Dangers of Mountain Snow & Ice

Dangers of Mountain Snow & Ice
Alpine mountaineering exposes you to the hazards of steep mountain slopes covered in snow and ice. These hazards aren't random--they result from a mix of well-understood circumstances. Most successful backcountry travelers see them as a set of risks best understood and managed through constant evaluation and awareness.
 

 

 
 

Types

There are three types of avalanches: Dry snow or sluff avalanches, wet snow avalanches, and slab avalanches. Most avalanche hazard recognition courses deal with slab avalanches.

Terrain

Most slab avalanches occur in terrain with a slope of between 25 and 60 degrees.

Icefall

Mountain ice can suddenly break loose; falling chunks may pose a serious, even deadly danger to those below.

Falls

Slippery ice or hard-packed snow both contribute to the hazard of an unintentional slip. Once you start sliding down a mountain out of control, it's hard--sometimes impossible--to stop yourself.

Crevasse

Crevasses can open up in mountainous glacier ice and may be hundreds of feet deep; glide cracks are a similar phenomenon that occurs in snow, but they are usually not as deep since the snow pack itself is shallower.

Fun Fact

Despite the name, an "ice axe" is used as a safety tool on both snow and ice in mountainous areas.

 

Article Written By Marie Mulrooney

Marie Mulrooney has written professionally since 2001. Her diverse background includes numerous outdoor pursuits, personal training and linguistics. She studied mathematics and contributes regularly to various online publications. Mulrooney's print publication credits include national magazines, poetry awards and long-lived columns about local outdoor adventures.

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