Will Gadd’s Ice Tips

Will Gadd is in the middle of one of his biggest season’s of pure ice ever, and as such, has offered up some handy tips over on his blog. Here’s a couple that really stood out with my thoughts on each.

“If you get a stuck tool regularly you’re likely placing them both at the same horizontal level. Don’t. It’s a waste of effort, time and makes the leader far less secure because they have to wrestle a tool out while it’s off to the side. Place tools roughly 30 to 60 cm apart vertically and roughly shoulder-width or a bit narrower horizontally.”

It’s all too easy to get stuck in the mindset that keeping your tools level is a more balanced way to climb, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The most stable position is a triangle, with one tool centered above you, and your feet off to either side. When you climb with your tools side by side, you create a large imbalance when you take one tool out to swing for the next placement, wasting energy in the process.

“If you’re getting pumped and you’re not a complete novice it’s almost always because your feet aren’t at the same horizontal level, and aren’t solid. Solid feet make for relaxed hands. If one foot is low when you stand up it will come off, making you out of balance. Kick twice as much as you swing.”

Guilty as charged. I’ve always wondered why ice seems pumpier than rock…

“Look at the ice. LOOK at the ice. I can tell within about one swing and one foot placement how experienced an ice climber is; swing at corners in the ice, pockets, spaces between icicles, and kick in roughly the same places. But even if you know this you can’t execute it without looking at the ice for every foot and tool placement…”

There’s nothing like the first couple times you swing at the wrong place and dislodge a huge piece of ice that comes flying at your head, leaving some blood and bruises in its wake. Taking your time to pick the best spots to swing really pays off over the course of a pitch.

“If you want to be a better ice climber go hang a rope on a vertical piece of ice and climb it a whole lot. Like 200 or more times. With crampons off, on, no tools, one tool, etc. etc. Many aspirant ice climbers drop the sport after spending a weekend climbing 4 pitches and freezing their asses off. Go TR like mad, then you lead fast, follow fast, and be secure while doing so.”

The part about freezing their asses off and giving it up sounds about right for a lot of people. Fortunately for the folks ice climbing in Colorado, you don’t really ever have to be that cold here, at least not compared to places like the Northeast. Though, the poor souls climbing up in Rocky Mountain Park might feel a little differently about it.

Locals Corner

Bulldog Creek Dog Walk (IV WI 4+)

Hayden Carpenter and Tom Bohanon recently repeated an obscure ice climb on the south side of Mt Sopris. Given a brief mention in Jack Robert’s ice guide, Bulldog Creek Walk is described as being 100 meters of WI 4. What they found was seven pitches of ice in a remote setting that makes for one […]

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