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Canyoneering Anchors: What To Know

Canyoneering is a technical sport that requires several technical skills. One of these is knowing how and where to place anchors.

In the course of canyoneering, you’ll no doubt come across canyons that require you to descend them. To do this, you’ll need the use of ropes and some kind of anchor.

The two types of anchors to choose from are:

  1. Natural anchors. These are made using the features naturally found in the canyon such as trees or rocks.
  2. Artificial anchors. If the canyon has inadequate natural features or the ones available are unsuitable, you can construct artificial anchors. This is done by fixing bolts and hangers typically on rocks or trees. It’s advisable that this is done by experts who know what they are doing because you’ll be staking your life on the strength of the anchor.

What to consider when placing anchors:

  1. Safety.

Descending canyons means you’ll be risking your life or serious injury especially if you use unsteady or improper anchors. To ensure you have an efficient, safe and fast descent at least one member of the party should know how to judge the suitability and safety of any anchors you may come across as well as know how to place both natural and artificial anchors.

  1. Environmental Impact.

As a canyoneer, you should practice responsible canyoneering including minimum impact practices. Here’s how you can do that as far as anchors are concerned:

  • Use natural anchors where possible.
  • This eliminates the need to put up additional unnecessary artificial anchors.

  • Consider the health of natural anchors before use.
  • If you want to place a natural anchor, ensure that you inspect the tree or rock for damage. For instance, if a tree is in an area with heavy canyoning traffic, constant use as an anchor might kill it.

    • Locate and use artificial anchors that others have placed.

    It’s good practice to find and use artificial anchors that others have already placed. Don’t remove previous anchors unless they are obviously unsafe. If you do have to remove them, do so cleanly and do your best to return the rock to its previous natural appearance.

  • Be careful where you decide to place artificial anchors.
  • Keep in mind that canyoneers aren’t the only ones who use canyons, hikers and other people do too. For this reason, avoid placing anchors in locations where they can inconvenience or endanger other canyon users. Additionally, only place as many anchors as you need as too many can mar an otherwise pristine view.

    Make a habit of cleaning up each anchor you encounter.

    • When you come across anchors, make a point of removing and replacing old webbing with a new one. Don’t just place the new webbing over the old as this can eventually lead to a messed tangle of webbing. Also, remember to take the old webbing with you as you leave instead of leaving it lying around.

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