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when to bring in a second tool?
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By T.L. Kushner
Jan 19, 2011
i've been slowly working on making the leap from simple trad climbing to actual mountaineering and alpine climbing. most of the peaks i've been climbing have been reletively low angled and i've been able to climb them with snowshoes and trekking poles and have occaisionally used an axe and crampons on some steeper, more exposed sections. i'm considering doing an ascent of mount washington this winter. i was thinking of climbing central gully in huntington's ravine. i am pretty comfortable on moderately steep terrain and was wondering at what point you decide to bring a second tool with you?

I have generic, straight shafted mountaineering ax. I have pretty much no interest at all in vertical ice climbing. i prefer to focus on actual mountain climbing though i would not be opposed to climbing short sections of ice if it stood in the way of a larger objective. to do steeper gullies are technical tools required? would i be able to get away with having a tool such as the BD venom which has a technical version with a hammer and a curved pick and another version with an adze and a traditional pick? i was thinking of carrying the traditional version for moderate climbs and then breaking out the second tool on steeper sections. would i even need to get matching tools? would my traditional axe, coupled with another tool(though still not a technical tool like petzl quarks) do the trick and save weight?

also, would any of you more experienced people have advice on a "mountaineering rack?" I was thinking of carrying maybe some larger stoppers/tricams, a few cams, 2 or 3 screws, and 2 pickets. does this seem excessive? just enough? very sparse? i have extensive experience on rock but I have yet to venture into any snow or ice climbing that actually merited protection before.

thanks for all of your help.

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By bjp
From durango
Jan 19, 2011
bud
Not familiar with the planned route, but you can certainly get by with one traditional axe and one ice tool for a whole lot of routes involving real ice. See Steve House/Vince Anderson on Nanga Parbat and K7. Or, simply look back to anything that was done more than 25 years ago.

You'll definitely be doing yourself a favor, though, if you get some vertical ice miles in your legs and arms. I understand you're not really interested in vertical ice, but if you can get some basic technique and experience under your belt, you'll do a lot better on route (both on the more vertical ice sections and on the less than vertical alpine snice). I really don't have a lot of interest in pure rock climbing, but I've seen some significant technique improvements in my ice climbing as a result of the little time I've spent on rock. Like you, my interest is really in the alpine environment.

As far as your rack goes, it certainly sounds reasonable. Of course, as always, it depends on the route you'll be doing. Many don't carry cams on a general mountaineering route. I always end up carrying more than I need (but, usually less than I *could* need). Get enough routes under your belt, and you'll have a better idea of what your minimum rack will be.

Learn how to make V-threads, and carry some cord. You probably won't need it very often (ever?) on general routes, but if you do, you'll be very happy to not leave those 50-dollar screws behind.

-ben

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By T.L. Kushner
Jan 20, 2011
i actually never even thought of V-threads for rappel anchors! 2 dollars worth of cord and a rappel ring can save a lot of money and frustration. when most people rappel off of a V thread do they make 2 and combine them into 1 redundant anchor? or do most people assume that a bomber V thread in super solid, plastic ice is good to rappel off on it's own?

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By "H"
From Manitou Springs
Jan 20, 2011
Axes glistening in the sun
T.L. Kushner wrote:
i actually never even thought of V-threads for rappel anchors! 2 dollars worth of cord and a rappel ring can save a lot of money and frustration. when most people rappel off of a V thread do they make 2 and combine them into 1 redundant anchor? or do most people assume that a bomber V thread in super solid, plastic ice is good to rappel off on it's own?


I've rapped off of 1 V thread using 22cm ice screws to make the holes in solid ice.

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By coloradotomontana
Jan 20, 2011
me
T.L. Kushner wrote:
i actually never even thought of V-threads for rappel anchors! 2 dollars worth of cord and a rappel ring can save a lot of money and frustration. when most people rappel off of a V thread do they make 2 and combine them into 1 redundant anchor? or do most people assume that a bomber V thread in super solid, plastic ice is good to rappel off on it's own?

Its not a bad idea to make one bomber V-thread and back it up with a screw for the first (heavier) person to rappel, then remove the screw and have the second rappel when you know its bomber. Or if you have doubt just equalize them.

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By Danielyaris
From Salem, OR
Sep 8, 2011
Me in the cascades
I've climbed Mt washington in January a few years back. Me and my partner each had two tools each for the trip as we did a lot of easy accessible ice climbing in the area too. For the summit climb we just took one tool with an adze. It worked great. If you go there you can find lot's of lower ice to practice on.

I live in the cascades and I now personally have a set of BD venoms like you asked about. One longer with a standard pick and adze and the other sorter with a hammer. It is more than enough for the climbs I do (easier routes on hood, shasta, and rainier). I hear from better climbers that you could climb almost anything with that setup.

Rack would be route and weather dependent for alpine.

remember to dress warm!

mt washington in Jan
mt washington in Jan

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By Scott Bower
From Fort Collins, CO
Sep 9, 2011
T.L. Kushner wrote:
i actually never even thought of V-threads for rappel anchors! 2 dollars worth of cord and a rappel ring can save a lot of money and frustration. when most people rappel off of a V thread do they make 2 and combine them into 1 redundant anchor? or do most people assume that a bomber V thread in super solid, plastic ice is good to rappel off on it's own?

Thread the rope through the cord. V-threads leave trash behind and a rap ring is just more trash. Unless you think it will be reused or you expect pulling the rope to be extraordinarily difficult, I'd skip the ring.

Also, you should be able to climb 65+ degree snow with a single tool, so the decision to bring a second often comes down to the style of climbing (soloing or roped -- two tools are more secure), how long the steep sections are (you'll move faster with two tools) and, frankly, on what the rest of the approach/egress looks like. Basically, do you want to carry a second tool to help out with the climbing?

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By divnamite
From New York, NY
Sep 9, 2011
Do you have particular route or mountain in mind? For routes like DC on Rainier or West Buttress on Denali or many other mountains, a regular ice axe will do the job. If you are talking about crossing glacier to get to alpine rock routes, regular ice axe works fine there too.

For routes like Central Gully, while the condition can vary greatly, in the end, it's still a pretty mellow route. Assuming you read the weather forecast, avalanche report and exercise common sense, you should able to walk up it without two technical tools.

Reading your post closely, I think learning proper crampon techniques will help you a lot more than the tools you get.

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By Tits McGee
From Boulder, CO
Sep 9, 2011
How I Send
I think it is important to look at alpine climbing as a summation of knowledge skills built up from experience in all forms of climbing.

Rock climbing skills, anchor building and knowledge of passive pro (hexes, nuts and tri cams) will save you weight in the alpine.

Ice climbing skills and technique, will help you understand what good vs. bad ice is in the alpine. What a good "stick" feels like and proper crampon technique on snow ice and snice. How to place screws, build v-threads and move confidently above protection on ice; vertical WI and AI. These skills are required for more technical gully routes.

So I think this is more about acquiring a mandatory skill set, than mandatory gear. As far as gear is concerned. I have a pair of alpine axes (56cm BD venoms) and a pair of technical ice axes (BD Vipers). I take my venoms on most steeper snow/ice routes here in CO and love them. If it's just snow walking (Rainier, Baker, Adams, winter 14ers) a standard piolet is just fine, but when it comes to swinging into snow and ice, I like a shorter technical axe - the venoms work great for snow walking and for steeper stuff.

So take the time this winter to learn some basic ice skills and technique, how to rappel on v-threads etc. You will be ready for some steeper alpine routes by next spring.

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By Rob Gordon
From Hollywood, CA
Sep 9, 2011
Tough Mantle Problem.  Haven't sent yet...
Wow. What a nicely laid out and helpful thread. I don't ice climb, but it's nice to see a well-responded to thread.

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By Gokul
Oct 31, 2011
At the "summit"
Central Gully (WI1)is probably the only route on Huntington Ravine that one might reasonably expect to do with a single alpine axe (of course, it all comes down to individual ability and nerves, but I'm attempting an approximate average). For any of the steeper routes - Pinnacle, Yale, Damnation (all about WI3) - you'd really want to use a pair of matching tools.

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By superkick
From West Hartford, CT
Nov 1, 2011
Free Solo up hitchcock gully WI3
Im going to agree with Gokul here, if your doing central gully or some other standard route likelionhead winter, you can prob just get away with a mountaineering axe, or even just trekking poles depending on your comfort level.

Any other route in the ravine you should have two axes. Usually also bring a cam or 2, some nuts, and 2-4 ice screws depending on the gameplan for the day. Dont usually ever use that much pro, but not particulary concerned about weight on Mt. Washington...so the extra is nice if its needed.

Get yourself a cheap pair of used axes... imo adzes are useless, so get 2 hammers. If you search around you should be able to find a good deal. Dont spend more than $250 you dont need to shell out an arm and a leg if youre new to mountaineering. Sames true for most gear. (dont skimp on boots though)

Also most people dont even bother ascending Mt. Washington. going up and down the gullies in huntington ravine will give you far more experience than walking to the top. (its worth doing once though) A better goal is to climb all 6 of the gullies experience wise. then start trying to do multiple routes in a day.

Also always stop at harvard cabin and get the avalanch report for the rangers which is available at 8am each morning. If its bad, plan on spending the day in the cabin with everyone else and try again the next day (or if you dont have time...go home) Also avoid tuckerman ravine.

Also while you said you have no interests in vertical ice climbing, a lot of mountaineering routes have mixed / steep ice so its good to have a background in it...and Mt. Washington is a perfect place to start.

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By Dinzy
From Dillon, CO
Nov 18, 2011
Getting dropped off on a 14er by an Army Blackhawk...
So I realize the original post was last winter and the author has probably already made their climb (how did it go?). But about 6 years ago (before I moved to CO), I was a budding mountain climber that was trending towards more technical climbing. I went up to Huntington's one winter day and was going to attempt the Central Gulley with only strap-on crampons and single mountaineering axe. There was a group of ice climbers getting roped up to climb the route and I asked if I would be fine with the gear I had. They told me that if I had another axe or tool, I'd probably be fine but they wouldn't recommend it with just one axe. If they weren't there, I would have climbed it and probably been ok but wishing I had another tool. Instead, I bushwacked across a potentially-avy prone, chest-deep snowfield to get into the Diagonal. Boy was I dumb in my early days!

All the posts in this thread have been great advice. I come from the mind-set of "when in doubt, bring it." Of course this will add some weight, but I think of it as "training." I can't tell you how many alpine climbs or search and rescue missions I've been on where I was thankful to have that extra tool/screws/webbing/etc.

+1 for learning vertical ice climbing. Just like learning to rock climb makes you more comfortable on alpine rock routes, learning waterfall ice climbing will make you more comfortable on these winter alpine routes. Just some thoughts

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By Crag Dweller
From New York, NY
Nov 18, 2011
My navigator keeps me from getting lost
if all you're looking to do is equip yourself for very short sections of steep ice, you'll be fine with a standard mountaineering axe and a 'hybrid' axe. by 'hybrid' i'm referring to one that has at least a slight bend in the shaft and a reverse curved pick.

i recently climbed Mt Baker's north ridge. it's predominately a steep snow climb with some non-trivial sections of vertical, technical ice. my partner and i brought two technical tools for the steep stuff along with two standard mountaineering axes. for the non-technical sections, we each had a standard axe. for the technical ice, the leader used the two tools while the 2nd used the two mountaineering axes. based our experiences following on the technical stuff with the straight shafted axes, i would strongly recommend against using them for any significant length of terrain that is approaching vertical. it can be done but it is a lot harder.

as for your rack, leave the cams at home. cams in icy cracks are sketchy.

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By Buff Johnson
Nov 18, 2011
smiley face
I like to have a few pins, also.

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