Protection in ice

Protection in ice is less certain than protection in rock – this is a basic fact that must be taken into consideration. Ice is nothing more than frozen water. And as we all know, the effects of heat turns dissolves that ice back into water. Here it is necessary to bear in mind that protection is defence against a fall. Whereas a fall is nothing more than the transfer of potential energy into kinetic energy. And the application of kinetic energy gives rise to – that’s right, heat. And so with a bit of exaggeration it can be said that protection in ice is carried out mostly “on dangerous waters”. It is also important to realize that if protection is built in ice using metal objects (which it almost always is), then the temperature of the air and sunlight will also contribute to heating these items. Metal is a good heat conductor, and in sunlight the parts of the chain of protection can often become heated inside the ice, and the metal transfers this heat quite effectively to the inside of the ice as well. As a result, a protection device will melt the ice around it after a while. For this reason if there is ice and rock somewhere near the ascent route offering options for protection, don’t hold back and gladly place your protection into the rock. It will significantly increase the quality of the entire protection chain. If there is no rock nearby, then you can simply plop a snowball onto the end of the metal protection device that can protect it from sunlight.

Of course, the quality of the ice also influences the quality of the protection. The harder the ice, the more sold the protection placed in it. And yet the hardness of the ice can be difficult to determine, and requires experience. Clear, transparent ice is harder and more homogenous, but also brittle. Crystalline, white, or grey-blue and opaque ice is softer, less firm, more plastic. It contains air bubbles which disrupt its cohesiveness.

Placement of protection points in ice

There are many types of protection devices for ice, all of which differ in their construction. Certain types are now historically obsolete and are no longer used nowadays. Such a type for example, is an ice drill. On the contrary, the most frequently used today are ice screws, snargs, and ice hooks. A special form of protection in ice is the Abalakov thread.

Protection devices in the ice - left: ice drill (now obsolete, no longer used), ice screw, snarg, ice screw with a crank for easier driving.

Protection devices in the ice – left: ice drill (now obsolete, no longer used), ice screw, snarg, ice screw with a crank for easier driving.

Ice drill

An obsolete protection device which is nowadays considered dangerous. At present this is no longer used and has practically disappeared from the scene. It has significantly less strength in ice, as the blade of the drill is too think, and can easily cut out of the ice under loading. Its only advantage, which one might recall nostalgically, was that it could be relatively easily (compared to modern ice screws) drilled into very hard ice.

Ice screw

Nowadays this is the most commonly used protection device in ice. A massive hollow tube of light metal (for example, titanium is a very popular metal, as it is light and yet very hard), equipped at one end with a hanger with a hole for a carabiner, and at the other end with a sharp point that leads into a relatively pronounced thread. It is screwed into the ice. The ice slush drilled out of the hole is compressed into the interior of the tube and is pressed out through it. Screwing this into ice is arduous, particularly the thicker the tube is. It can be made easier by putting the pick of an ice tool into the hole of the screw, and using the ice tool as a level to ease the twisting process.

When driving an ice screw, the ice grindings collect inside the metal tube, from which they are gradually squeezed out under the pressure of the incoming ice. Nonetheless, after finishing with the screw the tube will remain completely packed with ice grindings. After you take it out it is therefore necessary to remove these ice grindings from the tube.

When driving an ice screw, the ice grindings collect inside the metal tube, from which they are gradually squeezed out under the pressure of the incoming ice. Nonetheless, after finishing with the screw the tube will remain completely packed with ice grindings. After you take it out it is therefore necessary to remove these ice grindings from the tube.

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