Crevasse Rescue

Mark Smiley calls the crevasse rescue haul a hobby. It’s technical and fun to practice, but it’s detached from reality. I have been involved with three crevasse falls over waist deep. One on the Bagley Icefield in 1999—he prusiked out. One chest deep on Mount Bona in 2007—he climbed out with a hand. And another in the Alps in 2017—we pulled as he climbed out. None required a haul system. Few of my guide friends, who have each spent hundreds, if not thousands of days on glaciers, have hauled a partner from a crevasse. The point is, don’t fixate on the crevasse rescue haul system! Instead, focus on the big picture.

Typical crevasse rescue practice scene at the Chabod hut on the Gran Paradiso in Italy. It’s rare to see them practice snow anchors or self rescue.

Typical crevasse rescue practice scene at the Chabod hut on the Gran Paradiso in Italy. It’s rare to see them practice snow anchors or self rescue.

The first big picture concept is avoiding crevasse falls in the first place. The decision making process I use to avoid crevasse falls is laid out in the Crackulator. The second big picture concept is to practice building snow anchors; you can’t do a haul or self-rescue without an anchor. The third concept is to practice self-rescue by prusiking. Only once you have avoidance, anchors and prusiking dialed, then you can practice the actual crevasse rescue haul system. 

The crevasse rescue haul system is complicated. When situations become complicated, such as during an accident or when making difficult decisions, it’s wise to have practiced the simplest solution (Occam’s Razor, Pareto Principle, etc). For the past three years I’ve been researching the simplest, most effective and current technique for crevasse rescue. That’s stacked onto 20 years of teaching glacier travel courses. The technique I’m currently settled on is laid out below. It’s in card form that you can print out and laminate for the field. It’s an evolving system. Next year this system will be improved.

Please let me know what you think!

Huge thanks to friends and family for many fun discussions: Dana Drummond, Matt Farmer, Eric Larson, Rigging For Rescue, Bobbie Schnell, John Sikes, Mark Smiley, Mike Soucy, Dave Stock, Molly Stock and Danny Uhlmann,

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