Ice screws have probably improved more than any other individual type of ice climbing equipment.  In the old days the hardest part of climbing ice was getting adequate protection in without breaking the ice or flaming out all of your strength.  Some of the things tried in the past are almost crazy.  Well...  Crazy is as crazy does.  You will notice that several photos have a Black Diamond 17 centimeter express screw for size reference.


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     If you ever attempt to place one of these then you may wonder why folks even bothered.  For the most part these things fractured to much of the surrounding ice to be of much good.  If one actually placed well and "froze in" it was then almost impossible to remove. 


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     Above you can see several examples of early ice screws.  These were a great improvement over warthogs but were still extremely hard to place, especially in hard or brittle ice.  

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     The above Chouinard screws on the left were the standard in screws for many years.  Below you will see a both homemade and commercially manufactured ratchets for  placing and removing this design.  The screws in the center are Russian titanium's that were some of the first to surface in the U.S.  I purchased them at an American Alpine Club annual convention back in the 1980's from a East German defector that came to America with only two suitcases of titanium screws as his stake in the "New World".  The right photo is of Lowe R.A.T.S. which were a very good design in their day and are still good even by today's standards.

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     The screw on the left and in the center is a Cassin Alien.  It is perhaps the poorest designed screw I have seen manufactured recently.  The biggest flaw is that the hole in the hanger is so small that half the biners on the market will not fit no matter how hard you try to shove them in.  The second design flaw is the thickness of the wall.  You can see it compared to a Black Diamond screw.  The tube wall is almost twice as thick.  This causes this screw to fracture more ice than necessary.  The screws on the right are early Smiley's.  A lower priced Black Diamond knock-off.


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     I guess ya'll can tell what I like in a screw.  Black Diamond screws seem to always be on the cutting edge of screw technology.  Whatever their current model happens to be usually sets the standard for function among the competition.  This season they claim to have improved the ease of placement even more.  I have not personally turned one of this years models but have heard positive reports thus far.  I really could use some fresh sharp screws. 

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     The ice screw ratchet on the left is a home made unit.  A Crafstman ratcheting box end wrench, two sockets, a welder and a grinder combined to fashion a tool to aid in placing and removing screws back in the dark ages.  The ratchet on the right was manufactured commercially by Chouinard.

more to come

ice climbing by state