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Natural Top Rope Anchors Clinic

July 13 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm


PATC is excited to offer a natural top rope anchor building clinic this summer. Topics will cover knots, anchors, rope management  & care, edge safety, and anchor building practice.

Please bring the following:

  • Helmet
  • Harness
  • Belay Device
  • Snacks & Water
  • If you have them:
    • toprope anchor setup – static line and two locking carabiners
    • Prusik loop

Please review the following before class. Anchor principles, Friction hitches, Bowline knots (please note what he refers to as an improved Bowline is actually a double Bowline and what he calls a double Bowline is actually a Bowline on a bight… I know it’s confusing, we will go over it ad nauseam in class).

Please note that this is not a guided event and none of our trip leaders are professional guides. Our volunteers are not vetted and have varying levels of formal instruction. You will be climbing on ropes set up by members of the club who are hobby climbers and not professionals. Climbing is an inherently dangerous sport and you do so at your own risk. You are responsible for yourself and your own safety at all times.

To cancel your reservation, go back to the event page scroll down to the RSVP portion. Click the red “view your RSVP” text and it will take you to another page where you can change your RSVP from “going” to “not going”. Guest registrations will not be accepted for this event. All attendees must register individually.

Key points, courtesy of Marty Comisky, education chair

– In other parts of the country, it is often common to encounter bolted anchors at the top. That is not the case here at Carderock, Great Falls, Sugarloaf and many other local climbing areas. Bolted anchors are easy to rig – 2 slings or quickdraws with some lockers and you are good to go.

This clinic will only address natural anchors, trees and boulders. No gear anchors.
– trees – healthy, suitable size, well rooted, etc.
– boulders – boulder (and outcroppings) size, stability, slope of cliff edge, etc.
Webbing can be used to construct anchors, but static line is much more robust and user friendly. We will concentrate on using only static line in this clinic.

Useful knots to know:
– figure 8 (includes threaded 8 and 8 on a bight)
– bowline (with backup)
– friction hitch (prussic or other)
– clove hitch
– BHK – big honking knot
– there are other knots that may make your life easier, but these will cover almost all scenarios

If you do any reading in the climbing literature you will find numerous acronyms for building anchors – ERNEST, SERENE, NERDSS and there are others. These checklists/guidelines are primarily for building gear anchors for single and multipitch trad climbing.

Top rope anchors tend to be overbuilt as compared to trad climbing; not because they need to be stronger, but rather that they are used many times and are often totally out of sight and unsupervised and are continually being loaded when lowering.

– Setting up your anchor. Basic format – after arriving at top of cliffs:
– locate route
– with back to route, extend arms ( ~60 degrees) and identify suitable anchors
– attach anchor material to first anchor
– throw sufficient rope over cliff edge
– attach rest of anchor material to second anchor
– approach cliff edge (with prussic leash if necessary) with all the material you need (2 lockers, climbing rope, etc.)
– adjust location and tension in the 2 anchor arms to best distribute the load and tie BHK (there are other suitable knots)
– pad edge if necessary
– lower/ drop rope to base of climb


July 13
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm


Caroline Mosher


Billy Goat Trail C - North Parking Lot
Potomac, Maryland 20854 United States
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