Assistance and gentle reassurance can be helpful when moving the group over an exposed section, where a fall would be serious; or you can install a safety line or fixed rope. In either case, do not hesitate to rope up less experienced or less skilled hikers if a fall would prove injurious or fatal.
A safety line is installed by fixing a rope to an existing anchor such as pitons or bolts, or by fixing (tying or girth-hitching) slings around natural anchors such as trees or rocks. A hiker uses the safety line for balance just like he would the handrail on a staircase.
Fix the rope end with a figure 8 on a bight, and, if terrain dictates, use a butterfly knot or Munter knot for mid-line (horizontal redirect) anchor points.
You can employ a fixed rope to overcome short, steep sections without having to resort to technical climbing techniques. (Most hiking routes only rarely tackle terrain steep enough to require the use of your hands).
Fix the rope to a good anchor (e.g., a solid tree) using a sling, a locking carabiner and a figure 8 knot. If you doubt the anchor’s reliability—i.e., it consists of a single rock spike, small tree, questionable in situ pitons, etc.—back it up using all available protection options.
Ideally, you’ll use a knot such as the double figure 8 that allows you to directly clip into two or three anchor points at once.
This extract comes from the Mountain Travel section of the UIAA Alpine: Summer Skills Handbook and a dedicated chapter on crevasse rescue.
Previous extracts from the UIAA Alpine Summer Skills Guide can be found on our dedicated Skills page.
To purchase a digital copy of guide in English click here. 3.99 GBP, 3.51 EUR, 3.99 USD (prices/exchange rates subject to change).
About the UIAA Alpine Skills Summer Guide
The UIAA Alpine Skills Summer guide was first published in 2015. Produced in collaboration with the Petzl Foundation, the guide and has been well received worldwide and is currently available in five languages. To mark the launch of a digital version of the publication, the UIAA is running a series of articles from the guide designed to help hikers, climbers and mountaineers develop their skills and knowledge of the mountain environment.
The guide was developed specifically as a reference document for trip leaders and instructors of club and federations within the UIAA – an aide memoire for climbers and mountaineers who attend training courses delivered by instructors and guides who have gained qualifications accredited by the UIAA. Now open to the wider climbing and mountaineering world, the handbook’s four modules focus primarily on summer activities. However, a specific winter guide is currently in production.
Main Image: Monica Dalmasso