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Riding the big icicle

Date: 3rd March 2014

My friend John Freeman rode a big icicle. Good video piece. Remember that free-hanging ice almost always breaks right at the TOP, just where it connects to the rock. That’s where it’s under the greatest strain from the hanging load, where the interior/exterior temperature differentials are also the greatest. If you can’t lead a piece of free-hanging or free standing ice without putting screws into it then you shouldn’t be on it. The one exception might be something like the Fang–if it breaks you’re probably going to die anyway, although amazingly people seem to have survived the experience, as John did.


I used to climb a lot of really skinny pillars, but eventually realized it was just gambling, and not a step “forward” for the sport or me. It’s more like skating on progressively thinner ice–there is only one eventual outcome. Fun game, but the stakes are high, and I’ve seen enough things break that I didn’t think would break, and enough stay vertical that I thought would break that I don’t trust my own judgement on the really thin stuff. Or, I trust my judgement enough to stay off it, and think the rewards are too small to be worth the risk. And yet, occasionally‚Ķ John’s outcome was pretty lucky, glad he lived as we had a great adventure at Helmcken Falls together!

Word press is not playing nice with the video link at all, here’s the direct link also: http://www.epictv.com/media/podcast/ice-pillar-snaps-with-climber-on-it-heres-how-he-survived-%7C-sub-zero-ep-3/274337

Posted in: Blog


  1. Austin   March 3, 2014 2:13 pm

    Wow! Incredible. Just think, if John were to set a belay at the top of the pillar (after topping out), and the pillar broke when belaying up the second, there could have been a disastrous situation. If that pillar fell while there were still screws in, it could have easily plucked both them off as it fell, ripping out the anchor at the top.

  2. Steve T   March 5, 2014 4:08 am

    Hey Will, everyone’s talking about this (even the gym climbers who are now definitely swearing off ice climbing). I can see why putting in screws in the event of a collapse could be bad as you can dragged tied to a piece of ice. Are there no possible benefits to putting in some kind of protection?

  3. Ruben   March 6, 2014 3:56 am

    As usual, Will shows up really good jugdement about “not having enough judgement”, Buddy if you do not have judgement who has?

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