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March 2013

Out Alive: Trapped in an Ice Tunnel

A solo hiker tries to claw her way out of a frozen cave after a winter pathway collapses.
Fighting the flow (Image by J Dombrowski)

Key Skill: Cross a snow bridge
Assess the consequences of falling through, especially over waterways. Look for indications of weakening snow (see right) and change your vantage so you can scrutinize a bridge’s sides and base. If possible, cross where bridges are supported from beneath by rocks or fallen trees, or in low areas where a fall won’t hurt or trap you. Time your crossing for the morning, when the bridge will be strongest, and the water volume flowing beneath it will be lower.

Skill: Signal for Help
3 key ways to attract rescuers 

  1. Make noise. Use a whistle (carry it on your person) and blow three consecutive blasts every several minutes. Yell if you can hear rescuers calling for you.
  2. Increase visibility. Place bright items where passersby, search parties, and rescue helicopters will see them. Reflect sunlight or shine your headlamp.
  3. Point the way. If you move, leave signs or create marks indicating your travel direction. For more signaling gear and techniques, visit backpacker.com/signals.

Stop Sliding Cutting steps can help you cross icy slicks or hard surface snow without slipping. Learn how at backpacker.com/cutsteps.

–> Watch this video of the view under Franklin Creek’s Snow Bridge shot by one of Rassmusen’s rescuers, Stefan Barycki.

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