• Climbing Beta: Rocktown, Georgia
  • Climbing Beta: El Potrero Chico, Mexico
  • The Hardest Bouldering in America ... and Maybe the World
  • Everest Deserves Respect: Why It's Hard, From Someone Who's Been There
  • The Epic of All Epics
  • Origin of Species: Fontainebleau
  • El Cap's Hardest: Wings of Steel
  • Cragging in the Bay Area
  • Superwuss (5.10), Black Canyon
  • Island of Opportunity: Exploring the Potential of Puerto Rico
  • Waimea (5.10d): Runmey, New Hampshire
  • Storming Castles: New Routing in the High Sierras
  • Pure Magic: Spellbound By the Boulders of Switzerland
  • Cliff Notes: Moe's Saved!
  • Arctic Gold
  • Where Worlds Collide
  • Tahoe Moderates
  • Not So Fast: Lessons From a Father-Son Trip to Patagonia
  • Red Dihedral (IV 5.10b)
  • Place of Happiness
  • High Exposure: A Fresh Perspective on the Gunks
  • Flying Buttress (5.10)
  • California's Big House
  • Jah Man (5.10) Sister Superior
  • Wild Wild West Virginia
  • Wild Chihuahua
  • Vintage Vantage
  • Tuff Love
  • True Believers
  • Tower of the Damned, Climbing the Crystal Tower
  • The Hidden
  • The Black is Beautiful
  • The Beast of the East
  • Souvenirs
  • Southern Idaho Secrets
  • Simon Yates' New Route on Mount Vancouver
  • Routes Less Traveled
  • Rock Climbing in India
  • Open Water Treading in Paradise
  • New Mexico
  • Never Mind The Dinosaurs
  • Mountain of Clark
  • Local Color
  • Limestone Harmony
  • King Air
  • The Stonemasters Climb at Pirates Cove
  • In the Land of Myths
  • Ice Climbing in Norway with WIll Gadd
  • Green Party
  • Generational Shift
  • Devil's Advocate
  • Deep Water Soloing in Mallorca
  • Conquistdors of the Useful
  • Classic Acts
  • Bouldering in Hampi India
  • Beyond the Fringe
  • Backwoods Bouldering
  • Attack of the Daks
  • Armenia Rock Climbing
  • Alex and Thomas Huber Climb in Queen Maud Land
  • Ain't it Grand
  • Age of Reason
  • America's Best Climbing Area: Red River Gorge
  • The Prophet
  • Sunshine (5.10) // Snowpatch Spire, Bugaboos
  • Shagged: Maine's Shag Crag Deals with Perma Draws
  • That Which Shall Not be Named
  • El Cajon Climbing Crag Bolts Chopped
  • Climbing Dark Star, a Sierra Classic
  • Rock Climbing and Bouldering in Mongolia
  • Destination Sinks Canyon Wyoming
  • Defying the Red Rock Bolt Ban
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison, The Diagonal Epic
  • Creatures of Feature
  • Seeking Life After Death
  • Hyalite Canyon Access in Danger
  • Free Will in Purgatory
  • WAR IN PATAGONIA!
  • Moonlight Rising
  • THE NORTH WIND AND THE SUN
  • Solar Eclipse
  • Shattered Glass
  • Black Sheep
  • Patz on the Back
  • Seeing Perfect Visionary
  • JAWS II
  • R' is for Rant
  • Cold War
  • TRAD-MIXED LIVES FREE
  • EVEREST 2008
  • Monster Jacks
  • Border Country
  • Wabi Sabi
  • ┬íProhibido Escalar!
  • Good Ice Hunting
  • Cocham├│ Madness
  • Suffer and Be Merry
  • Game On
  • Close But No Cigar
  •  
    Video Spotlight
    The Full-Length Video of Alex Honnold Free-Soloing El Sendero Luminoso
    The Full-Length Video of Alex Honnold Free-Soloing El Sendero Luminoso

    Fifty-Footer Rips Three Screws

    15-Dec-2012
    By

    On November 21, two climbers from Canmore, Alberta, made the long approach to Planter’s Valley, a canyon on the south side of Devil’s Gap in Canada’s Ghost River Wilderness Area. They started up the first pitch of the 330-foot Weathering Heights (WI 4). The leader, Simon, encountered extremely brittle ice and very cold conditions—minus-14 degrees—but managed to climb 100 feet and establish a belay consisting of a 20-cm and a 16-cm screw clipped to a self-equalizing sling. After belaying his partner to the screw station, Simon climbed six feet higher, placed a 16-cm screw and clipped it with a load-limiting draw, then placed a second 16-cm screw roughly six feet above that.

    He described what happened then in a post on gravsports-ice.com: “After placing the second screw, I was hit with an overwhelming, nauseating case of the barfies and took on the screw. I sat there for at least three to four minutes, warming my hands up, and chatting with my belayer. I was also assessing the ice for a possible Abalakov because the conditions were so cold that it was time to retreat. Next thing I knew, I was falling backwards through the air.” Both screws pulled, then the 16-cm belay screw also ripped. Simon stopped about 30 feet below the belay. “We were climbing on two 8-mm ropes, and one rope was shredded down to the core, three core strands of six cut.” The other rope was undamaged.

    Despite a long fall by the leader that pulled out all the screws but one, both men escaped with minor injuries. Simon gashed his elbow and required stitches. It was later surmised that the rope was cut during the fall by a sharp crampon point.

    “We were very lucky,” Simon wrote. “{I'm} going to sacrifice a goat to the climbing gods soon.”

    Analysis

    Seven days later, Calgary climbers Grant and Ryan hiked into Weathering Heights to climb the route, retrieve gear and provide photos and analysis of the accident. Once again the ice was brittle. The temperature hovered around minus-10 degrees. In his subsequent post to gravsports-ice.com Grant described “a shell over either older ice or chandelier, which seemed to be widespread.” He had trouble getting good screws at the belay and decided to incorporate V-threads, but had a hard time finding good ice for them. After he brought up Ryan, the two bailed and posted up the photos.
    Will Gadd, the administrator of the gravsports forum, looked at the pictures and commented: “That ice is classic ‘white’ ice that forms fast when the temperature really drops. This is the sort of ice that I’ve bounce-tested screws out of while on a rap. Usually when screws go in, the cores fall apart in almost rice-like bits rather than come out as ice. Even if the placements weren’t in shell ice, which it looks like they were, this ice is really, really weak, almost ‘snow ice’ but still quite hard to the touch.”

    Prevention

    Ice morphs and changes constantly. Dig and clear until you find solid, uniform base ice. Most people don't clear enough ice. As Gadd wrote toward the end of the Weathering Heights thread: “If a screw isn’t in good, well-supported ice, tip to hanger, then it’s not a good screw.”

    Other tips for placing good screws:

    Place screws waist high so you don't have to reach up and get pumped.

    If you feel like you need a screw, place one. Don't keep running it out!

    Note any sudden change in resistance as the screw goes in. A placement that gets noticeably easier to twist has hit an air pocket or bad ice. Consider it suspect.

    Check the ice core. Is it solid?

    Reader's Commentary:

    Don't want to use Facebook, but still want to comment? We have you covered:

    Add Your Comments to this article:
    Hello