American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Glacier Travel and Crevasse Rescue

  • Book Reviews
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  • Publication Year: 1991

Glacier Travel and Crevasse Rescue. Andy Selters. Illustrations by Jennifer Hahn. The Mountaineers, Seattle, 1990. 154 pages, 60 illustrations, 5 black-and-white photographs. Paperback. $12.95.

This clearly-written and well-illustrated little textbook covers the essentials of glaciers. If one knew nothing about how to travel over glaciers and get out of crevasses—a possible predicament for all climbers—this would be the best single source on the topic.

The chapters (there are only five) and sections within them are arranged in progression which begins with a description of the nature of glaciers and their hazards. The second chapter, on glacier travel, covers everything from party travel to navigating in white-outs; from rope and knot management to appropriate campsites. The sections don’t really follow a logical order, but it doesn’t matter. This is not the kind of work you need to read from front to back. The next chapter is devoted to rescue techniques and is followed by a chapter called “Additional Techniques,” which should read, “Advanced Techniques!” There are at least two days’ worth of instruction here.

Chapter Five covers moving over glaciers on skiis and with haul sleds. The latter have become a very popular and standard method of moving big loads, and going into crevasses with them seems to have become equally as popular. There are only four pages of text devoted to this topic. That’s probably because, as the author acknowledges, “No perfect system for setting this [haul sled] up has yet been devised that offers all the safety and convenience we’d like to see.”

The Appendices include “Rescue Practice Sessions,” which is just a page telling us the kind of area in which to do this activity; and “Some Useful Improvisations,” which is merely a description of three knots. Maybe these were afterthoughts, because they belong in the section in Chapter Two called, “Knots and Harnesses.”

I would think the primary users of this 5 × 8-inch paperback, especially given the price tag, would be students/clients taking basic and intermediate courses in mountaineering. It should be recommended reading for all the would-be Mount McKinley and Mount Rainier aspirants—maybe even required.

Jed Williamson

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