Since the advent of curved picks and rigid crampons, few climbers have bothered to become expert at chopping steps, which is a time-consuming process. However, the technique is useful for those climbs when just an occasional step will obviate the need to carry crampons on mountain rock routes, or when a crampon is broken or dropped. Furthermore, in cutting belay and bivouac stances, a great deal of energy can be saved by using proper technique
Standing glissade, turning right
(Photos; Mark WSferd)
Mentally outline the step before you make the first swing with the adze. Make a chop at the closest point to your body on the outlined step, and make successive cuts moving farther away. You will find that the ice behind the first chop is easier to remove. In hard snow the adze may enter the snow at an acute angle. A flick of the wrist at the end of the swing will pop out a large chunk. On hard ice, the adze should strike more obliquely in an effort to shave the ice away, If one pass leaves a step that is too small, make successive passes starting just below the first. On steep ice, once the basic step has been fashioned, the overhanging lip above the step can be quickly removed with a couple of blows of the pick.
A basic step is one that accepts the entire boot sole and slopes slightly into the mountain, A series of these would ascend in a diagonal line up the slope, though this may be modified in any number of ways to suit various situations.
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