Ice climbing

The variable conditions of snow and ice climbing make rating climbs difficult. The only two factors that do not vary greatly from year to year are length and steepness of the ice. Snow depth, thickness of ice, and temperature affect the condition of the route; these factors plus the nature of the ice and whether or not it offers good protection affect its difficulty.

Three rating systems have been introduced in North America: the New England Ice Rating System, first described in the early 1970s by Rick Wilcox, another in 1979 by Jeff Lowe, and the third in 1988 by Albi Sole. All use a modified version of the Scottish system (composed of Grades 1-6), which consists of two elements referred to as the seriousness grade (or overall grade [Lowe] or commitment rating [NEI]) and the technical grade.

Depending on the terrain being rated, water or alpine ice may be denoted as WI or AI, respectively. Water ice may be a seasonal frozen waterfall or nonporous ice found in the alpine environment. Alpine ice is permanent ice of a porous nature generally in the form of consolidated snow such as that usually found in glaciers.

The technical grade, as defined by Sole, rates the single most difficult pitch, taking into account the sustained nature of the climbing, ice thickness, and natural ice features, such as chandeliers, mushrooms, or overhanging bulges.

Grade 1: Walking up ice with only the use of crampons.

Grade 2: A pitch of 60-70 degree ice, reasonably consistent, with few short, sleep steps. Good protection and belays.

Grade 3: Sustained 70-80 degree ice, usually thick and solid. May contain short, steep section, but will have good resting places and offer good protection and belays.

Grade 4: Sustained 75-85 degree ice, separated by good belays or a less steep pitch with significant vertical sections. Generally good-quality ice, offering satisfactory protection. Grade 5: A noticeably more strenuous pitch of good but steep (85-90 degree) ice. May be considered the equivalent of 5.9 rock in terms of relative technical ability required. Grade 6: A very steep, strenuous pitch with few resting places and often a hanging belay. The ice may not be of top quality and protection may be dubious.

Grade 7: A pitch of near vertical ice, which may be thin, of poor quality, and doubtful adhesion to the rock. Protection difficult or nonexistent.

The Seriousness grade, as defined by Sole, takes into account the length, continuity, remoteness, hazards, and difficulty of descent; it is not, however, totally unaffected by technical difficulty.

Grade I: A short climb close to the road with bombproof belays and an easy descent. Grade II: A 1- or 2-pitch climb within easy reach of a vehicle, little objective danger, and easy descent by rappel or downclimbing. Grade III: A multipitch route at low elevation, which may take several hours, or a route with a long approach on foot or ski, demanding good winter travel skills, or a route subject to occasional winter hazards. Descent usually by rappelling. Grade IV: A multipitch route at higher elevations or in a remote region requiring mountaineering and winter travel skills. May be subject to objective hazards such as avalanches or rockfall. Descent may present difficulties and usually involves rappelling from bolts.

Grade V: A long climb on a high mountain face requiring a high level of competence and commitment. Subject to hazards of bad weather and avalanches. May have long approach or difficult descent.

Grade VI: A long multipitch route on a high alpine face, which only the best climbers will complete in a day. May include the logistical problems of winter alpine climbing. Grade VII: The biggest and hardest Himalayan alpine-style climbs (Lowe definition).

The New England Ice Rating System is used extensively in New England and was developed for the water-ice climbing found there. This system applies to a normal winter ascent of the route in moderate weather conditions. NEI 1: Low-angle water ice of 40-50 degrees, or long, moderate snow climbs requiring a basic level of technical expertise for safety. NEI 2: Low-angle water-ice routes with short bulges up to 60 degrees.

NEI 3: Steeper water ice of 50-60 degrees with 70-90 degree bulges.

NEI 4: Short, vertical columns, interspersed with rests, on 50-60 degree ice; fairly sustained climbing.

NEI 5: Generally multipitch ice climbs with sustained difficulties and/or strenuous vertical columns, with little rest possible. NEI 5 +: Multipitch routes with a heightened degree of seriousness, long vertical sections, and extremely sustained difficulties—the hardest ice climbs in New England to date.

The commitment rating shows the time and logistical requirements of the climb.

I: Up to several hours.

II: About half a day.

IV: A substantial undertaking; a very long day, possibly including a bivouac.

V: A big-wall climb of one and a half to two days.

Could be done in a single day by a very fit team.

VI: Multiday big-wall climbs requiring more than two days.

VII: Big-wall ascents in remote alpine situations.

Ice climbing is relatively new in America so standards vary from area to area and guidebook to guidebook. Some guidebooks define their own rating system: Bob's Route IV, 5 (indicating seriousness and technical grade), Bob's Route (5) (indicating technical grade), and Bob's Route IV, W15 (indicating overall grade, technical grade, and water ice). Most guidebooks do give the length of the technical ice climbing.

Continue reading here: Rock climbing Australian

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