Belays and Protection on Snow

Snow belays and protection are less reliable and require more skill than those on rock or hard ice. Luckily, however, the forces to be controlled are usually not as large, and with experience, roped climbing on snow can be safe enough. We have already discussed the first two lines of defense in snow climbing: self-belay and self-arrest. Ninety percent of the time these techniques will be effective even for a roped party. But if an axe is lost in a fall through a cornice or into a crevasse, an adequate belay must be arranged.

While the party is moving simultaneously over moderate terrain, the members, keeping the rope tight between them, should be prepared to stop another's fall with a self-arrest. When a fall occurs, the belayer instantly drops into arrest position. With practice, falls can be kept short this way, but it is

How Hold Ice Axe

A sitting May utfflies the snow between the belayer's legs as a sort of bollard and Is backed up by a tie-in to the axe, a deodmon, a snow stake, or a snow picket. (Photo: fad Wilford)

best not to expect the technique to hold anything very severe.

The boot-axe belay is more reliable, though still only effective against relatively low forces. After a platform has been stamped in the snow, the rope is passed over the boot and around the shaft of the firmly planted axe. The belayer's weight is kept on both the boot and the head of the axe through a nearly straight arm, while a dynamic braking force is applied by pulling the rope back around the ankle with the other hand.

Still more secure is the sitting hip belay, backed up by the axe inserted horizontally into the snow, perpendicular to the force of a fall. Pass a runner around the middle of the shaft, cut an exit groove for the runner in the snow and have the belayer clip into the runner. If a U-shaped channel for the belayer to sit in is stamped into the snow, this belay can be quite strong.

Snow stakes or deadmen are used both to anchor belays and to provide protection on the lead. In certain hard snow conditions, snow stakes pounded vertically into the snow are quite strong. More often, however, a well-placed deadman is best. Pound the deadman into the slope at a 45° angle and make certain to cut a groove for the cable so that when it is loaded there is no upward force on the deadman.

Vertically Loaded Anchor

Pound in o deadman of an angle of 45" to the expected direction oF pull and cut a slot lor the cable ot a 90° angle lo the face of the deadman, This T-slot must be as deep as the deodmon, gradually coming lo the surface of the snow so there is no component of upward force exerted on the deadman through the coble.



Boot Axe Belay

In tHe boot-axe belay, shove the shaft of your axe as deeply into the mow as possible, stamp the boot of the uphill foot firmly in front of the axe to give it sapport, pass the rope aver the toe of the boat, around the shaft of the axe, and back In front of the ankle to the braking band, and lean yovr weight through yovr the uphill hand onto the head of the axe to give farther support. To stop a fall, pull the rope bod toward the rear of your boot, whUb increases friction. ¡Photo: Mark Wilford)

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  • john
    too many very basic writing mistakes and the "incorrect" statement on the last boot ax belay needs explaining. Also the 'snow stake' statement should be 'pickets' and the 'vertically into the snow' should be '45 degree angle to fall line'.
    8 years ago
  • semrawit
    What protection should climbers bring on snow climb?
    1 year ago

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