Mixed climbing

The classical meaning of mixed climbing is climbing in terrain where the components of rock, snow, and ice are equally represented. It is above all winter terrain, or high icy mountains. Upon your first impression it may seem to make for pleasant climbing, where you have a number of tricks and climbing options at your disposal. Unfortunately, the truth is such that the rock is unclimbable because of the snow and ice, there’s not enough snow because of the ice and rock, and lastly, the ice is ruined by snow and rock. Classic mixed terrain is in essence always inclined. It therefore goes without saying that the primary climbing burden must be borne by the legs of the climber. And here we reach the question of whether to proceed wearing crampons or without. Definitely with: with them you can climb even a level V rock. On the other hand, without crampons you can’t even manage a mildly icy foothold. You can only place your feet into depressions, grooves, etc. Try to place the frame and teeth of your crampons in such a way that they have the firmest possible resistance against the surrounding rock protrusions. Always transfer your weight to your feet slowly, constantly checking during transfer to make sure the crampon isn’t tending to come loose and cause a sprain.

With your hands you will mostly keep balance. You have to create handholds by scraping the snow away from the rock. It is not particularly effective, and is altogether common that you won’t find too many handholds. You might be able to place an ice axe somewhere. Ideally there will be frozen clods of grass where the ice axe can hold well. A thin crack in the rock with ice running through it can be good as well. A delicately, yet well placed blow here can fix the ice axe in place. If there’s no ice in the crack, that’s okay too. You can slide the pick of the ice axe into the crack and wedge it in place with a twisting pull to the side until it holds.

In moments when you don’t need your ice axe because by some twist of fate there are handholds available, then you should never put your ice axe away out of reach. It will surely be needed again soon. The best thing to do is hang it in the loops on the seat harness and secure it against risk of dropping. If the steps where the ice axe is needed alternate with steps where handholds are available, you can let your ice axe hang from your hands by the loops and drag it along with you.

Since climbing in classic mixed terrain consists of such stress and balancing on the boundaries of a fall, there’s one other bit of advice that will come in handy here. Keep your rope from grinding against the terrain. In other terrain can somehow pull it free, but not in mixed terrain. It is critical that you use long quickdraws or slings to ensure the most direct route of the rope through the terrain. It will be a big help.

Classic mixed terrain

Classic mixed terrain

Climbing in classic mixed terrain.

Climbing in classic mixed terrain.

Modern mixed climbing and drytooling

Nowadays so-called modern mixed climbing is distinguished from classic mixed climbing. It is based on ice climbing. This evolution is the result of the fact that a difficult icefall was considered one which had sections with interrupted ice, i.e. denuded rock. In the effort for greatest achievement climbers began to seek out routes with less and less ice, until it was necessary to press ice axes and crampons against the rock. If ice is missing altogether, this is considered “drytooling”.

Modern mixed climbing and drytooling.

Modern mixed climbing and drytooling.

More in e-book.

Title Part 5Mountaineering Methodology – Part 5 – Snow and Ice

ISBN 978-80-87715-11-6

MMPublishing, 2013

Available for download from Apple iTunes (in the Books section).

For example U.S. store – link

Another countries – look on the page Download

Another possibility is Google Play. This version is a simplified (as PDF).

Title Part 5 GPMountaineering Methodology – Part 5 – Snow and Ice

ISBN 978-80-87715-16-1

MMPublishing, 2014

Available for download from Google Play