There,s loads of great crevasse rescue techniques on the internet for climbers,but if your alone and unprepared your a meat popsicle! The odds of an off-route solo-alpinist surviving crevasse falls are pretty slim,but can be massively increased by good planning,preparation,and a little ingenuity!?
But first,a quick word on Alpine Butterfly Knots for glacier crossings.As we know they can be a powerful,effective brake on Wet-Glacier falls.And allso a great aid for getting out quick if you havent broken anything vital,or are still conscious enough to use them?!
What the books "dont tell you",is how far apart the knots should be so you can reach them,whilst hanging over a bloody great drop into a giant icebox!?
Useing this formula,one can easily reach up to each succesive loop,to clip in an Etrier or Sling,even when your full body weight is suspended on the rope.If your rope is shoulder-coiled Alpine Style,make sure a Prusik is holding the "live" rope to your belay-loop.Or your coil may hinder arm movement and end up around your shoulders.
It doesnt nescessarily follow that every crevasse one may fall into is a bottomless-pit.Though it is very wise to plan as though it will be,and equip yourself accordingly before glacier crossings.(more on this later.)
SOLOIST RISK REDUCTION MEASURES:- If i have no other allternative than to effect a crossing alone i take the following measures. i first leave a Route-Plan and all nescessary documentation(As in Route Plans Blog & Solo Docs).I then rig two lightweight Etrier attached by slings to my harness,and stuff then down my jacket so i can reach them quickly.I place my Pack inside its own Drybag(heavy duty Liner) and tie it to the end of my climbing rope along which i have tied Alpine Butterfly Knots.The other end is figure-eight rewoven to my alpine harness.My helmet is allso worn!
My Tech-Axes are leashed to my Harness and holstered within easy reach,as are my Ice-Screws and Warthogs.I allways carry one Walking-Pole to use as a probe for unstable areas.
The Sack at the ropes-end acts as a counterweight(an artificial second)stretching out the knotted rope and making me 20kilos+ lighter for the crossing.If i should take a fall its weight "will not" arrest me,but may slow my fall and give the knots some friction to bite into the ice,perhaps bringing me to a halt.In any event,the system must slow my fall thus reducing the very real chance of fractures or other impact trauma!If the sack remains on the glacier surface and is not pulled into the crevasse,its bright yellow colour is highly visible to anyone in the area.On my 50metre rope i would have to fall at least 40metres before the sack is pulled down with me.
If the knots arrest my fall they might give me time to ice-screw my Etrier into the crevasse walls to anchor myself(though i could not trust them to hold an ascent attempt alone!)and then try to get out using my axes.
YES I KNOW!!! All this is one hell of a lot of "ifs and maybe,s",and the chances of it all working are very slim!? But its better than dying alone and broken,and being spat out 200years later at the end of the glacier like some i have heard of!? In mountaineering you cannot stop the inevitable,but you can be responsible and plan for the worst!
I am sorry that i dont have any pictures of my system in action on glaciers.I have never seen the need to photograph it!? In "Part-Two" of this blog i will put up some pics of the whole thing done on "Chalk",here in the UK.