Descending Low Angle lie

Using an axe with a classically curved or slightly drooped pick, it is possible to descend securely either diagonally or facing directly out on slopes of up to 45*, once again depending on the type and quality of the ice. On névé and snow-ice you can descend diagonally pied à plat using the axe in the pioift appui manner—like a railing, with the head pointing diagonally down in your inside hand, pick punched, but not swung, into the snow. On harder

Roped together m a short rope we mode oui way In diagonal switchbacks up the beginning ke and snow slopes. Originally we used pled à plat with our ice axes held piolet tajute In our uphill hands with picks pointing forward (top) To change directions from right la left, we would stop on a right fool, splay our left foot ht the new direction, and sMft the axe from the left to the right (uphill) hand, allowing us to head vp and left. With each step we plunged the spike of our axe into the snow or ice for additional balance and as a self-belay. A turn to the right was accomplished in reverse order (bottom). Here I have already made my turn and Teri is ready to turn off her left foot.

Ice Climber Lied Floor

At a place where the ke steepened consldeiably 3 Ml up a belay. I first cleared three Inches of granular and WKOHiondcrted ke. Dim placed a strew roughly 15' beyond perpendicular bite the ke, until the eye was flush with the surface I planted my axe deeply end dipped Into It as a backup, thus fashioning a perfectly adequate belay for the low-angle ke we would be dlmblng.

ice, squat down and plant the pick in an upside-down pwlet ancrt as low as possible, which is called pioJit rampe. As you step down, a slight outward force on the shaft will lock the pick into the ice and allow you to make aggressive and positive steps down. Sliding your hand down the shaft lets you make two or three steps without replanting the tool, The axe can be quickly removed by popping the shaft back against the ice, grasping the head, and pulling out along the smooth top surface of the pick. This technique is not secure with reverse-curve picks, as pulling out on the shaft dislodges the pick. Coming straight down the fall line in this manner, with toes splayed, en canard, and the feet about shoulder width, is the most secure means of descent.

On very low-angle terrain, simply face the valley and hold the axe piolet canne. Positive weight transfer with each step in all these techniques is an essential element of security. The type and quality of the ice and the skill of the climber will determine at which angles and under what conditions these classical "French" techniques may be employed.

Climbing Moderate to Steep Ice

On most types of ice above 45°, flexing your ankles enough to get all the points in is quite difficult. Here it is more natural to frontpoint, Depending on the type of ice and your own preference and skill, for angles of up to about 60s or so, one of two basic techniques is useful. Either use pure frontpointing combined with one or two tools held in the palm(s), pjoftt panne (adze in palm of hand, pick in the ice), or alternate frontpointing with one foot and using the other foot sideways, pied troisième, in conjunction with the axe placed every second step as an anchor, pioict ancre. Generally, the first technique is faster, while the second is more secure and reduces strain on the calves. In practice on a long climb, you may find yourself switching between these methods.

Above 60° on most ice you will find pied troisième

Next we worked on various low-angle ke techniques. Upper left: Here I'm using the axe plolot panne In my left hand. My right band is for balance, and my feet are pied trolsierae. Hie angle of the ke is about 40*, or ckm 2. Upper middle: In this detafl of pied troisleme, one foot is froitpolntfng and the other Is splayed across the ke, ankle flexed ta allow all the points to penetrate. Upper right Using the second tool piolet panne gives another point of purchase. Frontpointing with double piolet panne allows very fast cfimbing on ke of 40* to 50*, bvt the harder the ke, the less secure it is, and the greater the confidence required. Lower left: More secure and less strenuous is pied troisieme combined with piolet ancre. Lower right: lit the middle of the slope I set up a second belay, cutting a bollard, anchoring to It with the climbing rope, and backing it up with my ke axe.

Above: Ten followed, practicing the techniques.

Betow: f also had her practice traversing using pied »oiileme with double piolet panne... and classing her feet one in front of the other rather than shuffling sideways.

Piolet Canne Mode

Opposite page: When it was time to go down, the bollard became our rappel anchor, far right: Lower down I kept Teri on a tight rope as she learned to walk down the low-angle slopes. At first her steps were somewhat hesitant. She sat bade and wanted to turn her body across the slope ... but after some coaching she learned to face directly down the fall line and transfer her weight completely with eadi step, using the axe in the piolet conne position.

combined with the axe held in self-arrest position in front of the body (which allows you to punch the pick into soft ice with each couple of steps) to be a very useful technique. If the ice is slightly harder, frontpointing with both feet and using a tool in each hand like a dagger, piolet poignard, will increase your security. Or you can use the pied troisième/piolet ancre technique. As the ice steepens and becomes harder, you will eventually need to use a technique called fwfrt traction. This involves frontpointing with both feet and using a tool in each hand that is planted piolet ancre with each step or every other step, for balance, and used as a handhold on which to pull up. Piolet traction is often abused by beginners and even experienced climbers. On ice under angles of 50° it forces you to "crawl" inelegantly and waste energy by virtue of being out of balance. It is better to use this method only when it is truly required by the angle or condition of the ice.

When frontpointing, your heels should never be higher than your toes. Standing straight up in balance over the frontpoints with calves relaxed and heels low is actually more secure than if you are tensely poised on tip-toe. Similarly, on any but the steepest ice (or on rotten ice where the surface needs clearing), repeated fierce kicking of the frontpoints does little to promote security, while a gentle but carefully aimed and weighted kick preserves the integrity of the ice and conserves energy. Trxf continues on page ns

Top: Impressed by Ike beauty and wonder of Ike day's experiences. Ten paused to reflect during the walk back to camp. Bottom left: Our third day dawned dear, and as we headed far the Sky]odder Route on Andromeda, the upper part af the mauntiin's east face was lit warmly by the rising sun. The kefoH on the approach to the Skytadder was broken at this time of year, and there was no way to avoid dimming through 11 to read) the foot of the face. Bottom right: We discovered a fairly safe route through the seracs, chimneying through one slot and traversing around a long tower into a broken corridor. Above is the summit of the West Shoulder of Andromeda.

Left: Hia rope weaving in and oaf of the ice blocks and tower; offered sufficient security against a fait, m to save time I placed no ice screws until the rope tame light. Locating a relatively stable section of its, I ;et up a belay from screws and braaght Teri over. Top right; A single ke axe In the anchor position {placet mere) offered sufficient security lor climbing out the other end of the aevosie and allowed qukkei progress than would have been pa»Ue using both hand tools planted in Ike ke with each step. Bottom right: Teri did on excetlenl [ob bdandng and stemming on the he blocks In ihe bona« of the crevasse, using her bands whenever possible, end she soon joined me. Sy the time we had traversed the icefal and glacier above, the storm predicted by the previous evening's Ugh cirrus douds had moved in, and we abandoned the cimb.

Top: After a rest day in Lake Louise, we set out for the Neil Colgan Hut above Moraine Lake. We planned to spend a few days there, (limbing oa the North Face of Mount Fay. Our approach would take us up the broad couloir in the left quarter of the photo. Known for heavy rockfall in warm weather, the 3-4 Couloir is a dass 2 snow climb in the early season. Bottom: We figured the autumn cold would limit the rockfall, and the hard late-season ke would give us a dunce to practice 40" to 50" techniques.

... and you set off In the new direction crossing one foot aver the other.

Ai the gully steepened 1,500 feet from the lop, snow gradeaSy gave way to 1«. To begin with this allowed us to practice our French technique.

In plolet rarttasse, the axe Is held diagonally across the body, and the spike Is used for balance. Ankles are flexed—pled a plat—to get crampon points in the ice and a diagonal ascent is made.

... and you set off In the new direction crossing one foot aver the other.

A right tarn is mode off the left foot, right foot splayed in the new direction. Hands change position on the axe...

Teri found the ice too hard for a comfortable pfolet rums», ond sho odoptod o vtry wrt* urd rhythm of pled trotsftmo/piolet i

Ice Climber Lied Floor

Six or seven rope-lengths from the top, we were surprised by several volleys of rock, one of which struck our photographer. Ion, a bruising blow to Ms shoulder. I sought a sheltered belay in a crevasse at the side of the couloir, feeling somewhat foolish for miscalculating the hazard. Teri joined me at the belay (top). After assessing the configuration of the terrain above, it seemed safe enough to continue, so long as we stuck to the far right side—climbing the moat between ice and roit at times, leading an front point and piolet ancre above the crevasse belay (bottom left), I ran out futl rope-lengths to belays in safe locations on the rock to the top of the couloir. A few more rocks did fall in the upper reaches bet generally down the left and center portions of the funnel. Teri remained calm and plugged away at the rock-bard ice, preferring to use full piolet traction technique (bottom right). The 50" black ice would be rated AI2 or 3.

We foam) our way in the dark oaoss the glader at the top of the drab, arriving at the Colgan Hot tired bat happy H»at my poor (boko of ronte hodn't hod nor« serkxis consequences thai Urn's tafvred shoulder. A foot of snow fel during the night, and tho storm continued al the next day and most of the following one, confining ns to tho hot, where wo kept ourselves entertained by eating reading tho

Tho patience to maintain morolo whtfo waiting out storms is on important asset in finaVy cleared on the afternoon of oor second day in tho hot, reveaRng an impressive view of Mount Hungabee. We wont outside to greet the sun and to stretch our legs in the late-afternoon light, timbering up for on early start in the morning.


At usual wW a cold front pushes «rt ■ ilon, the next iMfitof ww nl^ dw, and beautiful. In utmost-winter conditions we headed for a veries of bulges a« the aaitern ketaH of Mount Fay's North Fa« [lop left), where wt could practice techniques far 50' la 105' ke. We bind a good bulge up to 70' on the second pitch. I plated u screw (bottom left) and dun bed this AI3 section using both nry ax* and North Wall r (right).,.

,,. and alternating my feet In pltd Irohieme (above left).

CRmbkig welt Ted followed with Ml pMet tract km, using her shorter, lighter toots, whidi she was finding very functional for her, as they a Rowed for aconite swings (bottom and top righl).

By going the steepest way we famd da» 4 terrain an 85* ice an the fourth rope-length. I placed another screw to protect the moves at the top of the bulge... which was steep enough to forte me 1o *se piolet traction, hanging straight-armed and walking my feet high between tool placements, * *, Tlw soon relented to iio*t 60V and I ran the full rope oat to a belay. On alpine ke routes, speed is an important safety factor, and It is good to get used to climbing with a minimum of protection, treating your tool placements as portable belays.

Coming tecood, Tori used good technique, keeping bet body away from the k*.,. until ft became steep ewoagb to require a Wps-tn/back-ardied body position for good axe swings.

Ice Climber Lied FloorIce Climber Lied Floor

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