Everyone knows packing the 10 essentials is a good idea, but most people don’t actually pack them. It’s easy to get lax about loading things you hope not to use, but would you cancel your car insurance just because you haven’t had an accident yet? We consulted professional mountain guides as well as the venerable Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills to create this visual checklist for what you need to cover your ass if your perfect day in the alpine goes awry.
To the uninitiated, climbing a vertical pillar of frozen water looks impossible. Ice climbing requires a wide range of skills, from movement technique to placing ice screws and other protection, and the articles in these pages will help you climb ice quicker, safer, and with more fun all around. Plus, we'll help you train for ice climbing this winter so you'll be more confident on steep ice.
Progressing from weekend cragging to long alpine routes can be intimidating for anyone, even strong and competent traditional climbers. While the most valuable knowledge is gleaned from experience, there’s plenty of real-world advice to learn beforehand. Alpinist Scott Bennett has six years of experience in the mountains and on rock. Here, he shares his hard-won tips for climbers moving from rock to the mountains.
Long before the invention of belay devices, the hip belay provided security for the second and saved time in the mountains. When used correctly, a bomber stance can replace a traditional anchor, or you can back up a marginal anchor with a solid stance. It’s best in lower-angled and broken terrain, where a fall by the second is easily recovered, and there is little danger of a pendulum swing.
Routes like the North Ridge on the Grand Teton require covering a lot of ground with a heavy pack. These—and many other Classics—are not casual outings. We’ve devised a six-week training program—approach, mountaineering, mixed, aid, and free climbing— that will help add a new level of strength and endurance to your fitness. Tackle all workouts over the six weeks, or focus on your weakest category. Bonus: You can bust these out anywhere in the country—even at sea level—and see results on any terrain.
Shit happens. The average person generates just more than one pound of poop every day, according to the World Health Organization. As the number of people visiting crags grows, so do the pounds of poo left behind. This requires some strategic practices. Few things are as foul as seeing a pile of feces topped with toilet paper hiding behind a rock—plus, poor crag etiquette can endanger access and pose public health concerns.
The first 15 feet on either end of your rope gets by far the most use, wear, and friction. You’re constantly tying into that section, and, more important, the rope absorbs the impact of most falls there, so that part gets a lot of abrasion from carabiners. These parts will get fat, frayed, fuzzy, and after time will generally look different from the rest of the cord. Even after one season with a rope, you can end up with bad ends and a near-new-looking middle portion.
Long rappel descents, whether planned or as a matter of sudden necessity when the weather goes bad or an injury occurs, can quickly turn into expensive ordeals when you have to leave a few pieces of gear at every rappel. Plus, you might need that gear later on. Fortunately for those seeking terra firma, the ice abundant in winter and/or mountain terrain typically provides a much better medium for descent than bare rock, because there’s less chance of rock fall, and you can build gear-free rappel anchors with just the frozen stuff.
Though beautiful and inviting, pillars are also intimidating. Their verticality leads to strenuous climbing, and the skinniest pillars are prone to collapse if conditions aren’t just right. We asked three expert ice climbers for their advice on pillar climbing: Roger Strong, a prolific first ascensionist and gear rep from Seattle, Washington; Dawn Glanc, a climbing guide from Ouray, Colorado; and Raphael Slawinski from Calgary, one of Canada’s foremost ice climbers.
In ice climbing, as in life, being dull isn't cool. A dull edge, whether a crampon point or an ice tool pick, takes more effort to drive into the ice. Blunt tools also feel considerably less secure and shatter more ice, sending debris down upon your belayer. If you find your climbing plagued by these traits, it could be time to sharpen your points or pony up for new gear. Either way, tools and crampons—and subsequently your ice climbing—can benefit from some tuning.
You’ve felt it countless times: the slow-burning, inevitable sensation that creeps up your forearms into your hands, affecting your grip and throwing you off the wall—the dreaded pump. In ice climbing, this affects the hold you have on your ice tools and your ability to swing for solid placements, and on vertical ice, that pump comes sooner rather than later.
Google “screaming barfies” and you’ll find a confusing selection of blog reports, questionable wiki definitions, and dozens of video clips of climbers on the verge of crying (next to a giggling cameraman). The symptoms are familiar to any ice climber: intense, often scream-inducing pain in the hands, nausea, and the occasional “man tear.” But for such a common ailment, the misinformation and paucity of research available is staggering.
For a generation of North American climbers, Yvon Chouinard’s 1978 book Climbing Ice was a primary source for ice climbing history and instruction. (The other key book was Jeff Lowe’s The Ice Experience, which came out a year later.) Twenty-four pages of Chouinard’s book are devoted to the “French method,” a series of extremely useful techniques that are often neglected by today’s ice climbers. At its core, French technique means keeping your crampons flat on the snow or ice, engaging all of the bottom points, versus kicking straight into the ice with your front points.