SKILLS: Glacial Travel: Part One, The Basics

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 UKC Articles 16 Jun 2016
3 climbers moving roped-up on a glacier, 3 kbIn the run up to the 2016 Arc'teryx Alpine Academy in Chamonix, France, we have a series of articles on some key skills in Alpine climbing.

Here Dave Searle gives his advice on roping-up for glacier travel.

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 jon 16 Jun 2016
In reply to UKC Articles:

> Ski oles can be very useful.

Unless you ski into one, of course.
 iknowfear 17 Jun 2016
In reply to UKC Articles:

when in teams of two, make butterfly knots 1.5 to 2 meters apart, starting 3 m from the attachment point.

The idea is that the rope will cut in and the knot will hold a fall. Be aware that the knot make crevasse rescue by the partner even harder, but increase the likelihood that that partner is not dragged down into the crevasse and can try to perform a rescue.
 galpinos 17 Jun 2016
In reply to UKC Articles:

Hmm, I'm confused. Step 3 says:

" The final image shows it being tied off with a clove hitch on a carabiner. This is so the rope pulls onto your harness and not your shoulders. This is important for holding a fall as if the weight comes higher up on your body you’ll be pulled over."

....bu he final image doesn't show a clove hitch to the carabiner? The rope pull will be onto the bottom of the coils, not the harness?
 Dave Searle 18 Jun 2016
In reply to galpinos:

Thanks for bring this to my attention.. UKC Has published the wrong version of this article. I re-wrote it after taking the pictures and this version doesn't match up. I hope we can get it fixed as its important to me to give the correct advice.

Greginthehills 19 Jun 2016
In reply to UKC Articles:

Hi Dave,

the text of your article is a touch confusing, but seems to me generally OK. But with the pictures attached to the article, I think you should rename the article 'How not to rope up on a glacier'.
At the very least, you should add a picture showing the alpinist roped up on a clove hitch (or a Marchard knot, or a figure of 8) on a separate carabiner attached to his harness. As the article is, the alpinist is roped up on the coils, which, to me, is the one thing not to do.
I'd refer to this video from ENSA that shows how to rope up for glacier travel:

If you really want to add a bit of novelty, then you can recommend not to coil up but to keep the extra rope length at the top of the backpack (ready to be pulled) rather than coiled up. This is how most people now use their rope in France and Italy (and the Swiss are catching up) on 'easy' glacier. Indeed the coils are only usefull when you need to adjust regular the length of rope between climbers; i.e. on rock, on steep non-glacier slopes, etc.

Hope these comments help, and that no one will rope up on the coils...
 John H Bull 19 Jun 2016
A bit slow this. I think I'll get the bus.
 Rog Wilko 20 Jun 2016
In reply to bullybones:

I thought this was going to be about 80 year olds in the Alps.
 MG 20 Jun 2016
In reply to Greginthehills:

Not sure why you getting such a negative response. The ENSA video is interesting - I hadn't seen the "sliding" middle-man before.
Greginthehills 20 Jun 2016
In reply to MG:

reading my own message, I do realise how negative it sounds. it wasn't my intention (sorry for that)
Just wanted to make sure that no one ropes up with the tension of the rope on the coils, which, I thought, the picture "Taking Coils #5" suggests.
In reply to Dave Searle:

Hi Dave,

Just spoke to Jack, I believe the article has now been updated - sorry about that.

 AdrianC 20 Jun 2016
In reply to Dave Searle:
"Some people like to tie a clove hitch onto a carabiner clipped through the belay loop. This lowers where the pull will be on you if you have to hold a fall but if you end up in the crevasse you may end up going upside down if you have a big bag on. Thinking logically the 1st person is mostly likely to fall into a crevasse so make sure they have the load going to the coils which act as a sort of chest harness. The last person might want the clove hitch to lower the pull onto their harness making it less likely for them to get pulled head over heels."

There's a question of priorities here. The two things you're balancing between are the risk of the fallen climber inverting and the risk of the person on the surface not being able to arrest the fall because they're pulled head first. Which if these is more important?

The high tie-in point (as shown in the last photo) might help you stay the right way up if you fall in but its negative effect on your ability to stop a fall is much more serious. If you're concerned about inverting then think about creating a chest harness but keep the attachment point low.

Post edited at 10:03
 jon 20 Jun 2016
In reply to AdrianC:

Substituting a 'French' prusik/autobloc for the clove hitch sorts that out.
 PeterBlackler 27 Jun 2016
In reply to UKC Articles:
It's good to see this topic debated as I think that it's hard to feel the standard chest coils method is an ideal's certainly widely used but is complex and does have much discussed drawbacks

Petzl's fairly recent take on the subject as here:

I note they don't show the high tie in method with combined with the autoblock; but there again neither does the Dave Searle article use the autoblock

Any thoughts from those here on the Petzl tie-in methods?

Post edited at 15:54
 barry donovan 31 Jul 2016
In reply to UKC Articles:

Just one point about the heaviest last place thing. The very first time I ever crossed a glacier in a rope of 3 - being heaviest and at the back - across a featureless white field of snow. Light in the front, next one heavier then me.... I went in without any warning or sign. The other two were pulled backwards not forwards. The rope was tight and clear of the snow. So apart from being shaken and staring down at a huge blue void - they sat tight and I climbed out with them moving forwards. The point is, the front two never made an impression on the snow - they were 50KG, 70KG and I was 85KG.

It happens suddenly and without warning.

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