/ How often do you fall off on ice routes?

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Wayne.Gaudin - on 21 Nov 2016
In a similar vein to the thread on falling off trad routes I wondered how often people have fallen on ice screws or other winter protection.
olddirtydoggy - on 21 Nov 2016
In reply to Wayne.Gaudin:

Never!
ena sharples - on 21 Nov 2016
In reply to Wayne.Gaudin:

two or three times, and only on bomber gear.
zmv - on 21 Nov 2016
In reply to Wayne.Gaudin:

Don't really ice climb however I thought this was an interesting read:

http://willgadd.com/ice-climbing-is-not-rock-climbing/
TobyA on 21 Nov 2016
In reply to Wayne.Gaudin:

I've climbed thousands I guess of little ice routes and few middle sized ones and I only remember falling properly once http://lightfromthenorth.blogspot.co.uk/2007/01/for-ice-climbers.html my blog reminds me that was 2007, so not for a good long time! Much better to rest on your tools somehow and get another screw in. I doubt you get many chances falling off with crampons on before something goes snap that you really don't want to snap.
Heike - on 21 Nov 2016
In reply to Wayne.Gaudin:

I have seen some people falling of onto it, but I never have. I have taken rests, but that's it.
Wayne.Gaudin - on 21 Nov 2016
In reply to zmv:

Great link. That pretty much sums up why you shouldn't fall on ice!
Misha - on 21 Nov 2016
In reply to Wayne.Gaudin:
Once, a few years back, seconding carelessly. That was fine but it was a very small fall.

A friend of mine fell off the crux of the Devil's Appendix. He had a screw in the pillar, which ripped out a leg sized icicle - so the screw held but the ice didn't! Admittedly the pillar was fairly thin. He got stopped by the next gear (combination of pegs and a screw) but still took a large fall of around 8m. Landed sideways on his hip and was fine as no sharp bits came in contact with the ice.
stratandrew on 21 Nov 2016
In reply to Wayne.Gaudin:

Dont fall off ice. Ever. I have a sixty cm sling and fifi hook rigged permanently off my harness set up for a clipped in rest onto a bomber axe placement. Ive also used it to reassess the route if its choss ice and plan an escape!
David Barlow - on 21 Nov 2016
I fell off a new chalk route at Dover when mantling over the grassy cornice. The top (poor) warthog ripped but the next one held. Falling head first was interesting but I escaped without injury (unlike my safety glasses which fell into the sea). It was my climbing partner's first chalk route and he suggested we abseil off. When I pointed out that the tide had come in he wasn't impressed. I then went back up and removed more of the cornice before topping out. My partner followed by head torch and shortly afterwards moved to Scotland, which he insisted was unrelated.

Greasy Prusiks on 21 Nov 2016
In reply to zmv:

Does anyone have a link to that in YouTube format?
alexm198 - on 21 Nov 2016
In reply to stratandrew:

That's a great idea, may copy that!
CurlyStevo - on 22 Nov 2016
In reply to stratandrew:

I find the fifi hook keeps falling out where ever I put it and dangling around my feet. How do you secure yours so its quite easy to get at but doesn't fall out?
nniff - on 23 Nov 2016
In reply to CurlyStevo:

> I find the fifi hook keeps falling out where ever I put it and dangling around my feet. How do you secure yours so its quite easy to get at but doesn't fall out?


Tuck the tape into the waist belt of your harness from the top and pull the tape through so that the fifi hook is then snugged up against the belt. Hoik it out with a finger when needed. Works for me
pebbles - on 23 Nov 2016
In reply to Wayne.Gaudin: once only. 9 metres. I was lucky, all the screws held, my crampons didnt catch anything and I got no more than a badly bruised arse. I wouldnt recommend it. A mate of mine fell off the year before, caught his crampon on the ice and broke his ankle.

hpil - on 23 Nov 2016
In reply to pebbles:

Fell off once, in 2003. It still hurts. Fell about 9m on lead - 4m runout. Caught my crampon where the ice went from vertical to not quite so vertical, and that was the end of the winter for me. Not an experience i am keen to repeat!
Mark Kemball - on 23 Nov 2016
In reply to Wayne.Gaudin:

Once only, from the top of the first pitch of South Post Direct. I hit the "ground" (45 degree soft snow) and bounced a further 30' before my only screw stopped me. Not recommended...
gethin_allen on 23 Nov 2016
In reply to Wayne.Gaudin:
This is a good video not to emulate
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYr1DVtWujM
Post edited at 23:42
Tricadam on 24 Nov 2016
In reply to gethin_allen:

Lolz. Hadn't seen that one.
NeilBoyd - on 24 Nov 2016
In reply to David Barlow:

Ah yes, I remember that....an interesting route. I distinctly remember a bat like creature swooping towards me with eyes as wide as can be, followed by what looked like a swarm of bees but was in fact half a ton of shale cornice.
Good to hear from you David. Edinburgh is lovely....
Big Lee - on 24 Nov 2016
In reply to Wayne.Gaudin:

Fell a couple of times when I first started ice climbing. Trying to lead a WI5 on bullet hard water ice before I had led a 4 probably wasn't the best idea...

Also fell off a WI5 last year whilst trying to mount a shelf above steep ice. It was stacked deep with about a metre of semi-consolidated snow. Trying to sweep all this whilst the other arm was taught in 90 degrees finished me off as was already quite pumped. I usually use a fifi hook to clip to an axe but I overcomitted myself trying to mantle the damn ledge and ended with two axes I didn't trust. Lesson learnt though.

Also taken a couple of falls on chalk. Once when a grassy ledge that I was standing on spontaneously collapsed underneath me and I took an 8m fall onto a warthog. We had to bail due to time but got the route finished the following week. The second occasion was when the lip of a roof I was standing on spontaneously collapsed. The insitu bulldog below me blew but the next bit of gear held. It could have been worse since the latter route collapsed all together a few weeks later.

Never had an ice screw fail though. Or a warthog in chalk for that matter. In good compact ice I wouldn't expect a screw to fail as no need to run it out. Not into falling on ice though despite my past record. Prefer go clip my axes or to a screw.
humptydumpty - on 24 Nov 2016
In reply to gethin_allen:

I haven't climbed much ice, and have never fallen. I really don't understand what's going on in this video. How do they make the climbing look so hard? Why do they fall off? Why do their ace placements look so tenuous? I'm assuming it's something to do with conditions, but if someone could explain it would be very helpful.
TobyA on 24 Nov 2016
In reply to humptydumpty:

> I'm assuming it's something to do with conditions,

Competence and practice more like. Basically it's really hard to build experience climbing ice in the UK, particularly if you don't live in Scotland. Grade IV ice can be hard if its your first route of the season, and you only did two or three ice routes the winter before.
Tricadam on 24 Nov 2016
In reply to TobyA:

In terms of getting a little bit of technique and experience together before heading out into the wilds, it's handy that there are now a couple of indoor ice climbing facilities, e.g. at Braehead (Glasgow) and Kinlochleven. I went to a brilliant introductory session at the former which included about three hours' tuition with one instructor and just two of us. (On the down side, a chunk of ice smacked me in the eye as I made a placement and I now have a permanent corneal scar in spite of treatment - fortunately not over the centre of my visual field. I would strongly recommend eye protection to anyone climbing ice - or mixed, where hooks/torques can blow unexpectedly. The best I've found - great at not misting up - are these: Bolle Silium+ PLUS SILPCSP Safety Glasses. Even if you don't care about your eyesight, a corneal abrasion is rather sore - though I climbed with it for the next two hours on the night as was having such a good time.)
GarethSL on 24 Nov 2016
In reply to Wayne.Gaudin:

So far never.

It's the number one rule of ice climbing... Of which there are many.
TobyA on 24 Nov 2016
In reply to Tricadam:

Do you think the indoor ice feels much like 'real' ice though? I've never climbed at an ice wall and have heard conflicting opinions on this.

Then again 'outdoor' ice can vary hugely anyway. Got used to climbing very brittle bottle ice early season in Finland, but the ice I've climbed in the UK since coming back has been generally softer due to the warmer temperatures.
nniff - on 24 Nov 2016
In reply to Tricadam:

Good point - I swear by visors. As I now have a new helmet with a new visor, I also have a visor for a Grivel Salamander for sale (and a green Salamader too, for that matter). Both in good working order - no reasonable offer refused.

The grivel visor steers spindift away from your eyes and folds down to protect your face if something solid comes wanging down.
jonnie3430 - on 24 Nov 2016
In reply to nniff:

Eye protection thirded, I chipped ice into my eye once and it took a couple of months of blur and stinging before it was fixed. I have the petzl visor and think it's great, normally used as a peak, but flipped down when wanted. It's great in grim weather too, or when standing in a stream of spindrift.

Falling off wise, I'm more likely to do it on ice as I don't trust feet and over grip, I wouldn't use a fifi hook though, just loop the rope over the pommel of the axe.

On mixed i generally trust gear, as I can usually get a firm placement, though place less than on trad as it's harder to find. I've fallen off a few times and seem to hit ledges, but that's usually laziness in mantling of a vertical section and not getting bomber axes, just thinking they'd do. One ledge was soft and comfy, another had a rock sticking out into it that went right up my shins as I landed. I didn't speak for a while and felt like peeing myself, also confuses the belayer.


gethin_allen on 24 Nov 2016
In reply to humptydumpty:

> I haven't climbed much ice, and have never fallen. I really don't understand what's going on in this video. How do they make the climbing look so hard? Why do they fall off? Why do their ace placements look so tenuous? I'm assuming it's something to do with conditions, but if someone could explain it would be very helpful.

I haven't climbed much ice either but, unlike these people in the video, I know that I'm weak and feeble so I take as much care as possible with my feet and still use leashed tools, even though they are frightfully unfashionable and a bit of a faff when getting gear in.
I've been in situations like those in the video where I'm flailing wildly and not getting the pick in clean but with leashes you can hang on and do something about it.
ads.ukclimbing.com
philhilo - on 24 Nov 2016
In reply to gethin_allen:

Class video! How you fall off something that was so hooked out you barely needed axes and crampons is beyond me, twice. I would buy the guy with the DMM axes a file to sharpen them as they appear to be as effective as a pair of sticks. Nice one to the guys for putting the video up - I am sure they took some stick for it but we all learn and a 5m piece of ice above a snow slope isn't a bad place. Cheers.
Big Lee - on 24 Nov 2016
In reply to TobyA:

> Basically it's really hard to build experience climbing ice in the UK, particularly if you don't live in Scotland. Grade IV ice can be hard if its your first route of the season, and you only did two or three ice routes the winter before.

I also found Scottish ice softer than typical water ice, which made it technically easier to climb for me, although poorer for screws. I got up a lot of steep Scottish icefalls without proper movement, for which steep water ice would have become incredibly pumpy (for me).
TobyA on 24 Nov 2016
In reply to Big Lee:

I need to try some proper Scottish ice routes this winter if I can to see if my Nordic ice experience helps! I find even a few body lengths of proper vertical water ice very pumpy too. In Finland it is generally not hooked out, so getting good sticks can be hard work. You occasionally get those spring days where it is first time hero ice but not often, some of the English ice I climbed two winters back was much more accommodating in that respect, and I remember Scottish routes I've done in past as more like that also.
Tricadam on 25 Nov 2016
In reply to TobyA:

> Do you think the indoor ice feels much like 'real' ice though? I've never climbed at an ice wall and have heard conflicting opinions on this.

It does feel a bit different. I've not been back since climbing actual ice, but it was great for learning and practising technique and movement. Good for avoiding Aladdin's Mirror Direct hilarity.
lummox - on 25 Nov 2016
In reply to hpil:

The Scottish Mountain strikes again..
pebbles - on 25 Nov 2016
In reply to Tricadam:

also an ice wall at king kong climbing in keswick. very handy if youre south of the border and great for a rainy weekend in the lakes
iksander on 25 Nov 2016
In reply to Wayne.Gaudin:

Only once, on my first lead on a melting Torpantau. Both foot holds crumbled and fell about 6ft onto the first screw I'd ever placed, amazingly it held and I was none the worse off for it. Hopefully the first and last time!
Offwidth - on 25 Nov 2016
In reply to Wayne.Gaudin:

Never fallen on gear but I have taken several falls... mostly small drops when ice 'bouldering' and once on a real route (Castle Ridge) when a foothold broke just as I was carefully reaching up and the crud that the other axe was in pulled through on the shock load (landed upright in snow about 8m below and before the gear was weighted and luckily not a scratch). I'm not so sure about never risking a fall... on meeting cornices and crud are we always supposed to retreat? I do agree that a good skills safety margin is very wise... those two on that video are muppets for numerous reasons and they are sadly not so rare in my experiences of lower grade UK winter climbing.
Big Lee - on 25 Nov 2016
In reply to pebbles:

> A mate of mine fell off the year before, caught his crampon on the ice and broke his ankle.

Seems by far the most common injury. Makes me think falling head first is the way to do it on ice!

rogerwebb - on 25 Nov 2016
In reply to jonnie3430:

And eye protection fourthed, having one eye is not as much fun as having two.
Murderous_Crow - on 25 Nov 2016
In reply to zmv:
Excellent article.

This thread and your article confirm for me the importance of mindset and humility when it comes to climbing, particularly winter climbing. I've only climbed a few ice routes, all within a single climbing holiday some years ago. I went with much more experienced (rock) climbing partners, whom it subsequently emerged had somewhat overstated their abilities. After being led unknowingly and against my stated wishes into a no-retreat belay on one of the region's hardest routes, and subsequently having to arrange rescue for myself and my hapless leader, I feel I'm a bit wiser.

In the various lower-grade routes we climbed as a trio, my partners committed every error noted by Mr Gadd in his article and more besides: belays under falling ice, south-facing routes climbed inexorably slowly in the midday sun, redundant pro... And their ethos was very much that while one should *try* not to fall, such a situation was ultimately inevitable when pushing it. On the route I mention above, the leader laced the first pitch with pro approximately every 2.5m (constructing abalakovs on pitch due to running low on gear, this with something like 10 ice screws available). As a result, the abortive first pitch took something like 2.5 hours before I insisted on abandonment.

After considerable difficulty in retreat (due to water cascading down the route and freezing the ropes in place) the leader arrived back at the belay drained, frightened and mildly hypothermic. Serious harm did not result: we were rescued quickly and with a minimum of fuss, thanks to excellent mobile phone signal and excellent local rescue services. However I was stunned by my partners' ability to subsequently deny the frightening catalogue of errors leading up to the event. These occasional HVS leaders, with the benefit of a couple of near-disastrous trips to Scotland in winter, and some ice top-roping at the North Face store in Manchester, had felt they were sufficiently skilled to onsight WI6.

Apologies for the long story; it feels a bit cathartic. Anyway I think my point is that it's important to firstly choose your team carefully, and to have a safety-first mindset in which you feel empowered to question practices. Falling simply shouldn't happen. In winter climbing one relies so much more on one's partners to do right and get you out of trouble, and the hazards in comparison to summer cragging are so much higher.

Hope all that is not dreadfully off-topic.
Post edited at 20:47
pec on 26 Nov 2016
In reply to Wayne.Gaudin:

I have only fallen on ice once and I can't recommend it. I was about 100' up Zero Gully trying to get on to a ledge that was banked out with soft unconsolidated snow and couldn't get my axe to hold on anything, after a few minutes my other axe ripped and I fell about 30' onto an in situ peg (my only runner). Unfortunately I hit a bulge about 20' down which flipped me upside down though my partner held me (and on a classic body belay) but the impact punched my ankle bone about an inch up between my tibia and fibula, snapping the bottom 2 inches of the tibia in the process and crushing the surface of the ankle bone.

A lower off, some Joe Simpson style bum slides down the crag apron, a long cold wait for a helicopter and 10 days in Inverness hospital followed. A big operation (about 8hrs) with bone grafts, metal plates and screws inserted plus another 2 ops over the next 2 years got me back to climbing properly again but no more running and arthritis in the joint were the longer term consequences.
After about 15 years the arthritis got so bad (I couldn't even walk in to Stanage without trekking poles and getting my mate to carry the whole rack) that Ibuprofen and steroid injections were no longer sufficient so I had the joint fused and I'm now climbing as normal again with only moderate pain now and again.

Falling off on ice is a lottery which can easily have lifelong consequences and in many respects I think I got off lightly.
iknowfear on 26 Nov 2016
In reply to Wayne.Gaudin:

never! why would I?
(disclaimer: i'm not very fond of Ice Climbing. I do it about once per year or so to get confidence in my crampons for glaciers)

However there is this classic:

http://www.bergundsteigen.at/file.php/archiv/2005/4/print/74-77%20(knack,%20da%20geht%20die%20saeule...

(short translation: the guy was shaken, but fine)
OllieF - on 26 Nov 2016
In reply to Wayne.Gaudin:

Never fallen onto a screw, but fallen onto my axe placements (held by leash). Don't intend on doing it again any time soon!
Misha - on 26 Nov 2016
In reply to Murderous_Crow:
That's a good story. Hope they learned something.

Great user name as well ;-)
Murderous_Crow - on 26 Nov 2016
In reply to Misha:

I'm not sure. I heard subsequently from mutual acquaintances of further near-misses they were involved in.

I learned a lot: this experience and a couple of large, hairy falls led me (ho ho) to be extremely choosy about climbing partners. Too choosy really, as many of the limited number of people I now trust have moved from my area. On the positive side, I learned that the feeling of climbing and leading ice is sublime – I would definitely climb ice again with a partner I trust.

I digress. Mr Gadd’s article is very well-written, and chimes very well with my feelings about my trip. He assesses and points out the ‘cultural’ errors present in the group of climbers who made the video (all of whom were surely far more competent than the team I climbed with).

I was never taught to clip an axe. I researched winter climbing techniques religiously before my trip, but missed that one – as did my partners. When my supposedly competent leader was struggling up the first pitch on the route I mention above, he fell once - while placing gear - and was held by his waist leash (not rated for falls). Just an example.

My point is, it seems there are a large number of people who manage through various means to believe that they really know what they’re doing, when in fact they don’t. Groupthink plays a huge part in this: I was certainly the subject of increasing animosity from my friends during the trip as I questioned practices and stated my feelings about the overambitious goals being mooted.

Mr Gadd’s article strongly alludes to the importance of attitude and group culture: “…almost always [accidents] start with the climber’s approach to the sport.” And: “…common errors leading to a completely avoidable accident, and not much mental switch among the climbers in the follow-up footage.”

There are definitely nutters out there looking for a belay on winter routes; but more prosaically there are many people who just assume that they - and their group - are competent.

Oh, and thanks ;)
TobyA on 26 Nov 2016
In reply to Murderous_Crow:

Did you say your friends climbed HVS and thought they would be on for WI6? I know I'm pretty weak in my arms (or grip strength anyway) - all my best ice leads I've done using wrist loops despite that being very unfashionable these days! - but the idea that being able to do HVS would have you ready for WI6 sounds pretty f***in' nuts to me!
Misha - on 26 Nov 2016
In reply to TobyA:
Yes, I thought that as well. There are always exceptions - people who don't climb that hard on rock but climb way harder in winter. However generally I'd expect someone getting onto WI6 to be climbing in the E grades and 7s on sport, simply because WI6 is pretty damn physical (unless it's chopped up to bits and is more like WI5, but that's still pretty physical!). I've only done one WI6 (Repentance Super - some say it's only WI5+) and there's no way I would have got up it when I was climbing HVS, just wouldn't have had the strength or stamina.
Misha - on 26 Nov 2016
In reply to Murderous_Crow:
Yes, part of the skillset is being able to recognise your own limitations. There's been a recent thread about people looking for partners on UKC who overestimate their abilities and why they do that. When it's people you know, it's less of an issue but if they're (somewhat) more experienced than you are, the natural tendency is to assume they know what they're doing - sounds like that wasn't the case in your example!

Looks like you're Midlands based by the way, check out Solihull MC - we have a few people operating at a similar grade and we're generally competent! http://www.solihullmc.org.uk/ You could also consider joining the Climbers' Club. http://www.climbers-club.co.uk/
Murderous_Crow - on 27 Nov 2016
In reply to Misha:

> Looks like you're Midlands based

Well spotted PM'd you regards Solihull MC.

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