Suggested Exercises Crampon Practice

♦ Good crampon technique comes as a result of confidence. Confidence is gained through experience. Slow movement allows time for fear. Fear interferes with pure experience. So, to maximize experience, short-circuit fear, and foster good crampon technique, set up a toprope on low-angle ice. Then, with an alert belayer, run as fast as you can up and down the slope. Try this with an upright posture, and again from a light crouch with your back straight and knees bent, and yet again any way you want. Now consider what you have experienced.

Crampon Technique

Top: Classic flat foot or French crampon technique requires thai ail paints under the boot be sqvaHy embedded in the ke. Center: Crampons with poralel side foils alow hedging, with the upper row of points embedded bi the ke and the lower row resthig on the surface.

Bottom: Edging the upMI row of crampon points is a dangerous proc-tke as the ke can break out and you can lose your footing.

fPftofas; Jon Toml'inson)

Powerful Wings
Accurate and powerful (wings are best accomplished with the axe head and shaft In afignment with the wrist, arm, elbow, and shoulder. (Photo: Ion Tomlinum)

* When cramponing with one or both feet sideways, pied h plat, it is important that all sidepoints be equally weighted and penetrate the ice to an equal depth. It is also important that the points of the trailing foot remain equally weighted as you step up. If you try to edge the upper points or if you allow your lower foot to torque in the ice as you move up, you may fracture the ice in a dinner plate, losing your purchase. To illustrate this effect, try it out on hard ice. Experiment with different angles of ankle bend and slope steepness

Assuming you are cramponing flat-footed on a 30° slope, close your eyes and back off 15° on your ankle bend, then allow your points to drop down again into the proper position, Concentrate on the information traveling from the ice up through your crampons, boots, feet, ankles, and legs to your brain. Feel what is happening to your foothold as you torque the points. Be alert for this feeling as you climb, and seek to avoid it.

♦ Think of your frontpoints (all your crampon points, for that matter) as your claws, rooted deep in your feet. Obviously you will not want to slam, wedge, or otherwise abuse your appendages any more than necessary. Even on very hard ice, a good climber will gently tap the frontpoints in on ice up to 60° or 70°, preferring to stand upright in balance and with heels low to let gravity pull the points deeper into the ice. On even steeper ice, finesse is still possible, as slight wrinkles nearly always exist in the ice surface, and these can be used as small but adequate footholds. Try toproping pitches of various angles using frontpoints only and no hand tools, Search for footholds, and use as little force as possible while kicking in. Try pressing and weighting your points on 50° ice, with no kicking. What happens when you point your toes down a little and try to kick the points in? Also on a toprope try a very steep pitch of waterfall ice using natural handholds only. Finally, climb a pitch of 60° to 70° ice blindfolded. As you climb, quantify the degree of tension in your calves: fully tensed, 50 percent, 10 percent, and so on. At what level of tension do you feel you are getting the most security from your frontpoints?

Planting Tools

♦ Regarding tool placement, it is important to recognize exactly what is meant by the statement "when forces are properly aligned." Hold your ice axe vertically at arm's length in front of you. Point the pick directly forward. F\it the tip of the pick against the ice (or the wall). Any force traveling from your shoulder and arm through the shaft and pick will be aligned on one plane and will therefore cause the greatest possible penetration of the pick. Now turn the pick 10* out of the alignment,-it is easy to visualize the confusion of forces that results in shattered ice. Again holding your axe in front of you, allow the pick to rest on the surface of the ice (or the wall), pick pointing directly into the ice, and hold the shaft roughly parallel to the surface. All forces are now converging closely on the pick. They will converge exactly if you are using a tool with a pick curved to match the arc of the swing, but will be slightly conflicting on very steeply drooped picks. This accounts for the need for a downward flick of the wrist at the end of the swing when using the old Terrordactyls, for instance. Keep the pick against the ice and pull the spike away Note the glancing blow that would result. Try this information out on the ice. Identify exactly the degree of misorientation with each swing that is less than perfect. Pick the spot you want to hit and keep your eyes on it as you swing. (Wear glasses or goggles to avoid injury from ice chips.) Again pick the spot and, holding it in your mind, close your eyes and swing. Try concentrating on a spot a couple inches under the surface of the ice where you want your pick to end up.

* On a toprope, climb the same pitch twice using hand tools and crampons. The first time up, attack the ice with all the rage you can muster, and allow yourself to be lowered down. The second time climb with as much style and finesse as you have at your command, and climb back down. Note how you feel after each ascent. Climb the same pitch blindfolded.

♦ Climb a pure rock pitch (an obscure and ugly one), and experiment with all your took. Try various combinations of tools in different conditions.

Mind Garnet

♦ Mentally climb a route you have just done, recreating it in as much detail as possible Concentrate especially on the things you felt as you climbed. Try not to watch yourself do the climb, but do it in your head. Before starting up a new climb, imagine yourself in as much detail as possible making the ascent. After you have made the climb, think back. Was your imagination equal to the challenge, or are there gaps in your mental abilities? Work on those gaps— they are the only true limits of what is possible for you,

♦ When you are out with climbers who are more skilled than you are, turn off your analytical mind when you watch them climb. Let the performance flow directly into your subconscious. Do not reduce what you are seeing into words. Rather, like a young child, just let yourself learn by good example

Breakthrough Experiences

We have all known those times when a skill we have been working very hard, but with no success, to master suddenly comes to us, often when we were not even trying, If we do not recognize such breakthroughs immediately and allow the lesson to sink in at the very moment it occurs, we are in danger of losing much of what has been gained. An example all novice ice climbers can appreciate is the first experience of a properly swung and planted ice axe. The first several swings will most likely cause more shattering of the ice than penetration, with a wobbly hold resulting. But that first swing when forces are properly aligned through shoulder, arm, shaft, and pick, and the resulting "thunk" provide an unmistakable feeling of security and satisfaction. Such feelings, once recognized, are available for later use, precipitating the correct sequence and execution of actions that will yield the desired results again and again.

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Responses

  • Alexander
    How to practice ice climbing without ice?
    8 years ago

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