Climbing - Snow and Ice

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Snow and ice present their own particular difficulties and it is in circumstances like these where rope skills come into their own. The most challenging aspect of both types of hazard is that conditions can change for the worst very rapidly and a good mountaineer would be expected to be knowledgeable and proficient at recognizing and avoiding such dangers as crevasses, snow shelves and potential avalanche situations. The ability to use an ice axe for giving secure stability on steep slopes, cutting steps in the ice and probing through the snow to detect hidden hazards or potential footholds is an essential skill as well as the use of crampons, which are sets of studs spikes which are affixed to the soles of boots, to provide extra grip on difficult surfaces. All things being equal, particularly arduous sections covered in snow and/or ice should be tackled early in the morning whilst the surface is at its hardest, before the sun to melt soften the surface and so make it more slippery and potentially unstable.

getting to the top of peak is of course only part of the battle; it is then necessary to climb down again! This is often more difficult than going up, when hand and foot holds can be clearly visible whereas on a descent the climber has to be continually looking downwards instead of upwards, and reaching down for handholds, which is a far less balanced exercise than reaching upwards. Under conditions which include the extra hazards of snow and ice climbing down is potentially far more risky than going up! Rope techniques such as abseiling or rapelling can be utilised to make the descent easier.

Copyright 2008