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Attaching to Trad Climbing Anchors

Updated: Jan 13, 2023

This is a short article covering a few ways of attaching to trad climbing anchors using the climbers rope.

There are two categories that this can be split into those are "In Reach" and "Out of Reach" Anchors.

In Reach Anchor Set Up

The first system we are going to look at is the "In Reach" system. The term "In Reach" is referring to whether the climber can reach the anchors once they are positioned to belay the second. The best way of looking at this is when my second is climbing would I be in a position to reach the carabiners on my anchors if the second has weighed the rope.

When selecting anchors there are many factors to consider which we will cover in a separate article but the major one which is applicable to this article in the nemonic ABC.

A - Anchor

B - Belay

C - Climber (Second)

The above is essentially referring to having as near as possible straight line from your Anchors to you, the Belayer, then down to your Climber. This will ensure a nice even load on the Belayer and the Anchors, if the Climber weights the rope. It also means the Belay and Belayer won't get pulled sideways or at a funny angle which might mean they are unable to belay safely.

Once you have selected your anchors and the position you are going to belay from you can then make a decision on what system you are going to use.

Top Tip, once you have your first anchor in place clip your rope. This anchor acts like a runner just in case you take a slip whilst constructing your belay!

Once you have constructed your second anchor you can then start the process of equalising the belay set up. At the fist anchor make a clove hitch and adjust this so it is nice and snug on you from there you need some slack before you tie another clove hitch on the second anchor.

This loop of slack is important as it acts as an isolation if either anchor fails the remaining anchor will not get shock loaded.

Finally from the second clove hitch run the rope back towards your harness and tie another clove hitch onto a screw gate carabineer attached to your rope loop. This once again needs to be adjust so its nice and snug on you from that anchor.

If you was to add a third anchor into the system you would need to use a slightly different method of attaching to that anchor. See the "Out of Reach" method below for details on that.

Attaching to 2 anchors in reach
Anchors In Reach using the climbers rope

Attaching to in reach anchors
In Reach Anchor Set Up


Out of Reach Anchor Set Up

So moving on from the "In Reach" system we have the "Out of Reach" system. This system is for when you cannot reach your anchors from your belaying position. I would suggest the same top tip applies from above; after your first piece of gear clip your rope to it as a runner.

Lead climber attached to anchors out of reach using the climbers rope
Attaching to anchors out of reach

Start off by clipping the rope through the first anchors carabiner and run this back to a screwgate carabiner on your rope loop connected via a clove hitch. Ensure this is nice and snug on you and the anchor whilst you're positioned in your belaying spot. Now take the rope from your clove hitch on your rope loop to the second anchor and do exactly the same as you did for the first anchor, running the rope through the anchors carabiner and then attached to same screwgate carabiner on your rope loop via a clove hitch. Once adjusted, both double strands of rope should be nice and snug on you and the anchor in your belaying position, making sure ABC applies.

Top Tip is ensure you have a big screwgate carabiner for attaching your clove hitches onto. The DMM Boa is great for this with a big gate opening.
Climber attached to anchors using the climbers rope at the top of a climb
Climber belaying at the top of Central Groove, Dewerstone (HS 4b)

The method above can be slightly adjusted to stop you going backwards and forwards to your anchors (like you would end up doing if using the above method).

Once you have clipped the rope through the first anchor also clip the rope through the second anchor, you will now have a loop between the two anchors pull this towards you as you get your self in your belaying position.

Use that loop to create your first clove hitch and adjust it so its tight on you and the first anchor. You will now have a strand of rope going from that clove hitch up to the second anchor and back down to your second.

Use that rope to make your second clove hitch and adjust to ensure it's tight on the second anchor.

Top Tip for the Out of Reach system is ensure your screwgate carabiner on your rope loop has the gate facing out towards the final anchor so you can stack the clove hitches in as you tie them.

Now, this method above is great but you can get yourself in a right tangle so practice and see how it goes.

If you have any questions on any of the methods above then please do get in touch with us.


To learn the skills covered above with a qualified instructor please see either our Trad Learn To Lead Courses or our Bespoke Climbing Courses.

Badge of the Association Of Mountaineering Instructors full members must hold a minimum of Mountaineering & Climbing Instructor Qualification
Association Of Mountaineering Instructors

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