Canadian Snow Conditions/Ice Axe Protocols/Crevasses

06 Jun 2017 18:55 - 06 Jun 2017 19:23 #71705 by intrepid
intrepid created the topic: Canadian Snow Conditions/Ice Axe Protocols/Crevasses
Wishing everyone a fun winter in the Berg, hope you catch some good snow!

Meanwhile we are almost into summer in Canada. Spring-time conditions in the mountains here:


(photo credit Chris George)





Many mountain lakes still frozen over:



If anyone wants some extra snow, please come and get it. At this stage we are wanting to get rid of it on this side! :P

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.

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Last Edit: 06 Jun 2017 19:23 by intrepid. Reason: added photo credit
The following user(s) said Thank You: diverian, jamcligeo, ghaznavid, Andreas

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07 Jun 2017 09:40 #71706 by ghaznavid
ghaznavid replied to: Canadian Snow Conditions/Ice Axe Protocols/Crevasses
I wonder how many VE people have googled "flights to Canada" since that post went up :lol:

intrepid wrote:


I see the one individual has attached his axe to his harness, is this normal practice? When I google the topic, most seem to be opposed even to leashes, never mind full attachment to ones harness. To me it makes sense to attach it to your harness, even if just for an extra point of contact during fall arrest.

I know ice tools are generally attached to ones harness, but obviously these are designed to be used quite differently.

"Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory." - Ed Viesturs

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07 Jun 2017 18:38 - 07 Jun 2017 18:42 #71707 by intrepid
intrepid replied to: Canadian Snow Conditions/Ice Axe Protocols/Crevasses

ghaznavid wrote: I see the one individual has attached his axe to his harness, is this normal practice? When I google the topic, most seem to be opposed even to leashes, never mind full attachment to ones harness. To me it makes sense to attach it to your harness, even if just for an extra point of contact during fall arrest.

I know ice tools are generally attached to ones harness, but obviously these are designed to be used quite differently.

Its mostly a preference thing and it also depends on the kind of terrain you are on at the time and what technique you are using on that terrain. How you use your axe changes constantly as you cross the terrain. It also has a lot to do with not dropping and loosing your axe, rather than being a self-belay feature. If you are traveling on a glacier and you fall into a crevasse, your buddies will catch you on the rope, but if you haven't leashed your axe, the chances of loosing it in the crevasse are high, and that's an essential travel and safety item gone. Leashing the axe to your harness (or to a sling which is slung over your body) serves as a very reassuring back-up if you are taking photos on steep slopes, or if you need to take your pack off. It also allows you to switch hands easily, which you do a lot when you work your way straight up a steep slope. If you have the leash around your wrist, you have to first switch the leash before switching hands which is a pain. Leashes can get in the way during a self-arrest situation so you have to get the length just right. Personally I switch it up during the day depending on what we are doing. Sometimes I have the leash wrapped up out of the way, other times I have it around my wrist and at times I have it leashed to my harness. The story behind the photo above is that we had done some glacial travel to get to that point, so half of the group were leashing their axes, the other half weren't. We had climbed some very steep sustained slopes to get to that point too. The individual in the photo was also stopping a lot to take photos.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
Last Edit: 07 Jun 2017 18:42 by intrepid. Reason: typo
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08 Jun 2017 08:13 - 08 Jun 2017 08:15 #71709 by ghaznavid
ghaznavid replied to: Canadian Snow Conditions/Ice Axe Protocols/Crevasses
Losing an axe in a crevasse would be an issue - hadn't really thought of that. I was mostly concerned about a case where one falls and drops their axe before realising what is happening, but a crevasse would be more of an issue, especially on a wet glacier where it is covered and you didn't expect it.

How common is falling into a crevasse? Considering how much information is available online regarding crevasse rescue, I am guessing it isn't particularly rare. With a 2 man team, it must be reasonably hard to set up anchors while the only gear preventing their death (and if you fall in behind them, yours as well), is your crampons and axe. Kind of looks like 30's rock climbing with no gear between members of the team.

I'm finding this topic really interesting - fortunately there is a lot of online content on the issues of snow/glaciers!

"Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory." - Ed Viesturs
Last Edit: 08 Jun 2017 08:15 by ghaznavid.

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08 Jun 2017 09:36 - 08 Jun 2017 09:41 #71710 by Stijn
Stijn replied to: Canadian Snow Conditions/Ice Axe Protocols/Crevasses
Glacier travel with just two people is the most risky, but unless you're on a steep downhill slope, there's plenty of friction in the softer snow. This wouldn't be the case if it was icy, but then you're way less likely to break through a snow bridge anyway. It helps to tie knots every few metres between climbers (as these can catch on crevasse edges during the fall and act as pro) and to ensure there isn't much slack between climbers to allow fall momentum to build up.

One thing I hadn't considered on our last Switzerland trip was the possibility of water-filled crevasses. A British party of 3 arrived at Konkordia Hut in the Bernese Oberland where we were staying and the one climber was hypothermic as he had fallen into a water-filled crevasse with part of his body submerged in the icy water for the 10-15 mins it took his mates to set up the crevasse rescue pulley system and haul him out! So it certainly helps to have your rescue system well-practiced and efficient.

My feeling is that actual falls into crevasses are quite rare, but you'll probably half-sink into a crevasse (snow bridge still intact) fairly often. It's a scary feeling having sunk down to your waist, with one leg dangling in space, trying to exert as little pressure as possible on the fragile snow around you while you wallow/drag yourself out!
Last Edit: 08 Jun 2017 09:41 by Stijn.
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08 Jun 2017 10:12 - 08 Jun 2017 13:19 #71711 by ghaznavid
ghaznavid replied to: Canadian Snow Conditions/Ice Axe Protocols/Crevasses
@Stijn: scary stuff! I would have thought the water would have frozen in the crevasse, but I guess that would take a while. Notably your pack would go in too, and thus you would be in for a rather horrible night. That is a truly terrifying thought!

Obviously taking some form of course on all this is necessary before giving it a proper go - but also key to practice beforehand. Any means of doing so without the necessary snow? I guess I should tag along to the next rescue team hauling training.

One thing I have found very interesting is how many big mountains go unclimbed for years while people wait for new ice bridges to form. The risk we have in the Berg are so different to these.

I also have a much better understanding of why Steck did what he did the way he did - paragliding off the top takes out some of your risk of a dangerous descent and a fast-and-light ascent reduces your risk of being caught in bad weather or an avalanche. In the Berg you can hike at close to your limit and mostly be ok, but in snow/ice it seems you need to have plenty left in the tank to get out of there quickly.

"Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory." - Ed Viesturs
Last Edit: 08 Jun 2017 13:19 by ghaznavid. Reason: Thanks mods

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08 Jun 2017 13:27 #71713 by Stijn
Stijn replied to: Canadian Snow Conditions/Ice Axe Protocols/Crevasses
We had a mountain guide friend who gave us a bit of training at UCT using a steep grass slope simulating the crevasse and a lamppost as an "anchor". :unsure:

And then made sure to start on very easy glaciers at the beginning of our first trip, to learn by experience.

Clearly, a course is the recommended way to go, perhaps even on location as the first few days of your trip, but we were students on a tight budget!

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08 Jun 2017 13:39 #71714 by ghaznavid
ghaznavid replied to: Canadian Snow Conditions/Ice Axe Protocols/Crevasses
Interesting. The rigging of the hauling systems seems quite complicated, so definitely worth practicing first. I have seen videos where they get the person to hang on the rope by using a small cliff (e.g. Mafadi size), but I don't think there is ever really enough sufficiently hard and deep snow in the Berg to do that here. Someone suggested the ravine at Rumdoodle (Kloof Gorge) with trad anchors, but I don't like the idea of trying something out where a mistake could actually result in serious injury.

"Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory." - Ed Viesturs

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08 Jun 2017 15:09 #71715 by Viking
Viking replied to: Canadian Snow Conditions/Ice Axe Protocols/Crevasses
Rigging the hauling system is the easy part. Securing decent anchors in the snow would be the difficult part.

“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!”

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08 Jun 2017 15:18 #71716 by ghaznavid
ghaznavid replied to: Canadian Snow Conditions/Ice Axe Protocols/Crevasses

Viking wrote: Rigging the hauling system is the easy part. Securing decent anchors in the snow would be the difficult part.


Based on the info I am finding online, any scenario where you would need to do this, 2 pickets (or ice screws if it is very hard) would be bomber in almost any scenario. I was quite interested to watch videos of testing of a single picket in a dead man anchor on soft (but reasonably deep) snow - 2 people hanging off it and it held just fine.

You can't haul off a snow-bollard, but I was also interested to find that you can actually ab off one (not that I think I would ever trust one).

"Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory." - Ed Viesturs

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