Two person glacier travel

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AndrewLyonsGeibel
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Two person glacier travel

Post by AndrewLyonsGeibel » Sat Nov 18, 2017 1:10 pm

Does anyone here have experience with a two person rope team on a glacier? Is it really feasible for one person to stop a crevasse fall with loaded packs and or sleds? Just brainstorming for future climbs.
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Re: Two person glacier travel

Post by pbakwin » Sat Nov 18, 2017 1:24 pm

I've used that technique on Rainier, though not with a heavy pack. The theory is that you can arrest your partner's fall so that you don't both die in a crevasse. NOT something I'd like to test! My partner DID fall in a crevasse, but fortunately was able to self arrest before plunging to the depths or even weighting the rope. One of many times I've appreciated having a super solid partner!
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Re: Two person glacier travel

Post by dpage » Sat Nov 18, 2017 1:45 pm

This Ft Collins climber wrote a book about he and his partner's experience on Rainier as a 2 person team.

https://www.amazon.com/Ledge-Inspiratio ... 0345523202
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Re: Two person glacier travel

Post by TomPierce » Sat Nov 18, 2017 4:57 pm

I've done it several times. Denali, the Alps, Andes. But IMO they were pretty tame glaciers (and I include the West Butt on Denali in that category), not crevasse horror shows. As to whether it can be done safely, as with most things in life I think the initial answer is likely "it depends." Season, number and type of crevasses, icy vs. snowy, etc.

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Re: Two person glacier travel

Post by kaiman » Sat Nov 18, 2017 5:06 pm

The short answer: Glacier travel is best done with three or more people.

Two person glacier travel is best used in moderation and only in certain circumstances such as on short glacier crossings/approaches (North Cascades, Bugaboos, Olympics, etc), or where the crevasse danger is clearly evident and the risk of hidden crevasses is low to none, or if you simply can't find a third or fourth partner. While it is done sometimes, climbing heavily glaciated mountains like Denali, Mount Rainier, or Mount Baker (even the trade routes) is ill-advised as the risk of hidden crevasses on those mountains is fairly high.

I have been on two person rope teams 3-4 times in the Cascades on short or obvious glaciers and had no incidents, but was with a highly trained partner and we were both very careful to search for the safest routes and always be aware of our surroundings.

As pkbaldwin points out, the theory is that one person can arrest the other climbers fall and prevent both climbers from going into the crevasse together. However, this can be difficult if not impossible depending on the strength/skill of the partner arresting the fall, the difference in the two climber's weights, slope angle, snow conditions, etc.

In addition to being able to arrest the fall of a second climber, the next challenge that presents itself to two person rope teams is the rescue itself, as the person who is not in the crevasse has to hold the weight of the other climber and set up some sort of pulley system to get the other climber out of the hole, without moving from the arrest position. I have tried this in simulated scenarios during crevasse rescue classes and can tell you first hand that I wouldn't want to do this if I didn't have too. In short falls, the climber in the crevasse may be able to pull themselves out, but if the climber is wedged, in a deeper fall, or into an overhanging crevasse self rescue becomes very difficult.

So I guess my advice to you is to avoid two person rope teams if you can.

Just my two cents,

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Re: Two person glacier travel

Post by Monster5 » Sat Nov 18, 2017 5:37 pm

Most of my glacier travel in the past few years has been with two people. The benefits and comfort factor with three have been mentioned, but two is ideal when the glacier leads to further technical climbing and multipitch rope work. Three people kinda sucks for ice climbs or switching between pitching and simuling. A group of four can tackle the glacier together then split into pairs for the climbing.

Compared to a three person team, we might spread out more, add knots, divy excess rope between the two for rescue, belay across bridges rather than walk across, set more belays in general, and generally move more cautiously. I probably wouldn't even consider it in certain sugar snow conditions.
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Re: Two person glacier travel

Post by Monster5 » Sat Nov 18, 2017 5:40 pm

dpage wrote:This Ft Collins climber wrote a book about he and his partner's experience on Rainier as a 2 person team.
I couldn't make it through the writing, but wasn't the accident less a factor of two people and more a factor of trying to shortcut a ranger-established DC route switch back and glissading or something?
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Re: Two person glacier travel

Post by GregMiller » Sun Nov 19, 2017 4:29 am

Monster5 wrote:
dpage wrote:This Ft Collins climber wrote a book about he and his partner's experience on Rainier as a 2 person team.
I couldn't make it through the writing, but wasn't the accident less a factor of two people and more a factor of trying to shortcut a ranger-established DC route switch back and glissading or something?
Not really, they were coming down the Emmons glacier, which tends to have much less of an established ‘route’ (and I believe guides generally set the routes anyway). While they were glissading shortly before the accident, when they did fall in the crevasse they were walking, at full rope length. They were in soft late-afternoon snow, where neither person had any chance of arresting their fall, their axes just pulled through the snow. I’d guess with a third the odds of arresting the fall would have been better, but I certainly wasn’t there, so I can’t really say.
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Re: Two person glacier travel

Post by nomad_games » Sun Nov 19, 2017 8:27 am

See: Touching the Void
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Re: Two person glacier travel

Post by Tab » Sun Nov 19, 2017 9:34 am

Without fixed anchoring, roping with a partner is a two person death pact if your point man takes a fall. Before putting it to real use go give it a try. Try arresting your leader at the end of a full 40’ + fall/slide. (Arresting with only your ax). It works “great” unless, your top man falls. Serious.
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Re: Two person glacier travel

Post by AndrewLyonsGeibel » Sun Nov 19, 2017 10:14 am

My partner and I did practice which is why I posted. I feel like I’m relatively strong but there is no way that I could arrest a fall with a person and close to 100 lbs of gear. We are both pretty confident about setting up a haul system but both nervous about stopping the fall and building an anchor.
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Re: Two person glacier travel

Post by Tab » Sun Nov 19, 2017 10:29 am

Understand. Thing is your ax will pull thru top layer of snow/crust like butter with all that weight. Better than nothing (for peace of mind) but for safety while crevasse traversing, fix your anchors. My two cents...
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