Depending on the quality of the ice, a natural progression for climbing low-angle ice (up to about 45°) is as follows.
On flat ground walk normally (pied ntarche), but with a stance that is slightly wider than usual to avoid having your crampons snagging the other foot or trouser leg. Hold your axe (f>toIrt) in one hand by the head like a cane with the pick pointing forward. On slight inclines, splay your feet like a duck, en canard, and follow a straight line. As the slope steepens, make a diagonal ascent and bend your ankles to allow all except the front crampon points to penetrate. Up to 35° or so it is most convenient to keep the axe in the uphill hand as a walking stick, pioltt cami!, but above that angle, with a reasonably long axe, it is best to hold the axe diagonally across your body, />ioI(f ratmjssf, with the inside hand near the spike and the other hand on the head with the pick pointing forward, Whichever way you hold the axe, keep your feet flat, pied d plat, to the slope with toes horizontal or pointing downhill slightly as it gets steeper. As you take each step, alternately crossing the feet over each other, you will be moving from a position of balance to one that is out of balance. Move your axe bejore making each step, not during the step.
When it is time to change direction, make a step with the toes pointing slightly uphill, as if you were stepping into the out-of-balance position. But now, instead of crossing the trailing foot over the lead foot, simply splay the hind foot in the new direction. Now switch hands on the axe and you are ready to head off in the new direction. If, because of very hard ice or a steeper angle, you find it awkward to make the full direction change by splaying your feet, you will find it more comfortable to make an intermediate frontpoint move with both crampons, between the two splayed-foot moves. Always while climbing ice, move only one point of contact at a time, and in a precise sequence. Avoid the tendency to rush in the beginning, and make certain each move is correctly executed and feels secure.
Was this article helpful?