Vertical ice

The basic method of climbing vertical ice is front-pointing combined with use of two ice tools in piolet traction, in which you pull down on both tools as you ascend (fig. 14-28).

The standard position for the feet is about shoulder width apart and level with each other, a stable and relatively comfortable stance. Reach up and plant the pick of one ice tool as high as possible—but off to the side a bit so you're not hit by dislodged ice or by a tool that comes loose. Then plant the other tool, in the same manner.

From the back, your body at this point resembles an "X" against the ice wall. Your feet are level with each other, heels slightly down, and your arms are straight. As you pull down on the tools, also pull slightly outward to keep their teeth set in the ice and apply inward pressure on the

traction with two tools

crampon points. You can liken this to a mild lie-back on rock. To conserve energy, you can now hang your weight from the wrist loops rather than gripping the tools tightly.

To ascend, grasp the tools and pull yourself higher as you step upward on the front points to a new level position. You're now ready to replant the ice tools higher, one at a time, returning you to the X body position. Repeat this sequence. Concentrate on efficient, methodical placement of crampon points and hand tools. Rhythm is as important as balance.

To overcome ice bulges and small overhangs, you can try the monkey hang (fig. 14-29). Starting from the X body position, walk your front points up the ice without raising your body. Loosen—but do not remove—one of the hand tools. Rise to a standing or nearly standing position by pushing with your feet and pulling on the tools, and in one smooth, continuous motion, remove and replant the loosened tool. Quickly rest that arm by relaxing the hand and letting the arm hang from the tool's wrist loop. Loosen and replant the other

Fig. 14-29. The monkey hang

tool. You're now back in the X body position, ready to repeat the sequence.

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