Crevasse Rescue In the Age of Glacial Recession

swbugas Member Posts: 46

Each year, I find myself saying nearly the same thing, "I can't believe how much this place has changed." The unfortunate reality is that each time I say it, it's in response to the not-so-gradual recession of our glaciers and snow fields. Early season climbs now look more like mid to late season climbs, and late season climbing carries far more objective hazards than it ever has before. I don't mean to be the doom specialist here, but I do feel it's worth considering how these changes will ultimately affect our ability to adventure. One area I've begun reevaluating is my crevasse rescue kit.

I recognize there is inherently no perfect crevasse rescue kit in the first place, and we all have different opinions on prusiks vs tiblocs, two pickets vs a picket and two screws, etc... The truth, more often than not, is that your kit should be situational, but I am a believer in habits when safety is concerned. I like to have a core crevasse rescue kit I can grab blind folded and feel confident in. Our changing environment, though, has made me start to rethink certain aspects of the kit. I find myself grabbing an extra screw more often now that old ice is exposed much more of the season. Additionally, and especially in the earlier season, I find a single picket is often dubious when the snow is melting so rapidly (and again, this depends on size of team, type of route, etc...).

I bring this all up to ask the following questions:

1) What goes into your crevasse rescue kit every single time?

2) Has your kit evolved recently, and if so, how?

3) Has the climate influenced your choice in crevasse rescue gear?

I don't plan to stop my alpine adventures anytime soon, but as someone that stays up at night pondering objective hazards, I feel it's worth while to reconsider our core practices, taking into account our evolving environment. Let me know what you think!


  • MHerb
    MHerb Member Posts: 13

    Definitely, a worthy conversation to have and points to ponder. After a low snow season and above average temps in BC Canada, the local glaciers have taken quite a hit. Glacier mass balance studies have shown an average of 5m of depth lost each year below the firn line for the last decade. Ice that has been buried by rock/boulders for years is starting to melt, making for very unstable approaches to popular climbs in areas like the Bugaboos and Rogers Pass. Eventually, the objective hazard for some routes may become too high and should be avoided.

    1) My go-to kit:

    • Ice axe
    • 4 non lockers
    • 3 lockers, 1 triple action
    • Sling grabber/knife
    • 240cm sling
    • 120cm sling
    • 5m prussik
    • Personal prussik
    • Prussik minding pulley
    • Nano traxion
    • Tibloc
    • Ice screw(s), 16-21cm
    • Harness
    • 30m glacier line
    • Collapsible pole with a small basket to probe snow

    **Depending on group size I may drop a biner or two, or only carry one ice screw, as we could pool resources to pull off a rescue, though I'll always carry enough gear to get myself out of a crevasse by ascending the line.

    2) The kit hasn't changed that much over the years other than reducing weight by buying more expensive trinkets. Possibly the most significant is typically carrying multiple (2 or more depending on group size) 30m glacier lines (typically 6mm static line). In my opinion, this introduces versatility and reduces the weight carried by one person.

    **By using the 6mm glacier lines, you must also use the proper equipment (pulley, nano traxion, tibloc, etc.) that is designed for that diameter of line and know how to use it.

    3) Depending on the season/time of year, I may carry an extra ice screw or have a picket or two within the group. I may also increase the distance between each person on the rope depending on the potential crevasse opening. In winter I typically use 15m and in summer 15-18m+ (depending on the time of season and if crevasse sags are visible or open). I may also choose not to use a rope if the snowpack is deep, visibility is good, or the risk of avalanche hazard outweighs the risk of a crevasse fall.

    Keep exploring @swbugas!!

  • swbugas
    swbugas Member Posts: 46

    Love all of this insight! Way to stay adaptable! Your use of glacier lines is really interesting and new to me, and I’m super curious about employing them in your system. Always love finding ways to break kits between the whole group. I find a three person team opens up an immense amount of new opportunities compared to a two person team. Unfortunately I’ve spent more time on two person teams haha. My kit, aside from the glacier lines, is extremely similar to yours. Thanks!