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September 27, 2008

Mid-Clip Snow Anchor

27 September, 2008

The Vertical Mid-Clip Snow Picket .
This snow anchor was developed in New Zealand after an accident in 2003 which claimed the lives of several experienced mountain guides on Mt. Tasman. The investigating coroner asked the NZ Mountain Guides Association and the NZ Mountain Safety Council to look into whether industry standard snow anchors currently in use were adequate. The fact that the Tasman accident claimed the lives of two of the most highly regarded mountain guides in NZ suggested that they were not. After a great deal of research and testing, the kiwis came up with the vertical mid-clip picket. This anchor is now the standard in New Zealand, having gained favor over North American type anchors like the top-clip picket and t-slot.
The mid-clip is basically a vertical deadman. Imagine a snowstake with a clip-in cable swaged to the middle. The piece is placed 30 degrees back from perpendicular to the surface and a thin slot cut for the cable. The cable makes a 90 degree angle with the picket and should emerge from the snow just at its end.
When placed properly, the mid-clip is the strongest and fastest snow anchor for a maritime snowpack like the Cascades or the Southern Alps. I was skeptical at first, but ultimately blown away by its ease of placement and strength. This is the snow anchor currently carried by the Joint US/NZ Antarctic SAR Team.

Testing data from the Search and Rescue Institute of New Zealand (www.sarinz.co.nz) in strong snow (best case scenario):

Mid-clip picket (placed 30 degrees back from perpendicular): 10kn
T-slot (deadman): 7kn
Top clip picket: 5kn
Mid clip (placed at 45 degrees): 4.5kn

Note: 1kn approximates 220lbs of force.

To fully geek-out on the mid clip, follow this link to Don Bogie’s testing report: http://alpineclub.org.nz/documents/activities/instruction/Snow%20Anchor%20Report.pdf

Conclusion: In summer cascades-style snow the mid-clip is about as fast to place as a top clip picket while being stronger than the more time consuming t-slot anchor. They are stronger than they look, but require care in angle of placement.

Available at: http://www.aspiring.co.nz/ (I have no affiliation with Aspiring Enterprises, Inc.)

Be on the lookout for an SMC version available in the US soon??

September 18, 2008

Another Season Begins!

18 September, 2008

Another season begins!!

After a furious bout of planning, mailing, packing, storing, and house cleaning I left my boat, van, and stuff in Bellingham, WA on 15 September. As always it was bittersweet to leave the ‘ham in full indian summer mode for the Great White South. As the turboprop climbed out over Bellingham Bay I could look northwest across the San Juans and into the Gulf Islands of the Inside Passage. Oh to think where Becky and I were just one year ago on this day, about to finish our three month paddle. This summer was a bit different with paragliding consuming most of our free time.

This season I’m departing about one week early in order to attend a search and rescue training in New Zealand before heading to the ice. Becky should join me in Christchurch around the 28th and we’ll fly south together.

Its worth mentioning that this season I’ll be working in a new role. As a field instructor for the US Antarctic Program I’ll be instructing scientists and support staff in winter survival skills, glacier travel/crevasse rescue, high-altitude emergency medical response and serving as a primary SAR team member. I’m also going to be in charge of monitoring sea ice conditions, something I’m looking forward to learning more about. Change is good.

SAR training in Christchurch is provided by Grant Pratley (formerly of Mount Cook Nat’l Park Rescue) and his Search and Rescue Institute of New Zealand (http://www.sarinz.co.nz/). Over the next week we’ll cover search theory, high angle rock (in the port hills of Christchurch), and steep angle snow rescue (in the mountains around Cragieburn ski field).

Overall, the training was a good refresher on industrial rescue techniques. But the big kicker was my introduction to the mid-clip snow picket. More on that in a subsequent post.

Three cheers for my friends Jen and Brian who are joining me this season as instructors for the USAP!!