbed at areas where cleaning with a rappel was required, and then been to other areas where the anchors were set up specifically for lowering. My thought would be to contact your local climbers' coalition or whatever group maintains the crag and follow their recommendation. The video shows a safe method, rappelling can be safe if set up correctly, it's really best to ask the folks who hung the anchors.

Craig - 02/08/2013 4:52:51

Michael, My understanding is that 25% of fatalities in rock climbing comes from abseiling. I'd rather lower or walk off.

Adrian - 02/08/2013 4:36:23

Good comments by Michael. Pretty amazing that such a prominent advocate for climbers like this magazine would feature a video that is so clearly antagonistic to longstanding climbing ethics and common sense. It's true that there may be some unusual situations when lowering is preferable, but anchors don't grow on trees, they were installed with sweat, time and money. To unnecessarily wear them is senseless, wasteful and arrogant. And almost always easily avoided. Beginners will pick up lots of bad habits on their own, let's not encourage bad habits by teaching them.

Richard Dingman - 02/08/2013 4:10:35

Sorry but this video is not what experienced climbers should be teaching new climbers in regards to cleaning anchors. Sure this method works and is safe enough but it's not a safe as other methods and it's certainly not the best way to maximize the life of the anchor and rope. 1) First and foremost we should be teaching and strongly encouraging rappelling instead of lowering. Better for the anchor hardware and better for the rope. I rap instead of lower 99% of the time and I'm just as fast and efficient as anyone who lowers. I'm aware of all the arguments in favor of lowering but the fact remains that the vast majority of the time rappelling is the better option. 2) Anchoring directly from your harness to both bolt hangars before introducing slack into the belay is better than the method in the video and if you're going to be rappelling instead of lowering (as you should be) the overhand knot/locking biner method won't work because you'll need to thread the rope and get both ends on the ground. You can't do that if you're using one end of the rope as an anchor point. Also clipping into rappel rings and/or the bottom link of the chain should only be done when it's the only way to equalize the anchor points because, once again, your causing unnecessary wear and damage to the anchor. 3) Rappelling instead of lowering is also the more courteous and thoughtful option. Why not free up your belayer to get a drink, have a snack, answer nature's call, rest their belayer's neck, prepare for their turn to climb, etc, instead of forcing them to stay in the system and wait when it's not necessary but is only being done for your convenience.

Michael - 02/08/2013 3:08:20