Tag Archives: Mt. Hood

Jive-Ass Snow Picket

Jive-Ass Snow Picket

Jive-Ass Snow Picket

Check out this Jive-Ass, Old-Skool, homemade snow picket we found on the Eliot Glacier on the north side of Mt. Hood this weekend. It’s a beauty! We were on the glacier practicing high angle rescue techniques and this thing was just laying on the ice on one of the lower ice shelves near the start of the terminal morane.

Like most glaciers, the Eliot is retreating and melting at a rather disturbing rate. My hunch is that this Jive-Ass homemade picket was frozen up there in the glacier for a fairly decent amount of time, until it finally it melted free of its icy grave, sort of like Ötzi the Iceman, the 5,300 year old man who popped out of the Italian Alps in 1991. 

 Ötzi the Iceman (photo: Wikicommons)

Ötzi the Iceman (photo: Wikicommons)

I’m not saying this picket was buried in the ice for anything approaching that amount of time, mind you. I’m thinking maybe a decade or two. This highly speculative hypothesis is supported in some small measure by the 1970s era Chouinard Carabiner attached to it. That thing is an antique. Yvon Chouinard hasn’t sold carabiners since Chouinard Equipment Company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1989, due to several product liability lawsuites, and several former employees bought the inventory and founded Black Diamond Equipment

As to the picket itself? It appears to be a rather thin aluminum tube with a hole drilled in the end. Through that hole there is a piece of steel cable formed into a loop with a metal cable crimp. Notice also that the tube is sort of bent. I hope that didn’t happen while someone was hanging from it. 

Location: Eliot Glacier, Mt. Hood, Oregon, USA

 

 

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Bollards are not Jive-Ass

Constructing a bollard snow anchor

Wim Aarts constructing a bollard snow anchor

I was teaching an intermediate level snow climbing class this weekend and was reminded of how suspiciously beginning alpine climbers view bollards the first time they see them. A rappel anchor made of a rope wrapped around a bit of snow?  I suppose we shouldn’t blame them, because at first glance they do look a little jive-ass. And to be fair, in making test bollards constructed in sloppy snow I’ve seen the rope cut through like a hot knife through butter. But in hard snow, where you have to chop the trough with the adze of you ice ax, they’re extremely strong. And if you back up the rope with a few pickets or ice axes (one of each in the photo above), have the heavier climbers rappel first, and then have the lightest person pull the back up gear and go last, it’s also quite safe.

At any rate, we built a few bollards this weekend to prove the point. The students weren’t convinced until one of the instructors, Andrew Rios, rappelled first, proving that one could do so and live to tell about it.

Andrew raps off of the bollard

Andrew raps off of the bollard

Location: White River Glacier, Mt. Hood, Oregon, USA

Obvious for all but the novice alpine climber? I’m not so convinced. Case in point: last summer I climbed the West Ridge of Forbidden Peak with my buddy Matt. This is primarily an alpine rock route, but the approach to the rock involves climbing up a couloir of fairly steep snow and ice. As the summer progresses and the snow melts, it pulls away from the rock leaving an intimidating moat on all sides of an ever steeper peninsula of snow.  It’s steep enough that most people prefer to rappel back down it rather than risk down climbing the late day mushy snow. There are bolts on the rock for late season when all of the snow is melted out. However, when we were there in July, when the couloir is still filled with snow, the bolts were an unreachable 2 meters from the edge of the snow ramp. A number of climbers–obviously more comfortable on rock than on high angle snow–made the dangerous and difficult decision to climb into the moat, risking a deadly slide under the snow and ice, to set up a rappel from those bolts.

A much faster, easier, and safer method would have been to carve a bollard into the edge of the snow, which is exactly what Matt and I did.

Steve making a snow bollard rappel anchor.

Steve making a snow bollard rappel anchor (Photo by Matt Sundling).

Location: Forbidden Peak, North Cascades National Park, Washington, USA

Homage to Rube Goldberg: An Ice Anchor

Jive-Ass Ice Anchor

Jive-Ass Ice Anchor

Wow! Where do I even begin with this Rube Goldberg contraption? This Ultra-Jive-Ass Ice Anchor was submitted by Ryan Cupp, who is proving to be expert at finding jive-ass anchors. If we could issue tickets for every anchor building best practice violation, this anchor would cost a fortune.

I think a ‘laundry list’ is in order for this one, so let’s count them off:

  1. First, there’s the matter of the daisy chain personal protection leash (designed for aid climbing, not personal pro). It’s clipped in short to one of the ice screws, and the carabiner at the end if it–the one you usually use to clip yourself to the anchor for personal protection–is the power point of the freakin’ anchor! The belayer has thus trapped himself in the system. Short of cutting his leash, there is no way to escape the belay without un-weighting the anchor and at least partially disassembling it.
  2. The left ice screw is slung with part of a quick draw. It’s not clipped to the screw with a carabiner to ensure it won’t fall off. The sling is simply, well, slung onto the shaft of the ice screw. It’s not even girth hitched to the shaft to keep it from potentially falling off. Scary.
  3. Finally, look at that sling that joins the two screws into a power point. It is not redundant. Had he put a twist in one of the strands at the power point he’d at least have a sliding x. As it is, if one end of that sling comes lose (see issue #2 above), the whole system fails.

This thing is pretty sketchy. Whomever built it should really go get some instruction on anchor building. John Long’s classic Climbing Anchors isn’t a bad place to start. While it primarily addresses rock anchors, the principles are the same for ice anchors.

Nice use of a plaquette device (old school Petzel Reverso) though.

Location: Mt. Hood, Oregon, USA