Tech Tip- The Mini-Quad

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.

Mini-Quad for climbing

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.

Mini-Quad for climbing

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.

Mini-Quad for climbing
Weighs less than a nylon quickdraw with non-wire gates
Mini-Quad for climbing
Racks like an ultralight quickdraw

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.

Mini-Quad for climbing
In this three piece trad anchor we have a solid nut that I extended with a quick draw so that “leg” would be close to what I did next… the Black Diamond C4 Ultralight Camalots were able to be adjusted in the crack so that I could clip them as “one”. This creates an ERNEST anchor with a minimum amount of material and is very fast to construct and break-down and rack.  A critical eye might point out the .5 cam is not sharing the load but there is less than a cm of slack should the bomber .75 cam fail.
IMG_1586.jpg
This anchor has two solid pitons and I added a Black Diamond .3 X4 Camalot. This placement could be moved higher in the crack until I could clip it to the right “leg” of the Mini-Quad with its own carabiner. This creates a solid 3-piece ERNEST anchor with very little material and is super fast to build and de-construct.
IMG_1587.jpg
In this example I’ve placed a bomber 1.5 (brown) CAMP USA Tricam in a passive placement. Just below it is a Black Diamond .4 C4 Camalot Ultralight. The proximity of these two pieces allowed me to connect the Tricam into the Dynex sewn runner on the .4 cam therefore reducing these two pieces of gear “to one” and the other leg of the Mini-Quad goes to the .5 Black Diamond C4 Camalot.
Mini-Quad for climbing
In this example we have two solid pitons at the end of a multi-pitch climb. After deploying the Mini-Quad it takes seconds to add the Black Diamond 1 C4 Camalot Ultralight and clip it to a leg of the Mini-Quad making this a 3 point ERNEST anchor.

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.

Video

 

Summary

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!

Comment and Share!

If you liked this content please let me know by leaving a comment below and/or sharing this post within your climbing circles! Thanks for reading!

References

Various climbing books all listed here.

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.

 

 

Mountain Guide Manual Clinic

Since my copy arrived this past May I’ve been steadily devouring the massive amount of information contained in Marc Chauvin and Rob Coppolillo’s recently published book, The Mountain Guide Manual: The Comprehensive Reference- From Belaying to Rope Systems and Self-Rescue.

The Mountain Guide Manual

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.

Mountain Guide Manual Clinic

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.

Mountain Guide Manual Clinic
AJ, Lovena, and Zach practice a transition to rappelling while leading “parallel” style with two seconds

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!

Mountain Guide Manual Clinic
Marc can teach so much without ever putting on a harness!

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!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start



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