wet,cold,dark & ugly
Part of my training to prepare for climbing in Alaska was to learn to get myself out of a glacier crevasse using self- rescue techniques, assuming that I was not injured if it were a fall for real. For this training to take place, you need to have access to large glaciers. The closest ones that fit the bill are on Mt.Rainier located in the state of Washington, USA. So, that is where I went after enrollment in the mountaineering school.
After the preliminary training is over, you are lowered into a crevasse with the admonition “get yourself out”. Before you are lowered, you suit-up with full regalia, that is, parka, gloves, full pack, climbing harness, two ropes , ice-axe, crampons, mechanical ascenders, prussic loops, and glacier glasses that fog-up. You begin by walking backwards to the crevasse edge. Once there you step backwards over the edge and down you go. Way down! You find that you are now hanging free from the crevasse walls.
Now what coach? Well, look around and relax-enjoy the view. Look down and you will see the crevasse devolve into a black nothingness. It’s time to get your act together and get yourself out.
You begin by slipping out of your pack and letting the pack weight be borne by a rope pre-arranged for that purpose. You still have to climb out with the pack weight on you, but at least it is not on your back. Your next action requires you to step into your prussic loop with one foot and the ascender loop with the other. Please try to avoid nicking the rope of the loops as you pass the loops over your very sharp crampon points. Now you are ready to climb out.
Before you start-up, take a moment to catch your breath and look around. Hopefully you will not be here again. You may notice now that the scenery down here is somewhat interesting, if it weren’t for the cold melt water that is soaking you, that is. You begin the climb by shifting your weight to the lower loop and then lift your other foot as you slide it’s loop up the climbing rope. Now you shift your weight to the upper loop and step up. Now all you have to do is alternate this process and with a little effort on your part, you are up. Up – not out!
Your next task is to get yourself out. That is, get over the crevasse edge that is at your head – not your feet. You go ahead by kicking your crampon front points into the crevasse wall and then, using your ice-axe for a handhold, step out of the crevasse. now you are up and out!
The several times I’ve been in (and out) of crevasses has left me with a strong aversion to unplanned visits. They are well worth avoiding.,