How to (and how not to) rack pickets


What beginning snow climber has not cursed the cowbells of the clanking pickets, dangling off ill-placed runners around your neck, threatening to strangle and trip you up at each step! Here’s a better way to rack them - you can carry 6 pickets like this, with the gear more or less out of the way yet still easily accessible.

(Think of this method as the least of all evils. Pickets are still drag to carry, no matter how you do it, but this way sucks the least.)

If you have very firm snow, you might be able to girth hitch a single (2 foot / 60 cm) runner through the top picket hole. Clip a carabiner to the runner, then clip this carabiner to the third hole from the top of the picket.

racking pickets 1.JPG

If you’re clipping the middle picket hole, you're probably going to need a double (4 feet / 120 cm) runner. Girth hitch this longer sling through the middle hole . . .

mid clip picket double runner 1.JPG

Then wrap the sling around the picket until there's a few inches left . . .

mid clip picket double runner 2.JPG

Then clip the carabiner onto the third picket hole as shown above.

mid clip picket double runner 3.JPG

Then, clip the carabiner to your gear loop, either on your harness or on your pack waist belt.  By clipping the third hole, the picket rides high enough not to trip you, and stays oriented vertically.

racking pickets 2.JPG

This works well for the leader and maybe even better for the second, who needs to rack the gear fast and be sure it stays out of the way when they are moving fast and protected by a top rope.

And, a related tip on who the cleaner should be. Often the slowest or least experienced person can end up in the back of a running belay, and guess what, that person becomes the cleaner. It's usually better to put a weaker team member in the middle of the team, and have someone with more experience doing the cleaning at the caboose end of the rope.

Also, it’s helpful if the caboose person is taller; the pickets will ride higher and be less of a tripping hazard.

Here’s a few more tips on the running belay.

Finally, please don’t have a freakout about girth hitching the runner through the picket hole. That dyneema sling is rated to 22 kN, weakening it by 1/3 with the girth hitch means it's still good for about 14 kN, which is way more force than you're ever going to put on a snow anchor.


How NOT to rack pickets: don’t put that sling around your neck and let the pickets strangle, tangle and dangle, like this guy.

how not to rack snow pickets.jpg