Crevasse Extraction: UIAA Alpine Skills Guide

The Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme (UIAA) — the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation, was founded in 1932 and promotes the growth and protection of mountaineering and climbing worldwide by: preserving their spirit and traditions; advancing safe and ethical mountain practices; promoting responsible access, culture and environmental protection; supporting youth participation and the Olympic movement.

This latest guide from the UIAA Alpine Summer Skills series focuses on extricating yourself from a crevasse:

1. Precautions

1.1 Plan for self-rescue before a fall: If you fall, brace yourselves as much as possible, install an anchor and keep the rope tight. Then prepare to climb back out.

1.2 Make sure the climbers up on the surface have braced themselves properly. Wait until they’ve installed an anchor before you ascend the rope.

2. Required equipment

2.1 Two ascending devices — it’s much easier to use mechanical ascenders, such as Ropeman or Tibloc handled ascenders, than friction (Prusik) hitches.

2.2 Spare rope reserved in the backpack.

3. The Steps
Step 1: 

Attach an ascending device or friction hitch to the rope and clip it to your belay loop with a locking carabiner. Undo your shoulder coils. The load is now borne by the ascender/hitch at hip level.

Step 2:

Remove your backpack and clip it to the rope: the added weight will aid in your ascent by keeping the rope taut.

Step 3:

Place a second mechanical ascender on the rope, above the ascending device/hitch already clipped to your harness. Clip a long sling to this upper ascender, to use as a foot loop. During the ascent, ensure that both ascending devices are connected to your belay loop.

Step 4:

To ascend, first move up the foot-loop ascender, and then stand in the foot loop while moving the harness ascender up.

This extract comes from the Alpinism section of the UIAA Alpine: Summer Skills Handbook and a dedicated chapter on crevasse rescue.

The UIAA Alpine Skills Summer guide was first published in 2015. Produced in collaboration with the Petzl Foundation, the guide has been well received worldwide and is currently available in five languages. To mark the launch of a digital version of the publication, the UIAA is running a series of articles from the guide designed to help hikers, climbers and mountaineers develop their skills and knowledge of the mountain environment.

The guide was developed specifically as a reference document for trip leaders and instructors of clubs and federations within the UIAA – an aide memoire for climbers and mountaineers who attend training courses delivered by instructors and guides who have gained qualifications accredited by the UIAA. Now open to the wider climbing and mountaineering world, the handbook’s four modules focus primarily on summer activities. However, a specific winter guide is currently in production.

Source: International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA)

Technical drawings courtesy of: CNISAG

Images: ©BMC, Coast Mountain Guides