Tuesday 21st & Wednesday 22nd August 2018
Much of Tuesday morning was spent running around trying to buy a 22cm ice screw. Apparently, according to the World Wide Web (and Andy Kirkpatrick). Abalakov anchors are safest with 22cm and I only have 16cm. It would appear that size does matter after all!
Now, for those of you who have not yet read days 36 & 37 and are thinking; “Abalakov what!?” I would just like to say: KEEP UP!!
Having found our piece of kit and paid the €64 (!!) we packed our bags, drove up to the head of the Pitztal (again!?), found a nice place for Gandalf to chill out for a few days and headed off up to the Taschachhaus.
Few things of note apart from; I would really like to know how heavy my rucksack actually is. Then I could refuse to carry it on health and safety grounds (my guess is 20kg and it has zero padding) and the beautiful walk up to the hut
…and the now all too familiar signs of glacial retreat.
All culminating in a sight to gladden Mrs P’s day…
We chatted with one of the staff at the hut about potential routes and were somewhat disappointed to discover that most of the big glacier routes are considered very dangerous at the moment. It is end of season here and the snow bridges are very unstable. Our original plan had the added risk of rockfall from multiple different angles so, discretion being the better part of valour, we opted for plan A, find an easy(ish) route into a glacial area with steep enough ice to practice not falling off.
On the glacier we found a likely bit of steep ice. Only 45 – 50 degrees but steep enough for our purposes (and much easier to not accidentally fall off).
We built things…
As seen above, the Abalakov thread is, basically, two holes in the ice with a bit of string looped through. You then the pass the rope through the bit of string, attach yourself and jump off the mountain. Trusting your weight to the 2 holes and the bit of string. I think we’ll send Mrs P off first. Just to see if it’s safe…
As you leave the anchor point you can’t help thinking , “Just a few inches of ice and a bit of string between me and a very long slide.” Shortly followed by, “Phew! It works!” And then, “Well, so far.”
All in all a good days practice. 9.5 hours in total from leaving the hut at 05.00 and our return. That is until a certain member of team P suggested that, since our options for other routes were limited, we should walk all the way out rather than spending an additional night and extra money in the hut. So, you can take that 9.5 hours and raise it by 2. (Sheesh! And she says she’s not getting fitter!).
Ice Screw Aside: (why does that sound wrong? Anyway…) Ice screws are used in myriad ways for protecting climbing on, you guessed it, ice. They can be used as protection during a climb; for making belays and for making the legendary Abalakov thread.