Single Solid Natural Anchors

Welcome to the exciting world of big trees and rocks! Let's talk about what makes them single solid natural-anchors.

Only single?

Note the title of this article has the word "single" in it. Does that mean the anchor material is not redundant? Yes it does. The idea of a single solid anchor means the anchor is so big that if it were to fail there are probably bigger problems that caused it to fail that are going to kill you.

Let's say you are tied into a huge boulder and it suddenly starts tumbling towards you. What caused that boulder to start tumbling towards you? A land slide is the main thing that come to mind. If you don't die from the fall you'll be crushed or suffocate.

Solid anchors

There are two types of single solid natural anchors: big fu-riendly rocks and big friendly trees.


A tree is a solid anchor when it has the following three properties: six inches in diameter, alive, and well rooted.

1) Six inches in diameter

The red line is the diameter of that tree. It should be at least 6 inches

The diameter of a tree is easy to calculate. Just cut down the tree and measure! If it's 6 inches or greater, then it would have worked as an anchor!
That was a joke. Please don't actually do that. Geez don't take everything so literally.

Why 6 inches? I don't know why that exact length was picked. Probably because it is really strong.

2) Alive

If it has green leaves on it then it's probably alive. If it's just a piece of a tree floating in a pothole then it's probably dead. If it's anything in between you'll have to use your own judgement.

3) Well rooted

Long root going down a crack. Is this well rooted? Would you trust it?

This means the roots are in the ground. Impossible to actually see but there have only been a few times where I wasn't absolutely sure.

If it has all three of these qualities then you can trust it to hold you on rappel. Let's quickly discuss some almost optimal trees.

What if you have a tree that is 5.9 inches in diameter, alive, and well rooted? Or a dead tree that's 36 inches in diameter and very well routed? Is it still safe to rappel on either of those? I don't know. Um do what your heart tells you. Don't trust everything you read on the internet.

Webbing around trees

Most commonly you will see a single loop of webbing tied with a ring bend but occasionally you will see other things.

When tying webbing around trees the strongest place for the webbing to go is at the base of the tree. The base of the tree is also the place where it makes the rappel starts hardest for people and it can make the pull more difficult.

If the tree is strong enough you can use a cinch wrap to put the webbing higher up in the tree to eliminate the tough start and tough pull. If the tree is not strong enough you can use courtesy rigging to make the rappel start a little easier while making the pull easy as well.


A big rock

Rocks don't have exact requirements like trees, unfortunately. I'll go over a few things to think about and call it good.

  • If you can't move the rock at all in the direction of rappel that's a good thing
  • If the rock Is on a slope that goes down into the canyon that's bad. Move it behind a lip or at lease on a more level surface.
  • If the rock is sitting on sand or gravel that's bad. Move the rock or move the sand/gravel out from under it.
  • Make sure the webbing doesn't go around any sharp corners on the rock. If that's not possible to avoid then double up the webbing in those places for additional protection.
  • A rock with webbing and a frost knot

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