Wednesday, 23 May 2012

SOLO EMERGENCY ACTIONS.(Lost Crampon Procedure)

Ive thought about it a lot over the years so maybe thats why it hasnt happened to me yet? I should imagine few things could be more terrifying than being halfway up a verglassed Schreckhorn,and looking down to see your right crampon bouncing and skittering out into space below?!

If you dont want to lose them,attatch a loop of shockcord
to the crampon which fits round the lower leg.Works for me!

Most accidents can be prepared for but some are so serious and imediate there is no time to muck about thinking what to do,one simply "must know and act"! These situations can be called "Instant Actions",where you follow a set drill to get you out of trouble fast!
A lost crampon on an icy climb is about as serious as it gets,and quite a few climbers have died due to this accident,but there is a lot you can do to help yourself if you stay cool and follow the drill.

Chicken Chain rig (See blog list-Chicken Chains and Prusiks).

INSTANT ACTION-(1),MAKE YOURSELF SAFE. Get out of the fall-line,bang in an anchor of any kind and clip in with your Chicken Chain.Assess your situation.
                          (2),DISASSEMBLE. Remove your other crampon (making sure not to drop it!) and disassemble into two sections.Remove the bar or fold away.

Parts and Repair Kit.

                          (3),MAKE TWO INSTEP CRAMPONS.(Or one forfoot and one instep) Using Cable Ties and/or Rape Tape and Cordage turn the one crampon into two as per diagrams below,or flatten out crampon-lugs with an ice hammer or rock to make two Instep Crampons.The Cable-Ties in the pics are a bit short for this job,30cm Ties would be better! Instep Crampons go back 4000yrs in Swiss Alpine history,they are very efficient and many examples can be seen in village Heimatt Museums.

Grivel Spider.A modern Instep Crampon based on an ancient principle.

                         (4),FASTEN SECURELY.Using simple tie system as in pics that locks the crampon to the instep of the foot,you can back this up with rape-tape or whatever cord you have.(tape is best!)

Instep Improvisation.
(No way am i covering my boots with tape,so this pic will have to do you!)

The idea being,that once it is fastened securely to the foot.It stays on until you are safely off the mountain!
                         (5),ALTERNATIVES.You can use the forefoot crampon section as it is,and secure that if you so wish? Allso backing up with tape or cord.

Forefoot Cable Tie sytem.

                         (6),TEST AND DESCEND.Once the whole assembly is fastened and you are satisfied.Test on some nearby ice to ensure it is secure,and until you are confident to descend.DO NOT continue the climb on this arrangement unless there is NO OTHER safe allternative!

I took the term- "Instant Actions" from the Royal Australian Army manual for the FN,7.62cal-Self Loading Rifle,the weapon i first trained with when i joined up about a thousand years ago! The Instant Actions were those drills carried out under fire when you or the weapon fucked up (ie;Action on-Empty magazine or round stuck in the chamber).I thought it very appropriate for solo-mountain emergencies,as in both battle and ascent if you screw-up you may well die! So clear unambiguous procedures are essential to get you out of trouble.

Good climbing,



  1. Good advice and innovative solutions, thanks Rob. And yes, it has happened to me, but fortunately I managed to 'hop' down the gully with two tools and one foot to retrieve it!! What it was to be young, daft and strong...

    1. Yeah ide love to be thirty again!My favourite boot company "Hanwag" recently made a modern version of the old studded mountain boot for alpine walking.If the studs are anything like the Grivel Spiders they will be super grippy on anything but deep snow.


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