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Scree - February 01, 2011


Crampon Modeling School

Slippery Slopes

Winter mountaineering is adventurous. Battling cold temperatures and wind the adventurer finds the difficulty level of any outing raised exponentially. For example, a nice, easy hike or scramble in the summer changes into a verglas (rock covered with a layer of ice) nightmare in the winter. Or, summer trails become dangerous ice flows as water drains from the snowy slopes above and freezes inches thick on the trail. Examining the angle of the ice on the trail might show only a few degrees of slope; but the consequences of a slip could be deadly. The possible danger of an unchecked fall on ice has to include a continuing fall down the slope or cliff below the point of impact. Ouch.

Crampons help to negotiate the frozen trails and slopes; but just like any other gear - the crampons need to fit properly, be maintained (sharpened), and the user has to know how to use them.

Recently there have been three accidents involving ice and very serious falls. It is great news that all three adventures survived; but I am sure that none of them would like to test there luck again. They were all very fortunate.

In Cody, Wy an ice climber fell 200 feet while moving unroped along a ledge at the top of a cliff. (KTVQ News)

In Rocky Mountain National Park, another adventurer fell. While crossing an icy section of trail, she slid 200 feet to the bottom. (National Park Service)

Then, in Scotland a climber slipped on ice and fell 1000 feet. When the rescue helicopter arrived the fallen climber was standing at the bottom of the cliff looking at a map! (Yahoo News)

These are three amazing stories. The continued slip from icy falls can be lessened by using a rope, anchors (rock or ice), and belaying (or fixing a rope). However, most folks do not waste the time to belay on such slopes. The falls were just freakish. Hopefully all three will have fast recoveries.