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Abalakov Anchors: aka "V" threads


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I'd be really curious to get some feedback on protocol for Abalakov (sp?) anchors for rappeling. When you set one up, should you expect that someone else might use it? If so, then should you put a rap ring on it or one of those screw-shut chain links from the hardware store so your rope doesn't burn the perlon? What do you do when you come across one in place? How safe is it? How many rope pulls render it "unsafe" if there is no ring or link? In the summer, is a bunch of perlon at the bottom of a climb any better/worse than conduit? I usually back up the first person rapping with a screw, but pull it for the last person. Is this the best way? What do you think?

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Obviously the first thing you want to do is closely inspect the abalakov anchor that is in place.

Pull the perlon through and visually inspect it for deep burns or for hard flat spots. If you suspect it, then replace it with some of your own, or make a second abalakov below the first one and use the first as a backup.

Also make sure you inspect the ice quality around the threads. If in doubt don't be lazy. Build another one of your own.

Yes, you should ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS back up the first and heaviest person on the initial and others on subsequent rappels/lowers. Only the last person would not be backed up by the screw. The screws sling should leave some slack between itself and the abalakovs. Remember you are testing the ice anchor and not the validity of your screw. The screw is a backup only.

There are incidents of people failing to follow this simple precaution and accidents have occurred including one this year that I know of. Someone clipped through a tail of an in place anchor, did not back it up and leaned back for the 120m ice dart. Not fun and terminal. If they had placed a screw they would have lived another day and would probably be laughing about the incident.

I have yet to see an abalakov that is threaded with a rap anchor such as a ring. Just carry a bunch of 7mm. You can also use webbing. It is valid.

Ethics are ethics, but you have to make a decision that might affect your life. I'm sure most of us can live with a little perlon at the base of an ice climb after the meltage.

Don't forget your hooker on the ground or your screw will become booty!

Mike http://alpinelite.com

[This message has been edited by mikeadam (edited 02-27-2001).]

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Regarding the "perlon at the base" issue,

1) pack rats and snafflehounds eat this stuff, remember

2) if you're there in the spring or summer you can always pick it up and carry it out

3) better perlon at the base than conduit

4) evaluate the abalakov slings just like you'd evaluate slings around a possibly loose block high on an alpine route. If they look good to you go for it. If they scare you add a new one or two. Webbing is cheap. Dead people can't spend the money they saved on webbing.

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A point about V-threads that may not be well known: In good ice when tested to failure, it is often the sling material that fails and not the ice. The point at which the sling fails is the sharp angle where the screw holes intersect. If before you tie the sling into a loop, you saw it vigorously back and forth through the hole, you can increase the radius of the edge that the sling is loaded over and significantly improve the quality of the anchor.

I always clip V-threads on lead; usually with a load-limiting runner.

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Along with all of the previously mentioned good advice, here is some more food for thought.

check out the dec. 4th report posted at the canadian rockies "current climbing & avalanche report" site. page down to the dec. 4, british climber accident report. http://www.compusmart.ab.ca/resqdyn/oldcond/Dec00con.htm

What a tragedy.

I always back my v thread's up with an equalized second thread.

Consider that the surface ice can change to crap, as conditions change, and affecting previously installed and fixed v threads.

One trick that really helps speed up the installation of v-threads is having filed your thread tool to a "prickly" sharp fine point on the hook. As a result I almost always hook the thread on the first try. Put a rubber cap that slides over the hook tip and up the shaft to keep it from hooking in to you or your gear while not in use.

Climb safe!


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Back to the original couple questions you asked, unless you have a stong reason to suspect that someone will be using your anchor right away - assume that you are the only one who will use it. With that said you can probably forgoe the rap ring or quick link (or old carabiner) if you feel like it. (Everyone else covered the question of what to do if you come across an existing anchor and the ethics of littering.)

For what it is worth - if you have retired an old rope (ideally 8 to 9mm) you might want to cut it up for V-thread anchors. The beefiness should give you some sense of security and if someone else happens to use your anchor for any reason it is less likely to be damaged after you pull your line.

Always, IMHO.

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  • 3 years later...
Don't forget your hooker on the ground or your screw will become booty!<P>Mike <A HREF="http://alpinelite.com" TARGET=_blank>http://alpinelite.com</A> <BR><p>[This message has been edited by mikeadam (edited 02-27-2001).]


In Will Gadd's book on ice and mixed climbing, he mentions using a spectra sling to "catch" the perlon and fish it out.


I played around with this a week ago, and found that it works well in the following situation:

1) Your holes intersect nearly perfectly.

2) You can push the perlon roughly an inch past [through] the spectra sling.


Having a hook is certainly a lot less sketch (and lets you thread webbing and other stuff), but it's a good trick to keep in the back of your mind nonetheless.

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I think it is good advice to assume that you are the only one using it. I always leave an old biner anytime I am rapping off of webbing. Ice climbs tend to be wet places, and with wet webbing or cord it is hard to pull the ropes through. (also, wet webbing is way weaker, but thats a different story). The last time I didn't leave a biner on a webbing rap was on an alpine route in south america, and the ropes froze to the webbing, and one of us had to prussik back up and leave a biner anyway.


V-threads can get stronger or weaker after you are done using it. In some cases, I've yanked webbing out of a v-thread with my hand, in other cases, I have trusted old v-threads with my life, after inspecting the webbing and noting that the holes had filled with water, and then frozen.

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