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cmor

Snow pickets vs. snow flukes

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I've always used snow pickets for my belays in snow, whether it be vertical or t-slot placements. In real soft snow, I've always had trouble getting anything real good with a t-slot anchor. Are the self diving flukes better for belays in these conditions? Or at least quicker than building endless t-slots? They don't appear to be as versatile in harder snow/ice but it might be worth picking one up for the days I plan on wallowing around in sugar snow.

 

Thanks for any insight.

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Flukes are tough to get placed right. I have never used on (or even brought one) during a climb. I have placed them successfully for practice.

 

Flukes aren't going to be much more effective in sugar snow. They seem to work best in heavy wet snow.

 

My $0.02.

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I've used snow flukes a lot. In conditions like those found in the cascades right now, snow flukes can be placed faster than a picket in a t-slot. However, flukes take practice. If you don't mess around with them enough to understand the how to place them well, then they're not worth carrying.

 

The disadvantage to the snow fluke is that they are not the most comfortable piece of equipment to carry on a harness. And in late season -- when you essentially have to pound them into the snow -- they are not all that useful.

 

I like pickets because they can easily be carried on a pack or on a sling over the shoulder...

 

Both items have their uses. It's not a bad idea to try to understand how to place both pieces quickly and effectively.

 

Jason

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This Friday, June 25, there will be a presentation given at the Tacoma Mountaineers clubhouse regarding the conclusion of some pretty extensive testing of snow anchors. Its at 7:30pm. Should be of interest to those wondering just how bomber pickets, flukes and bollards are.

 

Not that it matters, but the testing was done independantly under a grant given by the Mountain Rescue Association.

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I used flukes this weekend. The only picket I placed was as a deadman (T-Slot). That is the only way I'd trust a picket under the conditions then prevailing. The T-slot was at a place where it was flat and easy to stand there and dig, otherwise I would't have used it at all.

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I used to be a fan of pickets until I went out and tested that stuff in a controlled setting (a couple steep slopes at the side of the Ski Bowl ski area). I tried creating anchors using each that "I judged" would be a good anchor, and had some surprising results. These days, I do not carry pickets at all, I only carry flukes. Why?

 

1) Pickets in neve driven in vertically don't hold shit. Try it sometime. They arent even body-weight in many cases.

2) Pickets as a T-slot anchor seem to hold poorly, and ripped out a bunch when I tested (I ran downhill for 30 feet and "shock-loaded" my test anchors) despite my burying them really deep and being meticulous about their placement after the first few failures.

3) The flukes held much better. They didnt fail. They are easy to place with just a little practice, in all but hard snow.

4) T-slot's can be created in a pinch using skis, ski poles, ice axe. I thought that if I really wanted a T-slot anchor, I could use these too. In fact, the only time I lower into crevasses willingly now is off a T-slot made from skis.

 

My conclusion was that the flukes were more reliable in soft-medium snow, more of the time. For me, placing a good picket in soft snow was so hard in practice (watching them fail time and time again) it didnt warrant carrying them anymore.

 

Flukes are actually easier to carry on a harness than a picket, too. I think carrying them on a pack defeats the purpose: in a crevasse fall or steep terrain you want access to the anchor immediately, you certainly are not going to want to have to take off a pack to put in an anchor.

 

Just .02

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This Friday, June 25, there will be a presentation given at the Tacoma Mountaineers clubhouse regarding the conclusion of some pretty extensive testing of snow anchors. Its at 7:30pm. Should be of interest to those wondering just how bomber pickets, flukes and bollards are.

 

Not that it matters, but the testing was done independantly under a grant given by the Mountain Rescue Association.

Any chance of the findings making the trek here?

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Alex,

 

I hope you are joking! I teach snow schools probably 20 time a year and often subject pickets to massive loads with pulley systems and have never had one blow that was place well. This includes vertical in neve' and t-slots in packed out soft snow. What gives?

 

dale

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I've messed around with pickets in soft snow too and they do blow out pretty easily just as Alex describes. Seemed in soft snow that a sitting belay with feet and a seat stomped out was stronger than a hastily buried 36" picket. Of course in snow that soft, you ought to be able to self-arrest pretty easily. And in an emergency situation, how much time are you going to have to "work-harden" or dig a really good trench? I agree in soft snow you're better off assuming your picket is not the ticket. wink.gif Hell I think I'd rather fill my pack with snow a bury that.

 

But I always assumed that pickets were only reliable in fairly firm, dense snow, preferably with some strong crust layers if you're doing a vertical placement.

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I once built an anchor consisting of two t-slotted pickets and one vertically driven picket. Justin, do you remember this? I was belaying a folower up (not Justin) and they fell twice, the second time taking a pretty big pendulum. The anchors did not budge, but then I spent a lot of time and thought on how I dug the trenches and how I placed the driven picket. I didn't love the experience, and three pickets is definitly not my first choice for an anchor. But the belay was solid.

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I've messed around with pickets in soft snow too and they do blow out pretty easily just as Alex describes. Seemed in soft snow that a sitting belay with feet and a seat stomped out was stronger than a hastily buried 36" picket. Of course in snow that soft, you ought to be able to self-arrest pretty easily. And in an emergency situation, how much time are you going to have to "work-harden" or dig a really good trench? I agree in soft snow you're better off assuming your picket is not the ticket. wink.gif Hell I think I'd rather fill my pack with snow a bury that.

 

But I always assumed that pickets were only reliable in fairly firm, dense snow, preferably with some strong crust layers if you're doing a vertical placement.

 

you could fill _both_ yer packs and bury them wink.gif

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I once built an anchor consisting of two t-slotted pickets and one vertically driven picket. Justin, do you remember this? I was belaying a folower up (not Justin) and they fell twice, the second time taking a pretty big pendulum. The anchors did not budge, but then I spent a lot of time and thought on how I dug the trenches and how I placed the driven picket. I didn't love the experience, and three pickets is definitly not my first choice for an anchor. But the belay was solid.

 

Oh yeah, well, after my extensive inspection of the belay anchors rolleyes.gif I had come to the conclusion that the picket system had 7 cumulative crust-layers and a non-shockload impact rating of 7.8 kN, and my voluntary backup from the buried shafts of one iceaxe and one ice tool provided a 0.9 kN redundancy.. Geek_em8.gif

 

Of course pickets are only as good as those placing them. I personally have never placed a picket that I would want to fall on. But then again, I've only ever placed pickets for fun...

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I've messed around with pickets in soft snow too and they do blow out pretty easily just as Alex describes. Seemed in soft snow that a sitting belay with feet and a seat stomped out was stronger than a hastily buried 36" picket. Of course in snow that soft, you ought to be able to self-arrest pretty easily. And in an emergency situation, how much time are you going to have to "work-harden" or dig a really good trench? I agree in soft snow you're better off assuming your picket is not the ticket. wink.gif Hell I think I'd rather fill my pack with snow a bury that.

 

But I always assumed that pickets were only reliable in fairly firm, dense snow, preferably with some strong crust layers if you're doing a vertical placement.

 

you could fill _both_ yer packs and bury them wink.gif

 

Ah gawd dammit, I just got this one. mad.giftongue.gif

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My partner and I usually spend a day every spring practicing the entire procedure from stopping the fall, placing a picket, transferring the load to the anchor with a pre-tied Bachmann, constructing the Z-pulley, and reefing the "fallen" partner out of the "crevasse". We always place a backup anchor (second picket), but even when we've used only one, we never had it pull, whether placed vertically or horizontally, even though we have pulled really hard. We usually practice in April, in fairly unconsolidated snow.

 

Alex - after experimenting, we found that carrying the picket on the side of our pack enabled us to reach back over our shoulder, pull the picket vertically up through the compression straps and place the anchor while still having the pack on.

Also, I've placed a picket horizontally at the top of the snow walls in the parking lot at Paradise and taken friends "ice-climbing". Have never had one even quiver, let alone pull, even with people falling and being lowered. In fact, I've found it difficult to extract without digging. A major key to a solid deadman is the length of the leg of the "T" that's dug so the direct pull is not up but through the snow.

Big however - I make no claim to be an expert on the subject; simply relating my experience.

Dan

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