One of the things I love about climbing is how we keep finding better ways of doing things. Sure, we get into ruts where we resist trying something different (why fix it if it ain’t broke mindset), but every 5-10 years I notice we make another leap forward because someone decided to think outside the box and try something new.
Most people who climb with me know I have an affinity for the “mini-Quad” when constructing my anchors. If you are not familiar with the “mini-Quad” check out my post and video about it here. The mini-Quad is still my “go to” choice when climbing in a party of three or more (mostly multi-pitch guiding), simply because having two separate master points is more comfortable for guests and helps with keeping things organized.
If I am climbing in a more common party of two though, I’m going to be using the Girth Hitch Carabiner Master Point a lot more frequently. It has some great advantages to other methods like;
Does not require long sling/cord material. For a typical two point anchor (bolts) a single shoulder length (60 cm) sling is sufficient.
It’s super fast to tie. Try it two or three times and you’ll see how fast you can build this.
It’s super fast to break-down. Since it is a “hitch” and not a hard “knot” once you remove the carabiner it vanishes. No welded dyneema knot to work on!
It’s redundant. Testing shows if one leg fails or gets cut (rockfall) the hitch will not slip! Compare this to a “sliding-x” anchor with the same length sling and this is definitely better if direction of load is close to uni-directional.
It’s “equalized” to the limitations of the physics. Yes true “equalization” isn’t quite possible but close enough.
It has zero extension should a leg fail.
All of this adds up to a great SERENE, RENE, ERNEST, NERDSS or whatever acronym you like when debating or evaluating the merits or flaws of an anchor.
It requires an extra locking carabiner to form a master point.
It is a “pre-equalized” method, meaning of the load direction changes you’ll lose load distribution (just like a tied off bight).
Every one is attaching to the same master-point, so for party’s of 3 I might more often opt for the mini-Quad
I plan on using one of my Black Diamond RockLock Magnetron carabiners as the master point carabiner for a couple reasons. It’s a fast carabiner to deploy and it auto-locks, but I prefer the added security of the style of locking mechanism since I am clove hitching myself into a separate locker attached to this master point locker, and will be belaying off a plaquette as well. While it should go without saying care needs to be taken when introducing this method, especially to newer climbers. Since the master point is a carabiner it is crucial no one mistakes this carabiner as their own attachment and removes it when perhaps taking the next lead. This perhaps is even more reason to use a Magnetron as the master carabiner and screw gate carabiners for your personal tether/clove hitch with rope attachments.
Regardless of what locker you use as the master point I would recommend having your belay plaquette set along the spine of the carabiner vs your own tether attachment for maximum strength and security.
Vs. The Clove Hitch Master Point Carabiner Method
Another similar looking method uses a clove hitch instead of a girth hitch to achieve many of the same advantages, however I find the girth hitch slightly faster and easier to tie.
The Girth Hitch Master Point Carabiner is a slick new solution to add to your repertoire. It is not a “solve-all” solution but based on context I can see this option being used efficiently and effectively in many situations. As with any new anchor skill practice on the ground first before you use it 100 feet off the deck. Seek proper instruction from qualified guides and instructors.
Originally introduced in the 2006 version of John Long’s Climbing Anchors book the “Quad” took a few years to start being adapted by both guides and recreational climbers alike. Now, ten years later, it has really started to gain widespread popularity for the simplified way it can create ERNEST* anchors, especially when building anchors on two solid pieces of protection (modern bolts, ice screws in solid ice). This past year I’ve been using a super light and rack-able version that I’ve been referring to as a “Mini-Quad”.
*ERNEST- Equalized, Redundant, No (limited) Extension, Timely
Building a Mini-Quad
To build a Mini-Quad start with a 120 cm Black Diamond Dynex Sewn Runner. These are often called “double length” slings as they are twice as long as your standard “shoulder length” sling. Double the runner and get the stitching positioned towards the end before tying the first of two over-hand knots.
The second overhand can be positioned about two inches from the other end of the doubled runner. When optimized the resulting Mini-Quad is about 16 inches long. Once you add two carabiners to it (I use Petzl S Ange Wire Gate Carabiners) your Mini-Quad is ready to be racked or deployed for multiple uses.
Benefits of Dynex for building a Quad
A 120 cm 10mm ultralight Dynex runner weighs 30% less than an nylon runner but more importantly it does not absorb water like nylon making it great for ice climbing and getting caught in the rain on a long alpine route. A nylon double length is also too bulky to get the required over-hand knots to form a use-able size of Mini- Quad. This Dynex runner is also 1/4 of the weight of an 18 foot 6mm cordelette and racks like a quick-draw.
Limitation of using Dynex for building a Quad
It should be noted that due to the slippery nature of Dynex the overhand knots used in the construction of the Mini-Quad will tighten significantly over a few days of use. They can become difficult to impossible to untie. I’ve decided to leave these “built” for the entirely of the material life span. For those concerned over the potential reduction in material strength due to the overhand knot I offer the following justification. Conservative testing indicates an overhand can reduce the material strength up to 40%. These runners are tested to 22 Kn, or about 5000 pounds. The most conservative estimates leave 3000 pounds of strength in the material. Given the redundancy of the Quad construction I find this a non-issue. As with all knots and material used in climbing one should inspect them at every use for damage, excessive abrasion, etc.
Uses of the Mini-Quad
This is one versatile tool and I carry two on my harness. The obvious use is in anchor construction. When arriving at a belay station with two modern bolts it takes less than 10 seconds to construct an ERNEST anchor with the Mini-Quad. For sport climbing this speed and simplicity should encourage climbers to choose this method over the popular practice of just using two quickdraws, especially if your group will be top-roping the route for awhile.
In building traditional anchors I still regularly deploy the Mini-Quad. Most of us build gear anchors from 3-4 pieces of protection. The most common method we see people deploy is the classic cordelette-method. While this creates an solid ERNEST anchor it’s downside is when considering the “T” in ERNEST… Timely. The cordelette takes quite a bit of time to deploy and more time to break down and rack when the second is on belay from above. It also requires a lot of material when we can often achieve an ERNEST anchor with little more than a Mini-Quad and perhaps one 2 foot runner. The key here is trying to arrange 2 or more of the pieces of our anchor so they can “be treated” as one. Here are some examples to illustrate this concept.
Before I move on to other uses of the Mini-Quad I feel the need for a disclaimer here. It’s well known that when someone posts pictures of what they feel are solid anchors they open themselves up to scrutiny. I’ll be happy to discuss these more in the comments below as long as the discussion is civil.
Other uses of the Mini-Quad
The Mini-Quad is an excellent extension for your rappel device should you choose to extend (common practice these days). Because I have two dedicated carabiners for my Mini-Quads the easiest way to use it in this configuration is to attach it to your belay loop with these two carabiners, gates reversed and opposed, then install your rappel device on the far end. This is a very strong redundant connection that does not require you to fish webbing through the tie in point of your harness (not always easy while ice climbing with cold hands). Not looping or girth-hitching a sling through your harness will also reduce wear over time. For the rappel device connection I highly prefer the Black Diamond Magnetron Gridlock, which uses one of the best designs for an “auto-locking” carabiner.
I also occasionally use a Mini-Quad as a regular runner while leading a wandering pitch. It doesn’t weigh much more than an alpine draw and functions as a very redundant 15 inch runner.
With proper application the Mini-Quad has the potential to streamline your anchor building in all facets of climbing. Sport climbers should embrace the added redundancy and better equalization than the dual quickdraw method so embraced today. Traditional climbers will notice an increase in speed for both construction and de-construction of traditional anchors especially on longer routes. Ice climbers will continue to embrace the benefits of the Quad but perhaps now with a lighter more rack-able solution. Guides and trip leaders who often have 3 people in a team will continue to utilize this option and perhaps carry less heavy/bulky cordelette material. If you’ve been using the Quad already check out this “Mini-Quad” version… I think you’ll like it!
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Disclaimer: Climbing is dangerous. You can be seriously injured or die. There is no substitute for personal instruction. Seek qualified instruction before attempting anything expressed above. There are no warranties expressed or implied that this post contains accurate information. You are solely responsible for your safety in the mountains.
This past Wednesday I attended one of Marc Chauvin’s Mountain Guide Manual Clinic’s; the first of three he is currently offering. I’ve heard rumors he will offer this in a few other locales outside of our Mount Washington Valley home turf and if one is offered in your area I would highly suggest you try to attend! If you can’t make one of the scheduled dates consider hiring Marc for a private day. The “guide of guides” who wrote the book on guiding is sure to give you a mind expanding day!
A friend who saw my Instagram story asked me what they should expect in a brief recap of the day and the type of material covered so I thought I could share that here for those who might be curious or on the fence.
First, if you are considering the clinic you absolutely need to buy the book first! A brief run through the first few chapters, especially the long chapters on various transition methods, will better prepare you for the day, but a solid understanding of any of it is not quite necessary (unless perhaps you are preparing for a guide exam and want to crush transitions). I’ll also say you don’t need to be or want to be a guide to benefit from this book or clinic. Two of my fellow clinic-mates where not guides and were there to become more proficient in their recreational climbing.
Marc will challenge the way you’ve been “doing things” for years. He will help everyone in the group re-program their climbing brains and get them thinking about things like “rope-end equations” and “back-side of the clove-hitch” in ways that actually simplify and streamline our processes. A simple example was introduced early in the day. We dissected how two climbers might climb a single pitch route with a single rope and then rig to rappel. Basically the “climbing to rappelling transition”.
Most of us would imagine both climbers tether into the anchor with slings, PAS’s, etc. untie from both ends, thread the rope, and rappel one at a time. Marc demonstrates how we can pull this off with greater security and speed by using what is already built instead of deconstructing and re-building a whole new system. This method also allows the leader to stay tied in, removes the need to tie a “stopper knot” in both rope ends, and is really pretty darn slick. This isn’t “rope trickery” but classic “think big picture/outside the box” type stuff. I’m not going to describe it fully here but it might make it into a future Tech Tip!
I’ve heard from a couple guides, some close friends, that they are kind of avoiding these “new” techniques. They want to stick with what they know and kind of have the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” type mindsets. I’d encourage any and all of my climbing acquaintances, friends, and colleagues to try to stay open minded in their full climbing careers, from day 1 to your last.
Seek to get better, learn more, go faster, safer, simpler, when ever and where ever you can. The fact that there is always something more to learn is what drove me to a career in mountain guiding and avalanche education. It is thrilling to know there is no finish line!
Thank you Marc for continuing to inspire and challenge me from the first course I attended in 2002 to today!