While doing multipitch climbing on rockfaces, the lead climber usually finds a small ledge or something like that to anchor themselves, and pause and top belay the other climber.

How does this process work on icewalls? Standing on the ice wall even after anchoring oneself to the tubular piton is hard enough, I don't think that is a pragmatic stance for belaying.

Or is multipitch not done on icewalls?

Perhaps the only way is to recce the route in advance and go with enough rope so that the lead climber can get to the top of the wall and then belay the other. Even that introduces complications with joining knots having to pass through carabiners but this is a somewhat solvable problem if one uses larger carabiners. Otherwise no pitch longer than a ropelength can be done.

1 Answer 1


People are climbing multi pitches on ice as well. Most ice falls are not uniform in steepness, so it is often possible to find some ledge-like flatter parts for belaying. In ice climbing it is also strongly recommended to make a belay a bit to the side of the next pitch, as ice climbing always causes some ice fall and you do not want to get all of that on your head. And of course, avoid making a belay below any icicles.
Sometimes it is also possible to make a belay on rock right next to the ice fall. Some ice/mixed routes even have bolted belays.

However, sometimes all of that is not possible and you have to resort to an uncomfortable hanging belay. Be aware that ice around an ice screw can melt when under pressure for a longer time, so a cold (unloaded) redundancy should definitely be added in this case. Or use an abalakov thread for the anchor.

All in all, anchor building on ice is much more challenging than on rock as there are a lot more factors at work, often requiring a trade off between comfort and safety

  • While asking the question I had in mind ice walls in mountaineering, not so much ice falls. So the second part of your answer has very useful information for me. Would a V-thread also not dig into the ice under sustained pressure? Any idea where I can know more about the "... and you have to resort to an uncomfortable hanging belay" part? For motivation, check this report from summit post summitpost.org/kang-yatse-1/649032 where they write "We chose to climb a 1800ft tall ice wall to make it to an advanced camp site". Or Mt. Trishul where the summit is basically on an ice pyramid.
    – ahron
    Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 12:07
  • 1
    In mountaineering things are more or less the same in terms of technique. However, belaying pitch by pitch is time consuming, no matter whether ice or rock. But time is precious in mountaineering. So in good conditions and (subjectively) low difficulty one would go unroped. For medium difficulty people might might use a running belay, often with a tibloc, micro traxion or similar to protect the leader against a fall of the second.
    – Manziel
    Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 12:13
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    A hanging belay is just hanging in your harness off some fixed points, just like in rock climbing when there is no ledge. A V-thread has some advantages regarding melting. Ice screws are held by their thread biting into the ice. Melt 1mm of ice around the screw and the thread becomes a lot less reliable. In contrast, a V-thread lives off a fat ice block. Melting 1-2mm is not a big deal
    – Manziel
    Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 12:16
  • Yes, good points, thanks.
    – ahron
    Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 12:23

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