A few years ago, John Freeman was soloing a steep pillar of ice on the Icefields Parkway in the Canadian Rockies of Alberta. Transitioning from the pillar to the safer ice above, the pillar fractured and Freeman fell a long way. Luckily, in this case, Freeman managed to escape with only a few scrapes and bruises.
Top climber Will Gadd said after: “Remember that free-hanging ice almost always breaks right at the top, just where it connects to the rock. That’s where it’s under the greatest strain from the hanging load, where the interior/exterior temperature differentials are also the greatest.
“If you can’t lead a piece of free-hanging or free standing ice without putting screws into it then you shouldn’t be on it. The one exception might be something like the Fang–if it breaks you’re probably going to die anyway, although amazingly people seem to have survived the experience, as John did.”