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I was at the 9th Street crag in Ogden, Utah. Three high school kids were setting up a toprope on the route next to us, Cub Scout Corner (5.7). I was a little confused when they threw down two ropes from the top, then I saw their anchor. They had wrapped a bunch of paracord between the bolts, clipped one non-locking carabiner to it, and ran both of their ropes through it. They said they learned it from the Boy Scouts. I asked them if I could help, and they let me build a new anchor.
LESSON: Standard paracord, popular among doomsday preppers and survival bracelet manufacturers, has a breaking strength of just 550 pounds. Any knot in any cord will reduce its strength. The crew above is cutting it a bit close. The most popular anchor materials that climbers use are 8mm nylon accessory cord and sewn nylon or Dyneema slings. The accessory cord has a breaking strength of about 15kN, and a sewn sling will be around 20 kN. One kilonewton is roughly equivalent to 225 pounds of force. The accessory cord is over seven times as strong as paracord. We wouldn’t recommend paracord for any climbing application. Only use materials designed and rated for climbing. Don’t run two ropes through one carabiner (unless you’re using twin ropes, which are a specialized tool not commonly used for toproping). And don’t run your toprope through a single non-locker. And take an anchor building class if you are the people mentioned in this story.
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