When anchors are used in conjunction with proper knots, they are an added line of defense which prevents accidents from happening on the climb. Anchors are reusable, they can be drilled and filled as needed for placement. They can be placed horizontally, vertically and even on overhead services as is required for the safety of the climber.
There are several types of anchors which are used by different types of climbers. Natural anchors are those that do not require any man made assistance. These are mostly found in the rock climbing field, but they may also be found on towers themselves in the form of protrusions. Artificial anchors are spring loaded and designed to fit into cracks where they will then expand.
Belay anchors are mounted. The belay anchors used by tower climbers will be permanently attached to a tower. This saves the extra effort of having to drill and place new anchors each time a climb is undertaken. It is also federally mandated for the safety of each climber. They are used as a support for a top rope and it should consist of multiple redundant components. These components are fail safes, designed to provide support should one of the other components fail.
When multiple people are climbing, one will serve as a lead. The climbers will advance at roughly the same speed and use a running belay between them. Slack will be kept out of the rope so if one of the climbers slips, the other will not be dragged down, but instead have the anchors catch the fallen climber.
Federally regulations state that all anchors must be the closed type. This will include eyebolts and rigging points and other structural attachments. Every anchorage point is required to withstand 5,000 pounds or the maximum anticipated load. So if the equipment being hauled up, plus the weight of the climber exceeds 5,000 pounds, which is rare but does happen on occasion, then the anchor points must be replaced to meet this new criteria.
A visual inspection of anchor points is conducted both during the climb and at intervals in between. The inspection checks for loose bolts, cracks, dents, rust, and other factors which would keep the anchor from serving its function during a climb. Another inspection also takes place if the anchors receives a shock load. The bolts, chains, and rings should be included as part of this rigorous inspection process.
When anchors are found to be damaged, the tower will be red tagged, signally to other climbers that the structure is not safe to be climbed. It is up to the owner of a tower to arrange the replacement and/or repair of these anchors. This will be handled by a manufacturer or a structural engineer. Until these new anchors are inspected and certified, tower climbers are not to do any repairs on the tower.
Anchors are only as good as the rope and knots that are used with them. While some tower climbers “free climb” this is never recommended. Even the most experienced climbers should take the extra few moments to secure themselves. It is always better to take the extra precautions when a life is in the line.