Friday, September 3, 2010

Snow Pickets

Since it snowed a little while ago, it made me think that it's not that far around the corner until ski season and it made me excited! Also since I didn't do anything this week worth writing about, I thought I would blog about... Snow Pickets!

Namely, how to make them. I make a lot of stuff like sleeping quilts, packs, tarps, and clothes for the Alpine for myself. But, the only piece of climbing gear that my gremlin fingers will make (and I trust) is a snow picket.

If you want to read an EXCELLENT article by Don Bogie that explains pretty much everything about pickets and their placement (and their failures). Click here. It's PDF and 20 pages long.

DIY Picket

Now, on to the DIY picket. First you have to understand that you can have access to the same aircraft grade aluminum that commercial picket makers have. It's the same with fabrics for clothes, shelters, and sleeping bags. You CAN find the source! My source for metal/aluminum is here in Boise. Actually it's Garden City, but we'll let that slide. The owner supplies material for a lot of weird things. Here's the place:

Gem State Metals, LLC
5220 N. Sawyer Ave., Unit H.
Garden City, ID 83714

When you get there, you want to have them get you the 2"x2" angle 6061-T6. Figure how many pickets you want, and multiply 2 feet (optimal picket length) by that number. To make it easy on yourself, you can have them cut 2 foot sections at a time. It's free.

When you get your 2 foot sections home, break out the drill with a 1/2" bit and tape measure. The first holes will be centered on the 2" sides and in the center of the length (at 12" from either end). The next holes are 3" down from the ends and centered. The next holes are again centered on the 2" sides and are 7.5" from each end. This makes the holes symmetrical from the center hole.

You will want to use a round file to smooth out the holes. After all the holes are smooth enough to run a finger through with zero burrs, pick a side and thread a 12" long piece of 5/8" webbing through both of the top holes. Tie a water knot. Tighten the knot every time you rack your pickets.

DIY Picket and pack on Rainier

I use a lightweight wiregate 'biner to attach it to my pack. It's secure in a way that is easy to get out in the event of a crevasse rescue. If I am snow climbing and need to rack it, I slide it between my back and pack, then clip it on a shoulder strap. I usually have another picket in or on my pack for setting up a belay. I also take a large locker and 48" sling to T-slot the picket (read the above mentioned article if unsure). You can girth hitch the sling through the center hole.

Now the bottom line. How much do you save making your own? A commercial picket will be around $18-$20 + shipping. DIYs will be about $7 a picket. Is it worth it? Only you can decide. I like making shit, so for me it is. Plus, if you are outfitting a group to go up Rainier and need 5 or more, you can really save some money!

One last thing... If you decide to make pickets, your life is in your selection of materials and craftsmanship. Remember that the 6th Satanic Sin is "Lack of Perspective". Your choices are yours alone. Become educated, own your decisions. AMFYOYO


Ted said...

Curious. I too have fabricated my own snow pickets for a small snow climb in Colorado. In my design, we chose not to use a single, 90 bend, piece of aluminum, rather we riveted two together to make a T. Do you find that there is torque without a flange to counter rotation when a load is applied?

Ralph S. said...

I have rapped off of them and they didn't rotate. I think that since the webbing is equalized between the holes in the sides, that it prevents it. I like your method of a T.

thomas said...

When people talk about "aircraft grade aluminum" it is a 7xxx grade.
the 6060 and 6061 are the most common alloys used in industry, rather strong and cheap, but not aircraft ...
When one's life depends on it, one should be a little more carefull

Ralph S. said...

6xxx grade is used in the structure of aircrafts and is the same grade as the commercially available snow pickets. Thanks for the comment...

Jason Watts said...

Go to and under the Raw Materials heading you can buy 8ft sections of 6061 T bar that has 1.25in x 2in dims. This makes almost exactly what you find commercially. You can buy a high strength alloy (2024) but I would rather go with the 6061 because of the brittleness at cold temps for the 2024. Anyways, an 8ft bar is $35 +shipping, and shipping wouldn't get too bad up to 4 or 5 pieces. Anyways, McMaster is a cool site for raw materials...