Natural protection

Ready-made natural protection is hard to come by on an alpine ice route, although climbers make use of the medium to fashion ice bollards. Good natural protection may be available not on the ice itself, but in rock bordering the route or protruding through the ice.

Natural protection is often found on frozen waterfalls, where runners can be placed around ice columns. Climbers also devise some slightly unconventional protection points. On frozen waterfalls or high alpine routes, where large ice columns may form only an inch or two apart, an ice screw tied off with webbing can be inserted behind the columns and turned sideways as a deadman. You may find a sheet of ice separated from the underlying rock by an inch or two, leaving a slit that can be enlarged enough to insert a screw tied off with webbing; again, turn the screw sideways to function as a deadman. You can also punch two holes in the sheet of ice, thread a runner through them, and clip the rope into it. On mixed rock and ice climbs, rock-climbing chocks may be wedged into ice holes.

Ice bollards

A bollard can be among an ice climber's most useful anchors. It can be used for rappelling or belaying. By linking together two bollards, one cut for an upward pull and the other for a downward pull, you have a multidirectional anchor. The strength of a bollard is proportional to its size and the hardness of the ice. Made of hard, solid ice, it can be stronger than the rope.

A completed ice bollard is teardrop-shaped when viewed from above, and horn-shaped when viewed from the side (fig. 14-37). All you need for a bollard is an ice axe and good ice, uniform and without cracks or holes. Cut the outline of the bollard with the axe pick. In hard ice, give it a diame ter of 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 centimeters) across the wide end of the teardrop. Cut a trench around the bollard at least 6 inches (15 centimeters) deep, working outward from the outline with both the pick and the adze.

Undercut the sides and top half of the bollard to form a horn that prevents the rope from popping off over the top. This is the most sensitive part of the construction because you can easily fracture or break the bollard if you're careless with the axe.

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