Academy: How to Clean an Anchor

Cleaning an anchor can be scary for a good reason—a mistake can have grave consequences! In this article, I go over how to clean an anchor either by rappelling or being lowered off.

Cleaning an anchor is simple in concept. The need comes up when your belay rope is attached to some quickdraws other device instead of directly through the fixed anchor at the top of the climb. To clean the anchor you have to take yourself temporarily off belay, thread the rope directly through the anchor, put yourself back on belay, and remove all gear from the anchor.

Here are some specific steps in the process:

Step 1: Attach yourself to the anchor with two independent tethers

Use a couple of opposing quickdraws, a dedicated daisy chain or other method to attach yourself directly to the anchor with two independent tethers. Weight them to make sure they’re solid.

Cleaning Anchor Step 1: Clip in with two tethers

Step 2: Tie off about 6 feet of slack

Pull up about 6 feet of slack and tie it off to the anchor. Tying the rope to the anchor is a way to ensure you don’t drop the rope. If you’re rappelling, you can ask your belayer to take you off belay. If you’re planning to lower off, just ask the belayer for some slack as you don’t want to be off belay.  

Cleaning Anchor Step2: Tie off a bite of rope

Step 3: Untie from the rope

Simple enough. Take the entire knot out so you can do step 4.

Cleaning Anchor Step3: Untie from rope

Step 4: Thread the rope directly through the anchor

Inspect the chains to make sure they still look solid and aren’t excessively worn. If all is good, thread the rope directly through the anchor. If it’s a chain anchor, feed the rope through the bottom rung of the chain.

Cleaning Anchor Step4: Thread rope through chains

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Step 5: Tie back in or setup your rappel

Simple enough. You’ve probably done it a thousand times, except this time you don’t have anyone to double check your knot, so you’ll have to double check it yourself!

If you’re rappelling, pull your rope through until BOTH ENDS ARE ON THE GROUND! Then put your rappel device onto the rope and clip in.

Cleaning Anchor Step5: Tie into threaded rope

Step 6: Have belayer take weight or weight your rappel device

If you’re lowering off, have your belayer take your weight. If you’re rappelling, take all your weight on the rappel device. Either way, this is the time to double check everything. Make sure both anchor chains are threaded. Make you’re your knot, or belay device is correct. Make sure your belayer is paying attention.

Cleaning Anchor Step6: Have belayer take your weight

Step 7: Finish cleaning the anchor and lower off

With your weight either on the rappel device or being held by your belayer, clean the rest of the gear on the anchor, leaving on only your rope through the chains, then lower or rappel off.

Cleaning Anchor Step7: Finish cleaning the anchor

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