Glacier Techniques Workshop, Paradise Glacier, August 13, 2006
The idea of a summer "workshop" to investigate crevasse rescue techniques not covered in the regular Glacier Travel and Crevasse Rescue class had been tossed around for several years, and finally became a reality in August of 2006 as class leader Darryl Olson put together a Tuesday night seminar at the Mountaineers Building and a Sunday field trip at Paradise.
Primary topics for discussion included two-person rope team rescue, leverage systems with short "randonnée ropes," and rappelling into a crevasse to aid an injured party member.
We assembled for the on-snow workshop at 8:00 AM, with class members scrambling for parking spots in the Paradise construction zone. As always, a large group of people with skis on their packs in August was a big hit with the tourists. A little past Pebble Creek patches of snow started to appear, and some in the group switched to skis and skins (though I was less optimistic and stuck to trail runners); we departed the climber's trail to Muir shortly thereafter and veered southeast toward the Paradise Glacier.
Darryl had scouted the area the previous weekend, and knew a crevasse he thought would work for our purposes, so we skied down a hundred feet or so (August turns) and began setting up.
While the rest of the group took a freeskiing break, Darryl, Maureen and I worked through a couple of two-person scenarios beginning with just a pack in the crevasse and then using progressively heavier (Maureen, Darryl) weights. Getting the initial anchor (ice axe) planted securely proved to be a pivotal moment, and a couple of steps in the rescue process were altered on the spot. The verdict on two-person rescue? Possible and even probable, but highly dependent upon factors like snow condition, having your ice axe out or very readily available, relative weight of the victim, and snow friction.
Rappelling into the crevasse to aid an injured victim was put into practice by a number of the teams, as well as by Darryl who courageously went down after Jerry White's camera bag/memory card/spare batteries and managed to snag it with a probe/hook combination.
The simple technique of moving the "C" loop anchor point further down the rope by tying another figure 8 proved to be a workable way of using a Canadian Drop Loop system with the new 35 meter ropes, and will be incorporated into the class next year. Hats off to Darryl for organizing this event and taking the initiative to buy the new, lighter 9mm ropes - should make the hike up to the Nisqually much more pleasant for next year's students!