Crevasse Rescue

My buddy Mark Smiley calls the crevasse rescue haul system a hobby. It’s technical and fun to practice, but a bit 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.

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.

Real crevasse falls over waist deep are bad. The decision making process I use to avoid crevasse falls is laid out in the Crackulator. Of greatest importance is to practice avoiding a crevasse fall. Then practice building snow anchors. Then practice self-rescue by prusiking. If you have those skills dialed, then 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 here. It’s in card form that I print out and laminate for my glacier travel courses. It’s an evolving system. Next year this system will be in the trash and I will have an even better system. 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, Danny Uhlmann,

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