Glissading from Trail Crest

Posted by: Whitney Zone

Glissading from Trail Crest - 05/19/07 09:56 AM

Posted by Bob R, 05-19-07

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Knowledge and experience can take you a long way in life. But I do not believe in clairvoyance or prescience, and you would need them for this glissade slope if you risk it without an ice ax. That there is often a harder and icy section partway down has been pointed out by others. And I have mentioned it on several occasions, for example here and here. Not the same slope, but another time I was glissading through soft slushy stuff and hit an unexpected patch of ice (with dire consequences).

A number of people glissading from Trail Crest without ice ax have died. In my years of mountain rescuing up there since 1970, perhaps ten or so. In fact, I was on two such rescues a week apart in the late '90s. Both hit the rocks at the bottom. The first died of severe head injuries; the second survived but with a ruptured spleen and broken back.

Every one I know who glissades that slope regularly is aware of that likely harder section, and would never do it without having an ice ax at the ready.

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Finally, a friend sent me this link on ice ax use a couple of hours ago. It's from the British Mountaineering Council, and is excellent.

Many of us say "Take an ice ax and know how to use it." While many who glissade this slope do know how to use it, many do not. We can recommend that you get instruction, but many will not. This is for you. It could be well worth six minutes of your time.


Posted by hoser23, 05-19-07
Well said Bob. I glissaded for the first time while returning from the summit of Mt. Hood last weekend. My partner, a member of Eugene SAR instructed me on the proper use of my axe. I was surprised that proper use was more subtle and less intuitive than I thought. I was also surprised at how fast you can pick up speed and how rough a self arrest can be in the icy crust. I ended up walking down a portion of the mountain right next to the glissade trough.
I now heartly agree; if you do not know how to use an axe for glissading, seek instruction.


Posted by California-Trailwalker, 05-19-07
Bob - Great video! I've never used an ice axe, and by watching this video, it appeared to me that the person demonstrating the self-arrest positions was using the bottom pointed end of the ice axe pole to cause the arrest and not any part of the axe head. Is this correct? If so, in my ignorance of this procedure, I had always thought one arrested using the sharp end of the metal axe head while digging it into the snow/ice.

CaT


Posted by m.c. reinhardt, 05-19-07
Great refresher video, Bob...thank you. I have it bookmarked.
Originally Posted By: California-Trailwalker
Bob - Great video! I've never used an ice axe, and by watching this video, it appeared to me that the person demonstrating the self-arrest positions was using the bottom pointed end of the ice axe pole to cause the arrest and not any part of the axe head. Is this correct? If so, in my ignorance of this procedure, I had always thought one arrested using the sharp end of the metal axe head while digging it into the snow/ice.

CaT


Hi CaT
You do use the sharp end of the ice axe head. I believe in the beginning of the video, where just the pointed end of the bottom was used, the gentleman was demonstrating what to do if you have a quick slip not an actual fall.

Maybe Bob can explain it a little better.

MC smile
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Posted by h_lankford, 05-19-07
CaT,

The technique he demonstrated first with the shaft is called "self-belay".

Plant it IMMEDIATELY (actually it should be planted with every step in a suspect situation)and you may stop a slip on SNOW before it turns into an uncontrolled fall. Note the key words IMMEDIATELY and SNOW.

Some people argue that you are using a snow ice, not an ice ax.

The second technique he demonstrated (4 versions) was "self-arrest." More difficult.

In both cases, holding you depends on not just your technique, but steepness, quality of snow/packed snow/ice and a lot of variables.

Maybe Kurt will chime in as well.

Harvey


Posted by Richard P., 05-20-07
It was interesting learning that I've been doing the wrong way for all these years... I hold my axe with the pick facing forward, because I'm much more concerned about falling on "the sharp end of the stick" than I am about having to manipulate the axe during an arrest (and so far, I have a 100% success rate :-)).

That position also doesn't work if you need to place the pick for a hold.


Posted by stu gaddy, 05-20-07
wow, learning to glissade is soooo necessary. i was climbing with a friend in the north cascades, he decided to glissade down the slope. within seconds he found he was out of control, despite his efforts he could not self arrest. the iceax was ripped out of his hands as he hurtled down the slope. it was tethered to him, and he was able to grab the iceax but was not able to stop. he put his feet down and began to bullwinkle toward a rock outcropping, which he hit at tremendous speed. he hit backward and the pack on his back saved his life, though he suffered some injuries. the video is excellent, but you must practice!. remember given the right conditions you may have only seconds to self arrest and prevent injury or worse!


Posted by California-Trailwalker, 05-23-07
Thanks for the responses. I'll have to look at the video again. I must have missed something because I originally thought the guy on the video was demonstrating 4 versions of only one technique, not two. I hope that Bob R. and Kurt will add their input here.

CaT


Posted by h_lankford, 05-23-07
look carefully,

first technique self-belay uses shaft end.

second technique self-arrest uses ax end.
4 versions (I don't remember the order)
on front, head up
on front, head down
on back, head up
on back, head down.


Posted by Steve Larson, 05-23-07
Quote:
It was interesting learning that I've been doing the wrong way for all these years...

That video does not cover all ice axe techniques. Holding the axe with pick forward is often more comfortable, and is appropriate on easier terrain where a slip is not likely, or the consequences are not serious. However, I personally do not feel comfortable holding the axe in anything other than the position recommended in the video when I am on terrain where I may really need to self-arrest.

There are many variations of the self-belay, and one would be well advised to learn them all. As the slope gets steeper, and the snow surface harder, self-arrest becomes less and less likely. Practicing self-belay can literally save your life.

There is another aspect to the video that I liked--the part about keeping your feet off the snow. I learned this many years ago when I worked for a mountaineering school. The guides all spent some time practicing self arrest before the start of the season. It was the first time I seen that, and I don't recall having seen it since. Personally, if the snow were soft enough to walk on without crampons, I'd use my feet to help me stop, since the pick may well just slice through the snow without creating enough drag to stop your fall. But I think it's important to know what to do if you fall with crampons on.

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