and it's not this guy..
no...........it's this guy....
And I'm not talking about me with a sunburned face. But instead about the wide fracture in the glacier ice as a result of various stresses and strains associated with it's flow down-slope. These crevasses are amazing things to witness and staring down into the abyss is very intriguing, particularly when you can hear the fast flow of englacial/subglacial water channels. It seems generally important to not fall rapidly to your potential death down one of these things, and its simple enough to follow that advice when you can see them all. In the above picture on Hellstugubreen in Jotunheimen of southern Norway it seems like these crevasses are reasonably visible... but parts of the ascent up this ice mass involved some probing of snow and some worries when the ice axe disappears from you. We were pretty lucky in this instance and pretty careful... but the greatest level of preparation can never 100% prevent a fall into an unseen crevasse, and thus its important to understand how to get yourself or another out.
This week has been all about training for me for the coming fieldwork in less than 2 weeks. On friday past, the task was just this... to practice crevasse rescue techniques... where else but the Lake District, home of glaciers.... True, the presence of glaciers is particularly absent in England, but the setup of this training was pretty awesome.
A purpose built barn structure, rather cold (good to simulate conditions in some glacial instances... though not intentional) with bolts, karabiners and ropes here, there and everywhere. The course was a full day focusing on the techniques of roping up for glacier travel, climbing up a rope yourself using prusik knots and a bit of strength and establishing a system of ropes, slings and pulleys to make lifting someones full weight a lot easier. Having spent the last few months getting involved with some top rope indoor climbing, roping myself into harnesses was something I felt a bit more confident with... but it's clear to me that i'm someone who takes a while to engrave knots into my mind and make them second nature. undoing knots is my true weakness! :/
Getting a little too close to another mans special area doing this, but important to be able to take charge and rope in someone else during glacier travel. Would love to say Mark had no idea in this picture and I had to help him.... truth was my trouble with engraving knots into my brain was taking over when doing it to someone else.
Oh yeah... log lifting! (simulating a dead weight of an unconscious crevasse victim of course! :P )
The course was fantastic, taught well with a mixture of hands on and some theory and thinking. To anyone looking to do some training for crevasse rescue or to refresh existing knowledge, I would highly recommend Distant Horizons
Considering the cover of thick snow during the field excursion in April, and the minimal crevassing on the Miage as a whole, the requirement for conducting fieldwork was more to be able to ski...
And I can happily say I'm suitably capable for the shallow incline of the glacier following 6/7 hours of me speeding downhill with a plank on each foot at the indoor snow centre in Castleford (Xscape). The training, which I was less willing to fork out the money for, seemed even more appealing with the payment coming from a training budget from my external funding source (necessary training... I think so! :) ). The costly lessons were even more worthwhile considering I was one of two people for a whole day tuition (usually ~10 people) and the other went home after about an hour not feeling well... thus 1 to 1 lessons from someone who had been an instructor in Courmayeur and was familiar with the Miage Glacier.... success!
Unfortunately I don't have a picture of me skiing like a pro... but just use your imagination.... I only fell over a few times, and only when getting into the spirit of parallel turns on the steeper upper parts of the slope. Generally happy considering there may be some spare time in April for some recreational skiing... but that is to be determined...
...you can call me Tomski