Crevasse Rescue School

June 23-25, 1995

A Crevasse Rescue School was held the weekend of June 23-25 on the north side of Mt. Hood. There were a total of 12 participants in the class. This was a joint practice with Eugene Mountain Rescue, and there were 12 participants from EMR, including the EMR members who provided instruction: Ken Ball, Michele & Tim McCall and Sue Sullivan.

During the week before the field trip, a classroom session was held at the Obsidian Lodge to review knots, snow anchors and belay techniques that are useful in crevasse rescue and general glacier travel. Ken provided entertainment as well as instruction by including slides and crevasse stories from his climb of Denali.

For the weekend field trip, the group stayed at the Tilly Jane Cabin just below Cloud Cap at Mt. Hood. Because of the heavy snow year, the access to the cabin was not completely open: we had to walk in about three-quarters of a mile.

Nevertheless Saturday turned out to be warm and pleasant and the bugs weren’t bad … a good day for snow practice. We found a snow patch not far from the cabin and practiced setting different types of snow anchors and use of snow belay techniques. Snow conditions were ideal for setting anchors, and the group got comfortable with the idea that a snow anchor can be a solid belay anchor.

The group also practiced setting up the Z pulley in preparation for the following day’s session on the glacier. Some members of the group did a simulation of a one-person rescue (that is, one member of a two-person rope team rescuing the other). It was a very eye-opening experience to discover just how difficult such a rescue can be.

On Saturday afternoon, we returned to the cabin and set up a couple of prusik stations off the balcony of the cabin, and people practiced prusiking.

On Sunday the weather dawned sunny and a light breeze kept us from overheating. An advance team of EMR members headed to the Elliot Glacier to find suitable crevasses for the rest of the group; they had identified five good spots by the time the rope teams arrived for practice.

On the Elliot, everyone’s trust in snow anchors was put to the test as various members of the group were lowered into a crevasse and then pulled out by others in the group. Most people were very happy to get out, since most of the crevasses were cold and drippy from the snow melt. The first few rescues took as long as 40 minutes to extract the crevasse victim, but by the time each group had repeated the procedure, rescue times were down to 15 minutes or less!

The group returned to the trailhead with a better appreciation for the trustworthiness of snow anchors and the necessity to have the appropriate rescue gear close at hand in the event of a crevasse fall.

All agreed that a review of these techniques is important to safe glacier travel — and a fun way to spend the weekend as well!

— Sue Sullivan

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