Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Static or Webbing Top Rope Anchors?

I learned to set top rope climbing anchors with webbing. Webbing is cheap. You can acquire an entire top-rope set up for less than $30. The alternative solution was to blow over $100 on a static line. At the time as a starving college student, $100 is a lot of oatmeal.

My recreation program endorsed the use of webbing as well as all of my college climbing buddies. Life was good. We were urban hippies refusing to spend money if it didn’t have to be spent.

Then a funny thing happened. I graduated. I met other non-dirt bag climbers. I studied to become a Single Pitch Instructor certified by the American Mountain Guides Association. I actually read the climbing literature that was out there instead of just winging it based on what friends told me.

It’s amazing the things you learn when you decided to become educated.

It turns out, webbing can be bad if not treated with lots of love and care. It’s cheaper than static for a reason. (Who knew?!). It has extremely poor abrasion resistance. With just a little bit of abrasion and one cut, your connection is gone. Static line is basically a tightly braided core (the part of the rope that’s important because it holds you) surrounded and protected by a sheath. If the sheath abrades or cuts, it will expose the core to the elements, but not drop you while you’re dangling in mid air.

The picture above shows an example of my shredded static sheath (due to rubbing on sharp rock) where the core remained intact. If this had been webbing, well... the picture speaks for itself. ( I cut the piece out so I could tie the unaffected static together to hold me over until I buy a new rope. Waste not, want not!)

Webbing does has it’s advantages of being light and cheap. If you’re traveling long distances, the extra weight of static rope can be cumbersome, especially if you have to pack it on a motorcycle! If you do choose to build your anchors from webbing, please do so carefully with extra diligence and awareness of potential rubbing points on the rock! Pad the webbing with your crag pack, rope bag, or whatever you have available!

Article on the abrasion resistance of webbing:

Whatever material you use, remember: “SERENE” Anchors

The placements selected must be “bomber”, whether they are natural or artificial. 
The placements and anchor construction must be quick and simple and do the job with the 
minimum of equipment and fuss.
If any point in the system was to fail, there must always another part of the system still intact to 
take the load. 
The load should be spread equally to all placements; no one point should carry more load than 
the others.
No Extension
The anchor construction should include the use of limiting knots or be tied off so as to prevent 
any possible extension in the system.

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