Abalakov Threads

Author: M Wilkinson and Joe McKay

Ice Climbing Abalakov thread pictureSo you're on an ice climb and shock and horror you drop your ice screws, or more likely, you're on an ice climb and couldn't afford a full rack of ice screws as there so dam expensive, what do you do? Well if the ice is thick enough to take a long screw (about 20cm) then you can construct an Abalakov thread, which only requires one ice screw and some chord, hooray!

Invented by Vitaly Abalakov in the 1930's as a way of protecting abseils on water ice, the thread, if constructed correctly is just as, if not safer than a well placed, long (20cm) ice screw. The principle behind the thread is quite simple. using and ice screw, drill two holes at 45 degree angles to the ice face that ice that intersect forming a tunnel in the ice, and then thread a piece of chord or webbing through the tunnel, securing the chord with a tape knot or double fishermans. The weight of this anchor is then loaded on the solid ice.

 

The trick with the thread is to angle the drill holes correctly to allow them to join up but not to shallow to allow the front sheet of ice to break. It can be tricky to thread the chord so a piece of wire coat hanger is useful here, or if you have far too much money, you can buy and expensive piece of wire coat hanger with a plastic handle from a few of the climbing gear manufacturers (yes I have one and I feel ashamed)

Please note that, if when you drill the two holes, they do not meet, start again at another point on the ice, do not try and drill a third hole as this will compromise the integrity of the ice sheet. Also if abseiling, back up your first abseil abalakov with and ice screw to make sure that the ice is solid enough for further construction. Below is a wonderful, and colourful video from the amazing Joe McKay to show you what to do!

 




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