Use of Crampons and Ice Ax

Use of crampons and ice ax

What has been said on many occasions and is a reality is that crampons and ice ax are always used together, if you use one you should use the other; this for safety reasons due to self-stop maneuvers.

When using crampons it is important that you take into account the following aspects. It is important to verify that the crampons that are going to be used fit the boots that you are going to use (Automatic, semi-automatic, strap), next we will talk about the

Strap crampons.

-          Adjustment: The crampons must be well adjusted to the boot, one way to verify this point is that when placing it you can lift the boot and the crampon is fixed without the need to tie the straps.

-          Bindings: It is important that they are well tied to the boots to prevent them from loosening and loosening in the middle of a climb or descent

-          Locking buckles:: These will always have to be on the outside of the foot to prevent them from hitting themselves and this can cause them to trip or loosen

-          Straps They must be placed in such a way that they do not tangle with each other and the excess tape is important to tie it on the outside of the foot to avoid loosening.

-          When placing the crampons, verify that there is no object (snow, stones or dirt) that prevents a good placement.

When walking with the crampons it is very important to open the compass a little (just a little), so that when taking a step we avoid a fall and even an injury or tear of our clothes, in the same way we must be more careful Since we are slightly higher than we always are, then we may lose a bit of everyday stability.

When walking it is important to take into account some aspects such as:

-          When using them on a slope, it is important to maintain the vertical and avoid leaning too much on the ice ax.

-          It is important to use as many tips as possible, avoiding as much as possible only using the front tips

-          When walking it is better to lift your feet well (without exaggerating) to avoid tripping.

-          A steeper slope is recommended to take shorter steps

-          Avoid running or jumping with them to avoid ankle injury

-          Because the tips may have some edge, we must avoid stepping on the safety rope or any other equipment, since it can cause damage to the equipment and cause an accident

-          If our crampons do not have plastic protection, it is easy for Swedes to form (accumulation of compacted snow where they become flat platforms without a tip), be careful to hit with the ice ax and thus remove this accumulation of snow and return to the tips fulfill their function.

The ice ax:

The parts of a touring ice ax are as follows:
1: Peak
2: Head or cross
3: Shovel
4: Leash
5: Runner for leash tightening
6: Handle
7: Spike

It is important to have an ice ax that is your size, and one way in which you can know if it fits you is to take it by the cross and the spike should be approximately at the height of your ankle.

The correct way to take the ice ax is by positioning your hand on the cross with your thumb under the blade in such a way that the peak should always be back, in order to streamline the self-stop maneuver.

There are different techniques to use the ice ax, depending on the slope on which we are ascending.

Ice ax- walking stick

It is mainly used on slopes less than 30 ° with soft snow, where the ice ax will always be on the side of the mountain since the ascent will be done by zigzagging, where the mountain will sometimes be on the left side and at other times on the right side. We leave the ice ax fixed until we complete the step so that we always have two support points: one foot and the ice ax or both feet.

Ice ax-broom 

This technique is used for slopes ranging from 30 ° to 40 ° with hard snow, even though it is very similar to the ice ax-stick technique, the main difference is that the ice ax must at all times be in contact with the snow, even when we are moving the ice ax to do the next step.

Ice ax-support

This technique is used on slopes ranging from 40 ° to 50 ° where the balance can be more fragile and it will be necessary to lean on the snow with one hand and use the ice ax with the other; in this technique the peak goes towards the mountain since we will be nailing it to maintain balance.

Ice ax-Handle

This technique is used on slopes greater than 50 ° with hard snow, where we will take the ice ax with both hands, one hand from the tip and the other from the shovel, and the way we will ascend will be by nailing the spike vertically on the snow and we will advance facing the mountain nailing the front tips of the crampons on the snow.

The descent

A very effective technique is the "wooden leg" or "sunken step" where with the straight leg taking great steps placing the heel straight towards the valley, in this technique it is not necessary to zigzag. In case the snow is hard, the step should be more energetic and letting the weight of the body drop so that the tips fit on the ice and thus be able to fix the foot in each step.

On hard or very steep slopes we will turn around and descend using the ice ax-handle or ice ax technique, always facing the mountain.



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This is not recommended for pregnant women, people with neck or back problems, people with haemophilia, asthma or epilepsy or for people with heart problems.