How to Switch over a Climbing Anchor
One of the most important skills to learn when beginning sport climbing is how to change an anchor over. This can be one of the most dangerous parts of a sport climb or one of the safest if you have it well practiced and are confident. I see so many beginner climbers changing anchors over incorectly; this can be fatal! The most important part is to learn this at ground level with an exerienced climber, practice, practice, practice; then when you are confidant, have someone watch you do it and coach you through the first time leading and switching over. This skill is invaluable. You need to do this to easily clip into an anchor. Hang or stand at a good stance, and feed the rope through an anchor to lower, or better practice; rappel down. You can also set up a good toperope after leading this way.
Clip into the bolts
1. Find a comfortable, safe stance. When you reach the anchor clip both draws into both anchors, wehter it be chains rings or however the anchor is constructed. Clip in as close to the bolts as possible as it will give room to feed the rope through the chains or rings.
2. Use a long sling to clip tow “separate” long draws of, most commonly, long webbing to at least two locking biners at you harnesses tie-in point. Double check to make sure you are clipped into both anchor points and have two biners clipped into your harness at the tie-in point.
3. Tell your partner to give you slack when you are sure you are anchored in safely. You should be confident enough to have yourself taken off belay but keep on belay and have your belayer feed out an arms-lenght of slack.
4. Use the slack to make a figure eight on a bight and tie that into your harnesses belay loop with a locking biner(preferably). Play very close attention and untie from your harness making sure the rope is tied in to your harness first. Do not loose the rope or you are stranded at an anchor with no rope.
5. Feed the end into the rings or chains a the very bottom and feed the rope down to the ground. Make sure both ends are touching! Have someone on the ground confirm this.
6. Staying anchored in with your slings or draws, feed rope into your rappel device and lock the biner, preparing yourself to rappel. Alternately if you were kept on belay this whole time you can tie back in instead of rappelling and lower. If you do this make sure to triple check that you tied into your harness as if you were leading and double or triple check to see your knot is correct and secure.
You can now lower or rappel.
It is a commonly accepted practice to only rappel from chains or links at busy climbing areas. This is because heavy toproping and lowering weakens or wears away the chains over a few years. Some areas even have half-worn through anchors from excessive lowering and toproping from anchors. Be sure to ask or learn what the commonly accepted practice at your crag is–and don’t just ask some tool at the crag who doesn’t care what way he does it ask a veteran climber who knows and respects the crag.
Changing over anchors is extremely dangerous but can be safe and build your confidence as a leader if it is learned and practiced first. Please don’t consider this article a substitute for knowledge learned by a competent instructor or seasoned climber. Learn, practice, and stay safe.