Difficulties on Snow and Ice

Difficulties on Snow and Ice

Page Type Page Type: Custom Object
Location Lat/Lon: 46.04274°N / 7.76733°E
Additional Information Object Type: fact sheet


Climbing on snow and/or ice is technically much "easier" than climbing on rock, but less safe :
while on rock grips and footholds are already there and you have to learn the better use of them, on snow you can decide the lenght of your steps and use some gear to improve the balance of your body : i.e. cutting footholds with an iceaxe, creating grips using an ice-hammer and putting hard the points of iceaxe and crampons.
Even the insertion of pegs is easier: you don't need to find a crack to fit :
in snow or ice the only need is to keep the correct balance, always hoping that snow or ice will not crumble.

Giving a look to some comments to photos shot while climbing on snow and/or ice slopes I've seen that there is a lot of confusion for the not "authorized personnel" (inexperienced sound bad ...)

here a simple starting point ...

of course one thing must be clear in the minds of the aspirant climbers : the finest is the mountain the steepest it is, and a minimum of experience is needed :
if you feel unsafe on a 40° slope and have to descend facing the slope you'd better avoid snow and ice !

easy here under means that an experienced climber can move without paying attention to his steps, while an inexperienced one could get very stressed at it ...
... and, not to be under underestimated, while climbing on difficult routes (over 55°) when iced, you can hardly take even a moment of rest (even belaying is "hard") : so be very trained is a very important feature to reduce risk factors.

a simple table

betweenanddifficultieskind of "ground"gearwith skis
30°F - walk upnormally good snowno gear requirednormal skill
30°40°PD - easynormally snowiceaxe usefulgood skiers
40°50°AD - middlesometimes icediceaxe and cramponsextreme skiers
50°60°D - difficultoften icedditto + some pegsthe best
60°70°TD - very difficulticetechnical gearsuicide
70°90°ED - extremeicetechnical gear 

some examples

Tour Ronde - north face - the...the steeepness here is about 55°, but the good snow makes it easy and safe
Pizzo Cassandra - north wall 2the steeepness here is little more than 45°, but the good snow makes it easy and safe
Climbing the Migot spurthe steeepness here is about 50°, but the good snow makes it not difficult and safe
Aiguille de Chardonnet - Migot Spurthe same point as the previous one, the bad ice makes it difficult and unsafe
Climbing on the Migot Spura 50° slope seen while belaying (you can feel the steepness)