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Tech Tip The Buckle

Discussion in 'Tech Tips and Gear' started by Deagol, Feb 26, 2013.

  1. Deagol

    Deagol too many hobbies

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    I started this thread to avoid hijacking the Chamber of the Basilisk (Goblin's Lair) trip report when a question about a certain retrievable anchor came up..

    I did not invent this anchor and there was a thread about it on the ACA website where the person who, I believe, first came up with it posted about it. All credit for coming up with the original buckle goes to walkerad from the ACA forum
    http://www.canyoneering.net/forums/showthread.php?3503-New-Releasable-Anchor-The-quot-Buckle-quot
    The discussion seemed to get a little sidetracked with others posting about their ideas about retrievable anchors. (I made a follow-up post on that thread back in November 2012 and no one seemed to have anything to say).
    I made a couple very minor modifications to this design with my own trial and error and now have a model I have used in the field several times. I’ve learned a bit each time using it, and like any system, it takes a little practice.
    In the meantime, my friend Dean (aka "Evergreen Dean") helped me test it during a canyon get-together in Boulder Utah where he pulled the retrieval cord while I weighted the anchor with my body weight. We used a small “baby” carabiner as the goal of this biner was not to support body weight, but rather to just pull down the un-weighted webbing anchor (edit: this also tested the buckle's ability to hold when the pull cord is weighted with someone on rappel). With my weight on the rappel strand, his force (weighing quite a bit more than I) did not budge the buckle in the slightest. He pulled so hard he actually bent the “baby biner” wide open. With my weight off the line, the webbing came down smooth as can be. This was very re-assuring, as with some other retrievables, they can cinch-up and tighten when weighted repeatedly. The buckle does not do this.
    I like it because it saves your rope, the rock, and any trees from being subjected to the abrasive force of a rope being used as the anchor (from observation, this seems tough on both the rope and the rock/tree). I think Webbing handles that task better and is easier to replace. Also, the fact that you are not pulling 100+ feet of rope back up through a rapid as you would using the normal biner-block through a rapid setup is a plus, as far as avoiding rope grooves. Some people prefer the CEM knot or Fiddlestick, but that involves using the rope itself over the rock, where the buckle doesn't.

    The buckle can be locked as a non-releasable for all but last one down. You can rig it in contingency mode just as you could any ordinary “webbing loop & rapid combo” anchor. Or, if you don’t need contingency, you can take the end of your rope out of the rope-bag and secure it to the rapid on the buckle and toss the rope bag over the edge (this wouldn’t work well in flowing water). As long as the rope & pull cord is long enough you only need rap down single strand and LAMAR deploys the pull cord as they go. A pull of 3-4 feet is all it takes to release (this depends on the amount of tail used, this should be approximately just less than one-half the length of the “keeper cord”. All this makes more sense when using it in person. Pictures will also help, but practicing with someone who has done it properly would be best.
    Perhaps others might decide that they like this system and agree that it is, first and foremost, SAFE to use, and also helps decrease rope groves and trash webbing.
    Goblin Anchor.
    This is a pic of the anchor for Goblin's Lair. You can see the "permanent" anchor down low on the boulder, it was two loops of webbing when we got there (teal & light grey webbing). You can just barely see the rapid/rap ring on the loops. The black rope burns/grooves are to the left of the blue rap rope. Probably formed when peeps pull their rope ?

    The "buckle" is the blue webbing set higher (for easier pull) on same boulder. There is a really good horn on the boulder to keep the webbing slipping off, but it might look a bit sketchy from this angle?

    There is a longish tail on the blue rap rope (right strand), left side is the rap line going to the bottom. I'm standing on a solid platform and the pull cord (white line) is to the left of everything. The rapid on the blue webbing is connected to the rap rope and the actual buckle mechanism is as far away from the vertex of the webbing without being pressed-up against the rock as possible (this is very important).

    I wish I had video of how smooth the buckle released on this rap. It's about a 90-100 foot, mostly free hanging rap. The buckle is rock-solid when weighted but releases easily when pulled from the pull chord if the rap rope is not weighted. It is absolutely critical that you thread the webbing through the correct path through the mechanism and leave enough tail. But, if you leave too much tail, it won't retrieve.

    When you pull it, the rapid comes down with the rope and the webbing comes down with the pull cord.
  2. Scott Chandler

    Scott Chandler Wildness is a necessity-John Muir

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    I'm intrigued about the set up of this. Do you have any pictures or instructions?
  3. Blake Merrell

    Blake Merrell Lovin' Utah's Backcountry

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    It is these kind of things that make me nervous when using retrievable anchors. BUT it is also this kind of stuff that really makes me love canyoneering even more. Do you have any pictures that you can post, actually showing how the buckle works and how it is made?
  4. Deagol

    Deagol too many hobbies

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    I have been out all day, just now checking this thread.

    I have some older pics, that I think might be less confusing than the ones that are in that original ACA thread.
    I can probably find these pics at some point soon and post them.

    I would actually like to take new pics in a natural setting with real anchors, as I think they would illustrate it better.
    The webbing can be run around natural anchors like a rock or tree, but also run through existing man-made anchors (such as a rapid on "permanent" webbing to help extend that anchor to avoid rope groves). But I don't have any good pics of this (I do have a "bad" pic of this from Robber's Roost, where I learned a lesson :facepalm:)

    I could also write up some instructions. But, -I know this goes without saying- please be sure to practice in a safe protected environment where you would never be at risk until you get the set-up dialed-in.

    A few things differentiate this anchor from a basic 2-ring sling retreivable:
    • when the anchor is pulled, the end of the webbing that comes around the backside of the anchor has no knots or rings/rapids on it: much less likely to get stuck.
    • You only need enough rope and enough pull cord to reach the bottom- i.e. on a 100 foot rap, you need only a 100-foot length of rope (plus a bit extra for knot or biner block) and a 100-foot pull cord. If you have a longer rope in a rope bag and don't wish to deploy the whole thing, you can secure the end of the rope to the anchor (assuming you don't need to rig contingency) and toss the ropebag over the cliff and enough rope should deploy with your ropebag making that reassuring thud when it hits the ground.
    • When pulling, you only need to pull about 3-4 feet of length and the whole set-up should fall down to the ground. This avoids pulling the 100 feet of rope you just rapped on back up through the rapids. This saves time and avoids creating rope grooves in the rock.
  5. Deagol

    Deagol too many hobbies

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    The first step is to get the supplies you will need. I used these materials:
    • about 10 feet of 1” wide tubular webbing,
    • two Omega rap rings (could substitute others, perhaps steel rings), others have used rapids, but I prefer rap rings. I think I would like to find some more durable than the aluminum ones I have now, as they can get a little banged up when they fall). These should be not hollow.
    • And about 4 feet of 3 mm for the “keeper cord” (doesn’t have to be exactly 3 mm, but this is a guide-line). I would not go any smaller than 3 mm and not to much thicker. This size was arrived at to keep bulk down and yet give enough strength to pull the webbing under normal circumstances. Also, if something did happen to get stuck, it MIGHT be possible to intentionally break the keeper cord to at least retrieve the entirety of your pull cord. If the anchor is rigged correctly, this should never be an issue.
    • A regular rapid that should be part of your standard canyon gear.
    • Pull cord (regular rope can be used)
    • Some connection device to connect pull cord to “keeper cord”. I have been experimenting with tiny carabiners. You could use a full size biner, but the function of this connector is not to hold any serious weight at all. If the anchor is correctly rigged, the amount of force placed on this will be quite minimal. I would love to find a small, locking biner for this. When I say “small” I mean the size of the “toy” carabiners you see in regular stores, not a real carabiner. Regular biners would work, but they are bulky and will get scrapped up when pulled over the lip.
    • Rap rope of your choice. If you are confident that you don’t need contingency, you only need enough to tie a figure 8 knot and to reach the ground.
    • To make the “buckle”: take the webbing and tie a water-knot around one of the rap rings. Leave enough tail so you can tie a second water knot with about a 1 inch gap between the knots. This second knot not only backs up the first, but creates a section on the webbing to clip your safety biner that you can use to make the anchor non-releasable. Take your “keeper cord” and tie it to the webbing loop that holds the first rap ring. Img_4848.
    • Tie the other rap ring to the other end of the keeper cord. The distance between these 2 rings should be approximately 30 inches, give or take. Right up against the second rap ring, tie a small loop in the keeper cord. This is the loop that you will use to clip your retrieval biner into. If you plan on using a full-size biner, make sure you make this loop large enough for it. This us another thing that you don’t want to make too big, though, as keeping the loop as small as possible will minimize the chance of the anchor getting hung up. Img_4849.
    • You should now have a finished buckle consisting of a long piece of webbing with a rap ring tied to one end and a second rap rip attached to the first one by the keeper cord. It really is that simple. For the purposes of this description, the “first ring” is the rap ring tied into the webbing and the “second ring” is the one tied only to the “keeper cord”.
    • To rig it to an anchor (this could be an existing rapid on an anchor already set, yet to far back from the lip, or a good rock or tree)- I will describe this as looking at it straight on as it works best for me being right-handed:
    • Take the free end of the webbing and put it around the backside of the rock/tree or run it through the existing manmade anchor rapid, chain, etc. (do not run your webbing through other webbing or rope, as you want webbing on metal if using a manmade anchor). This works best for me keeping the rap ring end on the left side of the anchor and putting the free end around the right side.
    • Bring that end around the other side and thread it through the second rapid and then the first Img_4851.
    • Now bring the webbing around the outside of the stack of rings and thread it back up through the CENTER of the second ring. Img_4852.
    • Continue threading the webbing going around the OUTSIDE of the first ring, over the top and down through the CENTER of both rings. Note that your webbing free end will be pressed between the first length of webbing you threaded and the ring. Give yourself enough tail to have about an inch of length and enough to tie another water knot in. Img_4853.
    • Tie a water knot in the loose end of the webbing and use a real locking biner to clip this to the webbing between the two water knots you tied when making the buckle. This is how the buckle is made non-releasing. Img_4855.
    • Img_4856. Put a rapid on the webbing as you normally would to set up the anchor for use. If you anchor happens to be a bolt right up against the rock, make sure you have routed the webbing so that the mechanism is facing up and will not be pinned underneath the other section of webbing (if you don’t do this, it will make your release a heck of a lot harder).
    • Position the webbing so that the mechanism is as close to the anchor as possible and not near the rapid where the vertex of the webbing will be. You want the mechanism to be far away from the vertex because if it where to migrate down to the vertex, it wouldn’t release when pulled.
    • Rig your rope through the vertex rapid how you prefer: biner block, contingency, single strand, however you like. Send everyone down as normal but the last person.
    • Last person down: undo the biner clipped to the other side of webbing and untie the water knot in the loose tail of the webbing. Ensure that the length of the tail is no longer than approximately HALF of the length of the keeper cord. Ensure that you keep reasonable tension on the rap line as this tension is what holds the buckle together. You MIGHT even possibly want a slight fireman’s belay, but I have found this to actually be annoying. The important thing is that you keep a bit of tension on the webbing.
    • Clip your pull cord to the small loop in the keeper cord, ensuring to keep it off to the left side. You may choose to toss your pull cord as you start rappelling or to deploy it as you go. There are pros & cons of each. If you deploy as you go and there are free-hanging sections of the rap, you may twist and get tangled up in the keeper cord. I prefer a small rope bag for the pull cord, so I can toss it when the view of the bottom is clear. If anything/anyone were to grab this pull cord and try to pull it with your weight on the line, the small carabiner you clipped the pull cord to the keeper cord should fail long before the anchor slips even a tiny bit (assuming it has been rigged properly). The buckle itself should not budge at all with your weight on the line. Img_4857.
    • Finish the rap. If your webbing was routed through a smooth rapid up top as part of a pre-existing anchor, you may want to keep a tad of pressure on the rap line as you pull the pull-cord (not very much). This is done to avoid the slight chance of pulling the pull cord and having your webbing slide through the anchor rapid and pull the mechanism to the vertex. If your webbing goes around a rough rock/tree, there will probably be enough friction between webbing & rock/tree to prevent this from happening.
    • When you pull the pull-cord, you are essentially pulling the two rap-rings apart and undoing the buckle. You don’t have to pull more that a few feet. What happens up at the mechanism is the keeper cord pulls the second ring away from the first ring and unpins the webbing, the more you pull, the loose tail of the webbing flops free around each bend of the rings and eventually becomes completely free of both rings.
    • At this point, the weight of your rap rope will pull out of the lose end of the webbing with rapid attached and fall down (this is one reason I would not want a bulky contingency set up for last person down, whatever is up there has to fall down. I prefer to just tie a loop in the end of my rap rope and go down with no contingency.
    • As you continue to pull, you are pulling the second ring over the edge and the keeper cord is pulling the first ring and webbing off the anchor (the lose end of the webbing would be moving counter-clockwise coming off the anchor). The fact that it is only a loose section of webbing traveling around the backside of the rock/tree makes it much less likely that anything will get hung-up. In an unlikely worst-case scenario where it would get caught, it might be possible to either pull open your “baby biner” or break your keeper cord in order to at least get your pull cord back. I suppose this is one reason to not use a “real” carabiner to attach the pull cord to the keeper cord.
    • If everything was done properly, you simply stuff the rap rope in your bag and do the same with your pull cord. Unclip the buckle from your pull cord and you are done. There is no pulling 100 feet (example) of rope back up through the anchor like you would have done using a standard biner block or double rope rappel. Not pulling these long lengths of rope helps avoid rope grooves in the rock and also is easier on your rope.
    • A few caveats: when falling to the ground, your rap rings may get dinged-up. I am looking for some better rings that would stand up to this better, but so far the aluminum ones are doing fine. If you clip your pull cord to the keeper cord and toss the whole thing prior to weighting your rap line, it is possible that the weight of your pull cord will undo the buckle. Don’t do this! This could happen on a free-hanging rap or any situation where the hanging weight of the pull cord would be significant, especially if using a real rope as your pull cord. If your rap line is weighted (or someone is at the bottom is doing a fireman’s belay) this is a non-issue. Also, deploying the pull cord as you go could help with this.
    • Always always practice before using a technique like this. It would be useful to be at the top of rap and be able to observe the buckle release (assuming you have another way down) with a partner at the bottom pulling the pull-cord. The same rules of good anchor positioning apply to this as with other anchors, keep your angle of pull in-mind. When using it the first few times, the person who invented this suggested being on belay on a separate line.
    • Do NOT pull hard on the pull cord when you are on the rap line rappelling (not that I can think of a situation where anyone would do this). The physics are different than if someone standing on the ground was pulling the cord. If you pull down on the line, you are transferring some of your weight OFF the rap line (and thus loosening the mechanism) and pulling on the mechanism in a way that would normally release it. It could release on you if you do this! When someone on the ground is pulling on the pull cord (they shouldn’t be doing this either, until you are safely down) your weight on the rap line remains the same, and therefore the mechanism remains cinched down.
    • It is amazing how smoothly and easily the buckle releases when un-weighted considering how solid it holds when weighted, even repeatedly, by people rappelling off it. It doesn’t stay cinched up the way a prusik or klemheist does after the rap weight is removed.
    • This is my variation of the design walkerad posted on the ACA website a few years back. I added the safety biner and the loop on the keeper cord after trial and error. I am not the inventor of this device and none of my changes affect the basic physics involved. What I have done is taken what I saw and worked on it and summed it all up in a description here that reflects a lot of trial and error from testing and cuts out a lot of the chatter and back & forth present on the original ACA thread. Everyone using any technique must ultimately take responsibility of understanding it before using it and ensuring the safety of both themselves and their group.
    Benjamin Pelletier likes this.
  6. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    I hope to have the FiddleStick stuff worked up this weekend. Waiting on some test results to see how strong the cord is, and I need to go take some pictures. I think canyoneers will find the FiddleStick to be a simple and effective solution to this problem.

    Tom
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  7. Deagol

    Deagol too many hobbies

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    Tom,

    The Fiddlestick looks pretty cool too. The buckle isn't really that complicated, but it may not be "simpler" than the Fiddlestick (not sure, since I have not used the Fiddlestick). It may just be that I wrote too detailed an explanation. It takes me about a minute or less to set it up. They seem to serve a similar niche? It would be cool to see a video of the Fiddlestick in action...
  8. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Working on it, but gotta do the static page first.

    Now that you are showing pictures, it makes sense.

    Tom
  9. Deagol

    Deagol too many hobbies

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    When thinking about the Fiddlestick (even though I've never used it) it seems it would be simpler and maybe preferable in situations where having the rope run through the anchor would not create any issues (ie rope abrasion, rock/tree abrasion) etc.

    The buckle seems good in situations where webbing would be preferable to rope going around a rock or tree. Both techniques are pretty cool, IMO.

    Also, I tried to shoot a video of the buckle in action, but it doesn't work well inside. I need to take some pictures and/or video outside at a local cliff, but there is- and will be for a while- too much snow.
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  10. Dan Ransom

    Dan Ransom Staff Member

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    Sweet, I'd love to get a better glimpse of it. Love all the ingenuity going into solving anchor problems nowadays. Pretty cool stuff.
  11. Deagol

    Deagol too many hobbies

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    OK, so I made a quick video showing the Buckle working. It was hard since I was by myself and had to film and pull it at the same time.

  12. Benjamin Pelletier

    Benjamin Pelletier

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    I generally like this system too, but there are a few more things I watch out for:

    The system becomes unreleasable if the second ring reaches the vertex of the webbing (where the quick link is) before the webbing becomes unpinched by the first ring. You can see how this might happen at 1:35 in Deagol's video; while the second (bottom) ring is being pulled down, the first (upper) ring is also coming down a bit too. If the tree was made of ice (low friction), you can imagine that it would not be able to overcome the webbing-on-webbing friction of the Buckle itself and both rings would be pulled down to the vertex. For this reason, the Buckle is actually more reliable on high-friction anchors.

    You have to pay attention to the orientation of the anchor; if it's upside down, it won't release. The first ring has webbing attached directly to it; the first thing that webbing should do is go around the anchor. It should *not* go down toward the vertex before going around the anchor. If it does, the buckle looks fine, but it is completely unreleasable.

    I've gotten a Buckle rigging stuck 3 times (once in extension mode, not shown on this thread yet). The issue in 2 cases was rigging error, but that's just a data point on how difficult it is to do right every time. On many other occasions I've had the system work just fine.
  13. Deagol

    Deagol too many hobbies

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    those are all great observations and the reason I rig the buckle with the rings as close to the tree as possible. One way to try and avoid the rings migrating down to the vertex is to keep just a bit of tension on the rap rope. This is a bit tricky since too much tension will not allow the buckle to release, though. I've never done the buckle on a very low friction anchor, but I wonder if wrapping the webbing around twice in that situation would compensate (like if the tree were an ice column) ???

    I don't think I would ever be in that situation, though..

    I did use the buckle in extension mode only once in Robber's Roost and almost got it stuck (this was user error). I unfortunately don't have any pics, but I rigged it with the mechanism on the bottom of the webbing loop instead of on the top, as I should have done.

    There was a lot of info on the ACA thread a few years back, but the thread got sidetracked and died. I will try to take more pics of the Buckle in real situations and post them here in the future
  14. Deagol

    Deagol too many hobbies

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    In another thread, we were talking about rope protectors (such as the Spirol) getting stuck in a rapide when you pull the rope back through the anchor during retreival. I was thinking that this potential problem is another good reason to use something like the buckle, as you don't need to pull the rap rope back through anything. Thought anyone?
  15. Deagol

    Deagol too many hobbies

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    I was messing around last night and made a shorter buckle (shorter in that the length of the webbing is shorter). I used the same type of rap rings and the same type/length of keeper cord. It was a learning experience, for sure. I initially did this to have a version that would be easier to use when running it through a rapid on an existing anchor, rather than run it around a tree or rock. This is what they call “extension mode” since it extends off an existing anchor. It is done to make a pull easier and/or to help avoid rope groves.
    The situation I used this in was where an existing anchor was way too far back from the lip and the pull would have been very difficult as a result (and rope grooves would have resulted, not to mention wear & tear on my rope). I have only used the buckle in this mode once and rigged it “sort of” incorrectly. The mess-up I made is that I rigged it with the mechanism side of the webbing loop (the side of the loop where the rap rings are) down against the rock and with the other side of the webbing loop ontop. The result of my screw-up is that after completing the rap, it was very very hard to release it since the mechanism side of the webbing loop was pinned under the other side of the webbing loop. It eventually did release, and I learned my lesson.
    The lesson I learned last night was different. What I learned is that if the webbing loop itself is fairly short, the vertex of the webbing (the point where your rap rope/rapide is attached to your webbing loop) can get too close to the mechanism. When pulling the rings apart during retrieval, there is a certain amount of travel/separation between the lower ring and the upper ring that has to happen in order to fully undo the webbing from the rings. With a very short loop, there may not be enough length of webbing between the mechanism and the vertex to allow this unraveling of the loops. If your lower ring reaches the vertex before the loops have been undone, the buckle may not release. The thing that can be adjusted that affects the amount of travel/separation needed between the two rings is the length of the tail. I learned that I had to use a very short tail to allow this shorter version of the buckle to release properly. The length of the tail is so short that there is no way to safety it off for rappelers prior to LAPAR.
    But, I also learned that you really don’t need very much tail at all to hold solidly. I arrived at an optimal tail length of only about 2.5 inches based on the loop length I had (I need to measure the total loop length). I need to do more tests and do some comparison between my two versions to confirm this, but I suspect that there may be a ratio between the total length of the webbing loop and the maximum amount of tail used that would ensure a reliable release, yet hold solidly while weighted. There is definitely a minimum webbing loop length and I think the one I made last night is in the lower end of that spectrum.
    Now, if only I could figure out a way to safety it off while using a short tail without having to slide a ton of webbing through the mechanism. When I have used this anchor in the field, I have had all rappelers before me rap of a static loop of webbing and not use the buckle at all. I rigged it for the exclusive use of only myself, so safety-ing it off was never an issue.
    Pictures to come …..(some day)
  16. Deagol

    Deagol too many hobbies

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    Just an update: I have since been lucky enough to use a Fiddlestick and I think it's probably superior to the buckle in MOST situations. The Fiddlestick is way easier to set it's length at the anchor if you have a natural anchor way back from the rim. The only 2 situations where I still think I would prefer the buckle to the Fiddlestick:
    1. The anchor (rock/tree) has some sharp edge to it that would damage your rope if using the Fiddlestick.
    2. The anchor is such that wrapping your rope around it if Fiddlesticking would cause the rope to "roll" out of position
    Anyway, here is a video I made of a Buckle pull prior to being able to use the Fiddlestick. I ran across it and thought it was at least worth posting.

  17. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Sharp edges around the rock can make it so the rope does not pull. Unlikely to damage the rope. Webbing might be superior for smoothness of pull.

    Tom
  18. Deagol

    Deagol too many hobbies

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    I wish I had a picture of this rock I anchored off of when doing a rap in the Swell. It is exactly the kind of anchor I would not want to use a rope around. It was very sharp and also shaped in a way that the rope probably would roll off of. I used regular webbing there in a non-retreivable setup (the buckle would have worked very well here, but I left that gear back at the car -being absent minded). I was there to practice some technique and was able to down-climb around the side so I didn't leave anything.

    This situation, and anything I may run across in the future that is like it, is what I am thinking of when imagining where I would prefer a buckle or webbing over a rope-anchor such as the Fiddlestick. I also think you are right that it probably wouldn't pull.

    The video above is not a situation like this, however. In the rap above, a Fiddlestick would have been way easier for me to set up and would have saved me some time, for sure.

    I definitely need much more practice with the Fiddlestick, BTW.

    As a clarification: If I was starting from scatch knowing what I know now, I probably wouldn't bother with the Buckle and just use the Fiddlestick for the types of anchor situation we are talking about here. The Fiddlestick has lots of advantages and there is less "stuff" to deal with. Luke's video was very valuable for me learning more about (and becoming more comfortable with) the Fiddlestick.
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