In this post, I will write about alpine skills such a recommended way of travel on glacier terrain and tying in as a team.
How to rope up on the glacier?
When we move into the Alpine terrain we will encounter glacier at some point. We must be connected to each other by rope before we step onto the glacier to be protected in the event of falling into a crevasse. This is essential alpine skills. Common problem is how to get the distance right and should we use knots or not? Below I present method which is being taught in our school. We strongly recommend to team up with 2 or more climbers to form a team on the glacier. A 2 climbers team is the high-risk option – when one of you fall to the crevasse the only person to hold and break your fall is your partner. Team members in such situation must be super experienced, must know how to rescue themselves, and must have been practising crevasse rescue scenarios beforehand.
The recommended number of members in the team is three, maximum four people. It is more reasonable for 5 people to be divided into the group of two teams, whereby the distances between the groups should be the same as between the members of each team.
- a single 60m to 50m rope is recommended as the most universal one (especially when passing from the glacier to the rock ridge).
Tying in (3 climbers)
- first and last climber connect the rope to a harness with a figure of eight, adjust the length of the rope, tie an alpine butterfly knot and connect a loop with one screw gate and one snap gate biner (place them gate opposite to each other) to the harness belay loop. A spare rope I recommend to coil and store in a rucksack.
- the third member of the team attaches himself to the rope in the middle by alpine butterfly knot or overhand knot with isolation loop and two biners as above.
- minimum distance between team members is 15 m when knots are done. We must tie alpine butterfly knots (they will “eat” 3m of the rope). This means that on 50m rope we have around 7-6m of the rope in the rucksack on each end.
- the distance should be adjusted to the terrain and difficulty of the glacier, a general rule says – the more inclined and “broken” glacier the bigger distance (length of the rope).
- the lightest or the least experienced member of a 3 person team should go in the middle of the rope.
Alpine butterfly knots in the rope
- always recommended.
- mandatory in two person team.
- the first knot should be located approx. 3 m from your harness.
- the minimum number of knots is 3.
- keep the rope taut.
- adjust the distance and length of the rope when necessary.
Equipment that each team member should carry:
- Micro Traxion or similar capture pulley
- 2 x 120cm slings (for building anchor)
- T-block or similar
- 2 x ice screw
- 4 screw gate biners
- 4 snap gates
With the modern equipment accessible easily on the market, there is no excuse but to buy a Micro Traxion and T block or similar equipment.
I hope you like my input into alpine skills.
Disclaimer: All climbing and mountaineering are activities with a danger of personal injury or death. Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions. If any of the technique, skills or advice presented on my blog are not clear to you, seek professional advice and instruction before applying them.
Book onto my advanced winter mountaineering course to learn all the skills under excellent and professional supervision.