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Locations for Self-Arrest Practice

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  • Locations for Self-Arrest Practice

    Not sure if this is the appropriate place for this question and if it isn't, feel free to remove it. I took an alpine climbing skills course through school over break where we went over basic axe and crampon skills. I feel relatively confident in my ability to travel with an axe and crampons, but due to high avalanche risks, we didn't get a chance to practice self-arrest. I know the theory behind it after reading Freedom of the Hills but it's clearly a skill that can't be learned just from a book and requires lots of practice.

    Are there any slides/other places that have nice long slopes with clear runouts that I could use to practice self-arrest? I'm a pretty experienced winter hiker so am not opposed to long approaches but would prefer shorter ones to get in as much practice time as possible. Also looking for some non-technical slides (unroped w/ a mountain axe) that would be good first steps towards doing some winter slide climbing after getting some self-arrest practice in. From the research I've done, it seems like Benny's Brook would be a good bet for that? Open to any other suggestions as well.

  • #2
    Do you know what slope angle you are looking for?

    Here's a slide that's very convenient. It is the slide you can climb that's part of the Ore Bed Brook trail to the col between Saddleback and Gothics The slide is pretty wide and you can climb either by stairs or on the slide. The trail veers off about 50% of the way up this slide; so you can go higher if you want. It does gather a lot of snow; so, not sure it's steep enough.


    • #3
      Tough to find good places around here to practice. Slides can be good; the problem is most of them are fairly remote. As you mentioned, you want less time approaching and more time practicing.

      If you have a closed alpine ski area near you, that might be a good place. Don't know where you are located, but the "Lost Ski Areas" websites for New York and New England might give you some ideas. Also, if you can get permission, local sledding hills or local sandpits may work. It's hard to find places to practice this skill in the east. Most of our slopes that are at the moderate angle you need are covered with trees...


      • #4
        If you're willing to travel there are a number of good spots in the White Mtns, like the Tuckerman Ravine. But I'm thinking specifically of two perfect slopes on or just off the Gulfside Trail between Mt Adams and Jefferson: the snow field just out of the Edmands Col toward Jefferson which has some decent exposure (one of the few places in the White Mts where an ice ax for self arrest could be used on a standard route) and then also the slopes off Sam Adams which look just perfect for self arrest training providing various pitches and also good run offs (see below). Of note is that both these slopes are above 5K ft and will hold snow long into mid spring...

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        • #5
          Climb the trap dyke route on Colden, above the trap dyke I bet you could find a slope that would be great for self arrest training!
          Leave No Trace!


          • #6
            The problem with learning self arrest here is that you don't get neve or glacier like conditions (styrofoam type surface) in the East often. In March with freezes at night and sunny thaws during the day you may get good conditions in local areas such as around Chapel Pond. Self arresting does not work on water ice nor on powder which is what we have most of the winter here. Self arresting is most often used for stopping yourself on an alpine peak slope or on a somewhat steep glacier, which have neve-like snow usually...So - as tcd stated - Whiteface in spring when it has closed might work (but the slopes aren't that steep for a real test down low). The ski jumping hill at the base of the aerials course is excellent in April but I doubt they will allow you there (local groups sometimes get permission there though). We have learned and taught these skills at the base of the North Face of Gothics in March when it is shiney as seen from downtown Lake Placid (near the outdoor skating oval) but this is way too far in for just a day trip. It has the best slope of all the local areas because the open slopes that approach the actual North Face get quite steep but they moderate as one slides down in case you lose control...Remember to always practice the 4 positions with your crampons off!!!


            • #7
              jcna17 I took this course a few years ago and location/slopes were good for learning/with generous practice time covering "the basic" moves - the snow on ground that day approximated neve to degree so a bit lucky there. J. Reyes is a great instructor, climbs all over the world. I would imagine he would also be able to help with alternate locations for "practice" in ADK/NE regions.
              Axe and Crampons Basics – March 30, 2019 | Wilderness Search and Rescue