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YOUR go-to anchor for summer crevasse rescue PNW


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I was taught that a single deadmanned picket or ice axe with the snow compacted around it is sufficient to be an anchor for crevasse rescue in firm summer snow conditions on Mt R or Baker (e.g. no other pieces in the anchor system). I've always felt somewhat uncomfortable with this (kinda like an anchor of a single bolt on a rock climb), especially because shit's already hit the fan if you're hoisting someone out of a crack and I don't want things to go from bad to worse.


In conversation with various folk I hear a wide variety of opinions - ranging on a spectrum from bomber anchors that take time with a cordelette, to quick and dirty stuff to get your injured partner out as fast as possible. There's much writing out there on these systems, yet they tend to gloss over the anchor part (likely because it is so condition-dependent). The best writing I've seen on the issue is the NZ article from a few years back.


I know snow conditions are everything when it comes to anchors. But for firm summertime stuff on the big local volcanoes, what's your game plan for such an anchor?

Is it different for firm morning snow vs afternoon mashed potatoes? Am I kidding myself that such conditions in a specific season can even be generalized? Is anyone using a hammered picket top-clipped or two (presumably one of the fastest options) anymore?


Those of you who like something more substantial than a single deadmanned hunk of metal, have you tested out how long it takes to construct?


I'm trying to decide where I come down on the speed / safety continuum on this one. Crowd sourcing maybe isn't the best way, but it is a data point.


For clarity - I'm assuming a single rope team where a mechanical advantage system is necessary to hoist someone out of the crack.

Edited by sportnoob
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If you are doing crevasse rescue, then chances are that the snow is not bomber hard snow. if the snow was hard enough for a single piece snow anchor, then it is very unlikely that someone could fall into a covered crevasse.


I suppose that someone could have a sliding fall into an open crevasse


There is no excuse for a single point snow anchor, regardless of snow condition. First rule of rescue is to not make more victims. Putting your life onto a single point anchor is a risky idea. Even if you only have one picket, you still have a ice axe to deadman.


If one had to have only one snow anchor, it would have to be a deadman picket. There may be something to a vertical driven picket but the sling is attached to middle of picket. But I have never practiced it.


My two point anchor takes about 3 minutes more than a one point snow anchor. Time is not a significant enough reason to avoid a solid standard anchor.


My favorite way to make a 2 point snow anchor (both pieces have a double runner already attached) is to

1. Bury the first picket pointing directly towards the victim.

2. Bury the second picket directly behind the first about 3 feet with the sling slot pointing directly into the other picket sling slot.

3. Girth hitch a double runner to the lower picket sling and connect the other end of this runner to the higher picket's sling with a biner.

4. Tie a figure eight knot in this double runner to equalize and make a SERNE anchor


Some wil find things that they don,t like about my way but there are also advantages as well,, some not so obvious. I have practiced this method many times with never an issue.

There will be many opinions on something like snow anchors. A worthy resource is to find what the AMGA is suggesting that the guides teach and use.

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I'm confused - by "bury the first picket pointing directly toward the victim" I presume you mean buried deadman style with the direction of load perpendicular to the picket itself. "first picket pointing directly toward the victim" could be read as the picket being slotted parallel to the direction of load -- not what I'd do. I'd aim the SLING at the load, with the picket perpendicular to the sling. Can you clarify? Otherwise, I concur with two deadman placements in series. This was the AMGA standard in the late eighties / early nineties.

Edited by montypiton
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Yeah curt, I meant that the sling points in the direction of load and the sling is perpendicular to the picket as well.


Been a while so I can't remember the source but there was a test done where the vertical placed picket with the sling attached to the middle like a deadman did as well or better than a deadman picket. Still had dig a slot for the sling but just pound the picket in.

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Just to highlight the risk of a single point anchor, the latest R & I magazine has a accident article involving the failure of a single bolt anchor resulting in a death. And that was a bolt which is arguably much stronger than a stick buried in snow which is on it's way to being water.

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More data about this situation:


Mt Ruth snow anchor failure


A single anchor is no where near "fail-safe", let alone a single snow anchor!


that is some crazy shite! For a passing party to have Alan Kearney in it is very lucky. That is one man I would want to save me.


This part is weird to me.

"Has this in anyway turned me off to climbing? Not in the least. Do I blame God? No. With every venture there is risk and reward. Accidents happen and I bear no ill will toward the mountain or God or anybody else for this incident. "


what about the guy who thought a single picket (unknown how placed) was good enough to dangle over a cliff? It wasn't the mountain or god (if you got that way) that placed a poor picket. Does this smells like he thinks it is gods will or the mountains fury?

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Kurt Hicks -


thanks for the link. that's an eye opening article, though I have to clarify that their testing yielded HIGHER strengths than I expected, particularly for the mid-clipped vertically placed picket. Definitely worth reading, in any case.



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For me, my go to anchor has to be one I can set up while escaping a loaded rope. Ideally the middle climber on a rope team will remain in arrest position freeing climber #3 to set up the anchor free of the load, but maybe this is a two person rope team. Maybe here are two in the crevasse. For this reason, step 1 is a vertically driven picket. It is also at this time that I am grateful for remembering to put a prusik on the rope in advance. This gets transferred to the picket, slid tight, and gradually loaded.


Now I have a little more freedom to shift my weight about while remaining in a prepared state to take the load back from the anchor or fall on the picket. The nature of the second anchor point is not important. I may also have a fluke, or ice screws, or just my ice axe. Whatever I have goes into the snow some slight distance orthogonal to the load from the picket. My reasoning is that it is just about impossible to equalize the load in a non self-equalizing system between to anchor point at a 0° angle. If you run your cordelette such that the angle from the bottom to the anchors is greater, perhaps 50°, you'll have much better luck. Still I think 65%/35% is doing pretty well. Of course if the loads are unequal the weighted anchor will probably be shifted until they roughly are.


Now I can transfer the load to the redundant anchor, escape the system entirely, and use the coils I've been carrying to rig a Z-pulley. Anyway, that's my take. I have been fortunate enough to have never had my system tested in a desperate situation.


By the way, if I can I would prefer to use an ice axe under the rope to reduce friction at the edge and keep it from burying itself any deeper as you winch up the climber. For our glaciated volcanoes I like to have a fluke for the second piece. Also, if the middle climber is holding the arrest you set this all up right below them, of course, given room.

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