The “quad” offers a strong, fast, redundant, simple anchor when distributing forces between pieces is a high priority. Note that the quad will extend slightly should either side fail, making it best suited for routes with modern, two-bolt belays and/or ice routes when using two screws at a stance. The quad also works well on multi-piece gear anchors, though it requires more consideration (see below).
Build Your Quad
Building a quad requires either a cordelette at least 14 feet in length (6mm nylon minimum or 5.5mm tech cord) or a quadruple-length sling. You can easily store either on your harness.
Unfurl your sling or cordelette into one giant loop and double it into a smaller, two-stranded loop. Tie an overhand knot 4–7 inches from each end. Now you have a two-stranded loop at either end, with four strands of material between the overhand knots. You can leave your quad rigged for a long day out. Unlike the cordelette, it doesn’t require re-tying at each stance.
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Clip a biner into each end-loop and clip each of those into a bolt or a screw. Clip a locker into two of the four strands between the overhands; clove hitch into the locker. (You clip into two strands in the middle to effectively “trap” the locker between the overhands. Never clip all four strands, as a failure in one bolt/screw would result in the anchor biner sliding off the quad.) Rig your belay device on the two free strands.
While two strands offer ample strength for both climbers at the belay, clipping each climber into her own two strands lets her hang on the anchor without pulling on her partner.
The quad’s equalization/distribution comes in handy when the anchor relies on two pieces of equivalent strength—it distributes the load equally between the pieces.
The quad has a wide range of self-equalization between the two overhand knots—i.e., it accounts for changes in the direction of forces at a belay. If using two pieces whose strength is difficult to assess—older bolts, screws in sub-par ice, etc.—move the overhand knots closer together to reduce extension and the range over which the quad distributes forces (or self-equalizes).
Three Point Quads
At certain stances, a three-point quad makes sense. Unfurl your cord, double it (without yet tying the overhand knots), and then clip each two-stranded loop into your two smallest/weakest pieces. Pull the sling down to tension it and tie an overhand below the two pieces; they are now equalized, with two strands hanging between the pieces. Pull this two-stranded bight down and tie a second overhand in it, then clip it into your largest/strongest piece—you now have a quad between two small, equalized pieces and one large, bomber piece.
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