"Ghosting" using rock-pile cairn anchors

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"Ghosting" using rock-pile cairn anchors

Post by T2 » 10 Mar 2020, 14:05

Some useful information for people interested in ghosting techniques, particularly in more remote wilderness areas where leaving nothing behind is the preferred ethic. This post is a reproduction of a Facebook post by American canyoneer Scott Swaney.


"Ghosted": in canyoneering (canyoning) the term means to get down a canyon and leave nothing behind; leaving the canyon in a pristine state.

This album is for canyoneers who may be interested in putting in canyon anchors, and leaving nothing behind in the canyon (no man-made materials), and also anywhere else where canyons are found around the world. Leaving no webbing or rappel rings.

Many canyons in many places, you can put in bolts, pitons, climbing nuts, etc, but in some parks like Death Valley you are required to only use natural material found in the canyons. Nearly all cairn anchors have webbing wrapped around a rock, and then additional rocks are added for additional weight for strength.

Many other natural anchors can be done by making Rock-Chocks or Knot-Blocks, but they also have to use webbing to leave behind & usually also leave a rap ring as well. Cairn anchors are hard not to leave something behind on.

Using Retrievable tools like a Fiddlestick, you can drop the rope down without using webbing, but the cairn has to be constructed in a certain way where the rope can easily be pulled around a smooth "pull-rock" and not hang up on anything.

Leaving just the rocks you found there as the only thing left behind, these techniques allows you to get down a canyon and cost nothing in man-made materials.

I have spent a lot of money building many hundreds of Cairn Anchors, having to carry spools of webbing and rappel rings, leaving behind webbing that will eventually turn to trash in a year or so out there in the desert heat & sun.

Also being shown are Fiddlestick retrievable tools used on boulders and natural rock horns found there.

All these points will leave the canyon in a much more pristine state for others going through in the future, with no litter/trash when the webbing deteriorates and has to be replaced.

NOTE: Also being shown here is an additional rope temporarily used as a back-up anchor to be taken off for the last person down at risk (LAMAR). Usually tied with an alpine butterfly knot on the rappel line.

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A hand-built rock horn from the boulders found there and set up to work and blocked by other rocks in front for additional weight and strength

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Artificial rock horn built from the rocks laying around. Stood the tall one up on end to make a horn. Blocked it with other rocks added for strength. Showing the additional rocks set in front to strengthen the horn from being pulled over.

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Addtional weight added on top as a bridge for more weight, but no interfering with the pull-line.

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NOTE: Green line is a temporary back-up rope to be taken off by the last person at risk

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User avatar
Site Admin
Posts: 309
Joined: 15 May 2018, 10:33
Full name: Tim Vollmer
City: Blaxland
State: New South Wales

Re: "Ghosting" using rock-pile cairn anchors

Post by T2 » 10 Mar 2020, 14:14

Scott also shared some good photos showing how a Fiddlestick can be used to anchor off larger rocks, fixed boulders, and rock flakes.

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