Doug Millen Climbing early season ice

The Hazards of Early Season Ice Climbing

And How to Avoid Them

Pinnacle Gully Early Season - Gary Reuters - early season ice

Pinnacle Gully Early Season – Gary Reuters

 by Doug Millen

Unchecked Ego:

Yes, it’s great to get that early season tick and bragging rights, but the risks are high for those with little experience with early season ice climbing.  Are you inexperienced? Think before you ice climb and take an honest look at your skill set, gear and abilities. Your life could depend on it. If you climb WI3+ on a normal day that doesn’t mean you can get up a climb of that grade safely in poor conditions. Often WI3+ climbs are for grade WI5 leaders in the early season.

Falling Ice:

Falling ice is one of the biggest hazards in early season ice climbing. Always be aware of the ice above your climb. Early in the season most ice is not well bonded and frequently falls off, especially later in the day as temperatures rise and the sun works the climb. Early starts are best, and most often are mandatory.

Unprotectable thin ice in King Ravine (Nov. 2011) - early season ice

Unprotectable thin ice in King Ravine (Nov. 2011)

Unbonded ice:

The 2nd greatest hazard is unbonded ice. In the early season, the water, rock and ground are still warm. Ice will build out with those first few cold days, but the bonds to the earth haven’t been established yet and you will often find hollow spaces under the ice. One must determine if the ice can support your weight and if it’s connected to more substantial ice to let you pass safely. The top outs most likely won’t be frozen turf but wet, soft moss over rock. Sometimes the crux is getting off at the top of the climb. You must be prepared and resourceful. Once I topped out on a climb only to find wet, thin, and delaminated ice with no secure way to make it off the climb. I untied one rope and tied it to my tool and then tossed it up unto the woods where it caught a small tree.  Then I “batman-ed” up the rope to safety. Aid climbing for sure, but better than taking a fall.

Free-hanging Columns:

Early season free hanging columns are not safe to climb. They are often brittle and candled.  Give them time. It takes many freeze / thaw cycles to temper and solidify the ice so it is safe to climb. Also, columns may not be well connected at the top and will not support your weight. Early season columns offer  poor protection and very poor sticks for the tools due to the new, candled and brittle ice.

 

Limited Protection:

This is not sport or gym climbing. Most often the gear you get is just for the head and would not hold a fall. Short screws, Spectres, pins and a small rock rack are standard for most early season ice climbs. Sometimes a small tied off tree in a crack is the best you can hope for.  Use anything you can and the more protection you use, the better off you are. At least with a collection of bad gear, it will slow you down should you fall.

Keeping the rope away from the water! - early season ice

Keeping the rope away from the water!

Wet and Frozen Ropes:

A wet rope is not as strong as a dry one and there is often a lot of water running early season.  If it is a cold day, your ropes could get frozen and useless in no time.  Dry-treated ropes are best and be sure to manage your ropes, keeping them out of the water. Your old fuzzy rock climbing rope will act just like a sponge. Leave it home.

Sunshine:

A cloudy day is your friend. The sun can quickly change the condition of your ice climb. Think about what the sun will be doing when you are on the climb. For instance, the upper reaches of Fafnir on Cannon Cliff gets the sun late in the morning, often showering the lower reaches of the climb and the approach to the Black Dike with falling ice. Think ahead as to where the sun will be shining and where you want to be when the sun hits.  Any time the sun leaves or shines on a climb it will cause expansion or contraction. This will cause rocks and ice to move and fall off.

Rising Temps:

If the forecast is for rising temperatures think about what that might mean for your ice climb. Above freezing temps at night and rising temps during the day should send up a red flag. Be aware of what the temperatures have been leading up to the day of your climb and plan accordingly. Consecutive days of rising temps are not good. One warm day after many days of cold is not bad and may offer good safe climbing.

~Doug Millen

You may also like: Protecting the Ice We Climb


LOSING WEIGHT FOR THE NEW YEAR

Alden Story Cover Image


– By Alden Pellett

My leg plunges through the crust into the waist-deep snow again. I fight to keep my balance on the slope but find myself in an embarrassing situation: my pack pulling me over backwards, my arms flailing, I am wallowing upside down and swimming in a heavy layer of powder. It’s not my first rodeo post-holing up a steep approach to ice climb in Smuggler’s Notch, Vermont, but this time my pack feels three times heavier than usual. It’s the start of a new year, and like many people traditionally do, I had my New Year’s resolution. I resolved right then and there, I needed to lose some of this weight.
Unless you’re gearing up for a big objective in the Himalaya, the key to success with this gear-intensive sport here in New England often means keeping things as light as possible.
So, just because you’re climbing a two to three pitch route at the local crag doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bother keeping the weight off. NEice talked with some of the top guides in the region to hear some of their insights. We’ve gathered a list of tips and tech stuff that hopefully helps you with your own climbing resolutions this year.Tim Farr - Scream Quean

A week ago, I stood with IFMGA guide Silas Rossi, owner of Alpine-Logic in New Paltz, N.Y., below “Mindbender”, WI5+, at Lake Willoughby. We peered up at the unrelenting steepness and started getting ready to swap leads up some fairly mean-looking terrain. If there is one place in the Northeast that gets you sweating just thinking about how heavy your rack is, it’s there.

With that in mind, Silas offers up this bit of advice: “Do more with less. A lot of people carry too much on their harness. Three lockers, a belay plate, a cord, and a 4′ runner. A prussic loop and your rack and draws should suffice most of the time.”
I caught up with another one of the strongest climbers and guides in the East, IFMGA guide and Piolet D’Or-nominee Kevin Mahoney to get his take on how to improve on my slimming New Year’s resolution. When it comes to mixed terrain and keeping it light, Mahoney says to go for the Ultralight BD cams. When on ice, he explained, he pares things down even further by sizing down screws and carrying more of the short 10cm rigs.
AMGA Rock Instructor and Assistant Alpine Guide, Matt Shove, who runs Ragged Mountain Guides in Plainville, Conn., echoes Mahoney and Rossi, recommending the lightest in new carabiners and slings. To paraphrase Matt, if you’re carrying around ten-year-old carabiners, it’s time to upgrade. Matt is also pretty enthusiastic about one of his favorite lightweight tools, the J Snare. “It’s the lightest ‘V’ thread tool. There are no sharp points, so it won’t shred your pack, your expensive belay parka, or more importantly, your lunch.“ In fact, we at NEIce are witnessing many guides putting this baby on their racks this winter!Alden Story 2

Perhaps Rossi sums it up best, “Update to modern gear, everything from carabiners, runners, screws, clothing, boots, crampons.” Today’s new equipment, he says, “…keeps getting lighter and lighter.”

LIGHTEN UP FOR THE NEW YEAR

SCREW THAT!

Petzl Laser Speed Light screws: These babies are sharp! They bite into ice ridiculously fast and weigh next to nothing. They cost more than others but on a long pitch or route, the weight savings is really a game changer. Some of our test guides say they don’t seem as durable over time as the Black Diamond’s Turbo Express screw, but for ‘fast and light’, there is really no substitute.
https://www.petzl.com/CA/en/Sport/Anchors/LASER-SPEED-LIGHT#.WGvuQFwsLAM

ALL TIED UP?

Mammut Twilight 7.5mm ropes: Got the feeling that your rope is trying to pull you off the climb? At 38 grams per meter, you’ll shave some real pounds off the trek towards that big route with the latest in skinny ropes. At times on some difficult ice leads, I’ve almost forgotten I have these tied to me.

Beal makes an even skinnier set of ropes: their Gully 7.3 Unicore ropes. Regardless of the brand, these thinner models thread nicely into the ice for rappels, leave no trace, and make carrying extra cordage up a route for descents almost obsolete.
https://www.mammut.ch/US/en_US/B2C-Kategorie/Equipment/Ropes/Half-and-Twin-Ropes/7-5-Twilight-Dry/p/2010-02760-1144

SUSPEND DISBELIEF

Patagonia Galvanized pants: Superlight with all the features an ice climber needs including suspenders. NEIce founder and longtime gear tester Doug Millen says he’s run these pants all over the White Mountains this season already. From soloing long easy routes to beating them through deep snow approaches, they’ve performed for him, no complaints.
http://www.patagonia.com/product/mens-galvanized-pants-for-alpine-climbing/83155.html

KEEP THE STOKE HOT

Stanley Adventure Stainless Steel 17 oz. vacuum bottle: Personally, this is one tool I won’t ever go without on a cold day of ice climbing. At under a pound dry weight, I bring it up anything longer than a single pitch. A good cup of hot honeyed ginger tea before leading up a steep pitch is worth its weight and this is a sweet rig that takes a beating. Stanley also offers larger sizes but this fits right in my ruck alongside my puffy belay parka.
http://www.stanley-pmi.com/store/stanley/en_US/pd/ThemeID.39334800/productID.324175400

LOCK IT DOWN

Lightweight carabiners: There’s so many now that it’s hard to pick just one brand. Petzl’s Attache’ locking carabiner is a popular one, and at just 56 grams, it’s a keeper. Pair one of those with Mammut’s Wall microlocks (47 grams) for safe clip-in points at the belays and you might start seeing the slim results in the mirror. DMM also offers a super light version: The Sentinel MS locker ticks in at 54 grams. Like I said, there’s a lot of choice out there. For this category, it won’t hurt to take a trip to your local gear store and watch the pounds melt off your rack.
Petzl Attache’ locker
https://www.petzl.com/I/en/Sport/Carabiners-and-quickdraws/ATTACHE#.WG1NCFwsLAM

DMM Sentinel HMS locker
http://dmmclimbing.com/products/sentinel-hms/

Mammut Wall Microlock
https://www.mammut.ch/US/en_US/B2C-Kategorie/Alpine-Climbing/Mixed-and-Ice-Climbing/Wall-Micro-Lock/p/2210-01260-1502-1

Alden Pellett, Photographer
www.aldenpellett.com

Layering 101

Layering 101

Dialing in your Alpine System for Optimal Performance and Protection

Layering Jackets

By William Bevans

The Three Layer System

Your comfort and even survival in the backcountry is highly dependent on your layering system. Since a single piece of apparel cannot do the job, many different layers are used in sync to adapt to the constantly changing conditions. In this article, I will outline the basic three layer system commonly employed in alpine climbing with some extra considerations and tips. Below are the three foundational clothing layers generally utilized:

1) Base layer

The main purpose of your base layer is to wick moisture away from your body. This is your first line of defense because if this fails, your whole system will fail. First and most importantly, do not ever use cotton products. Cotton products will wick a small amount of moisture away from your body but will not rid the moisture completely or properly. Cotton acts like a sponge and if you are wearing wet cotton in cold temperatures, your body will struggle to stay warm. In an alpine environment, this can lead to numbers of issues, including hypothermia.

On your cold zero dark thirty (12:30am) start right out the tent, you may feel the need to pile the layers on. Once you get moving, however, you’ll find yourself heating up.  Start managing that heat so your base layer can manage the moisture. You have a long day ahead and if you get wet early its gonna be even a longer day!

The two common base layer fabrics are wool and synthetic. Which one you decide to use is a matter of personal preference.

 

Synthetic layers include the poly-groups (polyester, polypropylene). Synthetics are generally inexpensive, dry very quickly, pack down efficiently, and tend to be quite durable. The downside is that they provide little insulation and therefore, only a small amount of body-warming qualities. Some claim poly fabrics retain odor, but usually you have bigger concerns on a climbing trip than having stinky clothes! On longer, two month expeditions, I often take my synthetics and wash them in a large hot water bowl with soap, lay them on my tent and after a few hours in the sun, they are clean and good to go.

Wool has seen many improvements recently and has made a strong comeback into the outdoor clothing industry. The common wool used is known as merino wool. Efficient insulating properties and excellent breathability are wool’s top trademarks. Wool comes at a price, typically higher than synthetics. One of the common complaints of wool is that it can be itchy. If you decide to dunk your wool in a bowl of hot water, you should certainly expect it to take considerably longer to dry than a synthetic.

Base Layer Tips

• Consider getting a quarter zip top to assist with dumping heat during periods of high output.
• Dedicate clothes to sleep in and clothes to climb in. At the end of your epic day, when you’re with your partner sharing a whiskey, get out of your climbing clothes and allow yourself to yourself to mentally and physically recharge.Think of it like getting out of your work clothes at the end of the day. It might take some effort, but if you sleep better, you will climb better.
• Consider a one-piece base layer. Picture yourself at home, wrapped snugly in a one-piece, keeping you toasty on the couch by the fire. Pretty sweet, eh? Alpine onesies are the same, except there probably isn’t a cozy fire or a couch where you are going to be. Onesies are quite comfortable and leave fewer cold spots and areas for the cold and snow to creep in. I pretty much guarantee once you have one, you will wonder why you didn’t get it sooner. Thank me later!
• Most base layers are compressible. Be creative by stuffing that extra base layer into something that doesn’t pack well (kitchen pot, etc…) 
Layering - Using quarter zip synthetic base layers on the Kautz Glacier, Mt Rainier.

Using quarter zip synthetic base layers on the Kautz Glacier, Mt Rainier.

Dialing in fit.

A lot of companies are in the market today making gear. What works for you might not work for the next guy. Layering is as much an art as it is a science. Fit is extremely important and requires good ole trial and error. Just because all your flannel shirts at home are size M does not mean your size M for all of your climbing outerwear. Different companies cut items in different and sometimes mysterious ways. Take the time to dial in fit from your base layers to your harness.

 

2) Insulation layer

Your insulation layer’s primary role is to keep you warm and to regulate your temperature though breathability. Insulation can come in the form of fleece, which can be broken down into several different weights (100, 200, 300) combined with several other technical fabrics (windstopper, etc…). In alpine climbing, loft insulation is considered the benchmark where warmth is key. There are generally two types of loft insulation: synthetic and down fill.

Synthetic Insulation: In short, synthetic insulation jackets have come a long way. In today’s market, there are several synthetic jackets geared towards climbers that perform very well. Gone are the days where down fill insulation was simply unmatched. Top brands have developed jackets to handle your entire day start to finish, from a high output ski approach, to swinging tools, to a quick summit tag in full raging conditions to the long descent back to the car. These jackets that once didn’t pack so well now pack very nicely. While down fill still remains the best insulator, the biggest improvement with synthetics is the breathability factor and the jacket’s ability to regulate temperature. The clammy feeling that went along with synthetics is a thing of the past. Synthetic jackets can dry fast when wet and continue to keep you warm when wet. Synthetic jackets remain at a lower price than down jackets and for the earth conscious climber, many jackets now have insulation produced from recycled materials.

Spectrum of use

When considering any piece of gear, imagine how it looks on a scale of use. How many functions does the piece of gear serve? Does it reduce redundancies so you are not carrying three of the same thing? Most of the time it pays large dividends to have a piece of gear that can do many things. Ensuring your gear or clothing can serve a multitude of purposes can make packing easier, the weight you carry much less and the gear you have to manage less stressful. When you have redundancies in your pack, you may feel overwhelmed by the amount of items you have and that can damper your experience.
Layering - Synthetic insulation catching a beating on Alpamayo, Peru

Synthetic insulation catching a beating on Alpamayo, Peru

 

Down Fill Insulation: For those venturing into the mountains where the cold is a major factor, down fill insulation is the gold standard. Down-fill insulation comes in several weights, from lower grade 550-fill to a no compromise 900-fill power. Fill power measures the amount of puffiness, which directly effects the amount of air the down fill can hold and ultimately insulate. Fill powers commonly seen by alpinists are 600, 750 and 800. I generally recommend utilizing down at 750-fill power and above. If the fill weights are still a little confusing, think of the lower grade down fills as ones you would use to walk around town. When in the mountains, having higher grade down really does make a lot of difference. To see first hand, go to your local store and compress a 600-fill jacket and then compress an 800-fill jacket. The compressibility makes a major difference. When down is taken care of it last several years and continues to keep you warm like no other product. Down has excellent breathability and packs down like a dream. The negative: down is always priced higher than synthetics and the higher the fill, the higher the price. Down is also useless if it becomes wet, so be very conscious of the condition of your jacket and limitations of your jacket shell. Overall think of your down jacket as an investment piece of gear and if you take care of it, it will take good care of you.

3) Shell layer

Your shell layer is your main line of defense against the elements. Your shell layer keeps your insulation layer, your base layer and you dry and warm. Shell layers are built to take a beating. They come in two different constructions: hard shell and soft shell.

Soft Shell: There are a few major differences between soft shell construction and hard shell jackets. Soft shells are designed with fabrics with superior ergonomics, performance and movement in mind. The user will experience a jacket that “flows” and wears much smoother with them than a hard shell.

Many different types of fabrics are used in soft shell construction and each provides a very different experience based upon activity type and conditions.

Soft shells are more breathable than hard shells, but they do a mixture of repelling and absorbing the outdoors. They don’t completely protect you against snow, wind or water, so the trade off is performance and comfort versus weather defense. All soft shells are going to respond to weather differently, so it is important you try to dial in the comfort level you have with your jacket slowly. Consider using a soft shell for shorter trips, roadside ice or places where you are very comfortable with conditions.

Hard Shell: Hard shell jackets are the ultimate guard against the elements. A hard shell will use materials that do not allow water or wind to penetrate the fabric. The downside to this defense is that the fabric does not breathe as well as a soft shell. Another downside to the hard shell is lack of ergonomics and how the jacket wears during activity. The hard shell is going to feel a little bulkier and have a general lack of smooth movement. Both soft and hard shells are pricey but hey…what isn’t in climbing anymore?

Still not enough ?

Layering - Soft shell on the sharp end of Snot Rocket (W5) Mt. Willard, NH

Soft shell on the sharp end of Snot Rocket (W5) Mt. Willard, NH

For epic cold outings bring a belay jacket. When your up at Lake Willoughby ripping up Twenty Below Zero Gully and your soul is on its way to being frozen stiff, a belay parka may just save you!  A belay jacket provides the highest levels of warmth and protection when mountain conditions begin to rage on you.  This jacket earned its title for saving you during the periods of time when your caught on the belay ledge while your partner stitches the last pitch and the mercury has seriously begun to dip.  The belay jacket will allow you to remain warm and focus on your belay duties instead of suffering from the cold.   On the flip side, a belay jacket is also great in big mountain base camp settings, or just back at the climbing cabin when your just hanging around by the stove waiting for your partner to make a hot brew and heat up the tasteless evening gruel.  The versatility of this jacket that excels in the field, and on your downtime makes it a staple in every climber’s closet.  A belay parka/jacket is cut two different ways.  The parka is cut bigger and will usually cover your harness and have a bulkier feel.  A jacket will be waist cut and fall just above your harness.  Which you pick is just a matter of preference.  Sometimes the parka zipper can come up a bit from the bottom and this will allow you to clearly see your belay loop, tie-in knots and such.  While in the field, keep in mind you will be taking this jacket on and off and stuffing it in your pack constantly.  This jacket will be taking a good beating, so pick a good one.

To wrap up, I hope this helps with all your layering needs. Dial in your alpine costumes at home before you head out. Buy the gear you like and don’t make a habit out of compromising. If you like your gear, you’ll look good; if you look good, you’ll feel good; if you feel good, you’ll climb good, and if you climb good, you’ll be happy!

About the Author: William Bevans is a New England based alpinist with over 20 years of experience in the mountains. His studies are concentrated in the area of technical alpine and high altitude mountaineering. He has completed climbs and led expeditions in the Cascades, Rockies, Alps, Himalayas, Andes, and big walls in Yosemite, Zion and Mexico. Currently he is involved in mentoring next generation alpinists and climbing the New England classics.

10 WAYS TO MANAGE ICE FALL TO MAXIMIZE SAFETY

 

Peter-New-Line-top

A great article from local New Hampshire guide, Peter Doucette of Mountain Sense Guides on how to manage ice fall during climbing.

peter-doucette

“Getting pummeled by ice takes the fun out of ice climbing. Whether the falling ice is generated by another climber or is a spontaneous event, the consequences of being hit are usually the same. Alongside managing the cold, risk management around ice fall is something I spend extensive time assessing, avoiding when possible and managing when necessary. Here are a few ideas for doing just that.”

“Climbers as a culture tend to go for it, charging optimistically and enthusiastically. And I encourage that. It’s the quality of doing this blindly that’s worth examining.”

Read the full article from Outdoor Research here…

Photos by Doug Millen & Gabe Rogel

AMGA Steep Ice Tips YouTube

AMGA – Steep Ice Tips

Peter has ticked off many new tricky ice and mixed climbs in the Northeast over his career. He has a good sense of where and when things are happening and the expertise to climb them.

To find out what clinics Peter will be teaching at the 2016 Mt. Washington Valley Ice Fest, go to The MWV Ice Fest Blog. They have an incredible offering of Instructional Courses for all levels of experience, and a list of guides that just can’t be beat, in the northeast.

Related Stories on Peter:

 

Sometimes the Leader Does Fall

A Look Into the Experiences of Ice Climbers Who Have Fallen on Ice Screws

by Kel Rossiter / Adventure Spirit 

Sometimes the Leader Does Fall

 

 

INTRODUCTION

Last winter a climber with Adventure Spirit Rock+Ice+Alpine was asking me about the holding power of ice screws. We discussed the various lab studies that have been done (a list of links to some interesting ones can be found at the bottom of this paper) then he said, “That’s great, but has anyone ever specifically done research into how they actually perform in the field?” He had a point. While the dictum in ice climbing is that “the leader never falls,” in the end, they sometimes do. So presumably there was an ample population from which to sample—but I was unaware of any actual field research done with this population. So, fueled by that question, I decided to explore the topic. The results of this inquiry appear below.

 

Related articles:

Ice Climbing Anchor Strength

Protecting The Ice We Climb

 


Ice screw placement, anchors and V-threads

A great film by Petzl on proper ice screw placement technique, as well as how to set an anchor and a v-thread.

Ice climbing basics: Ice screw placement, anchors and V-threads [EN] from Petzl-sport on Vimeo.This film demonstrates proper ice screw placement technique, as well as how to set an anchor and a v-thread in waterfall ice. We will discuss the key technical elements, but remember that when swinging your tools into the ice, it is crucial to understand the medium on which you are climbing. The quality of the ice, its structure, the terrain above, recent changes in temperature – all these factors and others must be considered before you step off the ground and onto the ice.

www.petzl.com/LASER

Training for the new alpinism

Training for the New Alpinism

Training for the new alpinism

Training for the new alpinism

In Training for the New Alpinism, Steve House, world-class climber and Patagonia ambassador, and Scott Johnston, coach of U.S. National Champions and World Cup Nordic Skiers, translate training theory into practice to allow you to coach yourself to any mountaineering goal.

“Training for the New Alpinism is a manual that guides you in constructing a simple, progressive training program lasting from six weeks to a year and beyond. The book has been heralded as a road-map to greater alpine climbing success for climbers of all abilities”

Get a copy here

DMM Testing: SLINGS AT ANCHORS

SLINGS AT ANCHORS

October 4, 2013

A great video and report on the forces at work on slings in four different belay set-ups.

In a previous video we compared the impact forces generated using nylon and Dyneema® slings with a dynamic load. It clearly highlighted the importance of ensuring there is no slack in a system using slings. As an example, a 85 kg mass free-falling just 60 cm on to a 60 cm Dyneema sling (fall-factor 1), with an overhand knot in it, generated enough force to break the sling.

Extending this previous theme we’ve looked at using nylon and Dyneema® slings in four different belay set-ups

-DMM

I have always tied in with both ropes and used clove hitches…seems like this is the best way to tie in. – Doug Millen

Protecting The Ice We Climb

by Doug Millen

Feature Photo Ice Protection
It’s a never-ending battle! What will an ice screw hold? In real life situations. How can we best protect an ice climb with it’s ever changing condition.

What I do

1. I carry a variety of ice screw lengths. Ice comes in all thickness and densities. Many climbers carry only short & medium screws. They say you only need that amount of thread to hold and they don’t want the extra weight. But what about the surface layer? The quality of the ice? I have seen very few climbers clear away the first layer before placing a screw. If that layer is damaged, ie Sun baked, wet, new or other wises damaged or uneven, THE SCREW WILL NOT WORK AS ANTICIPATED! Use a longer screw or clear away the first layer to good ice. The weight difference in carrying longer screws is minimal. You could carry two longer screws versus two medium length screws for about the same weight as a light carabiner. Worth it…and the cost for of caring longer screws? At most only $1.00 ea.

2. Most popular climbs have a number of ice screw placements at common stances leaving less virgin & unfractured ice to place a screw. Where should you place your screw? Use a long screw and put in the best existing placement that will not bottom out. You will grab new ice, way back in where it counts. and save time and energy.

3. Ice screws are not bolts! The level of protection depends on the quality of the ice and the skill of the climber. Practice and learn the craft of ice protection.

4. Ice screws should be placed at 90 degrees to the ice or at a slight downward angle of 10-15 degrees. A positive angle for the screw may be better if the ice is of poor quality. In good ice conditions angle the screw in the direction of pull. It’s the threads that hold. If a screw bottoms out never tie it off with a sling, it has been shown that the hanger will cut most slings. If the hanger is 5cm (about 2 inches) or less from the ice, clip the hanger. Otherwise use a shorter screw.

5. In some situations, a tied off icicle is better than a screw and easy to place.  Look around, be creative and carry the necessary slings. They are light and easy to carry.

6. Protect often and closer together at the start of your climb. You never know when something could happen. As you get farther out, there is less chance of hitting the deck and less force on the system, and ultimately, the screws. Modern ice screws are easy to place and worth the effort to place them often for safe climbing.

7. Carry a Spectre. In bad ice and varied conditions, a spectre will hold when nothing else will. Frozen cracks, earth or moss are the perfect terrain for the Spectre. Black Diamond designed the Spectre Ice Piton to provide “alternative, pound-in protection on mixed and thin ice lines where traditional pro is just a pipe dream”.

8. Better to place 2 equalized screws from a stance than 2 bad screws on the fly when leading up steep ice. It inspires more confidence and uses less energy.

9. Screamers will provide added protection in climbing. Screamers not only absorb energy directly because of the stitch ripping effect, they also allow your rope to absorb more energy from the fall by increasing the time interval of the fall. The standard Screamer can effectively reduce peak loads by 3-4kN in any climbing system. You don’t need to carry Screamers for every screw. You only need them after leaving the belay where the most force could be put on a  screw with a fall. Other situations may require screamers to limit the force put on protection so carry a few but not one for every screw.

10. Never pass up rock protection. Rock is typically better protection than ice. If the climb looks like you might be able to use rock gear, bring it!

Placing Ice Screws

• You first need to clear away any rotten, soft ice or snow, until you reach good, solid ice. Use your pick to create a small hole in which to start the screw.

• A favorable location for an ice-screw placement is the same as for an ice tool. A good choice is a natural depression, where fracture lines caused by the screw are not as likely to reach the surface. Never in a bulge.

• Choose a spot in the ice near your waist rather than above your head for better leverage while twisting it in. This will also de pump your arms and conserve energy. In some instances it may be beneficial to place the screw as high as you can to better protect the climb.

• As you work the screw in, clear away any ice that fractures around it.

• Keep turning until the eye or hanger is flush with the ice surface and pointing down-slope in the direction of pull.

• Keep screw placements around 2 feet apart when setting up a belay.

• Back up sketchy screw placements with a second screw and equalize.

• After a screw is removed, ice inside the core must be cleaned out , immediately if the ice is wet and it is below freezing. Always tap the hanger end and never the threads. If you blow in the ice screw from the hanger end the worm air will melt the ice and eject it from the tube. Careful, don’t freeze you lips to the screw.

Energy-Saving Tips

• Climbing extremely steep ice is fatiguing, physically and mentally. To conserve energy and keep moving upward efficiently, plan ahead. Look for every rest and take advantage of it.

• Protect from stance to stance. Having a good idea where you will stop and place the next screw is key. Climb to that spot and don’t think about anything but getting to that spot. Stopping in route at a strenuous or awkward spot is not an option and will strip your energy.

• Look at the ice above and figure out what screws you will need and rack them for easy access. Re-rack at good stances for the upcoming ice. Nothing wastes energy like fiddling with gear and trying to reach screws on the other side of your harness.

• On moderate to steep ice, it may help to kick a step for standing on as you place the screw. Place your foot french style on any budge or flat spot you can find. This will save your calves.  On extremely steep ice, however, it’s too difficult, so save your energy. When it’s time to place an ice screw, do it from your front points, and then continue climbing.

• Keep the weight on your feet! Holding on to the axes too hard and supporting you weight from the axes strips your strength. Your legs are use to holding you up all day, use that advantage and the axes for balance and movement.

• Keep everything SHARP! Sharp gear conserves energy and makes climbing safer and more enjoyable.

V-Threads

Information on using and making a V-Thread

Links on using ice protection  from the manufactures

Black Diamond Equipment

Petzl

Sources and Images from: Black Diamond Equipment, Petzl & NEice Member Trarr3