/ The progression to winter mixed climbing

This topic has been archived, and won't accept reply postings.
TheFasting on 03 Mar 2017

Will Gadd often talks about his 150 30m top-roped pitches of ice that he says everyone should do before leading ice. But I haven't heard anyone bringing up a similar point for mixed climbing, even though the same dangers must apply? Or don't they? How did you guys progress to hard technical winter climbing?

EDIT: I should specify, with "mixed climbing" I meant something more like snow covered rock with minimal ice.
Post edited at 11:18
Tricadam on 03 Mar 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

One substantial difference is that, on snowed up rock routes, there's usually quite a bit of gear available that is likely to hold a fall - unlike an ice screw.
6
timjones - on 03 Mar 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

> Will Gadd often talks about his 150 30m top-roped pitches of ice that he says everyone should do before leading ice. But I haven't heard anyone bringing up a similar point for mixed climbing, even though the same dangers must apply? Or don't they? How did you guys progress to hard technical winter climbing?EDIT: I should specify, with "mixed climbing" I meant something more like snow covered rock with minimal ice.

The problem with Will Gadds theory is that in the UK I would still be trying to clock up my 150 top ropes after20 years of ice climbing
HeMa on 03 Mar 2017
In reply to Tricadam:

> ...to hold a fall - unlike an ice screw.


Just so you know, this statement ^^^ is pretty much full of shite.

Quite often an icefall will hold falls, in fact if you'd bothered to read some wise words from mr. Gadd, you'de realize that he list numerous accidents, on pretty much all of them the screws have held.

The problem isn't (well, at least on grades WI6 or less) that the screws won't hold a fall... it's the fact that you got these spikey things on yer hands on especially on yer feet... If you don't commit and accidental seppuku with the tool, your crampons are most likely to snag and snag really well on something... causing a fractured leg or worse.


So from that point of view, scottish mixed is no better than ice climbing. Continental mixed is a bit different, as you're most likely climbing in a cave and the fall is to the air without any contact with the rock. Of course somewhat due to the tiring nature of placing screws, people tend to place less, where as slammin' in cam on a crack is relatively quick.

4
CurlyStevo - on 03 Mar 2017
In reply to HeMa:


There's a world of difference between fat euro / north American ice and what we get over here though. Whilst late season conditions on the Ben can be fat as can the Scottish water ice venues during a prolonged hard freeze, more commonly especially south of the border, mainly stubbies are going in and then its not uncommon for them to screw in to the void between the ice and rock!
HeMa on 03 Mar 2017
In reply to CurlyStevo:

True, I remember climbing some sugary shite, whilst there.


Btu to be honest, it's only ice climbing, when you have ice...

Also for the record, the ice doesn't actually need to be all that thick in order to be solid... as long as it is attached to the ground below.

Still, what I said stands. On good ice, the screw holding is the least of your worries...

On shite ice, place rock gear or don't go there ;).
2
TheFasting on 03 Mar 2017
In reply to timjones:

I hear ya. I'm in Norway but I'm in my first season and I've toproped 290 meters combined this season. Only 4210 meters to go (Gadd says 30m pitches)! Some people say "well those 150 pitches that's like 1 season of ice climbing". Then you'd need time and conditions to go out climbing practically every weekend I guess.

Next season maybe I should just find some guy who wants to lead and do 4 laps of this 900 meter long WI3 waterfall they have in Rjukan.
CurlyStevo - on 03 Mar 2017
In reply to HeMa:
Devils kitchen for example is north wales premier ice venue. I've been there a few times and atleast twice in conditions the more rare falls were climbable as well as the more common ones (and they don't come in every year).

Anyway I'd say for the majority of the routes in good conditions stubby ice screws were essential and rock gear rarely going in.

Even look at the classic the screen that often forms as one of the first routes at IV or above:
The Screen (IV 4)#photos

Typical conditions are either thin or only fat in a couple of sections of the route. The crux is going to the ledge and that is very rarely fat enough for anything but stubby screws in fairly non uniform ice, often with better but stubby screws some way below. I simply would not want to test most the placements irrelevant of the danger of wearing crampons / carrying axes.

This is pretty typical for the routes at the kitchen I think. Some good placements that would hold but many that are no where near as good as you tend to get on Scottish ice, which is generally a fair bit less predictable than euro ice.
Post edited at 12:36
GarethSL on 03 Mar 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

I think the majority of people (UK and Norway) get an introduction to mixed climbing in a mountaineering or alpine environment. Here its often one or two short pitches of 'technical' climbing on rock with axes and crampons, that are part of a longer route. Many then progress naturally by following more experienced climbers. The reality being at some point you are just going to have to push it, if you want to progress at leading.

Others start at dedicated mixed/ dry tool crags (e.g. Europe and N. America) and this can be argued as a whole other game in itself. Routes generally start steep, even at the low grade end of the scale and often thuggy/ pumpy. The advantage of these routes is that bolted protection is common so limited in overall consequence. If skewering your calf with a blunt mono or conducting ice axe dental/ eye surgery can be considered a limited consequence...

However, there is absolutely nothing stopping you from top-roping as much as you want until you feel you are comfortable with trying routes on lead. This will allow you to learn what a good axe or crampon placement feels like, especially on tenuous hooks or janky smears. One of the hardest things I found when putting metal to rock was getting my body position correct and learning how to weight tools and the correct direction of pull and push. Thing is, most of the continental mixed style routes in Norway are in the M6-M10 range and there are few dedicated places to try it (e.g. Rjukan, Ishoel). There are lots of mountain routes with snow, ice and mixed sections, but then its just to get on it with someone more experienced.

There is no right or wrong way of doing it really. To give an example, one of my first mixed climbs was a shitty M10/ something, that went through the roof of a disused road tunnel somewhere between Stavanger and Gilja. Had absolutely no idea what I was doing, fell off on every move and dogged it to about about half way. It was fun but I decided that I preferred my ice axes to be for ice.
TheFasting on 03 Mar 2017
In reply to GarethSL:
I was just thinking about this because I've been considering trying some easy alpine winter ascents next winter. Seems like a natural progression from ski touring and ice cragging. Something like Andrew's Renne on Store Skagastølstind which is an n3 or n3- (so British D I think) and about 2-3 pitches.

My ice climbing instructor said it sounded reasonable. Just trying to see whether that's advisable. I was thinking about doing some mixed climbing in the lowlands first. Is there any particular progression you'd advise?

Edit: Rated M3 apparently and a but longer than I remember reading https://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/c.php?i=360779
Post edited at 13:08
Pay Attention - on 03 Mar 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

This is an interesting discussion about ice screws.

Would there be such an interest in mixed climbing if we had better winters (and thicker ice)?
Misha - on 03 Mar 2017
In reply to TheFasting:
Just make steady and sensible progress.

Start off on easy stuff where you aren't likely to fall off.

Don't get on routes thinking it's ok to fall off as you might think with some summer trad routes.

Long easier routes can actually be more serious in a way because it's not practical or possible to protect them every step of the way and if you do fall, there's more chance of hitting ledges etc (same as summer rock climbing - harder routes are often steeper so can actually be safer to fall off on if you can place decent gear).

Gear can be good sometimes on mixed but equally can be very tricky if cracks are iced up and could be hard to find under snow in the first place.

Snagging a crampon in a fall is still an issue, perhaps a bit less so than with ice but still not something you want to test.
carr0t - on 03 Mar 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

I would personally just go onto leading on ice at low grades and see how it goes. toproping that much is nonsense. Same for mixed climbing. Up to grade 3 is not very hard or sustained at all and will give you a flavour for what you are dealing with. If you have more in the tank, then by all means push the grade.

If you want to do ice or mixed, then just get on and do it. Don't waste your time procrastinating. Start easy and see how it goes, but definitely make a start. your own experience will guide you from there onwards.
TheFasting on 03 Mar 2017
In reply to carr0t:

I'd probably want to get a few more toproped pitches anyway especially on the harder stuff. Up to WI3 it's no problem at all. WI4 I sometimes still fall off.
TobyA on 03 Mar 2017
In reply to carr0t:

> I would personally just go onto leading on ice at low grades and see how it goes. toproping that much is nonsense.

I think Will Gadd has probably put more thought into this than most of us have, but of course he is talking about Rockies ice climbing or similar, the type of ice routes that we just don't get, or incredibly rarely, in the UK. You see some quite terrifying early attempts at leading winter routes sometimes from British climbers just because there are so few chances to learn the technical side of the climbing movement and techniques without getting into leading at the same time. Following a mate as a second I guess is the closest most of us get.
TheFasting on 03 Mar 2017
In reply to TobyA:

I haven't been ice climbing very long, but I feel his 150 pitches thing could be modified regarding WI3 and lower. Of course I'll need much more experience before I want to lead it, but WI3 ice I never have any issue with at all. I don't think 150 is necessary for that. Maybe 50.
stratandrew on 03 Mar 2017
In reply to TheFasting:
> WI4 I sometimes still fall off.

Why fall off? If you are struggling get a bomber axe placement then clip in to the spike with a fifi hook (or quick draw) which is pre-prepared (I use a 60 cm sling from my belay loop). I have yet to take a fall - i started utilising this safety system last year. I only needed it a couple of times, but when i needed it, it was really useful. This season in Norway i only used it once.

As far as i am concerned - and this is bourne out by others comments on here - you should do everything you can possibly do to avoid getting yourself into a situation of a fall - one of our lads in Rjukan took a small fall and sprained his ankle. lost three days climbing there, tried on th last day. He had to bale on Scotland this weekend.

No doubt about it, falling on ice can be very costly in every way possible.

PS - personally i don't hold with the toproping 150 pitches, i think most people i know climb pretty well and safely on lead with far fewer (like by a factor of 10!!)
Post edited at 22:17
TheFasting on 04 Mar 2017
In reply to stratandrew:
Yeah I just have to keep working at it until I'm 100% certain I can climb without falling. Usually I fall because my arms get pumped and either I can't hold on to the tools or my feet placements get shittier because of the former and I slip.

Edit: Video of my last time climbing https://www.instagram.com/p/BRIe92WDd26/
Post edited at 00:30
Pay Attention - on 04 Mar 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

Hi. I enjoyed the video. It sounded a bit "roadside". Where was it taken? I'm all in favour of short approaches.

No offence meant here, but is it possible that your front points are a bit short side? It may be that you would find longer front points to have more "stick" in that thick ice you're on in the video.
HeMa on 04 Mar 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

Ah, classic...

But let's be honest, even on the vid you got a pretty good stick early on, then you tried moving up a bit and then decided to dig a trench with the higher tool... pretty much a case point on how not to do it.

So 150 pitches might be it, and Gadd certainly has the experience ;).

One of the key things (which Gadd highlights quite often) is the move one axe at a time and get it to be good. The move up (with both feet) and again the other tool high up with a good stick. Big nonos are only get one feet up, always get both tools up and close to each other, and.... you've guessed it, get one tool up commit and then decide that the placement is no good half way movement (what you did).

I do remember, that when the local ice farm (with flood lighting) started a few years back, my grades consolidated greatly. And it was all about mileage. Sure I had lead ice in the past (up to WI4+ or so), sometimes in style and others less so. But after a season or two of clocking about a dozen or so 15m lines twice a week on a toprope solo rig... I did indeed get better. I got more efficient and learned to "read" the ice and placements more, and as a result I did not get as pumped and hence I could lead casually upto WI5 in control and relaxed.
TobyA on 04 Mar 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

Was it particularly cold? Sometimes if it's -15 or colder the ice gets all splintery and weird and you end up hacking out placements like that. But, dude! Kick your feet in! You're not going to offend the ice! On that video you are wafting your feet in the general direction of the ice and hoping they stick. Remember modern man goes ice climbing because we no longer need to engage in hand to hand combat. Aren't you Norwegian? Can't you hear your Viking ancestors making fun of you for those dainty little foot movements? How many Northumberland monasteries could they have raided, sacked and burnt with that little commitment to the application of directed violence? ;-)
Tom Knowles - on 04 Mar 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

You seem really tense and scared in the video. It made me nervous watching it. It's as if you're overthinking things at times. Lots of looking down at your feet at the start, were you worried about your placements? This was followed by a very deliberate move where you pushed your backside out and stood up, like you were picturing a guidebook photo. But then your next foot placements involved a floppy raising of your left foot with a kind of scrape down against the ice, while your right foot was just tapped once against the ice. Both feet looked insecure and that doesn't give you confidence to step up on them. Try to kick with more control and more power, or with a few good solid strong taps in the same bit of ice so that they're securely in. You'll need to work on your body shape too when kicking, you were kicking out to the side, probably because you wanted to keep your pelvis as close to the ice as possible. But you need to get that backside out so you can kick firmly in a straight line. Your steps should be a little higher too but that will only come from pushing your backside out. If you can sort your lower half out your tool placements will likely improve too. Finally, the advice given above about just getting on and leading ice at lower grades is the one I'd follow rather than trying to top-rope ice closer to your limit. Lots of mileage in a less stressful environment will allow you to relax and your technique will develop more naturally. Nothing wrong with going out and covering lots of Grade I and II ground, building tolerance to exposure and tiredness while still giving you enough of a margin to be conscious of what your arms and feet are doing.
TheFasting on 04 Mar 2017
In reply to HeMa:

I find it hard to know when to trust my placements. With my feet I often feel they stick really well so I don't have to do as much, but the axes I have a harder time with. When I took that half step up I could feel the axe moving, so that's why I kept bashing until I got a good placement. Need some more experience to know what will hold and what won't.
TheFasting on 04 Mar 2017
In reply to Tom Knowles:

Looking at my feet at the start where I'm hanging down was just me trying to ward off the pump that crept in from haciing away at the ice so much. But I should spent more time getting good foot placements then, it will probably help my forearm pump
TobyA on 04 Mar 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

I don't claim to be an ice climbing guru although due to where I used to live I have done a lot. I was just looking at some of my old videos, maybe take a look at this one https://www.vimeo.com/89542002 It looks like I'm giving two or three kicks at the exact same point to be happy with my feet. Like Tom says, one you are happier with your feet, you can calm down a bit and not pull so hard on your arms.
Misha - on 04 Mar 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

Having looked at the video, you're right that you need more practice. Some constructive advice:

You aren't swinging your arms properly. That's part of the reasons the axes aren't sticking. You need to bring your hand/axe much further back so you get a good swing going.

Less haste, more speed. If you need to swing again, take time to 'reset' your swing. Shake out if you need to. No point taking lots of poor swings which just wear you out.

Footwork! To be honest, it's shocking. Are you sure your feet are really taking your weight? Would one foot hold if the other slips? It's as important to get good foot placements as axe placements. Kick those feet in several times if necessary. Pick where your front points will go - natural ledges are best, otherwise kick the shit out of that ice! (unless you're on a fragile pillar but you're not)

Sharpen those tools and front points if necessary.

Take care.
Misha - on 04 Mar 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

> Looking at my feet at the start where I'm hanging down was just me trying to ward off the pump that crept in from haciing away at the ice so much. But I should spent more time getting good foot placements then, it will probably help my forearm pump

Yes it will. No point training arms if you can't use your feet.
TheFasting on 04 Mar 2017
In reply to Misha:

Yeah I don't really care about arm training, I just want to get to the top of the damn thing.
HeMa on 04 Mar 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

> I find it hard to know when to trust my placements.

Which was exactly Gadds point... after 150 pitches, you most likely will know .

As other (me included) have said, you need practice. If you have ice available and close, simply try to get mileage. One way is with a fixed toprope and mini/micro-traxion or shunt (ie. toprope solo). Which is what I've done. Less hassle and you can keep moving all the time, so gettin' cold is less of an issue.

Other thing is to play these fun climbing games (on a toprope, that is... either solo or with a partner).
- One to really get a feel for them placements is the *one hit wonder*, so you're only "allowed" to hit once before moving upwards. Most likely you will end up rippin' placements... but don't worry, just have a tight toprope and try to get a feel for them placements.
- Other is *no kickin'* game, where you are only allowed to place your crampons (this works easier on a well travelled piece of ice... or highly featured). So you simply place your crampon on a suitable place and then apply some pressure to seat them properly (a bit like rock climbing).
- *No tools* game is a lot of fun, but generally the ice should be really featured.
- *Count swings*, idea is to get up that line with minimal amount of swinging. So basically try to get as high as possible before hittin' (once) with the other tool. In practice you should move up so that the head of your highest tool is around you chin before you hit with almost a straight arm at your maximum reach with the other tool and commit to it and walk your feet as high as possible (so that again, the tool head is by your nose or neck).
Misha - on 04 Mar 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

> Yeah I don't really care about arm training, I just want to get to the top of the damn thing.

If you're finding your forearms are getting pumped, either you need to use your feet better and generally improve you technique, or you need to get your arms fitter, or both. It's the same in ice climbing as in rock climbing, just more obvious when it comes to ice climbing. Lots of good advice on this thread.
TheFasting on 04 Mar 2017
In reply to HeMa:
Yeah I fully intend to get 150 toproped pitches at least before I lead any WI4. And at least another season before I lead WI3 even though that is no trouble for me even now.

So I need to work more on my feet is what I'm taking away from this thread. I'm going for a weekend course in Rjukan in a few weeks so I'll work on that then.

How would this toprope solo thing you're talking about work? Do you know about any examples of it?
Post edited at 16:59
Offwidth - on 04 Mar 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

With technique like that I'd hire an instructor and improve faster. 150 pitches costs a fortune so think about short cuts.

Are you wearing goggles?
TheFasting on 04 Mar 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

Yeah I am going for a weekend with an instructor. Had a one day course with him in January.

Not wearing goggles in that video no
Offwidth - on 04 Mar 2017
In reply to TheFasting:
I'd always use goggles: having ice shards flying towards unprotected eyes makes it hard to concentrate.
Post edited at 17:51
TheFasting on 04 Mar 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

Aha. Could try that next time. I just try to duck down but it would be nice to not have to worry about that
Offwidth - on 04 Mar 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

Make sure they have antifog properties. It also protects your eyes if an axe pings from a placement (not uncommon with beginners).
HeMa on 04 Mar 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

Rookie mistake, albeit the goggles might come in handy if the weathers a tad Scottish ;).

Free tip, look and test hit where you want to get the stick. Then look down when you actually hit (practice and muscle memory). No ice on the eyes.

Free tip no 2... if a shallow placement or shite (or delicate, mainly on mixed), do not look on the tool when you put your weight on it and pull up. And adze or hammer to the forehead is not nice as, and that's the best scenario.
Tricadam on 04 Mar 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

Going back to your original question, what sort of experiences have you had climbing mixed so far?
1
TheFasting on 04 Mar 2017
In reply to Tricadam:

None at all. But I want to do some alpine winter ascents here in time. I was wondering how I should go about it. The climb I'm thinking of is rated M3.
Tricadam on 04 Mar 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

Go winter hillwalking as much as possible to get comfortable on relatively easy ground. And second mixed as much as possible. Ask your partners to watch you climb and give you tips. Footwork is, if anything, even more important in mixed climbing than when climbing ice as a substantial proportion of tool placements cannot be yarded on. Ask your partners for help in terms of how to use the tools best. And be creative!

A reasonable way to set up your crampons for mixed is as monos, with the front point protruding not far beyond the boot, i.e. very differently than for ice.

Re leading, are you comfortable leading on rock? I learned to lead in winter rather than on rock, but it's not the usual way. If you are then, once you feel you're getting comfortable with the climbing, you may be ready to lead. Ask a trusted partner for recommendations of easy, well protected routes. (Unfortunately not so easy to find such routes as on rock, at least in Scotland.)
Stefan Jacobsen - on 07 Mar 2017
In reply to TheFasting:

UKC when it is best. A rookie gets advice and lurkers benefit too.
Tricadam on 08 Mar 2017
In reply to HeMa:

> Just so you know, this statement ^^^ is pretty much full of shite. Quite often an icefall will hold falls, in fact if you'd bothered to read some wise words from mr. Gadd, you'de realize that he list numerous accidents, on pretty much all of them the screws have held.

Just so you know, my statement is pretty much consistent with ice screws "quite often" holding a fall. And, yes, it appears that in lovely hard, thick water ice, they can be rather good! I've read the articles and test reports, watched the videos, etc. And I enjoy leaning back on an ice screw belay as much as the next man.

However, Scottish ice tends not to be of this variety: it's often snow ice rather than water ice or too thin for screws - or both! This is why it's rare for a Scottish ice route to have a higher tech grade than its overall grade - and not infrequently the reverse. All part of the fun, of course. On the other hand, on winter routes which are rock routes in summer there is often plenty of decent rock gear, occasionally every metre! Hence it being pretty much the norm on such routes for the tech grade to exceed the overall grade by one, and sometimes two. You still can't entirely fall off with impunity, but you're likely to go for a considerably shorter ride if you do so; and considerably less likely to feel the need to "instruct your second not to fall off".
2
HeMa on 08 Mar 2017
In reply to Tricadam:

> However, Scottish ice tends not to be of this variety: it's often snow ice rather than water ice...

Which is not ice, but as you aptly stated snow-ice ;).


So what I wrote still stands...

Most of the time, an ice screw will hold a fall (bad ice is always the exception)... but fallin' is still nod adviced, as accidental seppuku with and icetool is not fun... nor is breakin' your leg when the crampon snags on something,
Tricadam on 08 Mar 2017
In reply to HeMa:

Soz, snow ice is still ice. It's just a different type of ice than water ice. That's why we call what we do on Ben Nevis et al ice climbing ;-)
HeMa on 08 Mar 2017
In reply to Tricadam:
> Soz, snow ice is still ice. It's just a different type of ice than water ice. That's why we call what we do on Ben Nevis et al ice climbing ;-)

Lol... pot calling anoter pot a kettle doesn't make it so ;).

And yes, you have some real water ice climbs... and you have some that you call ice climbs, but are not. Fun climbing though, and I did enjoy Cutlass in a blizzard...


Perhaps I should start callin' all that fab grit stuff simply sandstone... let's face it, it is really just that ;).
Post edited at 13:18

This topic has been archived, and won't accept reply postings.