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methods 301 for the no-fall zone

post #1 of 53
Thread Starter 
What adjustments, emotionally, mentally, techniques and methods do you make when skiing in the n0-fall zone? I have one to start it off, some information that truly could save a life. The pitch is steep, the snow is firm, there is sh=t below, trees, rocks, small cliffs. You are standing at the top and more than a little puckered. there are no guarantees here, except that you are going to be relying on yourself. This is one thing you can do before dropping in. Take your pole straps off. Make this plan. If you fall (the down side of this is that you have to let that thought into your mind to prepare for the possibility and have a method to save yourself), if you fall you are going to toss one pole away immediately. then you are going to move both of your hands down the shaft of the remaining pole, all the way down until they are strongly gripping the shaft with the heel of your hand on top of the basket. then you are going to stab the pole into the ice, hard, and keep it in the ice as deeply as you can to begin a self-arrest and get your skis to swing around under your body mass instead of dragging above you keeping you in that totally helpless head first position. then dig that pole tip hard and try to get an edge in. this all takes time, but on a good sliding fall, that is one thing you have, time. why, I was once on a long slide toward the trees below (my pole straps were on) and I had time to talk to myself: "sh-t, no helmet, crap, oh man, it won't matter, you are gonna' break your neck anyhow." I wear a helmet now and am aware that one can slide pretty freakin' fast in 8" of powder as well as firm snow.
post #2 of 53
My strategy for 'no-fall' zones is simple. When I approach a run that is dangerous if I fall I ask myself if I'm up to it that day. If not, I just ski on. As Falstaff said, "Discretion is the better part of valor."
post #3 of 53
I asked last year whether anyone had had experience with whippets, which are basically retractable blades that attach to ski pole handles for self-arrest. Anyone? Seems like they'd be a better bet than using the tip of the pole.
post #4 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by prickly View Post
I asked last year whether anyone had had experience with whippets, which are basically retractable blades that attach to ski pole handles for self-arrest. Anyone? Seems like they'd be a better bet than using the tip of the pole.
I use BD Whippets sometimes when skiing BC. They're great for when you're booting up a couloir and need a little extra purchase into the snow. They're not a substitute for an ice axe in really steep climbing conditions, but I figure that if I need an ice axe over my whippets for the climb up, then I shouldn't be there anyway!

As for the descent, I've never had to use them thankfully. But I do practice self-arresting with them just in case.

This is an example of a no-fall zone on a local spot where I'd use them. This is Round Top which is near S. Lake Tahoe on the way to Kirkwood. The main chute in the middle is Crescent Moon Couloir. Whippets for nice when booting up that sucker....and they were also handy to have at the ready when skiing my line on the hanging snowfield if I lost an edge. (Blue line is the climb up. Red = the descent). I was also glad for having Whippets here because I skied this line in April 2005...when I was just 5 months post-ACL surgery.
525x525px-LL-vbattach2210.jpg
post #5 of 53
Thread Starter 

pole axes

Quote:
Originally Posted by prickly View Post
I asked last year whether anyone had had experience with whippets, which are basically retractable blades that attach to ski pole handles for self-arrest. Anyone? Seems like they'd be a better bet than using the tip of the pole.
I also saw a sort of ski pole ice ax combi, but way dangerous for everyday ski use in a resort. could be good for intimidation of line cutters though. let us know about whippets for those particularly daunting periods of the season when the ice just keeps on re-surfacing. thanks.
post #6 of 53
This is a Black Diamond Whippet. The blade is not retractable, but it is removable. You typically only need one, but some folks like to climb / ski with two.



Please don't use this inbounds....
post #7 of 53
Thread Starter 

damn, dude! check that line out. just don't leave any red on the snow.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tyrone Shoelaces View Post
I use BD Whippets sometimes when skiing BC. They're great for when you're booting up a couloir and need a little extra purchase into the snow. They're not a substitute for an ice axe in really steep climbing conditions, but I figure that if I need an ice axe over my whippets for the climb up, then I shouldn't be there anyway!

As for the descent, I've never had to use them thankfully. But I do practice self-arresting with them just in case.

This is an example of a no-fall zone on a local spot where I'd use them. This is Round Top which is near S. Lake Tahoe on the way to Kirkwood. The main chute in the middle is Crescent Moon Couloir. Whippets for nice when booting up that sucker....and they were also handy to have at the ready when skiing my line on the hanging snowfield if I lost an edge. (Blue line is the climb up. Red = the descent). I was also glad for having Whippets here because I skied this line in April 2005...when I was just 5 months post-ACL surgery.
Ya' just gott' love that red line, dude. right on. dig the little gap in the line over the big rock. you're totally celebrating by then. damn! this thread could give nightmares if you guys start to one uppin'
post #8 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by davluri View Post
...Take your pole straps off....
Nice note on self-arrest.

But, I disagree on the straps thing. More of a personal preference. Normally, with ice axe, one is using an leash; why throw away that advantage if using ski poles? I have had to make a self-arrest with a ski pole, and if one of the strap on one of the poles hadn't held, the snow was much too hard to hand arrest; luckily one pole was still attached to my wrist.
post #9 of 53
Isn't the idea to have one (probably left) attached and the other detached?
post #10 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by icanseeformiles(andmiles) View Post
Nice note on self-arrest.

But, I disagree on the straps thing. More of a personal preference. Normally, with ice axe, one is using an leash; why throw away that advantage if using ski poles? .
Because an ice axe and a ski pole are not used the same way and therefore the leash does not equate to similiar benefits.
post #11 of 53
but, they are used the same way when self-arrest is the purpose.
post #12 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by icanseeformiles(andmiles) View Post
but, they are used the same way when self-arrest is the purpose.
Are you saying an ice axe and a ski pole (the tip of the pole...not a Whippet) would be used in a self-arrest situation the same way?

If so, i disagree.

Here's a quick how-to on how to self-arrest with an ice axe:
http://www.hightrek.co.uk/climbing/how2/axe1.htm

How are you going to do that with a ski pole?
post #13 of 53
still disagree. I have been trained in ice axe usage, by a former big mountain expedition climber, and I have needed to make a self-arrest with a ski pole on extremely hard snow using the same method (being the only one that applied enough leverage to stop me).

And, I'm not talking about a whippet or other bc ski-pole device (can't remember what the retractable one is called). It's not optimal to do that, just the only way I was able to arrest. Yes, you can't hold it exactly the same way you would an ice axe, but the principle is the same.
post #14 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by icanseeformiles(andmiles) View Post
still disagree. I have been trained in ice axe usage, by a former big mountain expedition climber, and I have needed to make a self-arrest with a ski pole on extremely hard snow using the same method (being the only one that applied enough leverage to stop me).
Cool. I'm not saying that you haven't been trained in ice axe usage nor am I trying to imply that you don't know what you're doing, so apologies if I made you feel that way.

I'm just having a hard time visualizing arresting yourself with a ski pole in the same fashion as you would an ice axe that's all.
This is the image I have and technique I've used for self-arresting with an ice axe:


I just can't imagine using a ski pole in this same ^^^ fashion that's all.
post #15 of 53
no probs

what I had to do was place one hand around the shaft by the basket, one hand higher up the shaft (with the pole pointing more or less up in the air, and use the pole as a lever to get enough grip with the tip to stop. So, even though the shafts point in different directions from the arrestees reference point, one still needs the distance between the hands to get leverage. (Of course, that much leverage is not really necessary on a softer surface for ski pole arrest.)

Side note: I think one of the hardest things in ski boots is overcoming the training of keeping your boots up in the air so your crampons don't flip you over (course, you're not wearing crampons on your ski boots). I think in softer snow it's normally OK to dig in with your boots.
post #16 of 53
Thread Starter 

removing the pole straps

Quote:
Originally Posted by icanseeformiles(andmiles) View Post
Nice note on self-arrest.

But, I disagree on the straps thing. More of a personal preference. Normally, with ice axe, one is using an leash; why throw away that advantage if using ski poles? I have had to make a self-arrest with a ski pole, and if one of the strap on one of the poles hadn't held, the snow was much too hard to hand arrest; luckily one pole was still attached to my wrist.
the way it was taught to me, training slalom at Mt. Baldy as a kid, on a sheet of smooth white edgeable ice about 800 vertical long, you had to have the straps of or you couldn't slide both hands down the shaft to the basket where you would have some serious leverage. I suppose you could leave one on, but would it be in the way of that hand from working the arrest on the other shaft. let me know what you think, as I still employ this method on rare occaissions.
post #17 of 53
Thread Starter 

different position than pictured

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tyrone Shoelaces View Post
Cool. I'm not saying that you haven't been trained in ice axe usage nor am I trying to imply that you don't know what you're doing, so apologies if I made you feel that way.

I'm just having a hard time visualizing arresting yourself with a ski pole in the same fashion as you would an ice axe that's all.
This is the image I have and technique I've used for self-arresting with an ice axe:


I just can't imagine using a ski pole in this same ^^^ fashion that's all.
With a ski pole gripped just above the basket, 2 hands together or apart, the difference is that your arms will be above your head, kind of like a drag anchor, the point in as far as you can drive it, scratching a deep line all the way down the hill. It may not even stop you, granted, but it will help keep your head above your feet and allow you to try to get an edge in. that is the other difference: you may still have a ski or two on and unlike a climber, your skis are still your best chance at regaining control. make sense? let me know.
post #18 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by davluri View Post
the way it was taught to me, training slalom at Mt. Baldy as a kid, on a sheet of smooth white edgeable ice about 800 vertical long, you had to have the straps of or you couldn't slide both hands down the shaft to the basket where you would have some serious leverage. I suppose you could leave one on, but would it be in the way of that hand from working the arrest on the other shaft. let me know what you think, as I still employ this method on rare occaissions.
I think it really is personal choice. I can see the one strap viewpoint. For the one time I've really needed to do a pole arrest, I had lost one pole in the initial tumbling, and was lucky enough to have one still around my wrist. Luckily for me, the ice axe training kicked in, and I was able to arrest. I believe in the confusion of the initial fall, if I didn't have any straps on, I would not have been able to arrest.

Quote:
Originally Posted by davluri View Post
With a ski pole gripped just above the basket, 2 hands together or apart, the difference is that your arms will be above your head, kind of like a drag anchor, the point in as far as you can drive it, scratching a deep line all the way down the hill. It may not even stop you, granted, but it will help keep your head above your feet and allow you to try to get an edge in. that is the other difference: you may still have a ski or two on and unlike a climber, your skis are still your best chance at regaining control. make sense? let me know.
If you have one or both skis, by all means, use the skis (or board) to set an edge if possible. If skis have "left the building," and the snow is too hard to use your hands, that's when the pole comes in. Looking back, I believe my top hand was only about a foot above the basket, but it still allowed me to arch my back more, and get more weight on the tip, breaking through the hard layer to softer snow below.
post #19 of 53
A whippet has saved my a$$ a few times. I leave the strap on - it's no good if it's stuck in the snow 20 feet above you and you're starting to accelerate to terminal velocity. Some times I've used it with one hand and sometimes I've arrested just like I would with an axe.
post #20 of 53
I'm going to try and find a safe place to practice self arrest with various combos of ski boot/skis/poles this year.

Anyone have a course on "How to not rag-doll 101"?
post #21 of 53
Thread Starter 

Practicing Methods, Cornices, No fall zone 301c

Quote:
Originally Posted by Garrett View Post
I'm going to try and find a safe place to practice self arrest ...
This is a concept that has worked for me, and for those of you who are beyond consciously practicing a particular aspect, just move on to more advanced classes. So, on a less than wonderful day I practice stuff, keeps me amused and busy. One thing a person can work on is dropping cornices. Now if you wait to drop a cornice until you are standing above a blind drop above a hanging snow field with terrain obstacles along the way and variable snow conditions in flat light, you are gonna' be gettin' gripped. That is not the best time and place to get comfortable with a cornice drop. What I have done is to find a pretty large cornice with no exposure whatsoever. Drop it over and over. Guys may think you're a dweeb, but it works. Next time the no fall zone sits under that blind drop, you're cool. Again, I know this is way 'beneath' many of the heavies out there, but give me a break and easy on the ridicule factor. And for you graduates, how about some pointers on dropping a cornice above a major chute? thanks.
post #22 of 53
Hey Tyrone,

If I may ask (off topic), in your image of your climb and descent of Round Top, why did you tack so much on your way up? If you were able to go straight up the steepest section, why not cut down the number of foot steps and go straight up the lower half?

BTW, beautiful line choice on the way down!
post #23 of 53

Self Arrest Practice

Self Arrest Practice from British Mountaineering Council Winter Essentials dvd - youtube clip from CountryWalking



4 different positions - feet first on front, feet first on back, head first on front, head first on back


Some of this advice may apply if you think of the ski pole tip as the ice axe pick especially boot position & body position. However, as noted by the previous posters, your arm positions needed to get leverage/stopping power will vary due to the difference in angles between ski pole tip & ski pole vs. ice axe pick & ice axe handle. To maximize leverage/stopping power one hand will need to be near the ski pole basket while the other hand further up the pole is pushing the pole up vs. forcing the ice axe handle down with the other hand (keeping the ice axe handle flat to the snow).



A little humor on what not to do (seal move) from Shasta Mountain Guides





Bob Peters posted the following photo sequence on this thread http://forums.epicski.com/showthread.php?t=57090

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Peters View Post
Well, steveturner, you just reminded me that I took a bunch of photos of a pole self-arrest last winter and I was going to post them. Naturally, I forgot.

Here is a sequence of me doing a pole self-arrest on a pretty steep groomed run. This particular spot is at the very top of Laramie Bowl at Jackson Hole. It's about 38 degrees and can only be groomed via winch cat. The photos were taken on a cold morning and the snow was hard and smooth.

While this shows me arresting from a feet-down position, you would find in practice on real snow that as soon as you start digging in with a pole, the drag will turn you over and spin you around so that you're going feet-first. That's really important because as Bob Lee says, you want lots of extremities hitting the obstacles before your core and head do.

Also, this shows me doing the arrest with my skis on. That's primarily because I was too lazy to leave them up there and then have to hike back up to get them. You may be able to tell from the photos that I'm trying very hard NOT to use my skis in slowing down because I'm trying to demonstrate that this method will work perfectly well when you don't have skis attached.

In this first one, I'm just standing there enjoying the day.



OOOPS! I fell.



Now I've grabbed one pole a bit above the basket with one hand while holding the handle with the other. I'm starting to apply as much pressure as i can to dig in the basket of that pole:




Now, I've shifted my "basket" hand down as close to the basket as I can and I'm applying every bit of leverage on that basket that I'm capable of. My feet are in the air (trying to show that the skis aren't necessary in this process), and you can see the groove my pole is leaving above me.




Here, I'm driving that pole and basket into the snow as if my life depended on it.




Now I've already slowed pretty substantially. I've got a huge amount of bend in that pole, which is an indication of how much pressure I'm applying (thank God for Black Diamond poles ):




Andy finally, I've come to a stop on a very steep groomed run and in a pretty short amount of space.




What's nice about this method is that it's extremely intuitive. You can figure it out almost instantly.

You can also practice it very easily. Just pick a nice steep (preferably short) spot with no obstacles or people below. It really does work.
post #24 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnH View Post
Hey Tyrone,

If I may ask (off topic), in your image of your climb and descent of Round Top, why did you tack so much on your way up? If you were able to go straight up the steepest section, why not cut down the number of foot steps and go straight up the lower half?
Well, those lines aren't exact...I mean I just drew them in there with MS paint, but they are close. And yes I did 'tack' on the climb up.

During the 'tacking', or more commonly called switchbacking, I was skinning up. But then it got too steep around the exit of the couloir to skin, and you can't skin up a couloir anyway, so we took off the skins, threw the skis on the pack, and bootpacked straight up.

When skinning, once the slope reaches a certain steepness, it's alot of effort to skin straight up a slope, so you start switchbacking. It looks like more effort, but in reality, you save a TON of energy.
post #25 of 53
Thread Starter 

Pole straps on or off, could be yo'as-

Quote:
Originally Posted by icanseeformiles(andmiles) View Post
Nice note on self-arrest.

But, I disagree on the straps thing. .
now that I think about it, I may have a problem with the no straps deal myself. note, that it's not a whippet, just a pole, so you have to use the bottom, basket and tip area, of that pole. But the hole in my method is that I am assuming that when I fall with no straps on, that I will not lose both poles. I think it is likely that I'll still have a pole in my possession as the few falls I have taken in the no-fall zone have not been at mach speed, given a certain level of prudence, and those falls have always been because I was gripped at the time, so yet another reason that high speeds are not involved. So I imagine myself falling with at least a pole in hand, no strap attached. But it WOULD totally suck as- to lose both poles and be sliding down a hanging ice field head first on your tummy, staring straight at the end of a perfect day. F. So here's the question: If you keep your straps on, are you going to have the time and the presence of mind to remove your straps and shift your hands to the leverage position needed? Or can you leave one hand in the strap and accomplish leverage by sliding the other one down to the basket? I'll go get a pole and check the ergonomics of that second option. checked, nope, no can do with one hand in the strap, yet another thing I am too short for.

I'm looking at the series of really cool self-arrest with a ski pole pics. thanks for the work on that, good stuff. I'm going to try it out some day. I do have a couple questions. That hand in the strap is up so high. I can't imagine being able to do that when one is scared sh----less. And if you tumble while getting the arrest established, you are going to dislocate that shoulder sure as sh--. Also, you fell in a pretty convenient position to initiate that maneuver. Go out there again and do it for me starting head first on your back on a sheet of white ice. Just kiddin' ya', mate. thanks a lot.
post #26 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by davluri View Post
Ya' just gott' love that red line, dude. right on. dig the little gap in the line over the big rock. you're totally celebrating by then. damn! this thread could give nightmares if you guys start to one uppin'
Nah, Tyrone's been sharing his awesome adventures with us for awhile. We love Tyrone's most excellent adventures!
post #27 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by davluri View Post
...So here's the question: If you keep your straps on, are you going to have the time and the presence of mind to remove your straps and shift your hands to the leverage position needed?...
It's like the Carnegie Hall question (practice, practice, practice). If you practice enough to get the skill ingrained, the training takes over when needed. Don't panic. There's plenty of time for that after you've stopped.

I was fortunate to have training by a very experienced climber, who believed in practicing a skill till you got it right. For my self, I got my head oriented uphill, got on my stomach, removed the strap, and then made the arrest (all at mach speed, of course). Without the training (and lots of practice), panic could be a real possibility. With practice, panic is less likely.

Note: get someone knowledgeable to practice with. Practicing the wrong movements could result in the arrest not being successful. (and, that's possible even if you do everything correctly, self-arrest is just a chance of saving your behind.)
post #28 of 53
TY- I've never seen RT so filled in. And I've never seen that (red) line skiable either. Good on ya for getting it when it was doable. When was that?

The dogleg looks like a horseleg. yowsers.

(the first time I skied the dogleg, I booted up it on shrooms. We had to kick toes into that ice bulge near the top. That was a fricking nightmare. That was also before I owned skins and learned how to properly approach that line from KW)

thanks again for reminding me of home.
post #29 of 53
Are there two types of ice axe attachments for the ski pole, one being a whippet? And how do they attach? Do they fold out of the way or are they always ready to go?

I could see trying to pull the imbedded tool from my rib cage. I bet that has happened.

Did he say keep your feet up?
post #30 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by samurai View Post
TY- I've never seen RT so filled in. And I've never seen that (red) line skiable either. Good on ya for getting it when it was doable. When was that?
.
This was the '06 season. April 2006. HUGE year here. The hanging snowfield line got hit a bunch that year.

Lot's of fun stuff out there inbetween RT and California chute when leaving from Kirkwood eh? Remember this line in the distance at all? This is from the top of Melissa Cory peak...backside of RT and 4th of July peak are just out of the photo to lookers left..


[back on topic]

Paul - A whippet is attached to the grip of the ski pole by sliding into the shaft. It is indeed removable, but it's a self-arrest tool, so normally it's kept in there.

There should be pictures of it and perhaps downloadable instructions for use on it at Black Diamond's website: www.bdel.com
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