/ Ice Axe Arrest isn't on the BMC Alpine Essentials DVD

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jenga - on 11 May 2012
This is a bit of an odd one but I've already got the BMC Alpine Essentials DVD and noticed the BMC Winter Essentials DVD one in a shop. The shop had both so I did a quick comparison on the back and noticed that the Alpine one doesn't include Ice Axe Arrest.

I thought this may be because you'd naturally progress from doing some UK winter walking before heading out to the Alps and hence have probably done a winter course in the UK. This is what I did.

Just curious to know if anyone has noticed this!

Milesy - on 11 May 2012
In reply to jenga:

Ice Axe arrest is over rated anyway. Many people who carry an axe don't know how to do one and many who do probably wouldn't be able to carry it out effectively in a real incident in a fast enough time anyway. (in my opinion).
Simon4 - on 11 May 2012
In reply to Milesy:

> Ice Axe arrest is over rated anyway.



No it isn't, it is an essential skill.

I have done them for real on several occasions, including in quite hard ice. Very easy to get wrong and loose your axe or for it to fail, so practice is important.
iksander on 11 May 2012
In reply to Milesy: Agree, better to concentrate on not falling in the first place
Milesy - on 11 May 2012
In reply to Simon4:
> I have done them for real on several occasions, including in quite hard ice. Very easy to get wrong and loose your axe or for it to fail, so practice is important.

I am fine with that but with iskander I would rather put more work into making sure I don't fall in the first place (Not that I am saying it wont happen). If all that failed I would like to think I would be able to perform an arrest but I have never tested that water out yet and don't plan to I hope.
jenga - on 11 May 2012
I guess what I noticed is that it's viewed as an essential skill for UK Winter but not Alpine.

Is that correct and why is that?
BruceM - on 11 May 2012
In reply to jenga:
I've seen my partner successfully arrest (thank goodness) after being blown off a ridge, whereupon no amount of technique of not falling could have stopped her prior.
MG - on 11 May 2012
In reply to Simon4:
> (In reply to Milesy)
>
> [...]
>
>
>
> No it isn't, it is an essential skill.
>

Possibly, but it certainly isn't the panacea it is sometimes presented as. The range of gradients and snow consistencies on which it works is pretty limited. Too shallow or soft and it is unnecessary. Too steep or hard and it is useless.

Having said that, I have used the technique once and it was on flat ground. It was quite windy...
Kevin Woods - on 11 May 2012
In reply to jenga: The most essential of techniques on snow, arguably. It's seems to me to be such an obvious one that maybe they have a reason for leaving it out?
Mr. K - on 11 May 2012
In reply to jenga: Isn't ice axe arrest in one of the extras after the main film? There's loads of good stuff in there.
dsh - on 11 May 2012
In reply to Milesy:

I used one in anger a couple of hours after I had learned how to do one. I'm glad I knew how.
Simon4 - on 11 May 2012
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Simon4)

> but it certainly isn't the panacea it is sometimes presented as. The range of gradients and snow consistencies on which it works is pretty limited.

No single technique is a panacea, but it is an important weapon to have in the tool box. On a great many alpine (or Scottish Winter) snow slopes, it can be very valuable when things suddenly go mammaries to the sky.

> Too steep or hard and it is useless.

Not so, as I say, I have used it on hard ice (but it does require quick reactions and a good technique)

> Having said that, I have used the technique once and it was on flat ground. It was quite windy...

Likewise. It is surprising how often it is useful to wear cramons on flat but icy ground, when the wind is fierce. But then people sometimes make the mistake of asking "can I get by without putting crampons on?" rather than asking the correct question "would crampons make things better or worse, bearing in mind the effort to stop and put them on?"
OwenM - on 11 May 2012
In reply to jenga: It's on my copy, look at the extras.
The Lemming - on 11 May 2012
In reply to Milesy:
> (In reply to jenga)
>
> Ice Axe arrest is over rated anyway.

Saved my life in the alps, which was nice.
Flashy - on 11 May 2012
In reply to jenga: Of course it's better not to fall over in the first place, but that doesn't mean knowing how to arrest isn't an essential skill. Saved my life once.
Starkey92 - on 11 May 2012
In reply to The Lemming:
> (In reply to Milesy)
> [...]
>
> Saved my life in the alps, which was nice.

didn't save my life but it saved a long slog back up a slope in the alps! its really not very difficult to do or practice so why not learn it?
Run_Ross_Run - on 11 May 2012
In reply to Milesy:
> (In reply to jenga)
>
> Ice Axe arrest is over rated anyway. Many people who carry an axe don't know how to do one and many who do probably

I think you'd be a fool to not practise it before venturing out on more serious stuff.



Milesy - on 11 May 2012
In reply to Darren09:

The harder the climbing the less likely you will need or be able to use it anyway as other objective dangers will be your concern.
Richard Baynes - on 11 May 2012
In reply to Milesy: Baffled by you here: ice-axe arrest is the main reason for carrying an axe when moving unroped over relatively easy ground - it's an essential safety technique. It's not as if you get all blase and let yourself fall because ypou can arrest... it's just a tool in the kit in case of emergency. Of coure you can't usually do it it if you fall off a steep climb, but then you might be roped up? It's also one of the reasons why you should consider putting one axe away as soon as you get onto easier ground.
Milesy - on 11 May 2012
In reply to Richard Baynes:

Ice Axe self belay is the main reason I have an axe out. For example French technique with the axe in the uphill hand and three points of contact. To arrest a slide is the remote chance that I hope would not happen but it is not the main reason why I use a single axe.

Don't take me wrong. I am not saying it is not useful. I am just saying it is the least useful. Being a master at self arrest on an easy slope is pointless if you crampon and move across the snow without care. I think the knowledge of being able to self arrest can be a reason for complacency.
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Richard Baynes - on 11 May 2012
In reply to Milesy:
> (In reply to Richard Baynes)
>

I think the knowledge of being able to self arrest can be a reason for complacency.

That's the biut that baffles me. No-one wants to fall, everyone takes care: of course it can make people confident, but that's very different from complacency. Are you suggesting we shoiuld nopt teach people ice axe arrest in case it makes them complacent?
Milesy - on 11 May 2012
In reply to Richard Baynes:

Of course not. I should maybe rephrase that I think that ice axe arrest skills alone make people complacent. It is just that many people think an ice axe arrest will always stop them in all circumstances and that can be dangerous. The added problem with is that surely if someone is fatigued enough to misplace a foot and slip then it is likely they are going to be too fatigued to be able to react to arrest quick enough. Many times I see people ascending and descending with the axe just lazily waving at their when using an ascending or descending technique using the axe as that third point of contact. I get scared easily and I always want that third point of contact for reassurance rather than whether I can brake a fall.
CurlyStevo - on 11 May 2012
In reply to jenga: I have to say its far more useful to be able to stay upright and if you do slip to stop a slip turning in to a slide. In 6 years winter mountaineering living in Scotland and getting out most weekends of the season I've not once needed to self arrest.
JoshOvki on 11 May 2012
In reply to iksander:
> (In reply to Milesy) Agree, better to concentrate on not falling in the first place

That sounds a lot like

"Better to concentrate on not falling in the first place" than know how to place gear.
Richard Baynes - on 12 May 2012
In reply to Milesy: I have yet to come across anyone who thinks ice axe arrest will always stop them, or anyone who is complacent. It's a bit like saying being able to place gear might make you complacent: it doesn't, it makes you more confident. Unless you're arguing that ice-axe arrest should not be taught, then there's no point in dissing it: all safety skills can lead to complacency if too much reliance is placed on them, and there is no evidence that this is the case here.
Milesy - on 12 May 2012
In reply to Richard Baynes:

You are glossing over what I said though Richard. I am just saying ice axe self belay and cramponing skills are more important, and that is my honest opinion. I said ice axe arrest is important to know just that it is not the magic bullet that many people believe it to be all the time.

To use your analogy:

Ice Axe self belay and crampon skills are placing bomber gear.
Ice Axe arrest is placing a microwire.

You place your bomber gear and move confidently but hope you never need to fall on that single IMP1 nut; It may just save your bacon but it should not be relied on.

Richard Baynes - on 12 May 2012
In reply to Milesy: No-one thinks it's a magic bullet. I don't know the term self-belaying to which you refer, you mean just sticking your axe in for security? Crampon skills=the ability to walk with crampons on on slopes of different angles. They are not skills that are usually taught but obvious instinctive things that can be developed with practice. Self-arrest is an important skill, and having seen it used recently, and having used it myself although not in the direst of situations. It has to be taught because it's not an instinctive manouevre. Your original post here suggested (to me at least) that it was somehow wrong to teach it because it led to complacecy, which I'm afraid is just wrong.
Milesy - on 12 May 2012
In reply to Richard Baynes:

I have never once ever needed to self arrest. Not in my relatively short I admit winter climbing experience but neither in my longer winter walking experience either.

Having seen it used does not excuse the reason for the slip in the first place. If you see a microwire save someone you don't start teaching beginners about the importance of microwire placements before everything else. Using your analogy again but it is true.

Ice Axe Self Belay is the technique of having the axe in the uphill hand either descending or ascending and plunging the axe in as you move giving you a third point of contact (which you already do). This is taught in all the books as more important than self arrest. You are much less likely to slip doing it.

This is "french technique" of ice axe self belay.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRBkkRGogs0
Milesy - on 12 May 2012
In reply to Richard Baynes:
> They are not skills that are usually taught but obvious instinctive things that can be developed with practice.

Missed this. This is wrong. Crampon and axe belay skills are indeed taught both by scottish winter instructors and also alpine instructors. I have lost count of the amount of times I have seen instructors showing clients how to move using french technique or hybrid technique.
Richard Baynes - on 12 May 2012
In reply to Milesy: OK, never had instruction of this nature so don't know. You are however belittling a vital mountaineering skill, which could make others think it is unimportant and thus endanger their safety, which is why in this instance I shouted up about it.
Milesy - on 12 May 2012
In reply to Richard Baynes:

That's the thing I am still putting across. In my opinion it is not important. Important imlplies an order of precedence. Ice Axe self arrest is in that list, it is just not at the top - so hence not important.
AlexxelA - on 12 May 2012
If people weren't taught how to do it you might end up with people attempting some sort of ineffectual one handed over-arm lunge like in the movies. Several people have commented that it saved their bacon, do you know of any instances of people dying because they had been taught to ice axe arrest?

You say ice axe belay is "more important" than self-arrest? Surely that is contextual? It may be more important when you are on your feet, but when you are sliding down a slope towards an uncertain fate i think self-arrest becomes slightly more important, no? Its all just part of the essential skills toolbox that people have already mentioned.
Owain - on 12 May 2012
In reply to Richard Baynes: Fortunately Richard, this is Milsey's opinion.

Ice axe techniques, crampon techniques, belaying techniques etc are all part of the mountaineering trade. Saying that one skill is more important than another skill makes no sense.
Milesy - on 12 May 2012
In reply to Owain:

You are right. It has been interesting to discuss but time to bring it to an end as it will only turn into opinion bashing now. :)
Richard Baynes - on 12 May 2012
In reply to Milesy: Just so long as you know it's important.
Owain - on 12 May 2012
In reply to Milesy: On an end note.

You will only get one shot at using the ice axe arrest
Bruce Hooker - on 12 May 2012
In reply to Milesy:

I agree with you on this one, a greatly over-rated technique, and a highly dangerous one, there must be more people injured practicing ice axe arrest than any other technique! I remember our first club outing on snow to Glencoe. All the group dutifully clambered up the hill side and launched themselves off on the first snow patch.. several ended up in the scree and one was so badly injured that the mountain rescue had to be called out.

Personally I didn't join the lemmingesque rush, and ever since I've never had to use the technique in anger. Infinitely better to learn to not slip than rely on what is at best a pretty dubious method.

All IMO, I wouldn't like to deny anyone the pleasure of breaking their leg if they feel the overwhelming need.
JoshOvki on 13 May 2012
In reply to Bruce Hooker:

That sounds more like a bad place to be teaching the technique than anything else. Is it more dangerous than not knowing how to do it and needing to be able to while sliding down a hill to an unknown fate?
Jamie B - on 13 May 2012
In reply to jenga:

I only really understand the technique in a Scottish context, but over the years having witnessed lots of teaching and real-life deployment two things strike me:

Some novice groups definitely do treat it a magic bullet. I've seen more than one group do a cursory practice session then move onto a slope where the run-out is catastrophic - the Goat Track in Sneachda being one classic example. I've also heard supposedly more experienced peers saying "it's OK, we've all practised self-arrest" while doing the above.

I;m often badgered by clients to practice self-arrest when there is an arguably greater need to develop footwork, nav skills, avalanche awareness, etc. This becomes harder to reconcile when slopes are like concrete and there is very little likelihood of arrest being successful.
AdCo82 on 13 May 2012
In reply to jenga:

When I have been on Alpine climbing courses the general rule is don't fall in the first place.

The ground is normally too steep and the ice too hard so you will just go skidding off, lose your axe or cause injury to yourself attempting it.

AT
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iksander on 13 May 2012
In reply to JoshOvki:
> (In reply to iksander)
> [...]
>
> That sounds a lot like
>
> "Better to concentrate on not falling in the first place" than know how to place gear.

Yes I'd agree with that
Simon4 - on 13 May 2012
In reply to JoshOvki:

> That sounds more like a bad place to be teaching the technique than anything else.

While this will not add anything to the debate (which has in any case become fairly stale, largely an exchange of assertions), the following story may amuse. As a health warning, it comes originally from the pen of John Barry, so its relationship to the truth may be tangential at best.

The instruction in this technique was being given in this case to a bunch of squaddies by a sergeant from one of the more robust parts of Glasgow, who combined a liking for blunt language with a mischevious humour. The location selected for instruction was carefully chosen so that in the event of complete failure to axe-break, the climber would gently come to a complete standstill, while it also provided dead ground from the start point so that the result was invisible from the group of aspirant victims.

Sergeant takes first victim and instructs him to throw himself down the slope, but on no account to start the axe-break until instructed, or one of the more unpleasant of the many military punishments would be coming his way in short order. He then turns back to the rest of the group of novices and proceeds to make observations about mountain weather, snow conditions, their own general inaddequacey and worthlessness at everything in life.

Despite being a group of disciplined men trained to kill for queen and country with their bare hands, the squaddies start to get a bit restive. Eventually one of them plucks up the courage to say :

"Sarge, what about XXX?"

Sergeant turns in a flash then shouts out, in broad Glaswegian tones, "break, break, for Christ's sake break!" followed shortly afterwards by

"Oh shite"

There is a moment of stunned silence from the group, then the sergeant shrugs and says : "OK, next"
altirando - on 13 May 2012
In reply to jenga: I suggest the problem is that self arrest is 'sold' to British winter walkers as a sort of guarantee of safety, although circumstances are likely to be unfavourable here. (not enough snow). I go with the principle of using an axe to stop slipping. I remember devouring the old Chouinard guide to ice climbing which explained the way to move in synch with the axe. The only time I have used selfarrest it was unnecessary, just automatic, when the upper lip of a bergschrund collapsed beneath me.
Webster - on 13 May 2012
In reply to jenga: to reply to the orriginal message and overlook all the discussions of oppinion, from waht i have heard (from an alpin leader and from people who have been on alpin courses) ice axe arrests arent taught in the alps, and therefore the skill is in the winter skills dvd and not the alps skills dvd simply because it isnt considered an alpine skill.

this may be because people progressing to the alps have generally done some form of british winter stuff, it may be because the consequences of falling are much greater in the alps and therefore the emphasis is staying upright in the first place, it may just be a difference in methodology.

bear in mind moving together roped up is the norm in the alps, often in large groups, whereas in british winter it is considered much more safe to solo easy stuff than be roped up, as at least only 1 person is injured in a fall...

im not saying an ice axe arrest is a vital skill in the uk but not the alps, i am merely highlighting the different approaches used in the differing environments.

personally i have self arrested safely in the uk, and am glad i know how should the situation arrise when in the alps this summer.
Doghouse - on 14 May 2012
In reply to jenga:

Ice axe arrest saved my life in the Alps.
Milesy - on 14 May 2012
What was the reason for your fall though?
jenga - on 15 May 2012
In reply to jenga:

Thanks for all the responses. I know topics like this on UKC forums can be quite subjective. It sounds a little strange but I think all the responses may be right, it just depends on the situation.

I know some of you said it is included in the extras on the DVD but I haven't had a chance to check. I also contacted the BMC and the reponse seems to suggest it isn't on there. But see the reason they gave below:

"when Alpine Climbing people tend to move together roped up when on steep snow slopes and so ice axe breaking is not used as self-arresting technique in that situation. Itís not a common emergency alpine technique in the way that it is in winter."

I know there were a lot of comments about using it when not roped up. Which I'd agree it's a useful skill to have in such a situation. I also noticed some comments about clients getting hung up on learning it and it becoming a more weighted skill rather than a an addition to crampon technique etc. as well as not being taught in a safe manner which are all points that I also worry about.

Thanks for the responses and I just wanted to let you know what the BMC said in case it helps pad the knowledge out.
JohnnyW - on 15 May 2012
In reply to jenga:

Just had a look - It's on mine. You have to click on 'More Chapters' on the Main Menu, and there it is.
AJ Trevor on 15 May 2012 - 10.254.68.4 [zen-inetgw-4a.nhs.uk]
In reply to Webster:

In my experience climbing with French & UK mountaineers the emphasis placed on the ice axe in the UK is replaced by emphasis on the rope in the alps.

Its not like alpine climbers don't carry an axe though! Its just a different approach.




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