Descending Snow

One mark of a skillful snow climber is the ability to go downhill efficiently and confidently. Many otherwise competent and aggressive climbers blanch at the prospect of going forward down a steep snow gully. Why? Because there's a superb view—perhaps too superb—of the exposure. And because on steep snow the axe must be placed very low to move down, leaving the climber without the comforting stance and handhold that was there on the way up. You can minimize those downhill jitters by mastering a few descent techniques.

Neil Hopkins Feet
Fig. 12—22. Changing direction on a diagonal ascent: a, jab axe shaft straight down; b, face uphill with feet splayed; c, turn in new direction of travel.

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