I’m an advocate of creative approaches to ropes and rigging — both in training and in the field. These are the spaces that turn gears and illuminate light bulbs. These are the spaces where we evolve as vertical practitioners.
This little experiment all started with the simple pull of a magnet fixed to a refrigerator. The magnet popped off in my hand. “That must be around 5lbs of force,” I thought. I just wrapped up a section on load sharing anchors while leading a climb training for Greenpeace USA in the Summer of 2014 and curiosity got the best of me. Could I build an anchor out of these simple magnets? How many would it take? And so it began.
I weigh around 160lbs. Divide that by 5lbs (my estimate of how much force it took to pull the magnet off the fridge) and I was left with 32 — the minimum number of magnets needed to hold my weight. This is assuming that my estimate was accurate, that I would be able to equalize all the magnets ‘perfectly’ and that additional forces don’t exist when getting onto or suspended from an anchor. Knowing better I decided to double the amount but after searching the warehouse for every magnet available I was left with 51 magnets so 51 magnets it was.
My friend and fellow rope nerd, Van and I quickly got to work tying loops made from random bits of 2-4mm accessory cord to the plastic knobs on each magnet. These would become the individual anchor points for each of the 51 magnets.
photo by Basil Tsimoyianis
We divided these into clusters that we painstakingly equalized into seven load sharing anchors. These seven anchors were then brought together and equalized to create a single master point.
photo by Basil Tsimoyianis
The end result was one master point made from eight equalized anchors whose loads were shared across 51 individual anchor points – in this case magnets.
Untethered magnets will fall if they fail so if using this for training purposes don’t make the same mistakes pictured here – wear a helmet, have a separate belay line, and place a crash pad underneath you. Photo by Basil Tsimoyianis
The anchor was weight tested by people of varying sizes/weights and some even chose to bounce test it. Minimum breaking strength was never determined but I think it’s wise to call this one body weight only.
I’ll be the first to admit that this magnet anchor is not the most practical when it comes to field use but it’s an excellent training tool that highlights the concept of load sharing anchors and importance of equalization.
WARNING: Magnets are not reliable anchors. Using a magnet or magnets as life support can and will likely kill you. Untethered magnets will fall if they fail so if using this for training purposes don’t make the same mistakes pictured here – wear a helmet, have a separate belay line, and place a crash pad underneath you. Heck, grab yourself an umbrella while you’re at it. Have fun but be careful.
Rope work and safety checks are not mutually exclusive – if you disagree then I suggest you find a different way of interacting with the world.
It’s hard to find a “standard” safety checklist that’s perfect so take the time to adopt and modify one to your specific needs. This is crucial in avoiding ‘checklist fatigue’ – where points are read off or stated as if already checked and not properly accounted for. There’s no room for such negligence in climbing so be sure to create a checklist or system that works for you.
Below is an exhaustive rendition of the ABC Safety Check referenced and used by many climbers. Share these with others and modify them as needed. Your check list may shrink as you grow and gain experience but don’t let this lead to mistakes or missteps!
- What is the rope attached to?
- Assess the knots and their condition.
- Are the carabiners locked and oriented correctly?
- What is the condition of the climb line?
- Rope and edge protection where needed.
- Anchor angles less than 90 degrees.
- Equalized, redundant, no extension, strong.
BELT & BUCKLES
- Harness belt above hips and tightened.
- Check condition.
- Double backed.
- Loose straps tucked back.
- Leg loops fastened and snug.
- Helmet strap fastened.
- Check all connections inline (carabiner to lanyard to you).
- All carabiners locked and oriented correctly.
- Screw links/delta locked and oriented correctly.
- Are your lanyard knots dressed and weighted?
- What is the condition of your lanyard line?
- Check all devices you will be using.
- Which lines are your devices attached to? Are they correct?
- How many points of protection do you have?
- Check proper function of devices (moves up, moves down, holds you when locked).
END OF ROPE
- Rope on the ground or long enough to reach your destination.
- Clear of tangles (properly stacked if using a bag).
- Stopper knot at the end of rope or fixed to bag.
FRIENDS AND FEELINGS
- Where’s your buddy?
- How will you communicate? Verbal, radio, hand signals, etc.
- Check in with your buddy. Talk through plan or concerns as needed.
- How do you feel? Headspace, fatigue, hydration, etc.
- What’s the plan?
- What will you be doing?
- Do you have all the gear you need to make it happen?
- Is your gear organized and racked?
- Nothing hanging below your knee.
HELMET & HAIR
- Is your helmet in safe working order?
- Buckle closed and helmet secure.
- Hair tucked and out of the way.
Artwork by Cy Wagoner