January 10, 2022

What Happens if You Fall into a Crevasse?

by Kevin

Table of Contents

A crevasse is a crack in the surface of a glacier. It is an opening that one can fall into and get stuck. A crevasse can be tens of meters deep and often does not have any snow or ice on the floor, making it difficult for climbers to spot them. Crevasse and bergschrund are related terms.

When mountaineering, crevasse rescue skills are vital. While it is fun traversing through the glaciated route, there is always the risk of you or your partners falling inside a crevasse. For this reason, knowing the essentials like carrying people from a crevasse and team arrest is a good idea in case you need them.

So, what exactly is crevasse rescue? As the phrase suggests, crevasse rescue is a rescue mission to attempt to save someone who’s fallen into a crevasse. It is rather sophisticated to implement precisely in emergencies. Thus, it would be best to make decisions that avoid a fall from occurring.

Honestly, most mountaineers will perhaps never have to apply their rescue skills, though it is crucial that you get accustomed to them in case you require them. When one of your fellow climbers falls in a crevasse, your objective is to assist them in climbing out. In most instances, the victim may climb without help, and this ascension mechanism is known as self-rescue.

On the other hand, if your victim can’t perform a self-rescue, you’ll need to pull them out. This can be done using one of the multiple haulage mechanisms. In this piece, we talk more about the necessary gear as well as the basic steps in a given crevasse rescue mission for a three-mountaineers rope team. On that note, you should familiarize yourself with the instructions and practice various rescue methods before going on your first mountaineering adventure.

Crevasse Rescue Gear 

For the basics, you will need several pieces of equipment, including:

  • One snow picket per mountaineer to create an anchor, as you’ll most likely access your teammates’ pickets.
  • Two carabiners or pulleys for your pulling system.
  • 20 feet accessory cord, which will come in handy in developing prusik slings.
  • Single and double nylon slings for the anchor.
  • Five non-locking and four locking carabiners for various applications like creating the anchor, installing the hauling mechanism, connecting to the anchor, prusiking, and so much more. This does not include the carabiners you’ll utilize to clip yourself to the rope. Again, these carabiners are supposed to be a blend of round stock and other types of carabiners.

Related Article: Crevice vs. Crevasse

How to Form a Crevasse Rescue 

There are countless possible rescue situations that you might come across during your adventure, depending on the number of climbers roped together, the victim you have to rescue, and the circumstances surrounding the rescue.

Despite the known factors, the major steps of planning a rescue remain the same until you find the precise hauling solution to save the victim.

Here are the basic steps:

  • Arrest the fall
  • Create the anchor
  • Shift the climber’s weight to the anchor
  • Prep the crevasse’s lip
  • Creating a hauling mechanism

Here, we explain a possible situation to offer an idea of what happens during a rescue. It presumes that the last individual on the three-person rope team has fallen inside the crevasse.

1. Arrest the fall 

If one person on the rope team skids, your instant objective is to prevent the fall, to save him before he falls. Here’s how to go about it:

  • You should all yell “falling” and promptly trigger self-arrest, embedding your ice axes inside the snow and utilizing your bodies to avoid the fall.
  • Next, kick your legs inside the snow to safeguard yourself.
  • Overlap the rope with your feet facing the victim’s direction

2. Create the anchor 

Upon stopping the fall, you now have to build a solid anchor, strong enough to hold the victim’s weight and assist in hauling them from the crevasse. Again, you will communicate and determine the most suitable climber to create the anchor. For instance, one climber can hold on to the fall while the rest work to make the anchor with a minimum of two independent protection pieces.

The following are the steps the first climber will follow to create an anchor as the second climber stays in self-arrest:

  • The first climber will move cautiously towards the second climber with a friction hitch which helps them self-belay on the rope. The first climber has to be ready to self-arrest if necessary.
  • Then the first climber will set up an equalized anchor close to the second climber utilizing a minimum of two protection pieces. The snow anchor you set up will mostly depend on the available gear and snow conditions.
  • Once more, the first climber will establish a master point, usually a knot or a different focal point that disburses the weight between the anchors.

3. Shift the climber’s weight to the anchor 

When you’re done building a reliable and sturdy anchor, you now have to transfer the victim’s weight to it so that the second climber, who’s for the most part holding the fall, can stop self-arrest. This step aims to secure the victim to the anchor at the friction hitch point and the second reserve knot.

Here’s how to achieve this;

  • The first climber should create a friction hitch on the rope towards the victim and clip it to the anchor master point with a lockable carabiner.
  • Then he should fasten a backup knot like a clove hitch and affix it to the primary anchor with a locking carabiner.
  • The victim is now linked to the anchor using the friction hitch and reserve knot.
  • The second climber will stop self-arrest, unfasten himself from the rope, and clip onto the anchor with a carabiner and sling for additional safety.

4. Evaluate the situation 

With the victim now fastened safely onto the anchor, you can directly communicate with him and evaluate the situation.

  • The first climber should self-belay to the crevasse’s lip to check the victim, utilizing the ice axe to explore crevasses.
  • Again, the first climber will evaluate the teammate’s condition and decide whether they can get out without help. If they can, they’ll climb with prusiks using the self-rescue technique.
  • On the other hand, if they can’t climb out without help, the team must determine the most suitable hauling mechanism to use.

5. Prep the crevasse lip

To make sure that the rope does not graze into the crevasse’s edge when you’re carrying the victim out, you’ll require padding the crevasse lip by putting an item like ski poles, backpack, or ice axe beneath the rope.

  • Evaluate the lip of the crevasse. Has the rope grazed into the lip, and if so, how deeply? Is the rope overhanging?
  • Eliminate the excess snow from the crevasse lip, and be careful not to pour snow on the climber underneath you.
  • Add some padding to the lip crevasse so that the rope does not graze into the snow. You can do this by putting a trekking pole, ice ax, or backpack beneath the rope at the crevasse lip. Whichever item you pick, make sure to clip it in the snow securely so that it does not fall.

6. Create a hauling mechanism

The last step is creating a hauling system to carry the victim out of the crevasse. This will need a lot of power. All the same, with a pulley system and rope, one or two individuals can pull a victim, even if he is heavier than them.

There are multiple options on how to haul your victim out, and which mechanism you utilize will depend on numerous factors like the number of climbers you can carry, how grazed the rope is onto the snow, available rescue equipment, and snow conditions.

You can practice and master various hauling mechanisms in different scenarios before taking your first mountaineering adventure. One of the most common hauling mechanisms is the 3:1 Z-pulley. This is because it works excellently with three or more individuals.

The ratio represents the amount of force you can haul with this pulley and rope. Again, in this pulley system, for each force unit you tow on the rope, the haul mechanism pulls with thrice the amount of force.

Use the Z-Pulley system 

To create the Z-pulley hauling mechanism, secure a friction hitch on a rope towards the victim, close to the lip of the crevasse. Utilize either a carabiner designed as a pulley or a carabiner and pulley to link the friction hitch to the rope that leads to the puller.

  • Swap the backup knot with a lockable carabiner. Untie the knot to allow the rope to move freely in the carabiner.
  • This rope should move from the victim to the pulley, on the anchor, to the second pulley/ carabiner, and up to the pulling climber in a rear Z shape.
  • The first climber can now haul the rope in the anchor’s direction until the pulling prusik gets near the anchor.
  • Next, reset the pulley system by gliding the pulling prusik down to the victim. Pull again, and repeat as required.

How Do You Fall into a Crevasse?

You can fall into a crevasse if you accidentally walk too close to the edge.

How Deep Can a Crevasse be?

A crevasse can be really deep. It is not uncommon for them to be 100 meters deep or more. Deep crevasses are often hidden in the cliffs of mountains. 

This makes it difficult to measure how deep they are. But in some cases, you can use a laser to figure out the depth, for example, when exploring the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

Can You Climb out of a Crevasse if It’s not too Deep?

What are the chances you’ll escape from a crevasse if it’s not too deep? 

The answer to this question is “It depends.” For example, if you’re in Alaska and fall into a crevasse, your survival chances are much higher than if you were in Antarctica. So, there’s no simple answer.

What are the Dangers of Falling into a Crevasse?

Crevasses can be found in places such as glaciers, snowfields, and ice sheets. It is a deep hole in the ice that is open on both sides.

Falling into a crevasse can be dangerous because they are often hidden from view, and the snow on top of the ice may conceal any dangers below.

People who fall into a crevasse risk injury down to their bones and death, which has happened in recent years.

What are the Most Common Causes of Death for Those Who Fall into Crevasses?

There are many possible causes of death when somebody falls into a crevasse. However, the most common cause is likely to be either head injury or asphyxiation.

How Long Can You Live in a Crevasse Before Dying?

The answer to this question is not so simple. It all depends on the temperature, elevation, and oxygen levels. There are other factors too, such as the size of the crevasse and how long you have been in it. One thing is for sure – you can’t live in a crevasse indefinitely without any help from the outside world.

How Can You Survive a Fall into a Crevasse?

A crevasse is a deep crack in an ice sheet or glacier, typically with vertical or near-vertical sides. Crevasses form where the moving ice mass breaks away from the stationary bed (the “grounding zone”) and moves downslope to the next downstream grounding zone.

There are few options for people who fall into a crevasse. The first one is to try to climb back up the way they came. If that’s not possible, they should cut their way out with an ice axe if they happen to be carrying one.

What are the Survival Rates of People Who Fall into Crevasses?

Crevasses are deep and wide, and many people fall into them and die. The temperature of the air in a crevasse is usually below freezing, so falling into one can lead to hypothermia. This is because the cold air sinks down to fill up all of the space in a crevasse.

These people’s chances of survival depend on how quickly someone finds them and how long they can survive. Doctors say that it is important for these people to keep themselves warm after they fall in order to increase their chances of survival.

What is the Best Survival Equipment for Falling Down a Crevasse and Why?

A number of factors can figure into the answer to this question. It depends on the type of crevasse, its depth, whether it is an ice or rock crevasse, and the elevation of the person who falls in it. One thing is definite: if someone falls down a crevasse, they need to get out as soon as possible before anything else happens.

There are some basic survival tools you should always carry with you when you are out in the wilderness for survival purposes alone. They include a knife, compass, thermal blanket, flashlight, and map. But what do you pack for an unexpected fall into a crevasse? If your fall were on snow or ice, then your best bet would be climbing gear like crampons and ice axes, which will help with traction on the climb.

What is the Best Way to Escape from a Crevasse?

Crevasses are deep spaces that form naturally in glaciers or ice sheets. It is a dangerous place to be as it can be difficult to escape from them. With the help of a rope, good equipment and a lot of skills, you will always have a chance to get out of it.

What is the Best Way to Climb out of a Crevasse?

There are many techniques for climbing out of a crevasse. One important thing to remember is that there may be cracks in the ice at the top of the crevasse that you can use to climb up—a process called “upside-down climbing” or “finger jams.”

What is the Best Way to Avoid Falling into a Crevasse?

The best way to avoid falling into a crevasse is to stay away from things that look like crevasses. It is not always easy to tell what is a crevasse and what isn’t, so it is important to take extra caution when in the backcountry.

There are also other ways in which you can avoid falling into a crevasse. One way is by staying on well-marked paths, which minimize the risk of coming across an unmarked crevasse. Another way that you can avoid falling into a crevasse is by keeping your eye out for markers such as yellow ribbons or cairns that indicate the safest route to take.

Conclusion

Well, there you have it, all you need to know about crevasse rescue. It would be best for all climbers and mountaineers out there to learn these skills before heading out to the mountains. Again, always focus on avoiding falling into a crevasse: as the saying goes, prevention is better than cure!

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About the author 

Kevin

Kevin loves bouldering. Mainly because he can practice it alone without considering other people. Although he rediscovered this hobby in the last three years, the boulders turned out to be his most visited landmarks.

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