We are going to descend some snow-covered glacier on skis while roped-up. If my partner falls into a crack, and I stopped him (i.e. didn't get dragged down there), what should we do next?

  1. Assuming he is hanging in space and wants to get out by himself, what should I do to provide a reliable anchor point for him? Just brace myself as hard as possible?
  2. Assuming he can drill some ice-screws and unload the rope, what should I do now to make a good anchor? Just dig the snow to get to the ice below, and get some ice-screws there, or maybe invent some setup with skis secured in snow?
  3. Is it realistic to expect a good outcome if we don't have any other help (just the two of us)?

We have some basic gear (ice-axe, ice-screws, 50 m of rope, pulleys, karabiners, crampons); is there some specific piece of equipment that is worth having in this situation?

  • 12
    Crevasse rescue is a complicated skill that is far too important to leave to a few questions on stack exchange.
    – Felix
    Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 0:01
  • Read the answers here, then realize you need to go take a mountaineering course on glacier travel and crevasse rescue :)
    – Ryley
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 5:22
  • I totally agree. Having gone through practical training in Crevasse Rescue with a Mountain Guide I knew, while in the European Alps, I came to the conclusion that if I was roped with only one other climber and they fell deep into a crevasse unexpectedly, I would follow them in as well!
    – Paul Lydon
    Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 12:20

1 Answer 1


First, see my comment above. Get some professional instruction. Seriously.

To answer your points directly:

  1. Build a snow anchor, then transfer the load to your anchor. Holding your partner's weight for the entire duration of a self rescue would be a bad idea.
  2. Building an anchor is independent of what your partner is doing. Always build an anchor. On glaciers, you'll most likely build a deadman anchor with an ice axe. It's possible to do a deadman with a ski, but it's time consuming and probably impossible to do alone while holding your partner.
  3. Crevasse rescue with a team of two just adds to the complexity. At a minimum, you'll need to be able to arrest the fall, build an anchor, transfer the load, check on your partner, build a haul system, and effect the rescue. Oh, and you'll be by yourself.

Most likely, you'll be traveling with knots in the rope. Your best luck for a haul system is a Canadian drop loop (6:1) system. This provides enough mechanical advantage for a single rescuer to pull a victim out.

I'll add some references that you should use in addition to professional advice:

  • Alpine Climbing: Techniques to Take You Higher (Houston, Cosley)
  • Freedom of the Hills (Mountaineers books)
  • Glacier Mountaineering, illustrated (Tyson, Clelland)
  • Glacier Travel & Crevasse Rescue (Selters)

Unfortunately, Accidents in North American Mountaineering is littered with reports of climbers getting into trouble on glacier because they didn't know how to perform a rescue correctly.

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