Make it solid

I was in Hamburg the other week, as I was writing about a couple of blog posts back…

Down in the harbor I was looking at the boats, as one does, and – asides from being hit by acute pangs of fernweh – marveling at the sheer size of the huge stacks of containers, at the staggering volume of goods being shipped in and out of the busy port, the industrious, bustling cranes loading and unloading ships around the clock – and the massive anchors attached to the sterns and prows of the boats.

Anchors are big.

And heavy.

Obviously, this is a good idea, in view of the fact that you are intending to prevent a very heavy object from shifting in the tide or in a storm. How do you prevent this from happening? You attach your boat by means of a massive chain that links it to a big, extremely heavy anchor. If you do not want something to fail, it makes sense to attach it with something solid that will not budge and you do not have to worry about.

What on earth is Mark on about this time?! you wonder, after all, that is just plain common sense.

Is it?

If our premise is that anchors need to be solid in order to be safe, I challenge the way in which climbers seem to struggle to identify an adequately dimensioned anchor point. One would be tempted to assume that this is no different than deciding whether the size of your anchor your anchor matches the size of your boat. Further, one would also assume that one would tend to err on the side of caution, if in doubt, to make it solid. Of course the same consideration hold true for climbing anchor points in trees. Or any other form of anchor point.

So how come that time and again this is not the case? A limb hardly larger than a climbing line will offer little or no safety margin.

Usually I am really careful when selecting anchor points, you say, it was only that one time I skimped a bit, you say. And I say to you that it is irrelevant if you were careful one thousand times, the one thousand and fist time, that one time is all it takes for probability to turn around and bite you.

So let’s bear those boat’s anchors in mind next time we choose our climbing anchor points… because every single anchor point matters!