By: randosteve|Posted on: March 28, 2011|Posted in: Gear | 16 comments

In the past couple weeks, I’ve read some good trip reports, but a few sentences in two of them in particular got me thinking. Thinking what Rando you ask? Well, I’m wondering when it’s okay, or acceptable, to remove and take climbing gear set-up for rappel anchors and when one should leave them for those that follow? Here are the quotes I’m referring to – the authors and names of the runs have been omitted to protect the innocent (or guilty?).

There it lay, frozen in the crack: booty. Specifically, a sling, a bent-gate, a locker, a .75 cam and a godforsaken HB with a finger-trigger pull. I did what any self-respecting climber would do, even one convinced of the near-possibility of his own demise. I retrieved the gear, then stuffed it into the front of my jacket, faced in, and kept traversing.
If you, or you know who, broke trail up XXXX and towards XXXX and then skied XXXX with a rappel with 3 snowboarders behind you, first off – thanks for breaking trail, and I’ve got your accessory cord and biner since we down-climbed. No nuts thought. Those were in there good.

If I was skiing a line and came upon a rappel station that I didn’t use, to me, the prudent thing to do would be to leave the gear there. Everyone’s abilities and comfort levels are different and under similar conditions, one person’s down-climb might be another person’s rappel. Snow conditions can also change dramatically in the mountains from year-to-year (or even week-to-week) and one year a particular line might mandate a rappel by all descentionists, while the next year it might be filled in to the gills with rappels completely unnecessary. Why not leave a rappel anchor in place for when a rappel might be needed?

Also, if I had built and rappelled off an anchor in a couloir one week, and then returned the next week to see that the anchor had been removed, I think I’d be kind of pissed off, especially if I assumed that the anchor should be there. This could also be the beginning of a serious epic, since I may not have brought the appropriate or enough gear to make another rappel anchor.

I can see how some people might say that the mountains should remain as clean and untainted as possible, and every skier should be prepared to deal with all circumstances that are put in front of them. But, to what point? And who decides what anchors can remain and which can stay?

Would it be okay to remove all the anchors in the Ford/Stettner Route on the Grand Teton? Or what about an anchor at the top of the crux in the Apocalypse Couloir? I’ve passed on using a few of these anchors under the right conditions in the past, but I’ve also used them when the conditions warranted a rappel instead of down-climbing or side-stepping. When I didn’t use them though, I didn’t think I should dismantle them and take the gear as booty.

I’m sure this is an age-old debate amongst the climbing community and there are probably many different viewpoints. What is yours?