Essential Winter Skills: Ice Axe Self Arrest

by George McEwan Mountain Training Mar/2015
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Mountain Training logo, 86 kb

In recent months we've run a series of articles on key hill skills in association with Mountain Training, the provider of nationally-recognised leadership qualifications and skills courses in walking, climbing and mountaineering.

Recent articles have covered the basics of walking with an axe and walking in crampons. These personal movement skills are key to moving around the hills safely and efficiently. But while it's always preferable not to slip or trip in the first place, the ability to arrest a slide on snow could literally be a life saver. Produced by George McEwan, Mountain Training Scotland's Executive Officer, the short films below introduce the basic techniques of ice axe self arrest. These videos are part of the Winter Mountain Leader syllabus.


Ice axe self arrest from walking

Even with good skills there is always a possibility of taking a slip or a trip, and if you do then having the appropriate techniques to self arrest is paramount.

Ice axe self arrest starting in a seated position

To be able to self arrest effectively, it's important to practise. So this video is about using an ice axe to self arrest when starting from a seated position - an ideal way to start learning how to self arrest.

More advanced techniques

Once you've mastered the basics in a safe and controlled place, it's time to move on to the trickier positions that you might actually be more likely to encounter in a real situation. For George's advice on arresting a head first fall, a slide on your back, and a tumbling fall, see his other videos on the Mountain Training website


About Mountain Training

winter skills book cover, 113 kb

Mountain Training’s aim is to promote awareness of mountain safety through leadership qualifications and skills courses in walking, climbing and mountaineering. There are 11 qualifications which prepare people to lead walking groups on different types of terrain, supervise and coach climbing or instruct others in summer or winter mountaineering. All of the qualifications are administered by Mountain Training and delivered by approved providers.

For more info on Mountain Training's courses see their website

You can find lots more information about all of these skills and techniques in Mountain Training’s Winter Skills book; the official handbook of the Winter Mountain Leader and Mountaineering Instructor Certificate schemes. It’s packed with information, photos and illustrations - an ideal reference tool for every mountaineer venturing onto non-glaciated snow and ice.

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