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Crampon Safety and hangin' on to your helmet

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Crampon Safety and hangin' on to your helmet

Postby COmedic04 » Fri Apr 03, 2009 2:03 am

Ok...so it took me a while to gather the gumption to post this, because of how stupid I feel about the whole thing...but after thinking it over, feel like the potential lesson that can be learned from my mistake is more valuable than protecting my fragile ego... :oops:

2 weekends ago, Zach (EatinHardtack) and I climbed the Boudoir Couloir on Horseshoe Mountain. The weather was perfect, the snow (with the exception of a few places of powderiness) was in great shape, and the mountain was primed. Once we got to the base of the couloir, we strapped on our crampons and started up...Zach led for most of the way, and did a great job kickstepping in some great steps for me.

Anyway...herein lies the lesson I'm trying to convey... We stopped at around 13,400ft to take a quick break; everything was going great, and we were having a blast. I removed my helmet to reapply sunscreen, as the sun was really starting to bake us, and stupidly did not secure my helmet to anything. Long story short, I clumsily bumped it with my hand as I was putting the sunscreen away, and it fell...off my lap, onto the snow, and proceeded to slide with ever-increasing velocity to the VERY BOTTOM of the couloir, until finally coming to a rest against a rock. #-o Needless to say, I was incredulous, and quite pissed off at myself. :x

Zach and I agreed that, in the case of a fall, a snow slide, or falling rocks, it wasn't safe for me to continue without a helmet, or my goggles which were attached to it. He graciously decided to come back down with me, although I told him I wouldn't blame him if he continued without me. So we decided to glissade back down the snowfield to save time, rather than having to slog down the snow.

This is where the REALLY big mistake comes in. I stupidly didn't remove my crampons before glissading. Thankfully [-o< I didn't seriously injure myself, but I did, at one point, catch my crampons on the snow, and it flipped me around, causing me to lose control of my glissade and have to quickly self-arrest and stop myself. However, in the process, I kicked myself in the leg with the opposite foot. I knew I'd hit myself, but didn't feel a great deal of pain, so figured I was alright.

We made our way down to the rest of the slope, until we got to my helmet, and then stopped to remove our crampons. It was then that I realized I had stabbed myself in the leg, quite deep, with my crampon. The socks on top of the wound had provided enough pressure to stop the bleeding already, and we just hiked out. In the time since, I've kept it clean and bandaged, and it's starting to heal nicely, although I probably should have gotten stitches.

The moral of the story is glissade safety. As we all know from TalusMonkey's tragic incident, glissading can be a fatal venture, and I am still thanking God that my mistake didn't lead to worse consequences. After doing some quick online browsing of glissading accidents, I realize that it could have been much worse. I had glissaded before with crampons on, and without, and didn't even think about it...but apparently need to have a few lashings with a wet noodle, and some remedial FOTH reading before allowing myself to head back up a mountain! :oops:

I was extremely lucky...I could have easily stabbed myself worse, or ended up with a leg/ankle fracture from catching my crampons on the snow while I was going fast down the slope. Hopefully my story will make more people aware of this easy, but potentially horrible mistake! Don't be lazy, take the time to remove your crampons before you glissade!!


P.S. If anyone hasn't already noticed, my new avatar picture was taken after retrieving my wayward helmet. :wink:
Last edited by COmedic04 on Fri Apr 03, 2009 6:32 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Crampon Safety and hangin' on to your helmet

Postby gsliva » Fri Apr 03, 2009 5:13 am

Easy mistake because you were upset about having to retrace a lot of vertical. This is like when you forgot your homework and it was due in the morning so you peeled out of the parking lot hitting another car or worse getting a ticket from the school cop. This is common and a good lesson for us to ponder.

Thanks for being so open and honest.
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Re: Crampon Safety and hangin' on to your helmet

Postby d_baker » Fri Apr 03, 2009 5:54 am

COmedic04:
I'm glad you were able to walk out. And yeah, don't glissade while wearing crampons!
In the future, you may want to try the "buddy system" before glissading or something with similar risks. The buddy system is the same as when you're out climbing and you do a safety check of your belayer, just like he checks you before climbing.
The point is each of you are making sure the other is ready to go, and safely.

Also, as you learned on this outing, when you stop on any kind of snow slope, secure your belongings (i.e., pack and in your case a helmet). I have a sling attached to the haul-loop of my pack so if I stop and take it off, I clip it to my axe.

Inspect your helmet too, because if it hit that rock on the bottom...

Other than that, how were the conditions of the Boudoir? It looked a little thin near the bottom when I saw it a few weeks ago. And there appeared to be a narrow choke (but with snow) near the top.
I'll likely hit this soon (after the recent snows and next snow-storm cycle settles of course).

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Re: Crampon Safety and hangin' on to your helmet

Postby TomPierce » Fri Apr 03, 2009 6:14 am

Or maybe reconsider glissading altogether? I know it's a fast way to drop altitude and fun in the right conditions but it has downsides too. It's obviously a controlled slide but if you hit a patch of ice, a barely submerged rock, lose your grip on your ax, etc. etc. you could have a really bad day. Not to mention the extra wear and tear on your pants, potentially soggy bottoms (I've been told the pressure of glissading can penetrate some DWR's). FWIW, it's one of my never-break rules to never glissade a line I have not climbed up beforehand. I had a team mate get killed that way in the San Juans many years ago glissading a couloir he hadn't first climbed. I wasn't there at the time, maybe the outcome would have been different if someone had spoken up.

Anyway, I seem to make good time plunge stepping vs. glissading. Not as fast, sure, but I fell I'm in better control and have my axe ready to go, my butt's not wet ...and my crampons are on. Saves time not doing the on/off thing, but watch out for crampon balling.

So yes, absolutely glad you're OK COMedic, and applaud you for a well written & thoughtful post.
-Tom

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Re: Crampon Safety and hangin' on to your helmet

Postby COmedic04 » Fri Apr 03, 2009 6:25 am

Thanks for all the responses so far, guys. I definitely learned several valuable lessons that will, no doubt, serve me well in the future. Darin, the funny thing is, I have a similar system on my snow pack, with things lashed to my pack, but for whatever reason, failed to secure my helmet before sitting down. #-o I did check my helmet thoroughly after retrieving it, and other than a few scratches, seems to have escaped no worse for wear! We mournfully watched it skitter the whole way down, and it had thankfully slowed down to a slide before getting to the rock at which it stopped. I'm at work now, but when I get home I'll try to remember to post a picture I took from the top, zoomed in on my errant helmet. :roll:

Tom, I definitely agree with your mantra of not glissading down an unknown slope. My mistakes aside, we felt pretty confident in the area we had chosed to glissade, as the snow was uniformly deep until we reached the thin rock field below...we also had been able to evaluate the area very well on our climb up and felt comfortable with its quality before glissading.

d_baker wrote:Other than that, how were the conditions of the Boudoir? It looked a little thin near the bottom when I saw it a few weeks ago. And there appeared to be a narrow choke (but with snow) near the top.
I'll likely hit this soon (after the recent snows and next snow-storm cycle settles of course).


Your assessment it pretty correct; it was a little thin on the bottom, and we made the decision to start up to the right of the couloir proper, as the snow was a little better, then cross over to climber's right once we reached the first large rock band. Once in the actual couloir, above the rocks in the runout, the snow was fantastic. Once again, I'll post a couple of pictures when I get home. Granted, with the several storms that have transpired since that weekend, I think the snow will be quite a bit deeper now.
Last edited by COmedic04 on Fri Apr 03, 2009 6:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Crampon Safety and hangin' on to your helmet

Postby susanjoypaul » Fri Apr 03, 2009 6:29 am

“…and then Susan harassed me about it mercilessly on Facebook.”

Good post Ryan! It's hard to admit stuff like this, but your story may have saved another climber from making the same mistakes(s) – and believe me, we ALL make them.

Let me tell you about the time I wandered around in a white-out... for 22 hours.Or the time I saw a storm coming in and still thought the traverse was a good idea!

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Re: Crampon Safety and hangin' on to your helmet

Postby COmedic04 » Fri Apr 03, 2009 6:31 am

susanjoypaul wrote:“…and then Susan harassed me about it mercilessly on Facebook.”


:wink: Isn't that the truth... :oops:
Paramedic: Drive safe, or I'll see you naked!!

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Re: Crampon Safety and hangin' on to your helmet

Postby d_baker » Fri Apr 03, 2009 7:38 am

So Ryan, I'm guessing that your new avatar is in reference to this incident? ;-)

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Re: Crampon Safety and hangin' on to your helmet

Postby rijaca » Fri Apr 03, 2009 8:46 am

One more bit of advice, don't glissade without an iceaxe! Trekking poles are no substitute for an axe when glissading.
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Re: Crampon Safety and hangin' on to your helmet

Postby Bean » Fri Apr 03, 2009 9:01 am

rijaca wrote:One more bit of advice, don't glissade without an iceaxe! Trekking poles are no substitute for an axe when glissading.

This one is:

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gdthomas wrote:Bean, you're an idiot.

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Re: Crampon Safety and hangin' on to your helmet

Postby rickinco123 » Fri Apr 03, 2009 9:25 am

That's a great post! Those are the types of mistake people make all the time when irritated, tired, hungry etc. I think the best remedy is to check each other out like d_baker suggested above. Stories like this are a great reminder to me to always check and be checked by others, this will help burn it into my brain cells a little better, thank you!
Last edited by rickinco123 on Fri Apr 03, 2009 10:09 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Crampon Safety and hangin' on to your helmet

Postby skiwall » Fri Apr 03, 2009 9:36 am

Thank you so much for sharing your story! I can see myself doing similar things, so maybe I will remember your story if I'm ever in that position in the future! :)

I have a similar story that I've been embarrassed to share- a few weeks ago I got caught in a slide (just a little one- not deep enough to bury me, but deep enough to scare the sh*t out of me) basically because I was in a hurry to get off the ridge and out of the freezing cold/crazy wind. My group didn't talk about the slope/stability/etc. because we all just wanted to get down. Turns out we were all thinking the same thing and having similar reservations, but because it was just a smallish slope and it was familiar territory, we just skied it. Many of the classic mistakes, but it's amazing what being really cold and knowing that all you have to do is ski a few hundred vertical feet to get out of the cold can do.
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