Anchoring Pioneering Projects II


Any pioneering project that cannot safely stand by itself needs to be attached to something that will securely hold it in place. It has to be anchored. Sometimes nature will provide a tree or rock in just the right location or you might be able to shift the project’s placement to take advantage of a natural anchor. On all other occasions, anchors need to be built that will assure the structure’s stability.

Stakes – When nature does not provide a solution, anchors can be built using strong pioneering stakes. The common size of stakes for most Scout Pioneering projects is 2-1/2-inches in diameter and about 24 to 30 inches long. After cutting the stake to this size, cut a point on one end. It’s good to bevel the top edge to minimize mushrooming or splitting when the stake is driven into the ground. Long-lasting pioneering stakes are made of hardwood, such as oak or hickory.

Drive the stakes into the ground at about a 20° angle. Soil conditions can vary and will dictate how large and long a stake you need. The main thing is to make sure all stakes are deep enough so they don’t wobble or budge at all.

Under no conditions should tent pegs be used for pioneering stakes. They’re neither long or strong enough to make a safe anchor.

Page52 AnchorsMallet – When driving stakes into the ground, it’s best to use a wooden mallet. Using a metal sledge hammer can more easily damage the stake. To make a wooden mallet, cut a 4-inch diameter piece of hardwood, such as hickory, elm, or sycamore, to about 11 inches length. It should weigh about four pounds. Drill a 1-1/8 inch diameter hole to mount the handle. The handle can be made from a 24 inch length of hardwood (similar to making a stake). Use a knife or ax to round the end of the handle to fit the hole in the mallet head. Secure the handle in place with a wedge placed crosswise to the length of the head.

Guylines – When attaching a guyline, make sure its contact with the stake is as low to the ground as possible. If the guyline is placed or slips higher on the stake, there will probably be enough leverage to pull the stake loose. Guylines should be secured to the structure about 3/4 of the way up. To determine how long a guyline should be, measure the height at the point where its attached and double that distance. That’s how far away the anchor should be from the pole. For example, if the guyline is attached 10 feet up the pole, the anchor should be a minimum of 20 feet from the base.

Page53 Anchors13-2-1 Anchor – As the name implies, the 3-2-1 anchor is made by driving stakes in a series: three stakes, then two stakes, and then one stake to form the anchor. First drive in the set of three stakes. Next drive in the set of two stakes about 24 Page53 Anchors2inches away from the first set. Finally, drive a single stake in the ground about 12 inches from the two-stake set.

Connect the stakes by tying a rope from the top of the three-stake set to the bottom of the two stake set, and from the top of the two stake set to the bottom of the single stake. Use at least two loops of 1/4 inch manila rope, or six to eight loops of binder twine. Then twist the rope tight using a small stick as a tourniquet. After the rope is twisted tight, push the end of the stick in the ground to keep it from unwinding.

Depending on the strain the anchors need to withstand, you can use other configurations, such as 2-1-1, or 1-1-1, or even 1-1 for a light strain.

Log-and-Stake Anchor – This type of anchor is easy to make and can hold a considerable amount of pull. You can tie the line directly to the log, or you can use a ring with a rope grommet as shown in the photo below. To make the log-and-stake anchor, place a log 4 to 6 inches in diameter perpendicular to the pull of the line. Then drive in four large stakes in front of the log. Next, slip the rope grommet through the ring and then slip the ends of the grommet around the log. Drive a second row of stakes 24 inches behind the front stakes. Then anchor the front stakes to the rear stakes with a tourniquet made of binder twine or rope.

Page54 Anchors2

When building anchors, always be sure they are in direct alignment with the strain being applied.

Strops – When attaching lines to a natural anchor such as a tree or large rock, a strop can be used very effectively. Splice a thimble with a large ring to a 10-15-foot length of 1/2-inch diameter manila or polypropylene rope. A piece of canvas or burlap should be used to protect the rope from sharp edges of a rock or to protect the bark of the tree from rope burns.

Ring Shackle

Page45 ShortRope GrommetsRope grommets are useful when attaching a long line to an anchor of stakes. A large grommet can be made by splicing together the ends of a 10-foot length of 1/2-inch polypropylene or manila rope. If you don’t have a spliced grommet in your pioneering kit, tie the ends of the rope with a carrick bend. Be sure to secure the ends. The grommet you use must be made of a larger-diameter rope than the lines they’re connecting, to avoid creating a weak link in the chain between the structure and the anchor.

SinglePullRope grommets can be applied in a variety of configurations. In the above photo, a large ring connects the three ropes from a monkey bridge (left) to a rope that is reeved back and forth between that large ring and the ring of a rope grommet (right), which in turn is attached to the anchor.

Single-Pull, 2-Ring, Monkey Bridge Anchor Configuration

Rope Tackle for Pioneering Use

VIEW VIDEO: How to Tie a Rope Tackle

Using a Rope Tackle, two Scouts tighten a hand rope on their monkey bridge.
Using a Rope Tackle, two Scouts tighten a hand rope on their monkey bridge.
Click on the image for a larger view.
Click on the image for a larger view.

We apply a rope tackle, (also known as the Trucker’s Hitch, Lineman’s Hitch, Load Binder, and Harvester Hitch) where the guylines meet the anchors for pretty much all our pioneering projects. For safety reasons, Taut-Line Hitches should never be used in any pioneering work, because if the tension is eased the knot can slip. 

The rope tackle is one of the many skills learned for pioneering that can be used in a variety of situations for many years to come.

Securing a load of spars to a flatbed for transport.
Securing a load of spars to a flatbed for transport.

Frequently, we use a rope tackle when creating a ridge line between two trees for dining flies and tarps, and love using them whenever there’s an appropriate need to hold the strain on a line being tightened.

Simple Rope Tackle for a Low Stress Application using Braided Nylon Cord.
Simple Rope Tackle for a Low Stress Application using Braided Nylon Cord.

Author: Adolph Peschke

Start with a Butterfly Knot in the desired position along the standing part of the rope. When there is lots of line, make a bight in the running end and feed it through the fixed loop of the Butterfly Knot. To tighten the line, grab a hold of the bight and pull it towards the anchor. When the desired tension is put on the line, with one hand, keep the line taut, and holding the bight in the other hand, use the bight to form a half hitch around both tight lines. As the half hitch is secured, maintain the tension on the line by pinching the standing part, making sure it doesn’t slip. Still maintaining the tension on the tightened lines in the standing part, cinch the half hitch up close to the fixed loop of the Butterfly Knot. As an added measure, tie another half hitch around the tightened lines. All excess rope should be  coiled under the knots.
Rope Tackle for Pioneering Use

The following drawings and text have been extracted directly from the 1993 publication of the Pioneering Merit Badge Pamphlet written by Adolph Peschke:

When you want to lift or pull more than your own strength will permit, or when you want to make a heavy lifting job a little easier, the rope tackle is a device that can be used.

The idea behind a rope tackle is similar to that of a tackle using blocks and pulleys. In a rope tackle, one lead (end) of the rope has to be fixed. That is, it has to be anchored around a spar or tied through a ring or other piece of hardware that doesn’t move.

Loop knot.  Then a loop knot is tied along the standing part of the rope. The Butterfly Knot and the Bowline on a bight are suitable for making a loop knot because they can be tied in the standing part of the rope and they are both easy to tie and fairly easy to untie even after being put under a strain. If you have no other reason to become proficient in tying these two knots, the rope tackle should convince you.

Vertical display, as for lifting or pulling an object.
Vertical display, as for lifting or pulling an object.

Connect with the load. After you’ve tied the loop knot, it forms a fixed loop that acts as the wheel in a block. If you’re using the rope tackle to lift or pull an object, pass the running end through a ring or other hardware that’s attached to the object (load). The ring (or other hardware) is used so that the rope is free to slide as you pull on the hauling end of the rope as the tackle takes effect. If you want to use the rope tackle to tighten a line, pass the running end around a fixed object such as a spar, a stake, or a tree.

Finally, the running end of the rope is passed through the fixed loop in the loop knot. The running end becomes the hauling line which is pulled to make the tackle work.

Principles. The rope tackle works on the same principles as any other tackle using mechanical blocks or pulleys. The rigging method shown on the left develops twice the lifting or pulling power that’s applied to the hauling end. In other words, you can lift a fifty-pound weight using only twenty-five pounds of force on the hauling end.

To determine how much force is needed to lift a weight, the general rule is that you count the number of ropes passing through the ring where the object (load) is. In this case there are two ropes passing through the ring that’s attached to the load. Then divide the number into the weight being lifted. Let’s assume that the weight being lifted is fifty pounds. The answer is twenty-five pounds, which is the amount of pull required to lift the fifty pounds with the rope tackle.

When you take into consideration the friction of the ropes rubbing together, you will have to apply a bit more than the twenty-five pounds to make the lift. But even with the loss caused by friction, the rope tackle is quite effective.

Sometimes it is better to actually experience the effect of how the rope tackle works than it is to understand the technical explanation of the process. Setting up a rope tackle will convince you.

Tying off the Rope Tackle
Tying off the Rope Tackle & Maintaining the Tension on the Line

Tying off. When using a rope tackle, if you want to hold the position of a load being lifted or pulled, or if you want to hold the strain of a line being tightened, form a bight in the hauling end of the rope and tie it off with a tight Half Hitch below the fixed loop in the Butterfly Knot.

Types of rope. The type of rope you choose for a rope tackle should have a low stretch factor, such as pure manila rope. Ropes that stretch like polypropylene and nylon, even though they are strong, require that you pull the stretch out of the rope before your tackle takes effect.

Note: When in use, the rope tackle can put considerable strain on the fibers of the rope. Therefore, repeated use of the same section of the rope for this purpose should be avoided. The ropes used to make the tackle should be inspected for damaged fibers on a regular basis.

Uses of the rope tackle. The wide range of uses for a rope tackle by a number of different craftsmen speaks for its effectiveness. Each craft seems to use a slightly different knot or hitch to form the loop that makes a rope tackle. The Lorryman’s Hitch, the Lineman’s Hitch, the Stagehand’s Hitch, are all samples of different knots or hitches used to form the loop. The only difference between these hitches is that in some of them the type of knot used to make the loop is more easily untied than others after a hard pull. But they all do essentially the same thing. That is, they form a fixed loop for the rope to be used as a tackle.

The extent to which the rope tackle has been used by craftsmen and tradesmen in their daily work can be better understood from the following list of uses and by the various names by which it is called:

  • The Linesman’s Hitch is used to put strain on a line in the process of stringing electric or telephone lines. It was used as far back as the building of the telegraph lines that opened up the western states during the 1800s.
  • The Stagehand’s Hitch is used to adjust the height of the curtains on a theater stage.
  • The Wagoneer’s Hitch is an English reference to the hitch used to secure the load on a wagon or lorry.
  • The Load Binder is is what the farmer called the hitch he used to tie down a load of hay on his wagon.

Pulling a log. One of the uses of a rope tackle is to pull a heavy load such as a log. To do this, you need two ropes. Tie a short (6′ to 8′) length of rope to the end of the log with a Timber Hitch. Then tie a bowline at the other end of this rope.

Pulling a Log or Other Heavy Object
Pulling a Log or Other Heavy Object

To pull the log, tie a long line to a tree or other anchor point with a Roundturn with Two Half Hitches. Then tie a Butterfly Knot in the long line to form the loop for a rope tackle. Run the end of the long line through the Bowline and back through the fixed loop in the Butterfly Knot. Then pull on the end of the long line to pull the log.

Pioneering Uses

  • To adjust the strain on the guylines of a pioneering project or a flagpole (see figures 98 and 99)
  • To put the strain on a picket line used for tying up horses or canoes
  • To tie down and secure your equipment on a trailer or truck (see figure 100)
  • To hoist or lower equipment in rock climbing
  • To tie a line to air your sleeping bag or to make a clothesline for wet clothes
  • To tighten hold-down ropes on large tents and flies

Single Pull Rope Tackle Monkey Bridge Configuration

Uses for a Rope Tackle
Uses for a Rope Tackle

14′ Double Ladder Signal Tower

This signal tower went up on a camping trip in March of 2000 in a large grassy field. The operation took a little over two hours. PHASE 1: Before we started, a well-muscled sledge hammer crew, made up of Jason Hardee, Theodore Fontana, Cory Keibler, Kurt Lester, and Will Hall, took turns pounding in 24 three-foot pioneering stakes to make up the four “1-1-1” anchors needed to tie the tower down. PHASE 2: A crew assembled the 2 fourteen foot ladders. (All Scout campers tied at least one of the fifty square lashings required to put together the completed project.) PHASE 3: Another crew held the ladders in position while they were lashed together. Thanks to Jason for his diagonal lashings, and Theodore and Hiram for their help in lashing down the floor spars making up the platform. PHASE 4: The tower is hoisted with Scouts manning each corner guyline and the rope used to make sure the tower isn’t pulled too far before it’s secured. Thanks to Michael O’Neil who was in charge of tightening the guylines using the rope tackles at each of the anchors
This signal tower went up on a camping trip in March of 2000 in a large grassy field. The operation took a little over two hours. PHASE 1: Before we started, a well-muscled sledge hammer crew, made up of Jason Hardee, Theodore Fontana, Cory Keibler, Kurt Lester, and Will Hall, took turns pounding in 24 three-foot pioneering stakes to make up the four “3-2-1” anchors we thought we needed to tie the tower down. (For years, we overlooked the fact all we really needed were 1-1 anchors.) PHASE 2: A crew assembled the 2 fourteen foot ladders. (All Scout campers tied at least one of the fifty Square Lashings required to put together the completed project.) PHASE 3: Another crew held the ladders in position while they were lashed together. Thanks to Jason for his Diagonal Lashings, and Theodore and Hiram for their help in lashing down the floor spars making up the platform. PHASE 4: The tower is hoisted with Scouts manning each corner guyline and the rope used to make sure the tower isn’t pulled too far before it’s secured. Thanks to Michael O’Neil who was in charge of tightening the guylines using the rope tackles at each of the anchors

The National Camp Accreditation Program (NCAP)   Program Specific Standard PS-212 states: “Scout camp structures such as monkey bridges, obstacle courses, and pioneering towers are expected to meet safety standards in equipment and supervision comparable to COPE but are not subject to COPE standards, do not require COPE inspection, and do not require an on-site COPE Level II instructor.
“VERIFICATION: If a project has participants elevated more than 6 feet above the ground, evidence of council enterprise risk management approval. This approval may be part of the general program design review in Standard PD-112.” 


14′ Boy Scout Tower Gateway (Four Flag Tower)

Jamboree Pioneering Area: Towers

The following text is by Adolph E. Peschke as presented in the 1998 printing of the 1993 edition of the Pioneering Merit Badge Pamphlet:

This project solves the old problem of wanting to build a signal tower when there aren’t enough big spars to do the job. The double ladder tower requires four 14-foot spars and several smaller spars, but not nearly the amount needed for a four-leg signal tower. It also cuts down the number of lashings required.

This tower is not free standing. It requires the use of guylines to hold it steady. Review the sections on anchors and rope tackle if this is your first encounter with guylines.

Assemble the ladders. This project begins with building two ladders: a climbing ladder and a supporting ladder. Lay out two pairs of spars on the ground for the legs of the ladders. Be sure the butt ends are even at the bottom so that the tower will stand up straight. Before you begin any lashing, mark the positions where the spars that will hold the top platform are to be lashed onto the legs. This is about 4 feet from the top ends of the legs.

To make the climbing ladder, lash ten rungs on one pair of legs at about 1-foot intervals. The top rung should be lashed on where you marked the position of the platform, 4 feet from the top. Also the top handrail is lashed on to complete the climbing ladder.

To make the supporting ladder, lash three spars on the other set of legs to serve as the bottom, center, and top spreaders. The top spreader should be lashed at the point you marked for the platform, 4 feet from the top. Then lash on the top handrail, as on the climbing ladder.

Lash the ladders together. Now you have to join the two ladders to form the tower. Turn the two ladders up on their sides so they’re parallel to each other and approximately 6 feet apart. Check to see that the bottoms are even. Now lash on the base spreader to join the bottoms of the two ladders.

Lash on the platform supporting spar just above the top rung and top spreader on the ladders. Before proceeding, check the measurements from the bottoms of the legs to the platform supporting spar to make sure they’re equal on both legs so that the platform will be level.

Continue by lashing on the top long handrail. The lash on the two side X-braces diagonally between the legs using square lashings to lash the ends to the legs, and a diagonal lashing where they cross.

Figure 137
Figure 137

Lash the other side. To make the lashings on the other side, you have to get the whole crew together to roll the tower over 180° so that it’s laying on the X braces and the other sides of the ladders are up where they will be easier to get to.

Then proceed as before. Lash on the base spreader spar and the platform supporting spar. Again, measure to make sure there’s equal distance from both ends of the platform support spar to the bottoms of both legs. Continue to lash on the top long handrail and finish with the X-braces.

Lash on two more platform X-braces under the platform. These braces go diagonally across the legs just under the platform to help the tower resist racking (see figure 137). Use square lashings to lash them to the legs and a diagonal lashing where they cross.

14' Double Ladder Signal Tower Schematic
14′ Double Ladder Signal Tower Schematic

Before standing the tower upright, lash on the spars to form the platform floor.

Anchors and Guylines. When all the lashings are done, move the tower to where it will be hoisted. Before actually hoisting the tower, lay out the position of the four legs on the ground.  Then determine where the four anchors for the guylines will be placed to steady the legs of the tower. (Refer to the Anchors section to determine the position of the anchors.)

If the tower is positioned to make use of a natural anchor (such as a tree), prepare anchor strops to attach the guylines. For any guylines that won’t be using natural anchors, build anchors using pioneering stakes. At a minimum, you’ll need to build well constructed 1-1 anchors at all four corners.

Attach the four guylines to the legs just above the platform. The guylines should be 3/8-inch diameter manila or polypropylene rope. They’re attached to the legs of the tower using a roundturn with two half hitches and securing the running end of the rope.

Note: For safety reasons, never use a taut-line hitch on guylines, or for that matter, in any pioneering work. This hitch is used when adjustments in the tension are called for. It can slip.

During the Carwash Fundraiser in May of 1997, we raised our third 14 foot Double Ladder Signal Tower. After the tower is lashed together, requiring 50 square lashings, before it can be hoisted, it has to be carried and positioned in the exact location. Once in position, the crew divides into :lifters
Hoisting the 14′ Double Ladder Signal Tower

Hoisting the tower. Hoisting the tower up into a vertical position is done with separate ropes. Do not use the guylines. Tie two lines on the side of the tower being lifted and one line on the opposite side to prevent over pulling and toppling the tower.

You’ll need a whole crew to do the hoisting. First there should be a safety officer who observes for all safety considerations and signs of trouble during the hoisting. There should also be a signal caller who tells the crew members when and how fast to pull on the hoisting ropes and when to stop pulling. Two or more Scouts should be on each of the two ropes. And one or two Scouts should be on the rope on the other side to prevent over pulling the tower.

When everyone is in position, the signal caller should direct the Scouts on the hoisting ropes to hoist the tower into position. As soon as it’s up, temporarily tie the guylines to the anchors using a roundturn with two half hitches.

Heeling in the legs. When the tower is upright, heel in the butt ends of the tower legs in holes about 4 to 6 inches deep. This is done to steady the tower and can also help in leveling the tower to make sure that the platform is level and the tower itself is vertical.

Four 1-1 Anchors
Four 1-1 Anchors

Tighten the guylines. To hold the tower steady, gradually apply strain to each of the four guylines at the same time. One of the easiest ways to adjust the strain is to tie a rope tackle on the anchor ends of the guylines.

As soon as the tower is in position and the legs are heeled in, go to each of the anchors and untie the roundturns with two half hitches and replace it with a rope tackle.

Do this by tying a butterfly knot in each guyline about 6 to 8 feet from the anchor. Then wrap the running end of the guyline around the forward stake of the anchor and back through the loop in the butterfly knot. When rope tackles are tied to all four anchors, gradually tighten the lines. Apply enough strain to each of the guylines to hold the tower firm and in a vertical position. Then tie off the rope tackles and secure the running ends with half hitches.

Test the structure. Before the tower can be put into general use, make a test climb while the safety officer and the whole crew observe all the lashings and anchors to ensure they are all secure.

Note: Some people are not comfortable climbing up to a high place. They should not be encouraged to climb if they are not sure of themselves. Do not pressure anyone to climb the tower if they don’t want to.



  • four 4-inch x 14-foot tower legs
  • ten 2-inch x 3-foot climbing ladder rungs
  • three 2-inch x 3-foot support ladder spreaders
  • two 2-1/2-inch x 6-foot base spreaders
  • two 2-1/2-inch x 6-foot platform supporting spars
  • two 2-inch x 3-foot platform handrails
  • two 2-inch x 6-foot platform long handrails
  • four 2-1/2-inch x 10-foot X braces
  • two 2-1/2-inch x 8-foot X braces
  • eighteen 2-inch x 3-1/2-foot platform support slats
  • eight pioneering stakes
  • binder twine
  • four 3/8-inch x 50-foot manila guylines
  • thirty-one 1/4-inch x 15-foot manila lashing ropes (for 28 square Lashings and 3 diagonal lashings)
  • twenty-two  1/4-inch x 20-foot manila lashing ropes (for 22 square lashings)

In accordance with current regulations, a fine adaptation consists of replacing the ladder rungs with support side spreaders, and dispensing with the platform floor slats. Lashing one or more long flag poles to the top of the legs and flying banners or flags never fails to elicit a rousing array of cheers, as the Scouts hoist their tower into an upright position!  Click here for project description and materials.

Camp Clothing Drying Rack

Small Clothes Rack

Designed very closely along the lines of the Simple Camp Table, this is an easy solution to how to dry wet clothing and towels at a long-term camp.

  • It takes up less space while drying more wet things.
  • It eliminates the clutter of clothing and towels haphazardly strewn around on tables, tree branches, tent platforms, or overcrowded on a disorganized array of drooping clothes lines.
  • It can be set up in a location where there is the most sunshine.
  • It’s especially useful when camping in an open area with few trees.

A large camp clothing drying rack can be built using four 6-foot x 2-inch spars, or a smaller one with four 5-foot Scout staves.

Attaching the long line to the rack ends

Build the framework. For each side of the rack, lash two poles with a tight shear lashing. Make sure the distance where they intersect at the top is the same for each pole.

If you’re making a larger rack, strengthen the sides by connecting the poles with a 4 or 5-foot cross brace, lashed on with tight square lashings. This will form an A-frame for each side. (For a smaller rack, all you’ll need are the Shear Lashed staves forming two inverted ‘Vs’.)

Set up the supporting line. What holds up the sides of the rack and serves as the highest drying line is a long rope. A 50-foot x 1/4-inch manila rope works great, but most any long cord will be fine. Drive in two narrow pioneering stakes, one for each side, extending about ten feet beyond the length of the drying rack. The larger the rack, the longer this length can be.

Attach the long rope to each rack side with a an Open-Ended Clove Hitch around the top of one pole, right where they intersect. The distance between each side is the length of the drying rack where wet clothes and towels will be hung.

Larger Drying Rack

Raise the rack. After the clove hitches are in place, lift up one rack side and secure the end of the long rope to the corresponding stake with a taut-line hitch or rope tackle. Repeat this process with the other rack side. Tightening the ropes at the stakes is what keeps the drying rack firmly in place.

Add some lines. Adding more lines increases the capacity of the rack to dry more and more wet clothing and towels. Tie additional ropes or cords to the rack sides at lower heights, attaching one end around the pole with a clove hitch or two half hitches, and the other at the other pole with a taut-line hitch. To increase the rack’s stability, you can heel in the butt ends of the rack sides an inch or two into the ground. This will keep them from shifting when the additional lines are made taut.

NOTE: For a very sturdy drying rack, replace the single stake at each end with a 1-1 anchor, and then, instead of using shorter lines secured only between the rack sides, use long ropes or cords, attaching them with a clove hitch at the poles, and then around each 1-1 anchor with a tight taut-line hitch or rope tackle.  If you’re using manila (which has a low stretch factor) as your long rope, and you’re getting a decent strain on the line, there’s no reason you can’t just secure the rack to the stakes using roundturns with two half hitches.

A Better Clothes Drying Rack