Adventure begins in your backyard. That’s one of my favorite sayings—and one that I got to practice with my sister and her friends last week, as we harnessed up in my apartment for a little self-rescue session. We were planning on a glacier crossing here in Chamonix’s mountains, and I wanted to make sure that everyone felt comfy getting themselves out of a crevasse, should such an opportunity arise. So. I tied a rope to the scaffolding outside my window and backed it up on the radiator (the roof of my building is being repaired, hence the scaffolding). We practiced rappelling out the window and then inching our way back up with prussic cords.
Jacqueline, who has recently been climbing with The Mountaineers in Seattle, seemed skeptical about the safety aspects of this plan, so we clipped her into the radiator as a double backup. And while she watched on, I wondered if this activity were something that The Mountaineers would have approved of. That’s me, above, starting down, and here my sister and I are tending the window:
Shawna volunteered to go first. She had a bit of a wobbly start but then rapped down with a smile on her face:
Once we were on solid ground, we practiced attaching prussics to the rope and then using them to climb back up. Basically, you first have to slide the prussic attached to your harness as high as it will go, then bend your legs and put your feet (or foot) into a foot prussic (yours truly, demonstrating):
Then you can stand up in the foot loops to ease tension on the top cord while resetting it, again as high as it will go:
By repeating this process, we were able to inch back up the fixed rope to my apartment window in the same way—best case scenario—that any one of us would have been able to rescue ourselves from a crevasse fall. Here’s Shawna, almost back up:
Later in the afternoon, we headed up to the top of the Grand Montets lift, where we strapped on our crampons and tied into a rope so that we could cross the Glacier des Rognans. Signs warned us of the inevitable crevasses (Shawna and Jac all smiles, despite the warning…):
We knew there would be crevasses (this being a glacier), but what I didn’t anticipate was the size of the gaping late-season bergschrund that prevented us from even getting on the glacier. The opening between the snow slope and the schrund was way too wide to step over, and we decided that rappelling onto the glacier was too advanced a technique for our rope team of four. I was disappointed in the conditions but glad that everybody took the change of plans in stride and had a happy dinner in town instead of at the hut we were hoping to reach that night.