St. Mary's Glacier---crampons/axe practice

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CaptCO
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Re: St. Mary's Glacier---crampons/axe practice

Post by CaptCO » Fri Jan 22, 2021 8:43 pm

rijaca wrote:
Fri Jan 22, 2021 1:51 pm
JQDivide wrote:
Fri Jan 22, 2021 12:57 pm
CaptCO wrote:
Fri Jan 22, 2021 1:42 am
It’s pretty easy to learn on 14ers honestly.. if you’re not comfortable doing so just hit a resort
The idea is to learn and practice BEFORE you take an ax on a 14er.
Many people have hurt themselves trying to use one, or worse, without knowing how to properly use one.
And besides, you're on a 14er to hike, not to add a couple hours of learning and practicing.

Joel
Joel, I've taught several others to use crampons and self-arrest while hiking a 14er. The Angel of Shavano is an ideal place to learn. And why can't you use a 14er to learn and practice new skills.
ZzZz
Hope you’re doing well Rij
"It's a thing if you want it to be a thing. What others think of something is irrelevant." -OldSchool
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Re: St. Mary's Glacier---crampons/axe practice

Post by rdp32 » Fri Jan 22, 2021 10:17 pm

TomPierce wrote:
Thu Jan 21, 2021 10:22 am
OP: OK, see the unshaded open slope just below the topmost blue line on your topo? It diagonals to the upper left. That's what I'll call the "throat" of the glacier. When you hike up to the lake, it will be to your upper right, diagonally right when facing the lake. That is the way you access the upper part of the terrain, eg. James Peak, etc. It is generally safe from avalanches, as the constriction there tends to funnel the wind and compact the snow. The risky area of SMG is to the left of the throat, where the terrain steepens quite a bit. Not so much directly across the lake, but between the throat and the headwall directly across the lake. I've seen several slab avalanches there over the years, obviously more so in heavy snow years. I think SMG is generally a good area to hike/practice, just steer clear of the steep section.

Another tip: SMG is notoriously windy, esp in the throat, so if you hike up there to practice, climb James Peak, whatever, be really sure you stay in the center/center left (left when descending) of the throat. It'd be easy to get a bit disoriented in a whiteout there and drift into slide terrain, which will be to decender's right.

Practice areas: One popular area is well up the throat, to the ascending climber's left. Way above the problematic slide area. It's a bit steeper there on the side of the throat but has a good runnout, ie a concave slope, so you shouldn't get out of control by going too fast. And I agree morning is probably best, harder/slicker snow. Nylon pants will help you slide too, but note that such sliding is hard on gear, ie you might get rips in your pants. Watch out for rocks!

Have fun, be safe.

-Tom
Thanks for the detailed info Tom! This is how I'm interpreting what you said (please let me know if I misunderstood!):
stMarysGlacier2.png
stMarysGlacier2.png (1.5 MiB) Viewed 502 times
Last edited by rdp32 on Fri Jan 22, 2021 10:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: St. Mary's Glacier---crampons/axe practice

Post by rdp32 » Fri Jan 22, 2021 10:24 pm

Thanks again everyone for the feedback. Today didn't work out for me after all, so it'll have to wait until a later date this winter.
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Re: St. Mary's Glacier---crampons/axe practice

Post by TomPierce » Sat Jan 23, 2021 7:45 am

rdp32 wrote:
Fri Jan 22, 2021 10:17 pm
TomPierce wrote:
Thu Jan 21, 2021 10:22 am
OP: OK, see the unshaded open slope just below the topmost blue line on your topo? It diagonals to the upper left. That's what I'll call the "throat" of the glacier. When you hike up to the lake, it will be to your upper right, diagonally right when facing the lake. That is the way you access the upper part of the terrain, eg. James Peak, etc. It is generally safe from avalanches, as the constriction there tends to funnel the wind and compact the snow. The risky area of SMG is to the left of the throat, where the terrain steepens quite a bit. Not so much directly across the lake, but between the throat and the headwall directly across the lake. I've seen several slab avalanches there over the years, obviously more so in heavy snow years. I think SMG is generally a good area to hike/practice, just steer clear of the steep section.

Another tip: SMG is notoriously windy, esp in the throat, so if you hike up there to practice, climb James Peak, whatever, be really sure you stay in the center/center left (left when descending) of the throat. It'd be easy to get a bit disoriented in a whiteout there and drift into slide terrain, which will be to decender's right.

Practice areas: One popular area is well up the throat, to the ascending climber's left. Way above the problematic slide area. It's a bit steeper there on the side of the throat but has a good runnout, ie a concave slope, so you shouldn't get out of control by going too fast. And I agree morning is probably best, harder/slicker snow. Nylon pants will help you slide too, but note that such sliding is hard on gear, ie you might get rips in your pants. Watch out for rocks!

Have fun, be safe.

-Tom
Thanks for the detailed info Tom! This is how I'm interpreting what you said (please let me know if I misunderstood!):

stMarysGlacier2.png
Rdp32: Yep, spot on! Sorry to hear this weekend didn't work, but ya know there's a reason why it's called a "glacier:" It's a semi-permanent snowfield and it'll be there for months. Have fun, be safe!

-Tom
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Re: St. Mary's Glacier---crampons/axe practice

Post by daway8 » Sat Jan 23, 2021 9:59 am

rdp32 wrote:
Wed Jan 20, 2021 9:39 pm
If anyone has any suggestions on specific things to practice or specific resources to guide me, please let me know!
I'll throw in a tidbit here that might be useful to be aware of. I picked up some Kahtoola K-10 Hiking Crampons (a strap on style similar to what you mentioned that can be used with regular boots) and tried them out on a couple small, safe-ish snow fields on Democrat a week or two ago (I had to go out of my way slightly to test them out).

What I found is that the hiking crampons worked great for going straight up/down the snowfields but they had very poor grip for walking sideways across steep snow. To do that I had to keep one foot pointed downhill to maintain stability.

I snapped a couple photos of the 3 traction devices I currently own which are:
Kahtoola microspikes
Kahtoola K-10 Hiking Crampons
Grivel G-12 crampons

Note the size, placement and sharpness of the teeth (you can tell if you look closely which ones I've currently used the most). Also the bar on the hiking crampons is designed to be somewhat flexible so as not to pop off regular boots when they flex while the bar for the Grivel is much stiffer and designed for stiff sole mountaineering boots.

The microspikes are great for their versatility and use with basically any boot for low to slightly moderate angle slopes.

Once you start to push the limit of the microspikes the hiking crampons allow you to push further into moderate slope terrain and still have confidence of your footing but if you look closely at the teeth in the photos below you'll see why they aren't so great if you need to cut sideways along steep terrain unless you keep one foot angled (note basically one set of "sideways" teeth vs. 3 for the crampons and several for the microspikes).

The Grivel crampons are designed to clamp onto mountaineering boots and you can tell just from looking the advantages they have for traction and front pointing (but since you can tell just from looking how little I've used them I'll not pretend to know more than I do - if I could find mountaineering boots that weren't so damn uncomfortable I'd probably use these more...)

Traction_comparison.jpg
Traction_comparison.jpg (155.49 KiB) Viewed 408 times
crampon_comparison.jpg
crampon_comparison.jpg (130.02 KiB) Viewed 408 times
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Re: St. Mary's Glacier---crampons/axe practice

Post by Carl_Healy » Wed Jan 27, 2021 2:58 pm

Maybe this is worthy of splitting into a new topic (or not?), and maybe it's a topic that's been done to death, but where's the best place to practice crampon climbing and ice axe self arrest?

Obviously Saint Mary's is mentioned here but I see the other posts mentioning other places like Shavano, Hoosier Pass, etc.
I have some Black Diamond Sabertooth Pro Step-Ins.

Any good winter mountaineering courses worth taking that covers this?
I see CMS has a $600 two day mountaineering course but I just forked a handful of cash over to them for AIARE I and want to curtail my spending a bit.
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Re: St. Mary's Glacier---crampons/axe practice

Post by d_baker » Wed Jan 27, 2021 3:04 pm

Carl, where do you live?

I suggest going somewhere with easy access, short approach, low avy danger yet steep enough to practice those skills, and ensure safe runout.

I have used both St Marys and above Glen Cove on the Pikes Peak toll road.

Go with friends that want to do the same training, set aside a day for it, and do it.
The comments earlier about incorporating it with an actual climb, imo, are not as effective. A dedicated day for learning and practicing the skills is to me more important.
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Re: St. Mary's Glacier---crampons/axe practice

Post by Carl_Healy » Wed Jan 27, 2021 3:09 pm

d_baker wrote:
Wed Jan 27, 2021 3:04 pm
Carl, where do you live?

I suggest going somewhere with easy access, short approach, low avy danger yet steep enough to practice those skills, and ensure safe runout.

I have used both St Marys and above Glen Cove on the Pikes Peak toll road.

Go with friends that want to do the same training, set aside a day for it, and do it.
The comments earlier about incorporating it with an actual climb, imo, are not as effective. A dedicated day for learning and practicing the skills is to me more important.
Thanks I'm in Northwest Denver (Arvada) so Saint Mary's really isn't too far for me.
CMS appears to teach their Mountaineering course out of Estes Park in RMNP so I can't help but wonder where they're going to for that. I also see they mention this time of year they don't focus on snow climbing in the course which makes sense.
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Re: St. Mary's Glacier---crampons/axe practice

Post by d_baker » Wed Jan 27, 2021 3:17 pm

Trying to find good snow that isn't wind-effected and/or just powder can be tough.
You want a good firm surface to practice on. At least for self arrest and crampon techniques.

You can always work on your climbing techniques in the soft snow.
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Re: St. Mary's Glacier---crampons/axe practice

Post by TomPierce » Wed Jan 27, 2021 4:34 pm

I'll add that in snow-lean years there are ice bulges at St. Mary's, about maybe 200 yds up from the lake on the way to the throat I mentioned above? I personally think it's always good to have at least some crampon practice on full-on ice. Note that these bulges are about 5' high and not totally vertical. Also note that I haven't seen them every year; I don't recall seeing them last year but I also wasn't really looking. So if they're not there...never mind. :lol:

-Tom
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Re: St. Mary's Glacier---crampons/axe practice

Post by d_baker » Wed Jan 27, 2021 5:29 pm

TomPierce wrote:
Wed Jan 27, 2021 4:34 pm
I personally think it's always good to have at least some crampon practice on full-on ice.

-Tom
I agree! We used to set a fixed line to clip into (from a harness) on low angle (near flat to bulge steps to 20° water ice) terrain for students to work on crampon technique and for them to get comfortable walking on that type of surface. Great exercise, imo.
They would ascend and descend that section, maybe 30-40' distance?

This was at Silver Cascade Falls in N Cheyenne Canon near Helen Hunt Falls, back when it was farmed for climbing.
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