I regularly see online that on expeditions snow anchors are strapped to the side of the backpacks. This is typically an item like the upper on following pic:

enter image description here

I never saw this in the Alps by myself. But I also saw it in this video where he shows his stuff for alpine multi day trips. I learned to build a deadman (snow anchor) with my ice axe. For more technical routes I have 2 axes and it's said that you could even use nearly anything to build a reliable anchor (poles, backpack, gloves and even a lighter).

  • So what is the point in carrying this additional item?
  • What are differences in using this snow anchor compared to using my ice axe?
  • And what are the differences in the items seen on the pic?
  • How does the actual activity/tour makes a difference what to choose?
  • 2
    You may need several to install a tent.
    – Dakatine
    Feb 3, 2015 at 13:07

3 Answers 3


Well, the primary difference is that once you've used your ice axe as an anchor, you can't use it to climb with.

Also, two anchors is almost always better than one, especially in snow. You never know the exact strength of anchor in snow.

While it is possible to improvise a deadman anchor in snow out of almost anything you can wrap a rope around, it's not fast and if it's not cold enough for the snow to refreeze can be very iffy.

Those snow anchors work best when climbing when the snow conditions are "spring corn" (i.e. heavy wet snow, that has been through freeze/thaw cycles.) Very common on summer climbing on glaciers.

My guess is that you would see those anchors most commonly on expeditions where they are setting up fixed lines or glacier travel is involved. When you need to do a crevasse rescue, being able to set up an anchor quickly matters.

The names for the items are snow picket and snow fluke. Here's a good demo of how to setup a snow fluke.


Compare the time required for that verses the time required to build a deadman.


If you are roped up for glacier travel and the person in front of you has just fallen in then you can hammer a snow stake in to provide an anchor. Note that in this case you probably won't have your ice axe available since it will be stuck in the ground with your knee bracing it, holding up your mate.

I've not seen the shorter stakes (the snow flukes) in the photo in action.


In additions to other answers, I build my own stakes for about $10 each and happily leave them behind when rappelling off routes if no other options exist. Leaving your ice Axe, pack, hammer etc behind is not only iffy in terms of survival, its expensive.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.