False Pillars — an Ice Climbing Hazard

False Pillars — an Ice Climbing Hazard
April 10, 2019 Orvel Miskiw

A False Pillar is a ‘pillar feature’ that seems to be standing on terra firma but is actually on an ice apron floating on snow,  that grows until it becomes a heavy load on its upper attachment, and without compression support below, can break off and fall apart, or settle in the snow under it, or topple over.

There’s a hazard in such a False Pillar, that climbers may get on to it, thinking it’s a solid column, but at some point in the lead, usually higher up where the pillar may be thinner and with a greater weight of ice hanging below, an axe strike or crampon kick may start a fracture that releases the pillar, that may then fall with the climber(s) on it or below.  This is similar to a hanging icicle, with similar hazard, though not obvious and may be unsuspected.

See more on this in the Safety Page, accessed under Resources on the Home page.

Orvel, Director of Safety



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