The Quad anchor is one of the fastest and most efficient anchors to use for situations where you have bolted belay stations. I first learned this technique climbing in Joshua Tree from one of my friends who is a guide with American Alpine Institute (AAI).
The Quad anchor uses the same materials as a normal bolt anchor, but has the ability to self-equalize without fully voiding SERENE principles (see notes below). This gives you the the flexibility to pre-rig Quad anchor and easily rack it on your harness between pitches.
How to Build a Quad Anchor
Now as long as the bolts have a relatively similar layout on the rock from station to station, all you need to do is climb to the anchor, clip the Quad Anchor into the bolts and you are good to go. Moreover, it is the same process to clean for the second. So no knot tying, equalizing, and re-racking multiple pieces of gear at every belay.
This saves a ton of time on multi-pitch trad/sport applications with bolted belay stations like Devil’s Tower in WY or Red Rocks in NV for example.
Using the Quad Anchor in Multi-Pitch and Top Rope Applications
Racking the Quad Anchor
A few quick notes on the Quad Anchor:
-Similar to any other anchor, because the Quad anchor uses load limiting knots to self-adjust you do lose some of the “No Extension” properties in SERENE. That said, the rule of thumb I was taught was to limit any potential extension to 6″ or less in the case a leg does fail.
-Again, similar to a normal bolt anchor, it is completely acceptable to use normal carabiners to clip the cordlette to the bolts. That said, clipping one or both using locking carabiners is a quick and easy way to add an additional level of safety if you prefer.
-The reason you clip three strands of the Quad Anchor for top rope applications is because of the extra load placed on the anchor due to both the weight of climber/belayer vs. just the weight of the second in a lead belay situation. Since most top rope anchors are out of sight for long periods of time, it is just a quick and easy extra measure of protection.
It is also worth noting that the climbing community is divided on whether or not you should only clip two strands regardless the application. The reason is that if you clip three and a leg does fail, now there is only one strand between you and total anchor failure. I can certainty see the validity in that argument and I personally prefer to clip two strands.
The reason you DO NOT ever clip four strands is because the Quad anchor would completely lose its redundancy and fail to be SERENE. If one of the legs pulled, the master point carabiner could potentially slide right over the knot and off the cordlette resulting in total anchor failure.
-If the bolts are arranged differently and not horizontal like the in picture, you might have to tie your load limiter knots at different places on the cordlette depending on the direction of pull.
A trick I use is to always use figure-eight knots. They are easier to loosen once weighted and allow you to easily adjust the knots as necessary without having to completely take apart the anchor from pitch to pitch.
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