Climbing No. 290 - December/January 2011


Will Gadd shows us how to train on a home wall (that he built for only $75) if you have limited resources or access to ice.

Will Gadd demonstrates exercises to use while training for ice climbing.

Q. I have friends who tell me I should always use locking carabiners on both ends of quickdraws clipped to ice screws, because the screw side might open against the hanger and the rope side is susceptible to vibration. Is this bogus?   

A. Only do this if you really hate your follower. If you are conscious of direction of movement, gate direction, and rope orientation, those concerns are easily mitigated. I rig my draws with biners facing the same direction, and find it helps to clip everything correctly. —Clint Cook A. Bogus! Use wiregate carabiners when ice climbing. They are free from the "flutter factor" associated with spring-gate biners, and they won't freeze up. When placing a screw, be certain the ice around the hanger has been cleared sufficiently so the carabiner gate is not accidentally wedged open when it’s clipped into the hanger. —Jack Roberts

Q. In the old days, it seemed like everyone led with double ropes out of fear of chopping a rope. Now it seems like lots of good climbers lead with single ropes. Is that safe?

A. I think a big reason for this change is that V-threads have made it easier to do multiple rappels. Earlier, with fewer anchor options, minimizing the number of raps was key. Also, older ropes didn't have very good dry coatings, and not all that long ago a 10.5mm was a skinny single. With a wet, iced-up 10.5mm, you couldn’t rappel or belay. Skinny double ropes were easier to handle if they did get iced up. —Steve House A. I lead on a single rope and pull a tag line for rappels. There is less rope drag, it's simpler to clip just one rope, and if you do swing into it, there is less chance of the thicker rope getting damaged. To avoid chopping the cord, make sure you have awareness of where it is at all times. If you do swing into it or step on it, take a thorough look at the rope, and if you can't see any damage, you are good to go! —Caroline George

Q. What do you think of “rollies” for training? You know, using a broomstick to roll up a weight attached to a cord?

A. Any training is better than no training, but specificity rules. Rollies are good for getting good at rollies, but not for the specific musculature of swinging an ice tool. —Will Gadd

Q. If I get gripped on a steep column, should I downclimb to the last piece, or is there a way to protect myself while I get in a screw?

A. I have seen all sorts of gimmicks for this situation. Clip a draw to one of your tools and clip in the rope? Maybe, but kinda sketchy in my opinion. Use an ice hook for temporary pro? Yikes! If it takes you longer than a minute to get a screw in, keep practicing. —Clint Cook A. First thing to do is look for a stem, a rest of some kind, and see if you can get a screw in where you are. There are many other ways to get weight off your arms, but they're all acts of desperation. Ratchet back your climbing goals until you feel you truly posses adequate fitness and technique and a good lead-head to tackle steep columns. —Steve House

Q. My feet often sketch out on vertical columns, especially if the ice is chandeliered. Is something wrong with my crampons?

A. Planting your crampon points securely on vertical, chandeliered ice requires flexibility in the ankles so that you can make use of all those crampon points. Frequently change your foot placement, and don't be afraid to experiment with foot positions like toe or heel hooks. It's all about contact! —Jack Roberts

Pick up a copy of Climbing 291 (December 2010) for more Ice FAQ on leashless climbing, footwork, pick modifications, and more.

Dopey Duck (5.9) at Shortoff Mountain, Linville Gorge, North Carolina

Dopey Duck (5.9) at Shortoff Mountain, Linville Gorge, North Carolina