Protection and Belays

It would be difficult to describe every possible way of dealing with all the potential protection challenges and belay situations you will encounter as you climb ice, but a few basics will give you the tools to begin to safely acquire your own experience Eventually there may be times when you will make a belay off one screw only or even just two tools, but you will not understand enough of the variables and forces involved to do this sort of thing safely in the beginning.

Clean Protection

Many waterfall climbs are festooned with features that can be slung with webbing to provide natural runners for lead protection or belays. Look for these opportunities—small solid pillars, tunnels in the ice, slots between pillars that can take a large nut or a screw slotted as a T anchor, mushrooms or cauliflowers, and so on. Large Tri Cams between rock and ice can sometimes be quite secure if the fulcrum point is set fairly deeply in the ice to begin with. If there is no natural T-slot, in thin, hollow ice you can cut a vertical slot in the ice that will accept the screw with a

A sling oround a ptiar often pi ovides good protection* In more complex situation, multiple boles can be threaded with a long sling mid (tipped with a ewuhhor in such a way as ta equahe the force among all poMs of support. (Photo: fan Tomfosoal

Slinged Icicle And Bollards

sling around the middle. In hollow ice you can also punch two holes some distance apart and thread them with a runner Bollards, or ice mushrooms, are harder to cut in water ice than in alpine ice, but are still useful. In water ice, a more efficient technique is the V-thread technique of intersecting screw holes threaded with either the rope or a runner.

Placing a Piton or Screw

Whether you are placing a piton or a screw, the angle at which it should be driven varies between perpendicular to the surface and a 45' upward angle. This angle is affected primarily by the type and quality of the ice, but the angle of the slope and other factors are also important.

Generally speaking, on solid, cold, vertical water ice, you would drive a Snarg directly in at nearly 90*. On soft glacier ice, on the other hand, you would want to chop a step and place a screw vertically down into the ice at the back of the step. In any case, remove all poor surface material before placing a screw or piton. As the device is driven or screwed in, more surface ice will be disturbed- This, too, must be removed so that the screw or piton can be inserted until its eye is flush against good, unfractured ice.

Ice screws can be placed one-handed, especially the new ultrasharp stainless steel or chrome-moly versions with very aggressive cutting teeth. But, particularly on the lead, tapping out a deep, narrow starting hole with your pick will make placement easier and keep surface fracturing to a minimum. Make the hole as deep as possible while maintaining a diameter that is slightly less than that of the screw or piton. A properly placed screw or piton in good ice will stand any force you are likely to subject it to.

Thin ice is difficult to protect, but screws placed in series can make the best of a bad situation.

Hook-type Pitons

Hook-type pitons offer quick but often questionable protection on difficult leads, They can be jammed

Although the test protection for ice climbing is usually a well-placed screw or natural runner, there are several hook-type pitons that offer quick intermediate drive-in protection for passing a cru*. These pitons work best in chcmdeter-type tee or soft ice.

(Photo: Ian Tomlinson)

into a pick hole and pounded in or can be pounded directly into a crease between icicles or chandeliers. Their security depends on how badly the ice is fractured as they are driven in. Look for aerated or bubbly ice for best results with these. Occasionally your third tool can be left as a point of hook-type protection for a running belay.

Rock Gear

Mixed climbing can make use of all the standard types of rock climbing protection available. Often even pure waterfall climbs can have rock belays, so an ice climber should be thoroughly familiar with the use of this equipment.

Placing Ice Screws or PHons on the Lead

The only pure free climbing technique for placing screws and pitons on the lead follows this sequence: hang straight-armed from one well-placed tool,-make a good, deep, narrow starting hole, about hip-level for screws or overhead for pitons,- then screw or pound the protection into the ice, clearing any surface-fractured ice until the eye is flush against solid material.

You can arrange temporary protection for placing the screw or piton—if you have a third too!—by placing your second tool high and securely and clipping a carabiner through either the hole in the spike or the wrist loop and clipping the climbing rope through that carabiner. This is not meant to take your weight, but to serve as a backup in case of a slip. Some people have recommended draping the climbing rope over the head of the tool, which is a very dangerous practice since the sharp edges of the pick could easily cut the rope under tension.

If you need to use both hands to place a screw, try sliding your arm up to the elbow through your wrist loop. You can then use that hand to support the screw as you turn it with the other hand.

Although it feels like aid climbing to me, a common and useful technique that frees both hands for placing a screw on steep ice is to clip into one or both hand tools with a carabiner or a skyhook attached to a cow's tail tied to your harness. This technique is also useful in certain emergency situations, such as when the pick of one tool breaks or a crampon goes askew on a boot. This technique is considered aid (AO).

Aid on ke

Piolet traction, skill, and boldness will eliminate the need for aid climbing on ice 99.9 percent of the time-Once in a while, however, an overhanging serac wall or some other horror will humble you into using aid-

Hanging by of Hi hook, or dlff hanger, attached to a daisy chain and your harness, which is hooked into the hole in the spike of your tool. Is a simple aid techniqoe for freeing your hands to place protection. In this photo 1 have also dipped the dtmWng rope throegjh my second tool as a backup belay. This technique is considered AO. (Photo: Brad Johnson)

The fastest way is to clip etriers into small loops of cord that are tied through the holes in the spikes of your tools. Simply place the tool and stand in the sling. You can also place ice screws or pitons and climb ¿triers (four- or five-step webbing ladders) that have been clipped into them, but this is much slower and usually unnecessary.

A Standard Belay Setup

One of the safest and most logical belays, the one I use at least 90 percent of the time on technical ground, is arranged like this: t. Chop a step wide enough to accept both feet. Stand in the step.

ke bordering a short distance off the ground is the perfect way to push technique, test strength, tod try new movei.

(Photo: Jeff Lowe)

1. At a comfortable arm's reach above the step, on the side on which the second will follow the lead, place a drive-in or screw and clip into it with a clove hitch. (You may now give the off-belay call to your belayer.) This anchor will become the first point of protection for the second as he or she leads through onto the next pitch.

3. On the opposite side of the step, place a second anchor below the first. Clip into this anchor with a clove hitch, adjusting the slack as necessary. Clip the rope that leads to the second through the higher anchor with a separate carabiner and set up a body belay or rig your belay device in the normal fashion. Running the tail of the rope around your body and through a carabiner at your harness tie-in point will ensure control of the belay. This procedure works smoothly even with an iced-up rope. Let your second know he or she is on belay.

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  • helvi
    How to clip into tool ice climb?
    3 years ago

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