Ask the Master: Personal Anchors

IFMGA guide Martin Volken talks personal anchors and when to use different types.

By Martin Volken (IFMGA Guide) | October 11th, 2016

I hear a lot of back and forth on things like personal anchor systems (PAS). I currently use two of these as my personal anchors when cleaning, hanging out at an anchor, etc… I never climb above them, so I would never fall on them. I have friends who refuse to use them, and just use two slings instead. Which way is better/safer? Personal preference?

—PZNBERRY, via Ask the Master forum

Martin Volken, owner of Pro Guiding Service and Pro Ski and Mountain Service in North Bend, WA, is a certified IFMGA Swiss Mountain Guide and guides in North America and Europe. He has been a member of the AMGA examiner team since 2000.Hi there,

I have used them all: PAS’s, daisy chains and standard slings.

I use slings when I am in the alpine environment, just because standard slings are obviously multi-functional and very light. I end up using a double length runner and tie a couple of knots in them, so that it mimics different length options. Generally, I do not use sewn slings in a rock climbing setting.

I like the PAS’s in a rock climbing setting, because you obviously cannot clip in the wrong way.

Daisy chains have the well known pit fall of being able to clip in the wrong way [read Climb Safe: Daisy Chain Dangers], but it is a lesser known fact that when used correctly the different length adjustments can act like a shock absorber. This can be literally life saving if you have the potential to produce a factor-two fall. This would most likely occur while being clipped into an anchor from above.

In my mind they all have their application, depending on the type of climbing.

—Martin Volken


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