Saturday, January 22, 2011

When the Water Gets Too Firm for Sailing...

White Oak Canyon, Shenandoah National Park, with friends. I did get a small shiner from a falling icicle that tapped me on the side of the head, but overall, a very relaxing day.


For sailing, I wish it was warmer. For climbing, I wish it was colder. Just no satisfaction....
For the non-climbers, a few points of explanation:
  • The hands are leashed to ice axes, which are sharp and designed to hook into the ice very strongly. Generally, a single sharp blow in the right spot (where the ice will not shatter) is all that is needed, rather like trying to set a roofing nail with one strike. Well placed, they can hold 700 pounds each... or nothing at all when placed poorly.
  • The boots are armed with crampons, with sharpened points about 1-inch long. They are either lightly kicked or firmly placed where they can bite. The trick is to place them and then relax, without cutting your lifeline, the rope.
  • If the rope is above the climber, it is a top rope, like the local climbing wall. Good if the ice is melting and less than secure. Falling becomes casual.
  • If the rope is below, it is lead climbing. I have placed screws that can hold more than 2,000 pounds... if I have chosen the right place and the ice is good. I will fall some distance, perhaps 15 feet, until the rope catches. If the ice screw fails, I would fall past the next one; in this case, since the next screw is quite far below, I would hit the deck, about 40 feet down. It's best not to fall even the shortest distance on ice, since the crampons often catch, causing broken ankles.

Photographs by Dave Rockwell.

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