Quad Anchor – How to Build a Quad Anchor

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

Given a standard bolt set up
Given a standard bolt set up…
Clip one of the ends of the cordlette. I prefer to keep the knot by the top and out of the way of everything else.
Clip one of the ends of the cordlette. I prefer to keep the knot by the top and out of the way of everything else.
Grab the other end, clip it, and pull tight to find middle of the cordlette
Grab the other end, clip it to the other bolt, and pull tight to find middle of the cordlette.
Go back to the end with the knot and unclip it
Go back to the end with the knot and unclip it.
Tiea figure-eight or overhand about three quarters down above the center and re-clip
Tiea figure-eight or overhand load limiting knot about three quarters of the way down above the center and re-clip.
Repeat that process with the other end
Repeat that process with the other end and boom… you have 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

To use the Quad, notice you have 4 strands between the load limiting knots
To use the Quad anchor, notice you have 4 strands between the load limiting knots.
For multi-pitch applications, clove yourself into TWO of the stands.  Using two strands adds redundancy  I usually clip myself to two strands and then my second to the other two strands to keep the belay station neat
For multi-pitch applications, clove yourself into TWO of the strands. Using two strands adds redundancy.
For top rope applications, clip two opposite and opposed locking carabiners to THREE strands
For top rope applications, clip two opposite and opposed locking carabiners to THREE strands (see notes).
In either application, if one of the legs blows... as long as the locking carabiner/carabiners are between the strands, they will not travel further then the knot
In either application, if one of the legs blows… as long as the locking carabiner/carabiners are between the strands, they will not travel further then the knot

Racking the Quad Anchor

Just unclip it
Just unclip it.
Tie it in a figure-eight or overhand, fold it in half, clip a carabiner through both ends, and rack it up
Tie it in a figure-eight or overhand, fold it in half, clip a carabiner through both ends, and rack it up.

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.

For more information on SERENE and the concept of “extension,” see Principles of Anchor Building or click on the link above.

-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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  10 comments for “Quad Anchor – How to Build a Quad Anchor

  1. Chris OC
    February 17, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    Is there a reason why you would not want to clip all three strands in *both* multipitch and top rope situations? It seems just as easy to clip 3 strands instead of 2 when doing multipitch, and that’s one less “rule” to remember

    Is there an extra benefit of only having 2 strands clipped between the limiter knots if a leg blows on multipitch?

    • Chris
      February 23, 2015 at 9:14 am

      Hey Chris,

      Sry for the delay in response… I did not see your comment – lol.

      The reason why you do not clip 3 strands in a multi-pitch setting is because you usually belay off 2 strands and then clip yourself and/or your partner into the anchor with the 2 other strands. This way your belay device and personal anchor locking carabiners are separate and you both have the redundancy of using 2 strands.

      You do not have to do it this way and can clip everything into the 3 strands, but this just helps keep things more organized at the belay station and reduces the chance for user error.

      Hopefully that helps and let me know if you have any further questions.

  2. Monica
    February 19, 2015 at 7:30 am

    Thanks, Chris! Great post.

    • Chris
      February 23, 2015 at 9:15 am

      Thanks Monica.

  3. Neil
    April 2, 2015 at 11:04 am

    What knot are you using to bend your cordelette together?

    • Chris
      April 2, 2015 at 12:57 pm

      Hey Neil,

      I am not sure if you have a keen eye for knots, but I have a feeling you are going to lay into me for this… it is an “incorrectly” tied triple fisherman’s knot. So kudos to you if you caught it… Believe it or not, fisherman’s knots are very difficult to tie correctly and even harder to teach others to tie correctly.

      If the knot in the picture was tied correctly it should have 3 sets of parallel lines and then an “x” on the opposite side of each knot. When pulled against each other, the two knots should fit together almost perfectly like a jigsaw puzzle piece. If you notice, my knots do not pass that test.

      I routinely tie and untie my cordelettes to use as webolettes or modified rabbit runners and even after tying this knot literally hundreds of times over my career, I still got it wrong in this picture. Moreover, I did not even notice it until one of my friends who is also a climbing guide for a company in the North East pointed it out. I am planning on re-taking the pictures, but have been waiting for the warmer weather to do so in order to stage them on real bolts on an actual rock face.

      So the moral of the story is no matter how much experience you have… always check and double check your work, even the “simple” stuff. Moreover, always have your climbing partners do the same – lol.

      That was a long answer to a short question, so getting back on track…

      Generically, when using a normal cordelette, the usual knot of choice is the double fisherman’s. In the case above, since the cordelette is a very small diameter spectra cord, the manufacturer recommends a triple fisherman’s.

      That said, if you are going to be tying and untying your cordelettes all the time like I do… I would strongly recommend switching over and using a flat overhand bend with backup to join your cordelette. If you are not familiar, the flat overhand bend is the same knot used to join two ropes for rappelling and there is a good tutorial on this blog. Most of the guides I know have switched over to the flat overhand with backup because it is just an easier knot to tie correctly, visually check that it is tied correctly, and much easier to untie after being weighted.

      Hopefully that was helpful and if you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to leave more comments and/or email me directly at ccasciola@seekingexposure.com.

  4. Sam
    July 24, 2015 at 9:53 pm

    Can you give the specifications for the correlette that you are using? (Diameter, length before tied)

    Thanks!

    • Chris
      July 25, 2015 at 10:16 pm

      Hi Sam,

      The cord is 20′ of 5.5mm Bluewater Titan Dyneema Cord. Make sure to tie it off using a triple fisherman and/or a flat overhand knot w/ backup (preferred). You can find it at most backcountry/climbing shops. Let me know if you have any other questions!

  5. Bill
    March 21, 2016 at 11:36 pm

    Thanks for the section on the quad anchor Chris. I have two things: one is an observation and one is a question.

    1. Observation: while looking at your photo instructions, there seems to be a missing step between pictures 3 and 4. Picture 3 shows you holding the middle of a cordelette that each end has been clipped to a different carabiner. Your hand is pulling the middle with only two strands. The next picture shows the cordelette doubled over (4 strands) and ready to put the knots in each leg. I think you may have skipped the step where you double the cordelette over. What do you think?

    2. Question: When it come to the “clip 2 or clip 3” discussion for top roping, I wonder if there is a way of getting the best of both worlds? Since any good top rope anchor uses two carabiners at the rope connection, why not just clip one carabiner to two strands of the anchor, and then clip the other carabiner to the other two strands of the anchor? Then clip the rope into both carabiners. The people who are concerned about the amount of material in the carabiner are happy (because in total, all 4 strands are clipped), and the people who are worried about the lack of material to catch extension if a piece were to blow are happy (because you still have two strands clipped at any time). What do you think? Are there drawbacks that I’m not thinking of?

    • Chris
      April 1, 2016 at 9:07 am

      Hey Bill,

      Good point… doubling over is implied so I jsut never got around to taking new pics for this post – lol.

      That said, for your second comment… as long as it fully satifies SERENE then you are good to go 😉

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