I see so many people ski on glaciers, wearing a harness fully decorated with some karabiners, slings and brand new pulleys… but do we understand what the risks are? We hardly get any feed-back how close we are to a mistake: and if we get feed-back, it normally is too late.
I never had any problems on a glacier, even though I travel a lot on them for my work as a mountain guide. But sadly, last week one of my clients fell into a crevasse…my first experience.
We skied on a big glacier close to Zermatt, with many tracks and no signs of any cracks nearby. Suddenly one of the clients started shouting that his friend had fallen into a crevasse. His friend, skiing between me and him, had suddenly dropped down into the ground and disappeared.
Luckily, we could still hear him speak and as I slowly approached the crevasse, I could see him 3 to 4 metres down on a snow bridge: he was ok, not injured but just a bit uncomfortable.
We used a technique called a team-pull to get him out of the crevasse: the whole team helps, the whole team is attached to the rope (which is safer if there are any other crevasses in the area) and one person manages the rescue while having eye-contact with the victim. Within minutes, we had my client pulled out of the crevasse and ready to continue our journey. No problems this time luckily, just a reminder that glaciers can be a dangerous place and that we should always be aware!
Skiing on a glacier? Make sure you:
- Have all the gear you need! Harness, karabiners, slings, pulleys and of course two ropes (one extra if the first one falls into a crevasse!).
- Know how to use the gear: practice the crevasse rescue techniques.
- Extend your tiein-point from your belay loop with a 60cm sling to your harness: this gives easier access if someone has to pull you out of a crevasse.
- Never take both skies off on a glacier, even when you are putting skins on.
- Ski a bit apart so in case of a fall, other skiers have time to brake and adjust their course.