5

I want to climb a mountain with my daughter. There is a glacier on the route that we should cross. Other routes take much longer or are technically more difficult.

The glacier does not have many crevasses but they are deep and may be hidden. All people have glacier equipment: crampons, ice axes, rope, etc. There is a big difference in the weight of a kid and adult. The kid is 20 kg (44 lb) and the adult is 80 kg (176 lb). The kid can't belay an adult.

First case: 1 adult and 1 kid.

Second case: 2 adults and 1 kid.

  • 9
    First case: Don't do it. Two persons on a glacier is always a risk and avoided if possible, but 1 kid and 1 adult is plain irresponsible. – imsodin Nov 2 '17 at 14:35
  • 2
    @user1209304 - please explain the scenario. Why are you thinking of doing this? – Tullochgorum Nov 2 '17 at 16:01
  • 3
    OK the glacier is unavoidable. I the trip unavoidable? Is it life or death situation to get across the glacier. – paparazzo Nov 2 '17 at 16:54
  • 7
    Can we put this in context - I have carried heavier backpacks across glaciers - a 20kg child is about 5 years old, and would be less useful in an emergency than backpack with 20kg of cement in it (You are allowed to bury the backpack to make an anchor and don;t need to stop it wondering off). – user5330 Nov 3 '17 at 1:56
  • 6
    I am upvoting the question (after clarifying edits). As our experts have pointed out the risks are very high. While I don't think the activity in question is a good idea, I think asking about, is a great idea. – James Jenkins Nov 3 '17 at 14:14
14

While children can be proficient mountaineers and well trained, there are things they likely cannot do and some additional risks they face. For example, children are more susceptible to hypothermia. Most children are not capable of performing first aid and lack the physical strength to dig out someone trapped in an avalanche. If a single adult is climbing with a child, they should consider themselves as essentially climbing alone.

A child climbing alone with a single adult also faces a unique risk in that if the adult falls into a crevasse, the odds of an unanchored child catching such a fall are pretty low (the exact odds depend on how the adult falls, the steepness of the slope and how icy things are). The adult and child will both likely end up wedged at the bottom of the crevasse. This must be prevented at all costs. Basically this means that whenever there is a chance the adult could fall (i.e., always on the glacier), there needs to be adequate protection. You might be able to get by with a 4th class running belay placing pickets, screws or deadman as you go, but you would probably want to go very slow and just set 5th class belays and go a rope length at a time. With a solid anchor a child can catch basically any fall.

It is worth noting that if the child some how manages to catch the fall such they both do not end up in the crevasse, then things are not too bad as long as the child is capable of setting an anchor while holding the fall and knows how to build a hauling system and appropriately protect the lip (etc). If the child knows the skills, their size should not prevent them from getting the adult out. There of course is the issue of first aid and hypothermia once the child gets the adult out.

If the child is not highly skilled and trained, then one adult and one child over any technical terrain is ridiculously unsafe. Two adults and one untrained child has a lot of similar risks are two adults, but if one adult falls, they will likely pull the child off leaving the remaining adult having to catch an adult and a child (good luck with that).

  • 1
    I already upvoted your answer, but I have been thinking about this Q. Perhaps, considering that the child is seven years old, you may want to highlight your last paragraph. See Mountaineering with a Six-Year Old Kid in Winter – ab2 Nov 3 '17 at 2:15
  • @ab2 I think the age of the child is essentially irrelevant compared to the skills of the child. While a typical 7 yo lacks those skills, does that mean they all do (probably, but what about a 9 yo, or an 11 yo, or a 13 yo). – StrongBad Nov 3 '17 at 15:45
  • 3
    Never having had a child, I'm not in a strong position to say, but not only skills and strength but judgment, maturity, attention span and capacity to give informed consent figure in. The law (which is sometimes an ass) would not hold a 7 year old responsible for acts that it might hold a 13 year old responsible for. There will always be children and people far out on the tail of the normal distribution, and proud parents who think their children are farther out on the tail than they are. – ab2 Nov 3 '17 at 18:12
11

There is a clear answer here: just don't do it!

Glacier rescue is challenging - you need to know the techniques and practice them seriously. And I can tell you from experience that a glacier rescue is scary, stressful and exhausting, and that was with a party of 4 fit and experienced adults. If you have to ask the question, you simply don't have the skills to execute safely.

Two highly skilled adults on a glacier with hidden crevasses is very sketchy: it can be difficult to hold a fall and even more difficult to extract - often impossible if the faller is injured. There is no way the kid could hold the adult, never mind rescue them from the crevasse. It would be grossly irresponsible to venture onto a dangerous glacier with just an adult and child on the rope.

With two skilled adults and a kid you are effectively in the same marginal situation as two adults on their own, but with additional risks and responsibilities. The kid won't have the weight, skill or temperament to be anything other than a hindrance if anything goes wrong. And if it's the kid who falls in, it might be a traumatic experience for them even if they don't get injured.

The OP has clarified that this is a recreational trip and that their aim is to climb a particular peak with their daughter. There is no way that a glacier of this kind can be made safe for a child in a small party. Please be responsible and find a safer route for your outing.

  • 1
    so many up-votes for the answer that does not answer the question. There was a good comment from Charlie. This sport is risky be definition. In your answer you only judging and explaining why not to go the route. If I would need to ask whether to go or not and how to be responsible parent then I'll go to parenting.stackexchange.com – user1209304 Nov 3 '17 at 14:42
  • 6
    @user1209304 It may not be the answer you like, but "You cannot" is clearly an answer to "How can I ...?". Besides I do not agree with the general premise that a child does not belong on a glacier (I have both been on a glacier as a child as well as been on glaciers with children), but not in a scenario like you mention: Few people and hidden crevasses - this combination. For that reason I like StrongBad's answer better, but this answer still is totally adequate. – imsodin Nov 3 '17 at 15:20
  • 2
    Yes the sport is risky, but the issue is justifiable risk. @imsodin is right - I will qualify my answer to make it clear that I'm talking about the particular situation. But in that situation I think the proposed route is unjustifiable. You wouldn't allow a child to solo El Cap or K2 - an adult can choose to take high risks but a child should not. I would draw the line very firmly at taking a child into a situation where they could be pulled into a crevasse by a falling adult, or where they could be stuck alone in a dangerous place with their parent injured and beyond their help. – Tullochgorum Nov 3 '17 at 16:07
  • @Tullochgorum, what is the minimal age of a person to climb solo El cap or K2? Btw 13 y.o. climbed Mount Everest ;-) – user1209304 Nov 3 '17 at 16:16
  • 7
    @user1209304 that' true, but it was part of a LARGE, professionally guided party, and was still widely regarded as a bad idea, due to the exceptionally high objective hazards in climbing Everest. Whether a 13yo can give informed consent to an activity that has a fatality rate of roughly 6% is not an easy question. – Charles E. Grant Nov 3 '17 at 18:09
2

You used the term belay incorrectly. The other member is just an anchor.

The problem is that the child cannot perform a self rescue and cannot anchor an adult.

If you had two groups of three (one all experienced adults) and the all adults lead then the all adults could perform a z-pulley rescue. It still would be traumatic for the child.

A child is going to have trouble with glacier travel.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.