UKC

/ What is neve?

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Mark Edwards - on 11 Feb 2009
Ok, so I have looked up neve and found:
Italian for snow – don’t help
Frozen snow – isn’t all snow frozen? Does it mean the extra crunchy stuff that’s been around for a while as opposed to the powdery variety?

Just saw ‘unconsolidated snow’ ???

Thanks
Paul035 on 11 Feb 2009
In reply to tede:

"When freezing affects a wet snowpack a strong, rigid material ideal for crampons and ice axes is formed. Most British climbers would call this neve, although properly speaking that term is synonymous with firn snow."

"firn snow is where the grains are interlocked (or bonded). Firn snow is the normal stable snow of Alpine regions, but is less common in Britain because of the greater degree of melting and re-freezing that is likely to occur..."

from Chance In a Million - Scottish Avalanches by Bob Barton and Blyth Wright

Don't know if that helps...
Trangia on 11 Feb 2009
In reply to tede:

It's consolidated snow which, as you say feels crunchy underfoot, and will support your weight, as opposed to powder snow into which you sink or slush or snow with an icy crust which is soft underneath and where you frequently break through the crust. Neve is the nicest to walk/climb on.
Trangia on 11 Feb 2009
In reply to Trangia:

I would add that when you walk on it it often gives out a distinctive creaking sound.
Gordon Stainforth - on 11 Feb 2009
In reply to Trangia: There are really different levels of hardness of neve, but typically it doesn't creak, and is actually quite hard to kick into with boots, and indeed can be dangerous with boots if you've got no ice axe. Ideal crampon terrain. (It could be I've always used the term nevé in the wrong way!)
Chris Craggs - on 11 Feb 2009
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

I would agree with you - neve is hard frozen snow - crampons (or really stiff, crisp-edge boots) required.

Chris
Trangia on 11 Feb 2009
In reply to Chris Craggs:

It's the stuff of classic step cutting in the old pre-crampon days, or as I once had to in Corsica on Paglia Orba when we encountered neve in the final gully in June. We had ice axes but no crampons. Very hard work.
Gordon Stainforth - on 11 Feb 2009
In reply to Chris Craggs:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth)
>
> I would agree with you - neve is hard frozen snow - crampons (or really stiff, crisp-edge boots) required.
>
> Chris

In fact I should have said it's typically extremely dangerous in ordinary boots if you've got no ice axe or crampons (in that situation you should turn back immediately). In my experience it's always better to err on the side of putting crampons on too soon, because it can change from firm powder to neve in a matter of only 50-100 feet. On my first photographic book, when I was carrying a very heavy sack of medium-format camera gear plus tripod plus loads of extra clothing, I quite often left it rather too late, so then had to cut a small ledge with my ice axe and would then have my sack suspended from my ice axe, driven in by the pick, while I put my crampons on rather precariously.

Mark Edwards - on 11 Feb 2009
In reply to tede:
Thanks all. Perhaps its time to learn some Eskimo to understand the subtleties of snow.

“a strong, rigid material ideal for crampons and ice axes is formed” I can see uses for crampons but don’t know how to use an ice axe, yet. You can dig an ice axe into neve and it wont rip out?

“when you walk on it, it often gives out a distinctive creaking sound” so I’ll know it when I hear it. I can’t say I have ever heard it creak yet.
...just as English uses derived terms for a variety of forms of water (liquid, lake, river, brook, rain, dew, wave, foam) that might be formed by derivational morphology from a single root meaning 'water' in some other language, so Eskimo uses the apparently distinct roots aput 'snow on the ground', gana 'falling snow', piqsirpoq 'drifting snow', and qimuqsuq 'a snow drift'.
Gordon Stainforth - on 11 Feb 2009
In reply to tede:
> (In reply to tede)
> Thanks all. Perhaps its time to learn some Eskimo to understand the subtleties of snow.
>
> “a strong, rigid material ideal for crampons and ice axes is formed” I can see uses for crampons but don’t know how to use an ice axe, yet. You can dig an ice axe into neve and it wont rip out?

Exactly. The pick of the ice axe alone will be very secure in neve.

With an ice axe you can also cut steps in it, in the old fashioned way. Once you have got the art of step cutting you can ascend hundreds of feet like that, without crampons. But no one should kid themselves that it is then less than about 100 times more dangerous than climbing with crampons.

The basic point about an ice axe, though, is that you don't have to know anything about the 'art of step-cutting' to get yourself out of trouble if the terrain turns icy. I would say, to put it in very rough terms, that you're about 10 times safer in the hills in icy conditions with an ice axe than without, and about 100 times safer with both ice axe and crampons.

The other thing about an ice axe, of course, is that you can use it to save yourself if you slip, with an ice-axe brake. This, however, requires quite a lot of practice on quite gentle slopes of neve (e.g c. 20-35 degrees, with a good, safe flare-out at the bottom). Also you will have to consult one of the many excellent instruction books now available. (The Rockfax one by Neil Gresham is pretty good, plus you can download a crucial page from it on ice-axe breaking for free.)


David Hooper - on 11 Feb 2009
In reply to tede: I think the distinctive creaking sound (actually more of a squeaking sound) is what you get from windslab - not neve. Windslab would also generally appear very white and chalky being aused by the snow crystals being pulverised. neve can often have a shiny scallopped surface and appear slightly greyer.

And that sound is often a good indication to be very careful cos windslab can = avalanche terrain.

I agree with Gordon, neve would be very hard to keep your footing without resort to metalwork, but with axes and cramps it has a lovely polystyrene like texture for tool placements.
ice.solo - on 12 Feb 2009
In reply to tede:

neve is the stuff you wish all snow was (if youre a climber), but often isnt

its the hard stuff where your crampons actually begin to make life easier, and where you can see the marks from your crampons in your footprints.

neve doesnt fall (like powder, spindrift or sleet) it forms (like ice).

its the stuff where, when coming down or across, you dont wish you had skis instead.

its the stuff where youre suddenly a bit more comitted and realize youre finally DOING the climbing, rather than slogging thru snow TO the climbing.

in neve, the edges of formations tend to hold, and when they give they break, rather than mash.

i agree neve can have a squeak to it - not unlike the squeak of dry, fine sand and maybe for the same reasons.

neve doesnt pile up on the tops of your boots as you tend to be on top of it rather than in it and its dry enough to kick off. it can be easily hard enough to need to kick into.

at least thats what ive found the 'neve' label to apply to.
Trangia on 12 Feb 2009
In reply to ice.solo:

Very good description. As for skiing it, you can, but you need razor sharp edges, and it wouldn't be the snow of choice. Conversley deep powder is a skiers dream and a climbers nightmare!
JDDD on 12 Feb 2009
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> In fact I should have said it's typically extremely dangerous in ordinary boots if you've got no ice axe or crampons (in that situation you should turn back immediately).

Or - if it is your first expedition in the Chamonix Alps, you spend about 2 hours working your way around the top of the snow where it meets the rock in a vague attempt to get to your route... which turns out not to be your route!

Oh - they were the days!
stevefromstoke - on 05 Mar 2009
In reply to tede: is it pronounced "Nev-ay" or " Nev-ee" ?
teflonpete - on 05 Mar 2009
In reply to stevefromstoke:
> (In reply to tede) is it pronounced "Nev-ay" or " Nev-ee" ?

Nay-vay but not with too much pronunciation on the y
leeangell - on 05 Mar 2009
In reply to teflonpete:

Really?? well you learn summit everyday ive always pronounced it the way its spelt.
Gordon Stainforth - on 05 Mar 2009
In reply to leeangell:

Well, it's properly spelt névé.
leeangell - on 05 Mar 2009
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

Im from Somerset im afraid Gordon your posh words are wasted on me.
Gordon Stainforth - on 05 Mar 2009
In reply to leeangell:

Well, they're not my posh words but French posh words, and let me assure you, being from Hertfordshire, I speak French very, very badly. ;)
jon on 06 Mar 2009
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
> (In reply to leeangell)
>
> Well, they're not my posh words but French posh words, and let me assure you, being from Hertfordshire, I speak French very, very badly. ;)

But in a very posh accent, I imagine.

French Erick - on 06 Mar 2009
In reply to jon:
To mud waters further...as if needed
To me, and before I climbed in Scotland, névé was actually nothing that is mentioned before but old patches of hard snow that were left through spring and summer.

névé, pronounced correctly by previous posts /na-vay/, is used differently in the northern French Alps and seem to mean any hard snow, no matter the season.

La neve, same pron., Italian for "snow", any snow in any condition.
La neu, /na-uh/ (uh being very short vowel nearly aspirated, is Provencal for snow.

But who cares? For a British winter climber, neve is that medium you can use to pull yourself up without fearing for your placements and life. Good neve is particularly pleasing when met on ledges which need a rockover to access.
Experienced, on a few occasions, "Styrofoam" like neve on Ben Nevis and it was exhilarating as it's the easiest medium to climb on ever (but not well protected though, although it's so easy you don't care).

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