I've done more ice climbing this season than I think I ever have in a season--Norway is just the latest round. The dZi Endless Ascent effort started it all off, but for some reason I've just been swinging the tools a lot with a variety of partners. I love working on technique and tricks for moving on ice, and thinking about how to do it with a higher safety margin and less effort. Here are a few things I've been thinking and see a lot of:
-If you get a stuck tool regularly you're likely placing them both at the same horizontal level. Don't. It's a waste of effort, time and makes the leader far less secure because they have to wrestle a tool out while it's off to the side. Place tools roughly 30 to 60 cm apart vertically and roughly shoulder-width or a bit narrower horizontally.
-Completely stand up and drive you hips into the ice to finish the stand-up part of a movement. Most climbers don't, which puts more weight on their arms.
-If you're getting pumped and you're not a complete novice it's almost always because your feet aren't at the same horizontal level, and aren't solid. Solid feet make for relaxed hands. If one foot is low when you stand up it will come off, making you out of balance. Kick twice as much as you swing.
-Look at the ice. LOOK at the ice. I can tell within about one swing and one foot placement how experienced an ice climber is; swing at corners in the ice, pockets, spaces between icicles, and kick in roughly the same places. But even if you know this you can't execute it without looking at the ice for every foot and tool placement...
-Swing with your elbow high, and the pick, head and shaft of the tool all in line with your wrist, forearm and upper arm. It's about getting the pick moving fast and accurately; 99 percent of people drop their elbow when they swing, which is a waste of effort, compromises accuracy, and reduces the vertical gain on each swing. Even worse is the "chicken wing" swing, with your elbow out to the side at roughly shoulder level...
-If you want to be a better ice climber go hang a rope on a vertical piece of ice and climb it a whole lot. Like 200 or more times. With crampons off, on, no tools, one tool, etc. etc. Many aspirant ice climbers drop the sport after spending a weekend climbing 4 pitches and freezing their asses off. Go TR like mad, then you lead fast, follow fast, and be secure while doing so.
Back to ice climbing here in Norway, only another 50,000 FAs to do until we run out of ice...
Great tips WIll. I was fortunate enough to hear most of this in person during your clinic in Ouray and it has changed my climbing radically. We have been climbing a lot here in Ontario since returning from Colorado and I can't believe how much better I am since implementing this stuff. It is somewhat painful to watch some of the locals with their side by side placements and chicken wing swing. Once you 'get it' it is so obvious. Watching people crawl along the old way (or whatever) looks so ponderous, tiring and unstable. Worse yet is that is is probably a lot more dangerous too as they get tired and pop off all over the place.
Though I am far from an ice meister like yourself I am consciously working on my technique. Thankful once again for the lessons.
Hi Will, thanks a lot for these simple to understand tricks. I enjoyed reading your book on the subject of ice and mixed climbing as well as drytooling some years ago during an ice trip to Italy. My far more experienced partner and your book helped me a lot to get started. Those tricks you just posted are a good completion to your book and actually put in words what i see most people doing here at our little ice spot in Thuringia, right in the middle of Germany. I am thinking about translating your tricks and putting them on my blog so our locals can benefit from these useful hints as well if that`s ok for you?
ps: impressive effort in Ouray!
Nice trick for cliffhangers, i wonder if it works in solid rock. I my favorite hobby you know.
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