Ice Climbing Belay Ethic And Hand Warming


Original Post
Spooner · · Denver · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 20

I was out ice climbing the other day and a question popped into my head while I was at the belay on the second pitch of a climb.

As we all know hand warmth management is a big challenge while on the ice and was wonder what other people do to keep your hands worm while belaying? I know the arm swinging trick and penguin method when you are standing around and have your hands free. What do you all do when you have your hand on the break stand and a climber on lead. Is there a safe way to change hands so you can worm one at a time or do you just grin and bear it. There is also the issue of loss of dexterity as you extremities cool and that could be and issue as well if your leader takes a fall.

That also brought up the question of which device to use? I typically take my ATC tube style device, I feel with the ice and snow on the rope that is the best way to arrest a fall but a camming device might be an option to be able to warm your hands but I have always thought that a Gri Gri would be unsafe and could slip with ice on the rope.

Thanks for you input and wisdom, always looking to learn.

Dharma Bum · · Glen Haven, Co · Joined Jul 2008 · Points: 585

My hands seldom get cold, but on a really cold day I may put on a warmer glove to belay. If the problem is wet gloves, change the gloves and put the wet ones inside of your jacket to dry.

Spooner · · Denver · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 20
Kevin Zagorda wrote:My hands seldom get cold, but on a really cold day I may put on a warmer glove to belay. If the problem is wet gloves, change the gloves and put the wet ones inside of your jacket to dry.
I do carry two pair of gloves and swap them out, we were out Sunday when it we really cold and had some issue with keeping warm. Just wondering what other people do when they have issues.
Luc-514 · · Montreal, Quebec · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 8,953

Two pairs of thin lead gloves in my jacket and a thicker pair of belay/rappel gloves or mitts.
If it's really cold I'll drop some hot packs in them.
I carry in my 18L pack:

  • Belay jacket
  • Belay gloves/mitts
  • Warm water to stay hydrated
  • Cord for threads
  • Spare socks
  • Hot paws
Woodchuck ATC · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 3,110

I'm old. Circulation is worse now, past frostbite gets cold really fast on fingers and toes. Yes, I carry chemical hand warmies and stuff them inside gloves and also keep an extra pair warm and dry in pockets or pack. As far as 'switching hands' ?, in belaying I assume? I've always been a constant hand changer and am very confident in how I do it, for either ice or rock. Ambidextrous for belaying for many decades with many kinds of belay devices. I would hope most climbers are comfortable at doing this.

rocknice2 · · Montreal, Quebec · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 3,018

Put on a belay jacket and belay gloves to stay warm.

AlpineIce · · Upstate, NY · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 255

Think about it like this: Your hands are cold(er) because your core isn't warm enough and it's not pumping warmer blood to the extremities. The warmer your core is, the warmer your hands and feet will be.

Yes, I know - Easier said than done, but it's a good concept to keep in mind when packing for your climb.

Heavier insulated belay gloves definitely help and try to actually climb in thinner gloves. Dry them in your layering system when belaying. I've found this all helps a lot as I get very cold, very quickly.

Allen Sanderson · · Oootah · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 1,135

Put a hat on (under your helmet).

Brian Abram · · Celo, NC · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 483

If I'm not actively paying out rope, I'm stuffing my brake hand with rope into my belay jacket pocket

doligo · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2008 · Points: 277
Spooner wrote:That also brought up the question of which device to use? I typically take my ATC tube style device, I feel with the ice and snow on the rope that is the best way to arrest a fall but a camming device might be an option to be able to warm your hands but I have always thought that a Gri Gri would be unsafe and could slip with ice on the rope. Thanks for you input and wisdom, always looking to learn.
Ice and snow on the rope make your hands cold, I also try to avoid touching the metal part of my belay device. I use Mammut Alpine Smart (it has plastic parts to it where you can hold on to), that's an assisting braking device like a Gri-Gri, but ice and snow don't affect its performance. You can also look into Edelrid Megajul. BD is coming up with a similar device soon too. And like others said, use thick gloves for belaying and save your thinner dexterous gloves for climbing. If your hands tend to get really cold try mittens.
Chris C. · · Seattle, WA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 266

+1 to the Mammut Alpine Smart Belay

I really only use it for ice because lead belaying is kind of annoying with it. It's also nice to have for taking those epic photos with while not killing the climber....or eating a sandwich.

On longer higher altitude climbs I'll usually keep a small bottle of a hot beverage inside a puffy jacket inside my pack. When you throw on the puffy, you get a nice drink/hand warmer.

Eric Engberg · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2009 · Points: 0

Ethic?

Spooner · · Denver · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 20
Eric Engberg wrote:Ethic?
What do you want a definition?
Nick Sweeney · · Spokane, WA · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 650

Hand warming ethics are very personal. I choose to only warm my hands while on lead because I want to keep the spirit of adventure alive. Some people choose to warm their hands at belays or on rappel, but that just feels like cheating.

Luc-514 · · Montreal, Quebec · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 8,953

Belay ethics:
Place belay in spot that will give the best photographs and videos of the leader regardless of comfort and safety of the belayer, why should the leader have all the risks?

Kyle Tarry · · Portland, OR · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 162
Nick Sweeney wrote:Hand warming ethics are very personal. I choose to only warm my hands while on lead because I want to keep the spirit of adventure alive. Some people choose to warm their hands at belays or on rappel, but that just feels like cheating.
Back in the day, they never warmed their hands; they didn't even have pockets. Pockets and hand warming are the result of the the new generation bringing climbing down to their standards, primarily as a result of sport climbing, Twitter, and the polio vaccine.

Pockets are aid.
Eric Engberg · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2009 · Points: 0
Kyle Tarry wrote: Back in the day, they never warmed their hands; they didn't even have pockets. Pockets and hand warming are the result of the the new generation bringing climbing down to their standards, primarily as a result of sport climbing, Twitter, and the polio vaccine. Pockets are aid.
gym rats. They know nothing about ethics.
Petsfed · · Laramie, WY · Joined Mar 2002 · Points: 925

Use as warm a (hooded) belay jacket as you can get away with, and have dedicated, extra-warm belay mittens (or gloves if they're warm enough). Put the hood up, and eat something before you start belaying. And lead in blocks, rather than swapping leads, so both climbers move more often.

Woodchuck ATC · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 3,110
Kyle Tarry wrote: Back in the day, they never warmed their hands; they didn't even have pockets. Pockets and hand warming are the result of the the new generation bringing climbing down to their standards, primarily as a result of sport climbing, Twitter, and the polio vaccine. Pockets are aid.
Even as hard core as I tend to go,,,well, that is just a bit much! Pockets as aid? Brit Hardmen and seasoned alpine mountaineers of a different age, sort of accepted loss of digits as part of the game. Sorry, I'm not going that far for 'adventure'. Lots of hand warmies stuffed in pack, pocket, and to keep camera warm too!
Woodchuck ATC · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 3,110
Luc-514 wrote:Belay ethics: Place belay in spot that will give the best photographs and videos of the leader regardless of comfort and safety of the belayer, why should the leader have all the risks?
A plus for the good photographer, always needed to keep the ice climb 'ropegun' going, with rewards and visual proof of deeds done.
Woodchuck ATC · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 3,110
Petsfed wrote:Use as warm a (hooded) belay jacket as you can get away with, and have dedicated, extra-warm belay mittens (or gloves if they're warm enough). Put the hood up, and eat something before you start belaying. And lead in blocks, rather than swapping leads, so both climbers move more often.
Alot of ice-winter jackets these days are designed for this. BIG ass pockets, easy to access for stuffing thick mittens and extra gloves inside for swap out and warmth. Agree to keep the head warm at all times,,,,balaclava, a thin wool hat if possible all under the helmet, and a lined oversized hood to pull over it all as you sit out the belay time.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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