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Self Rescue on Ice

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Self Rescue on Ice

Postby kozman18 » Tue Jul 27, 2010 9:08 pm

I was talking to my climbing partner about self-rescue during an ice climb, and got stumped on a question. I tried searching the web and prior SP threads, couldn’t find an answer. So, here’s the question:

If a leader falls near the end of a lead (more than half the rope out), and is injured so that he can’t participate in the rescue (by unloading the rope), then the second/belayer will need to escape the belay and begin the self-rescue. I understand that rock anchors are typically multi-directional, so that escaping the belay is relatively straightforward. But on ice, at least from what I have seen, the anchor is usually constructed to protect the belayer and to allow him to hold a leader fall. If the belayer tries to escape the belay, the transfer of the load from the belayer to the anchor will cause the anchor to invert -- and drop the leader several feet. Tried that in my backyard -- doesn’t work very well.

What’s the answer? Should all ice anchors be built with multi-directionality? Does the belayer attempt to add multi-directionality after the fact (that seems risky)? Is there an easier fix?

My guess is I am missing something simple (and will get an earful from the experts), but that’s okay, I just want to know. Any help would be appreciated.
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Postby nartreb » Tue Jul 27, 2010 9:29 pm

Just like on rock, all anchors should be multi-directional. If the leader falls with a piece in, the force on the belayer will be upward, and it will usually exceed his weight.

Upward pull on the belayer is not a big deal if the space above the belayer is free of obstacles and the belayer doesn't mind dangling in midair, separated from his tools, then lowering himself (and his unconscious partner)... yeah it's probably a big deal. Anchor yourself properly.

Of course you can allow a *small* amount of slack between the belayer and the downward component of the anchor, so the belayer's body weight gives a softer catch.
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Postby kozman18 » Tue Jul 27, 2010 9:30 pm

Figured that was the answer -- just seen a lot of anchors constructed "one-way."

Thanks.
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Postby Greeneggs » Tue Jul 27, 2010 9:37 pm

nartreb wrote:Just like on rock, all anchors should be multi-directional. If the leader falls with a piece in, the force on the belayer will be upward, and it will usually exceed his weight.

Upward pull on the belayer is not a big deal if the space above the belayer is free of obstacles and the belayer doesn't mind dangling in midair, separated from his tools, then lowering himself (and his unconscious partner)... yeah it's probably a big deal. Anchor yourself properly.

Of course you can allow a *small* amount of slack between the belayer and the downward component of the anchor, so the belayer's body weight gives a softer catch.


What about on snow where pickets may be used as belay anchors? Should 1-2 pickets be used for a downward and 1-2 for an upward pull?
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Postby nartreb » Tue Jul 27, 2010 10:36 pm

On the other hand, even a "one-way" ice anchor is not as catastrophic as a one-way rock anchor: screws are inherently multidirectional, (and a typical ice anchor equalizes at least two screws in either of two directions)* - the only problem is that the anchor webbing/cord acts as extra slack. If your body weight holds the fall, put in an extra screw (if you have one) below the anchor and tie the rope to that. If the fall pulled you above the anchor and you stayed there, no more slack to worry about, just tie off the rope then carefully lower yourself to your tools. If you're below the anchor with no screws, you'll have to get creative. You can probably afford to take a screw out of your anchor since it won't have to hold any more leader falls.

I don't know much about snow pickets. Personally I don't think I'd trust them to hold a vertical leader fall in the first place, so I wouldn't be using one in a situation where the belayer might get lifted much.

*On the third hand, imagine a three-screw anchor with one screw lower than the other two. That one will have the shortest webbing/cord to the anchor point, so it will bear all the force of an upward pull, unaided by the other two screws. If it blows it could create cracks that weaken the other two screws.
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Postby kozman18 » Tue Jul 27, 2010 11:47 pm

nartreb wrote:On the other hand, even a "one-way" ice anchor is not as catastrophic as a one-way rock anchor: screws are inherently multidirectional, (and a typical ice anchor equalizes at least two screws in either of two directions)* - the only problem is that the anchor webbing/cord acts as extra slack. If your body weight holds the fall, put in an extra screw (if you have one) below the anchor and tie the rope to that. If the fall pulled you above the anchor and you stayed there, no more slack to worry about, just tie off the rope then carefully lower yourself to your tools. If you're below the anchor with no screws, you'll have to get creative. You can probably afford to take a screw out of your anchor since it won't have to hold any more leader falls.

I don't know much about snow pickets. Personally I don't think I'd trust them to hold a vertical leader fall in the first place, so I wouldn't be using one in a situation where the belayer might get lifted much.

*On the third hand, imagine a three-screw anchor with one screw lower than the other two. That one will have the shortest webbing/cord to the anchor point, so it will bear all the force of an upward pull, unaided by the other two screws. If it blows it could create cracks that weaken the other two screws.


Agreed. Screws are multi-directional, so you might get away with it. If pulled above the anchor, it will have essentially shifted direction, and you can use it to escape the belay. If the fall didn't pull you above the anchor, looks like the choices are to try and place a screw below and create multi-directionality or bite the bullet and lower the leader as you escape the belay (by climbing above the anchor as you release the load).

Pickets: not used on vertical stuff, but are used on steep icy terrain. Less likely to have a catastrophic leader fall, but the leader could still get injured (rock fall/strike, ice fall, etc.) Since they are placed at an angle away from the belayer, they are truly uni-directional. If a leader fell hard enough to pull the belayer up, the pickets are likely to get pulled out (not good). Same issue -- maybe an opposing picket should be standard practice (?).
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