Setting up on top rope is a necessary technique for anyone interested in learning or teaching ice climbing. Top rope is an excellent technique to learn ice climbing without being exposed to the dangers of ice climbing. To top rope safely, you’ll need a robust anchor system as well as adequate belay techniques.
About Top Rope Ice Climbing
Top roping is the practice of climbing with a rope attached to a point above you and pulling you upwards. Before you lead on ice, you must have the skill to ensure that you will never fall. The only way to accomplish this is to climb on the top rope until your body has learned how to move on ice. Because lead falls are so deadly in ice climbing, understanding how to top rope is critical. Before you begin top-roping, there are a few things you should consider:
To top the rope, there must be a location on the wall where the rope can be passed through and pulled down, and connected into the climber. This anchor point is responsible for distributing weight while you rest on the rope, therefore it must be strong enough to not only support your body weight but also deal with any force associated with a fall. Not all falls are static; if there is any slack in the rope, you will descend a little before the rope tightens up, As a result, greater force is transmitted through the rope and the anchor point too.
How to get to the Anchor Point
An anchor is useless if you can’t climb up to it in the first place. Remember that most individuals top rope a route because they are unable to lead it. However, one clear concern remains: if no one can lead the path, how is anyone expected to get up to the anchor in the first place? There are a few issues to address this thing:
Climb with a More Experience Partner
The greatest approach to gain ice climbing experience. You’ll be able to test your abilities on a variety of routes with varying degrees of difficulty. More importantly, you’ll be accompanied by a more experienced companion who can assist you in learning good ice climbing skills and pointing out any safety mistakes you may be making.
Find a Route with Top-Down Access
You will be able to walk around the top to select routes and rig up a top-rope anchor in that manner. If you don’t have a more experienced partner, this is probably the best method for you to gain some ice climbing expertise. Local guidebooks should specify which routes have top access. Take turns lapping on the ice with a partner – most likely someone with little expertise but plenty of stoke.
Climb an Easier Route
This is less suitable for total beginners and more suitable for intermediate/experienced climbers trying to push their boundaries, but it is still a feasible method. Assume you have a WI-5 that you want to project but aren’t comfortable with; next to it is a WI-2 that you’re using for warmups. Lead the WI-2, screw it into place, and then traverse sideways until you can build an anchor above the route you want to climb.
If you’re an intermediate climber who wants to challenge yourself on more difficult climbs but doesn’t want to risk falling on them, this strategy can be really useful.
Where the Belayer stands
Although the motions are similar, belaying during ice climbing is not the same as rock climbing (especially the indoor variety). You must remain vigilant at all times since your climber will undoubtedly pull chunks of ice loose from the cliff and send them falling down towards you. When you’re belaying on a top rope, it’s easy to become complacent since you know how safe your climber is. That doesn’t mean you can overlook the dangers that the ice poses.
One of the most important things you can do to keep safe is to always, always wear your helmet. Another thing you should do is keep an eye on where you’re standing. Choosing a decent spot to belay from while ice climbing is critical since it can save you from being pummelling the entire time.
Now that we’ve covered the fundamentals of top-roping in ice climbing, let’s look at the equipment you’ll need to get started. We would recommend bringing:
- Three ice screws
- 4 locking carabiners
- Two wire-gate carabiners
- Two long slings (>60cm)
- Two short slings (<60cm)
Now, that might seem like a lot of gear, and in some instances, it’s definitely going to be overkill. However, if you’re trying to build anchors, it never hurts to have a few extra pieces that you can use to rig backups through.