Author Topic: SELF RESCUE & ICE PICKS/CLAWS & HOW TO USE THEM 2020  (Read 7622 times)

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« on: Jan 06, 2020, 10:23 PM »
best to read full article as it has crucial sub link information.

i found swedish design ice claws here in the states

and for larger hands


    The Swedish design is the best as they are easy to find and it only takes one hand.
    Rope lanyards on broom handle or L shaped claws are most conveniently worn over your head and under one arm. If the lanyard is kept reasonably short they will ride on the center of your chest where they are easy to find.   With a velcro closure they can be deployed with one hand although not as cleanly as the Swedish claws, especially if the lanyard is under your pack or clothes.
    The black retractable design looks good if you don't mind having them hanging out of your sleeves.
    The red plastic claws require pulling apart which can be done with two hands or one hand and an armpit or teeth (not recommended unless you are desperate).

Breast pockets are probably a reasonable place to carry them.  Places that are either poor or useless include  pockets that are harder to get to, packs, tackle boxes, gear buckets, on your fishing sled or snowmobile, vehicle glove compartments, or at home.

A good procedure for using ice claws is:

    When you see you are going in, put your hand over your mouth and nose to reduce the chance you will gasp in water.
    If you can, try to slow your fall to minimize the chance your head will go under.  The general method is to spread your free arm, your other elbow and legs as you go in and pull your legs together as you get to about waist deep and swing your arms down as you approach shoulder depth.
    Once in the water, get your breathing under control (this may take up to a minute).
    Turn to face the direction you came in from (the the strongest and best known ice is probably where you came from).
    Swim back to the edge of the ice.
    Find and deploy your claws.  Stab one into the edge of the ice.
    If you have a throw rope you can get at easily, throw it back to anyone you can who is still on good ice.  Obviously the end of the rope should be attached to you (typically to a pack which has a waist belt and/or a leg loop.
    If you have poles of any sort, place them across the ice a foot or so from the edge (to support your weight better).
    Get the second claw in.
    Swim you legs up behind you
    Pull with the claws, lift with your elbows to get your body over the edge while kicking  with your feet (a frog kick works well).  It may take several kicks to get you out.
    Once out, roll away from the edge or drag yourself with the claws until you are sure the ice is strong enough to get up on your hands and knees and proceed until you are confident you can stand on the ice. 
    Change into the dry clothes in a waterproof bag that you brought (assistance with changing is a big help). Get to shore or, if you are in a dry suit on, have some lunch and continue to enjoy the rest of your day.

Click here for a video of a self rescue practice event we held in 2010.   Click here for the 2012 event.


    Breathing: The gasp reflex can be unavoidable.  If you manage to get water in your larynx it can make breathing difficult or impossible for a  period of time - hopefully a short one! As best I can tell,  the biggest risk is if your mouth is open when you are gasping.  That is why our local rescue team suggests putting your hand over your mouth and nose as you enter the water. Part of your plan to save yourself should be to deliberately clamp your mouth closed as soon as you realize you have broken through.   There is some difference of opinion by experts about how big a risk the gasp reflex is.
    If you are under the water most people canít hold their breath in cold water for more than a few seconds. I have been told by a knowledgeable Swede that it is quite rare that someone is trapped under the ice.
    Get on with getting out.  Your ability to grip things like ice claws and throw ropes goes away in a few minutes.
    Claw Placement:  There is a tendency to place the claws as far back on the ice as you can reach.   In most cases, stabbing your claws a foot closer to the edge will let you get more weight over them and your elbows.  The purpose of the claws are  to let you lift your upper body over the ice edge without sliding back in.
    Swimming your legs to a horizontal position behind you makes getting out much easier.
    Getting to shore and re-warming:  If you are not fully re-warmed by the time you get to shore you need to get rewarmed BUT if a car is involved, have someone else drive you.  In some cases you may develop a re-warming heart arrhythmia that could cause you to lose consciousness.
    Call 911 at any point in this process if it looks like the victim is significantly hypothermic of shows any other signs of medical distress.  If in any doubt, call rescue.  They much prefer being called when they are not needed to not being called promptly when they might be need.
(copied from link)

i learned some things from this article and i have fallen in with moving current, but got out with out using picks. they didn't even cross my mind. float suits helped with this because it keeps you drier and holds you up higher in the water to make self rescue easier.
again it's best to follow up on the link for more info thru sub links there.

Clawless Self Rescue

Abreviated Key Points

    Turn back to where you came from
    Legs and body horizontal
    Lift up with elbos
    Frog kicks
    Roll to good ice


If you have cold shock get it under control

Turn around and come back the way you came in

Put your elbows on the ice (or what ever works best)

Use your legs to get your body and legs to a horizontal position behind you

Lift your chest straight up with your elbos

Use strong frog kicks to ooch yourself onto stronger ice

If the ice breaks,  repeat until you get to ice that will support you.

Keep going until you think the ice is thick enough, then roll or belly crawl, then crawl then walk

Make decisions about how to get to warmth


While you ALWAYS should have your ice claws with you if you break through the ice without them you still have a good chance of getting out (especially if you read the following).  Most of the people who fall in donít drown.

    When you go in,  if you have any control of the situation, make your entry slow and  try to keep your head out of the water.  Keep your mouth closed and try to put your hand over your mouth and nose to reduce the chance you will gasp in water (gasp reflex). A life jacket or other flotation helps with this.
    Once in the water, get your breathing under control (may take 30 seconds to a minute).
    Don't panic but act promptly: you will lose strength in your hands and arms in a few minutes
    Shout for help.  If you have a whistle, now is the time to use it.

    Turn to the edge of the ice you fell in from (unless there is good reason to go elsewhere)
    If you have spiky shoes, poles, or anything else that can substitute for claws, use them.
    If you have skis on, get them off your feet if you can.   
     When you hang onto the edge of the ice with your arms there is a tendency for your legs go forward under the ice.  This is NOT the position you need to be in. It is difficult or impossible to get out of the water with your legs under the ice in front of you.  You need to swim your legs behind you and into a horizontal position.  The stroke is a dog paddle type kick. and with feet retracted on the return stroke. If you have any question about what this looks like, just hang onto the side of a pool with your legs vertical and swim them to a horizontal position behind you.
    Lift your upper body straight up on your elbows.  Donít try to pull yourself out with your arms unless you have some meaningful traction on rough spring ice or snow covered ice.  You are trying to get your upper body high enough that it does not drag on the edge.
    Use strong frog kicks to ooch yourself onto the ice. Some times you can push against the ice on far side of the hole with your feet.
    It usually takes a bunch of frog kicks to get you far enough out to roll away from the edge.
    Just to make things a bit more challenging, if the ice is thin it will usually slope down from your weight, making this a bit of an uphill battle.
    If the ice breaks or you slip back repeat the above. It may be helpful to push bigger pieces underneath you or under the ice to get them out of the way.
    Once you are on the ice, roll  or belly crawl away  from the edge until you are reasonably sure the ice will support you crawling or standing up.
    If you are a long way from getting to someplace where you can rewarm call 911 to get help on the way and do what you can to promptly get in some warmer clothes. The Swedes all carry a pack with a change of clothes in a water proof bag that is set up to be flotation and dry clothes.  If one of you is dry it may be appropriate to share some of what you are wearing for the trip back to warmth.
    The next day, make or buy claws to give away to people who do not have them and read the Cold Water Clothing page.


    Frog kicks appear to have the most power for getting you back on the ice sheet.  Double leg kicks are not as good.  Normal freestyle kicks are least effective.
    Consider practicing this ahead of time with a wet suit or  dry suit and a belay. 
    Or  practice this in warm water using a 4'x4'x2" piece of styrofoam.  Try different kicking styles and lifting your body onto the 'ice'.
    Falling through thin ice over a hole is common.  As you fall in you can often park your butt on the  edge of hole.  Leaning toward the thick ice may allow you to keep your torso dry.
    Life jackets or float clothing makes everything easier.  A test pole will make it much less likely that you will find weak ice by stepping onto it.  The body weight test method is is not a good way to test dodgy ice.  A throw rope makes rescuing less risky for you to fish out someone else. And ice claws make getting back on the ice easier and more certain.
    The procedure for using getting back on the ice with ice claws is the same except you use to claws to provide more traction for pulling yourself out. Use the same 'legs behind you, bent elbos' stance.  You will be able pull yourself more strongly on ice that is strong enough to support you and to claw more quickly through weak ice to get to thicker ice. Keep you claws where you can get at them easily when you are in the water.
     If it is cold enough and nothing else works and you don't have a life jacket on you can place your arms on the ice and after a time (I am not sure how long) your sleeves may freeze to the ice enough to get yourself out. This is more likely to work on thicker ice and colder conditions.  Thin cold ice and warm ice do not have enough 'cold' in them to freeze wet selves.  The material on your sleeves is also important: smoother synthetics to not adhere well. Cotton  sticks well when frozen although it is less than great as insulation in cold weather clothing. Fleece, wool and other fuzzy surfaced fabrics may also stick reasonably well. Even if you canít get out, it will help you keep your head out of the water longer, giving rescue personnel more time to get to you. Even if your sleeves don't fully freeze, pressing your elbows and forearms into wet ice for 10 or 15 seconds will usually  provide a little grip.  That grip is lost as soon as your elbow moves even a small amount.  That little bit of grip may be enough to let you swim out, just try to lift straight up and to be smooth and with minimal jerking your elbows and forearms.

I find it is easy to get out when I am in my dry suit: there is lots of flotation, little added weight from wet clothes  and there is little sense of urgency.  When skating I usually wear a life jacket for padding during falls and additional flotation.

I have talked to a couple of people who have gotten out, with considerable difficulty, by swinging their leg onto the edge of the ice.  The water slows your leg down during the swing making it difficult to get the leg over the edge enough that it does not slip back off.  In one case on Lake Dunmore (VT) it took the victim many tries and almost all his reserve of warmth/energy to be successful.
(copied from link)


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