Ali and Lay’s Mountaineering Blog

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Crevasse hunting

June 26th, 2007 · 16 Comments

Today we wake to improving weather and leave the hut at 8 am.  As yesterday, our objective is La Luette.  This time, however, our route will require us to cross the Luette glacier.

We rope up and Ali leads the initial steep section up onto the glacier itself.  We proceed with caution.  Our knowledge of crevasses is purely theoretical – we have received instruction on crevasse rescue techniques but we are untested. 

To give you, dear reader, some background – a glacier, as you’re probably aware, is a large, slow moving river of ice which is formed from compacted layers of snow.  The lower layers deform under the pressure of the layers above, allowing the glacier as a whole to move slowly downhill like a viscous fluid.  However, the upper layers are more brittle, and often form deep cracks known as crevasses as they move.

If I was to fall into a crevasse then Ali would have to stop my fall.  Failing to do so would have dire consequences for us both as we are roped together.  She has a nagging doubt as to whether she would be strong enough, should the worst happen.

Here is what Fred Mummery had to say about such situations over a hundred years ago:

“The main strength of the objection to two men climbing alone is, perhaps, to be found in the common belief that if one man falls into a crevasse, his companion will be unable to pull him out.  With regard to this extremely unpleasant supposition, it may be pointed out that there is no particular reason for him to fall in.  Why any one should wish to dangle on the rope, in a dark and chilly chasm, is one of those profound and inscrutable mysteries which may be regarded as past all finding out.   It is, of course, a quite unnecessary incident.”

It could be noted that, despite his many climbs in the Alps and elsewhere, Fred never did fall in a crevasse during his lifetime – he was killed by an avalanche on Nanga Parbat a year later. 

The problem is that crevasses are not always visible on the surface.  They may be completely covered, but not necessarily filled, by fresh snowfall or drifts.  This creates the illusion of an unbroken surface while hiding the opening under a layer of unknown thickness, possibly only centimetres thick. 

And so it is, that Ali and I proceed cautiously across the glacier.  We are looking intently for any tell-tale depressions that might indicate hidden crevasses.

[singlepic=258,480,360]

A sense of Alpine scale – Ali and Lay crossing the Luette glacier (below left of centre – click to enlarge, then click Full Size).  Photo courtesy of Stephen Whiting

Tags: Arolla · Crevasses

16 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Ian Brown // Dec 4, 2007 at 6:43 am

    I just noticed that a few mountaineering film classics are finally available on DVD through Amazon (that’s the only place I’ve seen them so far) – Everest North Wall, Karakoram, Three Flags Over Everest and The Winds of Everest. They all have the great Whittaker brothers and Jim Wickwire. Total classic climbers. I also noticed a DVD of Fairweather and Ascent combined together. I was amped to find those released. Pass it on!

  • 2 Lay // Dec 4, 2007 at 10:17 am

    Ian, Many thanks for this tip off – just off to Amazon to take a look now.

    Also just released on DVD is The Beckoning Silence, Joe Simpson’s film regarding the North Face of the Eiger and focusing in particular on the 1936 attempt where Andreas Hinterstoisser, Toni Kurz, Willy Angerer and Edi Rainer all died.

  • 3 DSD // Apr 15, 2008 at 8:44 pm

    A great blog!
    I’m glad I visited…
    DSD

  • 4 Tim Brigg // Sep 5, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    Hi guys!

    Been trawling the net looking for like minded blogs to back link with. Liked your Scottish winter stuff on the old blog; hope to be back up there myself this coming winter! Also going for my 2nd visit to the Ice Factor at Kinlochleven on saturday, then up the Legde route and down the cmd on Sunday (on the Ben).
    Also hoping to “do” Mont Blanc”, next year and had I.S.M. in Wales in mind; don’t know if you can reccommend anyone?
    I am currently filling in my blog retrospectively, so it will take some time, especially as blogger misses part of the upload code for the clickabilty function of the photos (you have to alter the html – a bit of a pain).
    I did see on your wish lists some things I also hope to do, and some I have done, so if I get the relevant ones uploaded in time, they may inspire you!
    Finally, I am, of course, more than happy to link back to your good selves.

    Happy climbing

    Tim :)

  • 5 Lay // Sep 10, 2008 at 1:54 am

    Hi Tim,

    Thanks for dropping by and saying “Hi”. I’ve always fancied a crack at the Ice Factor – must put it on the wish list

    I’ve added you to my blogroll – as I need all the inspiration I can get.

    Via Feratta – yup would like to have a crack at that too.

    Mont Blanc – we went with Cumbria based Adventure Peaks. If I was going again I would book a British Guide direct http://www.bmg.org.uk/

    Personally would recommend Andy Perkins
    http://www.andypmountainguide.com/

    Check out the chaps from http://www.outdoorbloggers.com for a possible fix for blogger images – they are a friendly bunch

  • 6 Chiro // Jun 2, 2010 at 4:47 am

    an “HIMalayan HUNter”

    Hi guyz..
    u ppl r doin a gr8 job.. crevasse huntin s a gr8 adventure n gives sum surge of adrenalin.. bt beware..
    im frm india..close to the himalayas.. n here, the mountains are alive, havin a mind of her own.. and often the hunter becums the hunted..

    hav anyone heard of Khatling glacier in the Gharwal Himalayas??

  • 7 Maz // Sep 19, 2010 at 11:16 am

    Hello,

    My warmest congratulations on a very tidy, comprehensive and inspirational blog. I am a reasonably experienced hillwalker and, in August this year, my friend and I did the Tour du Mont Blanc. I’d always been gripped by a tremendous fascination with the Alps and it re-kindled in me a desire to go beyond hills and start proper mountaineering. It’s a totally different skill-set and our plan is to get some training and courses in during 2011 and do the Classic Haute Route, probably guided by KE or someone similar, to really get our skills started off. Your blog is a nice place to get acquainted with the resources, issues and kit that I need to understand and use. Thanks for that! Best of luck with your endeavours and I look forward to reading more about them.

    Maz.

  • 8 Andy@The Three Peaks Challenge // Oct 26, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    i love extreme challenges http://the-three-peaks-challenge.info/ the most extreme mountain endurance challenge in the UK

  • 9 crazyboy // Feb 1, 2012 at 9:20 am

    Climbing really needs courage.I appreciate your spirit !!I love climbing too,fantastic scenery,good friends…Come to join my-travel-mate.com and let’s climb together!

  • 10 Jason Keck // Jun 27, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    Awesome post! I fell into what I would call “miniature crevasse” while skiing backcountry in Alaska two years ago. It was an definitely unpleasant and “quite unnecessary incident.” Luckily it was very shallow and narrow enough in one area to shimmy back up with the help of my friend roping me from above. I wish you a safe trek!

  • 11 Best Hiking Boots // Nov 14, 2012 at 1:07 am

    This is what puts me off climbing these mountains. The thought of falling into the dark depths!

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  • 16 RMAU // Jun 3, 2016 at 8:43 pm

    According to SNS in an update posted on its Facebook page , the crack appears “steep cliffs, earthen towers, and massive boulders.” The size of Crevasse was impressive and so was the speed of formation.

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