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Self arrest on back, head first AND tied in to a team

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Self arrest on back, head first AND tied in to a team

Postby brrrdog » Wed Mar 16, 2011 2:29 pm

My two brothers and I are doing some practicing for climbing the south side of Mt. Hood. We couldn't find a hill steep enough for practicing self arrests so we practiced by having one guy drag the other on the ice. This ironically turned out to be interesting practice since it brought us closer to some worse case senarios. By having some weight pulling on the harness, I'd say we're simulating the entire rope team in a fall. Unless the harness is unsually low and tight or is a caving harness, the pull point is farther downhill than the ice ax pick would be if we follow the at-the-hip position. This means that starting the move to get back into feet first position is very difficult unless you get the pick darn near into your armpit and there you have little leverage. Even if you do manage to start the rotation, it is likely that rope is between you and the ax (unless you already had both hands on the ax), which means the rope catches your arm, either stoping the rotation or forces you to let go of the ax which is also problematic if you're using a leash.

Is this a realistic senario? Even if one member was in a better position, his self-arrest would then aid the righting of the other members. Are there problems with trying to roll first to the belly position (although even with this you need to make sure you get the ax under the rope first)? I have freedom of the hills, but are there texts that review arrests with a rope team?
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Re: Self arrest on back, head first AND tied in to a team

Postby DukeJH » Wed Mar 16, 2011 8:49 pm

I was taught to arrest the head first on your back skid by getting the ax into an arrest grip, sitting up and driving the pick in near your hip. This initiates your feet swinging around to the side opposite your pick placement and puts you into a standard arrest position. Seehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LM3xLshmNnk. This action is at about the 4:00 mark.

I would think that if your axe is in your uphill hand, which it should be, the rope will be more downhill and clear of the axe which should allow you to plant the pick around your hip. The rope load would then "assist" in putting your feet into the standard arrest position.
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Re: Self arrest on back, head first AND tied in to a team

Postby brrrdog » Wed Mar 16, 2011 10:45 pm

Thanks for the reply DukeJH.

Yup, that is the description. But that is without being tied in. In the solo senario, the pick at the hip puts the pick uphill and the body down, effectively starting a turn But imaging being in that position with a weighted rope across your face. It creates two problems:
* Unless your harness is really tight it is possible that the pull point is down hill to the pick - meaning that even though the pick is trying to get uphill, you have a force pulling your torso downhill.
* You most likely only had one hand on the ax when you fell, and got the other hand on it afterwards (say left hand on the head, right on the shaft). As you rotate, the rope is going to snag on your right arm.

In talking this out, I'm less worried about the harness since a good deal of the force should pull at thighs (not the waist as I was originally thinking), which is enough uphill of the pick to help. However, i still wonder about the rope.
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Re: Self arrest on back, head first AND tied in to a team

Postby Brad Marshall » Wed Mar 16, 2011 10:46 pm

brrrdog wrote:...I'd say we're simulating the entire rope team in a fall. Is this a realistic senario?


In my opinion this would not be a realistic scenario. If you're travelling in a team and there is sufficient hazard that someone could fall you should all short-rope to prevent anyone from gaining any sort of speed that would pull the entire team off their feet. However, this has happened in mountaineering but it's rare. I would think if it happened you probably wouldn't be able to arrest the fall due to the amount of force that would be required. This happened to an Argentinean team on the Polish Direct route on Aconcagua and they were all killed. Be aware of the hazards and either short-rope or don't use a rope altogether.
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Re: Self arrest on back, head first AND tied in to a team

Postby MoapaPk » Thu Mar 17, 2011 12:16 am

Are there ski slopes in MI? Even with a low angle, you can push with your feet to get substantial speed for the supine-head-first.
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Re: Self arrest on back, head first AND tied in to a team

Postby lcarreau » Thu Mar 17, 2011 12:39 am

MoapaPk wrote:Are there ski slopes in MI?


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Re: Self arrest on back, head first AND tied in to a team

Postby brrrdog » Thu Mar 17, 2011 12:41 pm

@Brad - I agree that this is a very unlikely senario, but i thought if I could imagine it, there's a chance that it could happen and I should try to prepare for it - even if preparing for it is to avoid it. Although you coming up with another real example doesn't exactly give me a warm fuzzy :P. The 2002 Mt Hood accident could be another possible example. From descriptions, it sounds like they shouldn't have been roping up the pearly gates anyway. But they did and they fell - perhaps somebody would have been able to self arrest if they didn't have a rope in their face?

@MoapaPk - One of us actually lives in Portland so he'll have no problem practicing the real thing. For the two of us still living in southern MI, the ski season is pretty much over here and I'd venture to say that an ice axe would be looked at as a lawsuit waiting to happen :). I'm overall happy with our ice practice and we will do more when we get to Portland. I just wondered about this particular senario.
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