/ Pickets

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JStearn 15 Aug 2019

What are people using if not carrying a picket for crevasse rescue anchors? Assuming you have a mountaineering axe, no skis and it won't take screws. I know Americans seem to love pickets but I rarely see people carrying them in Europe. What are the options for a lightweight picket? I know of the MSR cable and a Yates version. I wish somebody would make a short UL picket just for T slots.

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cb294 15 Aug 2019
In reply to JStearn:

Usually not enough snow (and less powdery) compared to, say, the Cascades or Alaska?

That said, I do have an MSR snow stake with a DIY steel cable attached to a centre slot and one end made pointy using an angle grinder for banging in vertically, but I rarely use it, except when ski touring.

Anything shorter does not make sense as a bang it in quick snow anchor. If length is an issue, a wider deadman type snow anchor is much better.

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Mark Haward 15 Aug 2019
In reply to JStearn:

An ice axe is usually used for crevasse rescue, sometimes two. 

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JStearn 15 Aug 2019
In reply to Mark Haward:

I know that, I meant what are you using as a backup anchor if you are only carrying one axe?

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ebdon 15 Aug 2019
In reply to JStearn:

I guess realistically you aren't going to haul someone out of a cravasse if they are unconscious/unable to get out by themselves on your own so a backup is a bit of a moot point

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99ster 15 Aug 2019
In reply to ebdon:

> I guess realistically you aren't going to haul someone out of a cravasse if they are unconscious/unable to get out by themselves on your own so a backup is a bit of a moot point

Reminds me of a classic AK article:

https://andy-kirkpatrick.com/blog/view/doing-a-bieber

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TobyA 15 Aug 2019
In reply to JStearn:

I like flying ones.

Ba-da da da, ba-da da da, ba-da da da...

Potentially more usefully, I bought an MSR one 25 years ago and dragged around various mountains for a few years never actually placing it before deciding it was essentially useless. Not even sure where it is anymore - must have lent it to someone and never got it back.

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JStearn 17 Aug 2019
In reply to TobyA:

My partner always brings one and we have never placed it either!

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In reply to JStearn:

I'm currently based in Europe for a couple of years although home is typically Canada.  I wasn't sure what to bring but ended up bringing just one picket with me. (a Yates, with no cable)  I don't think that there is a true lightweight option that is still actually a picket.  There are other options that aren't pickets though.  The cabled, "deadman anchor" I view as being worse than useless as they have a habit of failing fairly dramatically if they burrow down and hit a layer.  (I have done this in a demo situation).  However, pretty much anything else works well - basket a sling around, for example, a bundled up jacket, the lid from your pack, small bag filled with snow etc.  Or in dire circumstances, a frozen chocolate bar.  So if you think you are only going to need it for crevasse rescue, rather than as pro while climbing, then perhaps leave it at home and accept that it will take a bit longer to build your anchor in the event you need to.

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AdrianC 10:22 Fri
In reply to JStearn:

I'm curious about how much of the European lack of enthusiasm for stakes is cultural and how much is related to actual differences in conditions.  Here in NZ they're carried and used as a matter of course for mountaineering and, by using various configurations, you can usually get a good anchor with one.  They can be plenty strong enough to haul an unhelpful victim out of a crevasse with and, by the way, yes - one rescuer can do that.

Depending on the snow conditions they can be hammered in vertically and clipped at the top, set as a vertical mid-clip or horizontally in a tee-slot.  An ice axe can be added to the system to increase the strength of the anchor.  The "snow pig" mid-clip arrangement described by Every Day Normal Guy does have that vulnerability to ice crusts in the snow pack and I don't think many people use that now.

When they're used in a tee-slot, a couple of advantages over an ice axe are that it's much easier to clip the mid-point of a stake and so avoid skewing it out of the slot and it has greater surface area than an ice axe shaft so it provides more resistance.

If the snow is very soft (e.g. powder or really wet slush) then you're probably going to need even more surface area, in which case a buried rucksack is an option although without a shovel it's going to take a while to bury it.  If you're on skis then you don't need anything else.

Aside from a crevasse rescue anchor we quite often use them for anchors and / or protection on steep snow slopes and, again, you can almost always get a good anchor one way or another.  I've heard of people cutting them in half to create smaller, lighter stakes for runners but they're probably only useful in a limited range of snow conditions.

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JStearn 14:11 Fri
In reply to AdrianC:

I wonder too, you can definitely get bomber placements with pickets in t-slots here but I don't think I've ever seen anyone using them vertically on snow slopes for example. I get the impression that the American approach is more 'systematic' than in Europe, maybe similar in NZ? I've heard the urban myth about lowering off a mars bar, so I think a short UL picket (200g or so) would be good enough just for t-slots. As for a deadman/fluke, I think they are a lot more difficult to place correctly and generally less bomber, but I have no data to back that up. 

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SenzuBean 20:06 Fri
In reply to AdrianC:

> I'm curious about how much of the European lack of enthusiasm for stakes is cultural and how much is related to actual differences in conditions.  Here in NZ they're carried and used as a matter of course for mountaineering and, by using various configurations, you can usually get a good anchor with one.  They can be plenty strong enough to haul an unhelpful victim out of a crevasse with and, by the way, yes - one rescuer can do that.

I think a fair bit is cultural. E.g. the claims about the Alps having snow not like the powder snow of the US/Canada here. Well we certainly don't have powder snow here in Coastal BC... (but pickets are still ubiquitous).

>  The "snow pig" mid-clip arrangement described by Every Day Normal Guy does have that vulnerability to ice crusts in the snow pack and I don't think many people use that now.

From what I can find, it is still a current technique. It's still part of the NZOIA curriculum (at least in print), and here's NZ research being done on mid-clip pickets as of 2010 (yes, perhaps not quite current): http://arc.lib.montana.edu/snow-science/objects/ISSW_O-061.pdf

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AdrianC 21:09 Fri
In reply to SenzuBean:

Don Bogie's paper has quite a bit about the vertical mid-clip but the arrangement I call a snow-pig is with the stake angled back to about 45 degrees.  This is intended to dive under load and he suggests not using it (about halfway down the right hand column on p315.)

The vertical mid-clip is placed at a more vertical angle and shouldn't move vertically under load (in a perfect world!)

I don't have access to the NZOIA paperwork - it'd be interesting if they're still using the pig.

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AdrianC 21:13 Fri
In reply to SenzuBean:

> I think a fair bit is cultural. E.g. the claims about the Alps having snow not like the powder snow of the US/Canada here. Well we certainly don't have powder snow here in Coastal BC... (but pickets are still ubiquitous).

Yeah - I wonder about the comments about powder.  In light powder stakes don't work well - you need more surface area and frankly, if there's powder, surely you're on skis?!

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