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BG Gear Smooth Operator


The Smooth Operator is a fiddlestick-style retrievable anchor system that allows an abseil rope to be retrieved without leaving a sling or other anchor material behind. Trees, rocks, arches, existing anchors and other creative options can all be utilised with this device. It allows canyoners to leave less anchor material in canyons, as well as reducing rope groves on soft rock such as sandstone.

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The Smooth Operator is a releasable canyoning anchor device which can be retrieved after abseiling, leaving nothing behind. It can also be used to make difficult rope retrievals much easier, or in situations where the optimal pull-down doesn’t follow the abseil line.

Fiddlestick-style retrievable or releasable anchors are a popular tool that allows you to leave no trace in canyons, particularly those in remote or wilderness areas. This approach is often referred to as ghosting.

This technique allows natural anchors, such as trees, rocks, arches, chockstones, and other creative options to be used without the need to leave slings, quicklinks, or other materials behind.

The basic concept is simple: the abseiling rope is tied around an anchor using a stein (stone) knot, which is held together with the fiddlestick-style toggle. After everyone has has abseiled down, the fiddlestick is pulled from the knot using a thin pull cord. Once released, the knot falls apart, with the abseil rope and pull cord falling down separately.

The design of the Smooth Operator features two safety holes on each end. This allows the system to be closed using two carabiners or a quickdraw, preventing any possibility of accidental release for everyone except the last person down.

Key advantages:

  • anchors can be set well back from an edge, or even around a corner
  • allows abseils to be completed with half as much rope as traditional techniques
  • natural formations like arches and chockstones can be used as abseil anchors
  • anchor building materials like slings and maillons do not need to be left behind
  • rope wear is almost entirely removed, preventing damage to rocks, trees, and other natural anchors
  • quicker to set up than a traditional anchor
  • less time and effort to retrieve, as the abseil rope doesn’t need to be pulled through the anchor
  • allows you to leave no trace in wilderness areas

Product information:

  • Weight: 55.4 grams
  • Material: Polycarbonate
  • Dimensions: 197mm long, 32mm wide, 9.5mm thick
  • Made in: United States

Using the Smooth Operator

WARNING: As with any ropework, incorrect rigging can result in catastrophic failure, leading to injury or death. The Smooth Operator requires advanced skills, judgement, and attention to detail with every use. Prior to use in a canyon environment ensure you carefully read the instruction manual and practice using the Smooth Operator in a safe environment.

Using the Smooth Operator in many cases makes the pull down much easier. With a standard abseil, the abseil rope needs to be pulled up from the bottom of the drop all the way through the anchor at the top. With the Smooth Operator, as little as a metre of rope is pulled around the anchor, reducing the work of retrieving the abseil rope. This reduced work load also translates to little or no rope grooving, even when used on softer sandstone.

In many cases, setting up a Smooth Operator anchor can be faster than setting up a standard abseil anchor. This is particularly true on first descents or in remote wilderness canyons where no anchors exist or where anchor materials need to be replaced.

Another benefit of the Smooth Operator is that it allows rope retrieval when your ropes are not long enough for a drop and they need to be tied together to reach the bottom of a drop (such as when a rope has been damaged and needs to be isolated). Those abseiling will still need to pass the knot, but once everyone is down the ropes can be retrieved by pulling the Smooth Operator down.

Those who enjoy the challenge of ghosting a canyon (leaving nothing behind) will greatly benefit from the use of a Smooth Operator.

Some notes on using the Smooth Operator:

It is important to cinch the stein (stone) knot very well. Don’t just tighten it until it looks good, cinch it down hard and put some force into it.

Tying the stone knot so it will release with no twists in the rope is counter intuitive. Tying a nice neat knot will leave one full twist in the rope after the stone knot is released. Click here for information on how to tie the stein knot so it releases twist free.

If you want to clean your Smooth Operator, mild soap and water are all that is required.

While the Smooth Operator will likely last much longer, the manufacturer recommends it be retired and replaced after 3 to 4 years of use.

The Smooth Operator is not designed for shock loads. Avoid situations where the Smooth Operator can experience a shock load from a fall. Do not ascend on a Smooth Operator.

Additional information:

Smooth Operator instructions PDF

Basic outline of the Smooth Operator concept

Detailed outline of the Smooth Operator concept

Overview of how to tie the stein (stone) knot for use with a Smooth Operator

Smooth Operator care and cleaning instructions