German technique frontpointing

Developed by the Germans and Austrians for climbing the harder snow and ice of the eastern Alps, front-pointing can take an experienced ice climber up the steepest and most difficult ice slopes. With this technique, even average climbers can quickly overcome sections that would be difficult or impossible with French technique.

Front-pointing, in contrast to the choreography of flat-footing, is straightforward and uncomplicated. The technique is much like step-kicking straight up a snow slope, but instead of kicking your boot into the snow, you kick your front crampon points into the ice and step directly up on them.

Just as in French technique, however, good front-pointing is rhythmic and balanced, with the weight of your body over the crampons. Efficiency of movement is essential, whether it's planting your front points, placing your hand tools, or moving on the ice.

Although the Germans and Austrians developed it, German technique is frequently described with the general vocabulary of the French technique. Here is a brief directory of German technique, with approximate slope angles for each type. As you can see, aspects of French and German technique overlap in the steepness of slopes for which they are recommended. The proper technique to use depends on ice conditions and the preference of the climber.

For the feet:

• Front-pointing

For the ice tools:

For all angles from 45 degrees through vertical and overhanging

Steep, 45 to 55 degrees

Piolet poignard (high dagger) Steep, 50 to 60


Piolet ancre (anchor)

Piolet traction (traction)

Steep, 45 to 60 degrees

Extremely steep, 60 degrees through vertical and overhanging

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