I got this idea from AMGA guide Dale Resmberg, who posted a picture of it on Facebook in March 2019. Thanks Dale! Connect with Dale on his website.
There are lots of ways to build an anchor with just the climbing rope. You could use a bowline on a bight, or a “bunny ears” figure 8, as discussed in this post. Either of these gives decent load distribution, but they do require that you learn new knots that some people find a little tricky.
Here’s a very slick method to make an anchor with the climbing rope that simply uses clove hitches and a butterfly or overhand knot, which you hopefully already know. (If not, check out the video section.)
Note: Anytime you are using the rope to create an anchor like this, it’s generally works best if you are swinging leads on a multipitch climb. If one person is doing all the leading, or if this is the last anchor at the top of a climb and you are transitioning to rappel, it’s better to craft an anchor from a sling or cordelette so you have both ends of the rope to work with.
Another reason for using the rope is if the climbing is tough and run out right off of the anchor, and thus a greater chance for a leader fall to put a large amount of force onto the anchor and belay. Having the entire anchor made out of dynamic rope gives more stretch to the system and will lower the force on all the other components.
Say you’re leading, and arrive at a two bolt belay anchor. Here’s what you do.
Clove hitch the rope (that’s tied to your harness) to the right side bolt. (Below, the rope on the right goes to the leader.)
Maybe 6-8 inches inches on the “backside” of this clove hitch, tie a loop into the rope. Here I tied a butterfly knot, but it could be an overhand or figure 8 on a bight.
Next, clove hitch the rope to the left carabiner. Adjust the rope on the left clove as needed to center the loop. Done! You are connected to both bolts, and you have an equalized master point to belay your partner from. You hopefully set this up in under one minute, and used a minimum amount of gear.
Now, you can give your second a direct belay from this master point with either a plaquette style belay device (below), or . . .
Munter hitch, for old school style points.
If connecting yourself to the equalized master point rather than the right side bolt gives you a warm fuzzy feeling, here’s a simple variation to do that. Tie the system in the same way, except at the first step, give yourself a couple of feet of slack between your harness and the first clove hitch you tie going to the right side bolt. Now, after the anchor is built, you use this bit of extra slack to clove hitch directly from your harness into the equalized master point.