The Sandbag: A New Anchoring Tool for Canyoneering


Deadman anchors have been discussed for awhile, usually as an anchor of last resort. It goes like this: wrap a rock or large hunk of lumber with a sling and bury it in the sand. Stomp it down good. Rappel off this. If the geometry is advantageous, it's not too hard to imagine this being fairly secure. But it leaves a sling, and sufficiently large and solid chunks of wood or rock are not always available.

The "Sandbag" is designed to solve these problems. The Sandbag is a bag (about the size of a paper grocery sack) that holds about 60 lbs. of sand. One side of the sandbag is a very sticky packcloth, and the other side is normal, slick packcloth. Webbing is sewn quite well to the packcloth, then handles are tacked to the webbing. A handle is also sewn to the bottom.

Here Scott and I fill the sandbag.

In this shot, I carefully place the sandbag against a buttress 10 feet back from the drop.

Scott starts to rappel, but the bag begins to shift. The assymetry of the placement tends to drive the Sandbag to the side, which would result in failure. We try again.

A better placement is just at the lip of the drop, but requires substantial digging to get the bag placed low enough.

Having risen through the ranks, the Emperor is familiar with traditional employee motivation techniques.

Digging reveals a pretty much perfect placement – rough, slightly overhanging, and deep enough for the Sandbag to be fully below the lip. Scott heads down, HIS rappel backed up to the single, crappy drilled angle. No problem.

We then removed the pin and filled the hole, and completed the rappel using the Sandbag. (Rumor has it, in high water, this drop can be jumped. It has also been climbed around, though at a pretty high standard).



Here's how it works:

1. The bag is loaded with sand, and the sticky side placed down on the back side of the drop.

2. All canyoneers rappel very gently.

3. Pull the retrieval cord (might require a substantial pull). The bag rolls over onto the slick side, and also empties the sand out of the open top of the bag.

Warning: A device like the Sandbag must be strongly sewn. Unless you are an expert in making this kind of thing, DO NOT try maiking one of these. Want one? Send me an email and if enough people are interested, I'll make a few up. Price would be about $50.