29 januari 2012

Ice Climbing & Gear

There are a few things on my list of climbing-things-to-do, one of them is learning how to climb waterfall ice. I´ve been able to check this off, as this past week I've been Ice Climbing in Leusens, Austria.

Gasthaussfall Luesens
Leading part of the Gasthausfall, Luesens, Tirol, Austria.
Ice Climbing is pretty gear intensive; you need a lot of it, especially for long routes.

Fortunately I was on a beginners course (organized by the Dutch climbing and mountaineering association NKBV) - beginners routes usually aren't that long. Even so, my pack was pretty heavy. The photo below gives an impression of the gear I used.
Top left to bottom right: Hanwag Omega GTX boots, Petzl Lynx crampons, Camp Air CR harness, Grivel Salamander Helmet, Black Diamond & Grivel ice screws, Grivel Quantum Light axe, Wild Country/Kong QD's, DMM Belay Master, Petzl Reverso3,  DMM Sentinel HMS biners, Wild Country ropemen, Mammut slings, prussik ropes, Grivel Daisy Chain.
The following items are required for ice climbing:

Ice Tools
The Grivel Quantum Lights are the tools on the left (the ones on the right are Petzls)
I used Grivel Quantum Light tools, one hammer and one adze. For pure waterfall climbing, which I did, you don't really need an adze, but I intend to use these tools also in a more alpine environment, where you do need one. This was a small compromise when choosing tools, but I'm glad I made it. The Quantum Lights are light (just onder 500 grams each), whichs really is nice when you almost constantly use them above your head. Other tools that were used were ones by AustriAlpin, which were considerably heavier, which lead to tired arms. Not a problem with the Quantum Lights.  The tools were also very easy to place - the carbon composite in the shaft is supposed to help in that area, by reducing vibriation when hitting the ice. The weight is more towards the head, which also helps.

Petzl Lynx crampons on Hanwag shoes
I used Petzl Lynx crampons, which are new, modular crampons. Read my seperate review of them here. They are very well suited for ice and mixed climbing, due to the vertical front points. The normal configuration for these crampons is 2 front points, and I used them like that for the whole week, but it is also possible to change to 1 front point, for more technical ice and/or mixed climbing. Apart from the front point(s), there are still 12 points facing down, which lead to very stable crampons.
As I have large sized feet, I had to fit fit long linking bars, as the regular ones fit up to size 45 EU. In the picture above, I quickly fit the Lynx's to a pair of Hanwag Ferrata Combi GTX, which do not have toe welts. As you can see, that's no problem. The shoes I actually used, do have toe welts, and as the Lynx's come with changeable bindings, that would have been no problem either. However, I used the basket-type binding all week, which worked fine. They are pretty versatile crampons!

I used a Grivel Salamander helmet. Not the newest, or the lightest, but it is a pretty time-tested helmet, and I like it.

Ice Screws
I brought 2 brands/types of ice screws; Black Diamond Turbo Express and Grivel 360's. Both are modern type screws and will hold in decent ice. However, I found the Black Diamonds are faster to place. Speed of placement is a big deal when you're leading a route for the first time, and your feet aren't in very solid ice...
Placing a screw while leading a part of the Gasthausfall near Luesens


I used home-made QD's, 1 Wild Country Astro, a Kong dog-bone and 1 Wild Country Helium.


I used the rope that was provided by the NKBV, as I don't own my own rope. The NKBV could have supplied all the nessecary gear, as it was a beginners course. But because I had a lot of the gear already, I decided to bring all my own stuff. Apart from the rope.
top rope ice climbing
Climbing top-rope on a single rope
I own a Camp Air CR harness and use it for most of the climbing I do. I did add two Black Diamond Ice Clippers as extra gear loops for the ice screws, as they make carrying and (un)clipping the screws very easy, especially the BD screws. 

Next to the items listed above, you need some other stuff, like a few 120cm slings, a daisy chain, a belay biner, a belay device, some extra carabiners - screwgate and wire-gate, a few prussik ropes, an abalakov hook, some rope for an abalakov, and I think that's about it.

In the picture below I'm testing an Abalakov anchor, to which I'm connected by a Grivel Daisy Chain. Abalakov anchors can be surprisingly strong, when constructed correctly.
A regular sling would also work, but Grivel one is very easy adjustable, and and each loop has a breaking strength of 22kn.

The subject of which clothing to wear while ice climbing is out of scope for this post, as it's a complex issue - maybe I'll do a seperate post later. Let's just say I brought enough layers, and lots of gloves and mittens.

Most of the gear I used I bought myself, however, one of the Grivel Quantum Light axes was sponsored by Klimwinkel.nl, a Dutch climbing- and mountaineering-gear webshop, in return for first impressions and a review of the axe and Petzl crampons.

Climbing can be dangerous: don't rely on information from wikipedia articles or other blogs and websites alone; get proper training and experience!

Gasthaus Luesens
Returning to Gasthaus Luesens after a long day of climbing

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