Forums: Climbing Information: Beginners:
Ice climbing and reasonable risk levels
RSS FeedRSS Feeds for Beginners

Premier Sponsor:

 


milesenoell


Jan 24, 2013, 9:28 AM
Post #1 of 17 (3332 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Sep 19, 2006
Posts: 1156

Ice climbing and reasonable risk levels
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

Hey there ice climbers!

Every winter I find myself thinking about ice climbing but I've always had a hard time reconciling the level of risk with my obligations as a single parent to not put myself at undue risk. It's always been my impression that the minimum level of risk on ice is a lot higher than on stone, but I am curious to hear from those with experience (and especially those with kids).

I've certainly spent some time thinking about whether I can really justify the risk level of leading trad or aid (mellow stuff like .10s and A1/A2), but I've always come to the conclusion that as long as I used good judgement I feel OK about the risk.

Have I created a false dichotomy, or is ice really that unpredictable (particularly for a noob to ice), or are there ways to do ice with a similar level of risk as stone?


granite_grrl


Jan 24, 2013, 10:00 AM
Post #2 of 17 (3308 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Oct 25, 2002
Posts: 14903

Re: [milesenoell] Ice climbing and reasonable risk levels [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (1 rating)  
Can't Post

Ice is certainly more dangerous than rock, but not to the degree that you're making it out to be.

If you just stick to toproping it's not too bad, worst should only be taking some ice or a tool to the face. When belaying stay clear of falling ice and you should be safe.

Leading is a different kettle of fish, but it's not recomended to get into that right away anyway (you need to get a feel for what a good stick feels like, good footing with your crampons, etc).

So I'd say going and trying out ice isn't too dangerous and if you decide you want to get into it more you can reassess the situation.


rocknice2


Jan 24, 2013, 10:14 AM
Post #3 of 17 (3299 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Jul 13, 2006
Posts: 1213

Re: [milesenoell] Ice climbing and reasonable risk levels [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

It all depends on the risk you are willing to take on.

WI3 ice is a moderate grade. You can stand for most if not all your placements. With modern ice screws you can sew it up like an over bolted sport route as long as the ice is thick enough.
Generally there is no need to sew it up. On good ice with a good tool stuck into it, you are on jugs. I have never seen anyone fall off a WI3.

The risk is, if you fall the consequences can be major especially on low angled or staircase ice.
Your security net is that as long as you have good sticks, you're very secure and you can find ice protection everywhere.


kyro


Jan 24, 2013, 10:21 AM
Post #4 of 17 (3289 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Oct 15, 2012
Posts: 9

Re: [milesenoell] Ice climbing and reasonable risk levels [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

Leading on ice is quite a bit more dangerous then rock but like anything it depends on how far you are going to push. Yes you can put screws in every 5' if you want but it won't make it any safer unless your in a groundout zone like staircase ice. Standing there trying to put in pro every few meters will burn you out and do more bad then good in my opinion. When I started ice climbing I didn't have much choice but to start on lead but I would def suggest finding a nice easy climb that you can tr and run laps on that for awhile until you are more comfortable


Partner robdotcalm


Jan 24, 2013, 10:37 AM
Post #5 of 17 (3275 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Oct 31, 2002
Posts: 1023

Re: [milesenoell] Ice climbing and reasonable risk levels [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (3 ratings)  
Can't Post

For me ice climbing is more dangerous than rock climbing. My wife tolerates my rock climbing but would kill me if I went ice climbing.

Her attitude is based on the number of my friends who have died ice climbing, six, from the small number of my partners who ice climb versus no deaths amongst the larger group of my partners who limit themselves to rock climbing. Two of those who died ice climbing had national reputations for their contributions to gear testing and safety concerns. One of these deaths was particularly poignant since the climber had told me a couple of years earlier that he had given up ice climbing upon becoming a father. For various reasons, he was attracted to joining a friend on an easy ice route. Judging the stability of ice can be a problem even for an expert.

r.c


(This post was edited by robdotcalm on Jan 24, 2013, 12:53 PM)


sandstone


Jan 24, 2013, 12:31 PM
Post #6 of 17 (3248 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Apr 21, 2004
Posts: 324

Re: [milesenoell] Ice climbing and reasonable risk levels [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (1 rating)  
Can't Post

milesenoell wrote:
... thinking about ice climbing...level of risk with my obligations as a single parent ...curious to hear from those with experience (and especially those with kids)...

I've raised two kids, who are adults now. During that time I started ice climbing (I was already a rock climber before I had kids).

You sound really interested, so you'll probably like it a lot. I sure do. If given an equal choice to climb rock or ice I will choose ice.

I find that the risks are manageable. I've never pushed any limits (other than my own), nor do I feel the need to. You will never see me on the cover of a magazine, but you will see a big smile on my face when I'm climbing.

There are dangers in ice climbing for sure, but I think you may be over-hyping them in your mind. As with any other risky endeavor (rock climbing, driving a car, etc.), all you can do is walk away from it, or learn how to manage the risks.

The best advice I can give you is to not rush into it and get in over your head. Take your time and build your knowledge and skills. Give yourself time to learn how to read the ice. Learn how to gauge the quality of your placements by sound and feel. Learn how to tell a good screw placement from a bad one. Learn how to avoid dangerous slopes that are loaded with snow, etc. BTW, learning all of this is great fun, done in some incredibly beautiful settings.

So don't rush in, and don't do really stupid stuff, and you'll probably be fine. Of course there is no guarantee that you will be OK -- but there is no guarantee that any of us will survive the drive home at the end of the day.


dan2see


Jan 24, 2013, 2:42 PM
Post #7 of 17 (3207 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Mar 28, 2006
Posts: 1497

Re: [robdotcalm] Ice climbing and reasonable risk levels [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

robdotcalm wrote:
For me ice climbing is more dangerous than rock climbing. My wife tolerates my rock climbing but would kill me if I went ice climbing.
...

Laugh Yeah that's what my wife used to say, too!

Until I went out with a climber one winter. Actually, all he needed just a belay slave, but it turned into a progressive good time with many trips.

She knows about the hazards of playing around on frozen waterfalls, and how some folks get caught in avalanche traps. But she also knows that I've managed a lot of situations in the mountains, and I always get back home for dinner. And I always have fun.

Sure, ice is risky. That's why you learn how to manage the risk.

Manage the risk, manage the sport, manage yourself. It always gets better, and more fun!


milesenoell


Jan 24, 2013, 2:58 PM
Post #8 of 17 (3193 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Sep 19, 2006
Posts: 1156

Re: [dan2see] Ice climbing and reasonable risk levels [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

Thank you all for these thoughtful replies!


jeepnphreak


Jan 25, 2013, 10:29 AM
Post #9 of 17 (3065 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Jul 28, 2008
Posts: 1259

Re: [milesenoell] Ice climbing and reasonable risk levels [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (1 rating)  
Can't Post

Like any style of clmbing Ice can be "safe" or you can push it and make it very un safe.
With the proper gear, a good guide or other experienced person who knows the routes and where there is minimal avalanche danger and can set up a top rope. You can heve a full fun day of ice climbing with out injuries.
Just like rock climbing do I want to hit that 5.6 super solid pg route, or do I wnat to hit that 5.12 choss fest x rated route.
Given the pro and how likely you are to fall can make all the difference in the world.


ChalkIsCheap


Jan 28, 2013, 9:07 AM
Post #10 of 17 (2930 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Oct 27, 2010
Posts: 92

Re: [milesenoell] Ice climbing and reasonable risk levels [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

Get out with someone who knows the ice conditions and the area. Granitegirl took me and a few friends out this weekend and we all had a blast. I learned so much about the ice conditions, the difference between a good swing/placement and a bad one. How to tell by the sound or feel, how good or bad it is.

Getting advice from an experienced leader doesn't just make things safer, but it turns a good time into a great time. Now that I am hooked I am going to get a lot more experience so I can have a safe and enjoyable climbing experience. Thanks Becs.


jktinst


Jan 28, 2013, 2:49 PM
Post #11 of 17 (2843 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Jun 29, 2010
Posts: 88

Re: [milesenoell] Ice climbing and reasonable risk levels [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (2 ratings)  
Can't Post

Here’s a few points :

- The perspective from the emergency and orthopedic surgery staff at Foothills hospital in Calgary (where they collect all the broken bits falling off the mountains in all seasons) is that ice climbing is a lot more dangerous than rock, based on their patient intake and seriousness of the injuries. Of course, they are sitting on the doorstep of one of the world’s ice climbing meccas and some of the people who have come a long way to climb there are liable to look at avalanche forecasts somewhat differently than the locals.

- Avalanches aside, a fall on ice is simply a lot more likely to result in fractures & serious lacerations than on rock. You’ve just got too many pointy, catchy bits sticking out of every extremity. The mantra that the leader must not fall remains 100% relevant for ice climbing and it sure isn’t a good idea for the second or the top-roper to fall either. Still, a fall is always possible. One of the reports of NA mountaineering accidents was of a guy doing a bit of « bouldering » on ice : traversing unroped at the base of a bit of vertical ice, barely a foot or so off the deck. Unfortunately the deck in question was a bit slanted (as it usually is). He slipped and his crampons stayed planted on the deck as he kept falling backwards. Result : two broken legs.

- Top-roping on ice get boring very quickly, beyond the initial discovery of what ice-climbing is all about. You just don’t get the variety of holds and moves that you get on rock. The variety in ice quality and how to handle it tends to be more from one outing to the other, not from one move to the other. You can add challenges like trying out thin ice and so on but the fun of ice climbing is in leading, or at least seconding. And it is fun. Lots ‘n’ lots of addictive fun. No question about it.


Partner cracklover


Jan 28, 2013, 3:30 PM
Post #12 of 17 (2828 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Nov 14, 2002
Posts: 10062

Re: [sandstone] Ice climbing and reasonable risk levels [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (1 rating)  
Can't Post

sandstone wrote:
BTW, learning all of this is great fun, done in some incredibly beautiful settings.

The issue you are either ignorant of, or are sweeping under the rug is that those settings also have a much higher level of objective danger than rock climbing. In fact, this thread rather gives the impression that a few of the posters don't even know what objective versus subjective risk means.

If you want statistics, the Canadian version of the American Alpine Club (can anyone here help me with the real name) keeps excellent statistics of accidents*.

If you want personal anecdotes, yeah, I too have far fewer friends who climb ice than rock, or if they do climb ice, they climb much less of it than rock. And many more friends who have bitten the bullet via ice than rock.

Which is not to say that ice climbing is suicide. Of course it isn't. But it is a significantly higher risk.

Look at it this way. Sure, rock falls off cliffs. I mean hell, we all have to climb a boulder-field of former-cliff every time we go climbing. But it happens over geologic time periods. Ice, on the other hand - it all falls off. Sometimes more than once over the course of a single season. And then there is avalanche risk.

No, it's nowhere near as dangerous as high altitude mountaineering, but yes - IMO, more than rock climbing.

GO

* The Canadian version is very thorough, do not confuse it with the AAC's statistical stuff in their publication Accidents in North American Mountaineering - which is useless IMO.

(edited to add footnote)


(This post was edited by cracklover on Jan 28, 2013, 3:34 PM)


sandstone


Jan 28, 2013, 4:44 PM
Post #13 of 17 (2814 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Apr 21, 2004
Posts: 324

Re: [cracklover] Ice climbing and reasonable risk levels [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (0 ratings)  
Can't Post

sandstone wrote:
BTW, learning all of this is great fun, done in some incredibly beautiful settings.

cracklover wrote:
The issue you are either ignorant of, or are sweeping under the rug is that those settings also have a much higher level of objective danger than rock climbing. In fact, this thread rather gives the impression that a few of the posters don't even know what objective versus subjective risk means...

Cracklover I'm not ignorant, nor do I see any evidence anywhere in this thread that the dangers of ice are being swept under the rug.

Ice has its dangers for sure, some of them far too nuanced to ever properly convey with a keyboard. The OP will have to decide if he wants to try ice, then and only then can he truly learn those nuances. If he takes the advice in this thread (i.e. takes his time and gets good instruction) then he stands a chance of enjoying it as safely as it can be done.

Arrogance, now that's a harder nut to crack -- good luck with that.


dr_feelgood


Jan 28, 2013, 7:05 PM
Post #14 of 17 (2787 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Apr 6, 2004
Posts: 25945

Re: [sandstone] Ice climbing and reasonable risk levels [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (6 ratings)  
Can't Post

I think gabe is correct in that there is a much higher objective danger when ice climbing. A previous poster mentioned that (paraphrasing) on good WI3 ice with a good tool it is like being on jugs. Granted, that can be the case, but ice is infamous for how quickly it can change. I've seen an increasingly cavalier attitude towards leading among noobs in the five years since I have been ice climbing, including a new climber(half a season of experience) recounting how he took a 15 footer onto a screw on a 3+.

In my opinion, falling on ice is a very bad idea. Not because the screw will fail (as it likely will not, if placed in solid ice), but because of the dangers of breaking limbs and then dealing with an extremely complicated rescue situation. It may be the wide exposure of the sport in recent years, but I feel like the folks I learned from instilled several things in their mentorship that may be fading, notably an appreciation of the risks involved.

I've never not felt that the sport was incredibly risky. There are innumerable different ways to get mangled, even on top rope. There is the very distinct possibility of dying. Most experienced ice climbers have one or more "I should have died" stories; I know I have mine. That being said, ice climbing, and especially leading, is a challenging and rewarding pursuit if you are aware of the inherent risk, accepting of the potential consequences, and willing to take steps to mitigate these consequences. In my opinion, one of the best ways to mitigate the risk is a long and dedicated apprenticeship, and for experienced climbers, a willingness to mentor people that are excited and committed to learning safely.


olderic


Jan 28, 2013, 7:27 PM
Post #15 of 17 (2781 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Oct 17, 2003
Posts: 1536

Re: [cracklover] Ice climbing and reasonable risk levels [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (2 ratings)  
Can't Post

cracklover wrote:

If you want statistics, the Canadian version of the American Alpine Club (can anyone here help me with the real name) keeps excellent statistics of accidents*.

Alpine Club of Canada.

Yes ice climbing is riskier - no matter how you slice it.


sandstone


Jan 29, 2013, 12:45 PM
Post #16 of 17 (2691 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Apr 21, 2004
Posts: 324

Re: [milesenoell] Ice climbing and reasonable risk levels [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (2 ratings)  
Can't Post

It's an easy conclusion that ice involves some additional dangers when compared to rock, and is therefore more dangerous overall. However, that does not mean that rock climbing is safe. If you believe that, you are delusional.

It also does not mean that rock climbing is always more safe than ice climbing -- that all depends on the situation. Someone doing something stupid on rock (even something as simple as having a momentary lapse of attention) may well be far less safe than a focused and competent climber on ice.

There has been a lot of doom and gloom in this thread, and something obvious and important has been missed. We are climbers. There's no good explanation for why we are -- it's just something we are drawn to. Some of us are drawn to more than rock. We want to explore what climbing ice and snow are like, and even tackle long routes where all of those skill sets are required. There's a very long and very rich history of that kind of climbing. In my opinion a well rounded climber is a better climber.

I would never trade the incredible experiences I've had ice climbing for an irrational and false sense of safety spawned by internet babble. People have been climbing incredible ice routes for a very long time, and most of them never sustain a serious injury. Yes, some people do get injured, and yes some people die -- but to focus on only that is myopic. You have to be honest with yourself about the dangers, but you also have to be rational. The exact same is true of rock climbing.

If you are interested in ice, there's a reason for that. You will never fully understand the reason, but it is part of you. You can deny it (for whatever reason, including that you read on the internet that it is too dangerous), or you can explore it.

If you choose to explore it, you might find that it's not your thing, or you might find what I did -- that it opens up a whole world of rich opportunities and experiences that I'm damn sure glad I did not miss out on. I first swung axes sometime in the early 80's, and I hope I can swing them till I'm in my early 80's.

There's another important aspect of ice climbing that is missing here -- the fact that it has a rather unique way of elevating the senses for the enjoyment of this: http://www.laphroaig.com/


kyro


Jan 29, 2013, 12:57 PM
Post #17 of 17 (2685 views)
Shortcut

Registered: Oct 15, 2012
Posts: 9

Re: [milesenoell] Ice climbing and reasonable risk levels [In reply to]
Report this Post
Average: avg_1 avg_2 avg_3 avg_4 avg_5 (4 ratings)  
Can't Post

I think you should just go for it.. who cares if its slightly more dangerous then rock life is full of risk if you dont like risk then your prob not a climber. I top roped ice 2 times then started leading sense I didnt have anyone to really teach me...im still kickin. Ice climbing is more dangerous but can be way more fun and exciting then clipping bolts all day. You will see beautiful places and be able to get outside year round. If your aware of the risk then you can negate as much as humanly possible through judgement. Pretty sure the risk has been stated so get out there and climb and let us know how it was!


Forums : Climbing Information : Beginners

 


Search for (options)

Log In:

Username:
Password: Remember me:

Go Register
Go Lost Password?
$10.76 (10% off)
$8.96 (10% off)
$18.86 (10% off)
$17.95 (10% off)



Follow us on Twiter Become a Fan on Facebook