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Archive for the ‘Teck Tips’ Category

Ice screw placement, anchors and V-threads

A great film by Petzl on proper ice screw placement technique, as well as how to set an anchor and a v-thread.

Ice climbing basics: Ice screw placement, anchors and V-threads [EN] from Petzl-sport on Vimeo.This film demonstrates proper ice screw placement technique, as well as how to set an anchor and a v-thread in waterfall ice. We will discuss the key technical elements, but remember that when swinging your tools into the ice, it is crucial to understand the medium on which you are climbing. The quality of the ice, its structure, the terrain above, recent changes in temperature – all these factors and others must be considered before you step off the ground and onto the ice.


A great video and report on the forces at work on slings in four different belay set-ups.

I have always tied in with both ropes and used clove hitches…seems like this is the best way to tie in.

How to complete an Abalakov – aka V-Thread – without your hooker

Tip of the Week  from Rockies Ice Specialists Inc.

How to complete an Abalakov – aka V-Thread – without your hooker. I used 8mm cord in this video but 7mm cord will usually pull through more easily. Make sure your bored holes criss-cross instead of meeting at the ends.

Protecting The Ice We Climb

by Doug Millen

It’s the never-ending battle! What will an ice screw hold, in real life situations, and how best to protect an ice climb with it’s ever changing condition.

What I do

1. I carry a variety of ice screw lengths. Ice comes in all thickness and densities. Many climbers carry only short & medium screws. They say you only need that amount of thread to hold and they don’t want the extra weight. But what about the surface layer? The quality of the ice? I have seen very few climbers clear away the first layer before placing a screw. If that layer is damaged, ie Sun baked, wet, new or other wises damaged or uneven, THE SCREW WILL NOT WORK AS ANTICIPATED! Use a longer screw or clear away the first layer to good ice. The weight difference in carrying longer screws is minimal. You could carry two longer screws versus two medium length screws for about the same weight as a light carabiner. Worth it…and the cost for of caring longer screws? At most only $1.00 ea.

2. Most popular climbs have a number of ice screw placements at common stances leaving less virgin & unfractured ice to place a screw. Where should you place your screw? Use a long screw and put in the best existing placement that will not bottom out. You will grab new ice, way back in where it counts. and save time and energy.

3. Ice screws are not bolts! The level of protection depends on the quality of the ice and the skill of the climber. Practice and learn the craft of ice protection.

4. Ice screws should be placed at 90 degrees to the ice or at a slight downward angle of 10-15 degrees. A positive angle for the screw may be better if the ice is of poor quality. In good ice conditions angle the screw in the direction of pull. It’s the threads that hold. If a screw bottoms out never tie it off with a sling, it has been shown that the hanger will cut most slings. If the hanger is 5cm (about 2 inches) or less from the ice, clip the hanger. Otherwise use a shorter screw.

5. In some situations, a tied off icicle is better than a screw and easy to place.  Look around, be creative and carry the necessary slings. They are light and easy to carry.

6. Protect often and closer together at the start of your climb. You never know when something could happen. As you get farther out, there is less chance of hitting the deck and less force on the system, and ultimately, the screws. Modern ice screws are easy to place and worth the effort to place them often for safe climbing.

7. Carry a Spectre. In bad ice and varied conditions, a spectre will hold when nothing else will. Frozen cracks, earth or moss are the perfect terrain for the Spectre. Black Diamond designed the Spectre Ice Piton to provide “alternative, pound-in protection on mixed and thin ice lines where traditional pro is just a pipe dream”.

8. Better to place 2 equalized screws from a stance than 2 bad screws on the fly when leading up steep ice. It inspires more confidence and uses less energy.

9. Screamers will provide added protection in climbing. Screamers not only absorb energy directly because of the stitch ripping effect, they also allow your rope to absorb more energy from the fall by increasing the time interval of the fall. The standard Screamer can effectively reduce peak loads by 3-4kN in any climbing system. You don’t need to carry Screamers for every screw. You only need them after leaving the belay where the most force could be put on a  screw with a fall. Other situations may require screamers to limit the force put on protection so carry a few but not one for every screw.

10. Never pass up rock protection. Rock is typically better protection than ice. If the climb looks like you might be able to use rock gear, bring it!

Placing Ice Screws

• You first need to clear away any rotten, soft ice or snow, until you reach good, solid ice. Use your pick to create a small hole in which to start the screw.

• A favorable location for an ice-screw placement is the same as for an ice tool. A good choice is a natural depression, where fracture lines caused by the screw are not as likely to reach the surface. Never in a bulge.

• Choose a spot in the ice near your waist rather than above your head for better leverage while twisting it in. This will also de pump your arms and conserve energy. In some instances it may be beneficial to place the screw as high as you can to better protect the climb.

• As you work the screw in, clear away any ice that fractures around it.

• Keep turning until the eye or hanger is flush with the ice surface and pointing down-slope in the direction of pull.

• Keep screw placements around 2 feet apart when setting up a belay.

• Back up sketchy screw placements with a second screw and equalize.

• After a screw is removed, ice inside the core must be cleaned out , immediately if the ice is wet and it is below freezing. Always tap the hanger end and never the threads. If you blow in the ice screw from the hanger end the worm air will melt the ice and eject it from the tube. Careful, don’t freeze you lips to the screw.

Energy-Saving Tips

• Climbing extremely steep ice is fatiguing, physically and mentally. To conserve energy and keep moving upward efficiently, plan ahead. Look for every rest and take advantage of it.

• Protect from stance to stance. Having a good idea where you will stop and place the next screw is key. Climb to that spot and don’t think about anything but getting to that spot. Stopping in route at a strenuous or awkward spot is not an option and will strip your energy.

• Look at the ice above and figure out what screws you will need and rack them for easy access. Re-rack at good stances for the upcoming ice. Nothing wastes energy like fiddling with gear and trying to reach screws on the other side of your harness.

• On moderate to steep ice, it may help to kick a step for standing on as you place the screw. Place your foot french style on any budge or flat spot you can find. This will save your calves.  On extremely steep ice, however, it’s too difficult, so save your energy. When it’s time to place an ice screw, do it from your front points, and then continue climbing.

• Keep the weight on your feet! Holding on to the axes too hard and supporting you weight from the axes strips your strength. Your legs are use to holding you up all day, use that advantage and the axes for balance and movement.

• Keep everything SHARP! Sharp gear conserves energy and makes climbing safer and more enjoyable.


Information on using and making a V-Thread

Links on using ice protection  from the manufactures

Black Diamond Equipment


Sources and Images from: Black Diamond Equipment, Petzl & NEice Member Trarr3






Ice Climbing Anchor Strength

Clean V -Tread anchor

Ridgerunner & Larry show us that in solid dry ice you don't need to leave a thread, just use the rope (a thin rope). Always backup the first person down and have them give a test pull. But as per the data, the orientation should have been vertical. But would this still work? Read below and you decide.


How strong are abolokov threads, ice screws and re-bored holes for anchors?

Lots of data and strong opinions out there. Do the tests represent real world conditions? We have put together several resources for a broad view of ice protection strength. This will help us all understand how to better protect the ice we climb.

“Learning good skills at where and when to place ice screws remains an art, although our science is helping us compose a better picture of ice anchor behavior experienced in real-world conditions”  – George McEwan


“Where to put the pro? It might be ok or even preferable to use someone elses ice screw placement to avoid pump, to be able to use that dull screw without bite, and to avoid ice fracture propagation.

Recently re-bored holes in a freezing environment were found to be strong enough in most configurations.

Abalakov ice anchors were also found to be strong, provided that enough ice area was enclosed by the anchor. This is accepted as a fact based on trial and few error among ice climbers, but maybe haven’t been examined in a proper experiment before.

Ready to change? Placing Abalakov anchors vertically appear to be stronger than placing them horizontally. A vertical “A-thread” Abalakov was superior to a horizontal “V-thread” Abalakov.

Climbers may actually have to change behaviour here. Will those results be all it takes, or do we need to hear this from authorities such as the UIAA and see it done by the elite in the glossy gear catalogs first?

Anyway, a 60 degree angle seems to be the best for Abalakov V-threads.

Feeling safer with a v-thread than a stubby? Don’t. A single re-bored short (8 cm) ice screw is generally about the same in strength as a horizontal Abalakov anchor.

During Petzl’s testing, ice screws were on average twice as strong as ice threads.”

Read the rest of the report […]



Ice anchor Workshop by Petzl-crew

“Petzl partnered with the “Ice Climbing Ecrins” event to organize a workshop to test the pull-out strength of ice screws and ice threads. Petzl built a mini test center on a frozen creek in the Fournel valley. The pull-out strength was tested using an equalized belay anchor attached to a jack and a chain. Ice screws, ice threads and ice axes were attached to the system and pull tested. The pull-out strength was measured using a dynamometer. The results varied a great deal depending on the quality of the ice. The workshop took place over two consecutive days and the results were quite different from one day to the next. Despite this, the tests showed that ice screws were on average twice as strong as ice threads.”


- Chad Pomerleau

January 2, 2010  / Comment

“The v-thread is a great piece of know-how to use. A few points.  It is my understanding that convexities in ice are weak points, as there is increase surface tension and studies have shown that when ice anchors (threads, screws) fail, the majority of the ice that is lost causing them to fail is lost from the zone of increased tension (above, in a downward pull) and next to no loss from the zone of compression. Or consider swinging into a bulge in the ice with a tool vs swinging into a concavity. Furthermore, when possible surface ice should be removed to expose the more homogenous ice below that isn’t as exposed to temperature variation, sunlight, and snow-cover; also providing a flat surface in in which to screw.

Also, some interesting reading can be found on vertical orientation of threads (‘A’-thread) vs horizontal orientatoin (v-thread)  below.”



“Some time ago a study analyzing ice climbing anchor strength appeared on the internet. This practical field study was carried out by J.Marc Beverly and Stephen W. Attaway and was titled “Ice Climbing Anchor Strength: An In-depth Analysis”.

In it the authors set out to test several hypotheses about ice anchors – namely that re-bored ice screws were strong enough to hold a UIAA fall and that Abalakov threads were stronger than an ice screw. All these tests were done over the winter of 2007 – 2008 and followed up an earlier study they had done on ‘stubby’ (circa 13cm length) screws in 2005 – 2006 (Dynamic Shock Load Evaluation of Ice Screws: A Real World Look).”

– George McEwan

Read the report



How to make a V-tread by Dave Furman

An update from Dave:

First, on screw vs v-thread strength. I’ve seen the petzl video stuff and also seen a bunch of other testing. Most of it was done in lake ice or the “frozen slushy” ice in a bucket that used to get used for testing screws. My own experience is that many times the ice on the routes where I get scared is hollow, candled, full of air pockets, etc…I do not believe that the ice I have seen in the testing cited is comparable to the “bad areas” of ice on climbing routes that I’m referring to…so what I SHOULD have said is that a v-thread CAN BE stronger than a screw in SOME CIRCUMSTANCES. If the ice is good it probably doesn’t matter, they are both plenty strong–but if the ice is really bad, then my own non-scientific testing (i.e. placing a variety of gear in crappy ice and body-weight-testing to failure)has convinced me that the thread can often be the stronger option.

Regarding concavity vs convexity–again, I am going to claim it’s circumstantial. Much of the testing done in this area is dynamic, i.e. a fall. I am a bonafide chickenshit so when I rappel from a crappy anchor (or anything in ice) I am darn sure I am not bouncing around, so I consider any force I put on the anchor a lot less dynamic. When I’ve played with weighting and bouncing around on threads in different ice, convexities like a pillar don’t seem to fracture much at all that way they might under the force of a real fall–and remember, we’re backing all of these up, right? I do. For this reason I place my threads around a convexity IF IT SEEMS APPROPRIATE simply as a matter of convenience when placing the thread, because all other things being equal I haven’t found that it makes a significant difference in real-world strength (again, tested unscientifically by placing lots of threads in various ice and bounce-testing to failure). At the end of the day though, the best place to put a screw or a thread is going to be in the best ice, and you are going to have to be the judge of that–that seems obvious but I should have mentioned it. I would encourage anyone who has read this far to go and experiment for yourself–I would argue that if you do it in a thoughtful manner you’ll learn a hell of a lot more than I or anyone else or any book or article can teach you.

Thin Ice Protection

Now this is the ice I want to be able to protect!

An early attempt for good protection on bad ice. I used Tuna hooks from the local tackle shop. Just hook the hooks into what ever you can find and equalize. I see that in the photo the cord should have been tied with a knot, similar to an equalized belay with a cordelette. The system held a surprising amount of weight. I would say “enough to slow me down”. Protection at the extreme end!


Source:,,,Daily, Dave Furman, Chad Pomerleau, JP
Photo by Ridgerunner, NEice Photopost
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