/ Newbie snow belay questions
What's a Y-axe belay?
Is a snow mushroom belay the same as a snow bollard?
Please keep in mind that these are used as a back up to a bucket seat, never as a direct belay. Though the bollard could also be used as a abseil anchor
> What's a Y-axe belay?
The term 'buried axe belay' is a misnomer because the axes aren't always 'buried' and it is not very specific because it can either be taken as a generic term or refer to the simple 'horizontal axe belay'.
The common point for any of the multiple variations possible is always digging a T-shaped slot, so the term T-slot belay is not very helpful either.
If you have one axe, things are easy - you dig a T-slot, put a sling around the balance point of the axe and then place the axe at the bottom of the horizontal slot, with the sling running to the surface of the snow down the vertical slot. This is best described as a horizontal axe belay (as opposed to historic but now discredited vertical axe belay).
However if you have 2 axes you then have 3 options:
- construct two separate horizontal axe belays side by side at a slight angle to each other. This is the Y-axe belay.
- construct a horizontal axe belay but reinforce it by pushing the 2nd axe down vertically in front of the first axe (between the two strands of the sling). This is a reinforced horizontal axe belay.
- the final option is very similar to the last but the sling is placed on the vertical axe with the horizontal axe being in front. This is T-axe belay and can equally well be thought of as a reinforced vertical axe belay. It can be a good option where there is a hard layer of surface snow meaning only the most shallow of T-slots is needed making it a quicker option than the reinforced horizontal axe.
Unfortunately, to add to the confusion the term T-axe is occasionally used incorrectly to refer to a reinforced horizontal axe belay.
That was very informative for myself also, thanks. Is there any consensus on what is the best option with two axes (ideal world, usual caveats apply etc.)? By best I mean most likely to stay put in a fall.
I suppose with a Y-belay you have individually weaker anchors but a) two of them and b) in slightly different areas of snowpack which could make a difference? In the reinforced versions the individual anchor may be stronger (for a given area of snow), but if you have chosen a bad bit of snow you have no back-up. I know these things are done on a case by case basis, but what would you say is the most common method?
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