All summer long climbers dream of the moment. They climbed extra laps for the endurance, pulled another dozen pull ups at night for the strength and read everything they could find about leading a certain pitch of ice. Now they are there, gripped out of their mind, 12 feet above their last screw, and fumbling around with gear on the waist belt of their harness. “Where’s that 13 cm? Here’s a 22 but it’s too long. Wait here it is – Doh! Dropped it getting off the carabiner.”
Time is up. They blew the send, and now they’re clipping a tool. Yikes.
Get a Head Start on Your Ice Climb
Keeping a nice clean organized ice climbing rack is how smart climbers have success. It starts with nice sharp screws, tools and crampons, and continues the night before the climb, gear spread out all over the floor, counting biners, slinging draws, getting things ready to pack, travel, unpack, re-rack and more.
For longer, wandering multiple pitch routes, try using a gear sling for draws and extra gear. It’s great for keeping the weight off your waist, and you can whip it around and get it out of the way when it complicates things. Create the room for the harness gear loops, which will be loaded with screws, belay devices and cordelettes anyway. Ten, twelve, sixteen? How many ice screws should be carried? Better safe than sorry in the mountains, so bring as many as possible and consider that one or two may get dropped, and those dull ones are dead weight on lead, but good for anchors.
Have A Ice Climbing Rack System For Your Ice Gear
Keep some order in the way screws on racked on the harness. A few companies make nice fat clip-on or attachable clippers for ice screws and tools. These little plastic gems have metal gates and are worth their weight in gold for ice climbing. They also have a “shelf” where you can stow an unwanted screw while grabbing your favorite one racked below it.
Try racking all of the screws the same way for every excursion. Keep longer 16-22 cm screws on the left, say four on each clipper. On the right keep as many 10 and 13 as possible. The idea is when cruising along in easier terrain, or making an anchor, it’s easy get to the long ones with a clumsy left hand. When pumped at a crux, and desperate for a piece of pro to get in the ice, have gear on the right, where it can accessed with a favored hand and fired in, far less likely to be dropped while freaking out. During some advanced clinics, climbers are required to lead and place pro with only a left hand. This is an invaluable exercise, and once mastered adds to much needed skills, but when it comes down to it and a fall seems possible, drilling something home fast is what is important, no matter which hand it is.