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/ Ice Axe Self Belay on Neve (+alternatives)

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timparkin - on 14 Feb 2018

A general question regarding the working envelope of ice axe self-belay on hard neve.

I'm a beginner at the winter conditions lark and although I've been on three multi-day winter walking courses but am intrigued at the overlap of certain recommendations. 

When walking on steeper neve, the recommendation is to position the axe in a self-belay position. However, the recommendation is also that your best chance is to stop your slip quickly before it turns into a slide. 

When the neve is hard enough that a self-belay axe spike plunge is iffy, would you be better off going straight to self-arrest position?

What sort of transition are we talking about? Do we need a good one or two centimeter penetration in order to self-belay?

I asked this on another forum and received multiple answers of "don't fall" but that suggests that using an axe in these conditions is pointless and you're better off using spiked walking poles to keep balance instead (i.e. look for advantages to stop falling rather than a safety net if you do fall). 

Thoughts?

Pay Attention - on 14 Feb 2018
In reply to timparkin:

Good question.  The points that you put forward are not opposed alternatives.  Yes, definitely stop your slip quickly before it becomes a slide.  To stop your slip quickly you may need to be prepared for it.  Being prepared may mean that you are ready to adopt an arrest position.  Does this make sense so far?

I'd assume that you'd be wearing crampons, as it's steep neve?

As regards the walking poles suggestion you received ... you'd need a Plan B if you did slip ....

Finally, no amount of self-arrest practice on easy slopes will prepare you for the racing slide if you do take off!  

In that case you would need to get your head and shoulders well above the head of the axe and thoroughly force the pick into the neve.  Less force than this, and the axe will simply be snatched away.  You'll have a sprained wrist as the least of your injuries.

Post edited at 20:35
CurlyStevo - on 14 Feb 2018
In reply to timparkin:

Although not an answer to your question, be very very careful not to slip and fall in hard neve or ice conditions on steep ground.

you can always transition to spiked pick with you hands near the top of the axe shaft, or even just driving it in if the ground is steep enough too.

Wee Davie - on 14 Feb 2018
In reply to timparkin:

In my first Winter season ('95 ish) I had an uncontrolled plummet down the coire while bumsliding down Alladins Couloir in Sneachda. Soft snow turned to hard neve at the corner of the buttress and once I was at speed there was feck all I could do to stop. I was lucky to escape injury. As a result of that experience if it was a slope of any length or steepness I'd pick walking with 1 axe held by the head, ready to self arrest as (to my mind) the axe is a bit more substantial and likely to bite if it does hit the fan.

timparkin - on 14 Feb 2018
In reply to Wee Davie:

> As a result of that experience if it was a slope of any length or steepness I'd pick walking with 1 axe held by the head, ready to self arrest as (to my mind) the axe is a bit more substantial and likely to bite if it does hit the fan.

Agreed - but do you go for self-belay or self-arrest first?

 

 

timparkin - on 14 Feb 2018
In reply to Pay Attention:

> Good question.  The points that you put forward are not opposed alternatives.  Yes, definitely stop your slip quickly before it becomes a slide.  To stop your slip quickly you may need to be prepared for it.  Being prepared may mean that you are ready to adopt an arrest position.  Does this make sense so far?

> I'd assume that you'd be wearing crampons, as it's steep neve?

> As regards the walking poles suggestion you received ... you'd need a Plan B if you did slip ....

> Finally, no amount of self-arrest practice on easy slopes will prepare you for the racing slide if you do take off!  

> In that case you would need to get your head and shoulders well above the head of the axe and thoroughly force the pick into the neve.  Less force than this, and the axe will simply be snatched away.  You'll have a sprained wrist as the least of your injuries.

Yes the preparation bit makes sense but you have a choice between preparing for 

 

1) Self-belay : if this doesn't work it might be too late for self-arrest?

2) Self-arrest : in which case where does the efficacy of self belay start failing? 

Crampons, yes definitely. I'm talking about ground almost too hard to kick steps in. Walking poles are not self arrest capable really but I was told by this other forum that you won't stop even if you have an axe so if a pole stops you falling in the first place? I think an axe is always useful if you can get the head in quickly with weight.

and yes - good connection from body to axe first, then connection between axe and neve.

timparkin - on 14 Feb 2018
In reply to CurlyStevo:

> Although not an answer to your question, be very very careful not to slip and fall in hard neve or ice conditions on steep ground.

> you can always transition to spiked pick with you hands near the top of the axe shaft, or even just driving it in if the ground is steep enough too.

So is spiked pick more likely to stop you than an axe head with your body weight behind it?

My thoughts are that if it's not then you'll have accellerated too fast to be able to stop with a self arrest, whereas if you went straight to self arrest you stand a chance!

Jonny on 14 Feb 2018
In reply to timparkin:

> Agreed - but do you go for self-belay or self-arrest first?

You self-belay before you fall: you plunge the shaft for every step where you'd rather have a backup. The idea is that this catches you in the event of a fall. If it doesn't, then you try to get into a position in which to make a self-arrest before you pick up speed.

If you've already fallen and you hadn't self-belayed beforehand, you go for a self-arrest. It's too late for the self-belay to be useful now.

If you're asking whether it makes sense to forgo the self-belay in the first place in order to make a slightly quicker self-arrest in the event of a fall, no, it doesn't.

CurlyStevo - on 14 Feb 2018
In reply to timparkin:

I didn't mean to stop a fall I meant as opposed to being upright walking, ie use the axe like a dagger and kick in your front points, it may not work on really hard neve and definitely not ice though. To my mind not slipping is the main point of the exercise. Personally I tend vary between poles and the axe used with the bottom spike in the snow (but held in a position read to self arrest) depending on a lot of factors, but mainly snow hardness, steepness and how well kicked out neve is. If I'm feeling doubtful and the ground is steep enough I'd transition from walking to climbing may way up the snow either using the axe(s) as dagger(s) or driving the picks in as you would climbing.

Fortunately I've never needed to self arrest. I've had to quickly steady myself before by driving in and re positioning the spike before now though.

Post edited at 21:39
Andy Nisbet - on 14 Feb 2018
In reply to timparkin:

> Agreed - but do you go for self-belay or self-arrest first?


You haven't time to think of the answer. Just try and not slide (this is assuming you've fallen over for some reason). Probably by trying to push the shaft in, and then the pick in. If that doesn't work, immediately try to ice axe brake. It all happens in about a second.

timparkin - on 14 Feb 2018
In reply to CurlyStevo:

> i didn't mean to stop a fall I meant as apposed to being upright walking, ie use the axe like a dagger and kick in your front points, it may not work on really hard neve and definitely not ice though. To my mind not slipping is the main point of the exercise. Personally I tend vary between poles and the axe used with the bottom spike in the snow (but held in a position read to self arrest) depending on a lot of factors, but mainly snow hardness, steepness and how well kicked out neve is. If I'm feeling doubtful and the ground is steep enough I'd transition from walking to climbing may way up the snow either using the axe(s) as dagger(s) or driving them in.

Not slipping is definitely a given but the fact we use mitigating accessories means we should know the best way to use them. 

So if you're in the position with your ice axe spike used in the snow whilst walking on steep neve where you can only get your point in about 1cm, are you prepared to self-belay or go straight to self-arrest?

brunoschull - on 14 Feb 2018

Hi Tim,

(sorry for the long reply, I'm on vacation, so I have time)

Welcome to the wonderful world of winter walking/climbing.  You're going to get a whole range of answers here, from  "Don't fall," to "Do is this way and no other."  Gathering information is good, but you're going to have to get out there and experiment and see what works for you.

Some ideas for you to consider:

Most basic winter skills courses teach self arrest, but people also often talk about how self arrest is very difficult or impossible, especially in hard or icy conditions.  Yes, self arrest is very difficult.  But, sometimes, it works.  So I would say practice.  Choose a place with a moderate slope and a safe run out, and practice in all directions; feet down, head down, on your back, on your stomach.  There are specific ways to self arrest from each of these positions--learn these skills.  If you go out and practice, even the act of choosing a spot, making a slide and a row of footsteps, holding and manipulating your axe, and what not, will help you gain skills.  If possible wear a helmet--you can injure yourself with an axe.  And remember, of course, as you have heard, that the best thing is not to fall, or to stop a slip before it becomes a fall. 

So how do you not fall, or stop a slip before it becomes a fall?  Everybody uses different terms here, but just for the sake of discussion lets talk about 1) using an axe like a cane, with the spike at the end of the shaft balanced on the surface, 2) plunging the axe all the way down into the snow so that the shaft is buried and you are holding the head, 3) holding the axe by the adze or by the shaft under the head with the pick facing forward, and 4) holding the axe by the head with the pick facing backward, which is the easiest way to access most of the self-arrest movements.

I think about it like a progression: if you are walking on flat terrain or a gentle slope, you can use the axe like a cane, occasionally touching the snow with the spike for balance, holding the head any which way.  In this case, you'll want a longer, straight axe, that you can effectively use this way.  If you have the skills,  you can certainly move over this kind of terrain safely with trekking poles. Many mountaineering ascents are done with two trekking poles, or one trekking pole and an axe, but bear in mind that the people who use this tools have the confidence and technique to move safely this way.  beginners are probably better served with a single axe.  If the terrain gets steeper, and you have to regularly lean or balance on the axe, you can hold the adze with the pick facing forward, which many people feel is more comfortable, or you can hold the axe with the pick facing backward, if you are a little more afraid of slipping/falling, and you want to be prepared to self arrest.  The argument and counter arguments here are endless.  Some people believe holding the axe with the pick forward is more secure and stable and therefore lessens your chance of falling.  Others like the security of holding the axe with the pick backward ready to self arrest.  Try both positions and go with what feels right for you. 

Above, you talk about a snow surface where the possibility to plunge the shaft into the snow is "iffy," and you also ask whether "one or two centimeters" of penetration is enough to self-belay.  I might not understand exactly what you are trying to say, but if you are talking about plunging the spike and shaft of an axe straight into the snow and using that as some kind of anchor to stop a slide from becoming a fall, you need to be thinking about plunging the whole shaft of the axe into the snow, or at least two thirds to three-quarters of the shaft.  Anything less, and with only a little force the axe will likely come straight out. 

If the snow is really hard enough that the spike won't penetrate more than one or two centimeters, you need to shift your mind away from plunging the axe straight down, and start thinking about other solutions.  First, in conditions like that, you will almost certainly want crampons--they will hep protect you far more than an ice axe.  Second, if it's almost hard enough to be considered ice, and it's in any way steep, or the consequences of a fall are serious, then you want to think about roping up and placing protection; ice screws, rock gear, whatever.  You could move in pitches or move together with protection between you.  It really depends on the slope angle, the possibility of falling, and the consequences of falling.

So let's say you are on a slope that is starting to feel a little steep.  You're not walking along holding the axe like a cane anymore, but holding perhaps holding it by the head and plunging it somewhat  with each step.  Again, I would say, it's a progression.  Continue along plunging the shaft until you feel like you need to start using the pick, and then hold the axe by the adze or under the head and plunge the pick into the surface.  If you can't get any penetration at all, you will need to start swinging your axe.  Then you will be best served with a shorter more robust axe that has some head weight to get decent penetration.  On snow somewhere between these extremes, for example, when you don't just want to plunge the shaft, but it's not so hard that you need to swing my tool, you can hold your axe by the shaft a little bit down from the head, with the pick facing forward, and sort of simultaneously drive the pick and spike into the surface.  When the slope is steep enough, and you have two tools, you can move really fast and securely like this (with practice).

But back to your question, as I understand it, on hard nieve, is it better to hold the axe with the pick facing forward or facing backward...there is no right answer.  Just many different possibilities.  

 

 

timparkin - on 14 Feb 2018
In reply to Andy Nisbet:

> You haven't time to think of the answer. Just try and not slide (this is assuming you've fallen over for some reason). Probably by trying to push the shaft in, and then the pick in. If that doesn't work, immediately try to ice axe brake. It all happens in about a second.

Agreed, so you need to practise, practise, practise to get muscle memory working. But then the question is, what do you practise?

Personally, I'm thinking that getting muscle memory for self-arrest is better as if you're on a slope that's steep enough, that's probably what you should do first (?) or if the slope isn't too steep and you have conditions where self-belay makes sense, you can consciously do that. 

I suppose I'm asking whether anyone has successfully self-belayed on hard neve but I realise that not many people will have been there.

 

CurlyStevo - on 14 Feb 2018
In reply to timparkin:

Depends on the snow conditions, steepness, the terrain and how I'm falling.

 

IMO with really hard neve you wouldn't have a chance of driving the axe in further as a self belay, a problem made worse by a lot of modern axe designs.

 

 

timparkin - on 14 Feb 2018
In reply to brunoschull:

> Hi Tim,

> (sorry for the long reply, I'm on vacation, so I have time)

> Welcome to the wonderful world of winter walking/climbing.  You're going to get a whole range of answers here, from  "Don't fall," to "Do is this way and no other."  Gathering information is good, but you're going to have to get out there and experiment and see what works for you.

> Some ideas for you to consider:

> Most basic winter skills courses teach self arrest, but people also often talk about how self arrest is very difficult or impossible, especially in hard or icy conditions.  Yes, self arrest is very difficult.  But, sometimes, it works.  So I would say practice.  Choose a place with a moderate slope and a safe run out, and practice in all directions; feet down, head down, on your back, on your stomach.  There are specific ways to self arrest from each of these positions--learn these skills.  If you go out and practice, even the act of choosing a spot, making a slide and a row of footsteps, holding and manipulating your axe, and what not, will help you gain skills.  If possible wear a helmet--you can injure yourself with an axe.  And remember, of course, as you have heard, that the best thing is not to fall, or to stop a slip before it becomes a fall. 

Got them - done the different combos and need to practise more with them on various surfaces. Learning surface behaviour while sliding is a big win too so not just self arrest practise but snow knowledge too!

> Above, you talk about a snow surface where the possibility to plunge the shaft into the snow is "iffy," and you also ask whether "one or two centimeters" of penetration is enough to self-belay.  I might not understand exactly what you are trying to say, but if you are talking about plunging the spike and shaft of an axe straight into the snow and using that as some kind of anchor to stop a slide from becoming a fall, you need to be thinking about plunging the whole shaft of the axe into the snow, or at least two thirds to three-quarters of the shaft.  Anything less, and with only a little force the axe will likely come straight out. 

This is what I was thinking - you really need a lot of penetration to prevent failure and probably better to prepare for self-arrest than self-belay. As you mention below, it's part of a transition of approaches depending on conditions etc.

> If the snow is really hard enough that the spike won't penetrate more than one or two centimeters, you need to shift your mind away from plunging the axe straight down, and start thinking about other solutions. 

Yep!

> So let's say you are on a slope that is starting to feel a little steep.  You're not walking along holding the axe like a cane anymore, but holding perhaps holding it by the head and plunging it somewhat  with each step.  Again, I would say, it's a progression.  Continue along plunging the shaft until you feel like you need to start using the pick, and then hold the axe by the adze or under the head and plunge the pick into the surface.  If you can't get any penetration at all, you will need to start swinging your axe.  Then you will be best served with a shorter more robust axe that has some head weight to get decent penetration.  On snow somewhere between these extremes, for example, when you don't just want to plunge the shaft, but it's not so hard that you need to swing my tool, you can hold your axe by the shaft a little bit down from the head, with the pick facing forward, and sort of simultaneously drive the pick and spike into the surface.  When the slope is steep enough, and you have two tools, you can move really fast and securely like this (with practice).

Got you - and thanks for the long description!

 

 

teh_mark on 14 Feb 2018
In reply to timparkin:

If I couldn't reliably self belay with the spike of the axe, I'd look to using the pick ('piolet appui'/dagger style) if the slope was steep enough. The number one rule must be to not slide, and the emphasis should be on making sure a slip can never become a slide rather than counting on being able to stop yourself sliding if it happens.

andrew ogilvie - on 14 Feb 2018
In reply to timparkin:

About 25 years ago I was walking up observatory gully on hard neve with my climbing partner when a climber using ski sticks slipped and slid almost hitting my partner who literally had to jump out of the way to avoid being hit.

The outcome of this slip was  as disastrous and tragic as it could possibly be, though not immediately so. Had he been using an axe I daresay his window of opportunity for arrest would have been extremely brief, but not non existent as it clearly was that morning. 

Although it seems glib by far the best advice is don't slip, or rope up...the ground seems not to care how technically difficult the place you fall from is. In retrospect we were probably all much more at risk that day on the approach than we would have been on Point Five or Smith's Route.

Ben Sharp - on 15 Feb 2018
In reply to brunoschull:

> if it's almost hard enough to be considered ice, and it's in any way steep, or the consequences of a fall are serious, then you want to think about roping up and placing protection; ice screws, rock gear, whatever.

Great post, but seeing people rope up on steep hard neve gives me the willies; thankfully it's not something you see very often. A lot of approach slopes to winter routes are hard and steep neve but roping up on an open slope is slow, difficult to protect and if you fall and your protection fails then everyone below you will be guilotined. In my mind if you fall on that kind of terrain your f***ed anyway and I think the chances of a successful self arrest is close to nil. So I guess that puts me in the don't fall camp.

I agree practice makes perfect but I know very few climbers who regularly sacrifice climbing days to seek out 45 degree hard neve with a safe run out to practice on, Apart from anything I imagine it would be a long walk in for quite a painful experience, a bruised body and a set of shredded waterproofs. Does anyone do this kind of training?. I'm not convinced that the practice most people do (i.e. on moderate terrain as you suggest) is going to help much when you trip up unexpectedly, half asleep at 0800 with a 30lbs bag on the appraoch to point 5 with a 300m slide ahead of you. As you say, the best thing is not to fall.

brunoschull - on 15 Feb 2018
In reply to Ben Sharp:

You're right Ben, that whole decision of whether to rope up or not is hard and therefore potentially dangerous.  I guess for me it depends on the quality of protection; if I can get in what I judge is good rock gear, snow protection, or ice screws, I'll rope up.  If I think the gear isn't solid, I'll suggest we stay unroped or consider other alternatives. 

And you're right about the second point also.  Who really practices this stuff?  I'm no guide--not by a large margin--but I worked in an institutional setting for a number of yeas where we taught these basic skills, and so I had to practice, over and over, with students, many times.  That was hugely helpful.  I would wear a helmet, provided by the school, so it was an old plastic lid, and old nylon rain pants, that I would pull up over my jacket, so snow didn't penetrate.  It was a great look!  Since then, I've practiced one or twice, usually sharing skills with partners, and occasionally I'll go over and mime the movements in my mind. 

In terms of practicing in "real" conditions...I think if it's steep and hard enough to truly simulate consequential conditions, it will probably be too dangerous to practice safely--especially with students, or people with less experience.  And so you practice on less steep terrain, and try to get the movement patterns down, knowing that this is an imperfect but perhaps necessary compromise.

And once more to Tim Parkin: there is no right answer!  Hold you ice axe however you want!  Reading between the lines It seems like you think that the pick backward position makes sense, so do that

 

 

Sophie G. - on 15 Feb 2018
In reply to timparkin:

First, terms like "easy ground" and "steep ground" are not objective assessments. They mean ground *you* find easy, and ground *you're* (un)comfortable on. Never ever ever just copy others in your group; if they feel happy zipping along unprotected on this terrain then good for them, but you do what makes *you* feel safe. If that means you move slower than them, too bad. Being careful doesn't make you a wimp or a bad climber. And nothing you do to ensure you're travelling in safety is going to hold the day up like a helicopter rescue would.

So, when you begin to feel the need for a bit of security, first stage is to use the butt of your hill-side axe as a walking stick. (NB: be careful what axe you use for this. Most axes have a spike on the butt. But some technical tools just have a plastic handle-end on them. This is really dangerous if you try and use it as a spike: it just squirts sideways off the ice.)

When it gets a bit steeper turn your hill-side axe around and stab the pick in at every step with your hill-side hand.

When you feel you need more than that, turn in to the slope and go four-limbed--stab in your crampons and stab in your picks like daggers at every step.

And next up from that, swing the axes from the handle instead of stabbing them in from the head. (Now you're climbing!)

And if you still don't feel secure once you're doing that, it's time to rope up.

As others have said, the surface that you're travelling on makes all the difference. The harder the ice, the more serious it's going to be if you lose it. On hard water-ice you have little chance of self-arresting if you fall, even if you whack in the axe straight away, and after the first two metres of fall, you're gone. So on hard water-ice, get the rope out a whole lot sooner than you would on nice forgiving styrofoam neve.

And the following really is such excellent advice that it bears one more repetition, I think: DON'T FALL. As Wainwright would say, mind where you are putting your feet.

 

Post edited at 10:29
timparkin - on 15 Feb 2018

A big thank you to everyone who answered. I'm fairly happy that I'm not doing anything necessarily wrong now, and I'm quite possibly doing one of a set of 'right' things. 

 

Sophie G. - on 15 Feb 2018
In reply to timparkin:

One thing that's worth doing to lessen the chances of a slip is really being rigorous about the state of your apparel from the knees downward. Don't tolerate loose laces, over-long crampon straps, dangling gaiter-bits, rope-loops or slings hanging around your feet, or little rips in baggy trousers. They're all trip hazards. And when you're, say, ten metres from the top of Tower Gully, soloing on hard ice, a trip could kill you. So carry a penknife and some masking tape, and if anything like that develops during the walk, tidy it up.

Also, of course, wear properly fitting crampons that you're used to walking in. Crampons love to tangle with each other. So when you're walking in crampons it's often worthwhile planting your feet a bit further apart than you do when you're not.

Oh, and if you haven't got anti-ball plates, get some.

Finally--learn to read the ice under your feet. E.g. one recurring hazard is when you have a soft layer of new snow on top of hard ice on a steep surface like a gully-bed. At the moment where you transfer from the new snow to the hard ice, the last footprint of new snow will almost certainly go for a slide, because there's no reason for it not to--there's nothing anchoring it to the hill. If you're not expecting this, you will go with it. Be prepared.

 

Post edited at 10:46
petegunn on 15 Feb 2018
In reply to timparkin:

Walking poles:

If your having to plunge or use the pick of your axe on a slope your poles should have been put away already. 

If you use poles regularly, get into the habbit of putting them away early and getting out your axe. Especially on a steep neve slope.

Poles may help with balance but will not stop a slide. 

Pete Houghton - on 15 Feb 2018
In reply to petegunn:

Ah, hang on... sometimes it's nice to have one pole and one axe. 40 to 45 degrees on firm snow for example, steep enough to want an axe out but you'll still not be leaning over it that much...

On traverses, too, I sometimes find myself plunging an axe, stepping over, plunging the handle of an upturned skipole into the old axe hole to provide a solid hand hold, plunging the axe again.... etc.

petegunn on 15 Feb 2018
In reply to Pete Houghton:

Yes it can be handy to have one pole one axe but I've seen two slides where one person had one pole and no axe and another one pole one axe. Both times the slides were not controlled.

The person with one pole obviously couldn't self arrest and the other person didn't or couldn't because they still had hold of their pole. more experience may have had them drop the pole and use the axe with both hands.

 

 

Name Changed 34 - on 15 Feb 2018
In reply to petegunn:&others

 When arresting an axe in one hand is as good as useless    If leashed it is likely to become  a weapon flailing  around 

A Walking Pole  if used with a wrist strap  could not be discarded in the event of a fall    Making a lethal combination 

Two  axes on ease ground if not  used  carefully and correctly can only lead to the  higher possibility of a slip that cannot be  self arrested    As one would have to be discarded if leashed this can be difficult

  I would maintain one hand should be free  to in the instant  hold the axe along with the axe hand 

  Best advice get out there and try it 

 

Post edited at 16:01
Pete Houghton - on 15 Feb 2018
In reply to petegunn:

> More experience may have had them drop the pole and use the axe with both hands.

Come on now, be reasonable. Poles are expensive.

Post edited at 16:00
jasonC abroad - on 15 Feb 2018
In reply to timparkin:

Not fallen on hard neve, in fact only fallen once, descending from Aonach Mor, down the ski slope.  This was towards the end of a weeks training course, and we'd practised self arrest and it worked like a dream, thankfully.  I fell forwards down the slope and picked up speed at an alarming rate, it was only a short time before I managed to arrest my slide but I'd still gone a fair distance.  Afterwards the instructor asked if I'd done it on purpose.

I'd tripped over my own feet I think, there was not time for self belay so I did not have that option.

Sophie G. - on 15 Feb 2018
In reply to jasonC abroad:

The main slope at Aonach Mor is often a total ice-sheet from top to bottom. The world's noisiest skiing. After a day of braking and edging on that stuff your thighs turn to jelly!

Post edited at 19:26
Sophie G. - on 15 Feb 2018
In reply to petegunn:

 If your having to plunge or use the pick of your axe on a slope your poles should have been put away already. 

 If you use poles regularly, get into the habbit of putting them away early and getting out your axe. Especially on a steep neve slope.

> Poles may help with balance but will not stop a slide. 

Agreed. Over-reliance on poles can be dangerous.

Post edited at 19:33
OnceAYearRob - on 26 Feb 2018

Hi, could somebody please explain what is meant by Neve?

is it any patch of snow that has hardened into firm ground, but is not what you would obviously call ice?

im a novice and enjoying reading on here but this wasn’t really picked up in the glossary thread I was pointed to.

thanks, Rob

teh_mark on 26 Feb 2018
In reply to OnceAYearRob:

Neve; snow ice. Snow that's undergone some melting and refreezing, which turns it into hard, firm snow capable of supporting your weight. A pleasure to climb because you don't sink up to your thighs when you walk through it, and it allows secure use of your axe and crampons. But equally, if you fall on it you'll likely start heading downhill very rapidly!

MG - on 26 Feb 2018
In reply to Sophie G.:

> One thing that's worth doing to lessen the chances of a slip is really being rigorous about the state of your apparel from the knees downward. Don't tolerate loose laces, over-long crampon straps, dangling gaiter-bits, rope-loops or slings hanging around your feet, or little rips in baggy trousers.

This bears repeating.

I'm very much in the focus on don't slip, use a belay every step camp.  The chances of self-arrest being useful (i.e effective on a slope steep or hard enough to be dangerous) once you are sliding is low. 

Sophie G. - on 27 Feb 2018
In reply to MG:

Bad Thinking: "I'm behind the others, so for now I'll put up with this big saggy loop in the rope just behind my knees. I'll carry on for now, moving a bit faster than I'm comfortable with across terrain I don't quite like with a trip-hazard that I haven't really sorted out, and deal with it when I catch them up next."

Good Thinking: "I don't give a shit where the others are. I'm stopping. This has to be sorted right now."

I should think pretty well everyone who's ever been to the mountains has done this bit of Bad Thinking. I certainly have. 

 

 

Post edited at 11:04

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