Gentle to moderate slopes

French technique (flat-footing)

Many climbers find fiat-footing awkward and needlessly complicated when they first try it. Once mastered, however, it provides great security because it keeps you in balance over your feet, with maximum penetration of all vertical crampon points.

Ankle strain can be eased by pointing your boots downhill more and more as the slope steepens, so the Hex needed to keep your feet flat comes from the more normal forward flex of the ankle and from the knees, which are bent away from the slope and spread well apart. Boots that are flexible at the ankle help. In addition, unlacing the upper part of the boot may permit more ankle flex.

Walking on gentle slopes with crampons requires little more technique than walking anywhere else. Keep your feet slightly farther apart than normal to avoid snagging a crampon point on clothing or on a crampon strap on your other foot. Press all bottom points of each crampon firmly into the ice and walk straight forward (in the manner known as pied marche, or marching). Use the ice axe in the cane position {jriolet canne), holding the axe in the self-belay grasp, with the pick forward and your palm on top of the adze.

As the slope steepens slightly, it will begin to get awkward to keep your toes pointing directly uphill. So splay them outward, duck fashion (pied en canard). Continue to use the axe as a cane, in piolet canne (fig. 14-13).

As the slope gets steeper still, heading straight upward in pied en canard causes severe ankle strain. Then it's time to turn sideways to the slope and ascend diagonally for a more relaxed, comfortable step. Keep the feet flat (pied a plat), with all bottom crampon points stamped into the ice (fig. 14-14). Don't try to edge with crampons. Start with your feet pointed in the direction of travel. As the slope steepens, you'll have to rotate your feet more and more downward in order to keep them flat on the ice. On the steepest slopes they may be pointing downhill.

As the slope angle changes from gentle to mod-

Sideways The Slope

Fig. 14-14. French technique, on a diagonal ascent: flat-footing combined with ice axe in cane position (pied à plat!piolet canne).

Crampon French Technique

Fig. 14-15. French technique, on a diagonal ascent: flat-footing combined with ice axe in cross-body position (pied a plat!piolet ramasse).

erate, using the axe in the cane position becomes awkward. You can now get greater security by holding the axe in the cross-body position (piolet ramasse), as shown in figure 14-15. Grip the shaft just above the spike with the inside hand and hold the head of the axe in the self-belay grasp, pick pointing forward, with the outside hand. Drive the spike into the ice, the shaft perpendicular to the slope and roughly horizontal across your waist.

In the cross-body position, most of the force on the axe should be at the hand on the shaft. The hand on the head stabilizes the axe and is a reminder not to lean into the slope. You need a full-length ice axe, rather than a shorter ice tool, to keep your body from leaning into the ice. Even experienced ice climbers have difficulty maintaining proper French technique with a short axe.

Move diagonally upward in a two-step sequence, much the same as ascending a snow slope without crampons. Remember to keep your feet flat at all times (fig. 14-15). Start from a position of balance, your inside (uphill) foot in front of

Fig. 14-14. French technique, on a diagonal ascent: flat-footing combined with ice axe in cane position (pied à plat!piolet canne).

Fig. 14-15. French technique, on a diagonal ascent: flat-footing combined with ice axe in cross-body position (pied a plat!piolet ramasse).

Piolet Ramasse

Fig. 14-16. French technique, changing direction on a diagonal ascent: flat-footing combined with ice axe in cross-body position (pied à plat/piolet ramasse).

and above the trailing outside (downhill) leg. From this in-balance position, bring the outside foot in front of and above the inside foot, into the out-of-balance position. The outside leg crosses over the knee of the inside leg, because if the cross is made at the ankle, stability is compromised and the next step will be difficult to make. To return to a position of balance, bring the inside foot up from behind and place it again in front of the outside foot. Keep the weight of your body over the crampons. Avoid leaning into the slope and creating the danger of crampon points twisting out of the ice. Step on lower-angled spots and natural irregularities in the ice to ease ankle strain and conserve energy.

During this diagonal ascent, plant the axe about an arm's length ahead of you each time before moving another two steps. Whether you're using the axe in the cane or the cross-body position, plant it far enough forward so that it will be near your hip after you move up to the next in-balance position.

To change direction (switchback) on a diagonal ascent of an ice slope, use the same technique as on a snow slope where you aren't wearing crampons, but keep your feet flat (fig. 14-16). From a position of balance, place the axe directly above your location. Move your outside (downhill) foot forward, into the out-of-balance position, to about the same elevation as the other foot and pointing slightly uphill. Grasping the axe with both hands, turn into the slope, moving your inside (uphill) foot to point in the new direction and slightly uphill. You are now facing into the slope, standing with feet splayed outward. (If the splayed-foot position feels unstable, you can front-point.) Return to the in-balance position by turning your attention to the foot that is still pointing in the old direction. Move this foot above and in front of the other foot. Reposition your grasp on the ice axe, depending on whether you are using the cane or cross-body method. You're now back in balance and facing the new direction of travel.

Fig. 14-16. French technique, changing direction on a diagonal ascent: flat-footing combined with ice axe in cross-body position (pied à plat/piolet ramasse).

Piolet Ancre
Fig. 14-17. French technique, on a diagonal ascent: flat-footing combined with ice axe in anchor position (pied à plat!piolet ancre).
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Responses

  • ami
    What is a moderate slope?
    5 years ago
  • mark
    What is consider a gentle slope or moderate slope when buying real estate?
    2 years ago
  • ULRICH
    How to use crampons and ice axe?
    7 months ago

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