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Thread: Contingency Anchors!

  1. #1

    Contingency Anchors!

    Hi All!

    I'm new here, but I've been canyoneering for a couple years now. I have a good amount of experience with ropework, anchor systems, self rescue systems, haul systems....etc.

    I am hoping to take a couple friends with more limited experience canyoneering this spring. I've taken rather inexperienced others along before (with a couple rappelling training sessions beforehand to teach them the basics, like tying off)

    I've pretty much exclusively used the toss-and-go method for my anchors up until this point (with a fireman's belay). In the event of a stuck rappeler, I've always had a second rope and planned to do pick-offs.


    This spring, however, I would like to speed things up and maybe cut down on the massive amount of gear I take when bringing beginners. Therefore, I've been looking into contingency anchors!
    Mainly, contingency anchors that will isolate both strands and allow one to attach their rappel device while the other strand is being used for rappel. I looked around, and I like the look of the figure 8 contingency as pictured below:
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    My only worry is that these two images look different. Also, there is a lot about hoe important it is to have the rope run over the carbiner in the quicklink to allow for de-tensioning, and I'm not sure either of those images show that correctly.

    I guess my question is: would you use this system as a simple and quick system for a large party of slightly inexperienced canyoneers, and if so, how exactly does the top rope need to run over the top carabiner? I'm the kind of person that wants to figure it out in my head before going out and practicing!

    Thanks so much in advance!

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  4. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Kurly_Q View Post
    would you use this system as a simple and quick system for a large party of slightly inexperienced canyoneers?
    No, I wouldn't, unless I was doing a class C canyon. Or if I was a guide. Is that what you are doing? If so, then ignore everything below.
    ____

    Often times there is safety built into simple canyoneering routines. Once you get very good a handful of skills, the likelihood of screwing up your routine approaches zero.

    I'm a big fan of teaching people to rappel properly, and not a big fan of needless complexity. Nobody in my groups will ever get hurt by using a fiddlestick; nobody in my groups will ever get hurt by a contingency anchor, simply because we don't use them.

    I've done perhaps 800 in-canyon rappels and watched thousands more. And I've never wished for or needed more rope tricks than we currently use.

    I apologize for jacking your thread... but I cringe when I see this nonsense spreading, like this is what we all should do. The need for this tool arises during 0.001% of rappels, so it doesn't justify the added risk.

    Somebody had a contingency anchor fail a year or two ago and nearly killed someone. A needless brush with death. Some jackass taught them that they should use that tool all of the time...

    So if you teach your peeps to keep their jackets and hair out of the way and bring a good ratio of experienced folks to inexperienced folks (1:1), then you'll never need this 'tool'.

    Nothing personal against you Kurly Q. Welcome to Bogley.

    *swimming against the tide of geeked out canyoneering folks that vehemently preach for the use of every canyon invention ever created*

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  6. #3
    KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid

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  8. #4
    Believe it or not, these were the responses I was secretly hoping for. The added complexity seemed a little unnecessary for anything other than class C. I was starting to feel a little guilty, as a lot of what I was reading online was "USE CONTINGENCY ANCHORS OR YOU'RE GONNA DIE"

    Moving forward, I'll stick with my previous anchor methods and fireman belay, emphasize keeping clothing free of the rappel device during my pre-canyon rappel workshops, and maybe even throw in a simple "here's how you get unstuck" section for those workshops.

    Since I avoid class C canyons when I'm with anyone but my most experienced friends, I can't think of a situation where the need for these would actually arise on my trip this spring. If anything, thanks for easing my mind.

    If I did want to isolate strands for a slightly faster group rappel, I think I'll go with a stone knot. Any thoughts on that?

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  10. #5
    I think contingency anchors are a good idea with beginners, but only if you know them really well. As slot machine said when you know your routine the likelihood of an accident goes way down. If you can find someplace to set it up and practice it safely before you take them out, and have the time to repeat it enough to make sure you get it down then it is a worthwhile skill to have and use. SM's comment on training your people not to get things stuck in their devices is a good one, but getting them enough experience on rope to guarantee it won't happen will take time you might not have between now and when you're planning on going out so being able to rig a contingency isn't a bad idea, so long as you can do it safely. The idea behind a contingency anchor isn't that you think something bad will happen, but just in case it does. If the noobs are accident prone enough that you think its likely you will need the contingency you should probably not take them anyway.

  11. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by TommyBoy View Post
    The idea behind a contingency anchor isn't that you think something bad will happen, but just in case it does.
    I agree wholeheartedly with this. Assuming there isn't running water, I can think of at least one way to rescue a stuck rappeller that's doing a double rope rappel, even without an extra rope.

    Just to clarify, these aren't completely inexperienced canyoneers. I've taken them on a very basic canyon last year (U-Turn in arches, for those wondering) and done a pretty extensive rappelling workshop before that. Their knowledge is just short of being able to switch over to a prussic-based ascension mid-rappel.

    All in all, I think I will focus my energy into making my group more knowledgeable, rather than training myself to undo easy-to-prevent rookie mistakes. While contingency anchors are a cool little piece of tech that definitely have their place (and I'll probably add them to my toolbox soon), I personally feel comfortable without them for this trip, especially in canyons that I've been in multiple times.

    And finally, thanks for all the input so far. If I'm being blatantly stupid in any of my assertions, feel free to point it out. I'm all about safety, and I want to keep that in the forefront of my attention as I am excited to show my friends the beauty of canyons that I've experienced.

  12. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Kurly_Q View Post
    If I did want to isolate strands for a slightly faster group rappel, I think I'll go with a stone knot. Any thoughts on that?
    I think using stone knots to increase group speed is one of those things that looks great on paper. But,

    I always fear that the last person down will forget to untie the stone. Especially since the last person down is frequently not the person that set up the rappel. And because some of my friends are very forgetful. Oh, I just remembered, I'm forgetful too!

    So yeah, THEN, you'd have a big problem on your hands. Unless you have a rope jugging fetish.

    Instead of using stone knots I like bringing several ropes, creating a system for shuttling the ropes forward, and going with people that are fast with rope (like @TommyBoy). A tough combo to beat, speed wise.

    Quote Originally Posted by TommyBoy View Post
    If the noobs are accident prone enough that you think its likely you will need the contingency you should probably not take them anyway.
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  13. #8
    I think that using a contingency 8 is a good idea. But not like what is shown in the picture you posted. I use what is called a figure 8 block. It is just as quick to rig as a clove hitch block, but gives you the option to lower people of needed.
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  15. #9
    The munter mule contingency rig is also a good rig to use when setting up practice rappel stations. Requires minimal gear, and can let you lower someone easily if needed. I Have needed to use these systems a few times when leading youth groups. Very good skills to learn and know how to use.
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  17. #10
    Bogley BigShot oldno7's Avatar
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    So---having one do repetitious rapels makes rapelling accidents close to zero.

    But trying a contingency rigging once, deems them complicated.

    Could it even be possible that a little practice with a contingency system would make them simple?

    Nahh--thats crazy talk--unless maybe you're dangling from a rope because you made a poor choice

    and have no hope of being rescued without putting your group in peril--nahh, couldn't happen.

    Double strand away.......It's simple and safe, until it's not...
    I'm not Spartacus


    Boycotting imlay canyon gear because I value access

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  19. #11
    Content Provider Emeritus ratagonia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kurly_Q View Post
    Believe it or not, these were the responses I was secretly hoping for...
    Then you certainly posted on the correct forum!

    In the event of a stuck rappeler, I've always had a second rope and planned to do pick-offs.


    The pickoff is the most difficult, most complicated, slowest and most dangerous rescue technique on hand. Experienced rescuers consider it the absolute last resort. So NO, you are not going to do that, and you should not be under the illusion that you can pull that off. With an extra rope, you might be able to slide down there and assist them in freeing themselves, which is a whole lot easier than doing a pickoff. In training guides, I have seen otherwise rational, experienced, smart, technically-savvy guide-trainees make a mistake which could have killed both rescuer and rescuee. Whistle blown, training session aborted.

    The Figure-of-Eight thing you showed pictures of is not a contingency anchor setup. It is a semi-contingency complication, and I don't really see how it helps. If you are going to go that route, I suggest using a simple, actually contingent anchor setup.

    THIS forum is populated by canyoneers who have disdain for technical knowledge, and for whom nothing will ever go wrong in a canyon. I am the president of the "A**hole canyoneers" who think that knowing what you are doing in the canyons is a good idea, especially before you take out noobs and place them under your care. I consider canyoneering to be a CRAFT, and part of the point is to develop you own personal craft and improve your method. Analogy: The first bookcase I made is a mess, but the 100th bookcase I make is a thing of beauty. The difference being that when I screw up the dados on my third bookcase (first one with dados), I am not putting anyone's life at risk. My fingers perhaps, but...

    You have identified yourself here as TECHNICALLY-CURIOUS. You have also made clear that your technical skills are at the beginner level, known on Bogley as being an expert. I encourage you to socialize and party with the troglodytes here on Bogley, but not take technical advice from them. Start working on your craft, perhaps by canyoneering with people who know what they are doing; perhaps by paying for some training. I also suggest that your skill level is not appropriate for taking people through technical canyons, except the easiest of such, such as the Subway and Orderville.

    SORRY to be the party pooper in this love-fest of the anti-technical 'canyoneers'... NOT!

    Tom :moses;

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  21. #12
    I am a huge fan of setting contingency anchors. This goes to an argument a few weeks ago on DRT vs. SRT again. Setting a contingency is allowing yourself an option to resolve a situation if it occurs quickly. A Pickoff puts more people at risk than just the one hanging on the rope that is stuck. A contingency anchor is a viable option to quickly get someone off the rope and resolve the issue without putting another person at risk. I have been guiding for over a decade and while it would make obvious sense to use a contingency in a guided scenario, I use a lot of contingency setups on personal trips. It just makes sense to set it up for a release if necessary.

    That being said, the picture in the original thread is not a contingency anchor. It is a 1/2 contingency 1/2 stone knot of some sort., but would be extremely difficult to use as a contingency when loaded.

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  23. #13
    All politics aside...
    Desi and I part of the "Vegas crew" and have been tutored under the likes of Parker Simper (canyon guide) and other local talents.
    Our experience (in canyons, and in numerous practice/training sessions) would lead us to concur with Tom's technical assertions.
    Suggest you hook up with qualified canyon instructors or individuals to learn 'the ropes'.
    We have an excellent meetup group in Vegas where Parker and others organize very popular canyon training seminars.
    There are many good resources (professional instruction) in California, Utah, and Nevada.
    And Ratagonia himself sometimes guides/teaches thru Zion Adventure Company in Springdale.
    We think you will really appreciate professional instruction.
    We have!
    Best
    Todd and Desi

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  25. #14
    Wow, this blew up! I guess this is the internet, so I'm not exactly surprised.

    First off, I would like to clarify that I by no means claim to be a master of technical ropework.
    Also, I agree with Ratagonia, and I am most definitely not planning on taking any noobs down anything more than easy, short, canyons with minimal water.

    Also, I understand that even with the most experienced canyoneers, accidents CAN AND WILL happen, and having a large and varied technical toolbox is sometimes the only way to deal with scenarios that may not have been considered beforehand.

    And finally, my statement about "making a pickoff" was mis-spoken. Instead of "a stuck rappeller," I should have said "A stuck and unconscious rappeller." THAT is the scenario in which I think performing a pickoff is essentially the only option in the event contingency anchors were not used. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    In the scenario of a stuck and conscious rappeller without a visual sightline to the top, I agree that lowering down, assessing the situation, and attempting to help them free themselves is the best course of action.

    Now...moving forward!

    Moving forward, I've decided to forget about isolating both strands to have the group go "faster." (I will learn the skill for future canyons in which time saved translates to safety, but for the canyons and group size I'm thinking about for this trip, it really doesn't make sense)

    Also, I will practice the munter-mule contigency anchor until I could make it in my sleep, as I have previous experience giving a top-managed belay with a munter, and I like the simplicity.

    Also, mentioning simplicity, I think this would be a good time to clarify something:
    I have no aversion to having and applying advanced technical knowledge to canyoneering. I do, however, believe that everything should be balanced with simplicity. Personally, I believe that unneeded complicated systems can lead to accidents, even with practice. There is a time, place, and scenario for every system, but applying over-complicated techniques to simple situations is just asking for trouble. (Reference: Why performing a pick-off with a simple stuck rappeller is a stupid idea and not what I meant to say earlier)

    And finally, thanks for the discussion, suggestions, and correction. I have indeed changed my mind about a couple things through the posts here.
    It is good to be proven wrong and I appreciate the humbling. I will put the safety above personal pride any day.
    Thanks again, all!
    Last edited by Kurly_Q; 02-09-2015 at 04:18 PM. Reason: spelling errors and such

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  27. #15
    Bogley rules. I wasn't aware of any other canyoneering forums existence. I'll have to look into that.

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    I do not think of canyoneering as a craft. It is a hobby. If you add gears and cogs and dovetails and dados to it, canyoneering is still just a hobby. If you shove sparklers up you ass then light them while you are on rappel, canyoneering is still just a hobby.

    @Kurly_Q, don't shy away from you initial reaction. Learn the fun little rope tricks then store them somewhere in the wrinkles of your brain. They probably won't come in handy, but they might. My argument is that those skills should be used when they are really, REALLY needed.

    I'm not anti-technical or anti-intellectual. I AM anti-excessive-complexity. The introduction of excessive complexity to the hobby of canyoneering adds more problems than it solves. (Fiddlesticks. Contingency anchors. Niacin.)

    When you say 'stereo' I think:

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    Tom thinks:

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    and oldnumber7 thinks:

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    But hey, I think of buying a ghetto blaster as a CRAFT.

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  29. #16
    And in response to Tom's little melt down.... I'm still trying to figure out some canyoneers think they need to complicate something as simple as a rappel? In dry canyons I normally just tread my rope through and go.... nothing is faster, nothing is more simple.... and I'll argue nothing is safer....

    Now I use the other methods when I have a reason... say I'm on a long rap and using a pull cord…. Or I have beginners I'm worried about needing to lower…..

    One of my biggest beefs/complaints is that a lot of folks take simple rigging and make it complicated…. There is a reason most the accidents and death's involve complicating the rigging...

    I practice KISS - Keep it Simple Stupid.

    I Fell 106 Feet. And Lived
    http://www.bogley.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=15131

    Heaps Accident
    http://www.bogley.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=7204

    Pine Creek Accident
    http://www.bogley.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=13057

    Englestead Accident
    http://www.bogley.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=17627

    Pine Creek: SAR in Zion
    http://www.bogley.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=8285

    All the accidents listed above were a result (at least partially) of complicating the rigging.... More parts.... more crap that can go wrong....

    Ratagonia should certainly remember the Heaps death, that's the accident where he left the beginners to fend for themselves so he could make the Pizza noodle before closing.


  30. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Kurly_Q View Post
    Moving forward, I've decided to forget about isolating both strands to have the group go "faster." (I will learn the skill for future canyons in which time saved translates to safety, but for the canyons and group size I'm thinking about for this trip, it really doesn't make sense)

    Also, I will practice the munter-mule contigency anchor until I could make it in my sleep, as I have previous experience giving a top-managed belay with a munter, and I like the simplicity.

    Also, mentioning simplicity, I think this would be a good time to clarify something:
    I have no aversion to having and applying advanced technical knowledge to canyoneering. I do, however, believe that everything should be balanced with simplicity. Personally, I believe that unneeded complicated systems can lead to accidents, even with practice. There is a time, place, and scenario for every system, but applying over-complicated techniques to simple situations is just asking for trouble. (Reference: Why performing a pick-off with a simple stuck rappeller is a stupid idea and not what I meant to say earlier)
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  31. #18
    ..
    Utah is a very special and unique place. There is no where else like it on earth. Please take care of it and keep the remaining wild areas in pristine condition. The world will be a better place if you do.

  32. #19
    Content Provider Emeritus ratagonia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kurly_Q View Post
    And finally, my statement about "making a pickoff" was mis-spoken. Instead of "a stuck rappeller," I should have said "A stuck and unconscious rappeller." THAT is the scenario in which I think performing a pickoff is essentially the only option in the event contingency anchors were not used. Correct me if I'm wrong.
    Pickoff still unlikely to be the best solution. Convert to lower and lower. Possible have an attendant rap down next to them to help out with the lower.

    Faster, safer, easier.

    CONVERSION is the most useful rescue tool. It takes training and practice.

    Tom

  33. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by ratagonia View Post
    Pickoff still unlikely to be the best solution. Convert to lower and lower. Possible have an attendant rap down next to them to help out with the lower.

    Faster, safer, easier.

    CONVERSION is the most useful rescue tool. It takes training and practice.

    Tom
    If the patient is weighting both ropes, and the rope is just fed through a quicklink at the top (No alternate anchor used), how would you convert to a lower without a second rope? I can think of a way to do it if you were able to get to the patient and transfer their weight onto only one of the ropes...But otherwise, I'm not sure that's possible.

    Again, using something better than just feeding the rope through the quicklink to anchor at the top would mitigate this scenario before it even arose, and is the wise thing to do.... but without an extra rope, I'm not sure converting to a lower is possible in this scenario.

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