Saturday, February 7, 2009

Ice Conditions

Ice conditions in the Salzburg area have been very good over the last three weeks. A number of hidden ice flows that have not formed in the last four to five years have come into shape.

I have been in the Malta valley, Gastein valley, around Berchtesgaden, Gaissau (Hintersee & Wiestal) and Strubklamm climbing. The conditions have been good to excellent. The photos are from the "Kraftwerksfälle", 80m/WI4-5+ taken on Saturday the 7th of February.

The ice has been better at the lower elevations as we have gone through a few periods of Föhn conditions and inversion weather. In the small valley areas such as Königsee/Berchtesgaden, small micro-climates are in effect that really hold the cold and do not heat up throughout the day.

After climbing ice in the area over the last few years, I believe that I am starting to get a good feel to how things develop and change during the season in my immediate area. I starting to understand where and when to climb certain things as well as when to back off.

This season I have pretty much gone over to using a two ice screw belay in a line configuration as opposed to using self equalizing system. From what I have read and heard in Austria as well as through international sources, the self equalizing system is not as beneficial in spreading the force of a fall as once thought. As in all belay systems, what is most important is the quality of the ice. I try to set up a belay with two screws in two independent ice structures that are about 40cm to 50cm apart. The main belay point is always the lower screw. I set the first screw, clip in a large central locking carabiner with my smaller self belay screw gate carabiner then I clove hitch one of the half ropes to the self belay screw gate. Next I set a second screw and girth hitch a 60cm sling through the central carabiner and attach it to the second screw with a locking screw gate carabiner. If necessary, I will also set my tools and tie them in with a clove hitch using second half rope.

This system mimics what is used very often on bolted alpine rock routes. It is simple, fast, clean and in good ice it is very secure.

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