How to: Build a Snow Anchor for the Pico Crevasse Rescue Kit

Words: Angela Hawse, Sterling Team Member and IFMGA Certified Guide Mar 27th 2017
  • Benny Lieber Adventure
  • Photo taken by Benny Lieber

Sterling has come up with a truly ingenious solution for crevasse rescue, ideal for alpine guides and climbers traveling in glaciated terrain. The Pico Crevasse Rescue Kit has advantages over traditional hauling systems, most notably it is fast. It comes pre-rigged as a 5:1 out of the bag on an independent hauling line, making the need to remember how to rig a hauling system obsolete. Ideally suited for high ratio teams with minimal excess rope to work with, it’s also a great kit for ski mountaineering where shorter, skinny ropes are the norm. Research teams traveling on glaciers will also find the Pico Crevasse Rescue Kit an indispensable addition to their safety.


comprehensive and user-friendly

I had the honor of working with Sterling to develop and test the Pico Kit and you can bet it will be in my pack for future glacier outings. How to build a viable snow anchor is not included in the instructions. The anchor is the single most important component of any successful crevasse rescue effort and must be unquestionably strong. The system I use to build a bombproof anchor is the focus of this article. Prior to embarking on any glacial endeavor I highly recommended hiring an IFMGA Mountain Guide or AMGA Alpine Guide to learn the ropes and skills needed for alpine climbing.

Pico Rescue Kit


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Unless the snow is bullet-proof, building a T-Slot anchor will be the strongest method in virtually all conditions. A vertically oriented picket will only work if you can pound it in with 10-15 extremely hard blows. If ever in doubt, default to the trusted T-slot. Depth depends on the resistance of the snow. With very firm snow 8-10” deep may suffice but with soft snow, go more than 12”. Make the slot for the sling as narrow as possible with the axe pick or shaft, not the adze. Avoid disturbing any snow on the load size of the T to keep it as strong as possible.

At this point the next step may be going to the lip of the crevasse to communicate with your partner and pad the lip of the crevasse. Before you descend to your partner if necessary, or start hauling you need to enhance the anchor with a second T-Slot, equalizing it to the main anchor. You should carefully consider your security and use the anchored rope as you move about above the crevasse. Your ice axe may be the only tool available if you do not have two pickets. Dig another T-slot, ideally directly behind the primary anchor, back at least 2 feet, taking care not to disturb the snow between anchors.

You should now have a bombproof, inline anchor capable of withstanding potential forces you generate extricating your partner. You have to be 100% confident in your anchor system.

Sterling’s Pico Crevasse Rescue Kit

The Sterling Pico Crevasse Rescue Kit sells for $304.95. A small price for pulling your partner out of a hole. If you're looking to add to your current travel glacier system, you can purchase the Pico Pulleys separately (without the rope and bag).

Many other key details are beyond the scope of this article. Rappelling into the crevasse with your first aid and skills to use it, or position your partner upright with a chest harness are real possibilities. Ascending the rope to climb back out of the crevasse with your partner’s pack is another essential skill. You may need to knock considerable snow off an overhanging crevasse lip before doing either. There are many competencies that are assumed before you venture onto glacial terrain and attempt crevasse rescue. If you lack them, get up to speed with an AMGA certified guide. If you’re a Chick and want to learn the ropes or buff out your skill sets so you’re ready to get out in the mountains safely with your partners, check out our all-women’s clinics at Chicks Climbing and Skiing. Our guides are some the most experienced certified professionals in the industry.

Angela Hawse is a Sterling Rope Team Member. She’s a co-owner and guide for Chicks Climbing and Skiing, a fully certified IFMGA/AMGA Mountain Guide and Instructor Lead for the AMGA. Often conflicted which shoes to wear, or what Sterling Rope to choose from, one thing’s for sure... she’s living the dream.