Ropework for traditional climbing - tying in to anchors
Reduce the time you spend fiddling around trying to get the belay right and improve safety at the same time by adopting a simple and foolproof system.

Ropework for traditional climbing - tying in to anchors

At the top of a climb you may be feeling exhilarated or exhausted, so you require a system that is simple, foolproof and one that can be adapted to every situation. Here we concentrate on the mechanics of 'tying in'. Once at the stance, place a piece of gear quickly and clip it as a runner to protect yourself while you move around the ledge and find other positions.

How many?

A single anchor point is rarely sufficient unless it is a massive tree or huge solid block. Two bombproof anchors are often adequate but if one of these is suspect, add a third and even a fourth. If the best anchors are off to one side from your belaying position add an extra one to help prevent you being pulled sideways.

Equalised anchors
Equalised anchorsThere are many ways to attach yourself to the anchors but whichever you use, keep them:
  • Loaded equally - The tension from you to each anchor should be the same so that they share the load.
  • Independently tied off - If one anchor fails there should be no shock-loading of the others.
  • With a small angle between the two anchors (60 degrees or less) - As this angle increases so does the load transmitted to the anchor (at 120 degrees the load is doubled)
  • Easy to adjust - A combination of clove hitch and figure of eights makes the system quick and easy to adjust.
Method using the rope
  • Single anchor within arm's reach. Clove hitch directly to a screwgate on the anchor.
  • Single anchor out of arm's reach. Clip rope through the anchor karabiner, walk back to edge and tie off with a clove hitch on a screwgate attached to the rope loop or with a figure of eight on a bight or fold through the rope loop.
  • Two anchors within arms reach. Clove hitch to anchor one, clove hitch to anchor two leaving the rope slack in between. Tie off back at harness as above.
  • Two anchors out of reach. Simply duplicate the system in number 2.  

In some situations it may be simpler to centralise the anchors to one tie in point with a sling and then use the single anchor tying methods detailed above. Reasons for doing this could be if the leader intends to lead all the pitches so it facilitates the change over at the stance, or when climbing as a party of three (which can result in considerable rope confusion). When climbing as a pair and switching leads each pitch there is not much to be gained from using slings unless the pitch is very long and you want to minimise the amount of rope used in the belay.

Although it seems very simple, tying into the anchors requires some thought and practise to achieve an efficient and safe system

Method using slings

Any system that meets the key objectives for linking anchors is fine, the most efficient methods are detailed here:
  • Attach a sling to each anchor and adjust with overhand knots to equalise.
  • Divide a long sling using one of the following:
  • Overhand knot in single sling at load point, clip karabiner through both halves of sling.
  • Clip both anchors and tie overhand knot in the double sling to form loop.
  • Clove hitch both anchors and tie overhand knot to create loop.
Belaying position
  • As you adjust the tension to the anchors, manoeuvre yourself into the optimum position.
  • Stand or sit in a direct line between your anchors and the anticipated direction of pull.
  • If possible, position yourself so you can see your partner.
  • Get comfortable and allow the anchors to hold your weight, you may be there for some time.
  • Ensure there is no slack - otherwise you'll be pulled forward or worse, pulled off your ledge, and you'll shock load the anchors.
  • Ensure that you can operate the belay device effectively without your controlling arm being obstructed by the rock.  

Although it seems very simple, tying into the anchors requires some thought and practise to achieve an efficient and safe system. This checklist should help.
  • Are you in the optimum position in relation to the ledge, the anchors and the climber?
  • Are you tied snugly to the anchors ensuring they are equally loaded, independently tied off and making an angle of about 60 degrees?
  • Can you operate the belay plate effectively?
  • Have you checked all anchors, knots and karabiners?


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