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Tips on crampon technique descending Aiguille du Midi

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Tips on crampon technique descending Aiguille du Midi

Postby Andrii » Wed Sep 17, 2014 8:27 pm

Hi,

so the question is if there is a special crampon technique to descend Aiguille du Midi via arete or any other steep decline on a snow for that matter. Let's say i want to descend during late summer when there hasn't been too much snow so the path is not very wide. Putting weight on front of your feet makes me slide down a bit on almost every step which doesn't feel to safe. In order to spread the weight on all 12 points i need to crouch a bit, which makes me move much slower and still doesn't feel too safe. Turning back and trying to front point down seems doable but again, very slow, so you can stall other parties who wants do descend.

Also, what would be the optimal rope length between two people be for the same descend: that is length between two people while each holds some coils in hand, and length of rope in coils that are being held in hand.

Any suggestions/ideas are warmly appreciated!
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Re: Tips on crampon technique descending Aiguille du Midi

Postby logsden » Thu Sep 18, 2014 7:41 pm

descending with crampons is a skill you simply develop over time. there is no secret method...but there are proper techniques ... and therefore improper.

Weight centered over your feet. Knees bent. Toes pointed down the fall line. Ice axe at your side or in front...avoid the temptation to lean back on the axe. Your balance and your crampon technique are your primary safeguards.

Soft snow - plunge step. Toes pointed up, knees bent, drop that heel aggressively. Keep weight over feet to recover balance if/when a step blows out.

Hard snow. Point the toes downhill. Stomp all the crampon points in. You will commonly slide each foot a little bit on the surface snow. Expect it. It does not indicate lack of security as long as you are able to compensate with your center of gravity. This takes practice.

The main thing is to step and walk confidently. If you are timid with your foot placement and movement you will naturally lean upslope and not plant your feet firmly enough to gain solid purchase. Stomp those feet like a pissed off little kid. aggressively maintain your center of gravity over your feet i.e. be athletic. don't be lazy.

In the end it's just walking. Practice and you'll get better.
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Re: Tips on crampon technique descending Aiguille du Midi

Postby logsden » Thu Sep 18, 2014 8:08 pm

If facing in I can almost run downhill with the axe in high or low dagger. No reason it should be slow in decent snow conditions.

Rope management is a much longer discussion. there are way to many variables to be very concise over the web. I will say that, generally, holding coils in your hand as part of a protection system is not advised without a lot of specialized training, practice and instruction. It is also not something BOTH climbers will generally not do (if ever) while on technical terrain.

Adjusting the rope INTERVAL however is a different ball game. The distance apart that the two climbers are tied in at is highly dependent on several factors - terrain, time/efficiency needs, and team skill and capabilities. There is no single right answer even in a single scenario.

I'd recommend time either with a guide hired specifically to train you in these techniques or at least but an experience mentor some beers and put some time in trying different techniques.

Lastly, learn how to safely and effectively coil in excess rope. This is something I see being done very very wrong ... very very often.
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Re: Tips on crampon technique descending Aiguille du Midi

Postby Andrii » Fri Sep 19, 2014 10:05 am

Thanks Logsden! The crampons tips make a lot of sense, will have something to practice in the winter :)

Cheers!
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Re: Tips on crampon technique descending Aiguille du Midi

Postby Chris Simpson » Thu Oct 02, 2014 4:44 pm

On soft snow I use what Logsden suggested. On ice or neve I descend the same way I came up. Just in reverse. I swing my axes at chest height and step down / front point. Neve is even easier and doesent require swinging. Get a grip beneath the adze or hammer and simply insert the pick into the snow. As for rope work. Cant help. Never used them. Good luck. It ll take a while to get comfortable but you'll develop what works best for you.
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