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More Mountain Training: Crevasse Rescue Dry School

You’re crossing a glacier when your buddy falls through the snow into an invisible deep crack in the ice. Now he’s hanging there, with only the rope between you and him keeping him from falling even further into almost certain injury. What do you do? It’s time to put crevasse rescue skills to work.

I spent an evening with the Vancouver section of the Alpine Club of Canada for more crevasse rescue training that will be essential to my Denali (highest peak in North America) attempt this summer. I had already spent two days 1-on-1 in December with a mountain guide to learn and practice crevasse rescue, but when this additional opportunity came up I couldn’t resist. Practice makes perfect and this turned out to be another night well spent. Today was 3 hours of indoor training going over the basics.

On the agenda was:

1) Practicing self rescue, if you’re the unfortunately one to fall; and

2) The Z-line pulley haul, to pull the fallen teammate out when self rescue didn’t work.

Self rescue was pretty straight forward and uses what’s called “prussic loops” to ascend up the rope. A prussic loop is a thin diameter rope that you wrap multiple times around the climbing rope to generate friction, and thereby climb up the rope. You need 2 prussic loops to ascend using a technique that kinda makes you look like a centipede as you climb. It works amazingly well and always impresses me with its simplicity. Taking my pack off and clipping it to the rope while hanging there was an interesting experience…

The Z-line pulley haul enables the rescuers to haul up the victim with a 3:1 strength ratio. After setting up a suitable anchor, it can be all setup with just a couple prussic loops and a pulley in a special configuration. Once it’s all setup, hauling your buddy out of the crevasse is a breeze. The goal is to have the victim out within 10 minutes. It’s definitely possible with practice.

It was really great to be able to go over this stuff again with another extremely knowledgeable instructor. If all goes well, I’ll be out in the backcountry again this weekend to practice these skills outdoors and in snowy conditions

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