Do Not Toprope Climb Through Bolt Anchors

Toproping Wears Out Hardware

Don't top-rope with your rope threaded through bolt anchors like this. Only thread your rope for lowering and rappelling off a climb. Photograph copyright Stewart M. Green

Sport routes are simply climbing routes that are protected by preplaced and permanent bolts equipped with a bolt hanger for clipping a carabiner onto. The bolts, drilled and then hammered into the rock, are placed along the way to prevent you from hitting the ground or being hurt if you fall. The routes usually end at a two-bolt anchor with either lowering rings or beefy chains for lowering back to the ground.

Don't Use Hangers for Top-Roping

You don’t want to thread your rope through the bolt hangers, lowering rings, or chains and then top-rope on that equipment. Only do that if you’re lowering or rappelling off the route. The constant running of ropes through the metal slowly erodes it away, requiring someone to replace the hardware in the future. And replacement is not cheap. The cost to replace a couple Fixe rings attached to hangers is over $25 for a pair, while the cost to replace forged chain, which is much stronger than cast chain, isn’t much less.

Use Your Own Gear to Save Anchors

A lot of climbers also top-rope through the anchors because they’re too lazy to go back up and properly thread the anchor and rappel off after the last person in their party top-ropes the climb. Don’t be lazy, be considerate. Set up your top-rope on the bolt anchors with a couple quickdraws or a couple slings and locking carabiners.

Run your rope through your own hardware and save wear and tear on the anchors.

Use Slings to Equalize the Weight Load

Another reason not to top-rope through bolt anchors is because most bolts are placed next to each other. When your rope runs through both anchors, as in the above photograph, you substantially increase the weight load on each anchor and weaken your anchor system.

It’s better and safer to use a couple quickdraws or slings to extend the master clip-in point lower and distribute the load evenly on both bolts.

Use Good Climbing Etiquette

It’s just bad climbing etiquette to top-rope through lowering rings and chains. A lot of climbers do it simply because they don’t know any better. Now you do—just don’t do it.