Posted by drhabes, 06-30-06
I received a CD from Bob R. today and converted his glissade down the main Mt. Whitney shute on June 22, 2006. He was joined by Richard P. on their journey down the mountain. Bob asked me to post these videos to help those who are attempting this mountaineering manuever. I'm sure Bob will enter his thoughts on these videos now that they are posted. They are in 4 formats posted below. Enjoy!

Mt. Whitney Glissade (videos no longer available)

Posted by Bob R, 06-30-06
Thanks to drhabes, and rishi and Steve C. When I put out a request for help in this, they and others responded. Not knowing how to be politic about it, I just shipped off CDs and let things evolve. drhabes got them ready first.

I had my left hand tight on the shaft of the ax, using considerable force to dig into the snow behind me as a brake. You can hear it cutting into the snow. My right hand was in a death grip on the ax head, also trying to hold the camera steady, and I was ready to roll over into the arrest position if things got out of control. Fortunately, they didn't.

There are a few reasons for making them available. One: For those who have done this, an opportunity to show your friends and family what it was like. Two: For those who plan to do it soon, a taste of what you'll experience. Three: If it looks a little too exciting, maybe you will think twice and decide to simply walk down.

Whatever...when the conditions are good, as they were that day, glissading can be a safe and quick way down a slope. But it takes considerable experience to gauge the safety, because there are several factors involved. When the snow is harder--late afternoon and nighttime these days, and later in the season all of the time--the conditions will not be good. In particular, there is always a section about 500' long, midway down the slope, that is harder and icier. There is no way to tell in advance, and it will surprise you when you get there. So keep a grip on that ice ax!

Posted by Marc, 06-30-06
Thanks for the ride, Bob! Awesome. I remember the clip you posted a few years ago, and both are very educational for me. Can't believe you managed to glissade, hold the camera and do some commentary all at the same time. And Richard, despite the apprehension you described in your trip report, you had a smile on your face at the bottom. Very cool. Thanks to drhabes, too.

Posted by Steve C, 07-01-06
Bob's earlier videos are here:

Glissading down from Trail Crest (Bob Rockwell Glissade video)

Awesome, Bob!!

But... Everyone BEWARE! People have died attempting to glissade on Mt. Whitney! Here are some guidelines:

1. Never glissade wearing crampons. (where is BobR's x-ray?)

2. Never glissade without an ice axe for a brake.

3. On Mt. Whitney, the top of the slope can be soft, but iced-up below, since the afternoon sun shadow starts at the bottom and moves up. So late afternoon can be treacherous.

4. Learn and practice self-arrest techniques and glissading before trying to glissade from Trail Crest on Mt. Whitney.

Posted by Bob R, 07-01-06
Thanks to Steve C for underscoring the warnings. I knew someone would. I provided this mostly for entertainment, but worry because of the chance that some will then decide to try it -- without the proper training and equipment.

In my second paragraph I alluded to the skills required. Life-saving skills, at that. I didn't have to self-arrest that day, but I did twelve days earlier when a foothold gave way as I was walking in the trench over to the beginning of the glissade section.

There are quite a few more warnings on this board about the dangers in glissading. Just use the search function. One such is here, which shows the x-ray Steve asks about.

One warning that is not discussed often: Make sure there is a runout. Right now it is easy to miss the rock island in the middle of the slope by walking far enough east before starting your glissade. And the rocks at the bottom of the slope are still covered up. So about the worst that can happen these days is you will go out of control and receive a dislocated shoulder or broken hip, or perhaps a broken neck. The fatalities I know about on that slope are people who have crashed into rocks later in the year. A few years back I was involved in SARs for two of these a week apart. The lucky one only got a broken back and ruptured spleen, among other things.

Posted by Sierra Sam, 07-01-06
Great videos, Bob. We need to get you a helmet cam! One additional tip that should be pointed out, you want to wear fairly thick pants (or an additional layer of glissade pants - look like huge adult diapers worn on the outside). The snow/ice can shred thin pants (I'll not attach the pictures of this hiker with his tail hanging out as proof).

Posted by Randy S, 07-02-06
That was quite a ride just watching it from the safety of my computer. Good job, stay safe!

Edit: For completeness, see this thread for a picture of Rockwell's ankle injury -- a break that occurred as a result of glissading while wearing crampons:

broken ankle image: The infamous xray