Glacier travel is a mandatory part of approaches to many of Canada’s alpine climbs from the Rockies to the coast.
Roping up properly can be confusing and if you do it wrong there can be grave consequences. In this video, IFMGA guide Mark Smiley demos his preferred method.
Below are five tips to keep in mind before heading onto a glacier. If you’re ever in doubt, hire a guide to train you.
When to Rope Up: Have your harness on before stepping onto a glacier and if it’s flat light, then rope up right away. You have it, so why not use it. It’s good practice to always be roped up, especially on unknown terrain.
Terrain Hazards: Be sure to keep an eye out for terrain features that could be a hazard, such as possible crevasses, bergschrunds and seracs.
Least Resistance: Follow the path of least resistance and stay away from big rolls and drop offs.
Snow Bridges: One of the biggest hazards on a glacier is the snow bridge. While some are passable, most are not. Learn to look for them by spotting depressions in the snow. Many climbers will bring avalanche probs or use their tools to probe a possible snow bridge.
Risk Management: Know your partners risk tolerance before heading onto a glacier so no one feels pressured to go where they aren’t comfortable.
Know Your Knots/Hitches: Before heading out, learn the prussik, munter, clove and double fisherman.