When rock-climbing, I need to set up a top-rope anchor so if I fall, it will minimize chance of injury.

So, how would I safely set one up?

  • There are general rules, but this depends a fair bit on what is around.
    – Kevin
    Commented Jan 25, 2012 at 15:42
  • What I've learned in my short time climbing is the best way to learn new techniques is to start with a clinic from certified professional instructors, then find someone willing to mentor you.
    – STW
    Commented Oct 28, 2013 at 13:37

2 Answers 2


First - Please do not only rely on answers in this site for creating top rope anchors. This is something that your life depends on, or the life of someone you care about, take it seriously.

  • Seek the advice of an expert in person: At the local climbing gym, or guiding service.
  • Creating climbing anchors is not something you learn simply by reading, you must do this through experience and practice.
  • If in doubt... don't trust it, there is a lot of shady climbing bolts and anchors out there, skepticism is the name of the game.
  • Seek local knowledge of a climbing area before trusting existing anchors

Now with that our of the way...

Use the following acronym as a guide to anchor creation.


Equal tension - Multipoint anchors must have equal tension on all anchor points.

Angles appropriate - No angle of tension shall exceed 60 degrees

Redundant - No single anchor point failure shall cause the entire anchor to fail. Also no anchor point should share a primary connection to any other anchor point.

Non-Extending - No anchor point failure will cause other load points to be shock loaded.

Strong - Each individual anchor point could hold all climbers in the case of the worst possible fall

Timely - The anchor can be constructed and decontructed in a matter of time which does not cause a safety risk in itself.

Also John Long, the grandaddy of modern rock climbing has suggested the alternate acronym to use for mnemonics.




Equal Tension


Please see this excellent article abour anchor building available at the link below.

Rescue Dynamics - Anchors in EARNEST

More information from the master himself. A must read for a serious climber.

John Long, Climbing Anchors 2nd Edition


Rule number one: Assume that one piece of your equipment will break, there must be redundancy right up to the rope. At least two, preferably three, independent anchors should go to two opposing locked carabiners.

As for what to anchor to, if there's a bolted anchor that looks good, use it (but even then, not as the only anchor). If not, I've always found trees the easiest, and as long as they're not right on the edge, a healthy live tree should be the most stable. Rocks are generally not as good, because it's hard to guarantee that whatever you use to anchor won't slip off the top. If you have good cams and a good spot to put them, that would also be good, but if you can get a bolt or a tree, use that too.

Consider this general suggestions from a somewhat experienced but far from expert fellow climber. You should go with an expert, watch how they set it up once or twice, and then set one yourself and have them check it and give you feedback. It would also be good to read a book about it before you go, so you can apply what you read under supervision so you know you're doing it properly.

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