Date: 17th February 2015
I’ll share more about the Niagara climb once it all settles out a bit, but I’ve had a lot of questions about the proto ice gear I used, and I have a few minutes so here’s some quick info:
My email to BD was direct: “So I want to figure out how to climb spray ice on natural gear (Niagara will be spray ice). I’d like to develop or at least prototype a half dozen or so pickets attached to Spectres. I’ve been using Yates pickets some already in the spray ice, and they are truck if it’s thick enough. We don’t need that much surface area, figure something about six inches long with the picket extending slightly off the back of the spectre so it will always maintain a positive angle of pull. Picture a six inch piece of picket welded or bolted onto the pick part of the Spectre so the end of the picket piece is on pointy pick of the Spectre, picket “wings” off to either side of the spectre, the last inch or two of the picket protruding out past the upper clip in hole on the Spectre. I’ve been playing around a little in my garage but don’t have much to show for it, be great if you could help? And I totally realize this is so far out of the box that I take full responsibility for it all going bad, no way to predict how this will work!”
BD’s answer was equally direct: “Yes, we’ll try. This is cool.” Thanks BD! This led to a really fast few weeks of emails, CAD drawings, and then a mad rush to get ‘em done in time…
I really wanted to do Niagara on natural gear (it’s the oldest state park in the US, gotta respect the landscape and history), but how do you protect ice that’s half air? Ice screws won’t hold well, normal Spectres don’t have the surface area, even V-threads are suspect in onion-skin ice… The “Spicket” or “Pectre” was designer Peter Wilk’s answer based on my description above. I received these literally the day I was climbing Niagara, but the police and I did a fast “does it work at all” test, and it seemed bomber in spray ice. I ended using three of them on the climb, and they were for sure the only thing that could have kept me–or Sarah--out of the “Cauldron of Doom” at the base of Niagara Falls. In the picture I’m about to place one as I traverse above the Cauldron of doom to the start of the steep climbing.
You can see the marks from pounding on the head of the Pectre (Spicket?) in the photos, you have to really beat on them to get ‘em in. In the relatively compact or wet spray ice they took vicious bounce testing well (that was a bit nerve-wracking, if they flew out toward my face it could have been sporty). The ice has to be soft enough to allow penetration, but too hard or they won’t go in at all. I was surprised at the range of spray ice I could get them into, pretty cool.
We could have just placed bolts if we could have dug through to the rock, but it’s Niagara Falls, and whenever possible I try to climb on removable gear using a leave-no-trace ethic. That’s the best style possible, and I felt Niagara falls deserved that style. But it’s also pretty hectic when you’re dealing with a production crew, photographers, and the largest waterfall in the world all at once… The Pectres gave a little extra margin. When you’re standing at the base of a Waterall that literally shakes your guts a little extra margin feels like a very good idea. I’m always searching for ways to find a little more operating headroom in intense environments. If adding safety doesn’t actually add safety or costs so much time that the situation becomes more hazardous then it’s not worth it. But whenever possible adding a little safety for that one in a thousand accident is a very good idea, especially when I’m going to climb thousands and thousands of days in my life.
I can’t wait to try the Pectres out at Helmcken falls in the spray ice there; I think they will hold in the bigger features, and how cool would it be to climb there on totally natural gear? Right now I feel like mixed and ice climbing has reached a bit of a stagnation point, perhaps this gear will allow some new thinking. I look forward to doing some more than “seat of the pants” testing on these rigs.
A huge thanks to Bill Belcourt and Peter Wilks for their work, I’m proud to have been a BD athlete and product developer for almost 20 years. They get it.
Posted in: Blog
Hey Will. I’m always very excited about new ideas in ice pro, so this device seems like another solid step forward. Do you think it could be useful in very sun-baked, badly sheeted or even chandeliered ice?
I am just watching Anderson Cooper CNN and you talking about the climb. I am just speechless!!! I can’t imagine the emotions going on in you when you finished the climb!!!
I’ve seen a photo of you climbing on some National Geographic report, well done!
What if the Spectre had a flange welded to the outside edge wrapping it from tip to tip; this would create the wing you are looking for. This would give you the surface area to hold from cutting through the spray Ice. The flange would take on the same shape of the Spectre; creating the wing you speak of in your blog. In addition to the added a flange, I believe it would help to keep the shape of the point at the end of the Spectre for penetration purposes; the flange would at strength and surface area. Tig welding is how I would attached the flange; similar grade material would be recommended, followed by a filler metal to match for welding. I have a good idea how I would design it, but like yourself, I need more time in the field using it before I could dial the whole thing in.
Best of luck and hope my input was of help!
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