Ice screw for kiters
Ice screw for kiters
Like most outdoor sports, kiting has gain popularity in the last few years especially during the worldwide pandemic in 2020-2021 and we have noticed an increasing demand for ice screws from kiters.

I have to admit, I don't kite but my ice climbing experience gives me goods knowledge of ice screws and I strongly believe the Grand Wall Joffre Lake Ice Screw is one of the best options available for anchoring a kite.

The obvious positive point that comes to my mind is the price. At $44.95 CAD, the Joffre Lake is the most affordable ice screw in the industry. Two screws in new conditions for less than $100 CAD is an absolute bargain. There are two downward points but let's see if it matter for kiters:

1) The thickness of the tube and threads makes them harder to screw-in. For climbers on a perfectly vertical wall where you have to stand on one arm and where the energy level drops quickly, you most likely want a screw that goes in easily and quickly. The Joffre Lake Screw is not the best option. However, on flat terrains, like frozen lakes, it's definitively not a problem.

2) There is a lighter version, but again, climbers go up with the precious energy from their muscles, while kiters use energy from the wind. Lighter expensive aluminum screws seem a good thing in the mountains but not a necessity for kiters that just walk few meters on flat terrain to anchor their kites.

Kiters that I spoke with appeared unfamiliar with strength and kN force rating. Most of them requested to get 22cm screws and I was surprised by this. Ice on frozen lakes is the strongest pure ice you can find. It's definitively the type of ice we want for placing screws when climbing. If I would be able to have that type of ice all the way up on any vertical routes, I would definitively not bother bringing screws longer than 13 cm. I can admit that warm weather and snowpack melting can make bad slushy white ice on top of frozen lakes, but it's usually not very thick. A 22cm screw is not mandatory to reach the excellent quality ice under this white layer. And even so, a kite did not generate the strength of a falling climber. Consequences are also not the same. Climbers use thick ropes rated to support well over 2200 lbs (1000kg). Our slings are rated to 22kN (4850lbs or 2200kg) while kiters use thin lines rated below 600 lbs (272kg). In my opinion the 12cm Grand Wall Joffre Lake Ice Screw is without a doubt strong enough in "lake" ice to support 600 lbs. The thin string should definitively break before the screw. I tested it. If you used a screw only for starting the kite, then choose the length you feel comfortable but if you want to bring a screw with you while kiting, bring a 12cm, it's less bulky and strong enough for anchoring.  

Like any person that walks into a frozen lake, we want to know how thick is the ice and this is where a longer screw might be helpful. The next table is the safety recommendations by Québec and Ontario government. 

* Poor duck would probably prefer being in the water.

Tip: Direct sunlight mixed with mild weather, could warm a screw causing the ice to melt enough to make it unstable. In this case, cover the screw with a snowball to protect it from direct sunlight.

In the end, the negative aspect of the most affordable ice screw on the market is void when it's used on flat terrain. It is a perfect match for anchoring kite or tent, and it's pretty dam good for the wallet.

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Posted by Marc-Olivier Chabot

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