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I've imagined this scenario many times: you break through a snow bridge and fall into a hidden crevasse, how should you react? The fear is, if you're wearing crampons, your foot may snag the ice during the fall, in which case you're likely to break your ankle and get flipped upside down (upside down in a crevasse is pretty much certain death). Or you end up deep in the crevasse seriously injured which leaves you helpless and unable to help yourself out.

I've heard of skiers and snowboarders having success in minimizing injury by putting their feet across against the opposite wall and slowing their descent.

There's lots of info about crevasse rescue, but not much about how to react in the moment of the fall.

What can you do when you suddenly feel yourself starting to break through the snow and know you're going into a crevasse?

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    "I've heard of skiers and snowboarders having success in minimizing injury by putting their feet across against the opposite wall and slowing their descent." Sounds like a recipe for a pretty wicked groin pull. That aside, does that come from any type of referenceable source? – Beanluc Feb 23 '18 at 23:04
  • @Beanluc They put their back against one wall and they're feet against the other. The sources are the videos I linked in the question. In one a skier is able to stop his initial fall, then plan where he's going to go next. In the other, a snowboarder falls 50 feet into a crevasse and come out with only a bruised elbow. He claims stemming his board against the far wall helped slow him down. – ShemSeger Feb 23 '18 at 23:14
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    Have you considered joining a "glacier course"? Over here, the alpine clubs offer them regularly. They cover a variety of relevant topics from where in a glacier crevasses form (note that comment on the snowboarder clip saying there are "beware of crevasses off piste" signs all over the place), when and when not to rope up, how to rope up depending on the size of the party, fall training (not in crevice, self-arrest on slope without and with crampons), proper anchoring for crevasse rescue, various pulley set-ups both for getting yourself out of the crevasse and getting someone else out, ... – cbeleites Feb 27 '18 at 17:13
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I fell down a 10m crevasse last weekend on the Argentiere glacier in chamonix. I was on a snowboard and luckily landed on a snowbridge within the crevasse which stopped my fall without serious injury. I was then rescued by helicopter. I was with a guide and roped at the moment I fell, but the rope was slack such that the snowbridge stopped my fall rather than the rope. The fall was totally unexpected as a snowbridge I was standing on gave way, and I can confirm in 10m I barely had time to realise what was happening before I landed, and no time to react. I was just lucky the crevasse had a sheer vertical side that flew past my nose, and I landed without any serious impact on the way down.

I agree with post above - it is luck and a rope, and just hope you land the right way up enter image description here

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I'm sorry to post a "You can't-answer", but the truth about crevasses is that the only two things that can save you are
a) being roped up
b) pure dumb luck.

If you ever end up in a situation where your actions from "Oh sh*t" to "Ouch, now how do I get up?" matters, you've done something really wrong. Your best chances are if you have:

  • Roped up
  • Have enough people on the rope to hold you
  • Kept the rope tight
  • Practiced with the people you're roped up with.

Yes in theory it matters how you fall, but the thing about crevasses is that you dont know what their insides look like until you actually fall in. Is it wide? Narrow? Deep? Does it have protrusions?

Trying to stem against the sides might help if the crevasse is just narrow enough, but try it with a wider crevasse and you'll just break your ankles, flip upside down and make things even worse.

People have been saved by their skis getting stuck, but your bindings might have opened.

The thing is: you will NOT know when the snow collapses what awaits below. When you DO know and have time to react, you have already fallen 5-10 meters, unless caught by a rope.

  • A proper answer to this question would at the very least include details on how to react in each of the situations you've listed. – ShemSeger Feb 26 '18 at 16:01
  • @ShemSeger True, but it is simply not realistic. You will NOT have time to react in any meaningful way until it is too late. – Guran Feb 27 '18 at 8:40
  • I disagree, I've taken enough falls from high heights and great speeds to know that how you react will make a huge difference in how much injury you sustain. The variable I'm not certain of in crevasses are the ice walls on either side of you. I can come up with my own plan, but I want to know if there's any expert advise on the topic. – ShemSeger Feb 27 '18 at 15:38
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    @ShemSeger definitely not arguing that you can affect an expected fall. The difference here is that a fall comes without warning. Like in aid climbing for example. I’ve never had any chance to react to such falls (as opposed to trad or sport climbing where I always know that I’m loosing it). – Guran Feb 27 '18 at 15:44
  • Of course I too welcome any better advice than my own negative answer! – Guran Feb 27 '18 at 15:45

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