Backpacker Magazine –
Master Class: Explore the Alpine Zone
Beware of fast-changing alpine weather (Nate Strong)
Petzl Elios helmet (Petzl Elios)
Crampons (Black Diamond Equipment)
Know the Ropes
>>On a glacier, the risks to un-roped climbers who fall into a crevasse far outweigh the risks to a rope team. Always tie in.
>>On moderate slopes and slick snow, it’s less obvious. You have to decide whether un-roped climbers will be able to self-arrest or if they need group support. The risk of roping up: One person falls and pulls the whole rope team down (it also slows the climb). Look at the angle of the slope and the potential runout if you slide. Use good judgment: Will you be able to self-arrest alone? If not, rope up.
If you’re embarking on a climb that may require ropes, take a class or climb with a guide until you’re familiar with the key skills: tying knots, setting protection, belaying, setting anchors, and making prusik slings (tied correctly with a friction knot, these let you ascend a rope; learn how at backpacker.com/knots
Rescue a Fellow Climber
Partner fell into a crevasse? Here's how to save him.
1. After the fall is stopped, the middle climber (or climber closest to the fallen climber) should stay in self-arrest position to anchor the fallen climber while the end climber slowly gets up and starts building an anchor. The anchor should be between the arrested climber and the lip of the crevasse.
2. Build an anchor using whatever protection you have: ice screws or ice axes firmly secured in ice, skis or backpacks buried as deadmen in soft snow. Try to place two or more independent anchors with slings (loops of climbing webbing or cord) to spread out the load. An additional sling should connect the anchors to the rope of the fallen climber.
3. Once the anchor and slings are secure, ease off the self-arrest slowly to make sure the anchor holds. Belay one climber to the edge of the crevasse to check on the fallen climber. If the climber is uninjured, he may be able to rescue himself by climbing the crevasse wall or scaling the rope using a prusik sling. If the climber needs more help, you may have to haul him out.