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Idiot question of the day: retrievable snow anchors.
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vicinthemac


Oct 10, 2013, 10:33 PM
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Idiot question of the day: retrievable snow anchors.
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So here goes,
Iím wondering how (or if) people build retrievable snow anchors when rapping down steep snow (no ice for v-threads) gullies.
Iím reasonably new to mountaineering and very much still learning. All my climbs so far have been pretty basic gullies and ridges. All the descents Iíve ever done involved time consuming down climbing as soon as it became too steep to walk down facing away from the slope. Rapping just seems like it would be much faster. I understand I could build a dead-man or if available wrap slings around nearby rock features, but the idea is to leave nothing behind if possible. I watched an interesting clip on youtube (yes I know the internet and especially youtube is no replacement for real world instruction) where they formed a retrievable anchor out of two crossed Ice axes linked together by their leashes and prusikíd to the rope. Is this an accepted method, or a fancy way to die?


rocknice2


Oct 11, 2013, 4:28 AM
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Re: [vicinthemac] Idiot question of the day: retrievable snow anchors. [In reply to]
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vicinthemac wrote:
So here goes,
Iím wondering how (or if) people build retrievable snow anchors when rapping down steep snow (no ice for v-threads) gullies.
Iím reasonably new to mountaineering and very much still learning. All my climbs so far have been pretty basic gullies and ridges. All the descents Iíve ever done involved time consuming down climbing as soon as it became too steep to walk down facing away from the slope. Rapping just seems like it would be much faster. I understand I could build a dead-man or if available wrap slings around nearby rock features, but the idea is to leave nothing behind if possible. I watched an interesting clip on youtube (yes I know the internet and especially youtube is no replacement for real world instruction) where they formed a retrievable anchor out of two crossed Ice axes linked together by their leashes and prusikíd to the rope. Is this an accepted method, or a fancy way to die?

I've heard of the Texas Rope Trick, even the Trad Texas Rope Trick but I've never heard of the Alaska Rope Trick.

It's always faster to walk down [facing out]. It's still faster to easy down climb [facing in].
Once the down climbing get too sketch, the standard practice is to make a bollard.


jjanowia


Oct 11, 2013, 5:42 AM
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Re: [vicinthemac] Idiot question of the day: retrievable snow anchors. [In reply to]
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Sounds sketchy as hell.

I don't know what kind of snow climbs you're getting on, but it is very typical for well-trafficked routes in the Cascades (my limited sphere of reference) to have some sort of semi - fixed anchor (think a bunch of tat slung to horns with rap rings, fixed pins in rock, etc) that mitigates the need for leaving your own pro (except maybe some tat or slings to back up or replace old tat).

If you're out exploring, or simply need to bail mid-route on something, leaving gear for rapping is a price of entry typically in my view. I'd bring along some nuts, hexes, and pins.

If snow is steep enough such that you want to rap and there isn't a station there, I'm guessing you're more likely to be in a couloir. In this context, I would tend to look for cracks in the rock on the sides of the couloir that would be acceptable for building an anchor, and try to rap off of passive pro.

Personally, I'd downclimb if it it seemed safe (for me, that would mean less than 45-50 degrees, and no ice steps).


(This post was edited by jjanowia on Oct 11, 2013, 5:44 AM)


olderic


Oct 11, 2013, 6:23 AM
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Re: [vicinthemac] Idiot question of the day: retrievable snow anchors. [In reply to]
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bollard


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Oct 11, 2013, 9:11 AM
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Re: [olderic] Idiot question of the day: retrievable snow anchors. [In reply to]
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olderic wrote:
bollard
This...

Snow bollards, when constructed properly (proper size and allowing them to settle, or firm up) are surprisingly strong and are 100% LNT. Another thing that may be of thought is to bury some of your excess snow wands (if you're bringing them) and rap off of them. Essentially you're leaving a bundle of sticks on route - just try to use willow or something local vise bamboo; but bamboo works just as well in a pinch - take the flags off of course!


jeepnphreak


Oct 11, 2013, 1:37 PM
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Re: [vicinthemac] Idiot question of the day: retrievable snow anchors. [In reply to]
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Snow bollard or leave a sling on a tree if you have to.


shimanilami


Oct 11, 2013, 3:36 PM
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Re: [vicinthemac] Idiot question of the day: retrievable snow anchors. [In reply to]
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Someone once told me about a method where you set up a snow anchor with one line for rapping and a second line for retrieval. The first was fixed to the center point of the anchor, while the second was attached to the side so that pulling it torqued the anchor out of its placement. It seemed extremely sketchy to me and I never had to use it, but he put it out there as a viable method.

Is this the Alaska Rope Trick?


6pacfershur


Oct 11, 2013, 4:02 PM
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Re: [epoch] Idiot question of the day: retrievable snow anchors. [In reply to]
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epoch wrote:
....Another thing that may be of thought is to bury some of your excess snow wands....and rap off of them....

you are probably in deep shit if you are reduced to rapping off wands: dig a deeeep hole, take a stuff sack, zipped-up parka or your pack filled with snow, rocks, ice etc. attach a long runner to the sack, bury it in the hole and attach your rope to the long runner; forget LNT or a retrievable anchor and get down alive.....


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Oct 11, 2013, 4:36 PM
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Re: [6pacfershur] Idiot question of the day: retrievable snow anchors. [In reply to]
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6pacfershur wrote:
epoch wrote:
....Another thing that may be of thought is to bury some of your excess snow wands....and rap off of them....

you are probably in deep shit if you are reduced to rapping off wands: dig a deeeep hole, take a stuff sack, zipped-up parka or your pack filled with snow, rocks, ice etc. attach a long runner to the sack, bury it in the hole and attach your rope to the long runner; forget LNT or a retrievable anchor and get down alive.....

I read the question at had as a what-if worst-case scenario situation. Still, I would use a snow bollard (and have on several occasion) or a fist full of wands, buried. Not leaving a stuff sack, picket, or ice axe behind unless it's emergent. Though I also carry a few pitons and nuts to make bail anchors with too.

The neato thing about consolidated snow is that you can bury things not too deep and still get the same effect. You need to spend some time packing the snow around where your intended anchor is going to be. Then make an anchor point (bollard, dead-man, picket, wand stack, etc.) and let the snow set for a few minutes. If you're trying to do this in powder {unconsolidated snow}... well you need to get some learnery into you and learn some of those life-saving skills needed to be outdoors in these environments.


MFC


Oct 11, 2013, 8:06 PM
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Re: [vicinthemac] Idiot question of the day: retrievable snow anchors. [In reply to]
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Don't know if this is a common practice, but it is shown in some reference books. I personally do not have any experience using this technique.

Attached is a picture and description of a technique that sounds like what you are describing
(source - The complete guide to rope techniques - lNigel Shepard).

Has anyone ever used it (successfully)?
Attachments: retrievalble ice axe.jpg (83.5 KB)


MFC


Oct 11, 2013, 8:10 PM
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Sorry about the terrible image. When I shrunk it down to a file size that was acceptable to the forum it seems that it lost all its details.


vicinthemac


Oct 11, 2013, 9:16 PM
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Re: [vicinthemac] Idiot question of the day: retrievable snow anchors. [In reply to]
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Firstly, thanks to everyone for your contributions, I didn't expect so much traffic.

secondly, yes that's exactly what I was talking about for the axe retrieval system. Now obviously there's a downside in that you no longer have an axe/s to self-arrest with and also it might not be the best /most secure anchor system. I was just curious about its effectiveness, safety and practicality.

Lastly, I should do some explaining as to the situations I was intending this for:

This is for a regular descent of a climb, not a bail, not a holly sh!t I might die, not terrible weather rolling in, just plain me not wanting to down climb a 50+ degree slope after summiting. It could almost be described as laziness, as if it were a real emergency (as some have theorized or suggested), I'd leave a picket, build a dead-man or leave a sling/rock pro in a heartbeat. My life is not worth $30 of aluminum; especially when these climbs will never be described as EPIC, BADASS, LEGENDARY or SUPERHUMAN. I have no intention of dying on something some 10 year old Swiss kid would run up before breakfast.

I'm mostly climbing reasonably non-technical stuff; it's usually gullies leading to ridges or a cirque with gullies leading to ridges to the summit etc. I just find it a pain to down climb 50+ degree gullies (probably not steep enough to be couloirs, but I may be wrong); I never feel 100% secure and I'm less protected, as on the way up I place pickets or similar. Typically if I did fall/slide it would be an easy enough self-arrest or maybe even a fun glissade (is it glissading if it's unplanned and on your stomach facing uphill?) down to the cirque, but I'd rather play it safe.

I think the bollard is perfect, I'd just never seen them done in wet spring snow and didn't think it appropriate. after some more youtubing/googling plus all your input, it seems like the solution. Now I just need to practice building some bollards and determine if the time and work is worth it, or if I'm back to down climbing; as soon as thereís some snow itís off to the ski hill I go.


(This post was edited by vicinthemac on Oct 11, 2013, 9:22 PM)


jeepnphreak


Oct 16, 2013, 7:24 AM
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Re: [vicinthemac] Idiot question of the day: retrievable snow anchors. [In reply to]
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vicinthemac wrote:
My life is not worth $30 of aluminum

I so sorry to hear that. I would leave my whole rack and all my ice tools if it ment getting out safe. . .but thats me. Cool

vicinthemac wrote:
I just find it a pain to down climb 50+ degree gullies (probably not steep enough to be couloirs,


May be just take off your crampons and stow your sharp objects and ride you pack like a sled, dig your heels in for control.

ass slide the thing.

glissade just TAKE OFF THE CRAMPONS so you dont break an ankle.

or better yet find a seasoned alpinest/guide so show your how to handle low angle snow.


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