Crevasse rescue practice at Old Goat

Old goat mountain
From the town of Canmore, take Spray Lakes road/ Smith-Dorrien (purple) and cross the Three Sisters hydro dam onto Spray Lakes West (orange). Trail access for the north approach is at the first gravel clearing.

Fantastic half day hike close to town, with great views of the lake and Big Sister and Rimwall above treeline. Highly recommend. Fantastic day with the CSMC folks, practicing crevasse rescue.

I’m beginning to really appreciate the views from this side of the lake!

“Canadian drop loop” rescue system – W’s photo

Not our team’s setup…  You’ll want cleaner knots and no twists in the sling. 🙂

In case you are interested, here are simplified (brief) steps to crevasse rescue, assuming the rope team leader falls into a crevasse and cannot get him/herself out:

  1. Self arrest
  2. Build anchor (we used T-slot, not shown)
  3. Transfer load, i.e. weight of the casualty, from rope team onto the anchor (yellow Prusik. We used a Figure Eight on a bight as a backup)
  4. Attach the casualty to rescue rope (the person at the back of the rope advances on their Prusik and drops the casualty a locking carabiner on a loop of rescue rope (not shown). The casualty attaches the biner to his belay loop and the rope team secures the rescue rope, e.g. autoblock to take up slack and prevent the casualty from falling back into the crevasse). If you are using a rescue system that uses the climber’s rope as rescue rope, then obviously the casualty will already be attached.
  5. Belay. i.e. haul the person out, carefully! It helps greatly to create mechanical advantage (orange Prusik used as z-pulley).

There are lots of different ways to accomplish rescue but the basic objective of the major steps are the same. I put the methods we used in parentheses – we used the Canadian Drop Loop system.

If I missed anything in the writeup let me know – I’m thinking of illustrating a how-to sometime in the future, as I’m sure there’s a better way to communicate this (and we’ve all gone cross-eyed trying to read pages and pages of text), but we’ll see.

Other notes:

  • The load bearing Prusik and Figure Eight would normally already be tied as part of regular glacier travel
  • Communication between the rope team and the casualty is critical
  • If the casualty is too injured to manage the locking carabiner you may have to climb into the crevasse to assist
  • The casualty can do a bunch of stuff to help himself/ herself by taking load off his harness and possibly climbing out on his/ her own
  • It helps to pad the crevasse lip with an ice axe laid horizontally and/or hiking poles to prevent the rescue rope from digging itself into the snow, and to help guide the rope

Minimum Personal Equipment for Canadian Drop Loop system:

  • 2 lockers + 2 non-lockers
  • pear biner
  • 120 (double length) sewn sling
  • cordelet for Prusiks (e.g. 2X5m 7mm cord)
  • ice axe
  • ice screw
  • autoblock or something that performs the same function as autoblock
  • group rope

Skills Prerequisites:

  • Route selection, glacier morphology
  • Glacier travel and rope management
  • Ice axe and crampon technique


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