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Neatness Counts

Neatness counts — building a tidy big-wall anchorA big-wall belay setup can quickly become an evil jumble of twisted runners, knotted ropes, and stuck biners. If you’re not diligent about organization, the dreaded clusterf**k (CF) will strangle everything.

It’s essential that everything in a big-wall anchor be redundant, meaning that if any one thing — a sling, carabiner, etc. — breaks, the anchor is still sound. You’ll have at least two people and a haul bag; the stresses are monstrous, so don’t take any shortcuts. Also, you must have an organized work site. Consider the following as you set up your anchor: Where will your partner clip in after she jugs up? Where does the next pitch go? How are the ropes going to travel? How will you best get comfortable for the next few hours?

Every anchor is different, but here I’ve shown three bolts in a row as an example. Note that this setup also requires 24 free carabiners: 16 regular and eight locking. The first thing the leader should do is clip the big, pear-shaped locking carabiners (A) into the bolts — once they’re locked, they stay locked. They’re big because lots of other biners will get clipped into these, requiring plenty of room.

Clip the biners at the end of your daisies into the outside two of these big lockers (B). Now tie off the lead rope with a clove hitch, and clip that into the central big locker using a separate biner (C). Yell, “Off belay!”

Next, clip a cordelette into the three big lockers to create the anchor’s main “power point” (D). Use a locker to attach the lead rope here with a clove hitch (E); this is easy to untie after it’s been weighted by your jugging partner (F). Back it up with a figure-8-on-a-bight (G), leaving yourself extra rope (H) to be re-rigged and low for hauling. Now yell, “Lead rope is fixed!” Build a secondary anchor — positioned higher than the power point — for the hauling/ratchet pulley (I). Prepare a place to anchor the haulbag (J) with a “docking cord” (a daisy chain or bit of rope attached to the haulbag) and a redundant clip-in point for the haul line (K). Make sure the end of the haul line is set up and ready to go (L) for leading the next pitch.

The best investments you can make for CF management are rope bags, one each for the lead rope (M) and haul line (N). You can get along without them (unless you’re soloing), but be prepared for tangles.

If possible, place the first piece on the next pitch, and add this to the anchor (O). This gear adds redundancy and saves your partner a little hassle and time — she’ll be able to quickly clip it (P) when starting the next lead.

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