/ Brittle Ice Technique

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GrendeI on 19 Nov 2012
Any ice gurus or generally experienced hacks out there have any tips for climbing really brittle ice? The more obscure the better :)

Any tips for avoiding huge dinner plates? (comical answers accepted, I have cake)

So far the best I've managed is chipping small hooks rather than planting a firm swing, but this is incredibly time consuming and inefficient!
nniff - on 19 Nov 2012
In reply to GrendeI:

Hold it in place with tiny little droplets of fear.
Jamie B - on 19 Nov 2012
In reply to GrendeI:

Very, very, very sharp points.
GrendeI on 19 Nov 2012
In reply to Jamie Bankhead: As simple as that? I tend not to keep mine too sharp cause they blunt much more severely if I catch rock (ice is still a little thin in some places atm)
elliptic on 19 Nov 2012
In reply to GrendeI:

Sharp tools.

Placements as far apart as possible so you don't take out the other tool you're hanging off when it plates.

Feet in your old tool placements (monos help here).

And if it's really that brittle, I'd actually rather knock the surface off to get a solid placement underneath, than have it plate later when I'm pulling on it...
GrendeI on 19 Nov 2012
In reply to elliptic:
> (In reply to GrendeI)
> I'd actually rather knock the surface off to get a solid placement underneath, than have it plate later when I'm pulling on it...


That was our other remedy, but gave up after the falling chunks took out my feet. I think its time to go mono!
nniff - on 19 Nov 2012
In reply to GrendeI:
> (In reply to Jamie Bankhead) As simple as that? I tend not to keep mine too sharp cause they blunt much more severely if I catch rock (ice is still a little thin in some places atm)

Well, yes, because anything blunt is just going to bust it out of the way, taking the rest with it. To quote a carpenter of my acquaintance 'Take a finer shaving with a sharper tool'.
elliptic on 19 Nov 2012
In reply to GrendeI:

The other thing is pick your spot carefully (and aim accurately).

Any sort of depression in the ice (in between icicles, over the top of little bulges) or softer spot (white patches, bubbles) is what you want.



In reply to GrendeI: Do you mean very cold? New ice can often be delicate when it is still lots of individual icicles that haven't morphed into a more homogenous whole, but what I think of as brittle tends to be in temperatures in the low teens or into the -20s. Go skiing instead is one suggestion, but if you really must - super sharp tools/screws. Normally I think people over worry this, but at -22 really the sharper the better. Don't put anything metal in your mouth is another good tip! Look for wetter patches, you can still see them on some routes, and always hit the concave and avoid the convex.
Jim Fraser - on 19 Nov 2012
In reply to elliptic:
> (In reply to GrendeI)
>
> The other thing is pick your spot carefully (and aim accurately).

Yvon Chouinard's 'Climbing Ice', Chapter 3, the section on Characteristics of Ice is useful.


nufkin - on 19 Nov 2012
In reply to GrendeI:
> (In reply to Jamie Bankhead) As simple as that? I tend not to keep mine too sharp cause they blunt much more severely if I catch rock (ice is still a little thin in some places atm)

Surely the blunting only seems worse because they were sharper before?

If, to try to explain my thinking, you had a blade sharpened to '7' and then found it became '5' after you'd whacked a few rocks, and one sharpened to '10' that also became blunted to '5', it'd still be better to have them start at '10' would it not? That way you get the benefit of the extra sharpness for a little longer, even though maths reasons that it is 50% blunter rather than 30%.
Only for ice routes, of course - probably no point taking the extra trouble if you know they're going to spend their time buried in turf.
Ben Sharp - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to nufkin:
> (In reply to GrendeI)
> [...]
>
> Surely the blunting only seems worse because they were sharper before?
>
> If, to try to explain my thinking, you had a blade sharpened to '7' and then found it became '5' after you'd whacked a few rocks, and one sharpened to '10' that also became blunted to '5', it'd still be better to have them start at '10' would it not? That way you get the benefit of the extra sharpness for a little longer, even though maths reasons that it is 50% blunter rather than 30%.
> Only for ice routes, of course - probably no point taking the extra trouble if you know they're going to spend their time buried in turf.

Probably pointlessly academic but a sharper edge will dull or become damaged quicker than an edge which has been sharpened to a greater angle. If you imagine a knife with a 20degree bevel the layer of metal at the edge will be more fragile than if it was sharpened to 30 degrees.
iksander on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to GrendeI: No expert, but my formula is sharp picks, hook rather than swing, never have your tools at the same height, work extra hard for good foot placements - clench sphincter and keep smiling
george mc - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to GrendeI:

Brittle ice is brittle ice.

Either use existing placements and hook.

Choose your spot carefully to place your tool (small concavities) and use tools with very sharp picks gently but powerful swing with wrist flick to finish. First blow may knock of any surface brittle ice (called a dinner plate)then ensure next placement is in the exact same place.

Bottom line climbing brittle ice - unless someone has climbed it before you - generally you'll have to do the clearing. This will involve creating debris. The knack is climbing it efficiently otherwise you'll waste a great deal of energy smashing your way up the pitch.

If it's vertical then hooking is your main(only?)option.

Another good reason why you never, ever follow someone up an ice climb. Great way to ensure you require facial reconstruction, at best, at worse I've seen large enough sections come up off that if hit you in the face would kill you...
pamph - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to george mc: ' First blow may knock of any surface brittle ice (called a dinner plate)then ensure next placement is in the exact same place'

I can only agree about dinner plating. Whilst doing Professor's Falls some years ago (Banff, Canada) I placed a screw half way up the second pitch on the advice of my second, and went to move up by placing both axes more or less in the same plane. A huge dinner plate formed around both, and I fell back on to the screw complete with about 200 lbs of ice! If I hadn't placed the screw I would have decked it, so thanks Jim! Take care out there on the brittle stuff!
Kevin Rutherford - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to GrendeI: Tubular picks! Seen a Dutch chap climbing in Rjukan with tubular picks on Grivel tools. I was smashing up my brittle ice route using sharp normal picks when he cruised up the route next to me with very little ice coming off. Something to do with the ice fracturing into the centre of the tube rather than cracks fracturing out the way with a normal pick????
GrendeI on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Ecosse Mountains: That is some wild stuff! Like this? http://www.coolclimbing.com/images/ice/equipment/miollnirhammers02.jpg
jonnie3430 - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to Ecosse Mountains:

I've used tubular tools before from Austrialpin, an older version of this I think: http://www.austrialpin.at/eisklettern/ice-tools/waterIce.aspx Read what they say about their picks here: http://www.austrialpin.at/eisklettern/picks/hohlhaue-schranz.aspx

I thought they were great on water ice (a ice tower at the Silvretta Hut(I think?)) really good first time placements when normal picks weren't so solid. To get them out you twist and they core the ice and come out easily, leaving a good starter hole for a screw...
Kevin Rutherford - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to GrendeI: Yes, thats very similar to the Dutch chaps tubular picks although his tools looked a wee bit more 21st century.The picks are very short compared to normal ones.
Kevin Rutherford - on 20 Nov 2012
In reply to jonnie3430: Im assuming they are the only company still making them.
In reply to Ecosse Mountains:
> Im assuming they are the only company still making them.

I think they might be quite new. I keep a keen eye on different types of ice gear and don't think I've seen any tubular picks since the very early 90s.

The Devil's Appendix chapter by John Barry in Cold Climbs has a very funny description of the problems of using tubular picks. In fact all Barry's chapters are very funny.
unknownclimber6 - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Ecosse Mountains:
found this on the grivel page - http://www.grivel.com/products/ice/accessories/27-btf_tubular
HeMa on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to TobyA:
Austria Alpin still sells tubular picks for their Vampire and what ever tools.
In reply to HeMa: Has that model been around for a long time? When I started climbing you definitely saw tubular pics about. The Lowe Hummingbirds famously had them, but they seemed to die out in the early 90s - probably as mixed climbing with tools became the norm in Europe as well as in Scotland. So I wasn't sure if Austria Alpin had only recently reintroduced them.

Does anyone remember those tools that were made by Stubai (did Austria Alpin start as Stubai?) from the early 90s, they had yellow, plastic covered shafts and these bizarre tubular adzes? I remember them being a bit shorter than the 50 cm standard. A sort of Euro Terror!
elliptic on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to TobyA:

I had the standard-pick-and-adze version of one of those, yep it was a 45cm shaft like Chacals/Barracudas and all those 80s Clog tools.

Only paid a fiver for it, actually it was an ex-magazine review sample passed on by the reviewer who'd probably better remain nameless! Paired it up with a secondhand Chacal hammer...they got me up all sorts of things in the Lakes & Scotland. Still up in the loft in a box somewhere...
jonnie3430 - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to TobyA:

I used an old (?, OK, so worn,) pair of them about three or four years ago. I'd give them a go on mixed, which is where they seem poor. Some placements you wouldn't get, but I would think you'd get torques etc.. that wouldn't be normally possible.

I forgot to add to the above post that I was top roping (!) on an 8.1mm half, one of my axes swung close to the rope at one point and I nervously noticed that the width of the pick was wider than the rope and the potential for an unexpected solo was high if I wasn't a bit more careful.
elliptic on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to TobyA:

As this thread seems to be veering slightly off course here's an 80s trivia question...

In the original edition of Cold Climbs there's *one* photo where the climber is using tools with modern-style modular reverse-curve picks.

Which one?
ice.solo - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to GrendeI:

use good modern tools with agressive grips:pick angles to hook and switch up on rather than so much hacking.

get a set of picks just for brittle ice, shaped into a 'cats claw' tip.

get stronger, better balanced and better range-of-motion to optimize on each placement.
GrendeI on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to ice.solo: Thank you for that, on the case ;)
alasdair19 on 23 Nov 2012
In reply to GrendeI: its very scary if when axes are close together you lever one out dinner plate and find the remaining axe is only millimeters deep. the difference between climbing a hacked out water ice route and climbing a virgin fall is colossal.
iksander on 29 Nov 2012
In reply to GrendeI: This got me thinking about "the cycle of disappointment" whereby you start with a crappy placement, don't really want to commit to it - so you just creep up a little and place your second tool in similar crap not very far above the first placement. Repeat until your feet are also on crap ice, then fall off :)

So - don't forget you can always down climb...

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