/ NEW ARTICLE: IMPROVE: Steep Ice Climbing Technique

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UKC Articles - on 02 Jan 2012
Fig 1 - The Triangle Position, 4 kbTop winter climber and professional instructor George McEwan gives us step by step instructions on good ice climbing technique.

This article includes the basic movements involved, some advanced techniques, and is illustrated with excellent photographs throughout.

Read more at http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=4316

ice.solo - on 02 Jan 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:

wheres the 'perfect ice' icefall?

(hazy general location perfectly fine if its under wraps ;)
AlH - on 02 Jan 2012
In reply to ice.solo: http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=133996 its on Beinn Udlaidh in the Southern Highlands.
ice.solo - on 02 Jan 2012
In reply to AlH:

cool. cheers.
franksnb - on 02 Jan 2012
In reply to UKC Articles: nice article
Paul035 - on 02 Jan 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:

Very thorough article, really informative. A wee 1 minute video clip would maybe help show the movement sequence.
georgebe - on 02 Jan 2012
In reply to UKC Articles: Great article with allot of content. Thanks for taking the time to put it up.
Denni on 02 Jan 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:

Very informative and well written article.
Appreciate you taking the time to write it, cheers George.
george mc - on 03 Jan 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:

Cheers for the feedback - glad you all have found it of use. I'll see if I can dig out some video footage about that movement sequence. I'd forgotten that articles on the internet can have video associated with them. I'll mind that for next time.

Cheery!

George
a13x - on 03 Jan 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:

Nice article, if only we had something down here in the Lakes to go at right now!!
nufkin - on 03 Jan 2012
In reply to george mc:
> ( Cheers for the feedback - glad you all have found it of use. I'll see if I can dig out some video footage about that movement sequence.

If you'll pardon the hijack, this clip of Will Gadd shows your sequence quite nicely, I think:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjMVSlQilKk

and his technique overall seems very elegant in it, too.
timjones - on 03 Jan 2012
In reply to nufkin:

I think this is quite a good illustration as well

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WR0-eL6xvE4
Al Randall on 03 Jan 2012
In reply to timjones: Not so sure about the skipping feet and crossing arms which is totally unecessary when climbing leash less.

Al
timjones - on 03 Jan 2012
In reply to Al Randall:
> (In reply to timjones) Not so sure about the skipping feet and crossing arms which is totally unecessary when climbing leash less.
>

It would be a mistake to rule either of them out. Certainly if you can cross arms it avoids the faff of changing grip and swapping tools from hand to hand. In the right circumstances it can be highly efficient and it certainly reduces the risk of dropping a tool.
george mc - on 03 Jan 2012
In reply to Al Randall:
> (In reply to timjones) Not so sure about the skipping feet and crossing arms which is totally unecessary when climbing leash less.
>
> Al

Hhmm....I think you might be missing the point of what she was demonstrating - the travesring was used as a means of finding where your balance point is i.e. she was using that traverse as a dril rather than this is how you traverse. Context is everything.

In RL when travesring yes you can get all funky as you describe but sometimes it's just as easy to replace the tools. Leashless tools just allow you to play with more options.
Al Randall on 03 Jan 2012
In reply to george mc: First watched it on my phone with no sound so missed the context. Perhaps I'm just getting old but a lot of what she said just seems plain wrong to me. Climbing dynamically, two points of contact etc. To me it's a bit like teaching V.diff climbers how to do an egyptian or flag. If what she is saying is just relevant to practicing on traverses fair enough but I'm not convinced that specific point is made that clear.

Al
timjones - on 03 Jan 2012
In reply to Al Randall:
> (In reply to george mc) First watched it on my phone with no sound so missed the context. Perhaps I'm just getting old but a lot of what she said just seems plain wrong to me. Climbing dynamically, two points of contact etc. To me it's a bit like teaching V.diff climbers how to do an egyptian or flag. If what she is saying is just relevant to practicing on traverses fair enough but I'm not convinced that specific point is made that clear.
>

Why shouldn't you teach V Diff climbers egyptians and flagging? It gets them playing with balance and different movement styles, it builds different skills before they become set in rigid and restrictive ways.

For all we know they may aspire to reach the lofty grades of severe or hard severe ;)
Al Randall on 03 Jan 2012
In reply to timjones: There is no reason why you shouldn't, I wish I hadn't said it like that. Personally I would concentrate on skills relevant to their grade. I mean would you also demonstrate using oxygen gear in case they aspire to climb Everest?

Al
timjones - on 03 Jan 2012
In reply to Al Randall:
> (In reply to timjones) There is no reason why you shouldn't, I wish I hadn't said it like that. Personally I would concentrate on skills relevant to their grade. I mean would you also demonstrate using oxygen gear in case they aspire to climb Everest?
>

Should you classify climbers according to their grade?

Why ignore the opportunity to show them the sheer joy of playing with balance and movement just because they aren't climbing hard enough?
James Oswald - on 03 Jan 2012
In reply to UKC Articles:
In the first paragraph it should be principles not principals.
ads.ukclimbing.com
george mc - on 03 Jan 2012
In reply to James Oswald:
> (In reply to UKC Articles)
> In the first paragraph it should be principles not principals.

Yup yer right = spell check and me doing the proof reading... Go to the top of the class. Do you like apostrophes as well? ;)

george mc - on 03 Jan 2012
In reply to James Oswald:
> (In reply to UKC Articles)
> In the first paragraph it should be principles not principals.

Ah just checked not my mistook! :)

My original had the corrrect word. Whew. Off the hook. You've no idea the amount of grief I'd have got from my work colleagues...
george mc - on 03 Jan 2012
In reply to Al Randall:
> (In reply to george mc) First watched it on my phone with no sound so missed the context. Perhaps I'm just getting old but a lot of what she said just seems plain wrong to me. Climbing dynamically, two points of contact etc. To me it's a bit like teaching V.diff climbers how to do an egyptian or flag. If what she is saying is just relevant to practicing on traverses fair enough but I'm not convinced that specific point is made that clear.
>
> Al

Anything that moves ice climbing away from whack whack kick kick I'm in favour off. When you get onto steeper more featured stuff being able to climb ice as you'd climb rock comes to the fore. So yeah get people to play with movement and being dynamic on ice is all to the good I'd say. Just wish I could do more of it masel! Bloody wet and shite here in Scotland right now. Ice climbing trip on the horizon though :)

timjones - on 03 Jan 2012
Just been to train by swinging around on the axes and check that I wasn't suffering from memory failure/talking bollocks about crossing your arms being useful.

I learnt two things

a) crossing arms is indeed a very effective way of traversing on steep/overhanging ground

b) when practising fig 4s/9s it's a serious mistake to kick the light switch as you make a long reach for a hold ;)
Al Randall on 03 Jan 2012
In reply to timjones: I'm not classifying just suggesting that such techniques are not of much use to novices or those climbing in the easier grades. After some thought though I think that you may have a valid point about it teaching balance especially when applied indoors.

Al
Ron Walker - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to george mc:

George, I've got lots of recent icefall video footage of you... ;-)

Cheers Ron
Caspar - on 04 Feb 2013
In reply to UKC Articles:

Brilliant article. Now to put it in to practice.
Murderous_Crow - on 05 Feb 2013
In reply to george mc:

Good article.

Another tip for newbies, and probably the only one I have: be really, really careful who you climb with.
Ramon Marin - on 05 Feb 2013
In reply to UKC Articles:

For me the 3 most important tips for fine-tunning the ice technique is a good powerful kick of the crampons for a secure foot placement. Then the spotting of the right tool placement before you even swing the axe (grooves and recesses are the best) and then the wrist flick. The wrist flick is the most energy saving technique in ice climbing.
Sam Husband - on 05 Feb 2013
In reply to UKC Articles:

Heading to Rjukan tomorow for the first time and this made a great lunchtime read. Thank you.
In reply to Ramon Marin:

Ramon climbs way harder than me but I do get to climb pure (and often rather hard) water ice most weekends through the winter and the following sounds exactly right to me as well, albeit at much lowlier grades!

> a good powerful kick of the crampons for a secure foot placement. Then the spotting of the right tool placement before you even swing the axe (grooves and recesses are the best) and then the wrist flick.

Some people do seem really scared of placing their crampons. Kick! That's what they are for! Enjoy it! Get your aggression out. :)

Choosing where to hit with your tool is also very important. Simple rule is that its almost always best to go for the concave, avoid the convex.
Ramon Marin - on 08 Feb 2013
In reply to TobyA:

Totally right Toby, ice climbing needs some agressive and delicate style in the same measure, hence not a lot of rock climbers really excel at it.

On another note, another very simple tip to make your ice climbing easier is NOT to use Quark ergos like shown in the heading picture of this article!

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