ERNEST and SERENE Rock Climbing Anchors

If you’ve ever attended an outdoor climbing class that covers anchor building, had a quality climbing mentor,  or have read books covering this topic you may have heard or read about ERNEST or SERENE (or its shortened version RENE) used to describe rock climbing anchors, or what to consider when building them.  These acronyms are used because they cover the key points that need to be addressed when constructing a climbing anchor that is intended to mitigate risk.  I use “mitigation of risk/ hazards” instead of the more cuddly term “safe” because in climbing activities you are rarely 100% safe.  This is not intended to spook climbers; statistically speaking it’s more dangerous driving to the crag than actually climbing if everything is done appropriately. But accidents can happen; because of this you should always try to mitigate your level of risk by building quality anchors, belaying properly, using proper equipment, equipment in good working condition, etc.   Building ERNEST and SERENE anchors is just another way to mitigate your risk while at the crag.

What is the purpose of an ERNEST or SERENE Anchor?  ERNEST and SERENE are acronyms to assist in remembering key points for solid anchor building (see below).  By following these acronyms the end product of your anchor build should be a clean, strong, and redundant climbing anchor.

ERNEST

E – Equalized – Anchors should be constructed so that each component of the anchor carries an equal amount of the load.

R – Redundant – Anchors should consist of multiple components in case one or more components were to fail.

NE – No Extension – Anchors should be built so that if one or more of the components fail the remaining components won’t be shock loaded.

S – Strong (or Solid) – The stronger the better.

T – Timely – Anchors should be as simple and timely as possible without giving up any of the other ERNEST qualities.

SERENE

S – Strong (or Solid) – The stronger the better.

E – Equalized – Anchors should be constructed so that each component of the anchor carries an equal amount of the load.

R – Redundant – Anchors should consist of multiple components in case one or more components were to fail.

E – Efficient – Anchors should be as simple and timely as possible without giving up any of the other SERENE qualities.

NE – No Extension – Anchors should be built so that if one or more of the components fail the remaining components won’t be shock loaded.

Equalizing an anchor puts equal weight on each part or piece of the anchor whether its natural features like boulders and trees, traditional gear like cams and nuts/hexes or bolts; the idea is to distribute the load equally.  Redundancy adds backups to the system, if one part of the anchor was to fail there would be another part of the anchor to back it up.  No Extension is also important, by equalizing an anchor and minimizing its potential for extension we can prevent shock loading or the transfer of an immense force to one part of the anchor (self equalizing systems like the “magic X”, or sliding X without knots above the clip in or master point of the climbing rope fail to remove extension from the system, if one part of the anchor was to fail the other piece would be shock loaded). Strong- each piece of your system should be solid, strong or “bomber”; this could be using good bolts that are not rusty or loose, placing solid gear, and using good judgment when choosing what to clip to; always check what your using for anchor points to ensure they aren’t loose or damaged and gear is placed properly.  Timely is exactly what it sounds like, your there to climb so anchor building shouldn’t take half the day but you should not rush when constructing anchors.  Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.

If you are new to climbing or want to know more about how to construct anchors consider enrolling in a climbing class or hire an AMGA certified climbing instructor or guide.

Chris Panawa
AMGA Single Pitch Instructor

Helpful Links:

www.klingmountainguides.com

http://www.amga.com

www.falcon.com

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