French technique is the easiest and most efficient method of climbing gentle to steep ice and hard snow—once you learn how to do it. Good French technique demands balance, rhythm, and the confident use of crampons and axe.
French climbers developed the flat-footing technique, thus their terminology is commonly used. Terms using the French word pied refer to the feet; terms using piolet refer to the ice axe. Pied a plat, for example, is French for flat-
footing. The name describes the technique: you must keep your feet as flat against the ice as possible at all times to keep all crampon points on the ice. It can be a difficult style to master because it requires severe rotation of the ankle on steep slopes.
The various French placements will be detailed later in this chapter. For now, here is an abbreviated directory of French ice-climbing terms, along with the approximate steepness of slope for each type:
For the feet:
For the ice axe:
• Piolet ramasse (cross-body)
Gentle, 0 to 15 degrees
Gentle, 15 to 30 degrees
Moderate to steep, 30 to 65 degrees and higher
Gentle to moderate, 0 to 40 degrees Moderate, 35 to 50 degrees Steep, 45 to 65 degrees and higher
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