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The Council gratefully acknowledges the ongoing support of: New Zealand Lottery Grants Board New Zealand Police
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MEMBER ORGANISATIONS OF THE COUNCIL
Accident Compensation Corporation Department of Conservation Education Outdoors New Zealand Federated Mountain Clubs of NZ Federation of NZ Youth Organisations NZ Alpine Club NZ Deerstalkers Association NZ Defence Force NZ Land SAR NZ Mountain Guides Association NZ Outdoor Instructors Association NZ Police NZ Shooting Federation NZ Snowsports Council NZ Sports Industry Association Occupational Safety & Health Tourism Industry Association of NZ
OUR MISSION IS TO:
• enable people to enjoy their recreation safely in the outdoors • foster positive community support for outdoor safety • promote the development and maintenance of national outdoor safety standards for land-based activities.
New Zealand Mountain Safety Council 19 Tory Street, PO Box 6027, Wellington Tel (04) 385-7162 Fax (04) 385-7366 Email: email@example.com www.mountainsafety.org.nz
Disclaimer: This publication is available to you for historical purposes. The content in this publication may not be up to date.
M O U N T A I N S A F E T Y M A N U A L 34
By Geoff Wayatt Edited by Stu Allan
Disclaimer: This publication is available to you for historical purposes. The content in this publication may not be up to date.
ALPINE SKILLS Previously Mountaincraft First Edition 1974 By Arnold J. Heine Second Edition 1980 By Lindsay Main Third Edition 1987 By Lindsay Main New Edition 2005 Alpine Skills Editorial consultant: Rebecca Priestley Illustrations and book design: Trevor Plaisted Cover photographs: Geoff Wayatt ISBN: 0-908931-15-8
NEW ZEALAND MOUNTAIN SAFETY COUNCIL is a national, volunteer and community-based organisation with recognised outdoor expertise. Through the Council, volunteer instructors share with the community their outdoor skills and knowledge, to promote safe participation in land-based, recreational, educational and adventure activities. The Council also produces resources and provides information.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . VI PREFACE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . VIII ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . IX CHAPTER 1
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Trip Planning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Clothing and Equipment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Food . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
Shelters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
Weather . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
Avalanches . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
Navigation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48
Alpine Hazards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56
Using the Rope . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60
Alpine Rock Climbing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72
Snow and Ice Climbing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76
Glacier Travel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90
Alpine First Aid . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100
Emergencies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 108
References and Reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 112
Contacts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 116
Environmental Code . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 118
GLOSSARY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 120
List of Illustrations
Figure 1 Figure 2 Figure 3 Figure 4 Figure 5 Figure 6 Figure 7 Figure 8 Figure 9 Figure 10 Figure 11 Figure 12 Figure 13 Figure 14 Figure 15 Figure 16 Figure 17 Figure 18 Figure 19 Figure 20 Figure 21 Figure 22 Figure 23 Figure 24 Figure 25 Figure 26 Figure 27 Figure 28 Figure 29 Figure 30 Figure 31 Figure 32 Figure 33 Figure 34 Figure 35 Figure 36 Figure 37 Figure 38 Figure 39 Figure 40 Figure 41
Climbers crossing a broken glacier, p3 Three-point climbing with dual axes and crampons, p5 Stormproof outerwear, p10 Glacier shirt gives protection from the sun, p11 Ice axes, p12 Combination axe and technical ice hammer, p13 Anti-balling plates attached to crampons, p13 Crampons with toe bail and heel-clip strap, p13 Alpine harness with gear attached, p15 Alpine pack, p17 Snow shovel, probe and transceiver, p19 Sheltering your stove, p23 Sheltering from lightning, p26 Emergency shelter in crevasse, p27 Copland shelter, p28 Tents need protection from weather, p29 Snowcave, p30 Snowcave with sealed second entrace, p31 Igloo shelter, p32 Snow mound, p32 Constructing an igloo, p33 Lenticular cloud or â€˜hogsbackâ€™, p34 Cold front over Wanaka, p35 Weather maps, p36 and 37 Slab avalanche, p39 Loose snow avalanche, p40 Cornice fracture, p40 Climber testing snowpack layers, p44 Avalanche dogs, p46 Whiteout conditions, p48 Excerpt from map sheet, p49 True (grid) and magnetic north points, p50 Adjustable dial compass, p51 Back bearing from three known features, p51 Right angle bearing, p52 Aiming off, p52 Aoraki / Mount Cook, p55 Group river crossing, p56 Folding the rope, p60 Carrying the rope, p60 Figure 8 knot (uncompleted), p62
Figure 42 Figure 43 Figure 44 Figure 45 Figure 46 Figure 47 Figure 48 Figure 49 Figure 50 Figure 51 Figure 52 Figure 53 Figure 54 Figure 55 Figure 56 Figure 57 Figure 58 Figure 59 Figure 60 Figure 61 Figure 62 Figure 63 Figure 64 Figure 65 Figure 66 Figure 67 Figure 68 Figure 69 Figure 70 Figure 71 Figure 72 Figure 73 Figure 74 Figure 75 Figure 76
Figure 8 knot, p62 Clove hitch, p63 Münter hitch, p63 Belayer using double ice screw anchors, p64 Fall factor loading on climbing rope, p65 Climber abseiling, p68 Overhand knot to join abseil ropes, p68 Climber abseiling West Face, p68 Waterfall ice climbing, p71 Alpine rock names, p72 Jamnut placement behind a block, p74 Sling or quickdraw to minimise rope drag, p74 Two anchors ‘equalised’, p74 Equalising sling tied off, p74 Firm granite face climbing, p75 Ascending technique, p78 Descending technique, p78 Self-arrest ice axe grip and flat-foot cramponing, p79 Piolet panne, p80 Upright snowstake with midclip, p84 Snow bollard, p85 Ice screw with handle, p86 V-thread used in hard ice, p86 Steep ice wall climbing, p87 Crevasse jumping, p91 Holding a fall, p94 Dropped loop, p95 Limited mechanical advantage, p96 Additional mechanical advantage, p97 Skiers staying clear of corniced edge, p99 Lipscreen with neck loop, p100 Blisters, p102 Altitude sickness, p103 Climbers on Mount French, p107 Approaching a helicopter, p110
The New Zealand Mountain Safety Council is recognised as a leading authority for outdoor safety information and training in New Zealand. The Council’s goals are: • To undertake research and develop standards for outdoor safety • To produce key outdoor safety information • To publicise the outdoor safety message • To deliver training by skilled instructors This Alpine skills manual offers no set of rules but a guide to accepted practices and skills in New Zealand mountaineering. There is still plenty of room for individuals to develop their own style. Novices who use this book will need to practise their skills and develop their own judgements. Professional guides, clubs and other organisations offer help with this instruction and training process, but experience in the mountains is the only way to become a mountaineer. While providing a guide to basics, this manual has incorporated many new skills and introduced new ideas of mountaineering. What is discussed is seen as current practices within the New Zealand mountaineering fraternity. Other manuals published by the Council, such as Bushcraft, Outdoor First Aid and Outdoor Safety- risk management for outdoor leaders may also provide some useful information for the mountaineer. In all our manuals, the Council seeks to provide the basic information with which all can find safer and more rewarding enjoyment of the New Zealand outdoors. Ian Nicholson EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
This manual is dedicated to the mountaineers who have given their time to show others the richness of the mountain experience. Geoff Wayatt drafted the manual. Stu Allan and Rebecca Priestley were the editors with technical advice from Bill Atkinson. Geoff Wayatt was the photographer and Trevor Plaisted the illustrator. Jo Straker and Brian Staite commented on Chapter 5: Shelters, Steve Schreiber on Chapter 7: Avalanches, Don Bogie on Chapter 12: Snow and Ice Climbing, and Lindsay Main advised on various technical issues. The two weather maps in Chapter 6: Weather are reproduced courtesy of Craig Potton Publishing and Erick Brenstrum. They are reproduced from The New Zealand Weather Book (1998). Special thanks go to the alpine and abseil committee, including Russell Braddock, Ray Button, Andy Cole, John McCormack, and Ross Meder, who gave guidance and criticism, and to Rebecca Priestley and Trevor Plaisted who prepared it for print. To the many other contributors, including sponsors, the Mountain Safety Council offers a sincere thank you.
Introduction I do not myself attach much value to mountaineering books: an open-air pursuit can only be learned by practical attempt and good exampleâ€Ś. GEOFFREY WINTHROP YOUNG (Editor of seven editions of Mountain Craft)
The New Zealand Mountain Safety Council has produced this manual to promote enjoyment and safe climbing in the mountains. It provides practical information for beginner alpine climbers in New Zealand. Learning from a climbing book is difficult. Ideally, you would accompany an experienced friend on many climbs over a few years. Alternatively, you should attend an instruction course. It is difficult to learn to climb safely without physical instruction and you should seek instruction in conjunction with this manual. Becoming a competent alpine climber requires commitment to more than technique: awareness of potential danger, physical fitness, awareness of ability, learning from experiences, judgement, and control of fear are all vital ingredients. Although there is inherent danger involved, climbers can minimise most risks.
GETTING STARTED Standing on summits is fun. However, you are usually best to focus on the actual climb rather than the more elusive summit. The summit is just the mid-point in a climb. Skills such as protecting the lead climber require intensive and regular practice to gain proficiency. The art of rope management involves a lot of repetition. You can train in many locations including rock slabs, stone walls, bridges, climbing gyms, trees, and ski slopes.
Climbing courses You should attend a climbing course because instructors can shortcut some of the learning that comes from experience and judgement in the mountains. At the end of a course, a climber should be competent to do some personal peak climbing. Specific peak advice from the instructor is invaluable. After the course, climbers should attempt lesser peaks to steadily gain personal capability and confidence.
Finding climbing partners â€˘ Experienced friends make the best climbing partners. Cultivate and enjoy them! Tramping or climbing club evenings or trips are a good source of potential companions. Ask an 2
organiser to introduce you to possible partners. • Climbing gyms are a good place to get to know people, or to find climbing companions from their notice board. Local crags are good for checking the skill level of potential partners. • You may find partners at base huts during the mid-summer in centres such as Aoraki / Mount Cook. • Climbing courses are an excellent opportunity to climb under supervision with other beginners.
Route guides and climbing grades Route guides and climbing grades are very useful when learning to climb or if you are new to an area. A brief text usually provides key information. Grades are scaled between the easiest and hardest climbs, based on difficulty and seriousness. See Appendix 1 for a selected guidebook list. Figure 1: Climbers crossing a broken glacier on the SE Ridge of Mount Barff, Aspiring National Park.
Training Some climbers go into the hills burdened by too much equipment and too little fitness. Remember when planning a trip that a muscle worked to failure takes about 48 hours to recover. General fitness Mountain fitness is often best gained from a week of tramping. Carrying a pack up hills is effective strength training for alpine expeditions. Aerobic training, such as cross-country running, assists your oxygen-carrying capacity. If running is hard on your knees, try biking. Gyms Gyms provide useful programmes, which you can combine with hill walking, running or biking. A fitness programme should involve stretching to prevent injury and to assist flexibility. Gymnastics and yoga You can adapt gym exercises for mountain training. Some climbers take up gymnastics to improve their body movements. Many do yoga. Bouldering Using dynamic moves on a climbing wall helps work fast-twitch muscles and improves body rhythm.
Injuries Injuries should be diagnosed, rested, and treated to limit future problems. Ligament and tendon injuries are slow healers, so reduce your activity until the pain, swelling, and tenderness have gone, then slowly rebuild your strength. Anti-inflammatory drugs can assist immediate, post-injury travel. Running down mountains damages your knee joints, both traumatically and accumulatively. The use of ski / trekking poles can assist load bearing and balance. Roller bandaging both knees can be mentally and physically useful for a descent.
JUDGEMENT Mountaineering experience and judgement takes considerable time to develop, requiring patience and determination. One of the great challenges of mountaineering is assessing risks and pursuing realistic objectives. Exploring unknown terrain is often where the adventure starts. Instruction books can only provide basic advice on equipment and techniques. Highly developed judgement is the mark of a skilled and experienced alpinist.
Turning back Heading off on each climbing day is educational. At times, you must make decisions to turn back. When considering turning back, you should take time to review the important factors: the weather, the snow conditions, the route difficulties, and party fitness. A short rest and some food and water can help focus your thinking. Once you make the decision, even if the weather changes for the better, accept that you made your decision at a critical time and in your best interest.
Soloing Solo activities contain many risks, from rock holds failing to snow bridges collapsing. Soloing requires highly developed judgement and, even then, is not always safe. Soloing on glaciers is a particularly high-risk activity as snowcovered crevasses are unpredictable. Numerous climbers have plunged unroped into deep crevasses. You can reduce these risks by roping to a competent partner. Low-level bouldering gives you freedom of movement without the need of a rope or partner, although a bouldering mat is common.
THE LEADING EDGE Climbing at the leading edge should be by considered choice rather than accident. A beginner lacks a broad resource base. It is often hard to separate simple difficulties from problems with hidden dangers. Survival and climbing achievements are two key elements of a climb. These elements can be in conflict; one can jeopardise the other. Competent mountaineers develop through long and disciplined apprenticeships. The path from â€˜wannabeâ€™ to expert is a tough and tortuous route. Figure 2: Three-point, balanced climbing with dual axes and crampons.
Trip Planning The mountaineer’s best defence is timing. Climb snowfields when they are frozen into a good working surface, glissade just as the surface has thawed, and be gone by the time softness has reached deep enough for the slope to avalanche. YVON CHOUINARD
Trip planning can minimise problems, especially for beginners. It need not be complicated.
BEFORE LEAVING HOME Leave your group details, trip intentions and return date with your family or friends. However, flexibility is important as alpine conditions change rapidly.
Risk management You must identify risks before you can deal with them. Risk management considers people, equipment, the environment, the proposed activity and emergency procedures. See Outdoor Safety: Risk Management for Outdoor Leaders.
Planning climbs Gain information from Alpine Club journals, guidebooks, magazines (see Appendix 2: Contacts) and, best of all, from personal communication with locals. Some Department of Conservation visitor centres have a book for climbers’ route comments.
Trip duration and timing Allow an additional day or two for bad weather. This is particularly important if you need to cross a river to get out. The option of camping and waiting for the river to drop can be critical. In New Zealand, December and January provide long daylight hours. Pre-dawn starts give more climbing time and the opportunity to avoid the late afternoon heat, sunburn and soft snow conditions. A short afternoon reconnaissance can aid pre-dawn route finding the next day. The most settled weather is often in late summer (February and March) but there are no guarantees. Short days, cold temperatures, and often deep soft snow restrict the winter months. It is a challenging climbing period. A powerful headlamp and spare batteries are essential.
Group number The group number, skills, fitness, and experience should match the proposed trip’s duration and difficulty. Consider also the ratio of experienced to beginner climbers. A group of more than 6
four is often slow and cumbersome. On technical routes, two is usually most efficient.
Clothing and equipment Lay out your clothing and equipment and check it against a list (see Chapter 3: Clothing and Equipment). Individuals should be clear on responsibilities for bringing group equipment such as rope and stove.
Food For multi-day, valley-to-peak expeditions, careful food weight and diet planning is vital (see Chapter 4: Food). Carrying dehydrated food can significantly lighten your pack. Pre-cook meals where possible to save fuel weight. Pre-mix Milo, milk powder, and sugar, and carry in a plastic jar. Fly-in trips enable more fresh and heavy food options, but you should take into account carrying out rubbish at the end of the trip. Remove as much food packaging as possible before the access flight.
Forecasts Check the weather and avalanche forecasts before making detailed plans. Consider alternatives if there is poor weather or unstable snow conditions. See Appendix 2.
BEFORE CLIMBING You can minimise risks by making conservative decisions. Some decisions with poor outcomes are made when personal ambitions conflict with poor weather, limited holiday time, or a transport deadline. You are more likely to make sensible group decisions when you freely discuss safety issues with all group members.
Transport Public transport is available to the main climbing areas. Check details at information centres. If you are travelling by car, take rests on long access drives, as they are often the most dangerous part of a climbing trip.
Trip intentions Complete intentions forms at the Department of Conservation Visitor Centre or at a police station, and sign out on your return. Huts have intentions books to record daily information on activities and conditions. The New Zealand Police are responsible for land search and rescue operations. The Department of Conservation and volunteer Land Search and Rescue organisations assist with searches. Groups should return on their intended date if safely possible.
Allow one hour from alarm to walking. Check weather and snow conditions.
Arrive at the beginning of the difficult climbing. Have easy access to food, water, and sunscreen.
If there is no time or place to eat lunch, carry bars in your pockets for belay ledge munching.
Base this on weather, snow conditions, fitness, and available daylight hours.
Over 12 hours on a climb cuts safety margins.
Communications Telephones (including cellphones and satellite phones), Mountain Radio Services portable radios, and personal locator beacons are useful tools. Personal locator beacons are particularly useful for long solo trips. Some alpine huts have radios for weather forecasts and emergency use. Advise contacts of changes to your trip plan.
Descent People sometimes overlook planning the descent, particularly if the route varies from the way up. Read the guidebook. Talk to other climbers. New Zealand routes change rapidly.
Climbing day plan Work your times backward from the end of the day. It may be that you are better to bivouac at the foot of the climb to increase the climbing time available the next day.
TRIP PLAN CHECKLIST • • • • • • • • • • • •
Calculate the trip time for the route. Decide on group members, experience, fitness, and leadership. Obtain weather and avalanche situation and forecasts. Consider alternative trip options and the timing of trip cancellation decisions. Lay out clothing and equipment to check that you have what you need. Decide on who is responsible for group equipment. Make up a menu, and pre-cook where possible. Tell the group the meeting place and time. Consider carrying a phone card, money, radio, cellphone, and a locator beacon. Make a list of emergency procedures and contact details. Carry a spare set of car keys and dry clothes for the drive home. Advise family, friends, the Department of Conservation, or the police of your intentions, group details, and vehicle details.
Clothing and Equipment A very practical consequence of simplified alpinism is mobility. A light load makes an agile climber. Unencumbered, you can climb faster, your range is extended to longer climbs, and more time is free for work on difficult passages. YVON CHOUINARD
Climbers often think that the quantity of clothing and equipment is directly related to personal pleasure. Some climbers believe that equipment buys safety. Safety actually has more to do with experience and risk taking. Over-equipping can distract you from efficient mountain climbing and detract from the freedom and wildness of the sport. Layering is the key to suitable clothing for New Zealandâ€™s diverse weather. Multiple thin items with zips provide versatility. To save weight, take only what you will wear plus minimal spares. Figure 3: Stormproof outerwear gives vital weather protection and improves survival capability.
Select your clothing and equipment carefully. Before you buy, compare catalogue specifications, read reviews, talk to retailers and ask your friends for advice.
CLOTHING OUTER LAYERS Parka Parkas should be windproof and waterproof. Three-layer micro porous material with a waterproof guarantee is comfortable, expensive, and waterproof for one or two seasons. You can apply re-proofing liquids but you need to do this once or twice each season.
Pants Shell pants should be windproof and waterproof. They should be micro porous with full-length side zips so that you can put them on over boots and crampons. Crotch zips are particularly useful. Shorts are often important for valley approaches.
Jersey or pullover Commonly, this is synthetic, e.g. fleece, although fine wool is an option. It is usually 100 or 200-weight with a high collar. Windproof properties can be an advantage.
Hats Do not underestimate the importance of hats. In hot snow basins, use a broad brimmed hat with a chin cord. A baseball cap with a dark colour under the peak and a scarf over the neck is effective. Take a balaclava or ski hat for cold conditions. 10
Clothing and Equipment
Glacier shirt A pale, long-sleeved, cotton or silk shirt is best in hot snow basins. You can also use it as an extra layer and for sleeping in.
Silk scarves and bandanas Scarves can give added face protection against sunburn, especially in snow basins. You can use a second scarf under your hat for neck shade.
Gloves and mittens Mittens are warmer than gloves with fingers, but mittens make it more difficult to use your hands. Use combinations of polypropylene, light wool and windproof fleece gloves in moderate temperatures and for technical climbing. Leather ski gloves are good, but they stay wet, so high-tech climbing gloves are preferable. Figure 4: A glacier shirt gives protection from the sun and is comfortable in the heat.
Keep a pair of warm mittens in a plastic bag for blizzard conditions. Large dishwashing gloves, or overmitts without liners, can waterproof polypropylene gloves for snow shelter construction.
Gaiters Knee-length, front-opening or side-opening gaiters with Velcro, dome or zip closures are good in snow. Avoid constricting elastic at the ankles.
Boots Your boots are your most important outdoor equipment. To achieve the optimum fit, comfort and performance, consider the following questions. What activities will I use the boots for? Are they for summer or winter temperatures? Are they for valley or alpine terrain? Are they for one-day track use or multi-day wilderness expeditions? Some leather boots are comfortable for both access and alpine climbing tasks but, once wet, they stay wet. On long valley walks, most people wear access boots and carry their plastic boots. Generally, the price reflects the boot quality. Access boots Consider the fit of the boot without initial reference to the brand or sizing. Examine the construction, the sole tread and texture. Soft rubber soles have more grip on river boulders and slabs. The sole stiffness is a very important consideration. Semi-stiff soles are good for tramping but not for steep ice. Stiffer soled boots are less forgiving on the flats, causing blisters unless you pre-tape your feet.
Figure 5: Ice axes come in a variety of lengths, head styles, and colours for different climbers and climbs. Radius curved heads suit moderate terrain and reverse curved picks hold better in steep ice.
The foot length is more important than the volume as you can wear inner soles. Custom-made orthopaedic footbeds provide excellent support. Women’s boots have a narrower last. A mid or high-ankle boot gives better ankle protection, but less flexibility on technical rock and ice climbing. Climbing boots Plastic climbing boots are generally light but lack the feel of high-tech leather boots on rock. It is easier to get an adequate fit in plastic boots with liners (inner boots). The liners also reduce rubbing. When fitting plastic boots, take out the liner and check your foot length in the plastic shell. There should be a 11/2-finger gap between the foot and the shell. The width is not as important as a ski boot retailer can widen some plastic boots, or you may be able to stretch them with a piece of broomstick bridged across the inside of the boot and then carefully heat with a hairdryer. Modern light, leather climbing boots provide an excellent feel and ankle flex on rock and moderate snow slopes. They are often more comfortable on access routes. Leather boots need a breaking-in period, which may involve short trips and foot taping.
CLOTHING INNER LAYERS Thermal tops Polyester or fine wool tops with zips, turtlenecks and long sleeves give neck and arm protection. A light-coloured, shortsleeved top adds warmth when it is cold, as well as reflective properties when worn as the outer layer. Darker colours dry faster in the sun.
Thermal pants (long johns) For winter climbing, use 100-weight fleece for pants. Nordic ski pants, tracksuit pants, and polypropylene or light wool pants are also options.
Socks Buy seamless socks with a wool mix for warmth. Most people require only one pair, although you may choose to wear a light nylon pair next to the skin to avoid rubbing.
CLIMBING EQUIPMENT The following recommendations are for each climber, unless noted as shared.
Ice axe You can use a general-purpose ice axe for walking, climbing slopes of 30 – 60 °, belaying, and step cutting. It should be long enough to reach your ankle from a hanging handgrip – commonly 70 cm. It also needs a curved pick, a strong shaft and long 12
Clothing and Equipment
shaft spike for snow penetration, and sharp adze corners. Shorter axes are easier to wield on steeper climbs. It should have a steeper radius or a reverse-curved pick and a full set of pick teeth. Its shorter shaft (commonly 50 cm) enables easy swinging and combines with a similar second ice tool. Most have interchangeable picks and adzes in case they break and to suit different ice conditions. To minimise ice fracturing, bevel chiselshaped picks by filing the top and underside. In hard ice conditions, all contact points should be sharp. Curved shafts enable an easier wrist action for reaching over bulges and lessening knuckle damage, but they are less useful for general mountaineering, e.g. they are more difficult to plunge into the snow. Wrist-straps provide secure attachment for all axes. Determine the length by the handgrip at the base of the shaft. It should be easy to get a gloved hand into the wrist-strap.
Ice hammer Figure 6: Many climbers combine the use of a general-purpose axe and a technical ice hammer.
An ice hammer enables dual-tool climbing and snowstake placement. Most have interchangeable, reverse-curved picks, and a 50 cm long shaft. The most useful New Zealand alpine combination is a generalpurpose ice axe combined with an ice hammer.
Crampons Crampons improve security on ice and hard snow, reduce climbing times, and can eliminate step cutting. Modern ice axe / crampon combinations enable fluid movement on steep ice. Waterfall ice climbing has fostered mono-point crampons.
Figure 7: Anti-balling plates attached to crampons minimise balling up in new, soft snow. Figure 8: Crampons with toe bail and heelclip strap work well with high-tech mountain boots.
Ensure that your crampons fit your boots exactly. Articulated crampons with straps are better for flexible boots. Front points should protrude 2 – 3 cm. Long vertical points (3.5 – 4 mm) with broad heel points hold best in the soft snow that often occurs in New Zealand, particularly on the descent. Anti-balling plates can keep snow from sticking to the crampons. ‘Balling up’ makes the points ineffective and causes slips. Clip-on crampons suit rigid alpine boots where heel and toe clamps work best. A strap connecting the front and rear attachments adds security.
Rope (shared) Modern climbing ropes tend to be 50 – 60 m long, 9 – 10 mm diameter and waterproofed or ‘dry-treated’. Edelrid developed the nylon kernmantle rope in 1951. It consisted of a load-bearing core (kern) and a protective outer sheath (the mantle). Water resistance • Standard nylon ropes are hydroscopic. Having absorbed water, the wet ropes become heavy, lose about 15 % of their strength and ability to absorb impacts. They become approximately 50 % heavier and survive approximately 60 % fewer falls. Wet ropes are no more or less resistant to abrasion. If they freeze, the will become less flexible. • Alpine climbers find the extra cost for a dry-treated rope is well spent. Most manufacturers now make their ropes ‘dry’ to improve performance rating. You can waterproof your rope again using an approved fluoropolymer-based solution. It is inexpensive, but not as long lasting as factory-applied treatments. Ratings, sheath wear, and edge strength The Union Internationale des Association d’Alpinisme (UIAA) test and certify kernmantle ropes. • A rope will shrink in length with use and will lose elasticity with falls. • The only known failures of rated climbing ropes in the field resulted from rope cutting. Most ropes break when tested over a sharp edge! • UIAA code full-weight ropes 1 and rate them for single rope use. A 50 m x 9.5 mm rope weighs about 3.5 kg. • Half ropes are coded 1/2 . Two 8.8 mm x 50 m ropes weigh about 5.6 kg. They are ideal for clipping protection alternately on meandering mountain routes and they enable 50 m abseils. • UIAA codes twin ropes 00 . You clip both ropes through each runner. They also enable 50 m abseils. Two 7.6 mm x 50 m ropes weigh about 4.2 kg. Looking after your rope • Use only for climbing. • Use the lap coil method to avoid kinks. • Store in a cool, dark place. • Wash in lukewarm water, using mild soap. • Avoid excessive sunlight, car battery acid or fumes, and bleaches. Retiring rope • Check the rope for bumps, thin spots and changes in stiffness when you belay and abseil. Also, inspect the rope for puffs or bulges of white core. • Look for heavy fuzzing, which means many of the sheath fibres are cut. 14
Clothing and Equipment
• If any of the above occur and cause concern, retire the rope from serious use. • Retire a rope with a cut sheath. • Manufacturers recommend that occasional users should retire their ropes after 2 – 4 years. However, UIAA tests show that rope age alone does not significantly affect rope strength. Their tests of rated ropes 5 – 10 years old show little deterioration and the ropes are in no danger of breaking except over a sharp edge. A compromise is to semi-retire your rope, using it for top roping and abseiling only. • Acids damage ropes, often with no visible indication. • Two half or twin ropes provide a redundancy. If one breaks, there is a second to absorb the remaining fall energy. No complete breaking of two ropes used together is known to have occurred. Source: Pit Schubert, UIAA 3 / 2000.
Figure 9: An alpine harness should be light with adjustable leg loops and gear loops. Note the karabiners, prusiks, slings, belay device, locking karabiners, cam and jamnuts.
Rope testing The UIAA conducts a drop test that involves a fall on a short piece of rope with a static anchor – the worst-case scenario. Submitted ropes that pass the test gain the UIAA certification and rating.
Harness The harness should be comfortable and the waist belt should fit over a variety of clothing layers.
Belay device There are many belay device options. Belay devices vary in their capacity to absorb energy through different rope slippage thresholds. • Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs) can hold loads of about 2 kN before sliding. • Münter hitches can hold about 3 kN. • Grigris have a high capacity at about 9 kN and are often preferred on high-angle rock or climbing walls although they are heavy. • Figure 8 descenders used in standard abseil mode create about 1.5 kN of braking force, giving a soft catch if the load is not too high.
Karabiners Take at least two locking karabiners and four standard karabiners.
Prusiks Take three 6 or 7 mm prusiks, ideally colour coded. You should customise them to approximate one 2 m harness loop, one or two 2.8 m leg loops, plus three rescue spares one 2.8 m and two 1 m long). Tie the type of prusik knot that is appropriate to the task when you use 7 mm cord or it may slip. See Chapter 13: Glacier Travel.
Pulleys Take two light pulleys for crevasse rescue (one with large flanges). Pulleys are better than karabiners, which create considerable friction.
Ice screws (shared) Take at least two ice screws, 18 – 22 mm long, and more in late summer. Ice screws with winder arms are quicker to place and remove. Longer ice screws (20 cm plus) have greater holding power.
Snow stakes Take two snow stakes. They are the most common form of snow protection in New Zealand. Most are aluminium, V-shaped, 60 cm long, by 5 cm wide, by 3 mm thick. They are stronger with an internal fillet joining the flanges.
Slings Take at least four slings, including two general use shoulder/ waist slings 18 – 22 mm x 1.5 m, one long general use sling 18 – 22 mm x 3 m, and one 20 mm x 1.6 m sewn sling to attach yourself to an anchor. You cannot tie Spectra sling material securely but, when the manufacturer sews it, it is very strong for weight and bulk and is hard to cut compared to nylon. 16
Clothing and Equipment
A cow’s tail or daisy chain speed up anchoring. They are preattached to the harness and are quickly clipped into an anchor. A cow’s tail usually has a set length. A daisy chain has sewn loops in a 1.5 m – 2 m sling and enables the climber to choose the best length quickly. A cordelette (6 – 7 m x 7 mm nylon cord or 5.5mm spectra sling) works best for multi-point anchoring by enabling quick equalising of forces on the anchors.
Rock protection (shared) Consider taking three medium-sized jamnuts (nuts), two medium-sized camming devices (cams) and two blade pitons, depending on the routes that you plan to climb. You need a hammer for the pitons.
GENERAL EQUIPMENT Pack The pack should be large enough to hold 20 kg but not too much larger. It should have straps to hold an ice axe, ice hammer, and crampons on the outside.
Sleeping bag A compact down bag of 550 – 750 g is adequate for most New Zealand alpine temperatures. A water-resistant outer of dryloft is advantageous. A long zip and a foot zip enable venting. A silk liner or spare clothes can add warmth.
Sleeping pad Take a sleeping pad for bivouacs and snow shelters. Take two for extended cold periods.
Bivouac bag Figure 10: An alpine pack should be compact and expandable with multiple implement attachments. Versatile, comfortable footwear can save weight and foot damage.
Consider taking a bivouac bag for bivouacs and snow shelters. Micro porous material is preferable.
Helmet A helmet is very important in New Zealand mountains because of the danger of falling rock and ice. It should be light with easily adjustable straps to enlarge it for a warm hat.
Sunglasses Dark amber-coloured lenses suit both bright sunlight and whiteout conditions. Specialised lenses, such as Adidas Space lenses, minimise glare and maintain excellent flat-light definition. Keep the glasses in a robust container along with your address. Carry compact spares in your first-aid kit. Glacier glasses should have removable side shields. Alternatively, tape the sides of standard glasses to create side shields.
Climbers usually get snow blind when they take their glasses off in misty, wet conditions. A peaked cap lessens the rain and mist effect. Most goggles tend to fog when climbing but they are essential in storms.
Sunscreen Keep sunscreen in a small, accessible tube or bottle. The recommended rating is factor 30+ with titanium, a cover-up component. Carry a quality lip screen.
First aid kit (shared) See Chapter 14: Alpine First Aid.
Repair kit (shared) Consider a multi-purpose tool, wire, cord, whistle, needle and thread, gas lighter, earplugs, and tape.
Stove (shared) For outside use, take a stove with a windshield. Use a base plate on snow. For hut use, a quiet burning stove is much preferable to a noisy one. Include a maintenance kit, lighter, and pot grips.
Billy or pot (shared) Also, take a lid and a pot scrub.
Fuel (shared) If you use white spirits, e.g. Shellite, to heat water, take about 750 ml for two people for two days. If you are melting snow, take double this amount. If you use a butane or propane stove, expect two hours use from a 400 ml canister and slow heating in cold temperatures.
Knife, spoon, cup and bowl Keep eating utensils light. In winter, use an insulated cup.
Water bottles You may need two water bottles for long hot climbs where you may require at least two litres of water. Choose bottles with wide mouths so that you can put snow inside. Bladders can provide regular hydration through their easily accessed drinking tube, but it is hard to judge how much you have drunk. The fluid in the drinking tube can freeze unless you blow the fluid back into the bladder. Plastic tubing used as a straw may access water on some climbs.
Toilet gear Include toilet paper, a small towel, a toothbrush, insect repellent and spare sunscreen. 18
Clothing and Equipment
Headlamp A headlamp is essential for early starts and late returns. Check your helmet for a secure fastening. Use lithium batteries as they are largely unaffected by cold. Unclip the battery terminals when the headlamp is not in use. Quartz / halogen bulbs are good for crevasse spotting and long winter climbs, but they halve your battery life! LEDs are economical, but currently lack penetration. This will change with new LED technology. A combination halogen / LED is a good option at present. Carry spare batteries and a spare bulb.
Navigation tools Navigation tools include maps (laminated), a compass, an altimeter, a Global Positioning (GPS) unit, and route guides and notes. See Chapter 8: Navigation.
Transceiver The avalanche transceiver should be 475 kHz frequency with new alkaline batteries and spares.
Shovel Figure 11: Snow shovel, probe and transceiver.
A snow shovel should be metal for New Zealand conditions, light and robust with ribs and a square blade. Take at least two per group. They are part of your avalanche safety preparation as well as for building snow shelters.
Probes Some ski poles convert to avalanche probes. Better are light folding probes, 2.4 m long.
Snow saw (shared) Use a snow saw for shear tests, as well as for building igloos.
Snow profile kit (shared) A snow profile kit is for avalanche stability assessment. You should include a waterproof field book, pencil, crystal grid plate, thermometer, hand lens and ruler.
Snowshoes Snowshoes and ski poles can make snow plods more efficient but they are unstable on steeper slopes.
Alarm (shared) It is usually desirable to start early in high alpine areas to maximise the time you spend on a firm snow surface.
EQUIPMENT TIPS • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Keep a reminder list of little things that make a difference. Use a neoprene or elastic strap on your glasses. Buy sunscreen with added titanium. Use light cord to hold your lip screen around your neck. A light-coloured cotton or silk shirt has effective reflective properties for glacier travel. Thermal layering – combine a long sleeved, collared layer with a zip under a light- coloured short-sleeved layer. Select access boots with a ‘sticky’ rubber sole to aid grip on rock slabs. Carry plastic bags to use as a vapour barrier inside your boots in wet or cold conditions. A neoprene helmet visor can shade your forehead. Add sugar and salt to water to aid absorption. Carbo-Shots and Leppins are carbohydrate energy gels and are easy-to -swallow energy boosters in convenient sachets. Use an accessory karabiner on the pack strap for clipping sun cap or gloves when photographing. Wrap a stove windshield around the fuel tank to retain its circular, unwrinkled form. Hold it on with rubber bands. Sew a clip or Velcro loop to the inside of a pack pocket for securing your car keys. Carry a spare camera battery. To obtain a more comfortable sleep on a hard gravel bivouac ledge, make a shallow hole for your hip. A 3 mm closed cell mat combines well with an air mattress on stony ground or snow. Take plastic bags to protect your sleeping bag and clothes from getting wet. Line the inside of your pack with a large plastic bag.
Clothing and Equipment
CLOTHING AND EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST Clothing
Ice axe and ice hammer
Jersey / pullover
Harness, belay device, karabiners, prusiks, pulleys.
Hats (sun hat and balaclava)
Ice screws, snowstakes, slings, rock protection
Glacier shirt, silk scarves, bandanas
Gloves and mittens
Sleeping bag, sleeping mat, bivouac bag
First aid kit and repair kit
Stove, windshield, fuel, lighter / matches, billy and lid, pot scrub
Knife, spoon, cup, bowl, water bottles
Toilet paper, towel, toothbrush / paste, insect repellent and spare sunscreen
Headlamp, spare batteries
Down jacket for snowcaving
Maps, compass, altimeter, GPS unit, route guides and notes
Transceiver, snow shovel, ski poles / avalanche probes, snow saw, snow profile kit
Change of clothes (and extra food) in the vehicle for after the trip
Food Eggs could be got on the march, and by eggs I mean half a dozen or so per man, fewer are not much good, but for use on the mountain we had 600 eggs. BILL TILLMAN, (1938 EVEREST ATTEMPT)
FOOD PLANNING Climbing food should be light, palatable, and easy to prepare. Everything you take in you must carry out, so remove the packaging and label plastic bags with a marker pen. To retain top performance you must pay attention to food intake. Carbohydrates are the bodyâ€™s preferred fuel, although your body can convert proteins and fats into energy too. On some climbing days, you consume more than 40,000 kilojoules (9,500 calories).
Climbing food varies according to preference, taste, and budget. If you are going on a weekend trip or are flying into the mountains, you can take heavier food. If not, you must calculate your food weight carefully (see the checklist at the end of this chapter). Multi-sport endurance athletes use easy-to-swallow carbohydrate supplements.
Bread, ham, mustard, lettuce, tomato, cheese
Seafood bisque soup, stir-fried steak (pre-cooked), potato, salad, sweet biscuits
Cereal and pre-soaked dried fruit, rye bread
Wholemeal bread buns, meat, pesto, cheese, lettuce
Chicken noodle soup, tinned fish, rice, dehydrated vegetables, biscuits
Cereal and pre-soaked dried fruit, cabin bread
Cabin bread, honey, jam, cheese, pesto
Spicy tomato soup, spaghetti bolognaise, pre-soaked dehydrated carrots, Milo, biscuits
Instant porridge, rye bread and jam
Cream crackers, salami, cheese, hummus
Pesto and crackers, pasta with parmesan cheese, peas, onion
High performance Hydration (Source: New Zealand Sports Foundation) â€˘ Dehydration of as little as 1 % body weight can cause a significant loss in work capacity for high-performance athletes. Climbers on long climbs and breathing dry air through their mouths have similar issues. Drink before, during, and after a climb. 22
• Fluid replacement is affected by intake volume, intestinal absorption, and fluid retention. Aim to drink 250 ml (one large cup) every hour. This is 2 litres over a short climbing day, which is a minimum. Fluids should contain small amounts of sugar and salt (you can buy sachets of replacement salts from sports or health stores). Carbohydrates and protein requirements Stored carbohydrates are essential for prolonged, moderateintensity exercise and for intermittent high-intensity exercise. You should attain the highest possible levels of carbohydrates stores before arduous climbs and replace them after the climb. Ideally, you should consume carbohydrates with a high glycaemia index in the first 30 minutes to two hours after a climb. Protein requirements increase during high exercise. Proteins build and maintain muscle mass. Climbers should ensure that their food is at least 10 % protein – about 100 g / day. High energy supplements Long-chain carbohydrate supplements (simple sugars) are easy to ingest. They are highly recommended for climbers who find that other foods, such as muesli bars, stick in their throats during long climbing days. Take them with water.
COOKING Stoves and fuel • Check fuel leaks because even small leakages badly contaminate food. • Treat volatile fuel carefully. Fill stoves at least 10 m from open flames. • Ventilate carefully and ensure that your stove is insulated from the snow and burning well. Poor ventilation in an enclosed space carries a high risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. • Monitor your stove carefully to save fuel. Put a lid on the billy. • Save cooking time and fuel by soaking dried items, including rice, for 30 minutes before cooking. Soak breakfast fruit overnight.
Figure 12: Sheltering your stove increases efficiency and saves fuel.
Cleaning • Adding a drop of oil or butter to the water when cooking pasta minimises bubbling spills. • Turning the pot upside down for 10 minutes lifts stuck rice from its base. • Cooking porridge messes the billy and delays an early start. Instead, soak quick-cook oats in a bowl of hot water with freeze-dried apples for 10 minutes while you prepare to leave. 23
Food tips • Items that add interest to meals include curry paste, coconut milk powder, instant custard powder, and tomato paste. • Plan to eat more fat than usual on climbing trips. Fatty food is usually more desirable in the mountains than when you are at home. • Vegetarian options include tofu, couscous, burghul wheat, lentils, and mung beans. • Pre-dawn starts may be easier on your stomach and more expedient by having a couple of hot drinks, a sachet of instant porridge or a light cereal bar. Carry additional bars in your pockets for eating on the route.
WATER HYGIENE Water consumption requires vigilance, especially around huts. Poor hygiene can lead to gastro-enteritis, giardiasis, and worse. Water tips • If you are unsure of the water quality, boil or filter it. Some water bottles have built-in filters. • Avoid using communal water buckets in crowded huts. Get your own water from the tank tap. • Ensure that cooks wash their hands. Human waste Use hut toilets whenever possible. When you are away from the hut, toilet at least 50 m from water. Dig a small hole if possible, refill, tamp, and cover with a rock or turf. On snow, move away from the main routes; use a bergschrund, a rock edge or a crack. Cover yellow snow.
FOOD CHECKLIST Lightweight trips Take nearly 1 kg dry weight of food per person per day. Remember to allow for a dayâ€™s delay getting out of the mountains. 1 day Grams
8 days Grams
Cereal Â– muesli, instant porridge or similar
Salami / cheese / luncheon meat
Margarine / soft butter
Bacon / tuna, salmon sachet / freeze-dried meat
Bread/biscuits / Tararua biscuits / rye or cabin bread
Nuts, raisins (scroggin mix)
Rice / pasta / dried potato / couscous
Chocolate, sweets, muesli bars
Drink powder, tea, coffee, salt, pepper, sugar
Shelters [The climber] who climbs only in good weather, starting from huts and never bivouacking, appreciates the splendour of the mountains, but not their mystery, the dark of their night, the depth of the sky above. GASTON RĂ‰BUFFAT
SURVIVAL Early New Zealand explorers depended on their experience rather than their equipment for survival above the snowline. They sought the forest for shelter. They often wrapped a piece of wool around their abdomen and lay with their backs to the fire. Advances in waterproof clothing, micro porous materials, and insulated sleeping mats enable more exposed and extended bivouacs. However, strong winds can flatten a nylon tent and a twisted ankle can change an afternoon excursion into an overnight bivouac.
Turning back Cold temperatures, driving wind, and rain can rapidly induce hypothermia. Turning back early is wiser than risking being caught in a storm and coping with an exposed bivouac. Watch for deteriorating weather signs and take into account the weather situation, forecast, and your party speed. Wispy glacier or ridge-top cloud can rapidly develop into whiteout conditions. Figure 13: Sheltering from lightning in a rock bivouac can be dangerous.
Rescuers are often called to locate climbers who have miscalculated the weather and their skills. The difficult decision to keep moving with a weakened or injured group member depends on the circumstances. Have a rest and consider the weather, the terrain to come and the group capability. Turning back, or stopping early to build a shelter, may be better alternatives to continuing in a weakened state.
Lightning Climbers seldom experience lightning at close quarters in New Zealand although it does occur. If sheltering in a rock bivouac, sit deep inside on your pack or rope and avoid contact with the walls. If you are on a ledge, huddle on the outer edge. Stay out of depressions, overhangs, and small caves, as the current may shortcut through you.
EMERGENCY SHELTERS Forced bivouacs You can make a bivouac more bearable by seeking protection from wind and rain, putting on dry clothes and adopting the foetal position to reduce heat loss. A bivouac bag, a stove, and an insulating mat greatly enhance survival. Consider taking them on your climb. It is now common for experienced climbers to survive days in a storm using natural protection and quality clothing. Rock bivouacs (bivvy rocks) A large overhanging outcrop or boulder can provide excellent shelter. They are usually erratics, left behind by the glacier. When choosing a suitable rock, consider the prevailing wind direction and look for water signs such as moss, calcite, or water stains. The ideal ceiling slopes towards the entrance and diverts drips. Water channels on the floor are a sure sign of a potential moat. Be prepared to build rock walls and floors. Marker (ski pole or snowstake).
Walk-in crevasses Seek a shallow crevasse with a large overhang and a solid floor. The crevasse must be safe from avalanches and have a stable roof. If the crevasse does not have a ready-made roof, construct one from snow piled onto your sleeping mat. While still roped-up, carefully probe the floor for weak snow bridging and prepare a secure sleeping area. If there is any doubt about the floor, stayed roped up even when sleeping and anchor the rope. Hang gear from ice screws in the crevasse wall. Snow trenches A snow trench is quick to construct in a low-angled, low-density snowpack if you have a metal snow shovel. You can get out of the wind surprising quickly. Avoid sweating during the construction or you may become very cold once you stop. Dig a trench 2 m long by less than 1 m wide and 1 â€“ 1.5 m deep for one climber. Pile the snow on the windward side. Keep the trench opening as narrow as snow shovelling allows but widen the base as you dig down. Cut snow blocks for the roof and block the entrance with a pack.
A snow trench is not a suitable shelter to use in heavy snowdrifts, unless it is out of the snow deposition area.
Figure 14: Using a small crevasse as an emergency shelter.
Figure 15: Copland Shelter, Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park. The climbers on the snowfield are almost at Copland Pass.
HUTS Using huts can reduce your clothing and equipment weight considerably and enable quicker alpine starts. Some huts are in dangerous country. Climbers have died from falls outside these huts, especially when walking outside with boot inners or plastic bags over socks as footwear. The Department of Conservation and the New Zealand Alpine Club own most alpine huts. It is important to pay fees as New Zealand alpine huts have only about a 30-year lifespan and they are costly to replace.
TENTS A tent provides immediate shelter but is vulnerable to high wind and snow loading in exposed sites. There are no alpine tents currently manufactured that will reliably withstand New Zealand storms, unless they are sited extremely carefully.
Shelters Figure 16: Tents need protection against New Zealand weather.
Ice or rock anchor Ice axe anchor
Stake buried in ‘T’ slot
Anchor made from a buried snow-filled plastic bag
Use a ‘four-season’ tent. Pre-curved heavyweight poles or ‘doublepoling’ each pole placement adds strength. Several high guy points improve stability. Pitching a tent • Make a shelter wall first with rocks or snow. • Set up the ground with the anchors in place. • Beware of wind gusts when unpacking the tent. • Use extra cord and strong bags for anchoring. • Use cord systems such as the ‘trucker’s hitch’ for adjustment during storms. • Use tent pegs as ‘deadmen’ if necessary (tied in the centre and buried). 29
SNOW SHELTERS Constructing snow shelters is laborious. The best type of shelter depends on the terrain, the weather, and the snow texture. It may be a combination of types. Shelters should have low entrances to trap warm air unless temperatures are above freezing. However, ventilation is critical to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, especially when cooking. Mark your snow shelter in case you need to find it in poor visibility. An extra transceiver left in the shelter helps if there is a lot of snowfall or spindrift. Snowcaves In New Zealand summer conditions, a snowcave is usually the most functional shelter. For an overnight stay, lack of time can dictate a crudely dug hole. In summer snow, a comfortable snowcave takes one to two hours per person to dig. In winter snow, you can halve this time. Site selection The ideal site is a stable slope greater than 30 Â°, a short snow bank, or a wind scoop. It will usually be lee to the wind (where snow deposits) but that tends to make it prone to avalanche and to drifting up. Choosing a site near the top of a slope may minimise drifting. However, avalanche risk is high, both on the slope that you are digging into, and above it.
Figure 17: Snowcave.
Shelters Figure 18: Snowcave with sealed second entrance. Air vent.
Methods People often angle the entrance tunnel up to the main cave to retain heat. They drag snow out on a plastic sheet. Four people with shovels can dig using two entrances, sealing one when they have finished. Doming and smoothing the ceiling avoids drips and enables wall drainage. A fast and drier method is to cut a platform and then excavate about one metre into the slope before cutting the sleeping bench back from that. Use the last snow blocks from the bench evacuation to build a wall across the front, and cut an entrance door through it. Further snowfall or drifting will refill the platform, so continue your entrance tunnel to the surface and mark the door from outside. If you build the snowcave for an extended summer stay, you require a long tunnel and a roof more than one metre thick to allow for snowmelt. Significant settlement may occur if the snow is light. Limit the cavity size to two people per sleeping space and leave partitions for strength. Reinforce any soft walls. Take care to avoid breaking your shovel in rain crusts. Use it like a spade in a chopping action. Keep a shovel inside the snowcave for clearing the entrance. Increase your comfort level by using a sleeping bag cover of micro porous fabric and one or two insulating mats.
Igloos Two experts using drifted snow with good bonding texture can build this traditional residence of the Canadian Inuit in about two hours. Most people take considerably longer. The best snow is fine-grained, wind-transported snow. A snow saw is best for cutting blocks. 31
Igloos are usually easier to build in winter conditions. Warm summer snow bonds poorly and its high water content makes for heavy blocks. High temperatures or rain may collapse the roof. Igloos are easier to build if they are partially beneath ground level. Dig your building blocks from the ‘basement’ of your igloo site. Figure 19: An igloo shelter.
Make the igloo approximately 2 m in diameter with the walls slanting inwards like a snail shell. Place each block on a gentle spiral, resting one side of each new block on its predecessor. Cut exact block joints to make a stronger and warmer igloo. The joints can be ‘chinked’ by filling the cracks with snow. Finishing the roof requires some patience and delicate block placement to avoid collapse. Practise before relying on igloos in New Zealand as the ideal snow is not often available.
Snow mounds Building a snow mound is moderately fast if you have plenty of shovel power and light snow. It is a popular shelter to build on flat terrain, especially if there is a thin cover of powder snow, but you remain exposed to the wind for a long time. Some people first pile several packs in a heap and remove them after piling on snow, but this gives no major advantage. In fact, losing access to your pack may be dangerous.
Figure 20: Cross section of a snow mound.
For two or three people, pile snow into the mound about 3 m in diameter and 1.5 m high. Pack down the final 30 cm. Ideally, leave it to consolidate before digging out the inside. If several people have shovels, start with three or four doors to speed up snow excavation and then seal off all but one door (crossways to the wind). Either close a surface-level door with a pack or snow wall, or tunnel below floor level to form a cold-air trap.
You can easily seal doors and inadvertent ‘windows’ in the roof by using a sleeping mat or pack as a moving shutter. Shovel snow against a mat supported by one or two people on the inside. You can even build a complete mound with this method (a `Staite house’). This works best with sticky snow.
SHELTERS CHECKLIST • Consider carrying shovels, transceivers, bivouac bags, insulating mats, and a stove. • Consider turning back if you are slow or the weather is poor. • Check sites for avalanche hazard and snow drifting. • Check crevasse floors before unroping. • Check ventilation, especially when cooking.
Figure 21: Constructing an igloo.
Weather We stumble and struggle through the Stygian gloom; the merciless blast – an incubus of vengeance – stabs, buffets and freezes; the stinging drift blinds and chokes. SIR DOUGLAS MAWSON
New Zealand weather is very changeable and plays a major part in climbing. Fine weather is more critical for climbing than for tramping. The weather can affect success and survival. Understanding the weather is a critical skill for New Zealand climbers and there is much to learn.
What influences our weather? New Zealand is a narrow, mountainous country that lies across a belt of westerly winds in the mid-southerly latitudes. Consequently, the dramatic uplift of air masses modifies our maritime climate. This produces mountain weather that is characterised by extensive cloud, heavy rain and snow, strong winds, high humidity, and cool temperatures.
Figure 22: Lenticular cloud or ‘hogsback’ indicate strong winds.
Of the four mechanisms for lifting air through the atmosphere – orographic, cyclonic, frontal, and convectional – the first three are major influences in New Zealand, particularly in the higher mountains of the South Island.
As a series of high and low pressure cells cross New Zealand, accompanied by bands of frontal activity, storms of varying wind speed and precipitation pass over the mountains. The mountains further modify the upper level systems and winds to produce local effects.
Weather forecasting Planning In the planning stage of a trip, and increasingly in the mountains, the mountaineer has access to detailed weather information from radio, TV, newspapers, books, and the internet. The major newspapers print situation and forecast maps, and Erick Brenstrumâ€™s The New Zealand Weather Book is an excellent resource for learning to read them. TV and internet websites present weather information so that you can see trends. Many websites in New Zealand and Australia now provide articles and tutorials on how to read or interpret weather maps, satellite photographs, cloud pictures, atmospheric uplift, aviation radar, barometric pressure, and other forecasting tools. Ground observations Traditionally, without ship, plane, or land stations to the west, little information was available to meteorological services. Instead, New Zealanders, e.g. farmers, often became expert at observing and predicting the weather from cloud types, highlevel winds, barometric pressure changes, and local experience. Figure 23: A cold front about to arrive over Wanaka.
We are now assisted by polar orbiting and geosynchronous satellite photographs, but the traditional skills of weather observation are often critical for mountaineers. This is particularly the case when weather systems arrive earlier than forecast, as often occurs in the New Zealand mountains.
Figure 24a: Excerpt from The New Zealand Weather Book. (Courtesy Erick Brenstrum, Craig Potton Publishing).
Bad weather indicators • Cloud type and height (streaky cirrus, or ‘mares’ tails’) followed by heavy stratus cloud). • Hogsbacks or lenticular clouds forming leeward of, or above, high peaks. • Wind direction, speed, and duration (particularly increasing norwest winds). • Falling air pressure (a barometer or an altimeter is an essential tool). • Falling temperatures (often indicating a southerly airstream).
Weather Figure 24b: Weather map showing a northwesterly over the Southern Alps.
A book cannot teach you all you need to know about the variability and consequences of mountain weather. You must search out information and apply it on your mountain trips (see Appendices).
WEATHER FORECAST CHECKLIST • Obtain a mountain situation and forecast. • Check any update before you go into the mountains, e.g. with local guides and the Department of Conservation Visitor Centre. • Ask specific forecast questions: - What has the weather been doing for the last three to five days? - What is the current weather situation? - What will the weather do in the next 24 hours? - What will the weather do in the next three to five days? If this information is inconclusive, either change plans or seek more information. • During the trip, consider any new weather information in the context of your location, your planned route, and your food supplies. • At the end of the trip, check a weather map and compare it with the patterns that you experienced. 37
Avalanches Remember this, my friends, the avalanche does not know that you are an expert. ANDRÉ ROCHE
New Zealand averages two avalanche fatalities per year. Fatalities are increasing and they include experienced climbers. This trend has been increasing since 1998. Recently, summer avalanche fatalities have increased.
SNOW TRAVEL PREPARATION Before venturing into the mountains: • Consider the current conditions. Obtain information from the Mountain Safety Council’s avalanche website, ski patrollers, or Department of Conservation visitor centres. • Consider the recent weather, the nature of the snowpack, and try to find out about any recent avalanche activity. • Obtain a weather forecast. See Chapter 6: Weather. • Evaluate the proposed route considering: - Slope angle, slope aspect, and elevation. - Known avalanche paths. • Forecast snow stability on the information that you have. • Forecast the avalanche danger, combining snow stability and terrain factors with the latest weather forecast. • Ensure that all members of your group have appropriate avalanche safety equipment and know how to use it. • Check that transceivers are compatible and batteries are fully charged. • Conduct a safety briefing before setting out.
Figure 25: Slab avalanche. Note the surface slab and fracture line.
FORMATION AND NATURE OF AVALANCHES Types of avalanches Type
Usually starts from a point and radiates out.
A cohesive mass of snow, which overlies a weak snowpack layer. Usually runs on a consistent bed surface.
Figure 26: Loose snow avalanche, possibly triggered by falling ice.
Triggers An avalanche trigger is the force that starts the snow sliding. It may be natural or artificial. Natural • Loading of snow slopes by additional snowfall, wind transported snow, or rain are common triggers of slab avalanches. • A rapid increase in air temperature can weaken the snowpack to the point that it fails. This is common in New Zealand and is a common trigger of loose snow activity in steep terrain. • Long periods of cold temperatures can reduce the strength of layers in the snowpack. Once buried, these weaker layers contribute to snowpack instability and can be triggered by light to heavy loads. • Falling cornices or ice can trigger a snow avalanche. • Loose snow activity brought about by radiation, precipitation, or wind transport can trigger a slab avalanche due to a change in the load over a buried weak layer.
Figure 27: When a cornice fractures, it is usually well back from the edge.
Artificial • The additional weight of a climber is a common trigger. • Explosives are commonly used as triggers on skifields.
Motion Avalanches may slide on the surface or become airborne. Surface avalanches may contain blocks of hard snow, loose dry snow, or loose wet snow. Loose wet snow avalanches can be very slow moving but quickly suffocating if they trap people. Airborne avalanches occur when the slides are large or fall over cliffs. They cause windblasts that can be as destructive as the avalanche itself.
TERRAIN ANALYSIS Recognising potential avalanche slopes is the most important skill in avalanche awareness. Identifying features of an avalanche path assists evaluation of the avalanche danger.
Starting zone The starting zone is the area of snow accumulation and failure. Factors to evaluate include slope angle, slope aspect, elevation, and the size and shape of the starting zone. Slope angle Avalanches are most common on 25 – 45 ° slopes. Snow usually slides off slopes above 45 ° as it falls. Most fatal events occur on slopes near 37 °. Slope aspect Leeward slopes generally have a higher danger due to windtransported snow that can create unstable slabs. Windward slopes generally have less snow, which is compacted and relatively more stable. Solar radiation can be significant in spring and summer. Avalanches may occur on sunny slopes once the snow melts and free water percolates downward. Loose snow avalanches may occur on multiple neighbouring slopes from mid-afternoon. Sunny slopes often cause dilemmas for descending climbers who are anxious to get back and may take high risks. The slopes between Welcome Pass and the head of Scotts Creek under Mount Sefton are one example of many such slopes Elevation Higher elevations usually receive deeper snowfalls. In addition, proximity to a ridge top increases the likelihood of snow being transported, which may result in development of unstable snow and cornices. As you change elevation, note changes in temperature and wind and their effect on the snowpack. Size and shape Avalanche starting zones vary from narrow gullies to multiple, interconnected slopes, both visible and hidden. Open, 41
unconfined slopes make it difficult to predict where the slope may fail. Gullies and narrow chutes collect and hold transported snow and make starting zones difficult to pinpoint. In general, concave slopes are less hazardous than convex slopes. However, nothing is absolute so constant awareness of changes in terrain is essential to safe route finding.
Track The avalanche track contributes to the size, speed, and destructive force of the avalanche. It may be confined (a gully or streambed), or unconfined (a broad, open slope). Snow basins with concave sides funnel snow to large deposits at the bottom. The avalanche may carry victims over a cliff. Waterfall ice climbs are often at the base of large snow basins.
Runout zone The runout zone is the area of debris deposition. It determines the distribution and impact of the avalanche. â€˘ Damaged vegetation may indicate avalanche paths. â€˘ Terrain traps can make even small avalanches lethal. Crevasses, gullies, streambeds, and hollows collect debris, which can bury people. Sometimes these terrain traps are small and exist beneath short avalanche tracks. â€˘ Avalanches may run across the valley floor in narrow valleys and may even run some way up the other side, e.g. in Fiordland.
SNOWPACK If you travel in potential avalanche terrain, you need to learn to analyse the snowpack. This involves recognising snowpack layers and the bonding strength of these layers.
Layers The first priority in snowpack assessment is to identify relative variations in hardness. Strong layers overlying weak layers are a clue to instability. In addition, observing changes in temperature from one layer to the next indicates the metamorphosis that the snow grains are undergoing.
Bonding You can physically test the strength of the bonding of different layers of the snowpack by feeling the relative hardness of the layers, but you should also learn to recognise the elements that cause weak bonding. Snow grains or crystal shapes take many different forms. This is a result of the complex relationship between humid air, weather patterns, temperature fluctuations, elevation, and wind. In general, it is not critical to identify specific forms, but certain distinctive shapes are relatively easy to see. 42
Round grains Snow crystals fall in distinctive shapes. Once on the ground or in the snowpack, these crystals start to change. If the temperature gradient is less than 1 ° C per 10 cm of snowpack depth, the gradient is considered small. The metamorphic process then promotes rounding of the grains, a stronger bond, and strength increases with depth. Faceted grains (squares) A strong temperature gradient in the snowpack (more than 1° C over 10 cm) causes faceting. Faceted grains are angular with sharp corners and faces. They usually bond poorly to each other. Layers that are poorly bonded are relatively weak. The grains at the base of the snowpack are often in an advanced form of this process and are known as depth hoar. Melt-freeze grains With strong diurnal changes, the snowpack melts and freezes, especially at the surface. The grains are very strong when frozen and can be weak when the grains start to melt. Other grains Other types of grains include: • Surface hoar (feathery crystals). These grains are created by super cooling of the air just above the snow surface. They are similar to hoar frost on your car. These layers are very weak when new snow arrives. • Decomposing fragments. In the early phase of decomposition, particles are often destroyed by wind, settlement, or temperature changes. • Wet grains. In the North Island, and sometimes in the South Island, the snowpack can be saturated by rain, high humidity, or new snow with a high water content. Layers with wet grains are usually sandwiched between layers of ice or crusts. • Crusts. These are common in New Zealand. They are formed by wind, rain, and sun. They are usually very strong and supportive of a climber’s weight. They can be a problem when bed surfaces form that promote slab movement. Also, sometimes they act as a temperature or vapour barrier, promoting the development of weak faceted layers below.
RECOGNISING THE DANGER Recognising the danger involves gathering weather and snow information before you set out, identifying avalanche slopes, observing changing weather, and conducting field observation tests. In general, fatal slabs form when three ingredients occur together: • A strong layer overlying a weak layer. • A bed surface that enables the slab to slide. • A trigger (often a climber). 43
Snow instability indicators • Recent avalanche activity. • Wind-transported snow. Look for cornices, smooth pillows, drift patterns, and surface etching. • Drum-like hollow sounds from the snowpack indicating that a weak layer underlies a denser layer. • Shooting cracks in the snow and ‘whoomping’ noises when a weak layer collapses within the snowpack. • Rapid changes in air temperature. • Rapid saturation of the snowpack from rain and / or wet snow.
Snowpack test profiles It is important to consider the strengths and weaknesses in the snowpack. Look for weaker layers under stronger layers, the depth of weak layers, and the temperature gradient. You can gain information by probing or by digging and using hand hardness tests. Several quick test profiles from a variety of areas are more useful than one in-depth profile. You are best to learn how to develop the skills of analysing a snow profile on avalanche awareness courses or from experienced friends. You should also read avalanche books, although nothing replaces field experience. See Appendix 2. Figure 28: Climber testing the snowpack layers for hardness.
Strength and stability tests A variety of tests can determine the energy required to fracture the snowpack. Compression test This test attempts to quantify the effect of the weight of a climber on the snowpack. It isolates a column of snow and involves a series of taps to create a shear in the weak layers underlying a stronger layer. Shovel shear test The test is useful for locating thin, weak shear layers. Probe for a representative location to sample and prepare as for a compression test. Many people believe that it is a good indicator of thin, weak layers. However, it is a highly subjective test as the stress placed on the shovel blade is variable. The key is repeating the process several times.
Putting it all together Recording your observations is helpful when putting it all together. The example below enables climbers to quantify their observations and add their gut feeling to the decision of where it is safe to go.
Snow stability recording Site Stable
Avalanche activity Slope tests Snowpack depth Structure Solar radiation Air temperatures Surface temperatures Mid-pack temperatures Base temperatures Precipitation Wind New snow settlement
Equipment Carry and know how to use: • Avalanche probe. • Transceiver with a frequency of 475 kHz and fresh batteries. Cellphone signals can interfere with transceiver signals. • Shovel. • Snow saw. • Snow profile kit.
Safety briefing Before your trip, discuss: • Switching on transceivers. • Who has shovels and probes. If each group member is not carrying them, why not? It is almost impossible to help your mate if you are not properly equipped. • Determining safe spots and escape routes. • Crossing slopes one at a time. • Self-rescue. During the trip, constantly evaluate avalanche activity, fracture lines, debris, convex pillows of snow, snow scouring, settlement, lee slopes, terrain traps, and the effect of sun or rain. 45
TRAVEL IN AVALANCHE TERRAIN CHECKLIST • Avoid avalanche slopes for at least 24 hours after snowfall, as this is when most accidents occur. • Check that transceivers, probes, and shovels are ready. • Avoid steep, lee snow basins, gullies, and cornices. • If you come across a potential avalanche slope, minimise your risk by: - Planning who is going first, where group members can safely stop, and identifying potential escape routes. - Going up or down a slope rather than across it if possible. - Trying not to have more than one person on a potential avalanche slope at any time. - Trying not to stop in the middle of the slope. - Watching each person on the slope from a safe location. - Staying in voice contact if possible.
Figure 29: Trained avalanche dogs are very effective but are difficult to get to an avalanche site quickly.
WHAT IF I AM CAUGHT IN AN AVALANCHE? Survival 1. 2. 3. 4.
Shout for attention. Try to escape to the side. Fight to stay on the surface. Keep your mouth shut.
As the avalanche slows: 5. Thrust to the surface. 6. Push a hand above the surface. 7. Cover your face with one hand. 8. Remain calm to save oxygen.
A Swiss study (Brugger et al, 2001) of 422 completely buried people in open areas found that: • 91 % survived 18 minutes. • 34 % survived 35 minutes. • 7 % survived 130 minutes.
Rescuing a victim An immediate search by the group gives the best chance of survival. 1. Watch the victim’s descent and note the last seen point. 2. Avoid further avalanche danger. 3. Establish an escape route for the group. 4. Post an avalanche guard if you have enough people. 5. Mark the last seen point. 6. Search the surface for clues. 7. Make a transceiver search. 8. Probe likely locations. 9. Send for help only after the initial search as relying on organised rescue increases the time of burial and reduces the chances of survival.
First aid • Dig out the face and chest first. Suspect spinal injury. Clear the mouth, nose and airway. • Restore breathing. • Always handle the victim gently as hypothermic victims are susceptible to cardiac fibrillation. • Stop serious bleeding. • Immobilise the neck and back before moving the victim. • Treat for hypothermia. Very cold victims may still be alive even though a pulse and breathing are not obvious. • Evacuate immediately.
AVALANCHE DANGER FORECAST
Three components make up the danger triangle. Remove one of the components and there is no danger. Avalanche danger
New Zealand avalanche danger scale Danger level
Avalanche probability and triggers
What to do
Natural avalanches are very unlikely. Human-triggered avalanches are unlikely.
Travel is generally safe. Normal caution is advised.
Natural avalanches are unlikely. Human-triggered avalanches are possible.
Use caution on steeper terrain on certain aspects.
Natural and human-triggered avalanches are likely.
Travel on avalanche terrain is not recommended.
Widespread natural or humantriggered avalanches.
Avoid travel in avalanche terrain. Travel on low-angle terrain, well away from avalanche runouts.
Navigation â€Śwe met in London, on the eve of our departure, for a final review of our plans. Only Jungle, who was to have spoken on the use of the radio gear and his own methods of route-finding, was absent. He rang to say that he had taken the wrong bus and was not quite certain of his whereabouts; but he had just caught sight of the North Star and expected to join us shortly. WE BOWMAN
The ability to find your way with map and compass is often required in the New Zealand mountains, due to visibility restrictions. More recent navigation tools include the altimeter and GPS. Figure 30: You may need to navigate in whiteout conditions.
Navigating is about establishing where you are, where you want to go, and how to get there. It is a critical climbing skill, more about experience than technology.
INFORMATION SOURCES Researching You can gain route information by talking to experienced climbers, using maps and guidebooks, and reading journal and magazine articles. Left and right Climbing guidebooks use left and right for the climber looking up the route. Alpine guidebooks often use compass directions, e.g. ‘traverse west’. True left or true right indicates the direction for a climber looking down a glacier or river.
Thinking ahead Observation of a proposed route can reinforce or change your information. Talk with hut occupants, check hut books, and observe (but do not necessarily follow) other groups’ tracks. Exploring the lower part of a route the day before your climb can make the difference between success and failure. The use of cairns and route markers often saves time on access routes. During the ascent, memorise natural features, routes, and hazards, and link them to a map or photo. Study mountain details at rest stops. Think of your descent ahead of time.
Figure 31: Excerpt from Department of Survey and Land Information 260 series, 1:50,000 map sheet.
A map suitable for mountain use will show the topography, or shape of the land, by means of contours, shading, and spot heights. Colour or symbols designate other features, such as rivers or huts. The map scale describes the map’s relationship in size to the land.
For instance, the most popular map series for the New Zealand mountains has a scale of 1 : 50,000, that is, 1 cm on the map represents 50,000 cm or 500 m on the ground. The map also shows a compass rose with both true and magnetic north points. True north is in line with the earth’s axis. Maps align with true north; compasses point to magnetic north.
MAGNETIC NORTH on this map is 23º (409 mils) EAST of GRID NORTH during 2003 increasing at the rate of approx. 1/2º (9 mils) over 7 years.
Grid systems You can communicate your location using one or both of the grid systems. Figure 32: True (grid) and magnetic north points.
The first grid is the blue squares over the map surface. Each square has 2 cm sides. Numbers across all sides of the map designate each line that makes up the grid. Any point where grid lines cross can be defined by the number of the line across the map from left to right (easting), together with the number of the line up the side of the map (northing), to produce a four-figure ‘grid reference’ unique to that point. If you repeat the exercise, and divide each square into ten units along the easting and then ten units along the northing, you have the potential for a six-figure reference, accurate to within 100 m. Communicating a location using a six-figure reference depends on the other person having a copy of the same map. Alternatively, you can use the other location system on the map – the marking in degrees and minutes for latitude and longitude. This international system does not depend on having the right map. It is the one to use when talking to aircraft pilots.
Compass Each year, as the earth’s magnetic field moves a little, so does the magnetic north point. In 2004, the magnetic north declination (difference) in New Zealand was 23 º east of true (or grid) north. Therefore, an angle measured on the map with your compass used as a protractor, is 23 º larger than the corresponding magnetic angle (bearing or azimuth). When you take a map bearing to use with your compass on the ground, you can make the adjustment by using one of the following methods: • Manually subtract 23 º. • Use the compass with the floating needle pointing to 23 º on the compass card. • ‘Dial in’ the adjustment (on some compasses). 50
Figure 33: Adjustable dial compass.
Triangulation Once you have read your compass instructions, practised measuring angles (bearings) on the map, and used those bearings in the field, you can triangulate (find) your position on the map by using back bearings. A back bearing enables you to take a bearing on a known object, e.g. a mountain, and work out the back bearing (bearing back) by either subtracting 180 ยบ if the initial bearing is greater than 180 ยบ, or adding 180 ยบ if it is not. The result is the bearing from the mountain to you. Since this back bearing does not tell you your distance from the mountain, you need at least two more back bearings from other known features. Making each back bearing at least 45 ยบ different from the others indicates your location accurately. Once you know where you are and where you want to go to, you can work out the bearing on the map between the two points.
Figure 34: Back bearing from three known features.
Unless the distance is short over clear ground, you may have to use a series of bearings to move around obstacles or to avoid a small compass error becoming a larger location error. Figure 35: Right angle bearing.
Aiming off You can also adjust your bearings so that you will strike a barrier to overshooting your next turning point (from one bearing to the next), and will know which way to turn along the barrier (hand rail) to reach your destination. â€˜Aiming offâ€™ is often preferred to counting paces, counting rope lengths, or estimating times to turning points. Figure 36: Aiming off.
Global Positioning System (GPS) You can fix your location as a grid reference, or as a latitude and longitude position, by a GPS unit using a satellite network. The GPS unit can help you navigate from one place to another across the country, so long as it can ‘see’ the satellites in the sky and you do not run out of batteries.
Altimeter You can use your altimeter to walk a bearing to a fixed point such as a mountain pass if the altitude of the pass is unique along the line of the bearing. This also works for a turning point from one bearing to the next, with the same proviso. The use of map and compass in the mountains requires practise, dedication, and trust in your skills and equipment. Write down your route, either as a grid of bearings and comments or the same information drawn as a picture. If you get a chance, run the route in good visibility so that you know it will work when you need it.
WHITEOUT NAVIGATION You need skilled navigation in a whiteout, using experience as well as technology. You may need to use techniques such as aiming off. However, you may not be able to follow your planned route if crevasses divert you, as commonly occurs. Leaving markers in the morning may show the way later in the day. Navigating crevassed or bluffed terrain in a whiteout is a highrisk undertaking. On a glacier, it is preferable for the navigator to be the third on the rope, leaving the second to look after the leader’s safety. West of the South Island mountains, water vapour from the forests rises and cools over the glaciers (glacier convection cloud), often creating whiteout and route finding difficulties in the afternoons. Occasionally, it obscures high frontal cloud. Be wary of being caught by developing bad weather that you cannot see.
Features Time Altitude gain / drop Bearing
Navigation Plan 54
NAVIGATION PLAN Before setting out on a route requiring specific navigation references, it is prudent to complete a navigation plan.
Figure 37: Aoraki/Mount Cook summit.
Alternatively, draw your navigation plan, with the information along the bearing lines (distance, angle, time) and at the turning points (location, altitude, features).
Alpine Hazards On 14 December 1991 a large rockfall swept down the East Face of Aoraki / Mount Cook, depositing 55 million cubic metres of debris on the Tasman Glacier. Climbers in the Plateau Hut woke to a monstrous roar of the avalanche passing close by at 400 km / hour.
OBJECTIVE HAZARDS Objective hazards are those dangers over which climbers have no control. Recognising the hazards can reduce the climbersâ€™ personal risk. Conservative decision-making lessens the chance of an accident.
Rivers Rivers are one of the major alpine hazards in New Zealand. Bridges often exist and should be your first choice. Otherwise, it is important to learn and practise river crossing techniques. Incorrect use of a rope to cross a river has caused some fatalities in New Zealand. Mutual support methods are recommended. Figure 38: River crossing using mutual support method
Most New Zealand rivers rise and fall rapidly. If possible, delay crossing them until the level drops. This may involve an unplanned camp. See Bushcraft: Outdoor Skills for the New Zealand Bush.
Rockfall Rockfall danger heightens during periods of low snow cover, rain, and high temperatures. Select routes accordingly. On some routes, particularly east faces that catch early sun, you should make rapid pre-dawn ascents before the snow starts to melt and rocks fall. Late afternoon sun affects western slopes. Beware if there is no overnight freeze.
Wind Wind is often a hazard in New Zealand mountains. Winds in excess of 200 km / hour have been recorded on commercial ski area ridge lines at only 2000 m. Cloud formations can give clues to wind speeds and good route selection may avoid the full force of the wind. There are many accounts of wind lifting climbers off their feet. Sometimes high winds exist low on the mountain in the wake of a southerly front and dissipate as the day progresses and you gain height. Conversely, wind speeds are likely to increase after cirrus cloud appears. Generally, the higher you are, the stronger the wind. Wind speed increases through passes and over ridges. See Chapter 6: Weather.
Moraine walls Treat New Zealand moraine walls with great caution. Many routes, e.g. the traditional access to Copland Pass and to De la Beche Hut at Aoraki / Mount Cook, are no longer safe. Often climbers are attracted to a moraine wall route only to find that the top few metres are steep and unstable. Choose a conservative gully route, particularly when carrying a heavy pack. Climb or descend a wall one at a time, or close together, to limit damage if a group member dislodges a rock. Avoid moraine walls in the rain when rockfall is more active.
Lightning Lightning in New Zealand mountains does not present a high hazard but there are recorded fatalities. If lightning is predicted or is in the distance, or if static electricity is â€˜hummingâ€™ and you can feel small shocks, get off the ridge crest immediately. If seeking shelter, leave conductive metal gear away from your location.
Avalanches Minimise the avalanche risk by careful consideration of weather, terrain, snowpack, and group equipment. Enrol on a course and find out what you need to know, take with you, and do in the mountains. See Chapter 7: Avalanches.
Icy conditions Ice is particularly hazardous on easily accessed snow-slopes when people are ill equipped. Mounts Taranaki / Egmont and 57
Ruapehu have had numerous fatal accidents when icy. Ice axe and crampons, and the skill to use them, are essential. Take extra care in windy conditions and poor visibility.
SUBJECTIVE DANGERS Subjective dangers are the human factor. They often combine with objective dangers to cause accidents. They include limited skills and experience, large groups, lack of fitness, variation in group aspirations, and limited time. See Outdoor Safety: Risk Management for Outdoor Leaders.
Tiredness Tiredness and loss of concentration stand out as the cause of many accidents. Stop, rest, and eat before tackling difficult sections. Arduous descents, such as the Ramp on Mount Aspiring, are particularly high-risk situations, especially in icy conditions. Pitched climbing is a better alternative than moving together for tired groups.
Judgement The drive to achieve is very often in conflict with the instinct to survive. The accumulation of knowledge and skills develops good judgement. Judgement is vital to determine climbing risks, requiring a systematic approach. It is extremely satisfying to safely unravel the unknowns of a climb and return to base to reflect on the adventure.
Using the Rope
Two teams climbed the East Face of Aoraki / Mount Cook. The first team moved together as much as possible. The second team pitch-climbed most of the face. After 1200 m of climbing, the second team summited only one hour after the first.
Figure 39: Folding the rope.
Butterfly folding of the rope minimises twists and is convenient for packing or carrying on your back. Carrying the folded rope on your back frees your hands Figure 40: Carrying the rope.
Using the Rope
KNOTS You need only a few knots for climbing, although rescue practices require more. Knot
Rethreaded Figure 8
Direct harness tie on.
Figure 8 on the bight
Middle person’s knot if there are three on the rope.
Middle person’s knot if there are three on the rope.
Joining two ropes, e.g. for an abseil.
Climber’s attachment to the anchor.
Belaying a climber coming towards the belayer.
Joining tape ends to make slings.
Attaching a sling to a rope, e.g. for ascending a rope. (Not releaseable under load).
A prusik hitch variant, releasable under load if required, e.g. for backup when abseiling. A further variation is the NZ / French prusik (wind the prusik around the rope, pass the top end through the bottom end, and clip the top end into the karabiner).
A prusik hitch variant but not releasable under load.
An auto-block of two karabiners, difficult to release under load. Used in crevasse-rescue systems.
Figure 41: Left. Figure 8 knot (still to be completed). Figure 42: Right. Figure 8 knot tied by threading the end (when completed, it will need tightening and the tail checked for length).
Tying on End of the rope The figure 8 knot is the most common knot for tying onto the rope. You need an armâ€™s length of rope to complete the followthrough after threading the harness. Leave at least a 15cm rope tail to ensure that the knot cannot pull through under load. Do not use a karabiner to attach the rope to the harness because this is less secure. Mid-rope A third climber can use a figure 8 on the bight to tie into the middle of the rope. Attach it to your harness with two opposed locking karabiners. A single karabiner can fail when loaded across its gate. Alternatively, add a non-locking karabiner (with the gate opposed) to a single locking karabiner. Often it is quicker for the middle climber to tie on to the rope approximately 3 m from the second climber so that effectively, two climbers are at one end. Extending the tie-on knot / loop to 35 cm for the middle climber assists the leader / belayer feel both the second and third climbers who climb simultaneously. However, much better than three on a rope is either one or two climbing pairs.
Tie-off knots Clove hitch Clove hitches are a quick and adjustable means of attaching the climber to the anchor. Speed is important on alpine climbs.
Using the Rope
Figure 43: Clove hitch (check that the karabiner gate is locked and the hitch is tightened). Figure 44: Münter hitch (check that the karabiner gate is locked and the hitch is tightened).
Münter hitch Use the Münter hitch (often known as an Italian hitch) for belaying a second. You can also use it for lowering a climber or for abseils without an abseil device. The Münter hitch is quick and requires no specialised belay device. It also enables the use of a high anchor point that also supports the belayer and gear. It does twist the rope more than regular belay devices so alternately belay left and right to remove any kinks. Overhand The overhand knot is preferred for joining two ropes because it is quick to tie, it is less likely to catch on the edge when you pull the ropes after the abseil than a fisherman’s knot, and it is easy to untie. Leave rope tails at least 30 cm long.
BELAYING Climbers use various methods to apply friction to the climbing rope to arrest a fall. Belay devices are preferred to body friction methods because they provide more control and are less dependent on the belayer’s grip strength. The low slip threshold of an Air Traffic Controller (ATC) provides some dynamic component and a lessened load on the anchors. As a rule, use belay devices from your harness when the climber is going away from the anchor and a Münter hitch when the climber is coming towards the anchor. This is the most efficient way of moving rope through a belay system in alpine terrain. Direct belays around the anchor itself have a limited alpine use for quick protection. Flip the rope behind rocks only to protect minor slips as the rope may cut. 63
You should learn the waist belay for emergencies only. Practise in a safe place. Belayer’s stance The belayer’s stance is important. Your must attach tightly to the anchors, you must stand in line with the direction of fall (you will end up ‘straight-lined’ if there is a fall), and you must have an unhindered braking arm. Always keep one hand on the braking rope. When the leader is moving steadily, e.g. snow climbing, you must feed the rope smoothly and quickly.
Fall factor The fall factor is the ratio between the length of a fall and the length of rope available to absorb it, e.g. a climber 5 m above the belayer (and without intermediate protection) will fall to 5 m below the belayer, a fall of 10 m and a fall factor of 2 (10 m fall divided by 5 m of rope). This is a very hard fall on the belay / anchor components. As soon as you place solid intermediate protection, you lower the potential fall factor and the impact force. Lessons from this include: • Place protection early. • Falling from high on a well-protected pitch does not generate the same high forces on the protection, belay, and anchor as falls from low in the pitch. Figure 45: Belayer using double ice screw anchors. Ice screws in dense ice. Karabiners Slings Karabiner Clove hitch
The elasticity of full ropes is designed to absorb energy and limit a factor 2 fall to under 12 kiloNewtons (kN). The human body can handle this force for a very short time. Friction The friction of a rope running through a karabiner reduces the force on the belayer significantly. This friction can assist a light climber hold a heavier climber, if there is intermediate protection. Slippage In practice, a number of factors reduce the fall factor, including tightening of knots and movement in the belay device and other components of the system. Locking karabiner Münter hitch
Figure 8 knot tied onto harness
Using the Rope
Figure 46: Fall factor loading on climbing rope demonstrates the importance of early and frequent protection.
Fall factor 1
Fall factor .66
Fall factor 2
PITCHED CLIMBING Pitched climbing is where one climber leads up the slope while the other belays from an anchor point. It need not be slow, e.g. Zurbriggens route on Aoraki / Mount Cook has 20 pitches which are often completed in 6 or 7 hours and Mount Aspiring’s Southwest ridge is usually a 14-pitch, 6-hour climb. Systemising the procedure minimises delays, speeds up the climbing time, and improves safety margins. Snow pitching sequence (example). 1. Second climber sets up the anchor and belays the first climber. 2. First climber leads the pitch, placing protection as required. 3. Second climber calls 10 metres and then 2 metres, so the leader begins to look for a place to stop. 4. First climber cuts a belay ledge and climbs onto it. 5. First climber sets up an anchor above the ledge, clips into it with a clove hitch on the rope, and calls Safe. 6. Second climber releases the belayed rope and prepares for climbing while remaining connected to the anchor. 7. First climber takes in any spare climbing rope, belays, and calls Climb. 8. Second climber removes their anchor, calls Climbing, and climbs quickly. 9. Repeat the sequence, either with the same leader, or with the second climber ‘leading through’ after collecting equipment from the first climber.
CLIMBING CALLS Make your communications brief. If you use standard calls, your partner should pick up the message even when it is difficult to hear. Commonly, beginners add to communication difficulties by using too many words and no consistency. Rope-pull signals In high winds, you may have to resort to rope calls e.g. slack – one pull; take in – two pulls; belay on – three pulls. However, they are easily mistaken and dangerous in practice unless you can see your partner.
MOVING TOGETHER Moving together with the rope on requires considerable practise to be effective. There have been many fatal accidents involving this technique. Moving together is a technique best used when travelling over easy terrain on a ridgeline. The technique requires good rope management and good communication. • Take coils over the shoulder and chest and then re-clip to the locking karabiner on your harness. See Chapter 13: Glacier Travel. 66
Using the Rope
• Leave about 15 m of rope between climbers. • Each climber takes hand coils, reducing the distance between climbers to 3 – 4 m. • Secure the coils in your hand with a twist. • Drop or pick up coils as each climber moves over varying terrain. • It can be easier if only the second climber carries coils, enabling the leader to focus on route finding. Alternatively, if an experienced leader is with a beginner, the leader may carry the coils. • Each climber’s chest coils are readily available for a pitch that requires belaying. Moving together with the rope means that you can use quick direct belays on short problems. Using quickly placed anchors can improve safety and team confidence with very little time loss. Another option is to move together using the full rope and the leader placing protection. Although there has to be regular pauses to enable the leader to get protection back (or for the second to lead through), this technique is sometimes faster. Climbers often underestimate the forces on intermediate anchors (runners) when they move together. Climb
The belayer tells the climber that they are protected and should climb now.
The leader has placed intermediate protection and now, if there is a fall, the force on the belayer will change from down to up.
The climber asks the belayer for extra rope.
The climber asks the belayer to tighten the rope.
The climber tells the belayer that they may fall.
The climber tells the belayer that they are falling.
The leader warns the second of falling rock, or either climber warns people below.
The belayer advises that the leader must find an anchor within 5 metres.
Either climber’s communication that they are anchored, and no longer needs a belay.
Acknowledgement that a call has been heard.
The second climber tells the belayer that all the loose rope has been taken in, up to the second climber’s harness tie-on knot.
The climber’s response to Climb, indicating that they are starting to climb. They then wait for the OK or, if it is difficult to hear, they wait and then move cautiously, watching to see that belayer takes the rope up.
DESCENDING You can descend steep ground by lowering or abseiling.
Lowering Lowering is preferable when group members are slow as the belayer fully controls the rate of descent and you have the use of the whole rope length. A lowering system should have a backup prusik on the loaded rope. Figure 47: Climber abseiling.
Abseiling Abseiling is also known as rappelling (or ‘abbing’ or ‘rapping’). There are many techniques, and many abseil devices. To minimise weight, climbers use an abseil device that doubles as a belay device. See Abseiling Handbook.
Karabiner Left hand on prusik Figure 48: A simple overhand knot to join abseil ropes. Note the long tails.
Figure 49: Climber abseiling West Face, Mount Avalanche.
Using the Rope
Avoiding falls Accidents from anchor failure are usually fatal. Use multiple anchors and add your own sling instead of relying on old slings that are in place. As a minimum, use a non-loaded, backup anchor for all but the last climber. If you are certain that the backup anchor has not been loaded, then the main anchor has held the first abseiler’s weight. Tie half a double fisherman’s or an overhand knot on each end of the doubled rope. Leave 30 cm of tail so that the abseil device cannot strip the knot off the end of the rope. Keep the ropes separate to minimise kinking. Use a prusik backup in the mountains to avoid losing control, e.g. if you are hit by rock or ice. Retrieving the abseil rope • If there are two ropes, set them up so that you pull the thicker rope. This ensures that there is less rope stretch and weight to manage. • Test that the rope will pull down before the last person leaves the anchor. A nylon rope rubbing across a nylon sling creates a lot of friction and may damage the sling. • Identify the rope to pull, preferably by colour, so that the knot does not jam in the anchor. • Add a sling to the anchor and bring the focal point forward if there is excessive friction over the edge. • During the abseil, place the rope away from cracks and other snags. Unravel twists. • To avoid wind snags, abseil with the rope in a bag slung off your harness, feeding from your pack, or held in a sling. • If the rope will not pull down, work through the following options: – Change the angle of pull by flipping the rope or walking away from the cliff if possible. – Attach yourself to anchors and use your body weight. – Prusik with the prusik hitch around both ropes, or tie off one rope and prusik the other (the latter technique stresses the anchor more). – If the rope tail has jammed, tie onto the other end and climb to the jam, placing protection as you climb. This is dangerous! – Cut the rope, saving as much as possible.
ABSEIL CHECKLIST With your climbing partner, consider: • Is each anchor secure? • Is the attachment sling secure? • What will happen to the focal point (where the rope is attached) if one anchor fails? • If using a focal-point karabiner, is it locked (or doubled with opposing gates)? • Is there loose rock that I might dislodge? • Is the knot joining the ropes secure? • Which rope will we pull after the abseil? • Will the rope pull down after the abseil? • Are there knots tied in the bottom ends of the ropes? • Do the ropes reach? • Is my harness secure? • Is my abseil device loaded correctly? • Is there anything that I could catch in the abseil device? • Have I attached a prusik? • Is my helmet on?
Using the Rope
Figure 50: Waterfall ice climbing using carefully placed ice tools and body movements.
Alpine Rock Climbing
Time was pressing us now. We were very tired and there was still no hint of an end. Looking down we could see Ian using his knees. Mike rebuked him, saying that even if he were bone-weary there was no excuse for such bad technique when climbing. Ian looked up with a mystified air. “Climbing? Who’s climbing?” he said. “I’m praying.” PHIL HOUGHTON
FROM CRAGS TO MOUNTAINS Alpine rock climbing differs from crag climbing in the length of the climb, the increased risk of falling rock and ice, and the risk of bad weather and nightfall intervening. These differences require speed. Speed requires good conditions, fitness, efficiency, and some calculated compromise of the highest safety standards.
Figure 51: Alpine rock names.
Corner Ridgeline Crack Saddle
Slab Gully Rock bivouac sites
Southern Alps rock The rock of the Southern Alps is generally shattered and unstable with pockets of compact rock. Many areas, e.g. the Arrowsmith Range, require considerable experience to climb safely. The Darran Mountains tend to be solid diorite rock although they are sometimes vegetated.
Alpine Rock Climbing
You can find solid rock in many parts of the Southern Alps but it is not the norm. It is common to pull off rocks, making route selection and the wearing of helmets important. Schist rock is often blank with down-sloping holds. Orange, greywacke rock slabs can be very compact and difficult to place protection in.
Moving on alpine rock If possible, visualise each movement from the base of the pitch. Consider rock characteristics, rest spots, protection places, and protecting your belayer from rockfall. Test suspect holds with the palm of your hand or with a light pull from a stable position. Move with minimal hold pulling by applying inward pressure on the holds with feet and hands. This is a delicate art.
The learning process The easiest progression to alpine rock climbing is to learn on small cliffs first. Climbing walls build strength, but lack the adventure found on natural climbs using natural protection. It is tough to learn by trial and error. Lead routes that you have previously top roped. You can build confidence in pitched climbing by placing lots of protection and seeking out two-pitch routes.
Grading New Zealand guidebooks use number grades (currently 1 – 33+) for rock pitches and the numbers 1 – 7 for an overall alpine grade for each climb. However, grading is subject to hugely variable conditions and route finding.
Equipment • Alpine climbing with a single ‘full-weight’ rope is common, but it is easily cut on edges or by falling rock or ice. • Climbing on two ‘half’ ropes reduces rope drag and improves safety by alternating clipping each rope wherever sharp rocks or rockfall could cut a rope. They also enable longer abseils than a single rope, but at the cost of additional weight. Rock climbing on a single, ‘half’ rope is not recommended by the manufacturers. • Twin-rated (double) ropes require that you clip both ropes through each point of intermediate protection. • Heavy mountain boots are limited on serious rock climbs. Double plastics, particularly, lack flexibility. Consider wearing rock shoes and carrying light walking or climbing boots in your pack. See Chapter 3: Clothing and Equipment.
Figure 53: Use a sling or quickdraw to minimise rope drag.
PLACING GEAR Figure 52: A nut or stopper placement behind a block. The leader may find that the rope drags because the extension from the jamnut to the rope is not long enough.
Use pitons, jamnuts, cams, and slings. • Cracks in compact rock often suit blade or small angle pitons. • Many schist cracks suit cams as they are flared or downward sloping. • Sometimes a long sling can loop a stable block.
Anchors Where possible obtain multiple anchor points after carefully inspecting and testing for loose blocks. Often, even large blocks are loose. • A cordelette speeds up anchoring. • Equalise the loading on multiple anchors. • Sometimes it is expedient to stop short of a rope length and use a broad ledge to set up the anchor. • Anchor to one side of the line of the next pitch to avoid rock or ice fall.
Less than 60°
Figure 54: Two anchors being ‘equalised’ statically so that they share the load. Step 1. Figure 55: The equalising sling is tied off so that possible failure of one anchor generates minimal force on the remaining anchor. Step 2.
Alpine Rock Climbing
Protection • Follow the rule of arranging protection when it is readily available, as well as when you need it. • Position protection for minimum drag. Alpine pitches are usually longer and may meander, making this more important than on crags. • Long slings lessen the rope drag when there are changes of direction.
DOWNCLIMBING Downclimbing is faster than abseiling on moderate-angled rock. However, holds tend to be more difficult to see and test. As the slope steepens, move from an outward-facing position, to sideways, and then to facing in. Practise with a belay on the crags.
Figure 56: Firm granite face climbing on Mount Sentinel, Fiordland.
Snow and Ice Climbing
We humans sometimes seem very foolish. Given comfort and security, we seek hardship and danger. Offered sunshine we look for blizzards, icy peaks and rock walls. BRUCE JENKINSON
ACCESS ROUTES Heavy packs, fatigue, and poor conditions can make access routes hazardous. Treat access routes with the same caution as you treat serious climbs. Loose moraine walls are dangerous, particularly after rain. Alpine snow grass on steep slopes is extremely slippery, especially when wet. When walking on easy ground, carry your ice axe by the shaft with the spike facing forward to avoid injuring people behind you.
Step plugging Step plugging (or post-holing) is forming steps in deep snow. In very deep snow, consider a double step. The double-step method • Step forward into new snow with a light boot pressure until you feel resistance. • Pause for a second. • Push additional snow in from the side of the initial step with your boot. • Apply your full weight. The delay, plus additional snow, fills and compacts the step. • If the terrain is steep, use a self-arrest ice axe position to distribute your upper body weight forward. Power-step plugging In a group of three or more climbers, step plug quickly for a minute or for 20 paces, and then step to the side. The next person leads through while you drop to the back. This sequence allows each person recovery time while maintaining a relatively fast group speed.
Pigeon holing On moderate-angled slopes, you may be able to climb straight up a snow slope without crampons. Kick your toes straight in, more than once in the same hole if necessary. You may need to kick holes side by side, or you may be able to leap frog your feet.
Edging On firm snow, if you do not have crampons on you must kick the edges of your boots into the slope. Concentrate on ensuring that 76
Snow and Ice Climbing
the edge of your heel as well as the edge of your toe cuts into the snow. Practise this technique. It is much better to stop early and put your crampons on. It is often slower to put them on later rather than earlier.
ICE AXE TECHNIQUES The ice axe and crampons are the basis for snow and ice skills. The ice axe enables progress across slopes with the security of a third leg. You can use the ice axe alone in soft snow. Kick steps into the snow with axe support. However, you usually use the ice axe with crampons. Keep the wrist loop off your wrist, even off the ice axe, unless you intend to hang your body weight from it. Too much time is spent by climbers changing a loop from one wrist to the other at every turn on the route.
Walking stick grip (piolet canne) Carry the axe vertically in the uphill hand with your hand over the head of the ice axe. This position provides support when required. The adze-forward position (with your thumb forward) also enables a quick transition to an ice axe self-arrest. Use the grip on snow slopes up to about 35 Â°, depending on the shaft length. Ascending With the uphill foot forward and body in balance, place the axe forward. Take a crossover step followed by a step by the top foot and then replace the axe at armâ€™s reach. You can quicken this sequence on easy angled slopes by moving the axe at the same time as the crossover (downhill) foot. Descending If the conditions allow, descend the fall line, facing the valley. Place the axe shaft low in the slope and downclimb to it. It is important to balance over your boots or crampons.
Cross-body grip (piolet ramasse) This is an elegant and efficient bracing method when you have a moderate to long-length axe. Ascending Even when not planning to glissade, climbers commonly use the glissade ice axe position when ascending. Face sideways to the mountain and bend your knees and ankles so that your hips are directly above your feet. As the slope steepens, rotate your body towards the valley and your crampons downward. Place the ice axe across your body with the spike on the slope and the shaft as near to horizontal as possible. A nearhorizontal shaft ensures that you do not lean into the ice in an off-balance position. Complete a short crossover step using the support of the axe. With the feet in a stable, inside foot forward position, repeat the sequence. If it is too difficult to cross your feet over, shuffle them in an apart â€“ together action.
Figure 57: Ascending: Glissade grip support with crampon cross-over pattern. Figure 58: Descending: Toes-down position for maximum flat-foot grip.
Descending You can use a glissade grip for climbing down as well as for glissading. Hold the pick in the valley side hand with the spike at knee level. Bend the body at the ankles and knees. Gain support from the inside hand placed low on the shaft in a knuckles-up grip.
Snow and Ice Climbing
Step down, maintaining a stable, flexed body. Reposition the axe at knee level and repeat steps. Practise this above a safe runout. When descending, the top-roped climber can develop flat-footing skills while being belayed.
Self-arrest grip (piolet ancre) Hold the axe head in a high dagger grip with the uphill hand. Gain support from the pick, balanced with a hand low on the shaft. Ascending Place the axe high in the snow and move diagonally up with a crossover step followed by the inside foot. Repeat the sequence. On steep snow, balance restricts the use of the crossover step. An apart â€“ together step routine is more secure. Descending Place the axe at waist level, followed by two long, positive steps, by either toe-pointing or combination flat-footing and toepointing. Self-arresting a minor slip You should practise recovering from a stumble. If the snow is soft, holding the adze forward may prepare you better to selfarrest. If the snow is very soft, you may need to ram a vertically held axe into the snow and dig your toes in. This immediate action is the best opportunity to arrest a trip. Figure 59: Self-arrest ice axe grip combined with flat-foot cramponing.
Self-arresting a serious slip If you start to slide on your back: • Bring the axe into a two-handed position across the chest, roll towards the head of the axe so that you are on your front. • Lift your cramponed feet in the air to avoid them catching, otherwise you will flip and damage your ankles. • Arch your body with feet apart and knees pressed into the snow. • Gradually press your pick into the snow.
North Wall technique – low (piolet panne) A low grip gives good palm support when front pointing moderate slopes, enabling secure and rapid progress. Grip your axe or hammer like walking sticks with your hands on the adze / hammer and the picks forward. Hold both axes at waist level and alternate hand and foot movements. The axe grip enables front pointing on moderate slopes with good arm support. On steeper slopes, it provides less security than the high technique (piolet poignard).
North Wall technique - high (piolet poignard) As the ice steepens, you need to lift your arms above your shoulders for balance. Grip your ice axe and ice hammer at the top of their shafts with the picks forward. Place your index fingers over the axe heads. These dagger grips combine a secure hold with easy placement and removal of the picks in snow that is firm but not so hard that you must swing your ice tools. Figure 60: Piolet panne: Note the hand placements over the heads of the tools.
Snow and Ice Climbing
For security, maintain a three-point body contact with the snow. For increased speed on moderate slopes, a two-point alternating movement can be more efficient. Two–point movement Place the axes at arms’ reach. Use an alternating left hand / right foot, right hand / left foot sequence.
Step cutting The development of curved ice axe picks, stiff boots, and crampons superseded the need for continuous step cutting. However, you do need to cut belay stances and the occasional steps. Use the adze when possible. Make the horizontal blows first and the downward ones next. If you reverse this sequence, the base of the step can break out. Cut the step away from you, so that the ice is free to fall out of the step.
CRAMPONING Crampon techniques developed from French and German styles of ice axe and crampons use. Both techniques are common in separate and combined formats.
French technique (pied à plat) French climbers developed flat-foot contact with the snow or ice which is less tiring if your ankles are flexible. Mastery of this technique enables a broad range of body movements on a variety of slopes. Ascending You can use any of the following techniques: • Climb flat-footed with your toes uphill until you feel Achilles tendon strain. • Rotate your feet to the herringbone (\ /) position, holding the axe vertically. • Zigzag with your feet horizontal. The slope width, steepness, and the most economical route determine the actual step pattern. As the angle steepens and you feel ankle strain, rotate your feet progressively towards the valley to ease the ankle strain. Your legs should adopt a bowed stance with your feet parallel and a shoulder-width apart. Placing your crampons on their side edges can result in a slip. Avoid edging by rotating your ankles to maintain flat-foot cramponing on the slope.
German technique German and Austrian climbers developed front pointing for climbing steeper ice. It is a natural and stable technique. German technique is a ‘stair-climbing’ technique requiring stiff-soled boots and calf muscle strength. 81
Ascending Place both sets of front points into the ice with your heels held horizontal or slightly lowered. Lowering your heels will ensure that the first two vertical points also bite into the ice. Your feet should be parallel to one another and a shoulder-width apart to avoid catching your clothes. Place the ice axe in a high self-arrest support position. Climb directly up the fall line with two points of contact – one set of front points and the ice axe, or both sets of front points when you move the ice axe. Descending This is a fast, secure way to descend a face. When belayed, the top-roped climber can rapidly descend on a firm rope followed by the lead climber downclimbing more cautiously. Reverse the ascending sequence, commencing with a low axe-pick placement at waist level followed by two long, deliberate steps.
Combination technique (pied troisième) Hold the ice axe in a self-arrest position. The crampon placement style is determined by the hand in which you hold your ice axe head. You can maintain a more balanced, open stance by having the front pointing crampon on the same side of your body as the ice axe head. Place the ice axe pick at arm’s length and step up with your valley side (French style) foot. Keep that foot on a horizontal rotation. Then kick your other foot directly into the slope below the axe. Repeat the sequence.
Cramponing errors • Edging on a soft snow traverse, using only the points on the inner side of the crampon. • Neglecting to clear snow from your crampons in sticky snow. Use anti-balling plates. • Catching a crampon in the other leg. • Failing to check that the crampons fit well.
DESCENDING Mountain climbing involves a direct battle with gravity. The descent, however, is a downward plunge, a physical relief, containing its own pitfalls of fatigue and poor technique.
Climbing down Facing out Facing out is faster but less secure. Use the self-arrest ice axe grip and concentrate on placing each crampon down the fall line so that the points designed for descending are gripping effectively. If the snow enables you to descend without crampons, concentrate on kicking your heels in. 82
Snow and Ice Climbing
Facing in Facing in is less comfortable but much more secure. Use your front points and the low-dagger (piolet panne) grip on the ice axe.
Glissading Glissading is boot skiing with ice axe support if required. Hold your body in a knees-bent position with your hips directly over your heels. Maintain speed and direction control by pressing down on your boot edges. The glissade axe position (crouched glissading) provides stability and the capability to self-arrest if necessary, but it does force a poor body position compared to skiing. Glissade cautions • Glissade only on known slopes with consistent snow and a clear runout. • Wear your helmet. • Unrope. • Remove your crampons.
SNOW ANCHORS Snowstakes Snowstakes are the most common form of snow protection used in New Zealand. They are cheap, expendable, and clumsy. Snow is relatively weak compared to rock or ice, and its strength is more unpredictable. Train with snow stake anchors in a safe place to learn their strength in various snow conditions. You need to learn as much about snow properties as about placement techniques. You can sometimes make snow anchors stronger through modifying the snow in front to form an area of denser snow. This depends on the temperature and hardness of the snow. Therefore, wide trenches and compressing the backfilled snow may strengthen the anchors. Efficient snowstake use depends on the ease and speed of carrying and placing them. Carry them clipped to the bottom of your pack shoulder strap on the valley side, use the holster straps on your pack waist belt, or attach to a sling and carry it across your neck, pack, and shoulder. Carrying four snowstakes per rope enables one anchor placement and two protection placements for each pitch, or enables the use of two when you need a stronger anchor.
Traditional upright snowstake for hard snow In hard snow, you may gain some security from placing the snowstake upright and attaching to the top of it. It is quick to set up. Usually, failure is due to snow compression near the surface. • If you can push an ice axe shaft into the snow, then you should not use this method. • Estimate hardness suitability with your ice axe shaft. Face the snowstake V towards the load, tilt it 10 –15 ° upslope of perpendicular, and hammer it in. • It should take 10 – 20 hammer blows with increasing resistance to make a firm placement. • Bury the head of the snow stake with snow. • Ensure that the load will come from directly below. Upright snowstake with mid-clip Testing by the Sierra Madre Search & Rescue Team in 2002 indicates that this is the strongest option involving a T-section snowstake. This is primarily because it is less sensitive to snow layer selection. The anchor derives its greatest strength from snow that will form a snowball when squeezed. It seems appropriate to apply the findings to V-section stakes that New Zealand climbers use. • An attached wire will dictate that you face the V towards the load (the traditional orientation). More research needs to occur to determine the better orientation if there is no wire attached. • Tilt the snowstake 10 –15 ° upslope of perpendicular, and hammer the snowstake until its head is just below the surface. • Dig a trench about adze width for the attachment sling. • Mid-clip or clove-hitch the snowstake. • Bury the head of the snowstake and refill the sling slot with snow, compressing the snow in front of the stake. This will usually create stronger snow than undisturbed snow.
Figure 61: Upright snowstake with mid-clip.
Snow and Ice Climbing
In New Zealand, you can buy snowstakes with permanent midclipped wire attachments. They are usually referred to as snow pigs, although the attachment may not be at the exact mid-point. Traditionally, climbers placed them leaning back 45 ° from vertical. The Sierra tests indicate that such placements may cause the stake to travel and fail when it meets a hard layer. Horizontal snowstake The horizontal snowstake is theoretically twice as strong as the traditional upright snowstake and is less sensitive to weak surface layers. However, it may slide in mid-pack frozen snow layers and it has less resistance in tests than an upright snowstake with a mid-clip. It is the slowest of the snowstake anchors to set up. • Dig a trench at least an arm’s length deep (preferably deeper in very soft snow), ensuring that you do not stop in a weak layer, or on top of a hard layer. • In hard snow, cut a narrow slot for the sling. In softer snow, make a wider slot (adze width) so that you can refill and compress the snow. • Clove-hitch the centre of the snowstake and place it horizontally in the trench with the V pointing towards the load. • Refill and compress the snow in front of and around the stake to make stronger snow. • Ensure that the load will come from directly below. Snowstake plus ice axe The Sierra research indicates that the best use of two pieces of equipment is to build two separate anchors.
Figure 62: Snow bollard used as an abseil anchor.
Upright ice axe The best ice axe anchor appears to be when you treat it as an upright mid-clip stake, making sure that you bury the head and compress the snow in front of the axe. Horizontal ice axe Bury the ice axe horizontally and use a clovehitched sling.
Snow bollards Usually, climbers cut snow (or ice) bollards for abseil anchors. Cut the snow bollard as big as is necessary. In snow of moderate hardness, this could
be a number of metres in diameter. • Cut the trough deep. • Choose a snow layer firm enough to prevent the rope cutting through. • Backup the bollard with a non-loaded snowstake or ice axe. • Test pull the abseil rope to ensure that it has not frozen to the snow or ice. • If the bollard is secure, the last and lightest person can remove the backup and abseil carefully with minimal loading on the bollard.
ICE ANCHORS Ice screws Locate ice that is dense and free of air pockets or fractures. The surrounding ice should be flat or concave. The ice screw must be sharp.
Figure 63: Ice screw with handle.
Placement Alpine ice varies in hardness requiring different screw styles and placing judgement. Some key factors include: • If only a few centimetres of your pick penetrates the ice, an ice screw is probably the best anchor. • Remove the brittle, surface ice before picking a starter hole. • Place large, high-profile, threaded ice screws at right angles to the slope to minimise ice fracturing. • Wind the screws in fully for maximum strength. • Avoid tie-off slings if possible to reduce the possibility of the tie off cutting. • There should be increased resistance with depth. Relocate if you hit air pockets or softness. • Winders on ice screws speed up the insertion and extraction time.
Figure 64: V-thread used in hard ice.
Snow and Ice Climbing
V-threads Use V-threads in hard ice mainly for abseiling instead of leaving an ice screw behind. The strength depends on the ice depth and quality. • Drill angled holes with an ice screw. Drill the holes about 15 cm apart so that they intersect at 60 °. • Use a wire coat hanger threader to hook 7 – 8 mm cord through the hole. (Use a stronger tape sling and a karabiner to protect a lead or to anchor). • Tie the threaded cord ends together.
Pick anchor In ice, curved axe picks placed high above the belayer can provide anchor reinforcement, particularly when placing ice screws. Pick anchors have little more than static load strength.
STEEP ICE CLIMBING (PIOLET TRACTION) Figure 65: Steep ice wall climbing requires arm strength and excellent crampon technique.
This strenuous technique relies on ice tools, crampons, climbing agility, strength, and judgement. Learn to minimise the weight on your arms. Practise with a top rope or by placing ice screws early in a pitch to avoid a ground fall. • Secure the ice tools at your wrist with the heavier tool in your stronger hand. • Place the picks in the ice at a full arm’s reach and a shoulder width apart. Practise your aim at a selected spot using a wristaction swing for accurate placement. • While maintaining three-point contact, take two alternating steps and repeat the high axe / hammer blows. A faster method, requiring more confidence and experience, is to place the two tools alternately in a vertical line. • Place the upper tool and loosen, but do not remove, the lower tool. • Move up on both tools with most of your weight on the upper tool, lock off, and remove the lower tool ready for the next placement. • Hang from the upper tool with a straight arm, loosen the lower tool, and repeat the sequence. A stance directly under the upper tool prevents swinging off-balance (barn dooring). • Place ice screws off a straight-arm rest, an elbow through a sling rest position, or an ice tool cow’s tail support. The figure four position with one wide-placed leg can often help retain a balanced stance, maximising the body weight onto the vertical leg.
Snow and Ice Climbing
The blizzard, Nature’s protest – the crevasse, Nature’s pitfall – that grim trap for the unwary – no hunter could conceal his snare so perfectly – the light rippled snow bridge gives no hint or sign of the hidden danger, its position unguessable till man or beast is floundering, clawing and struggling for foothold on the brink. CAPTAIN ROBERT SCOTT
GLACIAL RECESSION Major glacial recession means that glacier travel has become more difficult. This is especially the case on the glaciers’ edges where huge bergschrunds, piles of rubble, and high moraine walls are the norm. Climbers once stepped onto glacial blue ice with ease, but now there is often many hours walk through moraine to reach clear ice. New Zealand’s longest glacier, the Tasman at Aoraki / Mount Cook is a classic example. Climbers will often fly into the head of the glacier to avoid the walk. Within the overall recession trend, glaciers ebb and flow. On fastflowing glaciers such as the Fox and the Franz Josef, there is no guarantee that an access route will remain for long. For example, gaining the Fox Glacier after descending from Chancellor Hut is always an unknown as the icefall flows past a bluff. The best access point moves during a season and may move past the bluff. Certainly ask local experts about the best route but expect to work it out for yourself when you get there.
ROUTE FINDING Icefalls Icefalls are steep sections of a glacier where the ice is buckled and twisted into large blocks of ice (seracs) and crevasses. Careful route selection minimises the risk. If you must travel under seracs, do not stop.
Crevasses Check the line and depth of the crevasse while on a tight rope. Extrapolate to hidden crevasses by extending the lines of crevasses that you can see. If possible, detour around the crevasse. On glacial white ice, you can see the crevasses, and the rope is usually unnecessary. 90
Figure 66: Jumping a crevasse after carefully preparing the anchor and rope.
Snow bridges over crevasses Before crossing a snow bridge, check it carefully, including its depth. Look for signs of previous collapse in the crevasse. If the crevasse is deep and the bridge is crossable, protect the leader with a belay and anchor. You may want to test a bridge without a heavy pack. Ice axes and ski poles are useful for probing. Avoid marginal snow bridges – there is usually another route.
Moving unroped Moving unroped on glaciers can be more hazardous than actual mountain climbing. On the névés, it is a very high-risk activity. Most experienced climbers have put a foot through or fallen into a crevasse at some time. They welcome the rope. Skis and snowshoes improve safety by distributing the climber’s weight. For groups on foot, roped glacier travel techniques offer minimal inconvenience, greater safety, confidence, and speed.
TIGHT ROPE TRAVEL Usually two climbers use the middle 8 m of a 50 m rope in crevasse terrain, but you may require more if the crevasses are very wide. A variety of rope techniques exist.
Gearing up • Tie on to the rope. • Double the rope from the middle. Measure two or three arms lengths of rope from the middle and tie a marker knot in each rope. Each climber loops coils around their shoulders from the underside until they reach the marker knot. Finish with an overhand knot linking all the coils. This always produces the planned length of rope between the climbers, irrespective of your clothing or coil size. Either climber can undo coils to lower a doubled rope loop to the other climber in a crevasse. It also provides a high attachment point and easy transition from glacier travel to roped climbing. • Clip the overhand knot tail-loop into the locking karabiner on your harness. • Verify that you have completed the knot and locking karabiner clip-off (preferably two) with a final vertical testpull on your climbing rope. This check is particularly important in a pre-dawn start. • Tie extraction slings (prusiks) onto the climbing rope for prusiking out of a crevasse. - Connect a waist prusik sling from the locking karabiner on your harness to the climbing rope. Adjust your pace to ensure the correct tension at all times. - Attach a leg prusik sling to the climbing rope close to the harness coils and tie it away with a quick-release hitch to your shoulder coils. - Carry spare slings on a harness gear loop for rescue use. • Tie an arrest knot (figure 8 or overhand) in the rope halfway between the climbers. This may jam on the crevasse edge and prevent or slow a major fall. A more reliable technique is to clove hitch a snowstake into the rope 2 m from the lead climber.
Arresting a fall Drop to a low, braced stance, holding the weight through your harness. The falling climber will usually stop at the crevasse edge. Sitting down or self-arresting are other options to practise. Three or four climbers on one rope have more stability and control. Friction from the arrest knot or clove-hitched snowstake cutting into the snow may hold the victim just below the edge.
Anchoring a victim • Plunge your ice axe to full depth alongside your legs, with the pick turned away from you. In hard snow or ice, snowstake or ice screw anchors are necessary, but they are slower options. • Place your leg sling prusik over your ice axe head. 92
Backup anchors Back-up anchors are essential in soft snow when the initial anchor is not fail-safe. • With your knee on the axe head, you can sense the security of the ice axe. • Make a second anchor behind the axe. See Chapter 12: Snow and Ice Climbing. • Take off your rope coils and clear away tangles. • Attach the rope to the anchor sling karabiner with a Münter hitch and two half hitches with a 30 cm tail. • Attach yourself to the free rope with a Münter hitch. • Move to the edge to check on the victim using your Münter hitch for personal safety. Take your gear with you. • Assess what help the victim requires and whether you need to abseil immediately to assist. Key points • You should practise this before you need it. • You should stabilise the situation, that is, arrest the fall and set up backup anchors very quickly.
CREVASSE EXTRACTION A wide range of techniques exists. Learn good methods and practise them often. Expert instruction is probably necessary. In all cases, round off the edge first.
Climb out • Lower an ice tool to the victim if necessary and belay them out. • Lower the victim to a snow bridge or the bottom of the crevasse and belay them out.
Prusik out This involves alternating your weight between leg and harness prusik slings and sliding the unweighted prusik sling up the rope. It is easier if the harness prusik sling is the top attachment. • Sit in your harness and step into the leg sling. • Move the leg sling up by loosening its prusik knot with your thumb and sliding the knot upwards. When shifting the leg sling, hold it in light tension with your foot. Your other hand holds tension on the loose climbing rope. • To increase safety, clip the trailing climbing rope onto your harness with a figure 8 knot before negotiating the crevasse edge. • Place your feet against the crevasse wall and attempt to free the climbing rope from the edge. If the rope is jammed, carefully scrape with your ice axe under the climbing rope above the crevasse edge. Do not swing your axe and risk cutting the tensioned rope. 93
• If you have a spare leg prusik loop, attach it to bypass the jammed rope. • Once above the edge, use a vertical ice-axe shaft to extract yourself. Lean the shaft away from you about 15 ° and turn it to maximise the surface area.
Crevasse rescue The anchors must be fail-safe. Excessive friction at the edge can pull out anchors rather than the victim. Dig out the crevasse edge to form a low-angle slide for the victim. Dig to one side of the jammed rope. You may need expert instruction to make these (and other) methods effective.
Dropped loop This is a quick and simple method for short, low load rescues. • After arresting the fall and anchoring, take off your chest coils and make a loop with karabiner and pulley attached. • Move to the edge with security (Münter hitch) and drop the loop to the victim who clips the karabiner into their harness. • Return to the anchor and belay / haul the victim with a Münter hitch on your harness karabiner. • This technique works best with several people on the hauling rope.
Overhand knot Figure 67: Holding a fall.
Glacier Travel Figure 68: Dropped loop. ‘T’ slot hard snow anchor
Clove hitch around snow stake Karabiner Münter hitch
Prusik or directly attach with a Münter hitch
Ice axe (move to ‘T’ slot hard snow anchor) Prusik
Ice hammer or snow stake
Overhand knot Pack
Limited mechanical advantage A rescuer is unlikely to rescue a victim using this system without additional help. Figure 69: Limited mechanical advantage.
‘T’ slot soft snow anchor Clove hitch around snow stake
Münter hitch locked off
Double figure 8 knot.
Münter hitch Snow stake or ice hammer
Pulley Karabiner Rethreaded figure 8 knot
Additional mechanical advantage Crevasse rescue usually requires significant machanical advantage. Build on an additional system. Unassisted extraction will still require a huge effort by the rescuer. Figure 70: Additional mechanical advantage. ‘T’ slot hard ice anchor Clove hitch around snow stake
Münterhitch locked off Prusik
Münter hitch Pulley Karabiner
Sling Prusik Ice hammer
Pulley Classic prusik
Karabiner Rethreaded figure 8 knot
Recovering the pack Haul the victim’s pack out first on the looped climbing rope or by the victim attaching it with a karabiner to the climbing rope below them during the extraction. An accessible sling pre-placed on the pack can assist getting it off your back.
First aid You may have to administer first aid to the victim by abseiling into the crevasse. This could include adding clothes to the victim to avoid hypothermia.
CHECKLIST FOR GLACIER TRAVEL • Gear up carefully, ensuring that you have crevasse extraction equipment available. • Avoid falling into a crevasse by careful route finding, good glacier travel technique, and fixed belaying when necessary. • Practise crevasse extraction. Practise on crags and in trees but you must practise in a real crevasse too. • Treat all crevasse rescue practices as ‘real’ with a defined crevasse and fail-safe anchors. When practising holding crevasse falls, use a separate safety rope, anchor, and belayer. • Reduce the friction at the edge. Dig out the crevasse edge to form a wide, low-angled slide for victim access. • Keep the victim warm.
Figure 71: Skiers stay well clear of the corniced edge.
Alpine First Aid
Twenty frozen fingers, twenty frozen toes Two blistered faces, frostbite on the nose One looks like Herzog, who dropped his gloves on top And Lachenal tripped and fell, thought heâ€™d never stop Bop, bop, bop, bop, bop, bop. TOM PATEY
This chapter focuses on alpine conditions. This is not to assume that other conditions are irrelevant in the mountains. In fact, there is a heightened need for climbers to be skilled in general first aid, given the remote places they visit. However, there are many readily available information sources for general first aid. This chapter does not repeat that information.
ACCIDENT MANAGEMENT Patient Managing the victims of mountain accidents involves first aid plus survival techniques. The patient needs warmth and shelter to avoid their physical condition deteriorating. This may require urgently constructing a shelter or even moving the patient. Evacuation The exposed location of a mountain accident places heavy responsibility on the group. Review the nature of the injuries, location of shelter, group strength, weather, and estimated external rescue time. Figure 72: Lipscreen with neck loop for ease of access and regular application.
Consider self-help evacuation with a view to positioning the patient at a lower and less exposed situation to meet rescuers. See Chapter 15: Emergency Procedures.
Group You may need to make decisions on group safety. Those involved may be anxious, upset, useless, cold, tired, and hungry. Climbers must use their survival skills to resolve issues concerning location, weather, rescue logistics, and group safety.
HEAT CONDITIONS Sunburn The term sunburn implies that heat has been involved, but ultraviolet radiation is not necessarily related to temperature. You can get sunburnt on a cool, breezy day or in overcast or whiteout conditions.
Alpine First Aid
In fine weather and whiteout conditions, the glacial nĂŠvĂŠs are giant reflecting bowls. Sunburn in New Zealand is a serious injury and prevention is vital. Prevention Climbers are often burnt on the undersides of nostrils and on the throat and forehead. Use a wide-brimmed hat, scarf, and sunscreen. Apply sunscreen to all exposed skin at least 30 minutes before exposure and then every 30 to 60 minutes. Climbers often miss the forehead between helmet and glasses. Some sunscreens have a cover-up component such as titanium dioxide. A moisturiser may reduce skin flaking after a day in the sun and wind, but the damage remains. Skin cancer Most skin cancer is due to ultraviolet light type B (UV-B). Most UV-B reaches ground level. Glass and good sunscreens filter it out. Dermatologists easily detect skin cancer. In New Zealand, about 200 deaths from melanoma occur annually. If untreated, the cancer cells spread to other parts of the body. Early detection leads to cure in 95 % of cases.
Heat stroke Symptoms of heat stroke are a rapid pulse, high fever, severe headache, and delirium. Shade the patient from the sun and cool with water. Hydrate and replace salt loss.
Snow blindness Prevent snow blindness by always wearing a cap and goggles or sunglasses with side protection (tape is an effective improvisation). Most people get snow blindness on cloudy, drizzly days when they remove their sunglasses. People with snow blindness have gritty, painful, red eyes. Cover their eyes with soft cold, padding. Keep clean and give pain relief. Mild cases take one to three days to recover. More severe cases need evacuation for pain relief. If it is necessary to travel, wear two pairs of sunglasses.
Blisters Prevent blisters by taping before the trip. Remove your boots at the first indication of hot spots. Cover the area with combinations of blisterblock, hypofix, athletic tape, or even duct tape. Dry the skin before applying tape. If it is necessary to burst the blisters, wash the area clean, sterilise a needle with a flame, and insert the needle under the skin next to the blister. Drain and apply a sterile dressing. 101
Watch for reddening and infection. If the skin is already torn, clean and apply ‘second skin’ to fill the crater, then blister blocks, and then tape. If you are wearing new boots, tape your feet before the trip.
Figure 73: Blisters need special attention.
COLD CONDITIONS Hypothermia Hypothermia (or exposure) is when the body’s core temperature is 35 ° C or lower. It is caused by wet, wind, and cold. It is wise to assume that there may be hypothermia in every mountain accident – 75 % of heat production comes from muscle activity, so immobility may result in rapid heat loss. Progressive signs of hypothermia include a slowing of movement, slurred speech, shivering, stumbling, a false sense of well being, and falling. Management Stop immediately and dig or make a temporary shelter for the patient. • Prevent further cooling. Change the patient into dry clothing. Place the patient in a sleeping bag and bivouac sack. Reassure the patient and give warm, sweet drinks. Do not give alcohol. • If the patient is unconscious, keep in recovery position. Warm gradually. Give nothing by mouth. If the patient has been unconscious or near collapse, do not move for at least 12 hours. If heat production is not maintained to vital organs, rapid deterioration can quickly lead death. • To warm the core, use chest-to-chest warming in a sleeping bag. Breathe warm air over the patient.
Frostbite You can treat superficial frostbite involving surface tissue layers by placing the affected fingers or toes in a warm armpit or by placing a hand over an affected nose. Deep frostbite feels solid and cold and involves body cells freezing. The progressive signs are waxy, white numbness, followed by painful and swollen, inflamed tissue of red-purple colouration, and then blistering. Rapid thawing in a controlled situation is essential to reducing tissue damage. Consider evacuating the casualty by foot only when the part is still frozen. Do not allow to refreeze. 102
Alpine First Aid
Once warming has begun, the patient must not use the frostbitten part. Thaw in warm water of just above blood temperature (38 â€“ 42 Â° C) for 20 minutes. Test with a thermometer or elbow. Give pain-relieving drugs plus aspirin. Evacuate patient to the nearest mountain medicine doctor for advice.
OTHER CONDITIONS Altitude sickness In New Zealand, altitude sickness may occur when climbers exert themselves after flying in to the mountains. Mild symptoms of altitude sickness include headaches, nausea, sleeplessness, and shortness of breath. Go no higher until symptoms disappear, then continue climbing at reduced speed. If symptoms persist, descend, and sleep at a lower altitude.
Figure 74: Altitude sickness.
Carbon monoxide poisoning Stoves release carbon monoxide when they are not burning well. Insulate the stove from the snow and ensure that there is adequate ventilation. Victims may show no symptoms or become dizzy and suffer headaches as carbon monoxide supplants oxygen in their body. Get fresh air to the patient. This probably means taking them outside the shelter. If the patient stops breathing, start CPR. Treat for shock.
FIRST AID KIT
Compiled by Dr Dick Price. Modify it to suit your needs.
• • • •
• • • • • •
Low-reading thermometer Waterproof notepaper and small pencil CPR pamphlet Rubber gloves
Resuscitation • Plastic suction catheter • 20 cc plastic syringe • Oropharyngeal airway, size 4
Dressing • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Small pair of eye scissors Alcohol steriswabs x 10 Paranet x 5 Sterile gauze dressings 75 x 75 mm x 10 Steristrips (packet of 5) Selection of strip dressings Handyplast elastic dressing with pad 8 cm x 0.9 mm Zinc oxide 2.5 cm width roll Mefix 5 cm width roll Insulation / duct tape, small roll Tubegauze bandage, extra large x 30 cm and large x 30 cm Systanet bandage, medium 30 cm and small 30 cm Rondoflex bandage Crepe bandage Triangular bandage cloth (sterile) plus safety pins Sanitary pad
Sterilising • • • •
Sterile saline squeeze pack, 30 ml Salt in firm container Iodine in dropper bottle Puritabs x 12
Cotton buds x 2 Fucithalmic eye ointment Eye pad Amethocaine minims eye drops * Hypodermic 22 g needle * Spare sunglasses
Tablets • • • • • • • • •
Paracetamol 500 ml x 10 Soluble aspirin® 300 mg x 10 Codeine 15 mg x 3 Voltaren D 50 mg x 3 Imodium 2 mg x 4 Phenergan 10 mg x 8 Buccastem 3 mg x 2 Plendil ER 2.5 mg x 3 Throat lozenges x 4
Powders • Gastrolyte sachet x 2
Suppositories • Voltaren suppository 50 mg x 2 • Stemetil suppository 25 mg x 2
Ointments • • • •
Soframycin 15 mg Sunscreen Lipscreen Insect repellent in a plastic seal bag
Packing • Light waterproof container • Cling-seal plastic bags: small x 3, medium x 5, and large x 7 • Screw-top clear plastic containers x 2
* Medical supervision is usual
Alpine First Aid
FIRST AID CHECKLIST Copy and keep in your first aid kit ............................................................................................................ Patients name ............................................................................ Allergy PROCEDURE
FIRST AID GIVEN
Airway, breathing, circulation initial rapid check Ask what happened Ask where it hurts Take pulse and respiration Head: scalp wounds, ears, nose fluid / bleeding eyes pupils jaw - stability, mouth wounds Neck: deformity medic alert bracelet Chest: movement symmetry Abdomen: wounds rigidity Pelvis: stability blood in urine blood Extremities: wounds deformity sensation and movement pulses below injury Back: wounds deformity tenderness? Skin: colour temperature moistness State of consciousness (alert, verbal, pain, unconscious) Pain (type and location) 105
FIRST AID VITAL SIGNS CHECKLIST
Copy and keep in first aid kit
Record details every 15 Â– 30 minutes When
Level of consciousness*
* Alert, verbal, pain, or unresponsive
Alpine First Aid
Figure 75: Climbers on the Quarterdeck, Mount French.
Some people are prepared to take chances, others are notâ€Śthey knew as much as anybody knows, at least more than we do, about what they are doing. For them survival may not have been the purpose of mountaineering, but only the gambling element which made it good. BRUCE JENKINSON
Emergencies in the mountains often require climbers to take more responsibility than when emergency services are nearby. This requires planning, calculated decision-making and extreme care around rescue helicopters.
PLANNING Group size Four people in a group are valuable if one person is injured. They enable one person to assist an injured climber and retain a margin of security if there is a need to seek help.
Intentions notice Leave details of your intentions and estimated return time with a responsible person, a Department of Conservation Visitors Centre, or at a Police Station. If you do not return on time, someone should notify the police. They will consult with a mountain SAR advisor and, if necessary, they will activate a field controller and SAR teams. A search will occur based on the information they have. This is likely to involve checking hut books and access points. Detailed trip plans make the search easier.
Communications Some parties carry some of the following: mountain radios, handheld radios, satellite phones, cellphones, personal location beacons, mirrors or whistles. Many alpine huts also have radios for emergency use. See Chapter 2: Trip Planning.
ACCIDENT PROCEDURES When an accident occurs, it is important to remain calm and review the situation. If you rush in, you may compound the problem. Group safety Consider your own safety and the group safety before aiding the injured. 108
• Be particularly careful to avoid repeating the accident. • Consider possible rock and ice fall and where the group can shelter safely. Aiding the injured • Approach carefully to avoid knocking rocks onto the injured. • As well as applying first aid, do everything possible to keep the injured warm. Not only are they immobile in a cold environment, they may be suffering from shock. • If necessary, move the injured to a safe place. This is a serious option. There is risk of worsening the condition of the injured and danger to all involved. It may involve technical rope systems such as a back carry, an improvised stretcher, lowering the victim (and possibly passing a knot through a lowering device), or raising the victim using mechanical advantage. • Maintain a watch on the injured. After aiding the injured • Consider the weather, the state of the injured, where you are best to spend the night, and whether to start building shelter. • Consider the physical and mental state of the group members, particularly if you decide that seeking help is an option. Ensure that everyone is as warm as possible. • If you decide to seek help, consider what to say in a written message that messengers will take with them. A message should include: - What has happened: accident, illness, missing person? - Who is involved: names, addresses? - Where are they: location, last seen, is the group moving? - What are the weather conditions? - What is the group condition and experience? - What actions has the group already taken? • Discuss with the messengers their equipment, food, route, and responsibility to travel safely.
RESCUE AIRCRAFT The international sign calling for help is SOS. Coloured flagging makes it easier for searchers to find you. Preparing for a helicopter • On snow, stamp out a firm, flat platform on an accessible broad knob. • Indicate the wind direction by standing just beyond the platform with your back squarely to the wind, and arms horizontally in front of you. • Secure all loose light items, including hats. • As the aircraft lands, crouch, watch, and wait for the pilot’s instructions. If unsure, wait!
Getting in and out • Only move on the pilot’s instructions. • Approach and leave the helicopter from the front, always in the pilot’s sight. • When getting out, step to the ground and crouch at least 2 m from the helicopter in sight of the pilot. Secure your equipment and wait for the helicopter to leave. • If near a slope, approach the helicopter from across or down slope, not from the uphill side. • For a hovering helicopter, load the gear first, weight the skid gently, and get in smoothly and in an unhurried manner. Figure 76: Approaching a helicopter through the safe area.
SEARCH AND RESCUE ORGANISATION The Search and Rescue organisation in New Zealand (Land SAR) comprises experienced volunteers who work with the police. The Department of Conservation and other government departments support them. Each year, Land SAR is involved in more than 400 searches for trampers, hunters, and climbers.
EMERGENCY CHECKLIST • • • •
Remove the group and the patient from further danger. Provide first aid and shelter for the patient and the group. Consider whether the group can perform the rescue unaided. Consider everyone’s safety if you are splitting the group and sending out messengers. • Send a written message with the messengers.
References and Reading REFERENCES Anderson, B. (2003). Stretching. Shelter, USA. Bower, W.E. (1956). The Ascent of Rum Doodle. Dark Peak, Sheffield. Brenstrum, E. (1998). The New Zealand Weather Book. Craig Potton Publishing, Nelson. Houghton, P. (1962). New Zealand Alpine Club Journal. Irwin, D., MacQueen, W., & Owens, I. (2002). Avalanche Accidents in Aotearoa - New Zealand. New Zealand Mountain Safety Council, Wellington. Jamieson, B. (2000). Backcountry Avalanche Awareness. Canadian Avalanche Association. Jamieson, B. & McDonald J. (1999). Free Riding in Avalanche Terrain, Snowboarders Handbook. Canadian Avalanche Association. Jenkinson, B. (1973). Mountain Recreation. Long, J. (1997). Sport Climbing. Falcon, Helena. Lowe, J. (1996). Ice World. The Mountaineers, Seattle. Mannering, G. (2000). The Hermitage Years. GM Publication, RD21, Geraldine. Mawson, D. (1996). The Home of the Blizzard. Wakefield Press, South Australia. New Zealand Land Search and Rescue Field Guide (1995). New Zealand Land SAR, PO Box 12,081, Wellington. Patey, T. (1997). One Man’s Mountains: Essays and Verses. Reprint. The Mountaineers, Seattle. Pollard, A. & Murdoch, D. (1998). The High Altitude Medicine Handbook. Book Faith, India. Rébuffat, G. (1954). Starlight and Storm. Roche, A. (1979). Quoted by Daffern, T. (1983). Avalanche Safety for Skiers and Climbers. Rocky Mountain Books. Schaerer, P. & McClung, D. (1993). The Avalanche Handbook. The Mountaineers, Seattle. Scott, R. (1923). Scott’s Last Expedition. Murray, London.
Tremper, B. (2001). Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain. The Mountaineers, Seattle.
Winthrop Young, G. (1949). Mountain Craft (7th ed.). Methuen and Co, London.
SELECTED READING Canterbury Mountaineering Club Journal. CMC, PO Box 2415, Christchurch. Daffern, T. (1993). Avalanche Safety for Skiers and Climbers. Rocky Mountain Books, Calgary. Frank, J. (Ed.). (1998). CMC Rope Rescue Manual. CMC Rescue. Graydon, D. (Ed.). (2003). Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills. The Mountaineers, Seattle. This is the standard text for general mountaineering. As with all Northern Hemisphere books, you must reverse various physical elements for New Zealand, e.g. some wind directions and the magnetic declination. Houston, C. (1998). Going Higher. The Mountaineers, Seattle. Long, J. (1997). How to Rock Climb. Falcon, Helena. Lowe, J. (1996). Ice World: Techniques and Experiences of Modern Ice Climbing. The Mountaineers, Seattle. This is the standard text for ice climbing. New Zealand Alpine Club Journal. NZAC, PO Box 786, Christchurch. Shepherd, N. (2002). The Complete Guide to Rope Techniques. Constable & Robinson, UK. Wilkerson, J. (Ed.). (1992). Medicine for Mountaineering. The Mountaineers, Seattle.
NEW ZEALAND MOUNTAIN SAFETY COUNCIL PUBLICATIONS firstname.lastname@example.org PO Box 6027, Wellington. Anderson, M. & Price, D. (1991). Hypothermia. Goldring, R. & Mullins, W. (2000). Bushcraft – Outdoor Skills for the New Zealand Bush. (New edition 2005). Griffin, C. (2002). New Zealand Outdoor First Aid. Haddock, C. (2004). Outdoor Safety – Risk Management for Outdoor Leaders. Irwin, D., MacQueen, W., & Owens, I. (2002). Avalanche Accidents in Aotearoa - New Zealand. Postill, B. (2002). Abseiling Handbook. 113
Schreiber, S. (Ed.). (2003). New Zealand Guidelines and Recording Standards for Weather, Snowpack and Avalanche Observations.
CLIMBING GUIDEBOOKS Alpine climbing Cullen, R. (2002). Barron Saddle – Mt Brewster. email@example.com. Eden, R. (2003). Taranaki / Mount Egmont. firstname.lastname@example.org. Judge, M. & Widdowson, H. (1990). The Darrans Guide. (revised guidebook due 2005). email@example.com. Kates, G. (2004). Arthur’s Pass. firstname.lastname@example.org. Palman, A. (2001). Aoraki / Mount Cook. email@example.com. Uren, A. & Watson, M. (2001). The Mount Aspiring Region. firstname.lastname@example.org. Winnubst, B. (2000). Nelson Lakes. email@example.com.
Rockclimbing Brash, D. (2000). Dunedin Rock. firstname.lastname@example.org. Camilleri, M. (1999). New Ignimbrite Climbs. Wharepapa Outdoor Centre, Tel 07 872 2533. You can also buy guides to local crags at the centre. Dann, K. & Mills, A. (2004). Rock – The Wakatipu Way. email@example.com. Davison, A. & Pierson, M. (2003). The Definitive Spittle Hill Climbing Guide. firstname.lastname@example.org. Gillman, L. Whanganui Rock. email@example.com. Hersey, P. & Snelder, T. (1997). Northern Rock: A Climber’s Guide to Northland and Auckland. firstname.lastname@example.org. Main, L. & Wethey, T. (2004). South Island Rock. email@example.com. Manning, P. (1991). Central North Island Rock. firstname.lastname@example.org or Wharepapa Outdoor Centre, Tel 07 872 2533. Middlemass, S. & Watson, M. (2003). Golden Bay Climbs. email@example.com. Sinclair, K. & Vostinar I. (2005). Rock Deluxe. firstname.lastname@example.org. 114
CLIMBING MAGAZINES The Climber. New Zealand Alpine Club. email@example.com. Climbing. USA. firstname.lastname@example.org. Rock. Australia. email@example.com. Rock and Ice. USA. firstname.lastname@example.org. Wilderness. New Zealand. www.wildernessmag.com.
MOUNTAIN MEDICINE www.ikar-cisa.org International Commission for Alpine Rescue. See Alpine Medicine. www.nzlsar.org.nz/specialist/standards.html#medical See Medical â€“ Approved Standards, e.g. NZLSAR patient assessment forms. http://perso.wanadoo.fr/dmtmcham/frostbite.htm. www.treksafe.com.au High altitude and other information, e.g. asthma. www.wms.org Wilderness Medical Society.
Contacts AVALANCHE www.avalanche.net.nz The main New Zealand avalanche information source. www.sunrockice.com/Downloads.htm
CANTERBURY MOUNTAINEERING CLUB (CMC) www.cmc.net.nz PO Box 2413, Christchurch CMC offers a range of services, including huts, publications, and instruction. The club owns base huts at Arthurâ€™s Pass (Kennedy Hut) and Aoraki / Mount Cook (Wyn Irwin Hut). It also owns alpine huts (no stoves or fuel). Please pay hut fees so that the club can continue this service.
CLOTHING AND EQUIPMENT MANUFACTURERS www.1planet.com.au www.aspiring.co.nz www.cactusclimbing.co.nz www.chalkydigits.co.nz www.earthseasky.co.nz www.fairydown.co.nz www.macpac.co.nz
DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION (DOC) www.doc.govt.nz You can obtain hut and mountain information from Department of Conservation visitor centres. DOC does not stock huts with stoves or fuel. Please pay your hut fees and leave your group intentions at DOC visitor centres.
GUIDING AND INSTRUCTION ORGANISATIONS www.nzmga.org.nz www.mountainrec.co.nz www.nzoia.org.nz
MOUNTAIN RADIO SERVICE www.mountainradio.co.nz Tel 03 366 5241 116
Mountain Radio Service is a volunteer group that provides rental radios for backcountry users.
NEW ZEALAND ALPINE CLUB (NZAC) www.alpineclub.org.nz PO Box 786, Christchurch The New Zealand Alpine Club offers a range of services, including huts, publications, and instruction. It has 10 sections or regional branches. The club owns base huts at Whakapapa Skifield (Ruapehu), Arthur’s Pass (Arthur’s Pass Lodge), Aoraki / Mount Cook (Unwin Lodge), Fox Glacier Village (HEL Porter Lodge), and the Hollyford Valley (Homer Hut). It also owns alpine huts (no stoves or fuel). Please pay hut fees so that the club can continue this service.
NEW ZEALAND SPORTCLIMBING FEDERATION www.nzsf.org.nz PO Box 339, Rotorua The New Zealand Sportclimbing Federation organises the national sportclimbing competitions.
WEATHER Meteorological Service www.met.co.nz/wxbin/mountain?BRIMON Call 0800 500 669 for details of the service available on their 0900 number. Maps and satellite photos are also available. Details are on the helpline: 0800 932 843. Other TV1 and TV3 have extensive coverage of the weather situation and forecast, and Sky TV has an interactive weather channel constantly available. www.bom.gov.au/weather/national/charts Australia Bureau of Meteorology. These charts can give long distance forecasts for New Zealand. www.doc.govt.nz/Explore/Weather/weather.aspx The Department of Conservation’s service, including mountain forecasts. www.niwa.cri.nz Includes satellite data. www.sunrockice.com This site has many useful links.
WOMEN CLIMBING www.womenclimbing.freezope.org.nz PO Box 318, Christchurch. 117
Environmental Code Minimum impact • Take minimal supplies into the mountains and remove all rubbish. • Consider carefully where you walk, particularly in subalpine wetlands. • Avoid camping in fragile areas, e.g. the Playing Fields, Aoraki / Mount Cook. • Use quiet stoves instead of fires. • Keep any necessary fires small, ensure they are out when you finish, and restore the site to its natural condition. • Never cut live vegetation. • Avoid rolling rocks. • Respect areas of spiritual significance, e.g. the topuni area at Aoraki / Mount Cook. Toileting • Toilet away from access routes and water. • Bury or cover human waste. • In high-use areas, take human waste out, e.g. Bill’s Basin, Arthur’s Pass. Water • To protect streams and lakes, take your water away from the source to wash, and avoid soaps and detergent getting into the water. • Use a clean ladle when taking water from a tank. Hut etiquette • Remove your boots before entering. • Store fuel and refuel stoves outside. • Make a hot drink for tired arrivals. • Minimise the bench space that you use. • Store your equipment in one place. • Minimise noise when starting early. • Clean utensils and the hut before you depart. Hut hygiene • Avoid placing food on dirty benches. • Wash your hands after toileting and before handling water and food.
Glossary Ablation zone. A region on a glacier where snow melt is greater than accumulation. Abseil (or rappel). A method for descending a rope using a sliding and braking device. Accumulation zone. The region above the firn line of the glacier where the net snow gain is greater than the net snow loss. Adze. The broad side of the ice axe head, used as a handhold or for step cutting. Alpine start. A pre-dawn start time to reach a summit and return by nightfall or to avoid the dangers of melting ice and snow as the day warms up. AMS. Acute mountain sickness. A cluster of symptoms brought on by lower blood levels of oxygen at higher altitudes. Symptoms include headache, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and disturbed sleep. Anchor. The point where the rope or climber is secured. Anticyclone (or ‘high’). A mass of stable, high-pressure air, bringing fine weather. Arête. A sharp ridge of rock or snow and ice occurring when two planes of rock or snow wall jut from a face and intersect. Ascenders. Mechanical sliding and braking devices used to move up a rope, e.g. Jumars. ATC. Air traffic controller. A popular belaying and rappelling device which, when used with a locking karabiner, provides a safety brake on the rope. Autoblock. An automatically locking prusik knot that the climber can release. Usually used in a crevasse rescue system Avalanche probe. A rod used for locating avalanche victims or checking variations in the snowpack. Barn door. Swing off balance. Bed surface. The surface on which an avalanche runs. Belay. A safety technique in which a stationary climber provides protection by means of rope, anchors, and a braking device, to a partner. Belay device. A metal device through which a climber threads a climbing rope and links it with a karabiner to an anchor or their body to provide friction to brake a fall. 120
Belay station (or stance). A stopping place on a climb from which a climber provides roped protection for their partner. Bergschrund (or schrund). A gap between the head of the glacier and the mountain. Bivouac (or bivvy). Sleeping in the open with little or no shelter from the elements. Black ice. Permanent ice found in shady couloirs or on steep south faces that is usually extremely hard and difficult to climb. Bolt. A metal pin hammered into a drilled hole in the rock providing permanent protection for climbers. Bouldering. The sport of climbing short, hard routes on low rocks without protective gear except a landing mat. Buttress. A large rock formation that projects out from a face. Cairn. A rock pile for route marking. Cam. Generic term for spring-loaded devices of varying sizes which are inserted in cracks to secure a rope. Chalk. Powdered magnesium carbonate to improve hand grip when rockclimbing. Chimney. A crack large enough to climb wedged inside. Chute. A very steep gully, often the line of rockfall. Cirque. A steep-walled mountain basin formed by a glacier. Cirrus (or mares’ tails). High, streaky cloud. Clean. To remove the protection placed by the leader. Cleaning tool (or nutpick). A narrow metal device with a hooked end used for removing jamnuts stuck in cracks. Col. A dip in a ridge that may provide a small, high pass or crossing place. Cornice. An overhanging mass of wind-sculptured snow projecting beyond the crest of a ridge and often dangerous. Couloir. A gully, usually containing ice or snow. Cow’s tail. A short length of nylon tape or cord pre-attached to the climber’s harness so that the climber can quickly attach to an anchor. Crack climbing. Climbing rock by wedging hands and feet into a crack. Also, see fist jam and hand jam. Crampons. Spiked metal devices which attach to climbing boots to provide purchase on ice and snow slopes. 121
Crank. To pull on a hold with maximum force. Crevasse (or slot). A tension crack in the glacier. Some crevasses are very deep and all are very dangerous when concealed by snow. Crown wall (or fracture line). The top fracture line of a slab avalanche. Crux. The most difficult section of a climbing route or pitch. Cup crystals (or depth hoar). Cup-shaped, faceted crystals found in cold snowpacks, most commonly at the base of the snowpack. Cyclonic weather. An upward spiralling mass of relatively warm air, resulting in cloud formation and potential precipitation. Also called a ‘low’ or ‘depression’. Convectional weather. Rising air caused by a heated ground surface. It can bring dangerous weather when it occurs, including lightning, but is less common in New Zealand than in continental climates. Daisy chain (or anchor chain). A nylon sling sewn into loops enabling quick attachments to anchors. Dead point. A dynamic climbing technique in which a hold is grabbed at the apex of upward motion. Debris. Snow deposited by an avalanche, indicating an avalanche zone. Dogging. Repeated resting on the rope and protection when lead climbing. Dry tool. To climb a section of rock using ice tools, a common technique on routes that contain both rock and ice. Dyno. Short for ‘dynamic’, a sequence of climbing moves without stopping (as distinct from making the sequence ‘statically’). Exposure. 1. The situation where there are steep drops beneath the climber, e.g. a section of a route may be exposed. 2. Hypothermia. Face climbing. Ascending a steep, broad side of a mountain. Fall line. An imaginary line that a falling object or climber will take. Ferrule. The sleeve joining the ice axe spike and the shaft. Firn line. An imaginary line on a glacier where the annual snow melt exceeds the accumulation rate. Fist jam. Wedging a fist into a wide crack knuckles up. Also, see ‘Hand jam’. 122
Flash. To successfully lead a climb with no falls or hanging on the rope, but with prior knowledge through a previous attempt. Also, see ‘Dogging’ and ‘Onsight’. Flat-footing (or French technique). Using all the vertical crampon points in contact with the snow slope. Free climb. To ascend rock without using artificial aids directly, that is, ropes and protection may be used as a ‘safety net’ but they are not weighted. Free solo. To climb with no rope or protection. Front (or ‘frontal lifting’). The clash of two air masses. It causes lifting of the warmer air mass, cloud formation, and possible precipitation. Frostnip. Superficial frostbite which does not leave permanent damage. Gendarme. A pinnacle of rock on a ridge. German technique (or ‘front pointing’ or ‘toe pointing’). A technique for ascending steep snow or ice using the two forwardfacing points of the crampons (and usually the two front vertical points as well). Glissade. A controlled slide down snow. Grigris. Trade name for a belaying device with an ‘automatic’ braking system. Hand jam. Wedging a hand into a crack sideways, that is, either with thumb up or the thumb down. Also, see ‘Fist jam’. Headwall. The point where a mountain face steepens. Hogsback (or lenticular cloud). Smooth, lens-shaped cloud above or immediately leeward of high peaks. They indicate high winds and, most likely, bad weather. Hypothermia (or ‘exposure’). Abnormally low body temperature. Hypoxia. A debilitating lack of oxygen. Icefall. A dangerous feature of a glacier when it falls so steeply that it creates a series of crevasses and ice pinnacles (or seracs). Ice screw. A threaded piton made of light metal designed to bore into ice and secure the climber. Jamnut. A metal wedge with a wire or rope loop that is wedged in cracks for protection. Jug. A handhold so large and secure that it can be grasped like a jug handle.
Jumar. Trade name for a mechanical sliding / braking device used to ascend a rope. Karabiner (or ‘krab’ or ‘biner’). Metal clip with a spring-loaded gate through which a rope can be inserted. They are used when belaying, abseiling, prusiking, and clipping into anchors and protection. Knifeblade. Long thin piton used in cracks too narrow for jamnuts or cams. Layback. A technique where climbers ascend by pulling sideways with their hands while pushing their feet in opposition. Lead. To be the first climber up a pitch, placing protection on the way while being belayed from below. Lee slopes. Slopes sheltered from the wind where snow accumulates. Locking karabiner. A karabiner with a sleeve locking the gate for increased security. Mantelshelf. A technique where a climber holds a ledge at waistlevel or higher and powers the body upward with minimal assistance from the feet (as you would need to do to climb onto a fireplace mantelshelf). Mixed climbing. Ascending a route where both rock and ice are encountered, often at the same time. Moraine. Rock debris transported by glaciers, particularly deposits on glacier sides (lateral moraine) and glacier snout (terminal moraine). Névé. The accumulation area above the firn line of the glacier. Norwester. The weather system from the north-west, commonly bringing storms to the mountains and hot, dry weather east of the mountains (Föhn in Europe; Chinook in Canada). Off-width. A crack that is too wide for a fist jam and too narrow to ‘chimney.’ Generally awkward and strenuous to climb, and difficult to protect. Onsight. Leading a climb with no falls and no ‘dogging’ (hanging on the rope) on the first attempt with no prior knowledge of the climb. Orographic uplifting. Air masses forced upward by a mountain range, leading to cloud and precipitation. Pick. The pointed side of the ice axe head, used for hooking into ice and occasionally for step cutting. Pied à plat. French technique of cramponing or climbing with both feet flat to the slope. 124
Pied troisième. A combination technique where one crampon front points and the other crampon is placed flat at a direction of three o’clock. Piolet ancre. Holding the ice axe in the self-arrest position. Piolet canne. Holding the ice axe in the walking stick grip. Piolet panne. Holding the ice tools using the low North Wall technique and front pointing. Piolet poignard. Holding the ice tools using the high North Wall technique and front pointing. Piolet ramasse. Holding the ice axe in a glissade position. Piolet traction. Holding the ice tools at full reach to pull up. Pitch. A section between two belay stations of up to one rope length. Piton. Metal spike that can be hammered into the rock for an anchor or protection. Protection. The placement of a jamnut, cam, piton, sling, snowstake, or ice screw during the leading of a pitch to minimise the distance that the leader might fall. Prusik. A sling with a sliding friction knot used to ascend a rope or to safeguard a climber. Also, the action of ascending a rope, whether using a prusik knot, a variant knot to the prusik, or mechanical ascenders. Pumped. A condition of severely depleted strength caused by overworking the forearms while climbing. Quickdraw. A very short sling with karabiners at each end used for quick attachment of the rope to protection. Ramp. An ascending ledge, usually large. Rappel (or abseil). To descend a rope by means of mechanical braking devices. Redpoint. To lead a route you have tried before without falling or hanging on the rope. Also, see ‘Onsight’, ‘Flash’, and ‘Dogging’. Rime. A film of ice formed by super cooled water droplets colliding with a cold surface. Runner. A protection point on a lead (short for running belay). Runout. A long and possibly dangerous distance that a leader must climb between two points of protection. Saddle (or col and sometimes a pass). A shallow depression between two peaks. 125
Scree. A slope of loose rocks often used to descend by running. Second. The climber who follows a leader up a pitch, usually removing the leaderâ€™s protection as they climb. Self-arrest. Preventing a fall on snow or ice by using the ice axe in a particular way. Serac. A pinnacle or tower of ice, prone to toppling over. Settlement. The gradual compaction of the snowpack under its own weight. Slab avalanche. One or more cohesive layers of snow that act as a unit. Slab climbing. Climbing a smooth sheet of rock by using friction and balance. Sling. A length of nylon webbing which is either sewn or tied into a loop and used with the rope and anchors to provide protection. Smearing. A technique of applying to a rock slab as much of the sole of the climbing shoe as possible to achieve maximum friction. Spike. The metal point at the end of the ice axe shaft. Spindrift. Wind-blown snow. Sport climbing. Climbing where the risk is minimised by using fixed bolts for protection and the emphasis is on technical and gymnastic skill. Spur. A rock or snow rib on the side of a mountain. Straight arm. To hang from a handhold with the arm straight to minimise the load on the muscles. Stratus. Layered cloud. Terrain trap. A terrain feature, e.g. cliff, crevasse, gulley, or hollow, that increases the consequence of getting caught in an avalanche. Top rope. A rope that is anchored from above the climber. Topo. A sketch of a route showing its line, bolt placements, belay stances, crux, and grade. Transceiver. An electronic device worn in avalanche terrain that aids finding the location of a buried climber. Trigger. The force that sets off an avalanche. Undercling. A hold that requires upward pressure from the hands on downward-facing rock. 126
Verglas. A thin coating of ice on rock, which makes climbing difficult. Webbing. Flat nylon tape or tubing used for slings. Wind loading. Deposition of wind-transported snow on leeward slopes. Windslab. Snow deposited and compacted by wind on leeward slopes. It is prone to slide, creating devastating avalanches.
This publication is available to you for historical purposes. The content in this publication may not be
The New Zealand Mountain Safety Council has produced this manual to promote enjoyment and safe climbing in the mountains. It provides practi...
Published on May 27, 2020
The New Zealand Mountain Safety Council has produced this manual to promote enjoyment and safe climbing in the mountains. It provides practi...