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cruz.control

Chest Harness for Glacier Travel

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Hey everybody,

First post on the site. Glad to have joined the community. I've been a rock climber and backpacker for a long time, and I'm finally getting into mountaineering. I've been reading up on the essentials like crevasse rescue and the like for glacier and alpine travel, and I have come across somewhat conflicting information regarding chest harnesses. Some sources regard a simple webbing harness around ones chest essential for glacier travel in addition to the ever present waist and leg harness to protect the spine in the event of a crevasse fall. Others seem to disregard this and show only a basic harness with no connection to the chest. What do you all use when you are on the mountain? I want to be practical but I also want to be safe out there.

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Going to suggest a chest harness can help a fair bit with extraction (self or otherwise) but I haven't come across info as it regards to fall safety factor. What routes are you hitting? Generally fine with waist, not often are big empty falls on cascade peaks.

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Welcome to CC!

 

If you fall wearing a pack the weight can flip you upside down, this is best remedied by clipping your pack into your belay loop and letting it dangle below you. I've never used a chest harness and I've spent a lot of time hanging on and ascending ropes.

 

Learn your crevasse rescue skills so that you can set them up once you've fallen in. I always cringe when I see rope teams with pre rigged prussiks and other assorted crap hanging off each member. Seems like all that stuff would just trip you up.

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I always cringe when I see rope teams with pre rigged prussiks and other assorted crap hanging off each member. Seems like all that stuff would just trip you up.

 

A pre-rigged prusik on the rope is pretty handy if and when a proper crevasse rescue situation arises, and would only get in your way if preposterously rigged (like with a really long piece of cord).

 

Perhaps you're referring to people having a Texas-kick style system of foot loops pre-rigged (a la the illustrations in Freedom of the Hills)?

 

To OP, I'm assuming you're referring to pre-rigging some sort of chest harness but not running the rope through it while walking on the glacier; it's there to clip yourself in the event of a crevasse fall to help keep yourself upright. The "old-school" chest harnesses that the rope goes through all the time I've never actually seen done in practice (though I've only climbed locally and a tiny bit in Alaska).

 

The chest harness setup (as I described above) is most often used in situations where a heavy (read: overnight) pack is being worn on terrain where crevasse fall risk is hard to mitigate (e.g. crossing snow bridges, or times / locations where there's concern that there are hidden crevasses under the snow that climbers could fall into). In the Cascades, I think of Rainier and Baker as being examples of this terrain. This sort of travel is common in the "greater ranges" (Alaska, etc).

 

Many climbers moving over glaciated terrain during the summer climbing season may choose a to forego the chest harness setup if they're on glaciers that aren't heavily crevassed or if it's late enough in the season that the crevasses are visible and there isn't much concern about lurking hidden crevasses that one could pop through.

Edited by jared_j

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It's a case by case basis.

 

If i'm on a glacier that is sketchy and a fall is more likely, I will wear a webbing harness on my chest. I will leave it unclipped until I come to a nasty snow bridge and then clip it. If you cant tell where the snow bridges are and chances of a fall are great, then keep it clipped in.

 

Mostly in the cascades all that is overkill, but hey, you never know until you go.

 

 

Edited by christophbenells

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It all comes down to personal choice as there are pro and cons to both. I think the cons outweight any pro in this question

 

cons - this applies to the persons who do not fall into the crevasse. When the rope comes tight, I want to force applied to these people to come from as low as possible and in this case, the harness area.

Keeping it down low makes getting into self arrest easier and they may even be able to hold the weight from a standing leaning back position. If the force is applied to the chest area, it is much more likely that they will be pulled into a bad position and they would have to do those self arrest from positions that require swinging body around. ie, the head first down the hill positions. This would mean that the victim falls deeper in the crevasse which runs the risk of having the rope cut in deeper, hitting things or getting wedged before the surface folks can stop me.

Imagine someone pushing you at the waist area or your shoulder area. Someone pushing you around at the shoulder is easy to knock you around. Why someone would push around your waist is something you should do at home in private. :)

 

another con - if I am a surface member and holding the weight of the other, with a chest harness on, the rope runs up to my chest harness and then back down to my harness. This would be harder to hold the weight and make it really hard to do crevasse rescue in a 2 person rope team scenario. When holding the weight, I like to keep all the force on the hips which allows the legs to do all of the holding which frees up the hands for making anchors and other things, like taking a smoke break.

 

pro - if you fall in, you are less likely to tip upside down.

 

not that big of a deal for me as I make a leash for the pack and preclip it to the rope. so if I do flip around, I can unclip the waist belt and not lose my pack.

 

I am not sure if there is a physical harm aspect to flipping around in the crevasse. The rope cutting into the snow and dynamic nature of rope should keep the force low.

 

I would imagine that it would be natural to grab the rope when falling which would prevent one from flipping around too.

 

With all that in mind the choice for me comes down to do I want my team to be able to stop me quick or prevent a unlikely flipping? easy choice for me.

 

and an even better question is if you do decide to use a chest harness, what does the middle person in the rope team do? If they pick the side of the team that has the person falling in, then the 3rd person can not offer any assistance in catching the fall

 

welcome to cc.com!

 

 

Edited by genepires

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As to ascending a rope post-fall; If I'm gearing up for legit it's-possible-someone-could-actually-go-through glacier travel, I keep two Tiblocs clipped to biners on my harness. Super fast setup, faster ascending than prusiks... just make sure your rope diameter works with them. Any single will work, but skinny twins - not so much. But neither to prusiks, either, unless you're on two strands.

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thanks for your advice everybody. This makes a lot of sense to me. It isn't too surprising that a question like this has no obvious answer and has to be sorted out on a case by case basis. Sounds like I should bring one with me and decide whether or not it is warranted or even safe based on the terrain I'm traveling. excellent responses, all of em.

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