If you were intrigued by my previous post on crevasse rescue, take a look at these video clips. They were filmed immediately after we made our first attempt at prussicking. As you will see, it was tough!
I met a couple of crevasses a few years back whilst skiing across the Valley Blanc. It was an amusing liaison due to one party member ending up in a compromising and probably quite painful position, straddling a snow wall only a few inches from the crevasses.
In Antarctica, along with the extreme cold, crevasses are a major threat to us. We will be roped together in teams of three while on the ice and we are already practising getting out of them.
Our first attempt at crevasse rescue drills occurred in the Peaks over half term. We were taught four ways of getting out:
- Climb out using your ice axe, crampons and help from your team mates hauling on the rope. This works as long as you are conscious, uninjured and haven’t fallen too far.
- Be hauled out by your team mates using brute force. This is fine if you haven’t fallen too far, aren’t too heavy and haven’t gone into the crevasse with your sledge attached to you:
- Climb out using a technique called prussicking. This involves attaching a sling for your foot and an anchor to the main rope using prussicks, which are small climbing ropes. By moving the sling up, stepping up and then using the anchor to take your weight while you move the sling up, you can ascend the rope, easy:
- The real problem comes if you fall a long way down and are not able to help yourself. In this case your two team mates set up a pulley system and haul you out. When practising this technique the team thought it would be a great idea to set up the system and then drag me over some grass, over a rock, through some heather and into a big puddle … thanks!
So we’ve practised and had some success. I still have some issues with crevasses however.
- Our practice wasn’t at -20 deg C or lower
- We didn’t have sledges attached to us.
- If all three who are roped together fall in then how do you climb out using the rope?!