The Top Rope Anchor Course is one of the most popular courses I teach. We cover lot of information in those first couple days out and I’m often asked “what kind of climbing anchor equipment should I buy now?”
Following is a list of equipment you’ll need for top rope climbing in Connecticut complete with tips on what to buy and gear you should stay away from. The focus here is on rigging anchors from natural protection i.e. trees, boulders and horns.
WAIT UNTIL YOU KNOW FOR SURE
If you’re thinking about purchasing your own top rope rig wait until after you take a course. Practicing with the guides equipment will allow you to make more informed decisions on what to buy. Keep in mind that retailers often (or probably should) have policies against returning safety equipment.
KNOW THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF YOUR GEAR
When it comes to safety equipment it’s best to stay away from used gear, especially products made of nylon (i.e. ropes, harnesses, etc). Carabiners can last indefinitely but harnesses and ropes have a life span of only a few years for most users. Retire your equipment in accordance with manufacturer specifications and store in a cool, dry and chemical-free environment – contamination is to be avoided at all costs.
PURCHASE EQUIPMENT MANUFACTURED SPECIFICALLY FOR CLIMBING
It seems obvious but avoid re-purposing ropes, harnesses and safety equipment from other activities, hardware stores and marine supply shops. Despite the labels strength ratings you may find the wear properties, intended uses and ability to hold knots are not appropriate for climbing.
Look for a CE and/or UIAA marks to ensure the equipment has been tested and meets minimum requirements for use in climbing.
Here’s your top rope anchor shopping list
Helmet (one for each member of your party)
Dynamic Climbing Rope (60m)
(6) Locking Carabiners (HMS, Pear Shape)
(1-2) Cordelette (7mm, ~20')
(2) Sewn Slings (120cm, 240cm)
Brake Assist Belay Device (GriGri, Cinch, Matik, etc)
If you climb outdoors (especially around here) you must wear a helmet for protection from falling objects i.e. loose rock at Ragged Mountain and airborne glass bottles at Pinnacle Rock.
Recommendation: Buy a lightweight helmet you like, cover it in stickers and don’t skimp on the price. You’re far more likely to carry and wear a helmet you like it vs. one of those heavy miners helmets we used to wear.
You’ll want a long low-elongation rope to reach those far away trees and blocks common at Connecticut crags. Stay away from spooled webbing – the durability of a static rope vs. tubular webbing will dramatically increase the security of your anchors.
Recommendation: Nearly all major climbing rope manufacturers are making good static ropes. Your static rope should be 10mm or greater in diameter and about 40 to 50 meters long. Buy dark solid colors not easily confused with your dynamic climbing ropes.
I like to use the Sterling 3/8″ SuperStatic2 in our climbing school.
DYNAMIC CLIMBING ROPE
Which dynamic rope you choose has much to do with the terrain and type of climbing you like to do. For top rope climbing in Connecticut you’ll want something a little thicker for durability and at least 60 meters in length to reach the tallest climbs at Ragged Mountain.
Recommendation: Look for a dynamic rope between 10-10.2mm in diameter x 60 meters in length. Dry treated ropes will cost a little more but tend to be stronger and last longer that non-treated lines.
SIX (6) LOCKING CARABINERS
You’ll want to have several locking carabiners available in addition to the ones you used to belay. Most anchors will use at least three and you’ll find the extras useful for rigging ground anchors, rappel backups and a myriad other uses.
Recommendation: Avoid small D and modified D shaped locking carabiners. You’ll often need to clip bulky knots and master-points that require a larger gate opening. Pear and large D shaped carabiners work well in top rope anchors.
A necessity for tying off trees, flakes, blocks or for equalizing multiple pieces of protection into a single anchor point. So useful you might want two!
SEWN NYLON SLINGS
Slings come in a variety of lengths, strengths and materials. For top rope anchors you may want to have a couple longer runners available. For top rope anchors use thicker nylon or dyneema blend slings for their durability and strength – you probably want to avoid the super-thin, lightweight dyneema slings meant for lead and alpine climbing.
Recommendation: Carry (1) 120cm (double-length) sewn sling and (1) 240cm (quad-length).
BRAKE-ASSIST BELAY DEVICE
Increase your security while working near the edge with a brake assist belay device attached to your anchored working tail. Go hands-free with a bomber catastrophe knot within arms reach of the device. The brake assist devices are pricey but can also come in handy for self rescue, belaying from the top and belaying your partner while they hang-dog their project.
I like to use the Petzl GriGri 2 for securing myself at the cliff edge.
Self study is an important part of your continuing education in climbing. There’s a lot of questionable information out there. Be sure to learn from reputable sources.
Nothing can replace professional instruction but his book is one of the better printed sources of trusted and tested anchoring techniques.