Glacier Hiking Tips

Glacier Hiking Tips
Hiking on a glacier is a dangerous and sometimes strenuous activity, though for most people the allure of the beautiful terrain outweighs the hazards. A glacier is often the best route to an alpine summit. If you are new to glacier travel and crevasse rescue, then it is advisable to take a safety course so that you can go wherever the mountains may lead you. These seven tips will start you hiking on the right track.

Respect the Landscape

Keep a healthy respect for crevasses and realize that they may not always show themselves. Learn how to confidently make a z-pulley rescue system and how to conduct a rescue in a crevasse before setting a boot on the ice. Make sure that others in your party have rescue practice as well.


Go With the Flow

A glacier is constantly changing. If you are making your way across a glacier to reach the base of a climb on a peak and will be passing through your glacier route within the next few days, be careful. Your route may not be the same as it was even a day before.

Observe and Calculate

Always be observant and mindful of where you are placing your crampons. When traversing a glacier in the winter with a group, people should be roped together in teams of three if possible. If one person falls into a crevasse the other two should immediately use their ice axes to dig into the ice and prevent the person from falling any further before rescue commences.

Proper Equipment

Always carry an ax in your hand when traversing a glacier. This serves the purpose of a self-arrest tool and can also be used for a boot-ax belay and for testing the ice. Crampons, mountaineering boots, harness, climbing rope, helmet, gloves and sun glasses are also necessities on a glacier.

Beware of Rockfall

When hiking near the edge of a glacier where there are often large areas of rocks and debris called lateral moraines, rock fall is a possibility. Hiking near these areas either very early in the day or very late is the best because during the day things warm up and are more likely to fall.

Beware of Whiteouts

When caught in a storm on a glacier it is not uncommon for everything to become white. There is no visible ground, horizon, east or west in this situation and route marking with colored wands is really the only way to make any progress. In the book "Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills," it is recommended that compass bearings and altimeter readings be taken on the ascent in case a whiteout prevails on the descent.

Wear Sun Protection

When it is clear and sunny, or even on a partially sunny day, hiking on a glacier is like hiking on a giant mirror. Light is reflected from the ice right back up at you and if you do not wear proper sun glasses with UV protection, sunscreen and a hat, you will burn to a crisp and possibly lose your eye sight for a while.


Article Written By Naomi Judd

Naomi M. Judd is a naturalist, artist and writer. Her work has been published in various literary journals, newspapers and websites. Judd holds a self-designed Bachelor of Arts in adventure writing from Plymouth State University and is earning a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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