Crevasse rescue on the high tour – how did that go again?

In mid-June, the high-altitude touring season slowly but surely begins. The anticipation of the upcoming climbs in the high mountains is often mixed with a feeling of uncertainty: crevasse rescue, how did that go again? High time for a refresher.

"While there was a record number of falls into crevasses in 2022 (70), there were only 2023 in 29, significantly less than the average of the last ten years (41)." These figures from the Swiss Alpine Club's latest mountain emergency statistics can be positive, but should be treated with caution. Because: during the same observation period, fatal accidents have increased at full speed.

If you want to be as safe as possible in the mountains, you should Hochtour not only check your equipment, but also critically examine your own skills and improve them if necessary.

Crevasse rescue
The digital leaflet Technology and tactics at full speed by Bergpunkt combines compact knowledge and clear learning videos on the subject of mountaineering. Image: Mountain point

If you don’t practice regularly, you’ll forget

The Crevasse rescue is a good example of a situation in which, statistically speaking, relatively few mountaineers will ever find themselves, but whose success depends to a large extent on the expertise and skills of all those involved.

And as is the case when you practice a skill irregularly and have to use it even less often, the supposed knowledge gradually begins to turn into half-knowledge. It's high time to take countermeasures.

The team train

When it comes to crevasse rescue, it is an advantage to be in a larger group. If there are enough rescuers (3-4), the victim is rescued by a team. And this works as follows:

  • 2-3 people remain tied to the victim’s rope.
  • An additional person goes to the edge of the crevasse secured (with a Prusik on the party rope or ideally rope leader of a second rope team).
  • If the people in the rope team are tied to the rope with 2 carabiners, the first person A can also take over the tasks at the edge of the crevasse.
  • Person at the edge of the crevasse: remove the lip of the crevasse, possibly place a rope underneath with a stick/ice pick (secured).
  • Rescue is led by the person at the edge of the crevasse. He or she makes sure that the victim is not crushed on the crevasse lip.
Crevasse rescue team train
Structure of the team train. Illustration: Mountain point.

Self-Ascension

If a person falls into a crevasse without injuring themselves, self-ascent is used. The person who has fallen through tries to climb up themselves if possible. The following video shows exactly how this works and what you need to look out for.

If the person in the crevasse is unable to climb up the rope themselves, a pulley system is used. There are various ways of setting up such a system. However, the underlying idea is the same in all cases: by redirecting the rope, the force required to pull the person up is reduced.

Alpine touring information sheet

The Austrian pulley

The Austrian pulley, also called a loose pulley, is used when the friction is so low that a reduction of 1:2 is sufficient and braking knots in the rope do not cause interference. The only requirement is that the reserve rope must be long enough and the person who has fallen must be able to hook the pulley into the harness.

The double pulley

The double pulley block, also known as the Swiss pulley block, can be used universally because a short reserve of rope is sufficient. The reduction ratio is 1:5 and the friction is high.

Canadian pulley

The easiest way to relieve the load on a knot is to use a Canadian pulley. In order to be able to pull your partner up using this method, the system must be supplemented with a backstop.

Canadian pulley
The Canadian pulley. Illustration: Mountain point

If you are looking for more useful tips and tricks on the subject of mountaineering, you will find them in the digital leaflet Technology and tactics at full speed from Bergpunkt. Have fun practicing. Stay safe!

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Credits: Cover picture Mountain point

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