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When an ice ax is used to make a T slot base in soft snow, it cannot be retrieved after the last climber gets down and has to be left behind.

We were taught and shown (and I have forgotten, hence the question) a nice technique to make a base in soft snow using two ice axes one with the pick pointing down and another with the shaft pointing down, and joined to each other with a sling tied in a sophisticated fashion. The base can be used for rappeling. Tugging at a thin rope/cord tied to the aforementioned sling releases both ice axes and allows to retrieve them from below.

I would be very grateful to see a video or read a short description if someone knows how to do this. The search terms are too generic to return relevant results.

2 Answers 2

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enter image description here

After rappelling, you pull the left half of the rappel line to free the ice axes. Before rappelling, the prusik should be positioned up near the axe so the cord is slack. Also, the horizontal axe serves as a pulley to drive the vertical axe up (vertical) and out. So the horizontal axe needs to stay in place until the vertical axe is released.

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  • Thank you so much! May I ask where you found the image from?
    – Ahron
    Jan 13 at 5:10
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    @Yogesch, I sketched it out using MS Paint while sitting thru a department video meeting.
    – Mike
    Jan 13 at 14:06
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    Thanks again for making the effort and sharing your knowledge, this technique is not widely documented.
    – Ahron
    Jan 14 at 4:09
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Here are a few videos that show the technique you are asking about:

Whether one should employ such an anchor is a judgement call that will depend on the exact circumstances. At minimum, make sure to back up the anchor for the first parties to rappel and use caution when pulling. I would also want to have a contingency plan for if the retrieval system fails. Even if the system works as designed, you are in the unenviable situation of having a pair of ice axes flying at you when pulled down.

In practice, an Abalokov (V-Thread) in ice, a bollard in consolidated snow, or a rock anchor are almost always better options.

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  • Yes! That is exactly the type of anchor I was asking about. But the videos don't show how they are actually made/assembled. On a steep snow slope on a mountain, it may not always be possible to find hard ice for a V thread, or any rock, and the snow/weather conditions might not be right to make a good bollard, and the team might not have any proper snow anchors (deadman, snow stake/fluke, etc.). Then one has to use what's available, like a jacket, bag, ice ax, etc. which cannot be retrieved, or to do this contraption. But I completely agree, retrieving the pair of axes is actually kinda scary.
    – Ahron
    Jan 12 at 4:22
  • Whilst these links may provide an answer to the question, it would be preferable to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the link for reference. Jan 12 at 8:30

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